Friday, October 20, 2017

How Was I Supposed to Know THAT!? ~ Obtuse Things in Games - Volume Three

Welcome to the third edition of SuperPhillip Central's ongoing look at moments in games both past and present which left many players dumbfounded on how to progress, what to do, where to go, and other less than intuitive means to move forward. Why, the solutions to these problematic points in games are practically obtuse! We're going fully retro with the theme this time on volume three with five more games that brought most players' progress to a brick wall.

Check out past volumes of SuperPhillip Central's look at obtuse things in games with these two links:

Volume One
Volume Two

Leaving Someone to Die (a.k.a The Hero's Way!) - Cave Story (Multi)


This first game's seen a seemingly infinite amount of ports and remakes across a wide range of platforms, with the most recent being the Nintendo Switch. While the game is now on another new platform, Cave Story still retains the same method required to obtain the good ending after all of these years. However, as we've seen on previous volumes of "How Was I Supposed to Know THAT!?", some games just don't make things fair on its players.

During his adventure, our hero comes across a Professor Booster who falls out of a portal and into a chasm below. The logical thing, after all, with you being a hero, would be to dive down that pit and check on the unfortunate fellow. However, that's actually not what you're supposed to do. Instead, you're meant to ignore what just happened with the Professor as well as his probable pain and suffering, and move along like nothing happened. This requires a well executed bit of decidedly challenging platforming to otherwise not fall into the chasm alongside the Professor. Because if you enter the pit, requiring you to speak to Professor Booster, the event where the character heals from his fall and finishes a special item for you doesn't happen, thus blocking your ability to get the good ending of Cave Story.


It's something as simple as following an otherwise innocent, little event to its conclusion (i.e. not ignoring a fallen, friendly NPC suffer from his injuries) that can instantly jeopardize a Good Ending run in Cave Story into something worse. If you know that doing this event will affect you earning the good ending going in (which most players starting out will not), you can avoid falling into the pit or just reset the game. If not, you won't be any the wiser as to why you haven't seen the best ending Cave Story has to offer.

Loitering in Dracula's Castle - Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (Multi)


The Mirror Cuirass and the Knuckle Duster are two items that you can retrieve in Dracula's Castle in Castlevania: Symphony of the Knight by using the Mist ability, earned a good amount of time in the game. They're helpful items to acquire by that point in the game, but they're even better to nab earlier on. However, they're locked behind a gated door, impervious to anything passing it except Alucard's aforementioned Mist ability, so this is but a pipe dream, right? Not so, dear reader! And so long after playing Symphony of the Night for the first time, I was stunned to learn that I could acquire these two prized items ahead of time, or how anyone could have found this to begin with.


A room directly above the one containing the items is a dead end with a wall showing clear cracks. Breaking this portion of the wall will reveal a Pot Roast recovery item. That's that, right? Well, actually, no. There's more to this room than meets the eye, but it requires some patience. Literally.
The space left by the broken wall requires Alucard to plant firm feet on it and stay still for 20 seconds or so. Suddenly, an elevator will slowly lower down, revealing entrance into the room possessing the Mirror Cuirass and the Knuckle Duster, proudly resting on adjoining pedestals, awaiting to be plucked and plundered by Dracula's son.

Call Someone Up from the Tech Department, Please - X-Men (GEN)


"Ah, dammit! The 'reset the computer' warning is blaring away again, Ted." 
"Can't you just do what you did last time, Paul, and kick it a few times to shut it up?"

Imagine, if you will, a roadblock in a Sega Genesis game that was even larger than that seen in Sonic the Hedgehog 3's Barrel of Doom, covered previously on the first volume of this article series. It involves an infamous place where plenty of X-Men players got stuck. What's worse, it's near the end of the game. (Which begs the question, "Why did these Sega Genesis developers keep their most fiendish tricks near the end of their games?")

There is a point in the second-to-last level in X-Men where players are told to "reset the computer." The first thing that comes to one's mind might be to just punch and kick at the computer screen, only to feel confused when each extremity thrown does nothing to help at all. Then, it must be something within the level itself that one has to go back, find, and destroy? After all, there were plenty of henchmen to take out, so one might have easily missed something in the process.

