Monday, March 27, 2017

SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs - "Marching to the End of the Month" Edition

We're at the final edition of SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs for the month of March, so let's close it out in style with music from a wide assortment of games. I'm talking RPGs, racing games, and a duo of Nintendo 64 classics from Rare.

Fire Emblem Fates starts things off with a rousing orchestral theme followed by a rocking boss battle theme from Adventures of Mana. Speeding things up is a song from F-Zero, and then we end this edition with two Nintendo 64 games from developer Rare, Jet Force Gemini and Banjo-Tooie.

Click on the VGM volume name to hear the song featured. If you'd like to listen to past VGM volumes featured on SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs, check out the VGM Database. Now, let's get on to the music!

v1361. Fire Emblem Fates (3DS) - A Dark Fall (Fire)

With Fire Emblem Echoes releasing in a couple of months on the Nintendo 3DS and word of two new Fire Emblem games hitting the Switch (one Warriors game and one traditional entry), it seemed like an opportune time to showcase a song from the most recent release in the franchise, Fire Emblem Fates. As usual, the orchestration and arrangements heard are as tremendous as ever.

v1362. Adventures of Mana (iOS, Android, Vita) - Fight! II (Boss Theme 2)

Adventures of Mana is a remake Final Fantasy Adventure, a Game Boy game of old. Despite being given an updated presentation, Adventures of Mana is quite old school in its gameplay and how it doesn't really hold the player's hand. There some moments during my play-through of the game where I needed to reference a guide. Still, I couldn't be too frustrated when exploring the world with Kenji Ito's sensational soundtrack. This second boss battle theme is one of the great themes heard in game.

v1363. F-Zero (SNES) - Red Canyon

Let's get retro here on SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs with some F-Zero! This is indeed a series that many fans of futuristic racers would love to see make a reappearance. Despite this, Nintendo keeps them waiting. Red Canyon is a fast paced theme that received a remixed version in F-Zero GX's story mode, particular its second chapter. Whichever version you listen to, you're going to rock out.

v1364. Jet Force Gemini (N64) - Character Select

One of Rare's most underrated Nintendo 64 games is the excellent Jet Force Gemini, sporting my favorite soundtrack from Rare during that era. That's quite the compliment when Rare had such superb soundtracks like Perfect Dark and Banjo-Kazooie! Jet Force Gemini was more symphonic in its approach, offering tense and thrilling themes. Hell, even the character theme was intense!

v1365. Banjo-Tooie (N64, XBLA) - Jinjo Village

Not getting away from Rare's Nintendo 64 games, our final VGM volume of this edition comes from Banjo-Tooie, a game that provided evidence that bigger is not always better. Worlds were way too big and required many steps just to get the Jiggies in them. That said, the soundtrack was as wonderful for the series as ever, composed by Grant Kirkhope. Here's hoping the spiritual successor from Playtonic Games, Yooka-Laylee, turns out to be a great game.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

With the JonTron Debate, YouTuber Boogie2988 Just Doesn't Get It.

Let me preface this article with some words on Boogie2988, a face on the gaming side of YouTube that made himself somewhat popular with his "Francis" character. He tries to appear as a nice guy on both his YouTube channel and on Twitter. One of his defining characteristics is to keep a centrist approach and not enjoying conflict within the community. However, recent events have made Boogie look less than enlightened and almost opportunistic.

Recently, YouTuber JonTron said some very unsavory comments towards other races as well as immigrants in an online video. The text of some of his comments is written out here. Following that was a lot of fallout with his voice work in the upcoming game from Playtonic, Yooka-Laylee being taken out in response.

Boogie has said he didn't want to lose viewers by taking sides, yet he went ahead and not only made a video, but monetized the hell out of it. If someone wanted to stay out of something, then why put themselves directly into the storm? In doing so, he took the nice guy "both sides" approach as seen in this comment:
"Maybe I'll learn from them, maybe they'll from me, and we'll land somewhere in the middle. Wouldn't that be swell? Because the middle is a great place to be!"
This is a nice idea, but it doesn't work here. The middle ground is "a great place to be" works in a debate about choosing what movie you want to watch with your date at a movie theater. She wants to watch a romantic comedy. You want an action movie. Why not meet in the middle and watch an action comedy with some romance, then? That is indeed swell. ...Well, not if it's a matinee of Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot, but I'm getting off track here.

