Saturday, June 28, 2008

Why I'm No Fan of Online Games and Some Internet Forums In General

This little picture expresses more than enough words to convey my attitudes towards online gaming (mostly popular Xbox Live titles) and some (maybe most?) internet forums.

Click Here - WARNING: Offensive Language

Friday, June 27, 2008

SuperPhillip's Top 100 Favorite Games of All Time

Another week has come and gone, and it's time once again for dive into the pool that is my favorite games of all time. They may not all be the best of the best in quality, but they certainly gave me my money's worth and excited me the most while playing.

As always:
The first ninety games are in NO particular order. For someone with OCD, compiling a list of 100 games in order would drive me absolutely crazy. There's a good mix of titles from multiple consoles, developers, and genres. Hope you leave this list with some fuzzy memories and good times.

~Top 100 - The Third Ten~

- Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat (GCN)

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Marching to the beat of a different drummer.

The same team that later came out with the phenomenal Super Mario Galaxy developed this unique platformer. Why was it so unique? Well, you played it completely with the DK bongo peripheral used on such games as Donkey Konga and Odama (not to be confused with the presidential runner, Obama, or the asshat terrorist, Osama). Hit the right drum to move right, hit the left one to move left, hit both to jump, and clap to attack foes. The gameplay's simple, but when you're going for high scores you suddenly realize how incredibly deep and engaging this game and its cleverly-crafted levels are. The game with the bongo's now only $20 new, so what are you waiting for? Jam with Donkey Kong!

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- Final Fantasy IV (SNES, PS1, GBA, DS)

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The Fourth Fantasy

Final Fantasy IV was my very first Final Fantasy. Blessed with an excellent combat system, a stellar soundtrack, a sensational story, and hours upon hours of gameplay to be had, Final Fantasy IV is just an incredible game. I eagerly await the DS remake coming to Western audiences as soon as this year. In the meantime I have the SNES, PS, or the glitchy GBA version (which represents the screens) to play.

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- The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures (GCN)

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Link Formation, ho!

Besides Zelda II: Adventure of Link, no Zelda has been as a dramatically different to the formula than The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures. This game was a much more expansive title to the original Four Swords game that was included with the GBA port of A Link to the Past. Regardless, this title had you playing in a broken up world (there was no cohesive overworld like in all the other Zelda games), solving puzzles, beating bad guys, and taking new formations with your army of four Links. This game was great alone, and it was even better if you had a buddy with a GBA to play with you-- or three. Four Swords Adventures is the closest thing we've seen to a sequel of A Link to the Past, and it shows with its music, graphics, and enemies. Check this title out, dear readers. You'll be pleasantly surprised.

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- Viewtiful Joe (GCN, PS2)

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RHOH'ding your mind.

What it had in intense action it was matched fully in pure style. Slacker, Joe, is watching yet another showing of his favorite action superhero, Captain Blue, on the big screen when all of a sudden, a big mean robot arm grabs his girl, Sylvia, and pulls her and Joe into Movieland. Now the goal is simple, save Sylvia... while scarfing down fuel in greasy hamburgers and salty french fries. Kids these days.

Not only was the game extremely challenging-- try getting all Rainbow V ranks-- I dare you, but it had very cool moves. Joe could slow down time, speed things up, and zoom in on the action for killer combos! It's a damn shame that Clover Studios is kaput, because I'd love to see the conclusion of the Viewtiful Joe trilogy!

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- Sonic 3 & Knuckles (GEN)

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The Missing Link

Yuji Naka and his team were going to have Sonic the Hedgehog 3 have all of the levels of the following game, Sonic and Knuckles, but they simply didn't have enough development time. Well, this was fixed by allowing the Sonic and Knuckles cart to be linked to the Sonic 3 one, so you could play all of Sonic 3 and S&K on one save file-- earning the Chaos Emeralds and then the Master Emeralds. You could even use the cart to link to Sonic 2, so you'd be playing as Knuckles in Sonic 2. Very cool, yes?

Regardless, the zones were varied, the music was top-notch, and the challenge was quite good. There was a reason to play the game more than once with the edition of Knuckles who could reach areas Sonic couldn't. You even faced different final bosses depending on who you chose.

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- Star Fox 64 (N64)

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One of the most quotable games ever.

Considered by many to be the last "great" Star Fox title, Star Fox 64 for the Nintendo 64 launched its way into the hearts of many fans. There were plenty of planets and areas to pilot your arwing, landmaster, or bluemarine in, and unlike Star Fox Assault-- all of it was in-ship. No on-foot missions here!