Unfortunately, these possible solutions turned out to not be solutions at all. The actual solution is for the player to quickly press the Reset button of their actual Sega Genesis. (Quickly press, not hold, as that would actually start the game over again.) In doing this fourth wall-breaking action, the computer in the facility would do as players intended. Of course, those that managed to think that far outside of the box, much more actually convince their young selves that tapping the Reset button wouldn't eliminate all of their progress up to this point in the game, probably weren't too confident if they came up with the correct solution. In a pre-Internet world, this one was worth calling a video game tips and tricks hotline for... or lucking out and having a friend from school find out for themselves so they could tell everyone on the playground during lunch.

A Jump is But A Jump, Except When It's Not - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (NES)


From one team of mutants to another, we look at the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles now. Their NES outing was a part-platforming, part-swimming, part over-the-head roamer that was and is still well known for its brutal difficulty. It also contrasts greatly with the majority of TMNT games that followed such as the more popular side-scrolling beat-em-up games. The brutal difficulty was as much part of the game actually being hard in challenge and being hard because many points in TMNT were counter-intuitive.

One of the most famous initial struggling points outside of the dam level, which occurs in the very first level of the game. The level is set at the docks where multiple side-scrolling sections of sewers connect the overhead perspective where the Turtles control the van to get from place to place (sewer to sewer, warehouse to warehouse) within the relatively confined quarters.


A particularly notable sewer has a point where you have to make a one-square-wide jump over a chasm, or go falling to the bottom level where you must make your way back up to the spot to try the jump again. Time and time again players will find themselves just missing the opposite side of the gap that looks like it should a breeze to make. Well, it actually is a breeze to make... because it's not a jump. Instead, a Turtle can just walk across it like the chasm isn't even there -- the same chasm that seemed to far across to do anything but jump over is the one you can just across. I share your exact sentiments, Angry Video Game Nerd, and thanks for the reminder about this one.

Riddle Me This - King's Quest (PC)


We save the worst (obtuse thing of this volume) for last! Now, the King's Quest series of point-and-click adventure games is known for usually having at least one completely *cue the article series name* "How Was I Supposed to Know THAT!?" puzzle in them. These are puzzles that require you to have some outside knowledge that isn't bestowed upon you from the actual game. Well, this riddle from a mysterious gnome in the original King's Quest was the one that started them all!

This old gnome gives players three opportunities to guess his name. While you do receive one hint in the form of a nearby house's letter cryptically reading "Sometimes it is wise to think backwards", that's all you really get. To go beyond that assumed clue, you need to do some thinking of the big picture, which is that King's Quest is a series tied to fairy tale lore, so it makes sense for the series to use some names from those tales for its own characters. Who is a well known gnome in fairy tales? Rumplestiltskin.

However, simply typing in "Rumplestiltskin" as your guess isn't good enough. That letter from the house with the cryptic clue comes into play now. Unfortunately, if your thought was to spell "Rumplestiltskin" backwards, it wasn't correct, and it wouldn't be good enough for the old gnome in the original version of King's Quest. Instead, you had to not only come up with a base name to work off with using outside information, but know to spell that name using a backwards version of the alphabet (e.g. A = Z, I = R). This finally will lead you to the solution of "Ifnkovhgroghprm." I'll just say if that gnome ever asks me another riddle like that nowadays, I'll just steal the damn magic beans from him.

Mario Party: The Top 100 (3DS) Mario & Friends Trailer

Several weeks ahead of its mid-November release date, Mario Party: The Top 100 has a new 30 second trailer available for view! This collection of what Nintendo deems to be the cream of the crop of Mario Party's minigames looks like a perfect sendoff for the series on the Nintendo 3DS family of systems. SuperPhillip Central will be covering Mario Party: The Top 100 in the coming months right here on the site!

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Squareboy vs. Bullies: Arena Edition (NS, Vita) Review

Squareboy vs. Bullies originally released on mobile platforms. Now, it has been given two dedicated platform releases in the form of a Nintendo Switch and PlayStation Vita update with this new Arena Edition. Let's see if this tale of revenge has more to it than it seems!

