Friday, February 27, 2009

Animal Crossing Journal - Philly is now THIS many years old.

Today was Philly's birthday, so the citizens of Central opted to call off work and celebrate. Bright skies, a cool breeze, and a bunch of talking animals led to a blissful day. Let's recap!

...And you are? Just kidding! It's FBFF Maple!

My house was upgraded as my birthday present from Tom Nook! It is a gift, right? I-I don't have to pay anything, right?

Philly checks his mailbox.
Yep! It's still there!





What wonderful friends!
I hope I am around for their individual birthdays!


Next, I traveled around town doing my daily tasks: watering withering flowers, pulling weeds, digging up any buried goodies, checking out Tom Nook's wares, checking the lost and found and recycle bin, and chatting it up with my neighbors!

Pierce greeted me and my muscles a "happy birthday".

So that's why Iggly slammed the card into my mailbox...

The endearing elephant, Margie welcomed
me into her home for my special day.

273 years old.

Afterward, Blaire pulled out a knife on Philly!

It wouldn't be a day without Angus calling someone "slapnuts".

And finally, BFF Filbert said hello!

Speaking of Filbert and as luck would have it, he asked if he could come over to my house and chill for awhile-- just like the good old days!

So messy is Philly's place! Filbert saw my ugly gyroid,
and now I'm blushing over it! Eeek!


Look. I know we're close buds, but don't get any weird ideas.

I don't know if BFF Filbert ever left my house (or slipped me something), but it was a wonderful birthday in Central. Until next time, farewell from Central!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

SuperPhillip's What is UP With That!?

Welcome to a brand new feature here on SuperPhillip Central, "SuperPhillip's What's Up With That!?", all about questioning the logic behind various decisions and ideas in the game industry. These can be decisions made by individual game companies, peeves I have in various games, or something entirely questionable in both humor and taste. I'm constantly thinking up new ideas for features on the site. I feel that they help bring some familiarity each time they pop back up. Perhaps you already have a favorite feature on the site! Nonetheless, let's ask the question that every gamer wants to know: "What is UP With That!?".

Fighting Games: How is This Genre Supposed to Grow?

The traditional fighting game genre (e.g. Street Fighter, Tekken, Virtua Fighter, etc) is one that is very much not newbie-friendly. I caved in to my curiosity and decided to rent Street Fighter 4 this past week, not having much experience with the genre since the 16-bit days. If Street Fighter 4 was a karate kick, it struck way over my head. The problem is trying to figure out how the hell you're supposed to do any moves. It'd be too easy to just say forward + square, square! Instead we get forward + punch, punch! I looked up one of those nancy-fancy walkthroughs to see what the controls were. Big mistake. Every move listed in the guide was written like (B), F, B + F (PPP) or (D) U + K, D + K, HCF + P. For a newbie, I had to scroll back up just to know what have of the letters even meant! It was like this for every move. I just want to play the game-- not study some secret code for each and every button! Why can't it just be square and circle instead of low punch and medium kick? Furthermore, why do I have to memorize different button combinations for each character? Why can't they just be the same? Is there something that requires skill that they all be different? What is UP With That!?

I do not know how I did this, but I have so much
skill I don't even need to know how I did this.

Strategy Guides: Same Content, More Money!

Back when I was a kid and through the end of the last generation of consoles, I loved purchasing and collecting strategy guides. I know in my later years I had the internet and its bounty of free text-based guides, but there was something wonderful about having something tangible you could thumb through. I loved looking at the different artwork, strategies, and reading about parts of the game even if I already knew what to do. A great bonus were the colorful, detailed maps. I love maps. Always have. As a kid I was persistent in knowing where every road in my city led. "Where's that road go? Can we find out?" I digress.

Fast forward to the present. Game prices have gone up, so why not strategy guides? Brilliant! What were once fifteen dollars are now twenty! That's great except I'm buying a game for thirty bucks, and the damn strategy guide for it is just ten dollars less?! It's even worse now that some guides are wrapped in plastic-- you can't even browse it to see if it's worth the money or not! What's worse is when they want to charge full price for a guide that's as thin as an issue of EGM! Except with EGM I could happily wipe my ass with it knowing it was a free subscription!

Nintendo Power stopped making players' guides, which I adored, so instead the Nintendo games are covered by Prima Games. Oh, fantastic. Prima, the people who I bought two guides for, Breath of Fire III and Final Fantasy Tactics, and they both fell apart easily. Wonderful. What is UP With That!?

This guide is $20.00. The actual game is $30.00.
Am I the only one who thinks this is a problem?

We Don't Live in the Future Yet, Mr. Spaceman.