The game was mostly an on-rails flight/ground/sea game where the goal was to rack up as many points as possible while trying to stay alive. The main game could be completed in less than an hour, but there were so many paths through the Lylat that playing once just wasn't enough.

Couple the gameplay with the introduction of the Rumble Pak and a fun four-player dogfight mode, and you have what is my favorite Star Fox title period. Here's hoping the original team comes back for a fantastic Wii version!

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- Super Mario 64 (N64)

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A Platforming Revolution

What can I really say about Super Mario 64? It's really the revolution to 3-D gaming that its older brother Super Mario Bros. was to 2-D gaming. It showed how a platformer in the new gen should act and behave.

It had sixteen varied worlds from snowlands to tall mountains to rainbow rides to the innards of a giant clock. And who could forget the phenomenal Bowser stages each ending with a showdown with the King of the Koopas himself! Many would imitate this game, and most would fail at capturing the magic that Super Mario 64 casts over players' imaginations.

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- Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 (PS2, GCN, XBX)

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Skate or Die

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 was Tony's first ollie into-- at that time-- the next generation of consoles, and with it was an entirely new engine. This game had it all, fantastic tricks, an impressive array of pro boarders (and the coolest unlockable skaters in my opinion), and some of most incredible levels ever to grace a Tony Hawk game. The fun was creating your own skater, taking him through the main mode, completing a level's objectives such as a high score or finding the secret tape, moving onto the next one, entering a skate competition, and making it all the way to the game's penultimate level-- the cruise ship. And then you do it all over again with a new skater! This was the last traditional Tony Hawk game before everything was changed up once again. Regardless, THPS3 remains my favorite Tony Hawk game of all time.

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- Donkey Kong Country (SNES)

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A banana-slamma

Donkey Kong came out of hibernation in 1994 with small English developer, Rare, came into the limelight by creating DK's first adventure in many years, Donkey Kong Country. Right away when I sat down to play this game as a kid, I was blown away by the awesome 3-D modeled sprites and the incredible soundtrack.

Now DK wasn't alone this time. He had help from his best buddy, Diddy Kong, as well as assistance from the Kong family as they ventured through seven worlds on their quest to get DK's banana bunch back from the nefarious King K. Rool. There were many secrets to discover, bonus rooms to play around in, and Kremlings to krush-- er... crush. Was it my favorite of the trilogy? We'll find out.

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- New Super Mario Bros. (DS)

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Back to Basics

New Super Mario Bros. was announced publicly at the same time the Nintendo DS was first shown. Years later it finally came out, and if sales are an indication of anything, gamers like old-school Mario and they want more.

And so do I. New Super Mario Bros. felt like a mish-mash between Super Mario Bros. 1, 3 and finally, Super Mario World. The 3-D sprites were fantastic, the gameplay was smooth and felt so incredibly responsive, and the secrets were many. Many stages had alternate exits revealing new worlds and levels. Gold coins were hidden in each level for the adventurer to find and collect. And the new power-ups created new forms of gameplay the likes of which Mario fans hadn't seen before. Couple all this with some of the most fluid controls ever, and you have one of the greatest [handheld] Mario titles of all time.

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Until next week, I'm tucking away my list of favorites! See you next week!

We Love Golf - American Boxart

Here is the boxart for the Camelot-developed golf game, We Love Golf! Not only does it offer a lot of character and charm, but it's also online and includes various Capcom costumes such as Apollo Justice and Ryu from Street Fighter!

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time (DS) - New Review

Here's a brand new review for all of you out there. It's a game from 2005, but I just recently played and completed it. Enjoy.

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A Blast From the Past


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In 2003, the plumber pair of Mario and Luigi leaped into an adventure together in the fantastic RPG spin-off Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga. Almost two years to the day the original Game Boy Advance title was released, developer Alphadream is at it again with a DS offering. This time it's a journey to protect both the past and the present in Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time. The Mario & Luigi series is greatly akin to the other Mario role-playing efforts including the Nintendo and Squaresoft joint effort, Super Mario RPG, and the Intelligent Systems Paper Mario series. The Mario & Luigi franchise is a jack of all trades combining exploration, platforming, and RPG battles, but is it a master of all or a master of none?