Revenge is a dish best served squared.


What happens when you're a weak Squareboy, and you get roughed up by some bullies at school? You seek out to toughen yourself up by heading to the dojo to learn the self-defense, fighting know-how to protect yourself if an incident like that occurs again! But what happens when you decide to take on those bullies that beat you up on and come back to find their fellow bullies destroyed your master's dojo? You go medieval on their 8-bit bully butts. That's the premise of Squareboy vs. Bullies: Arena Edition, a game that has just arrived on Nintendo Switch and PlayStation Vita's digital marketplaces. For five bucks, does this beat-em-up have more going for it than its "been there, done that" story?

In the beginning, two Bullies beat Squareboy up,
but by the end of the game, Squareboy will beat down over 300 Bullies.
Squareboy vs. Bullies: Arena Edition takes Squareboy all over the city in search of bullies to beat up and revenge to serve. If you're familiar with any kind of beat-em-up, then you should not be too surprised by what's on offer with this game. Though, maybe how basic Squareboy vs. Bullies is will make you surprised in a negative way, as you're just moving through environments, defeating waves of enemies with pugilistic power, and occasionally using the bullies' own weapons against them.

That all sounds nice and most of the time it's relatively competent and innocuous. However, movement and combat feel a bit too clunky in the control department. Every move in the game, from your punches and kicks, to your dashes and uppercuts, are all utilized by hitting one attack button. It's just that the direction of the control pad or the analog stick (or in some cases, the amount of times you press said directions) when you instigate an attack affects which move you pull off. The upside with this control setup is simplicity and accessibility. The downside is frustration with trying to perform one move and then you accidentally initiate another.

There is also the problem with every button being used as an attack because Squareboy would play much better if some of the attack commands weren't all tied to the same button. It's understandable why the devs didn't go this direction in an effort to cater to players of all ages, but it made it for me that I oftentimes happened to be too close to an enemy and accidentally grabbed them instead of straight up punched them. This would result in me getting surrounded by foes, having a significant portion of my health taken away in the process. Considering you only get one life per level, and it can make five minute levels where you die at the end due to cheap attacks from not being able to successfully get out of a combo all the more irritating.

Squareboy's the captain of this ship now.
Sure, the controls can be quite aggravating, but how do the levels in Squareboy vs. Bullies: Arena Edition end up being? Unfortunately, they do little to excite as well, simply being devised up of straight side-scrolling affairs where you move from left to right (or, to add some much-needed variety, right to left) and beat up the same enemies over and over again -- this time with a bad guy wearing a bowler hat and this time with a baseball cap-wearing bully who chucks baseballs at you. There are also no level hazards of any type, so all there is to worry about is those baddie bullies.

Meanwhile, the backgrounds are banal and don't much offer eye candy to look at. This makes the 13 levels in the game quite tedious to battle through. Thankfully, there's no real reason to play Squareboy's adventure through a second time (unless you somehow find ennui fun) because by the end of the adventure you'll have most, if not all trophies unlocked anyway. Even that's not implemented in the best way because when a trophy's unlocked, there's about a one second freeze in gameplay before the notification icon pops up.

As a beat-em-up, Squareboy vs. Bullies: Arena Edition is competent but unremarkable. It has small style but limited substance, making it a game you'll quickly forgot about after playing, even if you desire to see it to the end. (I did not.) On storefronts with much more appealing and rich gaming experiences, Squareboy vs. Bullies: Arena Edition just doesn't compete.

[SPC Says: D]

Review copy provided by Ratalaika Games.

Monday, October 16, 2017

SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs - "These Could Be Contenders" Edition

SuperPhillip Central returns for a brand-new week of content, and as the site tends to, the week begins with SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs, a weekly recurring onslaught to your ears of tremendous video game music!

Two potential Game of the Year contenders in the form of Horizon: Zero Dawn and NieR: Automata lead things off with a duo of exciting compositions. Then, we move on from those epic tales to something more calming, say, a round of golf with the infectious main theme of Everybody's Golf. While he can't usually beat his once-rival much at anything anymore, Sonic got the jump over Mario this time around by having a worldwide odyssey not only first, but years ago with his exploits in Sonic Unleashed. Last but not least, we round this edition out with a gorgeous orchestrated theme from EarthBound.