Apparently we live in a world where every person playing games on a Playstation 3 or an Xbox 360 has a high-definition television of some kind. Why else would developers make the text in their games so small? I know I'm playing too close to the screen, but if I don't then I can't read the game text! Screw you, Otis from Dead Rising! It's as if HD developers are living in a fictitious reality where everyone owns an HDTV, the HD business model isn't severely flawed, and people buy consoles just so they can play them on their new, expensive, how-the-heck-is-anyone-supposed-to-afford-one-in-this-economy hi-def tvs! Rare did it right. They heard the cries of the many SDTV owners (yep, SD is still around and the majority of us still have them), and they released a patch for Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts giving players the option to enlarge the game text.

Perhaps this is some conspiracy for game companies tied to television manufacturers to make as many people as possible switch over from SD to HD. Well, tough luck, dirtbags. I had enough money to buy an HDTV, but all of it is going to my new pair of glasses that I had to get from straining my eyes reading that small as your perception of reality dribble you call game text! What is UP With That!?

I hope this isn't important dialogue.
I hope this isn't important dialogue.

Feedback Appreciated!

What did you think of this article? Do any of these make you ask yourself "what's up with that?" Share your own ideas here. Perhaps they'll be in a future update! Your comments are very much appreciated!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The House of the Dead: Overkill (Wii) Review

Everyone loves zombies until they start eating your brains out. Case in point: Agent G doesn't like it when people use the "Z" word. One would assume that he means the word "zombie". Instead, he's actually referring to the word "zamboni" because hockey fails. Send your hate mail to Agent G at AMS.

===

Is anyone ever going to tell me what the "G" stands for?



Mature content. It's somewhat of a misnomer when you think about. Most games that are deemed as having mature content offer nothing of the sort. It's even worse when the game being poised as mature takes itself way too seriously. Luckily, SEGA-produced, Headstrong Games-developed (formerly Kuju) The House of the Dead: Overkill is the complete antithesis of what I'm talking about. Crass, juvenile, full of foul-language, potty-humor, and lowbrow antics, Overkill isn't mature at all. The fact that it doesn't try to hide that it's not is just one of the great things about this Wii shooter. Regardless, is The House of the Dead: Overkill overly worth a look, or is it just overindulging in failure?

The director of the AMS has sent the mysterious AMS agent, known only as Special Agent G, on his first assignment-- to investigate a man called Papa Caesar, one of the only links to the recent rash of mutant outbreaks. Little did Agent G know that he'd have a partner, a temperamental police officer, Detective Issac Washington, armed with an all-powerful arsenal-- and that's just his language! Together, as Papa Caesar's brought the zombies, they'll bring the bullets (and bean dip) to the party. Overkill doesn't just describe the over-the-top visceral violence the game features, but it also has to do with the orgy of offensive language and content present. To put it into terms, a sentence without the use of the "F" word is a rare occasion. Normally for a game, this would be a severe turn-off, but it works in Overkill because the game doesn't take itself seriously at all. Most of this type of language is always used comically (usually by Detective Washington as he doesn't know too many other adjectives), and it makes for a really raucous and hilarious experience. I can just see a bunch of college kids playing a drinking game using Washington's dialogue. "Drink every time he says $#$$%#$%!" You'd be drunk by the end of the first level. Still, those who would like a game with language you could say on a Sunday morning should steer clear. Everyone else can bust a gut laughing, however.

I got into the fair "3 for the price of 1".
This is not what I meant.

Continuing with the Grindhouse feel of the game, The House of the Dead: Overkill utilizes a unique graphical filter as if you were watching a damaged reel of film. Character, enemy, and weapon models are all excellent and well-done and designed. Levels also showcase wonderful design-- what more could one expect from the same gang that did Battalion Wars? The only main quarrel with the presentation side of things is the intermittent and nearly constant eye-blinking long pauses in-game that come from loading enemies and rooms. This is by no means game-breaking, but I did end up failing to hit an enemy due to the quick delay. Cut-scenes and voice acting are purposefully B-grade level which, again, mimic the Grindhouse genre of film.

Like every other House of the Dead game in the series, Overkill is what you'd call an on-rails shooter, that is, all that you can do is aim and shoot as movement is automatic. There are seven levels in all each ranging from 10-20 minutes in length. While playing through the entire story mode takes but a couple of hours, there's plenty of bang for one's buck. After the story mode is completed, a director's cut mode is unlocked. This mode features new areas in the original levels to make the levels longer and more morbid mutants to massacre. Meeting certain in-game requirements such as not dying or keeping your accuracy above a given amount awards the player with new music, movies, concept art, and 3D character, enemy, and weapon models. The latter being the coolest as you can inspect each model closely and admire the terrific job Headstrong did graphically. Additionally, cash earned from playing the game can be used to upgrade and purchase new weapons from the one hit kill devastation of the handcannon to the fistful of boom-stick known as the shotgun. Reload speed, ammo capacity, power, among others can be enhanced fully for maximum miscreant murder. Two guns can be held at once, the 1/2 button switches weapons on the fly.