But, really, what is the middle ground between "we should have an White-ethnocentric country" that JonTron uttered (yet in our post-truth world there's even those who disagree that that was even said) and "no, that's racism?" How does one get a middle ground between a viewpoint that's racist and one that condemns racism? Is the middle ground simply being "partly racist" then? That's still awful and shouldn't be condoned. It's essentially saying "Hey. Dude. Why don't you be a little less racist, huh?" And then the other side going, "Okay, other dude. Why don't you try to be a little less black, huh?" That's idiocy and it's intellectually dishonest and dangerous at best, as just because there's an argument it doesn't mean that there's needs to be a middle ground to move to.

But there's more. You can look at his Twitter feed for this gem.

Boogie uses so many intellectually dishonest arguments that it's simply maddening. For one, there's a difference between disagreeing with someone for their views like being a conservative or a liberal and disagreeing with someone for saying racist gems like saying the wealthiest blacks commit more crime than the poorest whites or thinking we should purify the gene pool. So yeah, that's not a good look right from the beginning, and it's a pure unequivocal comparison there.

Another, which is even more ridiculous, is comparing JonTron's views with Anita Sarkeesian's. Both, to Boogie, are "extreme views." Maybe in the gaming world where any time calls for inclusion are desired, many gamers go "get your politics out of my gaming!" But in the real world, both of these views are hardly extreme; only one is. Instead, it's a flimsy argument that JonTron and Sarkeesian's views should be compared as one argues FOR racist ideas and one argues AGAINST sexism. One advocates those that don't possess white genes are somehow inferior (JonTron) while the other advocates against norms in gaming media deemed harmful towards women (Sakeesian).

How is wanting less sexualized women in gaming extreme? How does that even compare to the dilution of the gene pool? What?! Where is the sense in this totally false equivalency?! In the real world, equality isn't an extreme idea, sort of showing how much Boogie here doesn't get it. He's stuck in his own world, like many who have grown up and stayed behind computer screens, and not in actual reality, and that's unfortunate!

People are very much allowed to share their views no matter how bigoted they are (like JonTron did). People are also very much allowed to share their views on defending these bigoted views (like Boogie currently is). However, the nice thing is that people are allowed to share their views on both whether it's positive or not. If people want to call out racism as bad, they're more than enough to do. They can also defend racism like Boogie is doing yet either is too naive to understand that or is just playing us all like fiddles.

You're certainly free to cower behind the victim card when your views of racism or your views not calling out racism are argued and debated. Feel free to say "woe is me", feel free to be "surprised" when your monetized video saying we should meet in the middle with racists isn't taken with all sunshine and happiness by everyone. In Boogie's reality or the one he divulges online, being in the middle with racists is rational. In the real world, not fighting racism and instead flippantly letting it slide is, in fact, being okay with racism. You deserve to have your ignorance argued against, and you can't just play the victim and wonder why you're under attack when you defend someone spouting pure bigotry. Though constantly playing the victim card in general gets annoying...

Boogie's right, though. We shouldn't try to ruin JonTron's career. Jon's own words and beliefs might do that himself. And why would we want to anyway? It's not like JonTron is a racist with harmful views (but they're just opinions, bro!) who has a whole slew of young, impressionable kids as his audience. What could possibly go wrong with JonTron's views being read and heard by the young'ins anyway?

Perhaps instead of saying "the middle" is the great place to be, Boogie saying "tolerance" could be the great place to be. he wouldn't be under fire such right now. He wouldn't seem to be a coward, afraid to upset one side of the argument or the other.

It's not about SJWs or liberals. It's also not about being politically correct unless we no longer think tolerance is just the decent, humane thing to have. Boogie continues to portray himself as a nice guy, and many of his followers share that view, but how can one be a nice guy and defend or at least try to normalize hatred and bigotry? Not only that, but when one has a sizable amount of followers (a reason I'm even talking about this subject to begin with), especially young and impressionable ones like JonTron and Boogie do, who listen to what that YouTuber says, if one legitimizes bigotry and racism, this rubs off to their followers. How can one possibly be okay with that and still think they're a nice guy?

