Saturday, April 10, 2010

SingStar (PS3) Review

Even though I am interested in acting, I'm not that great of a singer. I've never received that kind of professional training before. Regardless, that didn't stop me from enjoying our next game, SingStar for the PlayStation 3. Ignore the d-bag on the cover, and you get a pretty nice experience. Here's the full review.

The Next Sing-Sation?


Karaoke is a popular hobby-- especially in the land of the rising sun where it originated. However, the singing bug has swept all across the world at bars, clubs, and parties. Sony hopes to capitalize on karaoke's success with the SingStar line of software. They've already done so in Europe, but North America seems to be a tougher shell to crack. Coming with two microphones for cooperative or competitive play, a diversified catalog of music, and plenty of possibilities for sheer madness, does SingStar hit the high notes just right?

There's a multitude of modes to choose from in SingStar. There's solo, duet, battle where players sing a song simultaneously and competitively to see who scores the most points, practice, and pass the mic which is the party mode of the game. Up to eight players can pass the mic around singing their selected sections, competing in duets, singing until one player messes up, and much more. The opportunities for happening and lively parties are nearly limitless with SingStar.

The core gameplay of SingStar has you, who would have guessed it, singing along with tracks of music, trying to keep your voice in pitch with the melody. The words really don't matter in the early difficulties as it's more important to make sure your voice is in tune with the music. The game rates your performance based on how long you hold the notes and the pitch of your voice compared to the pitch of the main melody. You're scored by line with a "Cool" rating being the best and "Awful" being the worst. Attempting to get a "Cool" rating each line of a song is no easy task as you have to sing practically perfectly. There's also bonus shining notes that if you fill them correctly, you're awarded bonus points. While easy mode is simple enough, the medium and hard difficulties measure your voice and pitch much more accurately making for a more challenging experience. This set-up works, and you constantly repeat songs trying to get higher scores, and not because you have to, but because you want to.

Duets like this oftentimes alternate between players.

There's approximately thirty different songs that come with whichever version of SingStar you choose. The traditional sets, volumes 1 and 2, feature mostly mainstream music of the current variety. Those of us not that into Blink 182, Brittney Spears, and Coldplay will feel very lost trying to sing along with these tunes. Luckily, the SingStar store has you covered, offering hundreds of songs for a price of $1.49 each or in song packs costing $5.99. The prices can seem daunting, especially if you have to rebuy songs from previous SingStar collections. The selection is notably better if you're on the other side of the pond in Europe, but the North American catalog is slowly growing regardless. There's rap, country, classic rock, current rock, soft rock, heavy metal, pop, R&B, and many other styles of music to select from-from many decades. Furthermore, a recent patch has allowed play with the PlayStation 2 SingStars letting players shoot for trophies and rewards on their PS2 versions, and frankly, these last-gen collections are much more impressive than their PS3 counterparts song selection-wise. Then again, I'm a sucker for any collection with Yes in it.

The SingStar shop is easy to navigate to find what you want.

SingStar also features a large community of wannabe singers and untapped talents to share music with. After each vocal performance, you're asked if you want to replay it, listening to how you did. You can opt to save your performance and even upload it online for friends, club members, or everyone to see and/or hear. I say and/or because you can upload two types of performances, video and audio. With the PS Eye peripheral, you can record your performance of you singing in front of the camera, and display it online for all to see. Players can rate and comment on your singing abilities or lack there of with a push of a button. You can opt to join a club which automatically shares your videos and recorded singalongs with everyone in your group. The community is very active, especially in Europe where the game has taken off more so than here in the States.

Most music is only available for European players.

Overall, SingStar for PlayStation 3 offers an incredible catalog of music for those in-the-know of current artists and celebrities. For the rest of us, there's always the PlayStation 2 SingStars and the SingStar store to quench our insatiable and picky thirst for classic artists. The foundation of the game is remarkably solid, and playing with friends and family is a terrific treat and makes this game perfect for parties. Those who mind occasionally looking or sounding stupid need not apply. Everyone else can sit or stand around the telly, sing along with some great hits, and have a grand old time.

[SuperPhillip Says: 8.0/10]

Friday, April 9, 2010

Top Five Golf Games

Fooooooore! With the Masters underway this weekend in Augusta, Georgia, what better time to bring out a list of my personal favorite golf games of all time? Why just five? I wanted to stay under par! Hi-ohhhhhhh!!! With that out of the way, let's get to our list. Whether it's realistic simulation or goofy arcade, we have your back covered with this list. So get your caddy, and get to the tee-- pronto!