Our story begins with Professor E. Gadd, from Luigi's Mansion fame, unveiling to Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach and her faithful yet timid castle guards his brand new time machine. Rather than send someone unimportant to go back into the past first such as Toadsworth, Princess Peach along with a Toad or two decide to be the first passengers into the past. When the machine returns from its trip to yesteryear, Princess Peach is nowhere to be found. It turns out that a group of alien invaders known simply as the Shroob have attacked the Mushroom Kingdom's past and have "Peach-napped" the princess. It's up to Mario & Luigi to hop into the past and attempt to save the day, but they won't be alone this time. Quite early in the game Mario and Luigi team up with their cute and adventurous baby selves. This isn't a serious time travel story like Back to the Future, so no worries that Mario and Luigi meeting themselves in the past will have any bearing on the present. In fact, the Shroobs attacking the past of the Mushroom Kingdom actually has no effect on the Mushroom Kingdom present either. Weird, huh? The game can get away with this, however, as the story doesn't take itself serious whatsoever. There's a wide level of humor from the wide ensemble of characters new and old such as the message board-mocking, 1337-speaking Hammer Bros, Baby Bowser, grown-up Bowser, Toadsworth, the Yoshis, and the return of a certain furious villain from the previous Mario & Luigi in a much helpful role. There were plenty of occurrences when you'll laugh at loud at the sometimes lowbrow humor especially when regarding poor Luigi.

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Let's hope E.Gadd shows up in a console Mario game sometime.

For those who've never dabbled in a Mario RPG, be it the Paper Mario series on either the Nintendo 64 or the Gamecube, the original Mario & Luigi, Superstar Saga on Game Boy Advance, or the most ancient Mario role-playing game, Super Mario RPG on the Super Nintendo, Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time plays like what you'd expect a Mario game to play like in an RPG setting. That is, there's still a lot of leaping on heads of enemies, lots of jumping and platforming, and a load of charm. Contrary to most typical RPGs, there are no random battles involved. Those who squirm at the thought of drudging through a dungeon and being interrupted from their exploration and attacked by monsters randomly have nothing to fear from Partners in Time.

And there's plenty to explore, too, and this time with two more party members. Each character jumps in battle and on all of the game's maps by pressing their assigned button. For instance, Mario leaps into the air by pressing A, Luigi does by pressing B, and Baby Mario and Baby Luigi with X and Y respectively. Since Mario and Luigi cannot be separated from one another at any time while exploring, platforming with the two requires split-second precision simply timing your leaps carefully enough to be able to have both plumbers jump and cross a chasm at the same time. For someone new to the series, it can take just a little bit of time getting used to controlling two avatars simultaneously. This can become even more confusing by needing to control Baby Mario and Baby Luigi. Most of the time the babies are with Mario and Luigi, nestled comfortably on the plumbers' backs. Other times you'll have to break up the babies from their adult selves to enter small alcoves that Mario and Luigi can't fit into. This is where the second screen comes into play. Usually it's simply used as a rather non-detailed map to show where each character is in relation to other areas and monuments. When the babies enter a cave or underground passage, their exploration is shown on the top screen. The designers cleverly use this separation mechanic to open up a plethora of imaginative puzzles. One has Baby Mario and Baby Luigi hitting a button inside a baby-only cavern to open a locked gate for their elder selves. The puzzles aren't secluded to the babies helping out the adults either. There's times when Mario and Luigi will have to spin a gear in order to power a wind tunnel for the babies to hop into and soar to an elevated platform.

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Use this move to spin across chasms.

In addition, both pairs of plumbers utilize a variety of actions to be used in and out of battle. Mario and Luigi can toss the babies from their piggyback stance to have the babies reach areas otherwise too high to jump to. When apart, both Mario and Luigi and Baby Mario and Baby Luigi have separate actions to use on one another. Here's an example: not only can Mario and Luigi roll up into a ball in order to reach places in a much faster amount of time, they can roll over the babies to squash them down, almost paper-thin, for the babies to move under a gate which would be otherwise impassable for the normal-sized pipsqueaks. Baby Mario and Baby Luigi can drill themselves underground to move past obstructions and obstacles as well as dig up rare beans used to purchase new stat-increasing and bonus-inducing badges. The actions aren't just used once or twice and then thrown away like in Twilight Princess either. They're used all game long from as soon as you learn them to till the conclusion of the game which will last a little over fifteen hours for most apt players.

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Breaking up is hard to do, but sometimes it's necessary.

