Friday, February 18, 2011

RE: Super Smash Bros. Brawl (Wii)

RE: is a series of features that revisits a game reviewed on SuperPhillip Central and talks about its highs and lows. It's important to note that these are not revisionist reviews. With this feature we've already looked back at New Super Mario Bros. Wii, Mario Kart Wii, and Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts. Now it's time to take a look back at Super Smash Bros. Brawl, a game that couldn't compare to the massive hype it received. All screenshots were taken by me using the in-game camera tool and an SD card.

I remember it as if it were yesterday. People would stay up late for something they called "JAPAN TIME" to see the latest update to the Smash Bros. Dojo website, prowling for any new information they could get on the newest Smash Bros. game. As gamers, of course, they'd bitch and moan like the little manchildren they are when the update was poor, and yell "the hype is incredible" and other unfunny memes when the update was impressive. (If you haven't guessed yet, I really hate the gaming subculture.)

Nonetheless, Super Smash Bros. Brawl hit store shelves in March of 2008 in North America, and with it battles were raged online and off. There were multiple components in the game from the story-heavy Subspace Emissary to the rich multiplayer modes to the rich roster of Nintendo all-stars... and Wolf O'Donnell.

The Subspace Emissary was a story-based affair where players tried to stop a being known as the Ancient Minister from turning Nintendo's stars into trophies. To do battle with the incoming threat, the characters of Smash Bros. Brawl must work together, playing through bland side-scrolling levels based on various locales from jungles to castles to mines. In-between the somewhat mediocre gameplay of the SSE, sometimes humorous, sometimes just plain awesome cutscenes would show Nintendo's all-stars mingling with one another like never before. Adding to the burden of the SSE, to be fair, this mode could be played cooperatively for a funner time, was the ending Great Maze-- a place where players needed to run through a labyrinth of doorways, passages, and boss battles to take down the evil Tabuu once and for all. While the mode was more enjoyable with a buddy to play along, the SSE still was a tad disappointing. The lack of memorable enemies, tedious levels, and uneventful battles led to a drawl experience overall. However, it still outperforms many a-game's sole story modes. I'm looking at you, Street Fighter 4. Additionally, there were a multitude of modes in Brawl from 100 men brawls to Classic mode which plays like your traditional Arcade mode in any other fighter to All-Star and Mission modes.


Multiplayer is seriously where it's at, and unfortunately online was something of broken when wanting to search randomly for an opponent. This was never fixed, by the way. However, Wi-Fi with friends worked perfectly. I never found a reason to fight with someone I didn't know, so that did not bother me. Regardless of that, local multiplayer is where it's at with all the trash-talking, laughter, and enjoyment. The game was stocked to the brim with characters, and this time when they knocked open a Smash Ball, they could perform a Final Smash attack, new to the series. These Final Smashes were ultra-powerful attacks that could K.O. an opponent or group of assailants in one shot. For instance, Mario would unleash a flurry of fireballs from his fists to take out anyone foolish enough to stand in his way. Meanwhile, some Final Smashes were less than stellar. In fact, three characters shared one Final Smash, the Landmaster, which reeked of laziness. Would have hurt to have an Arwing Final Smash, Sakurai? Other than that minor problem, Final Smashes were an awesome addition to the series.


For those of you unaware of how the Smash Bros. series works, it is unlike most fighting games. Instead of having a health bar that goes down, your character has a percentage that goes up each time he or she takes damage. The higher the damage, the more your character gets tossed around and can go off the screen. If your character gets knocked off the screen either above, below, or far to the left or right, that counts as a K.O. Smash is unlike other fighters as battles can be with up to four contenders, and items can be used from motion-sensor bombs to home run bats. Anything and everything can be used as a weapon.

Speaking of characters, the selection was quite good, too. Perhaps if we hadn't been spoiled by the SSB Dojo website of coming characters, it would have been more surprising to see characters like Pit from Kid Icarus, Captain Olimar from Pikmin, Diddy Kong, and King Dedede, Kirby's sworn nemesis. Each character had a multitude of attacks that were as simple as holding up a direction on the analog stick or d-pad and pressing a button to perform said attack. It was an easy to learn, hard to master scenario seen in many Nintendo games and even some other recent fighters. (Yep, I called Smash a fighter, why don't you cry about it on another blog?)