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Super Bomberman R (NS) Review

Off the heels of SuperPhillip Central's first Nintendo Switch review comes our first retail release Switch review. Now we explore the return of Bomberman with Super Bomberman R. While not a perfect return (far from it), this release did give me some joy along with a good deal of frustration. Here's SPC's review.

Drops the bomb along with some duds as well.

Bomberman has been in hibernation for quite some time. I took for granted how much I enjoyed the series when it was common for games starring old Bomby to release seemingly every other month. It is indeed true what they say: absence makes the heart grow fonder. Now, Konami has brought Bomberman back and just in time for the Switch launch. Nonetheless, perhaps it being "just in time for the Switch launch" has made it a game that isn't as big of a blast as it could have been.

Super Bomberman R's story mode begins with an absolutely adorable scene that seems ripped straight from a Saturday morning cartoon with its cheesiness. It's intentionally campy, and it works in this regard. The voice acting is suitably campy as well, making for scenes throughout the game that you can't help but at least eek out a grin at.

While not fully animated, these scenes and the dialogue that goes along with them are charming nonetheless.
The actual campaign of story mode can be played by one's lonesome or locally with a friend. Though this can be more harmful than helpful; when you have two players each dropping bombs, sometimes even blowing one another up, especially in boss battles. Nonetheless, it's a nice option to be able to blow enemies to smithereens with somebody as long as you're not worried about having to continue, which costs a certain amount of money, the currency used to buy items in the in-game shop such as hats and characters to use in multiplayer as well as new arenas.

In story mode you can bomb and blast alone or with a friend.
The campaign tasks you with completing five planets of ten levels each. The first eight levels in each themed world contains various mission types, but most of the time it's simply to destroy all enemies, usually by trapping them with bombs. Other mission types include surviving an onslaught of enemies for a limited amount of time, stepping on a series of switches, gathering a specific amount of keys, and rounding up NPCs and bringing them to a goal area.

This fourth planet of the campaign features plenty of slippery floors to slide along.
The ninth and tenth levels in a world pits you against a two part boss, one of Buggler's Dastardly Bombers. The first of two battles puts you in an arena against a Dastardly Bomber, trying to outwit the boss. This is no easy task, as it seems the boss AI reads your control inputs and acts accordingly, something that makes multiplayer with AI an annoyance (more on that later). Still, I found it relatively easy to survive these encounters as I tried not to go all kamikaze on bosses. Instead, I picked my shots and tried to take each Dastardly Bomber out using the same strategy. When they dropped a bomb, I tried to drop a bomb a space away from that one, trying to trap the Bomber between the two bombs, thus resulting in them getting caught and trapped in the ensuing explosion. As you can imagine, with a co-op buddy, this becomes much trickier to do.

The battle after, the tenth level, has the Dastardly Bomber transforming or entering some kind of machinery for a different kind of boss battle where learning patterns, picking one's shots, and discovering when a boss is vulnerable to attack are key to emerging victorious while losing the least amount of lives. One boss is a crab-like creature that requires you to avoid its swinging claw while blasting its six legs to bring the center of mech down to ground level, allowing you to deal damage to the boss.

Magnet Bomber transforms into this most dastardly of mechanical crabs.
The sixth world is unlike the other five, as it purely two boss battles against the big bad of Super Bomberman R's story. However, they're alike in that you're awarded up to three stars each for how well you do on the world, just like every other in the game. Collecting power-ups and not losing a lot of lives means you get a higher grade, and trying to get three stars on each world in each of three difficulties (higher difficulties mean smarter and faster AI as well as less lives to start out with) makes for some good replay value here. It's also a great way of earning money to buy goods in the in-game shop.