As stated previously, there are no random encounters. There's no "Oooh. What's this switch? I think I'm going to hit it. Wait. Blast! I just got into a fight! ...What was I going to do again before this battle?" Instead, the enemies wander the game's maps, and if you leap on them or attack them to initiate the battle, you'll get a nice damage bonus on the enemies before you even start to battle. Beware though as the tables can be turned. If you're hit by an enemy on the world map, the plumber hit will be dazed for a set period of time.

What's great about the battles of Mario's various RPGs is that they're not passive at all. How times have you gotten into a random battle in Final Fantasy VII (or any RPG for that matter), and all you had to do was mash the X button to get through it? This isn't the case in Partners in Time. Battles are won and lost by timed button presses. Right when Mario makes contact with that pesky goomba, press the A button to get an attack bonus. The enemy is shooting a ball of energy at both plumbers, leap over the attack at just the right time to escape damage. These leaping and other acrobatic antics make this RPG and the others in the series feel a lot less like Final Fantasy and a lot more like Mario. It keeps players in the battle and not just mindlessly pressing a button to win.

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I-Is that juice-like substance coming out of its butt?

New to the series are Bros. Items. These are ultra-powerful abilities that can take off a lot of hit points on the various enemies you encounter. One will have you rallying a Green Shell or Yoshi Egg from plumber to plumber in time to damage your foe while another will have you timing and pressing a button for when one of the four heroes leaps on top of an enemy's head. The game is sort of reliant on these Bros. Items, too, as they are intensely powerful. Some of the bosses took long enough with using Bros. Items solely, so I can only imagine how long it would have taken had I just used normal attacks!

Mario & Luigi isn't without other faults. The game, while clocking in at just over fifteen hours, is lengthy enough, but once it's completed there's really nothing else to do. The only real side-quest is collecting beans, and the reward for doing so is just a powerful badge to make the game even more easy. It's not to say that Partners in Time is a cakewalk. The game does start out rather simple, and unfortunately, your hand is held through a good portion of it. However, after about halfway, you're on your own, and the enemies' attacks become harder to gauge. The DS's multitude of features aren't really taken advantage of either, save for the top-screen and one, yes, one, use of the touch screen in the entirety of the adventure. Also, the music is actually a disappointment. The great Yoko Shimomura returns to score the game's soundtrack, but compared to her previous works, this one is just a bit on the underwhelming side.

Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time is a worthy addition to Mario's collection of RPG tales. It doesn't set the genre on fire, and it isn't the best RPG that Mario's starred in-- however, it's a fun, albeit short, role-playing romp that unleashes a lot of laughs, clever game design, and some tricky battles. I can certainly see myself playing through this title again just for the fun of it, but definitely not before another run of Superstar Saga.

[SuperPhillip Says]

Story: There's a load of laughs throughout the game, but don't expect the time travel stuff to make too much sense.

Graphics: Nothing that couldn't be done on the Game Boy Advance. Here's hoping for a sequel that taps into more of the power of the DS.

Gameplay: Excellent. Passive battles be damned!

Sound: Lots of funny plumber banter (well, purposeful gibberish), and a soundtrack that isn't one of Yoko Shimomura's best.

Replay Value: Once you beat the game, there's little else to do. Worth a replay at the very least later on though.

Overall: 8.5/10 - Recommended.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Media Create Japanese Sales - 6/16-6/22

Metal Gear Solid 4 looks to reach 700,000 LTD in Japan alone while Mario Baseball premiers on the charts in third with a nice 58,000. Wii Fit holds on to its lead over Monster Hunter Portable 2nd G by 34,000 units. Hardware will be listed tomorrow. Thanks to NeoGAF for breaking this news first.

1. [PSP] Super Robot Wars A PORTABLE (Bandai Namco) - 102,000
2. [PS3] Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots (Konami) - 68,000 / 533,000
3. [WII] Super Mario Stadium Family Baseball (Nintendo) - 58,000
4. [PS2] Harulanaru Toki no Naka de 4 (Koei) - 55,000
5. [WII] Mario Kart Wii (Nintendo) - 33,000 / 1,477,000
6. [WII] Wii Fit (Nintendo) - 32,000 / 2,258,000
7. [PSP] Monster Hunter Portable 2nd G (Capcom) - 21,000 / 2,224,000
8. [PSP] Jikkyou Powerful Pro Baseball 3 (Konami) - 19,000 / 206,000
9. [NDS] Beautiful Letter Training (Nintendo) - 18,000 / 302,000
10. [NDS] Let's Make a Pro Baseball Team! (Sega) - 11,000 / 96,000