I got on this train "2 for the price of 1".
This is not what I meant.

In levels, The House of the Dead: Overkill is a gala of mutant-mutilating mayhem. Enemies can be slowed down by shooting their limbs off, or a well-placed headshot can vaporize your pursuer leaving a fantastic fountain of oozing blood. Even after thousands of head-exploding shots, the sheer satisfaction is still there in taking a mutant out in gushy glory. By successfully killing mutants without missing a shot, a combo meter rises. As it reaches each level, completed by killing five enemies, the point bonus for each kill rises. When a player enters the Goregasm stage, each kill is worth a whopping 1,000 points as long as the player keeps a steady aim and their combo going. The "slow mo-fo" item that can be shot at to activate, moves everything to a slothful speed allowing you to blast baddies' brains out with ease-- and admire the sights and sounds of heads exploding with glee. Other items such as grenades add some explosive destruction into the mix, health-restoring med kits, and point-boosting golden brains are hidden rather well throughout each level-- begging the two unsteady allies to play through them more than once.

There's a wide variety of enemies to take down in Overkill, starting out with mutants who will run, walk, and crawl towards you to attack and mutants who will chuck health-harming cutlery and broken beer bottles that must be shot down. As the game rolls on, the diverse cast of monstrosities grows featuring kamikaze birds, acid-spouting Pukers, and creatures that just can't resist getting up close and personal with Agent G and Detective Washington. Speaking of varied creatures, the boss battles in House of the Dead: Overkill are some repulsive customers. Nonetheless, few really pose that much of a real challenge. Just shoot at their weak point when it's revealed, marked over by a red circle, and blast the boss away to Hell, Purgatory, or the CW.

I asked to get attacked by mutants.
This is not what I meant.
What?

Rounding out the package is the ability to play with two players in the main mode. Each player gets their own score unlike the unlockable dual-wield mode which allows one player to use two Wii remotes and one unified score. Firing mutants with two Wii-remotes? You can't get any more bad-ass than that! For quick bursts of baddie-blasting fun, there are three mini-games ranging from a shooting gallery, a game where you fight off increasingly more aggressive onslaughts of zombies, and a survivor-saving test. These mini-games add a different kind of experience for those tired of mowing down mutants in the main mode.

These clowns are slow, but they pack a punch!

The House of the Dead: Overkill overflows with an overabundance of overwhelmingly enjoyable entertainment. The creativity and design used by Headstrong is one that more third parties on Wii should strive for. There's a degree of obvious quality present in this potent package. While Overkill is definitely not for everyone as it overdoses on adult content, those who are old enough who are fans of on-rails shooters, the House of the Dead franchise, or well-executed Wii games should definitely check this game out.

[SuperPhillip Says: 8.75/10]

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Resistance 2 (PS3) Review

It's been a long time coming since I purchased the game in November (if I remember well), but it's finally here-- my Resistance 2 review. I know there's a plethora of people who held off on getting this game until they got my final word on it, so gentlemen, you can finally purchase it! I sincerely hope nobody actually thinks I was serious about that last line!
===

Resistance Isn't Futile; It's Essential.


Insomniac Games is known for their platformers. First it was the charming but headache-inducing (PS1 3D gives me headaches) Spyro the Dragon, and then moving up to the Playstation 2 we got one of my favorite franchises in Ratchet & Clank. With the launch of the Playstation 3, Insomniac went back to the genre their first ever game, Disruptor, was in-- the first-person shooter. With that, they created the critical and financial success, Resistance: Fall of Man. Two years after, the resistance resumes with Resistance 2! Is R2 the pièce de résistance, or is it just a piece of crap?

