Tuesday, February 6, 2018

A Much Needed Change for Me

For almost nine years now I've been trying to post regularly each weekday here at SuperPhillip Central. Obviously, if you look at the past few months, I have failed in aiming to reach that goal. I constantly get stressed out about reaching target numbers of posts, target numbers of reviews, reviewing certain games before the end of the month, reviewing review copies in time, and so forth.

That's just the thing. In 2008, SuperPhillip Central was founded as a blog that I could enjoy writing about games. It's no longer that anymore. It's become work to me. Playing games has become work. It's not out of fun -- it's now out of some misplace sense of urgency and necessity to have content out for my readers.

When something that I started for fun becomes turning into work, it gets quite frustrating. I love playing video games, but I don't wish to do it while jeopardizing my fun for the hobby and my enjoyment of writing about them. I shouldn't feel like I have to always routinely update this site out of a duty to myself.

Now, before you get worried, I'm not through with SuperPhillip Central, but I am going into a more subdued schedule. No more will I have to focus on getting an article up on a certain day or having a review done by a specific date and so forth. Things that have become tedious to do like the weekly "SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs" will no longer be a part of my regular routine.

I've worked myself rugged these past few years especially, and really, I get a lot of nice feedback and views from fine folks around the globe. It's a pleasure to share my writing to others, and to know that some people actually care what this random stranger from Missouri has to say about particular games and topics within our shared hobby. It just has gotten to a point where after the 400th article I share to N4G getting people commenting on the article headline without reading the actually article body before sharing their usually uninformed opinion (which reading the article body would have helped them come up with an informed one) or having people just ignore it completely makes wanting to write so often less enticing. Plus, there is that more important aforementioned point of feeling that writing about games has felt more like a duty than a fun hobby.

So, SuperPhillip Central will still be around to celebrate its tenth anniversary this June, but the amount of posts probably won't be as plentiful as it was back when I was really feeling things. Stay tuned, however, because I will always have new reviews, insights, fun articles, and more to share, just on a more sporadic basis. Thank you for reading and continuing to support SuperPhillip Central!

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

World to the West (NSW, PS4, XB1, PC) Review

With the SuperPhillip Central Best of 2017 Awards in the books, it's time to move on to this final day of January, where I have two reviews in store. The first is from Rain Games, makers of Teslagrad. The team's game is World to the West, recently released on the Nintendo Switch, which just so happens to be the platform I reviewed the game on.

Not the best in the West, but genuinely enjoyable all the same.

Two popular genres from indie studios seem to be the 2D platformer and the Zelda-style action game. Developer Rain Games already created the former with Teslagrad, which released several years ago. Now, the developer is focusing on the latter genre experience with World to the West, which combines the typical gameplay of a 2D Zelda and merges it with a chapter-based structure. As one might imagine with a game of this type, there are plenty of enemies to defeat, puzzles to solve, and areas of the world to explore.

Square key for a square door. This beginning puzzle is certainly no brain buster.
What makes World to the West unique is that you aren't just exploring the world with one character. Instead, you accomplish this with a cast of four interchangeable characters, each with their own distinct move set and abilities. The teslamancer (explained in Rain Games' first effort, Teslagrad, as a term for people who can summon the power of lightning), Lumina, can fire bolts of electricity from her fingers and teleport small distances. Teri has the ability to control the minds of enemies, using their abilities to progress, as well as having a whip to pull herself across specific gaps. Meanwhile, Knaus is a precocious and pleasant, young lad who can climb into small holes, dig underground, and later in the game, even ice skate across bodies of water. Finally, Lord Clonington has massive strength, able to climb up short walls and break down iron-gated doors in no sweat.