11. [WII] Wii Sports (Nintendo)
12. [NDS] DS Misa Yamamura Suspense: Kyoto Murder Files (Tecmo)
13. [NDS] Taiko Drum Master DS: Seven Island Adventure (Bandai-Namco)
14. [NDS] Hisshou Pachinko/Pachislo Capture Series DS, Vol. 2 CR: Neon Genesis Evangelion: The Angels are Back Again (D3 Publisher)
15. [PS3] Dragon Ball Z: Burst Limit (Bandai-Namco)
16. [WII] Family Trainer (Bandai-Namco)
17. [WII] Wii Play (Nintendo)
18. [WII] Mysterious Dungeon: Fuurai no Shiren 3 (Sega)
19. [NDS] Mario Kart DS (Nintendo)
20. [PSP] Valhalla Knights 2 (Marvelous Entertainment)
21. [NDS] We're Fossil Diggers (Nintendo)
22. [NDS] Empty Space Training (Benesse)
23. [NDS] Pokémon Ranger: Batonnage (Pokémon)
24. [NDS] Endless Frontier: Super Robot Wars OG Saga (Bandai-Namco)
25. [WII] Super Smash Bros. Brawl (Nintendo)
26. [NDS] Puyo Puyo Special Price (Sega)
27. [NDS] New Super Mario Bros. (Nintendo)
28. [NDS] Pokemon Diamond (Pokemon)
29. [WII] Link's Crossbow Training (Nintendo)
30. [NDS] More TOEIC Test DS Training (IE Institute)

http://www.gpara.com/ranking/mediacr...g_20080626.php

Samba de Amigo (Wii) trailer

This Wii title comes out this September, and according to IGN UK, it's quite good. Quite good... Are you sure we're talking about a Sega game here? I kid, I kid. Or am I?



Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia Gameplay

Forgive the person playing for not being very good, but it's better than nothing. How I long for the days where competent gamers got their hands on a game first...

Super Mario Sluggers - Full Roster Video

A Youtube video popped up showing all of the characters and alternate colors in the game. Man, the wait for August 25th is going to be hard!

Nintendo of America announces release dates for Wario Land and more - Press Release

NINTENDO'S WARIO, KIRBY BRING THE FUN; SLEUTHS GET A NEW MYSTERY CASE FILES GAME

New Experiences on the Way for Wii and Nintendo DS

REDMOND, Wash., June 25, 2008 – While the game world awaits the E3 Media & Business Summit in Los Angeles next month, Nintendo isn't waiting to announce new titles for its mushrooming libraries for the Wii™ console and Nintendo DS™. Classic Nintendo characters like bad-boy Wario™ and pink powerhouse Kirby® will star in their own platform games. A new Mystery Case Files™ game brings the best-selling Big Fish Games franchise to Nintendo DS for the first time. These games join the recently announced Mario™ Super Sluggers baseball game for the Wii console.

"Nintendo's game libraries continue to grow at a rapid pace," said Cammie Dunaway, Nintendo of America's executive vice president of Sales & Marketing. "Wario stars in a great new platformer, Kirby enthusiasts get an updated version of a fan favorite, there's a new mystery for Mystery Case Files aficionados and baseball gets a few new Mario-style twists."

Wario Land™: Shake It!, a classic side-scroller for the Wii console launching Sept. 29, stars Wario, the smelly, bad-mannered alter ego of Mario™. With the Wii Remote™ controller turned sideways like an old-school controller, veterans and newcomers alike can run, jump and smash their way through hectic side-scrolling stages. Players shake the Wii Remote to help Wario take down his enemies, empty bags of treasure or cause earthquakes. Best of all, there are numerous stages each offering multiple missions to keep players coming back again and again to unlock everything, collect more coins or just improve their best times.

Kirby Super Star™ Ultra for Nintendo DS, launching Sept. 29, re-imagines one of the most beloved Kirby games of all time. Kirby Super Star Ultra features new graphics and fully rendered animated cut scenes. With so many adventures waiting to be unlocked, there will never be a dull moment as Kirby runs, floats, copies enemies and uses Helpers to fight King Dedede and Meta Knight. New modes like Revenge of the King and Meta Knight Ultra await, along with classics like The Great Cave Offensive and Milky Way Wishes. On top of the main modes, there are also three new touch-screen-controlled mini-games that can be played with up to three friends via DS Download Play. Not only that, but players can go on Kirby adventures with a friend via local wireless as well.