5) We Love Golf! (Wii)


We Love Golf! is a title produced by Capcom and developed by the fine folks at Camelot Software, who are known for another game on this list. Regardless, WLG was one of the first golf titles to incorporate motion control accurately in its golf. It wasn't a traditional swing, mind you. It was still a retooled version of the three-click swing system. Bringing with it eight colorful courses, a cast of happy-go-lucky characters, costumes from Capcom's past, online play, and multiple modes for fun play, We Love Golf! has a bounty of options and variety for the novice golfer.


4) Hot Shots Golf: Open Tee 2 (PSP)

Best portable golf game ever? Definitely! With online play-- a first for the Open Tee series, a multitude of courses, six of which come from the original Open Tee, a vast assortment of goofy golfers which could be custom-outfitted in clothes and accessories won in the single-player campaign mode, and you have one of the most diverse and loaded handheld golf titles period. Perhaps the only gripe one could surmise from this game is that the single-player mode tends to become repetitive, but if that's the worst I can do, this game must be good!


3) Mario Golf (N64)

Probably for many young gamers, this was the title that got me interested in the sport of golf. Of course, it wasn't at all realistic like every other game on this list. The courses were nutty, one of which set in a sky-high valley and one where all the holes resembled creatures and characters from the Mushroom Kingdom. There was normal golf, mini golf, ring golf, speed golf, golf golf, and any other type of golf you could possibly imagine. The cast of characters spanned from human characters like Plum and Maple to Mushroom Kingdom All-Stars like Mario and Bowser. The game still holds up remarkably well to this day, and it's available on the Wii's Virtual Console for only ten bucks!


2) Hot Shots Golf Fore! (PS2)

The original Hot Shots Golf was made by Camelot, who worked on Mario Golf as well as We Love Golf! Now the series is handled by Clap Hanz, and they're doing wonderful things with the franchise. Well, maybe not so much with Out of Bounds. Hot Shots Golf Fore! features 12 unique courses set from tropical Hawaiian beaches to windy Chinese valleys, a stereotype-filled cast including Ratchet and Jak from their respective series, and at one time, there was online play, too. Even with online, this game is one of the best goofy golf games around with plenty of things to do, plenty of items to buy in the game's shop, and plenty of modes including HSG's answer to Mario Golf's mini golf. A great game that you can now find for under twenty dollars, pick up HGS4, you won't bogey with this one!


1) Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10 (Wii)

The creme de le creme of golf games-- Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10 for the Wii. Why just for the Wii? Two words-- mon-tage. Wait. Wrong script. Two words-- MotionPlus. It's the MotionPlus accessory that comes with the game that made all the difference. The game's still a blast without it just using normal motion controls, but Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10 was custom-tailored for Nintendo's new peripheral. It tracks your movements perfectly. Now you can go to Pebble Beach and play for real without the thousands of dollars it would normally cost. With 27 courses, the Wii-exclusive disc golf mode, some of the best online that Wii has yet (With no friend codes), and you have a game that is the absolute best golf game money can buy. ...That is until Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 comes out with PS Move and MotionPlus!


All right. Let's hear it. I know you're annoyed that I left out one of your favorite golf games. Give it to me straight. What did I mess up on? What did I leave out? Let me know in the comments.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Most Overlooked PlayStation 3 Games - Part Two

Looking at the myriad of fantastic titles in its library, the PlayStation 3 is definitely a force to be reckoned with. Of course, even with a wonderful machine like Sony's PS3, there are bound to be several great titles that fall between the cracks. This ongoing series creatively called "Most Overlooked" aims to fix that, and inform you, the reader, the viewer, the gamer, such titles that need your undying devotion and attention, too. Let's start things off with something speedy, shall we?

Sonic and SEGA All-Stars Racing


Failure isn't exclusive to the PlayStation 3 version of this awesome kart racer. In fact, all versions failed to light the charts on fire. Filled with cool characters from SEGA past and present including Sonic the Hedgehog (of course), Amy Rose, Dr. Eggman, Ulala (Space Channel 5), B.D. Joe (Crazy Taxi) and much more. The tracks, though lacking in series variety, made up for that with some truly insane and impressive design. Add in some well-balanced items and a unique turbo-boost system, and you have a game that's hard to frown down upon. The most important fact is that it's a game published by SEGA that doesn't entirely suck!


Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection

This gen, the hedgehog just can't seem to catch much of a break. Us critics praised this collection, Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection, as a competent compendium of Genesis goodies from the original Sonic the Hedgehog trilogy to lesser-known games such as Decap Attack and Ristar. Add to the equation that this game launched at only thirty dollars, has easily obtainable trophies, and runs silky smooth in HD, and this is a hard collection to pass up! Unfortunately, not hard enough to pass up as the sales were abysmal for this collection on both PS3 and 360. If you're in the mood for some classic gaming, stay away from Golden Axe, and pick this game disc up ASAP.


SingStar Volumes 1 & 2

Immensely popular in Sony London's home country but not so much overseas, SingStar's American sales were so poor that future iterations of the series such as SingStar: ABBA and SingStar: Queen are not scheduling their tours to a town near you, unlucky North American singers. While I agree that the song selection for both PS3 volumes is pretty poor, and the cost for downloading new songs is on the high side, SingStar is a bloody good time with friends or even by yourself where no one can hear or see you-- where you can let your inhibitions run wild! You can find either edition of SingStar with mics for under thirty dollars.


Folklore

This treasured to some action-adventure game has all the makings of a fun experience for all. Inspired by Western fairy tales similar to Overlord, Folklore is all about trashing ogres, goblins, and other monstrous creatures on your adventure to uncover a village's mysterious legend. This legend is a gateway that transports the player to various different realms, a virtual border between the real world and a magical dream world. An overlooked gem in the PlayStation 3's vast library, it's one title fans of the genre will definitely enjoy.


White Knight Chronicles: International Edition

We continue with the RPG theme. Released to mixed reviews and modest sales, White Knight Chronicles: International Edition is a hack and slash, free-roaming, turn-based RPG that has you playing the role of the precocious young Leonard on a quest to retrieve a princess who is always in yet another castle it seems. If the story of the single-player doesn't fare you well, you can take your custom-made avatar online and compete in quests with up to three other friends or total strangers! Sure, the quests may seem monotonous, and there's tons of grinding to be had, but wouldn't you love to do it all with friends by your side?


That ends another edition of "Most Overlooked". Have a system or game that you'd like to see featured in "Most Overlooked"? Drop me a comment below.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Pokemon Snap (N64) Retro Review

We're going to start off the month of reviews in April with something of the retro variety. It's the 1999 hit, Pokemon Snap. How does it hold up eleven years later? Is it worth investing money so you can photograph crude 3D models of Pokemon? Let's find out.

Photographing Pokemon? It's A Snap.


The Pokemon franchise started gaining steam originally in 1996 in Japan where it is known as Pocket Monsters. In America, it came out two years later and thus figuratively set the world on fire. With any popular franchise, it wasn't surprising to see it branch out into new genres. One in particular was the photography simulation that is Pokemon Snap. Is this game one that's picture perfect?

You're a precocious young Pokemon photographer who, by request of Professor Oak, has been tasked with coming to Pokemon Island to capture as many Pokemon as possible. But you're not capturing Pokemon with Poke balls. No, no. Instead, you'll be capturing them on film! The island is home to around sixty-five different types of Pokemon. Unfortunately, not all types are available for shooting which is a bummer. No Blastoise, no Raichu, no Golbat. Et cetera.

And I expect you to stay single, Oak.

There's seven different courses to play through, and each one is a different locale. You'll be visiting a sandy and sunny beach, venture into a electric Pokemon-filled tunnel, ride along the hot trail of a volcanic playground, wade down the gentle current of a river, explore a cave, and ride down the river rapids in the valley. You unlock new courses in various manners. Some you merely have to capture enough Pokemon on film while others require a bit of ingenuity to unveil secret paths to the new courses. Each course has a number of different Pokemon to take photos of in their natural surroundings.

You're not alone, however, in your journey to take a photograph of every possible Pokemon. As you progress through the game you earn new tools of the trade such as bait to bring out Pokemon in hiding as well as make Pokemon happier, pester balls which can be thrown at Pokemon to make them move around, a Poke flute to make Pokemon dance with glee, and even a warp drive to make your Zero-G unit drive much faster.

There's no bigger pleasure than chucking pester balls at Pikachu.

What exactly is the Zero-G unit? Well, that's the vehicle you ride in to take photos. In Pokemon Snap, you are on a fixed path, but you can look around 360 degrees at the landscape. When something blocks your path, the vehicle grinds to an emergency halt until the path has been cleared. Shots can be taken of Pokemon, and when you're not in zoom mode you can toss bait, pester balls, and use the Poke flute.

Most Pokemon are out in the open ready to be photographed while others require some extra work. Some Pokemon love bait and will call other Pokemon to enjoy its delicious meal with. Others hide in the water, needing a pester ball or two to pop up and say howdy. Some Pokemon will interact with the camera in different ways depending on what item you use.