More alive than the characters themselves were the arenas players could fight in. There were a handful of past stages from Melee such as Pokemon Stadium 1, Onett, and Big Blue, plus there were a plethora of new arenas to do battle in from knocking Luigi's Mansion down to rubble to dishing out punishment on a Mario Kart track. Each stage was brimming with personality and obstacles to get in players' way like a hungry and menacing pillbug in Captain Olimar's stage to fast and lethal vehicles in Captain Falcon's Port Town stage. There were a couple of duds here and there such as Flat Zone 2 and Hannebow, but other than those, the stage creation and selection were top-notch. Even if you didn't like a single stage in Brawl, you could create your own, albeit simple arenas with Smash Bros. Brawl's level creation tool. If you're not doing that, you can always collect the 500+ trophies and stickers that showcase the history of Nintendo through figurines.


The soundtrack of Brawl was unlike any other in the history of the industry. Never before had so many composers and arrangers leaped into one project to compose, arrange, and remix new versions of old themes from Mario to Zelda, Pokemon to Pikmin, and Kirby to F-Zero. All-in-all, there were over 100 new remixes and themes made by over fifty composers of the likes of Nobuo Uematsu, Motoi Sakuraba, and Yoko Shimomura. While not orchestrated, which is a shame, the music all the same sounded great with the high-quality synthesized music used.

Brawl is a megaton higher in graphical quality than Melee. Yes, it's slower. Yes, there's tripping involved (which in my playthroughs happens less than 10% of the time). Yes, it's not Melee. If you want Melee, play Melee. The character models themselves are just gorgeous as are the sensational stages. There's little touches everywhere in backgrounds and foregrounds to make arenas feel extra special. Special effects like explosions and Final Smash attacks look incredible as well. There's something here for everyone, and it's all without much slowdown (only shows up when things get REALLY crazy).


Overall, Super Smash Bros. Brawl may not have lived up to many fans' insane hype, but for me, it certainly did. The character roster is awesome with the inclusion of third party characters like Solid Snake and Sonic the Hedgehog. (Mario VS. Sonic? My inner child is brimming from ear-to-ear.). The arenas are well-crafted and full of fun, there's many modes to choose from, many collectibles to gather, and many hours of sitting in front of the television with your friends or relatives that you won't have time to breathe! Perhaps that's hyperbole, but you get my drift!

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Have a game that you'd love to see get the RE: treatment? Let me know in the comments section!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

January 2011 NPD Results

Getting numbers from the NPD is like pulling teeth. It's difficult to do when the NPD won't open their collective mouth. Since now little in the way of numbers are revealed, and all SKUs are now bundled into one amalgamation, it's hard to be interested in sales results. The NPD group is just throwing scraps now. Well, we'll work with what we get. Numbers courtesy of NeoGAF.

4-week reporting period: 1/2/11 through 1/29/2011

Software (New Physical Retail only; across all platforms incl. PC)
01. Call of Duty: Black Ops* (360, PS3, WII, NDS, PC) Activision Blizzard
02. Just Dance 2 (WII) Ubisoft
03. Dead Space 2* (360, PS3, PC) Electronic Arts - 452K
04. Little Big Planet 2* (PS3) Sony - 353K
05. Zumba Fitness: Join the Party (WII, 360, PS3) Majesco
06. NBA 2K11 (360, PS3, PSP, WII, PS2, PC) Take 2 Interactive
07. Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood* (360, PS3) Ubisoft
08. Dance Central (360) MTV Games
09. Michael Jackson The Experience* (WII, DS, PSP) Ubisoft
10. DC Universe Online: The Next Legend Is You* (PS3, PC) Sony - 195K

*NPD's monthly point-of-sale data reports on U.S. Games Industry Sales occurring from new physical purchases at retail which is the largest channel for games sales, but it does not represent 100% of industry sales; it does not account for consumer purchases made via digital distribution, used game sales, subscriptions, mobile game apps, rentals, or social network games.

Hardware:

Xbox 360 - 381,000 (+15%) [Only console platform to see year over year growth]
Wii - 319,000 (-32%)
PS3 - 267,000 (-3.6%)

The Xbox 360 wins another month. In my jaded opinion, it's a combination of new Kinect users and people rebuying a 360 for the third time thanks to shoddy hardware production. The Wii sold 319,000 (all numbers are obviously rounded) which is a year-to-year drop of -32%. Meanwhile, the PS3 still struggles to get a footing in North America even with two exclusives making it on the top ten chart for the month (LittleBigPlanet 2 and DC Universe Online).