Mystery Case Files™: MillionHeir™, launching Sept. 8, uses the unique Nintendo DS interface to expand upon the seek-and-solve game play of the popular series from Big Fish Games. Players seek out cleverly hidden items in a multitude of painted scenes. Players progress through an interactive detective story investigating a cast of characters and uncovering new evidence to find the rightful heir to a million-dollar fortune. This new portable installment is available only for Nintendo DS. With interactive logic puzzles that use both the touch-screen interface and built-in microphone and include the first ever multiplayer mode for a Mystery Case Files game, Mystery Case Files: MillionHeir presents a new generation of seek-and-solve games for casual gamers and franchise fans.

Mario™ Super Sluggers, launching Aug. 25 for the Wii console, stars the ever-lovable Mario and his crew of friends. It builds on the social-gaming fun and movements people learned in Wii Sports™ and turns them into a full-fledged baseball game that can be played by every member of the household. Players make a throwing motion with the Wii Remote controller to pitch the baseball and make a swinging motion to swing at the pitch. The game boasts more than 30 playable Nintendo characters and all the madness of a Mario sports game. Just like Mario Kart® Wii, it bridges the gap between experienced players and those new to the Wii console, with fun challenges and beautiful graphics.

Remember that Wii features parental controls that let adults manage the content their children can access. For more information about this and other Wii features, visit Wii.com.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Super Mario Sluggers - Stadium Tour

Josh from WiiFolder.com has yet another video uploaded. This time he's showcasing the various stadiums-- nine in all-- for which to hit one out of the park or make a daring play in.


Monday, June 23, 2008

SuperPhillip's Favorite VGMs - Beating the Summer Heat

It's another Monday, so it's time to roll on out five more of my favorite VGMs. As always, if you want to keep up to date with all of my selections, subscribe to my channel.











Next week, even more VGMs for you to enjoy!

The Legend of Zelda: Spore Creatures

You can make some really incredible creatures with the Spore Creature Creator, and here's a whole slew of Zelda-inspired creatures. Very cool. There's Navi, Gohma, Deku, and even Ganon himself! Enjoy.

Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts Boxart

This is by far my most anticipated Xbox 360 title. Here's hoping it turns out well.


George Carlin (May 12 1937 - June 22 2008)

George Carlin, 71, died Sunday night of heart failure.
He really was one of the best comedians period.
The funny, wonderful people in the world die while all the idiots stay alive. Go figure.

Here's one of his best clips:

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Mario Kart Wii Review

The Most Complete Mario Kart Yet?

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The Mario Kart series is the penultimate cartoon kart racer available. It's had multiple iterations on multiple consoles starting with the Super Nintendo all the way up to Nintendo's dual-screen runaway success, the DS. In each Mario Kart game there's been a perfect balance regarding the gameplay. Does Mario Kart Wii continue this tradition, or does the game simply spin out?

Mario Kart Wii gives players a ton of options to tinker around with. The Grand Prix has returned with three different kart classes and eight cups with four races each. Sixteen of these are never before seen while the latter half are retro tracks from past Mario Kart titles from the very first game, Super Mario Kart, all the way to the best in the series, Mario Kart DS. The Grand Prix mode will last you a few days, but if you're like me it'll probably last you a week because it feels like a chore. More on that later.

After racing your way against the AI in Grand Prix, you'll probably be ready to put on your racing gloves and step into what most gamers play Mario Kart for: the multiplayer. You can play with up to three other friends via splitscreen, but the action will take place in a lower framerate-- 30 as opposed to the single player 60 FPS. While you can't play the Grand Prix with a buddy like you could in past console iterations, you can play in Vs. mode. This mode gives you option to make your own Grand Prix cups of up to 32 races. You can either select the courses yourself or have the game do it for you. You can also take items off, adjust the CPU's skill level, and set the cc of the entire cup. This probably won't be a better alternative to those who wanted to unlock stuff while playing with a friend, but it's actually quite fun to play and the options available to you are great.

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Is this Mario Kart the best of the bunch?

If you're getting your butt handed to you by your friends and/or the AI, maybe you'd rather try your luck and one of the best Time Trials options of any kart racer. This is where players who desire to game with pure skill and have at it. Already in the game are novice ghost times, but beat those and you'll unlock the expert ghosts made by staff of the game. Beat those, and you can truly brag to your friends. And if you're bragging isn't enough, you can send your best ghost times and replays to folks on your friends list, and they, too, can send ghosts to you to race against. You can keep besting one another's times as you race against each other's ghosts. Very cool feature which I've used a lot.

