Sunday, August 2, 2015

Badland: Game of the Year Edition (Wii U eShop) Review

We move from a Wii U and Nintendo 3DS eShop nostalgia-driven RPG to a highly celebrated mobile game that received several awards and nominations. The game is now available for the Wii U eShop. It's Badland: Game of the Year Edition. Here's SPC's verdict.

Badland ho!

Badland originally released on iOS and Android two years ago and was hugely celebrated. It won awards and nominations like crazy, giving the Wii U version's "Game of the Year Edition" moniker actual meaning unlike other games that just throw the term "Game of the Year" around like it was nothing. Now this much admired mobile title has reached the Wii U eShop. What was beloved on mobile is something special on Wii U.

Badland has you controlled a birdlike creature known as a Clone, flapping his wings with the A or ZR button as you move through a hundred or so automatically scrolling levels. These levels have you avoid getting crushed by falling rocks and other debris, evade killer buzz saws, zoom through narrow crevasses, and utilize various power-ups which alter the way Clone plays. There are boosts that speed up or slow down the scrolling of the screen (having the left side of the screen catch up with Clone is instant failure), there are power-ups that increase or decrease the size of Clone, among many others.

I'm starting to understand why this flapping creature is called "Clone."
The nearly 100 stages in Badland are separated between two days, and each day is made up of four periods: dawn, day, dusk, and night. There are also a duo of bonus level groups that can be unlocked and played through as well. Additionally, there are cooperative multiplayer levels to unlock. I would have preferred these to be already available to me at the beginning of the game, but what can you do.

Just reaching the end of a day and seeing the credits can be a goal for beginning players while more serious players can focus on trying to complete all of the achievements within the game. These are things like rescuing a set number of clones, beating levels without dying, and much more. It definitely adds to Badland's longevity, so if you're finding yourself yearning for more long after the credits have rolled, you have several other goals to shoot for to keep playing.

The 100 stages require lots of precision if you wish to survive them.
If a particular part of a level is deemed too tough for you, after repeated deaths you can opt to skip to the next checkpoint. You can always return to a past checkpoint if the current situation is seen as a dead end progress-wise. While this is a nice feature, later levels present checkpoints that are much more spread out. Even worse, some levels don't have checkpoints at all. Again, these are later levels, but it can be mighty infuriating to go through an entire level with a clean run only to mess up at the final challenge, forcing you to being the level from the very beginning.

Badland is a beautiful game. The foregrounds and obstacles are all in a dark black, which makes the backgrounds pop out wonderfully. The sound of the game is atmospheric, allowing you to hear the grinding of the buzz saws, the cries of animals, and the noises of big boulders bashing into the ground.

Lasers? *gulp*
The amount of content available to players for its relatively low price makes Badland a recommended purchase for Wii U owners. Although there is great frustration to be had in later levels due to the lack of or scarcity of checkpoints, the overall game is worth playing. While it doesn't shine as brightly on a home console as it does on mobile devices, Badland: Game of the Year Edition is a game that patient Wii U owners should go ahead and check out.

[SPC Says: B-]

Review copy provided by Frogmind Games.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Dragon Fantasy: The Volumes of Westeria (Wii U eShop, 3DS eShop) Review

The first review of August on this first of August is a retro-inspired series of RPGs for both the Nintendo 3DS and Wii U eShops, Dragon Fantasy: The Volumes of Westeria. Does this retro wonder deliver a good game, or is it to mired in old school sensibilities?

An old school flavored RPG is in the books

Originally released in 2011, Dragon Fantasy Book I was a retro Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy-inspired (hence the game's name) for iOS. Since its original launch, multiple books released for iOS and the PlayStation Vita. For the Nintendo 3DS release, all of the books have been combined to one package with Dragon Fantasy: The Volumes of Westeria. Not only this, but several issues from the separate book releases have been rectified in this combined launch.

Dragon Fantasy: The Volumes of Westeria is devised of four unique books, each offering a different adventure for players to join. The first is the biggest of the bunch, following Ogden, a retired hero who returns to prominence once the Dark Knight attacks Westeria castle and terrorizes the royal family. Ogden gets transported away from Westeria in the scuffle and must collect an ancient series of armor to stand a chance against the ultra powerful Dark Knight. The second and third books are side stories that take place during Ogden's adventures. One deals with the prince of Westeria, entering an ice dungeon where his father had passed. Here, he journeys to acquire a story-related object. The second concerns a thief alongside a trusty niece with the aim of leaving their current abode for sunnier pastures. Book four takes place in another timeline altogether with a completely unrelated story to the other events of Dragon Fantasy, having the hero save Minecraft creator Notch's hat from a savage dragon.