In the first Resistance, Europe served as the front for the war between humanity and the ruthless Chimera. Apparently they destroyed every last race of Euro pop as the Chimeran forces have now set their sights on the United States, ravaging the country. You play as Lieutenant Nathan Hale, a Sentinel soldier who at the end of the original Resistance was infected by the Chimera. It's now only a matter of time before Hale's humanity is completely ripped away by the virus and he turns into the enemy. A sinister and anamorphic villain, Daedalus, serves as Resistance 2's main antagonist. Daedalus wishes nothing more than to see humanity suffer right til the very end. While the basics of the story are presented, the background information that makes the entire narrative much more coherent are found in intel documents, hidden in every level. This makes Resistance 2 somewhat hard to follow. I couldn't help but ask myself, "What the hell are we doing here? What is going on?" more than a few times. There's also a lot of cliches used such as escaping from a complex that's about to explode, a bald protagonist, lines like "I don't think we're alone here" and other Aliens/Doom-inspired novelties. However, R2 isn't cringe-worthy in this regard like other games of the same genre.

This is Lieutenant Nathan Hale.
He doesn't have any smile muscles.

While the story isn't going to win any awards, Insomniac did a terrific job on the presentation of the game. It's sad to me that it's a rare sight seeing colors in a first-person shooter. Forest areas are filled with lush green grass and other vegetation, Bryce Canyon has a vibrant umber color radiating off its mountainous slopes, and even Chimeran ships stay away from the "this is next-gen. Gray and brown only" line of boring, dull, cliched thinking. The voice acting is performed very well, and the fact that not every word is an expletive helps me not cringe as much as I did with Killzone 2 [ED: great game, review coming later]. There are a few texture problems, but you really have to be a gigantic graphics whore to not think Resistance 2 is very much eye-pleasing and sometimes even gorgeous in sections such as Chicago and Orick.

There's three modes of play in Resistance 2: campaign, cooperative, and competitive. The main campaign mode itself runs close to ten hours in length, and it's a rather linear affair with seldom any room for altering pathways to take. There's generally only one way to go, but there are large scale rooms and areas for some exploration. Unfortunately, many outdoor areas suffer from invisible wall syndrome barring you to reach places you should easily be able to reach. Regardless, you're immediately thrust into the action, traversing through a volatile battlefield, gunning down Chimera, taking down a colossal enemy walker, all the while trying to make your escape aboard a military vessel. These moments of sheer carnage, fierce firefights, and adrenaline-pumping action make Resistance 2 great, and they're usually spread out between several sections of less intense action to give the game a great sense of pacing. As there's an adequate number of checkpoints, there's never a huge dread in having to do a sizable portion of a level over again. It's also perfect for pick-up-and-play sessions of finishing off just one firefight before bed.

And these are the Chimera.
I wonder how they go pee?

Speaking of coming back for more, the Chimera just won't quit. The AI isn't extremely bright, but they will duck behind cover, be aggressive if you're camping in a given spot, and they don't waste ammo either. By their lonesome, they're easy to pick off. However, the most dangerous parts of the game are during sections where they attack in sheer numbers, sometimes from all sides. Thankfully, you're usually seldom alone in the game. You'll have your squad-mates alongside you who will help take out some problematic foes here and there and then call it a day basically. The Chimera don't really seem to care as they will usually divert their attention directly to you. There's a decent variety of different dastardly foes to take down from standard foot-soldier Hyrbrid Chimera, insect-like bugs that scamper towards you to inflict pain, zombie-like Grims who do nothing but run at you waiting to swipe at you with their rotting arms, running time bomb creatures who want to get up close and personal with you, big, hulking shield-handling Ravagers, the rocket-launching, how-many-more-hits-does-this-guy-take Titans, and the most annoying enemy in the game, the invisible one-hit kill Chameleon. All the warning you get is a short shake of the screen and the sound of charging footsteps before you realize you just died. It's an infuriating enemy especially when they come one after the other after the other while you're reloading. Boss battles are quite epic in scope, and I use the word "epic" appropriately and not like some moronic adolescent male who doesn't know any other adjectives. While they are quite intimidating, after understanding the way to take them down as if it were a Zelda boss, they'll go down easily. All of the boss encounters were enjoyable save for one. The fact that the final boss fight was so anticlimactic doesn't help.

Titans are the most dangerous Chimera of all.
They pack rocket launchers which they aren't shy about using.

Rolling away the weapon wheel from the previous Resistance, R2 only allows you to carry any two weapons at a time. Three forms of grenades are available as is a secondary function for each gun equipped from the explosive shot of the Carbine to the defensive shield of the Wraith. There's also plenty of ammo and chances for new weapons as it seems that the perfect weapon for a given situation is always resting in plain sight for a player to pick up. This may bother some that the right gun is conveniently placed where the player will need it, so just a heads up. Taking a page from games like Call of Duty 4, Halo, Gears of War, and so forth, the tried and true health bar has been replaced with regenerating health-- somewhat of a godsend especially in later levels.