With a sling of her whip, Teri makes a quick, and dare I say "fashionable," escape.
With the chapter-based system, you start out in World to the West only being able to control one or two characters at a time. By the midway point of the game, all four heroes meet up, allowing full control of each character. However, there are positives and negatives about this. For a negative, switching between characters can be a headache, as characters can only be switched in and out at save totems, rather than changed at the player's leisure. This makes sense as World to the West's map is crafted in a way that puts each character's abilities to good use. While Knaus can skid across lakes to progress to one area, Lord Clonington can bash down a door blocking his way to that same area. This is to say that although players might find themselves needing to get to the same destination with all four characters at times, it's made less strenuous by having them reach that destination through different means, and potentially totally different pathways.

When situations call for some brawn, Lord Clonington is at your service.
That said, if you're Lumina and you want to Teri to transport to the same save totem as you, that means Teri needs to have visited that same save totem already by herself. Just because one character has reached a save totem doesn't mean everyone has access to teleport to it. Thus, moving character to character from one save totem to another throughout World to the West's map can cause some bouts of ennui and reputation. (And to be frank, just a genuine pain in butt sometimes.)

I understand the need for the game's world to be built this way, too. Certain secrets within the world, the two most prominent being extra health and batteries, are meant for specific characters to nab them using their own special and unique abilities. If one could simply switch at any time between characters, the balance would be jumbled up. A player could easily reach secrets otherwise, and that kind of "switch on the fly between characters" gameplay would require the developer of World to the West to seriously revamp and rebuild the entire world map, possibly ruining their vision. Still, some sort of solution in the middle would have been lovely to see.

Gather 'round the campfire and hear a tale of an unlikely team of heroes.
While that does adversely affect the more open-world portions of World to the West, switching between characters in the way World to the West handles it works best in the more linear areas of the game, such as the two late-game dungeons requiring all four characters' abilities. The puzzles become clearer on what needs to be done, and you don't need to bring a character over from who-knows-where in the open-world map to perform one odd action just to continue with a given puzzle.

That notwithstanding, the requirement to switch between characters and essentially lead them one-by-one from totem to totem allows players to learn the map better and find those aforementioned secrets more easily (and get by help the proper character to solve the puzzle(s) needed to grab them).

As you can see, there are many positives and negatives that go into making World to the West both fun and rewarding as well as occasionally laborious and evoking a sense of repetition. Thinking of that, World to the West still managed to provide me ten hours of joy and satisfaction in figuring out ways to get around the world with each character, solving puzzles, and discovering secrets. World to the West may not win everyone over with its character switching approach, but it should win most of them.

[SPC Says: C+]

Review code provided by Rain Games.

Monday, January 29, 2018

SuperPhillip Central Best of 2017 Awards - Top Ten Games of 2017

Kept you waiting, huh? In total honesty, I totally did keep you guys waiting, as the plan was to have this list posted this past Friday, but a little game called Monster Hunter World interrupted those not-so-firm-after-all plans of mine. One lost weekend later, and it's finally time for the last, ultimate category here at the SuperPhillip Central Best of 2017 Awards: The Top Ten Games of 2017, as honored by me.

These games aren't necessarily the best of the best, as I can't possibly play every game released from 2017. (Well, not without going completely insane.) Thus, this selection of ten games of 2017 is based on the ones I played, which was around 200 games this year. Regardless, I'd love to know your thoughts on my picks, and I'd love to know which games are your favorites from 2017 in general. This is a celebration of the past year of gaming, so let's keep it positive and productive!

Now, without further ado, it's time to list off SuperPhillip Central's Top Ten Games of 2017!

10) Metroid: Samus Returns (3DS)

Samus did, in fact, return with a new take on an old Game Boy classic with the Nintendo 3DS's Metroid: Samus Returns. With new means to destroy enemies, impressive counterattacks, radial aiming, and new Aeon abilities, Samus was in peak form to take on the Metroid menaces plaguing planet SR388. Fresh story beats and bosses added into the mix meant expanded lore to the series, and with the game's ending, things have been set up for a brand-new chapter in the much celebrated franchise. Metroid fans were going crazy waiting for the return of Samus Aran and the Metroid series, and Metroid: Samus Returns turned out to bring the series back in a bold, brave new way.