Call of Duty: Black Ops reigns supreme (it only has, like, eighty different SKUs, so that's no surprise). Just Dance 2 grooves its way into second place which is impressive seeing as it is an exclusive game. Dance Central proves Kinect buyers are buying at least something in the wasteland known as Kinect software, and Michael Jackson lives on through gaming with his experience hitting the number eight spot. Perhaps overweight housewives are buying dance games to shrug some pounds off from the holidays? What is surprising this month to me is that no first-party Nintendo games are to be seen on this list. I would have thought Disney Epic Mickey or Donkey Kong Country Returns would have made the bottom half of the top ten sales chart. With that, there goes a ho-hum month of sales.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Top Five Spider-Man Games

Marvel VS. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds released yesterday for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. It features one of my favorite superheroes (besides SuperPhillip, of course), Spider-Man. Not only does he have cool superpowers such as web-slinging, web-shooting, and superhuman strength. He also has my favorite cast of supervillains from the Green Goblin and Hobgoblin to the Sandman and Rhino. This list features my top five favorite Spider-Man games of all time.

5) Spider-Man 2: Enter Electro (PS1)


Kicking off this abbreviated countdown is Spider-Man 2: Enter Electro for the original PlayStation. It featured the same level by level gameplay of the original albeit with less star power. When your biggest villain is Electro, you know you have a problem. The game featured such supervillains as the Sandman and Hammerhead as well. The web-slinging was kept to indoor areas and small city arenas. All-in-all, an adequate Spider-Man game, but nothing spectacular.

4) Spider-Man: The Movie (PS2, GCN, XBX)


Loosely following the storyline from the original Spider-Man movie starring the dreadful Tobey Maguire (to be fair, he sucked in the role of Spider-Man, not so much other roles). The cast of villains included the Shocker, the Vulture, the Scorpion, and of course, the Green Goblin himself. With high production values and the original voice actors playing their given parts, Spider-Man: The Movie is my second favorite Spider-Man game based off the less-than-stellar Sam Raimi trilogy of films.

3) Spider-Man (PS1, N64, DC)


On the Nintendo 64, instead of cut-scenes, you received comic book style panels to advance the story. Regardless of that and graphical differences, Spider-Man for the three main consoles of the year 2000. Seems so long ago, doesn't it? Regardless, Spider-Man was the first 3D video to get web-swinging and slinging right in the three dimensions. With an all-new storyline, a cast of supervillains like no other such as a symbiote-controlled Doc Ock final boss. What makes this Spider-Man game special was that you felt, for the first time, you felt like you were actually Spider-Man in 3D!

2) Spider-Man 2 (PS2, GCN, XBX)


This was the first open-world sandbox Spider-Man game, and it was awesome. Featuring unique side-missions, hidden tokens to discover throughout New York along with a decent story to go with it. Mysterio, Shocker, Doctor Octopus, and the Rhino were the cavalcade of combatants for Spider-Man to take down in various venues. With an open-world setting allowing Spidey to swing like never before with impressive freedom, Spider-Man 2 is not just a fantastic superhero game, but it's a fantastic game in general.

1) Ultimate Spider-Man (PS2, GCN, XBX)


Based on the comic book line of the same way, the cel-shaded Ultimate Spider-Man is my favorite game of the web-slinger. It boasts the same open-world sandbox gameplay of Spider-Man 2 (and Spider-Man 3, but we won't mention that game again), along with side-missions such as races against the Fantastic Four's Human Torch, battles with R.H.I.N.O., jobbers like the Shocker, fights with Venom (who you can also play as), Silver Sable, Beetle, Electro, and even the crazed Carnage. A beautiful game with plenty of bonus content even if the storyline itself is short, Ultimate Spider-Man is the ultimate wall-crawler experience in my book.

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There goes my favorite Spidey games! Do you agree/disagree with my selection of web-crawler games? Let your opinion be known in our comments section.

Nintendo 3DS Basic Features Trailer

For you early this Wednesday morning is a brief overview of the basic features of the Nintendo 3DS, aka the handheld that will rock the world in more ways than one. Hyperbole aside, the 3DS doesn't disappoint as you can see new footage of the Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D, Nintendogs + Cats, and even more games. Marvel at Hyrule Field in all its remade glory.



Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Fluidity (WiiWare) Review

This review is two months late, yes, but I only recently acquired this game through the WiiWare service. It was 1200 Nintendo points, and I read and heard a lot of warm praise for this game. It's none other than Fluidity, and it's about time we had another digital download game to review here at SuperPhillip Central! Here's the review.

Have you had your suggested servings of water today?


Like nearly all downloadable services, there are gems that define that downloadable service. One could say that UNO cemented Xbox Live as a place for pedos and socially-awkward losers whereas WipEout HD took PSN to a whole 'nother level. With WiiWare there have been some solid gems from indie developers, and that's really the case with most downloadable services. It's the independent developers that really make a service shine due to low cost and the ability to make a game without needing one-hundred employees to do so. Nintendo's presence on WiiWare hasn't been the strongest. They're more known for giving third parties a shot on WiiWare. When they do develop or in this case publish a WiiWare game, Nintendo Wii owners take note as is the case with Fluidity. Developed by Curve Studios, does Fluidity make for a good game, or will it make you wonder "water" these guys thinking in making this game?

When some nasty ink penetrates a sacred book, the Aquaticus, trouble brews. The pages are covered with this icky black goop, and it's up to your powers to save the day. In Fluidity you tilt the Wii remote to move water through the labyrinthine pages of the Aquaticus, much like how PSP owners played LocoRoco by tilting the playing field to move the little LocoRoco. You flick the Wii remote upward (the game is played solely with the Wii remote in a horizontal fashion) to jump. When in liquid form, you can hold the A button down to gather your pool of water into a nice blob. Hold the button down for too long, however, and your ball of water will explode and splash all over the place. By collecting bubbles of water, you gain more extra lives for when an enemy dries up your amalgamation of aqua or your puddle of H2O is destroyed by a pool of lava. You're then placed at the beginning of the area with most of your work still intact.

Tilt the Wii remote to move your collection
of water through the many mazes of the Aquaticus.

The goal of Fluidity is to prowl the pages of the Aquaticus, searching for rainbow-colored magical drops. These are collected through solving short, medium, or long-length puzzles using the powers of water. One puzzle has you entering hoses as you shoot yourself to a higher platform, nimbly dodging rising and falling fireballs. The premise here is to carry two goldfish from their current bubble prison to a fishbowl through a fiery maze of fire hoses and fireballs. Taking the goldfish back to their home rewards you with a magical drop. Collecting several of these opens up a final area where you enter the heart of darkness, defeating all enemies in the area to unlock the way to the machine that is spewing all of the black goop over the pages of the Aquaticus. By destroying the machine, you open up the next chapter of which there are five.

Magical drops are plentiful throughout the pages of the mystical Aquaticus, and arrows inside the comic panel-like presentation of the book show areas you have and have not completed yet. Each chapter houses a multitude of magical drops that are just waiting for you to collect them, given you have the required skills and know-how. In addition to magical drops, there are also hidden puzzle pieces to collect. These open up mini-games to play. The very first is bringing a series of goldfish to their fishbowls before time runs out and they suffocate.

As I mentioned before, you must possess the required skills to pass a given trial. As you progress through the pages and chapters of the Aquaticus, you earn new abilities and forms. For instance, certain stations can turn your fluid into a solid block of ice or a steady stream of steam. Both have their own abilities to them. Ice can stick to walls, push down hard-to-budge buttons, and be shoved around by catapults whereas steam can fly around levels by tilting the Wii remote on the Z-axis, can suck up items, and electrocute enemies by charging them with solid volts of lightning. Several in-game puzzles require you to alternate between forms to attain magical drops. Fluidity in some ways feels like a Metroid game. As you earn new abilities, you can reach new areas. As you earn more magical drops, you can enter new pages of the Aquaticus. Despite the lack of space pirates and a purple dragon named Ridley, the similarities really end there.

You can change the form of matter by entering one of these vessels.

The platforming and puzzles get particularly more involved and challenging as you go deeper into the game and hit the later chapters. There's spinning platforms, hoses that shoot your liquid out over long distances and dangers, pools of deadly lava, harmful enemies that need to be taken down when vulnerable, pinball tables, pulley systems, and so much more. There's easily over ten hours of content in this 1200 point game-- well worth the money.