Online play isn't limited to ghost data either. By far the coolest use of the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, you can race online with up to eleven other racers either from your region or from around the world. You just hop online, get placed into a room, and if the race isn't over yet you watch its conclusion. Once it's over the players remaining vote on the next course which is then chosen randomly by the CPU from the choices of the players. Everyone starts out with 5,000 points. Be in the top half of a race's standings, and you earn points. Be in the bottom or disconnect, and you lose points. There's two different point totals: one for racing and one for the battle mode.

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Baby Mario time travels to race against his future self.

Despite being decidedly gimped, the battle mode is still a roaring good time. There's no option for free-for-all like so many Mario Karts before it. Instead, everything is team-based, and losing all your balloons means absolutely nothing. You don't sit out, there's little to no wait time, and then you're back in the action. The team with the most points wins. There's ten battle arenas in all from the Block Fort-wannabe in Block Plaza to the awesome Delfino Pier with rising water flooding the area. Five arenas are new and five are retro from the N64's Skyscraper to Double Dash's Cookie Land.

Mario Kart Wii still uses the most incompetent online friends system imaginable in friend codes, yet it still manages rival and even trump some of the online systems of Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 racing titles. You add a friend via a twelve digit friend code, or if you and a friend have each other's Wii codes, you can add one another automatically to save time and the hassle. You can see who is playing what, join them, and compare your time trial times on a ranking timeline for each of the 32 tracks making this online system one of Nintendo's best.

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Donkey Kong leads the pack.

Mario Kart Wii comes packed with twelve characters to start with-- a who's who of the Mushroom Kingdom, but by performing well in Grand Prix, Time Trial, and online you can unlock twelve more racers and even the ability to race as your own Mii. The only thing to worry about when selecting a character is their weight class. A character is either a lightweight, middleweight, or heavyweight, and each class has twelve vehicles (most of which need to be unlocked) to choose from. Each vehicle has its own attributes from max speed to acceleration, and for the first time ever, bikes make their triumphant debut. These babies handle corners much more sharply than karts, and they can even pop a speed-increasing wheelie on straightaways. In fact, if you want to get the top times in Time Trial, you'll want to utilize a bike most of the time.

But what good are the racers and their vehicles without tracks to unleash their need for speed on? Truth be told, Mario Kart Wii features some of the best, most inspired track design to date. As tradition with Mario Kart, the Mushroom Cup features the most newbie friendly courses. That doesn't mean they're boring. Mushroom Gorge has you bouncing from mushroom to mushroom over chasms and Toad's Factory features crushers, treadmills, shifting platforms, and a mud-covered backstretch. The Star Cup itself is full of the most inventive and enjoyable tracks I've ever raced on. And this version's Rainbow Road will put your pride into a grinder if you don't master it. It's quite hard, but it's immensely rewarding once you master it.

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DK Summit is full of trick locations and places to shave off your time.

The retro tracks have some highlights, too. There's three Mario Circuits, one from the SNES days, one from the N64, and one from Double Dash. The DS stands proud with the incredible Delfino Square and Peach Gardens, and Bowser's Castle from the N64 returns in newfound glory. These tracks have been remade, so they're not exactly the same. DK Mountain (Double Dash) features ramps as you head down the first part of the mountain after being launched from the barrel rocket. Most of the tracks are much wider to accompany the twelve racers drifting and racing around their many turns. While some favorites such as Wario Stadium, Koopa Troopa Beach, and Toad's Turnpike were left out, it's important to remember that there has to be some great retro tracks for the next iterations of the franchise.

So by now it's clear that Mario Kart Wii is packed with content, but how does it play? The Mario Kart formula has been tweaked many times in the past with each entrant to the series. Mario Kart Wii is no different. Most likely to deal with snakers as well as to make it easier for casual gamers to get the hang of it, the power-sliding mechanic has been altered. Before (from Super Mario Kart to Mario Kart DS), when you'd hit a turn, you'd hold down a shoulder button and wiggle the D-pad or analog stick left and right to build up the power of your resulting mini-turbo to give you a temporary speed boost coming out of a corner or turn. Now you simply hold the power-slide button as you turn. The longer you hold it, the bigger your mini-turbo. Pro tip: Bikes can't mini-turbo as strongly as karts. It still takes skill to hold your line as well as achieve multiple mini-turbos during a long turn, and quite frankly, I prefer this way to the days old.