9) SteamWorld Dig 2 (NSW, PS4, Vita, PC)

This digital delight came out of nowhere for me and dazzled me with its more focused concept. Gone from the original SteamWorld were the procedurally generated levels that did mean a different experience every time, but they also meant less getting to know shortcuts, accessing secret portions of levels, and taking on carefully crafted sections of the game, hand-tailored by the designers. Instead, SteamWorld Dig 2 boasted intrinsic design to its levels, gameplay, upgrades, secrets, and story. This 10 hour game was such a joy and blast to play through, and it's the type of 2D platformer that will definitely be returning to in the near future now that my initial play-through is complete. SteamWorld Dig 2's platforming -- with its combination of running, jumping, wall sliding, grappling onto faraway objects like walls and ceilings, and even jet-pack riding -- possessed such tight controls that performing actions was easy to do at any time. SteamWorld Dig 2 is a full step up from the original Dig that it's astonishing how far the series has improved with a couple of entries.

8) Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle (NSW)

Combining the historic and highly acclaimed Super Mario series of Nintendo and the lesser appealing Rabbids franchise from Ubisoft seemed laughable. Actually, to many it literally was with troll posts, potshots, and hot takes against the game idea. However, laughter turned into pure hype once the game was finally, officially unveiled. This XCOM-like game took on a genre that wasn't usually seen on Nintendo platforms, mixed in a surprising amount of strategy, lots of character customization, and plenty of humor to deliver one of the most out-of-left-field success stories in some time within the gaming industry. The sharp turn that the gaming community took on Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle, from hearing rumors and guffawing at them, to cheering the creative director, who sat proud and in tears at his team's hard work at E3 2017, made for a heartwarming story to an already fantastic game.

7) Monster Hunter Stories (3DS)

While the rest of the gaming world is rightfully hyped and diving into the recently released Monster Hunter World, I'm still neck-deep into this Nintendo 3DS spin-off of the main franchise with Monster Hunter Stories. Taking many cues from the mainline games while adding fresh twists to the franchise, such as being able to hatch eggs to collect new monsters, battling in turn-based brawls against beasts both big and small, fighting alongside your Monsties, exploring expansive worlds for materials and treasure, participating in local and online battles, and so forth, Monster Hunter Stories provided and for me, continues to provide, many dozens of hours of playtime to its content-rich story. The visuals and presentation are some of the Nintendo 3DS's best, and since Stories is so different in genre to Monster Hunter World, which launched this past Friday, I won't be getting exhausted from the Monster Hunter franchise any time soon. Monster Hunter Stories is a more friendly take on Capcom's long-running moneymaker, and it's most definitely worth mention on this list of my favorite games of 2017.

6) Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (NSW)

It definitely says something for when I have a game I've already played the Wii U original version of several years ago, and am now putting its Nintendo Switch port on my top ten list of games of 2017. However, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe wasn't just a simple copy and paste of the Wii U game, as a lot of new content and upgrades were added. From a wholly remodeled Battle Mode with eight actual arenas to have insane multiplayer brawls in, to the addition of new playable characters, to the help provided to beginning players with the welcomed Assist mode, Mario Kart 8 got a second time in the spotlight with the Deluxe version. Despite investing over 80 hours easily in the vanilla Wii U release, my family managed to pour an abundance of hours into the Switch release. Now, with 120 hours of Mario Kart 8 under our belts and no signs of stopping, the Nintendo Switch's Mario Kart 8 Deluxe goes down as one of the best kart racing experiences found anywhere.

5) Sonic Mania (NSW, PS4, XB1, PC)

Both episodes of Sonic the Hedgehog 4 turned out to show that Sonic Team and its associates really didn't know what made the classic 2D games so beloved by fans. Thus, a team that originally made Sonic fan-games before getting called in by SEGA to make some HD ports of Sonic 1, 2, and CD, stepped in to show Sonic Team how it was done. ...That's not totally fair, as Sonic Team did have a hand in Sonic Mania, which became one of the my favorite Sonic games of all time. It rivaled Sonic 3 & Knuckles in scope and size, took classic zones and custom fitted them with all-new obstacles, challenges & mechanics, introduced four new zones that wouldn't feel out of place in any Sonic game of yore, and added some unique gameplay elements like the Drop Dash, something most of us never knew we wanted before. Now that the move's here, we sort of can't imagine playing a Sonic game without it! Complete with an insane soundtrack and colorful, crisp, inviting visuals, Sonic Mania was the real deal and finally put Sonic the Hedgehog back into relevancy with the more older and jaded fans of the franchise and the gaming community itself.