Presentation-wise, each world has its own colorful theme from an Aztec-inspired temple grounds to a bustling cityscape. Chapters are divided up into pages just like panels of a comic book to create a really cool effect. The art style uses colorful and cartoony hand-drawn backgrounds along with convincing special effects for the three forms of matter you can become: liquid, solid, and gas. The music doesn't jump out at you. I mean, the game won't earn any scores of the year awards, but it fits nicely for the type of gameplay involved.

The comic book panel presentation is something to marvel at.

Fluidity isn't a perfect downloadable game, however. Sometimes the controls can feel too loose, and there's little in the way of control customization to fix that. Later challenges can simply feel too cheap, requiring precision platforming and jumps. Additionally, it can just be difficult to know how to solve a puzzle without looking at a FAQ or walkthrough (cheater). Other than those problems, Fluidity is a challenging game that oozes with charm and personality. Yes, there are a lot of duds on WiiWare, but make no mistake that Fluidity is not one of such titles. It shows that Curve Studios put a lot of love and care into this game. For 1200 Nintendo points, I think it's time for a water break.

[SuperPhillip Says: 8.75/10]

Monday, February 14, 2011

SuperPhillip's Favorite VGMs - Valentine's Day 2011 Edition

Love is in the air, but furthermore than that are my VGMs! Can you smell their golden goodness? Perhaps you'd rather listen to them instead! That's what this week is dedicated to-- well, just like every week on the VGMs. This go around we have remixes from Final Fantasy XI and Mega Man ZX, tracks from Bomberman 64: The Second Attack!, Jet Force Gemini, and we cap things off with Sonic Adventure 2. Are you ready to rumble?

v656. Final Fantasy XI - Distant Worlds (TBM Version)

TBM stands for The Black Mages, a band founded by veteran Final Fantasy series composer, Nobuo Uematsu. This theme, Distant Worlds from Final Fantasy XI, comes from their third album, Darkness and Starlight. I particularly love near the end when the rock guitar pops in with its own take on the main melody. It's awesome, to be frank. Amano-san drew the wallpaper you see before you. He's the long-time veteran artist of the Final Fantasy series before that hack fetishist Nomura took over for the art. I'm still bitter if you can't tell. I'll be fine though. Just enjoy the song for me.



v657. Bomberman 64: The Second Attack! - Score Attack

Bomberman 64: The Second Story was my favorite of the three Bomberman games for the Nintendo 64. There were no dreaded bomb-jumping puzzles, and the game's unlockables were fun to acquire unlike other games. Score Attack is one of the many multiplayer modes in The Second Attack. The song is very tense, gets faster and faster, and ends with a satisfying conclusion-- just like Bomberman 64: The Second Attack!



v658. Jet Force Gemini - Cerulean

Cerulean is a cold desert planet in Jet Force Gemini. This is Vela's second planet that she embarks on. The Jet Force Gemini soundtrack is one of the most impressive technical feats on the Nintendo 64. The sound quality just sounds superb. Are you with me on this? Of course, you're with me! We're all friends here! I remember the final boss being one of the toughest I ever defeated. His attacks were so hard to avoid! Enough whining from me. Enjoy this wonderful track from Jet Force Gemini!



v659. Mega Man ZX - Misty Rain (ZX Tunes Version)

Mega Man ZX was a Metroid-styled game. The map system, however, was super-confusing, so it was difficult to find your way around the many areas the game had to offer. In some regards, the original Mega Man ZX was a forgettable game. The sequel, though, was quite good, and I very much enjoyed it. Misty Rain is a haunting tune thanks to the female vocals. It's also got a great beat to it, and it's one of my favorite tracks from the game. This is the remixed version of Misty Rain, for those of you at home keeping score.



v660. Sonic Adventure 2: Won't Stop, Just Go! ...For Green Forest


Green Forest was Sonic's third level in Sonic Adventure 2. I never owned a Dreamcast, so I played the superior (how would I know) Gamecube version. Sonic Adventure 2 is infamous for introducing the Shadow character that split the fanbase. I even liked Shadow's own video game, though the gun part was just hilarious to me. Green Forest is a rockin' drum and guitar theme composed none other than by Jun Senoue. I really like his rock interpretations of Sonic music. Though his Sonic 4 music sucked hedgehog balls in my humble opinion!



A kiss to all my fans on this wonderful Valentine's Day. Well, at least a platonic kiss, that is. You know what I mean, right? Creepy. Anyway, hope you liked what you heard today as next week we're blowing the roof off this joint. Stay tuned!

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