Also, be sure to check out the VGM Database for all past VGM volumes featured here every Monday. Let's get on to the music!

v1491. Horizon: Zero Dawn (PS4) - A Boon


This edition of SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs begins with two games that many outlets and gamers alike have already deemed worthy of "Game of the Year" nominees. Our first game is the terrific Horizon: Zero Dawn, which will be receiving new story-related single player content early next month. The soundtrack itself matches the wild and dangerous expanses of protagonist Aloy's world.

v1492. NieR: Automata (PS4, PC) - Wretched Weaponry (Dynamic - Vocals)


The second "Game of the Year" worthy title on this edition is NieR: Automata, a brilliant action game directed by Yoko Taro and developed by Platinum Games. Automata would become a major sales success for Square Enix and a critical darling by the media, both relatively unexpected outcomes. One of my favorite parts of the original NieR was its glorious soundtrack, and this crossed over into the game's sequel in a most beautiful way.

v1493. Everybody's Golf (PS4) - Main Theme (Clap Your Hands)


This bright, bouncy, and super catchy vocal theme from Owl City serves as the main theme for the latest entry in the Everybody's Golf franchise, formerly known in North America as Hot Shots Golf. The song is all about bright sunny days of putting, driving, and spending all your free time outside on the links in the idealistic world of Everybody's Golf. This song was featured in most if not all trailers for the game, giving listeners a yearning for the full song, now available to enjoy as the game's finally out.

v1494. Sonic Unleashed (Multi) - Apotos - Windmill Isle (Day)


Mario have an worldwide odyssey in just under two weeks' time, but Sonic the Hedgehog beat him to the punch several years ago with the Blue Blur's globe trotting journey in Sonic Unleashed. This cross-generation game seems like a masterpiece compared to what Sonic Team is currently trying to stumble out of the door with the abundantly lackluster-looking Sonic Forces. Nevertheless, Unleashed features one of my favorite 3D Sonic soundtracks, each providing stellar rhythms, catchy melodies, and superb instrumentation.

v1495. EarthBound (SNES) - Theme of Eagle Land (Orchestrated)


This version of the Eagle Land theme comes from a series of concerts performed by the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra in the mid 1990s. Alongside Mother 2 (or as the West knows it as EarthBound), other Nintendo and Super Nintendo games like Super Mario Bros., Super Mario World, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Donkey Kong Country, Super Metroid, Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy IV, and Final Fantasy VI were featured.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Yono and the Celestial Elephants (NS, PC) Review

Before we head into the weekend, SuperPhillip Central has one more review for this final weekday. It's a game for the Nintendo Switch and PC, recently released on the former. In fact, that's the version I've written about with this review of Yono and the Celestial Elephants.

Going on an adventure for the elevit.


It was on one of Nintendo's indie showcases that revealed look after look of games that I stumbled upon an intriguing and magical game starring a cute and plump elephant as the hero. The elephant marched around isometric areas, beat up on baddies, collected keys, unlocked doors, and interacted with characters in the mythical world. It appeared very Zelda-like, so -- being that Zelda is one of the my favorite gaming franchises of all time -- I immediately became engaged. Heck, I quite enjoyed FDG Entertainment's Oceanhorn released earlier in the Nintendo Switch's lifespan, and it had a similarly isometric world to be play in. The game is Yono and the Celestial Elephants, available for both Nintendo Switch and Steam, and while it might have been my fault for being so captivated by the picture book esque visual style, charm, and Zelda-like gameplay, I ended up finishing the game with a bit of disappointment.