4) Uncharted: The Lost Legacy (PS4)

Last year, Uncharted 4: A Thief's End was runner-up in the Games of 2016 category at the SuperPhillip Central Best of 2016 Awards. Its brilliant conclusion to the protagonist Nathan Drake's adventures, the pulse-pounding action, well done and delivered dialog, and jaw-dropping visuals made it get deservedly high on the list. This year, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, featuring two strong women characters in action, actually being portrayed as confident and self-sufficient rather than how a sad majority of women gaming characters are written, managed to knock my socks off. Naughty Dog once again provided PlayStation 4 owners with one hell of a ride, even beating Nate Drake's final foray in the pacing department. The Lost Legacy gave me moments where my adrenaline kept me playing long into the night, and longer than I should have frankly stayed up. Yet, I was so engaged with the game, the story, the sections with non-linear exploration, and the frenetic fighting and gunplay that I couldn't tear myself away from the game. That's one hell of an accomplishment coming from this blogger, which is reason enough to put Uncharted: The Lost Legacy as the number four pick on this list of games of 2017.

3) Horizon: Zero Dawn (PS4)

However, Naughty Dog's effort was astonishingly outdone this year, and by an unlikely source! The studio behind Killzone of all games, a franchise that I don't generally have a high fondness for outside of the PS Vita game, created one of the most memorable and breathtaking games of 2017. It was Guerrilla Games' Horizon: Zero Dawn, an open-world action-adventure having its heroine Aloy in the center of a war between humanity, machinery, and her own identity. The myriad ways to go about hunting, tracking, and taking down the wide arrangement of dangerous machines and robots with the game meant that every encounter, no matter what type of geology you had to work with, was different and providing variety. Even battles against lower threat foes were fun and engaging. Couple that with a story that kept me want to seeking out its conclusion, the amazingly real-looking visuals and glorious vistas rampant throughout the game, and the rewarding crafting and upgrade systems involved made for an adventure that I will not soon forget, but I will always cherish it. This was Horizon: Zero Dawn, and this was SuperPhillip Central's favorite PlayStation 4 exclusive of 2017.

2) Super Mario Odyssey (NSW)

It's not every year that a new 3D Mario releases on a Nintendo home console. It's also not every year that a new 3D Mario releases within the first nine months of the home console's release. 2017 was the common ground between both statements as Super Mario Odyssey went around the world and back on the Nintendo Switch this past year. Mario was indeed back, and his global adventure saw him see various worldwide sights, from pyramids and greenhouses, to culinary kingdoms beside an active volcano and even directly into Bowser's oriental-themed castle itself. Over 800 Power Moons meant that collectors and completionists would have lots to play through, but it also meant beginning and casual players could pick up the easier moons within the game and progress through the story as well.

In Super Mario Odyssey, never before had Mario been so versatile with his move set. Chaining actions to create massive combos of successive leaps and moves to cross large areas of space were fantastic for speed runs and reaching new, hidden heights. Whereas beginners could stick to the basics and still find enjoyment in the game. Super Mario Odyssey was one of the few games released this year that consistently amazed me with its continuous flow of new ideas and personality. When I wasn't smiling while playing, I was laughing and giggling like a schoolboy. Super Mario Odyssey continued Nintendo's ability to provide smiles to players the world 'round, including yours truly.

And SuperPhillip Central's Game of 2017 award goes to...