Single player mode is overall not too bad, but it suffers from an atypical isometric camera view that can make it challenging to distinguish between different heights in levels and where enemies are. This is especially noticeable in levels with ramps, sometimes obscured by blocks and even the HUD. Thankfully, however, the control lag of this Switch Bomberman has since been patched by Konami, so one big problem of this mode and multiplayer has been remedied (though I would like to see grid-based movement added).

While this level isn't too bad, others with varying elevations can be hard to distinguish between heights.
Multiplayer is the other piece of Super Bomberman R and comes in the form of local and online play. Unfortunately, for a full-priced Bomberman game the lack of options available when customizing local matches is absolutely ridiculous and unforgivable. When a $10 Bomberman game released on the Xbox 360 almost a decade ago gives you the options to change AI difficulty and even switch out which item pickups are included and omitted in a match while a $50 Bomberman game doesn't, something is horribly wrong. The AI difficulty is of particular interest because including them battles makes for a completely unrewarding experience lacking much in the way of fun. The AI is simply too good, reading your control inputs and acting accordingly as if they can read your mind. Even Bomberman series masters will lose their cool to these computer-controlled bots from hell.

Up to eight players (either with controllers or with their own Switches) can unload bombs at one another locally.
Online multiplayer has two types of matches available: casual matches with strangers and league battles. The former can have you and some local buddies join in while league battles are for one player only. League battles give winners and all participants money depending on their places in battle, and the winner gets ranking points. When enough ranking points have been earned, they move a rank to a higher class of players. Online isn't optimal, as it's player-based connections which can result in some particularly lag-filled battles.

Beware: even defeated Bomberman can take you out via the Revenge Cart.
Super Bomberman R is a better game that what it started out with, and Konami has kept in touch with the community, starting that more updates are planned outside of their fix of the game's occasional input lag that seriously brought down the quality of the game. Still, I want to see the AI in multiplayer addressed as well as the ability to give players options in customizing multiplayer battles (even being able to earn money from local battles would do wonders for making that mode worthwhile to put up with the cheap AI). While Super Bomberman R isn't the absolute blast I wanted it to be, it's not a tremendous dud either. It's just average as of now.

[SPC Says: C]

Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 + 2.5 Remix (PS4) Fight the Darkness Trailer

A plethora of Kingdom Hearts games is coming under one package, due out March 28th for PlayStation 4. It's Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 + 2.5 Remix, once again showing Square Enix's penchant for amazingly convoluted Kingdom Hearts game titles. Regardless, this package seems more than worth the price tag with everything included inside.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Toughest Tasks in Gaming History - Volume Three

Games are generally a means to relax, a means to unwind. However, sometimes they're a way to challenge a player to a point of absolute frustration-- the type of frustration that has one gnashing their teeth, slamming their fists to the ground, and pounding their heads through a wall with such unabashed rage! GAAAAAAH!

Well, maybe that's just me. In all seriousness, Toughest Tasks in Gaming History brings you a series of challenges that are some of the hardest, most difficult to complete. On this volume we look at Mortal Kombat, Rock Band 2, and GoldenEye 007. Consider yourself a gaming pro if you're completed some of the tasks seen on this volume as well as the past volumes seen here:

Volume One
Volume Two

My Kung Fu is Stronger - Mortal Kombat (Multi)

Some tasks are tough due to requiring a level of skill that many gamers might not possess. Other tasks are tough due to being ridiculously time consuming. Mortal Kombat's My Kung Fu is Stronger is the latter. It requires you to take a character and win 100 times with them, get 100 different -alities (like fatalities or babalities), get 150 X-ray attacks, spill 10,000 pints of blood in battle, and play as them for at least 24 hours.

Those requirements for just one character are crazy enough. The actual "okay, that's way too nuts" portion of this tough gaming task is that you have to do this with not just one character in the Mortal Kombat roster but all of them! That's 28 characters you have to complete this checklist of chores with. While I wouldn't want to perform a fatality on the developers for this kind of obnoxious achievement, I think some form of lesser punishment would be adequate.