At the conclusion of each course, you choose your best pictures representing each new Pokemon you've taken a picture of. Professor Oak then rates them based on certain criteria: size, pose, technique, and same PKMN. Size shows how big the Pokemon is in the shot. The closer and in-frame that your Pokemon is, the better your score. Pose indicates what special position your Pokemon is in such as being happy or startled. Or in a legendary Pokemon's case, a special pose would be bursting out of their egg. Technique describes if your photographed Pokemon is in the center of the shot or not. You get double the points if this is the case. Finally, same PKMN shows if there's multiple types of the same Pokemon in the same shot.

Smile for the camera!

Pokemon Snap isn't necessarily a long game. It can actually be completed in less than three hours. There's always the longevity of getting high scores on all courses and with all Pokemon pictures, but really that won't last too long either. Back in the day, players could take their photos to a local Blockbuster Video to print out stickers of their specialized shots. Nowadays on the Wii you can save your photos to your message board. Unfortunately, there's no option to save your best shots to an SD card which is a mind-boggling misstep. Back in 1999, this game cost approximately seventy dollars to own. Not worth it for how quick the game can be beaten. In 2010, however, you can get the game on Nintendo's Virtual Console service for ten bucks. Not bad all things considering.

All-in-all, Pokemon Snap is a worthwhile purchase in recent times but not back in 1999 where the game was more expensive than current HD games. There's a fair amount of Pokemon to take pictures of, secrets to uncover, and mysteries to solve, but most players will have the game completed in but a few short hours. Now that it's on the Virtual Console for Wii, it makes for a much smarter purchase. For voyeurism of the Pokemon type, you cannot go wrong with Pokemon Snap.

[SuperPhillip Says: 7.75/10]

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Top Ten Most Played Wii Games According to the Nintendo Channel

I recently (as in just today) downloaded the Nintendo Channel. It has a host of cool videos and information about current Nintendo products. Yeah, yeah, yeah... By far the coolest part for me was being able to see my playtime for ALL of my played Wii games. All 138 of them! This list showcases the top ten most played Wii games according to the Nintendo Channel. Included by the game names are the total times of each game played either by myself or in combination with a family member.

10) Super Paper Mario - 35 Hrs. 56 Min.


This seems to be a love or hate kind of game. I throw my beginning statement under the bus by stating that I merely liked the game. My brother enjoyed it as well. Regardless of your opinion of the game, it was one long journey. There were a lot of laughs to be had, tricky dimensional puzzles to solve, and big, grueling bosses to beat down. Super Paper Mario narrowly beat out Mario Kart Wii and New Super Mario Bros. for the ten spot. If I wrote this article a week later, Mario Kart Wii would probably be here instead.


9) The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess - 36 Hrs. 49 Min.

I originally started Twilight Princess when I got my Wii in 2006. I got up until the end of the second dungeon before other games took advantage of me, violated me, and took up my time. I got back into the game in the latter half of last year, and wow, did it floor me. It was a wonderful adventure for the most part, but some of the wolf segments dragged on a bit. Other than that little caveat, the adventure was a terrific experience no matter which console you prefer to play it on.


8) We Love Golf! - 37 Hrs. 9 Min.

We certainly do as three golf games appear on this list. The first is a little-known title featuring the unintentional likenesses of Barack Obama and Sarah Palin... as well as a vast assortment of characters sporting Capcom costumes like Ken and Ryu from Street Fighter. There's eight beautifully-designed courses in all plus three short courses to tackle. Add in online play and music by Motoi Sakuraba, and you have a golf game that's hard to resist. Camelot Software certainly knows how to craft an excellent virtual golf outing.


7) Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo's Mysterious Dungeon - 41 Hrs. 16 Min.

The real shocker here is that I only turned on the power for this game twelve times! It must have been addicting playing as the little bird, and it definitely was. The game is a mystery dungeon-styled rogue-like where you enter dungeons, moving space to space. As you move or do an action, so do the enemies inhabiting the dungeon. It's a strategic game, it's a blast to play, and I always gush when I have the opportunity to talk about this gem of a title.


6) Wario Land: Shake It! - 47 Hrs. 33 Min.

This is another game that I got my older brother to try, and he enjoyed it greatly as did I. If you're just running through the levels as fast as possible and not exploring, you're really missing out. I won't say you're playing the game wrong, but if you're not having fun playing Shake It!, that may be a reason why. Exploring the levels show the intricacies of the design and how the levels are built to flow well. Did I mention the excellent soundtrack?


5) Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09 All-Play - 48 Hrs. 12 Min.

Who knew the title All-Play could gain a second meaning after the recent troubles Tiger Woods has gone through? Regardless, unlike other versions of the All-Play brand, this one was certainly not dumbed down. It had all the fun and features you'd expect from EA's series, and plenty of content to match. The online play is some of the Wii's best, and that tradition would continue with the sequel.


4) Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10 - 49 Hrs. 46 Min.

My brother and I had gotten the swing of things from the previous installment of the franchise, so we settled right in with PGA Tour 10. What made this entry notable was that it was one of the first games to utilize the MotionPlus accessory, and boy, did it rock. Never before was swinging the virtual club so intuitive, and it felt great, too. From playing through all the single-player modes and tours to online and local fun (disc golf, anyone?), Tiger Woods really shined in 2010's installment.


3) Super Mario Galaxy - 59 Hrs. 3 Min.

Some call it the game of the generation, we just called it plain fun. Though to be fair, it was the game of the year for 2007 for me personally. Running around planetoids, collecting coins and power stars, messing around with the impressive physics engine, and just having a grand old time. I must have played through the game at least four times, and my older brother two. Thus, you get this impressive amount of playtime. However, game number one easily doubles it.


2) Animal Crossing: City Folk - 113 Hrs. 0 Min.

Managing your own town is a lot of work-- especially when you've got shady raccoons and slowpoke mayors to trifle with! Unlike other games on this list, a good portion of City Folk's playtime was online with friends met far and wide. This is also one of the few games my brother and I both played regularly, picking weeds, chatting it up with the locals, and furnishing our homes with the rarest wares. Yes, life in the big city is tough, but we persevered!


1) Super Smash Bros. Brawl - 143 Hrs. 41 Min.

It was the brawl to end them all, and it's the Nintendo compendium of stages and characters to end them all as well. Thirty plus characters, thirty plus stages, and a bevy of content from the 100+ soundtrack to the loads of modes. The SuperPhillip household spent a long time playing through this game locally, unlocking every character, stage, CD, trophy, and sticker (but not quite!). It's the game that keeps on giving, it's Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Could there be any other Wii game we'd play for so long?


Time to open it up to the floor. What games are your most played on the Wii?

Monday, April 5, 2010

SuperPhillip's Favorite VGMs - April Fools' Edition

No tricks or foolish pranks for you on this belated April Fools edition of the VGMs, just some excellent music from a wide variety of games! This week we have Animal Crossing: City Folk, Columns, The Munchables, Wave Race 64, and We Love Golf to tickle your funny bone! Sit back, relax, and start your week off right with some wondrous VGMs.

v526. Animal Crossing: City Folk - 9 a.m.

I recently got back into Animal Crossing: City Folk, and my town was almost like I left it. Although I had abandoned my townspeople, my townspeople did not abandon me. Instead, they patiently waited for my return. Isn't that sweet? These are two themes for the same time period-- 9 a.m. One is for a clear day while the other is for snow.



v527. Columns - Clotho

Columns is a simple game such as Tetris. Three colored gems in a column formation fall to the ground. The goal is to line up three or more horizontally, vertically, or diagonally to score points. The more points you score, the faster the columns fall. It's a classic SEGA puzzler, Columns also has some non-grating music to go along with it.



v528. The Munchables - 20,000 Leagues of Feast


Life's a beach and then you fry some delectable onion enemies and maybe some orange minions, too. The Munchables was released without warning to no success. Well, I shouldn't say that. It did get a good score here on SuperPhillip Central! That counts for something, right?



v529. Wave Race 64 - Sunset Bay

WAAAAAAVE RAAAAAAACE! That never gets old. Wave Race 64 was an early Nintendo 64 game with lots of tricks, sharp turns to take, and waves to leap from off of. I still can't get over how impressive the water physics were for such an old game. Nintendo can really push their hardware when they want to. The theme here is from the second track of the game, Sunset Bay.



v530. We Love Golf! - Skull Island Short Course

Skull Island is one of three short courses (par 3 courses) in We Love Golf!, a tremendously underrated and overlooked Wii game. It might not have had 1:1 swinging resembling Tiger Woods, but it was awesome anime golf with Capcom costumed characters. I should go back and play a few rounds now that I think about it! Who's with me?



There goes another edition of SuperPhillip's Favorite VGMs. If you'd like to revisit past installments, just enter SuperPhillip's Favorite VGMs in the search bar located at the top left corner of the page. Next week we'll have more music for you including House of the Dead: Overkill, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers, and Goldeneye 007 to name a few.

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