1) The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (NSW, Wii U)

It's astonishing to see a gaming year bring us both of Nintendo's highest rated and celebrated franchises on one system. With The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Nintendo gave players a sandbox world to explore and literally play around in due to the masterful physics system provided. It seemed every hour from launch that new ways to interact with the environment and take out enemies were being shared by players. This constant state of amazement that Breath of the Wild brought to the gaming world was truly extraordinary. There are still new things being learned and shared to this day, almost a year from the game's initial launch.

The developers basically outlined the usual gameplay and elements of the Zelda franchise on a chalkboard, took that board, and erased everything on it, eschewing old conventions to make a wholly original game that still retained that feeling, spirit, and magic of the Zelda franchise. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild bestowed on to players the most freedom seen in any series game in the past. After the initial tutorial area was completed, you were allowed to go anywhere you wanted. See that mountain? You can climb it. See that river? You can swim it. If you were prepared, you could make Breath of the Wild as hard, balanced, or as easy as you wanted in your run. Take to the fiery mountains where the Goron tribe call their home to get more challenge at the start of the game, or take it easy and head to Zora Domain after your departure from Kakariko Village.

The world was your oyster, the sandbox was yours to explore, and the various lands, areas, people, and puzzles making up the land of Hyrule all felt unique from one another. There is something to be said about a game that has flaws that don't tarnish the overall experience for me. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is no perfect game, but what it is - is a gameplay experience, memorable journey, exciting adventure, and lovely game world that has now rivaled some of my favorite games ever made.


And with that, another year of the SuperPhillip Central Best of Awards ceremony is now complete. Ten years of game awards on SuperPhillip Central are now in the books. I hope you enjoyed the awards show here, and I hope you will continue supporting SuperPhillip Central now and for the 2018 Awards!

Friday, January 26, 2018

SuperPhillip Central Best of 2017 Awards - Top Five Biggest Surprises

This is always a fun category to do for the SuperPhillip Central Best Of yearly awards. So many hyped games can end up being disappointing, but what about those that folks didn't give much attention to that turned out awesome? Let's continue being positive here at the SuperPhillip Central Best of 2017 Awards with the nominees for the Biggest Surprises of the year. These are games that astonished me with their quality, almost coming out of nowhere to excite and fascinate. Some were more interesting than I originally gave them credit for, but after playing these games, my attitude shifting drastically. As always with the awards on SuperPhillip Central, I unfortunately can't play every game released in a given year, so don't be too hard on the award show for missing any of your picks. I might have simply not played them. Now, onto the Top Five Biggest Surprises of 2017!

5) Knack II (PS4)

We begin with a sequel to a successful launch game for the PlayStation 4. The original Knack may have sold well, but its critical reception from both fans and reviewers alike wasn't as notable as the game's sales. That notwithstanding, Knack II released and had the opposite outcome: the game was much improved and of a really good quality while the sales were less than spectacular, perhaps because the original Knack burned so many players by how repetitive it was. Adding more platforming, more worthwhile and varied combat, and lots more exploration allowing players to constantly go off the beaten path, Knack II was a delight to play and really did surprise those who tried out it (including yours truly) who didn't see it being a noteworthy game in the PS4's robust roster of software.

4) Ever Oasis (3DS)

This next game, Ever Oasis, was the winner of this year's Most Overlooked / Underrated Game here at the SuperPhillip Central Best of 2017 Awards. Developed in tandem by the mind behind the Secret of Mana as well Grezzo, the team who worked on both Legend of Zelda 3DS remakes, Ever Oasis was an action-RPG set in an expansive desert filled with a dark blight that has sucked every last bit of flora and water from oases around the land. Only one oasis was left, and that was of course yours. Through completing missions, conquering dungeons, solving puzzles, and battling enemies, your oasis would grow more and more prosperous, expanding and receiving newcomers to set up helpful shops. Materials from downed enemies could be used to upgrade the shops in order to make more money to craft new goods. Throughout my 30 hour playtime with the game, Ever Oasis brought me a feverish desire to keep playing, even when my 3DS's battery was running low. That's the mark of a compelling game. One that like an oasis in the desert was truly refreshing.