The Bladder of Steel Award - Rock Band 2 (PS3, 360, Wii)

Next up is a game that has you rocking and rolling, thrashing and shredding, and just laying down the funk no matter which song you play. After you've had some practice, you can attempt the ultimate challenge in Rock Band 2, the one that separates the Jimi Hendrix's to the Milli Vanillis. It's The Bladder of Steel Award, and it's one that lives up to its name. It tasks you with playing through all of the songs in the game in succession, and without being able to pause. No, you cannot disconnect your controller, and no, you cannot hit your system's guide button. Harmonix was no doubt smart to the various cons players would try to perform to get around the task at hand.

The Bladder of Steel Award requires a lot from the player, including an entire morning and afternoon dedicated to completing this task, the ability to play through each song without taking any breaks, the ability to not accidentally hit the Start or Guide buttons when getting ready to unleash your Overdrive, an optional buddy to help you along the way, and yes, the eponymous bladder of steel. (Or maybe you can have a friend hold a cup in front of you, but that would just be weird.) Regardless, make sure you have the time and the motivation if you want to even dare to complete this achievement.

00 Agent Completed - GoldenEye 007 (N64)

Rare's GoldenEye 007 was a monumental game in terms of importance. It led the way for first-person shooters to become popular on home consoles instead of just on PCs where they had once exclusively been on, and the game brought forth one of the most addicting multiplayer modes up until that point, one that remains rather fun to this day. (And one that was pretty much a last-minute addition to the game.)

Beyond the multiplayer modes of GoldenEye 007 was a single player campaign, one that featured an impressive array of objective-based missions that closely followed the events and locales of the 1995 film. The campaign itself was pretty challenging but more so with the hardest difficulty, 00 Agent.

00 Agent met players with harder enemies, less health for James Bond to work with (and by design, there was no regenerating health, only occasional body armor to utilize), more objectives to complete, and death coming faster than you can blink. It all added up to a difficulty that almost required players to exploit the AI to overcome the hardships of this mode, especially in the Aztec level, one of the hardest levels in an FPS to this day. If you managed to beat GoldenEye 007 on the most challenging difficulty, then you definitely deserved your 00 status!

Beat Very Hard in Story Mode - F-Zero GX (GCN)

I reviewed a hard-as-nails futuristic racer last week, but that isn't quite on the same level in quality and challenge as F-Zero GX, one of my favorite arcade racers of all time. This Nintendo and Sega team-up brought blistering fast racing, gorgeous visuals, a stunning soundtrack, and a mighty stiff difficulty that challenged even the best of racing game players.

There are actually two tasks in F-Zero GX that are incredibly hard to do. The one I will focus on relates to the Story Mode, which is nine chapters starring Captain Falcon as he is tasked with completing varying mission goals, such as collecting doodads around a track before time runs out, cautiously racing through a section of track without dealing much damage to his vehicle (else the bomb attached to it will explode), and taking on various AI rivals.

The Normal difficulty poses a good deal of challenge already. It's when you get to the Very Hard difficulty, the one that unlocks a new racer for every mission you complete on that difficulty, that will send the calmest of players raging and wanting to chuck their controller at the screen. Yes, as I said, the rewards for completing Very Hard are very good, but the arduous task and amount of practice required to get them is one of my biggest personal gaming achievements. But it's also one I have no desire to ever try to do ever again!

All S-Ranks - Contra: Shattered Soldier (PS2)

Simply beating a game in the Contra series is already difficult enough of a challenge for even the most seasoned of action game players. Contra: Shattered Soldier on the PlayStation 2 kept that tradition very much alive with its classic unforgiving level of challenge given a more modern presentation with its 3D polygonal characters and environments.

Shattered Soldier offered a nastier challenge for players other than simply beating the game. That was to beat the game with an S-Rank overall. How was this accomplished, you ask? Essentially by shooting and destroying anything and everything that moved-- and then some! This increased your personal Hit Rate in a level, and the goal was to at least get 97% per level to get an S-Rank. As each death that you faced meant your overall Hit Rate would decrease, you could basically only die once per a given level to keep your Hit Rate at above the required amount to keep your S-Rank dreams alive, and the ability to view the game's best ending. Requiring machine-like responsiveness and the ability to remember each level from top to bottom (jumps and enemy placement, for starters), getting the S-Rank was a hard task in an already hard game.


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