As any adorable elephant does, Yono plays well with others.
First off, the word "Zelda" already appears plenty of times in the prior paragraph because Yono and the Celestial Elephants fits the structure and doesn't try to hide it either. Exploring worlds, entering dungeons, collect four health "tokens" to upgrade Yono's health, taking on bosses, and solving puzzles are all familiar elements that this game borrows from the Zelda series. However, speaking on the latter part, unlike Zelda, the puzzles sprinkled throughout Yono are rather easy and won't need much wracking of your brain to come to the proper solution. Most of it is pure block pushing and anything else is also pretty much basic. There were few moments in Yono's short adventure that made me take pause and really have to figure things out.

Underneath the town of Freehaven rests this mechanical maze, dungeon #2 of Yono's adventure.
Yono and the Celestial Elephants is essentially a Zelda game for younger children when puzzle difficulty and complexity is regarded, and there is definitely nothing wrong with that. However, then you get to the combat, which is just lacking depth at best and just awful at worst. There is no effort necessary in combat -- no strategy. You simply use Yono's headbutt ability to charge into enemies again and again, with a cavalier attitude because even if you take damage, hearts are in seemingly unlimited supply from defeated foes and appearing from broken jars. It makes the small number of combat scenarios in Yono and the Celestial Elephant feel like they shouldn't even be in the game. After all, my greatest threat to losing health had more to do with difficulty judging distance from the isometric camera view and accidentally falling "off the map" rather than with dealing with enemies.

Listen to your pals Smokey and Yono: Only YOU can prevent forest fires.
What makes the simplicity in gameplay so strange (seemingly shooting for accessibility for children) is how tonally different it is compared to the actual story and dialog featured in Yono and the Celestial Elephants. Players are greeted with a charming and delightful world that feels like it's plucked directly out of a child's fairy tale or picture book only to have NPCs spout dialog about complex election systems, deep concepts of psychology, and every child's favorite subject, death. Early on I was amazed to see a one-off conversation with an executioner, but by the end of the game, I kept asking myself, "Who the heck is this game even for?" It's too easy of a game to hook older players to play more than once, while the game's occasional dialog is also presumably too over the heads of a younger audience.

Regardless of that massively minor gripe, Yono and the Celestial Elephants isn't an overly lengthy game either. I expected it, though, when I entered a railway system that connects every major area in the game (obviously with those that Yono and I hadn't reached yet being locked off). The railway chamber only had six or so areas to visit, and I already had the first one unlocked. Regardless, that sort of lowered my expectations on the size of the rest of my and Yono's quest, making me realize this would be a breezy adventure.

Thankfully, there some additional avenues to lengthen the Yono's quest. Mentioned before is the ability to collect Heart Tokens, many of which are in plain sight, but others require a bit more reeling and dealing across the game's towns through various trading sequences. Coins earned can be used to purchase new skins for Yono. I particularly loved having Yono rock a "Link to the Pedigree" skin that gave my elephant friend a familiar green hat, tunic, and belt. Finally, you can use letters collected from defeated enemies and the like to restore the game's monastery's library, revealing an awesome and admirable amount of backstory of the world before Yono arrived. It's incredibly unneeded, but that kind of world-building is impressive to see all the same.

I'd love all of these skins, but all those coins..!!!
Visually, Yono and the Celestial Elephants is remarkable, and that's probably the game's highest point of greatness besides its well crafted world that also assists in building a level of appreciable charm. The music is similarly delightful, offering some serene and catchy tunes. I especially loved the theme played while inside houses within the game's numerous towns. Nevertheless, where Yono and the Celestial Elephants really trips up over its trunk with regards to presentation is in its sound effects. Most become rather grating over time, and many sound incredibly tinny, using poor recordings from what it sounds like. The screams of attacked enemies especially become torture to the ears.

While it's true that elephants never forget, beyond its lovely charm, picture book visuals, and occasionally "WTF" moments in dialog, I probably will forget more than I would have liked about my otherwise enjoyable play sessions with Yono and the Celestial Elephants. In a crowded Switch eShop market where just being "good" isn't good enough anymore to grab owners' attention, I can only recommend Yono and the Celestial Elephants to those up for a simplistic take on the Zelda formula that also features some incredibly deep insights on the human world. Everyone else should at least wait for a sale, because while Yono isn't the greatest adventure, it's certainly worth checking out eventually.

[SPC Says: C]

Review code provided by the developer.

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