Like Splatoon for the Wii U, Nintendo introduced a heavy hitter as a new IP for its Switch console. This time around it was none other than the atypical fighting game ARMS. Players fought within arenas of varying sizes with different stage gimmicks inside to spice things up. Rather than attack with all extremities, ARMS, as you might expect from the name, was centered on its characters' upper limbs to unleash attacks of all directions, whether straight, curved, sliced, or what have you. While the goal in ARMS was similar to traditional fighting games, the gameplay was exponentially different when it came to strategy. Do you make the first advance with a punch? Which arm do you use? Do you dodge to left or evade to the right? Do you jump over a punch or send one of your own, careening around it to take your opponent out? Fights demanded the player to come up with these answers within milliseconds or else they'd be at the end of a vicious combo, or worse, be on the receiving end of a health bar-draining special attack. While ARMS didn't have the same level of popularity as Splatoon, ARMS did quite well for its freshman effort. Well enough to receive new, free updates as well as easily passing a million sales worldwide. Not bad for a first try!

2) Sonic Mania (PS4, XB1, NSW, PC)

Some games surprise and astonish from their quality. Some games do it because you didn't expect them to appear at all. Sonic Mania was a combination of both of these reasons with a classic-style Sonic game that was as good (and in many cases, better) as the games loved during the Genesis / Mega Drive era and was revealed from out of nowhere. Added to those facts was Christian Whitehead and company, makers of past Sonic fan-games and later assisted with the HD remasters of Sonic the Hedgehog 1, 2, and CD, who also had a full hand in creating a new 2D Sonic game which culminated exquisitely in Sonic Mania. You had a team of die-hard classic Sonic fans who knew what was good about the old games, something that even Sonic Team now clearly doesn't get, and with Whitehead and his team behind the game, Sonic Mania arrived with much hype, sales, and critical acclaim. A new 2D Sonic game in 2017 that sometimes surpasses the likes of the Genesis era? That is indeed a surprising opinion of mine and is all the reason why Sonic Mania is #2 on this countdown of this past year's biggest surprises.

1) Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle (NSW)

It was a crow buffet for all those folks who downplayed or worse, made fun of, the idea of Nintendo providing the Mario license to Ubisoft to make its own merging of the world of the Mushroom Kingdom with the insane antics of Rayman's Rabbids series with Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle. Some asked, "How would that even work?" Others didn't even believe it or could conceive how an idea was anything but ridiculous. When assets were leaked, the gaming community had a field day, hardly able to suppress their ire and "LMAOs" towards what they saw. But when E3 last year rolled around and Mario + Rabbids was properly unveiled, the entire gaming world (or at least those who were downplaying the game, which was many of us) was amazed and delighted by what they saw. Taking the gameplay of XCOM and throwing in Mario and Rabbids characters with high-powered weapons made for a game that was strategic, smart, and hilarious. The moment at E3 2017 where the creative director of Kingdom Battle, Davide Soliani broke down into tears at the warm regards, cheers, and applause for the game that he and his team worked so hard on, which was scrutinized for months before being given a fair chance... Well, it's an E3 moment I'll always treasure, much like the final product and biggest surprise of 2017, Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

SuperPhillip Central Best of 2017 Awards - Top Five Digital Downloads

There are just too many excellent digital games from last year to put on a top five list for my favorites at the SuperPhillip Central Best of 2017 Awards. That's a good problem to have in general, but when you have to just pick five out of dozens of memorable titles, you're definitely going to leave way too many out that deserve some recognition. But, name five, I must! These are SuperPhillip Central's choices for the Top Five Digital Downloads.

5) Snipperclips: Cut it out, together! (NSW)

A launch title for the Nintendo Switch, Snipperclips: Cut it out, together! is a mostly cooperative effort between up to four players. The goal is to use your character's body to cross over other players' bodies and snip a section of them off to perform an assortment of tasks. Whether it's teaming up to pack yourselves into a shape that doesn't flow over the dotted line, cutting a chunk off your partner to turn them into a hook to grab onto a high up lever, or turn each other into baskets to carefully bring a ball from one side of the screen to the other to clear the level, Snipperclips has a lot of chaotic multiplayer fun on offer. There are also single player challenges as well, but the overall game is best played in a group or party setting. From embarrassment for messing up a level at the last moment to yelling at a bud for doing the same, Snipperclips: Cut it out, together! was a tremendous start to the Nintendo Switch's online marketplace of games.