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Bikes are the new vehicles on the block.

What isn't as nifty of a change are the balance of items. In the old days, only the lightning bolt greatly effected everything. Now new items such as the POW block, the Blooper (an MKDS returning item), and the lightning cloud can cause more harm than good. The other new item is the Mega Mushroom which increases the size and speed of a user as they can freely run over other players. Finally, the blue shell returns as every first place driver in the world sheds a tear. It'd be okay if it was slow and attacked other players on its way to first place like the Mario Kart 64 version, but the winged blue shell which swiftly catches up to first place and slams into them is too much. Now factor in all these items plus twelve racers plus an incredibly cheap AI in later difficulties and you have way too many items, way too much randomness, and way too many times you're hit by five items in a row-- even on the 50 cc. Many times I've raced in the 150 cc, and many times I've been on the final stretch of track on the final lap, only to be hit by a blue shell, knocked off the course by a heavy weight, and fallen to 12th place miserably. It boggles the mind on how horrible Nintendo botched the AI. One race you can scrape by and get 1st, and when you try the same race again you get 10th by no fault of your own. It's not fun, it doesn't keep things fresh, it's just unfair. And don't even get me started on trying to get good ranks on cups. It's just not in the cards. Some folks will say that it's always been like this in Mario Kart, and I can happily say that no it has not. Take off your rose-tinted glasses immediately.

What fares better is the inclusion of tricks. By flicking the Wii remote or hitting the d-pad while in mid-air, you can perform a mid-air trick. You can't fail a trick, and when you land you get a boost for your aerial artistry. Some tracks feature half pipes that are great for tricks, but the catch is that they take you off the main racing line. So it's all about playing it smart.

Mario Kart Wii come prepackaged with the Wii Wheel. All it is basically is a shell that you snap your Wii remote into. You can easily just play with the Wii remote on its side, but having something sturdy with better grips is a better alternative. Controlling Mario and his friends with the Wii Wheel is actually and surprisingly fun. There's a sturdy learning curve for those who wish to play like pros, but if you play online enough with it, you'll get a golden wheel icon next to your name. Those more serious about getting phenomenal times and more precise driving will most likely opt to use something with an analog stick. This means using a Wii remote and nunchuk (my preferred method for technical driving and sounds from the speaker) or a Gamecube controller. Both work well, and both are great.

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So many racers, so little time.

Mario Kart has never been a series that shows the strengths of the console it is on. Mario Kart Wii does nothing to change this. The character models are almost laughable, the new tracks are the best visually, and the retro tracks look like they were done of the Gamecube but only this time around there's bloom. I was worried about the music when Kenta Nagata didn't sign on to compose. I loved his works on Mario Kart 64 and Double Dash, and I didn't have much faith in the folks who did the DS soundtrack. However, color me impressed. The music is quite good. Those expecting Mario Galaxy caliber stuff should get their heads examined as this music works wonderfully. The voice samples can be grating especially when you're performing tricks one after another.

This version of Mario Kart very much feels as if it's the most complete. That said, it's by no means the best-- though it could have been. I can't help but feel that Nintendo phoned this version in. You can tell by the cheap, poorly-constructed AI and the uninspired (though still strangely pleasant) graphics. Online is an absolute blast, and it offers some of the most fun I've had online. Did I mention you and a guest can play online together? Yeah, that rocks more than 2-player Grand Prix to me. While not one of the best offerings in the Mario Kart series, it surely has the most amount of content, options, vehicles (one of which is a mainstay of another Nintendo property) awesome tracks, and a wide array of characters to choose from. Definitely check this version out, but be warned, if you lack online, bump this score down a point. Yeah, online is that important for the enjoyment of this game.

[SuperPhillip Says]

Graphics: Almost bad, but kinda good.

Gameplay: No matter what control method you use, they all work well. Racing is more random than ever though. The balance of items has finally been broken.

Sound: A happy-go-lucky score colors me surprised. Some voices can get irritating after repeated use.

Replay Value: Online will keep you constantly clamoring for more. The Grand Prix is more a chore than anything, but you have to play it to unlock new goodies.

Overall: 8.5/10 - Great, but the catch-up AI and severe item rape brings the fun factor down and the frustration level up.

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