Should have stayed in retirement, Ogden!
The stories have a charm to them in both their dialogue and their script in general. The humor is really good, featuring a lot of tongue in cheek stuff, especially in battle. I mean, what else can you say about facing enemies like The Hunka Burning Love, a fiery cloud monster, or a son of a rock monster who sports a green mohawk and attacks with things like yelling statements that say "You're not the boss of me!" Something a rebellious rock creature would definitely do-- at least with my experience with rock monsters.

This snowman is definitely not a jolly happy soul!
All of the Dragon Fantasy books require a good deal of grinding, whether if it's experience to gain levels and new spells or money to purchase new equipment. It doesn't help that when you die you lose a good portion of your money, so keeping your health at a high amount is recommended, especially for battles where an enemy attacks before your character does each turn. Grinding isn't so bad as levels are earned relatively quickly and enemies divulge a respectable amount of experience each battle, and while the script is indeed sharp, seeing "the Obligatory Ork feels the need to attack" for the thirtieth time in battle can get a bit old.

Dragon Fantasy: The Volumes of Westeria has seen a lot of improvements compared to its separate releases several years ago. For one, players have access to a quest log to keep tabs of their adventure, as well as an in-game map to better get a grasp on the world, towns, and dungeons that they travel through. The individual books only allowed players to purchase one item at a time, meaning that for big spending on things like a dozen health-restoring Herbs, this process took a while. This design flaw has been corrected with the Wii U and 3DS eShop releases, allowing multiple volumes of items to be purchased at once. Additionally, the ability to sort through Ogden's (or whichever character's) inventory and through shop's wares have also been included, making for an easier time overall.

Ogden takes a much needed breather from slaying
ghouls, wereman, and rock monsters to explore this town.
That's not the end of the improvements either. in Book I, Ogden has the capability of adding different monsters as allies to his party. No longer will our hero have to travel through the game alone and grind all by his lonesome. Finally, while the world map continues to have random encounters, battles indoors are initiated by touching roaming enemy sprites. Each time Ogden moves, the enemy sprites on the dungeon map move simultaneously. This assists players in either avoiding battle or cornering a foe. No more random encounters while exploring the already dangerous dungeons within Dragon Fantasy.

Enemy encounters indoors have been changed for the better.
Muteki Corporation, the developer behind Dragon Fantasy's various books, has certainly been faithful to the NES-style RPGs that the game is modeled after. Enemies show simplistic sprites, backgrounds are 8-bit in appearance, the aforementioned grinding is here, and the basic story is present and accounted for. The visuals are most impressive in battle and on the world map where the 3D effect of the Nintendo 3DS version is most prominent, but the music leaves something to be desired. It's by no means bad, but it loops quickly and is a bit forgettable overall.

And I'm missing that for saving the world?!
Dragon Fantasy: The Volumes of Westeria delivers unto players a nostalgic trip back into time where RPGs were of a simpler nature, grinding was a necessary evil, and the sophistication of story wasn't as large. If you yearn for constant battle after battle against monster after monster, burning through MP and items healing yourself after most encounters, and a nice throwback to early RPGs as found on the old Nintendo Entertainment System, then you'll find yourself at home with Dragon Fantasy. All others may find the game to be too old school for its own. For me, the game was just the right amount of old and new to make it worthwhile.

[SPC Says: B]

Review copy provided by Choice Provisions.

Review Round-Up - July 2015

It was a month led by two strong women. Perfect Dark rarely misses
 the mark, and she certainly didn't in the 600th review on SPC.
SuperPhillip Central saw nine new reviews posted in the usually quiet summer month of July. Things kicked off with a return to the world of Castle of Illusion with Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse, a remake of the Genesis classic. It earned a B. Then we went old school with a retro review of Mega Man 8, busting Dr. Wily's robots and getting a B+ in the process. The game of the month, and also SuperPhillip Central's 600th review, Perfect Dark shot and scoped its way to an A. Next, we went a bit wacky with Rayman and friends with the Vita version of Rayman Legends (B).

Following Rayman was another platformer, Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams. Its busy art style led to a lot of cheap deaths, leading me to give the game a C+ score. Then two Wii U eShop games were reviewed, Tiny Galaxy and Canvaleon. The games earned a D and a C- respectively. Finally, the other big woman spotlighted this month of reviews, Bayonetta, earned herself a respectable B, and Mercenaries Saga 2: Order of the Silver Eagle surprised with a B+.

August is going to have a bunch reviews for it as well. Will we reach nine? That's the plan at least!

Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse (PSN, XBLA) - B
Mega Man 8 (PS1, SAT) - B+
Perfect Dark (N64, XBLA) - A
Rayman Legends (Vita) - B
Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams (PSN, XBLA, Wii U eShop) - C+
Tiny Galaxy (Wii U eShop) - D
Canvaleon (Wii U eShop) - C-
Bayonetta (Wii U) - B
Mercenaries Saga 2: Order of the Silver Eagle (3DS eShop) - B+

The other femme fatale of July, Bayonetta,
delivered fun in every "witch" way.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Final Fantasy Explorers (3DS) Announce Trailer

SPC's "Localizations, Please!" gets another game localized for the West! Okay, maybe my segment had nothing to do with Final Fantasy Explorers getting announced for its January 2016 release in North America and Europe, but it's another title we can take off the list! Battle favorite Final Fantasy summons in single or cooperative multiplayer battles as some of your favorite Final Fantasy characters. I'm reeling from happiness that Final Fantasy Explorers is finally releasing in the West.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Top Five Most Underrated Kart Racers

The kart racer-- a favorite game type of mine definitely. Nowadays they aren't widely made outside of the Mario Kart series. However, over the years we've seen different developers attempt to make games in the genre to varying degrees of success. Even if you create a great kart racer, there's no telling if it will turn out to be a commercial hit. Today's top five list delves into the kart racers that either sold below expectations, didn't receive much hype, or just are overlooked in general. After you've checked out the choices here, feel free to agree/disagree and share your own ideas for kart racers that need more attention.

5) MySims Racing (Wii, DS)

Of all the kart racers listed on this top five, the one that surprised me the most was MySims Racing. When I was originally given a review copy to judge the game, I did not expect something special, despite enjoying past MySims games on Nintendo's Wii. However, I quickly found myself greatly liking what I was playing. MySims Racing contains superbly designed tracks with cleverly hidden shortcuts aplenty, a fair and well rounded balance of items, smart enemy AI, tight controls, and enough content to make the game well worth owning for any Wii and kart racing fan.

4) LittleBigPlanet Karting (PS3)

Worthy of the price of admission alone thanks to its insanely robust track creator, LittleBigPlanet Karting is an above average kart racer that thanks to said track creator, opens up the possibilities for some amazing track designs. The tracks that come with the game on the disc that are played through the story mode are wonderful already, and every one was built with the same creator available to players. You can build multiple lap races, transforming tracks via some minor programming knowledge, one lap adventures, and even boss battles. While the actual item balance and unfair rubber band AI leave a lot to be desired (a reason why LittleBigPlanet Karting is only #4 on this list), the kart racing package on the whole is definitely worth checking out, especially since it can be purchased for less than $20 easily nowadays.

3) Mickey's Speedway USA (N64)

Released during the hey day of kart racers, the PlayStation 1 and Nintendo 64 generation of home consoles, Mickey's Speedway USA was Rare's second kart racer for the N64. While it doesn't come close to outshining the masterpiece that is Diddy Kong Racing, the game starring Disney's lovable Mickey Mouse crew is one that is indeed packed with lots of positives-- nice track design with well done shortcuts, cute banter between characters, a high amount of polish (befitting of Rare), suitably catchy music, fantastic multiplayer, and a story mode that progressively gets more difficult as the game goes on. Mickey's Speedway USA is in a lesser echelon of kart racers compared to Mario Kart 64 and the previously mentioned Diddy Kong Racing, but it holds its own regardless.

2) ModNation Racers: Road Trip (Vita)

LittleBigPlanet Karting supports a much larger kit of tools for players to create their own race tracks, but not only is this much more convoluted to do compared to the PlayStation Vita launch title ModNation Racers: Road Trip, but the actual gameplay is lesser as well. The Vita version of ModNation Racers possesses a wide array of pre-made tracks for the excellent story campaign, full of side missions such as not hitting a wall, taking every shortcut, and hitting five enemies, for instance. Creating capable and highly competent tracks is a breeze, and the use of the touch screen to accurately draw track, place objects, and sculpt terrain makes for an engaging designing experience that won't make you need to watch a 50 minute series of tutorials just to have a fighting chance of building some great.

1) Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing (Multi)

While its sequel, Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed gets a lot of acclaim from fans and critics, the original Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing usually gets overlooked. Not here at SuperPhillip Central, where I actually consider the original Sonic & SEGA all-star karting mashup to be superior. It has a better cast of characters with a more enjoyable way of unlocking them via spending SEGA Miles, it has a more entertaining single player mode with its Mario Kart DS-style mission mode, and it has tracks that are much easier to see the twists and turns of. A lack of glitches and bugs compared to Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed makes the pick of the original Sonic & SEGA quite easy to make as the most underrated kart racer currently on the market today.

Honorable Mentions: Konami Krazy Racers (GBA), Banjo Pilot (GBA), NASCAR Kart Racing (Wii), Crash Nitro Kart (PS2, GCN, XBX)


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