4) Blaster Master Zero (NSW, 3DS)

Taking the NES cult classic Blaster Master and reshaping and remodeling it for new, modern audiences, developer Inti Creates (Mega Man Zero, Mega Man ZX, Azure Striker Gunvolt) put forward a terrific and unique 2D platformer. Well, that's actually just part of the game. Your character gets in and out of its robotic tank and enters in to compounds where overhead action without the aid of his tank. Angry enemies, ruthless bosses, and climactic encounters punctuate the most high octane moments of Blaster Master Zero, while the pace slows down for exploration -- finding secret weapons and upgrades in a somewhat Metroid-style way. Both the 2D action-platforming and the over-the-head running and gunning make Blaster Master Zero on the whole a terrific indie charmer.

3) Mighty Gunvolt Burst (NSW, 3DS)

Inti Creates didn't just have one of my favorite digital delights from 2017 -- they had two! Despite the Mighty No. 9 franchise being a bit toxic after a turbulent (to say the least) Kickstarter campaign and subsequent handing out rewards (then there's the quality of the actual game), Inti Creates brought a much needed boost to Mighty No. 9's Beck. This time, he was starring with Gunvolt of the Azure Striker Gunvolt series in a followup to Mighty Gunvolt (a game that was available on the Nintendo 3DS and Steam). This sequel was Mighty Gunvolt Burst for the Nintendo Switch and 3DS. Similar to a Mega Man game and having the same cast of bosses as Mighty No. 9, the dev team went further, designing well crafted levels that encouraged multiple playthroughs to uncover secrets and get higher scores. An upgrade system meant you could customize Beck or Gunvolt by equipping found chips to do a number of enhancements. From air dashes, to adding elemental capabilities to weapons, to making bullets fire in different arcs and directions, the amount of customization was incredible. While we wait for Mega Man 11 later this year, why not check out Mighty Gunvolt Burst if you haven't already?

2) SteamWorld Dig 2 (PS4, NSW, Vita, PC)

We saw this game already earlier in the evening, and it's for good reason. SteamWorld Dig 2 is just a wonderful game made by an exceptionally talented team in Image & Form. Further expanding on the now-basic gameplay of the original SteamWorld Dig, the sequel brought forth expertly created level design as opposed to the randomly generated worlds seen in Image & Form's first chapter of the SteamWorld saga. This meant a more cleverly crafted world could be built, offering man-made challenges instead of leaving things up to the whims of the AI's design. It made finding treasure and completing the many challenge rooms within the game particularly rewarding and not something that felt like simple luck. The options in the player character's mobility further exemplified the lessons learned by the dev team, giving players more ways to get from point A to point B, and have lots of fun doing them. SteamWorld Dig 2 is an addicting, quality, treasure of a game that thankfully you don't have to discover miles under ground to play and enjoy.

1) Sonic Mania (PS4, XB1, NSW, PC)

Speaking of seeing games earlier this evening, it's once again time for SuperPhillip Central's pick for the top digital download of 2017, Sonic Mania! The days of me sinking a lot of time into a game, beating it multiple times, and after thinking I was exhausted with it, going back to play it some more seemed long gone. After all, usually when I beat a game nowadays I have to move on to my next for review purposes to keep a steady stream of relevant game coverage going. With Sonic Mania, I must have gone through the game with all seven Chaos Emeralds at least three times. The zones are colorful and full of interesting gimmicks and obstacles, the controls are as solid and smooth as the Genesis classics, and the overall presentation nails the '90s aesthetic from over two decades ago. As cynical and sarcastic as I often can get, games like Sonic Mania bring back the kid in me, and they remind me why I love gaming so much.


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