On the alternate side of R2 is the multiplayer mode featuring competitive and cooperative play. Both options are available offline, but no bots are available. The big draw with Resistance 2's multiplayer is online. In competitive you can compete with up to 60 players in one game depending on the mode. Of the available modes, there's your standard solo and team deathmatches, the Capture the Flag-like Core Control, and by far my favorite of them all, Skirmish. Skirmish is a team-based affair with up to thirty players on each side, and the goal is to get points by completing the given objective assigned to your squad. This can be anywhere from taking and controlling an enemy beacon to eliminating a specific player from the other team.

It's truly a blast teaming up with total strangers online.

Cooperative is by far the coolest mode there is. Despite what logic might tell you, this mode is not the single-player mode with two players. Instead it's even better. Cooperative is available for up to eight players, each of which chooses one of three different yet almost equally important jobs. The soldier is the major offense, the spec-ops restores ammo, and the medic heals the group. It's more complicated than that, but for simplicity's sake, that's their main jobs. It doesn't matter how good individual players are-- if some people aren't working at a team, then failure is the only logical conclusion. There's a total of six absolutely massive cooperative levels to play, and each map has three out of four objectives that will be assigned to the team. Each objective is assigned after the last is completed, and each has the team moving to a different area of the map.

The best part of the multiplayer in Resistance 2 is that everything you do awards you experience. Every bullet that hits, every kill that is executed, every objective that is met, every online match you win, and so forth nets you experience. This means the player is making progress even when losing. This kind of attitude makes leveling up to gain new player skins, weapons, and abilities less tedious than only rewarding experience through winning. I don't want to admit how many hours (see: days) I've played Resistance 2 total, but it's just incredibly fun and addicting to play and level up.

Then again shooting at total strangers is fun, too.

Resistance 2 was a game that I was not expecting to like. I rented it at a whim, and I found so engrossed with the package as a whole that I immediately went out and purchased it. It's been a very long time since I've played a first-person shooter that I truly enjoyed as much as Resistance 2, and that says a lot since my last one that I put to that level was the original Perfect Dark. With a strong variety of weapons, an entertaining well-paced single-played campaign, and plenty of online excitement, Resistance 2 is highly recommended. Playstation 3 owners need not resist this package.

[SuperPhillip Says: 9.5/10]

Monday, February 23, 2009

SuperPhillip's Favorite VGMs - But First An Important Announcement

It's not really important in the grand scheme of things, but SPC blog-wise, it's somewhat important. This Friday is my birthday (that is not the important part-- it just sets up the funny), so why not celebrate it with a week of games full of gore, blood, violence, suspense, and disturbing images!? This week, I have planned multiple reviews for some big games. One was released this past month while the other two were great games of last year (they were both acknowledged in the SPC Best of 2008 Awards). Do you know what they are?

Also, don't forget to check out (and perhaps comment on *wink wink* my newest review!

Let's kick off this week of the macabre with some... Mario... music...?
Didn't think that one out, did I? Regardless, it's some great, cheery music to kick off this week of fun!

===

V256. Super Mario 64 - Inside the Castle Walls


This song gives me such a glorious sensation of nostalgia. It's played as Mario travels through Princess Peach's castle, searching for new paintings and worlds to leap into. What other game could this be from than from Super Mario 64 and its DS remake-- Super Mario 64 DS!



V257. Super Mario 64 - Opening/Overworld Theme (Big Band Version)

This piece comes from the special Mario and Zelda Big Band Live duo of concerts that took place in 2003. It's a fantastic, upbeat arrangement that makes you want to get up and dance. Is that just me? Never mind then.



V258. Super Mario Sunshine - Ricco Harbor

Here we have a getaway from the cold winter months with Super Mario Sunshine's Ricco Harbor. This is the Super Smash Bros. Brawl edit of the song. It plays through once, and then it plays through a second time only with soft percussion (heard when riding Yoshi).



V259. Super Mario Galaxy - Rosetta Comet Observatory 3

This is the first of a duo of videos featuring one of the best games of all time (in my opinion, of course), Super Mario Galaxy. If my facts are correct, this is one of the tracks/melodies Koji Kondo composed for the game. It's Rosetta/Rosalina's observatory theme heard when the entire structure is lit up a luminous beauty. Enjoy this waltz-esque theme.



V260. Super Mario Galaxy - Battle for the Grand Star

We wrap up our look at mainline Mario titles with a listen to the final boss theme of Super Mario Galaxy, Battle for the Grand Star. I would have never guessed that such a piece would be featured in a Mario game!



There you have it, but we're not done with Mario yet! For the next two weeks we'll be listening to tracks from Mario's various spin-offs. From Mario & Luigi to Mario Kart, SuperPhillip has you covered!

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