Monday, December 31, 2012

New Super Mario Bros. U (Wii U) Review

To close out the year, we have one final post for 2012. It's a new review for a new game on a new piece of gaming hardware. It's New Super Mario Bros. U, the flagship title for the Wii U. Let's see how well it shaped up.

U, Mario, and A Date With Fun


Do you remember a time when there was a decade stretch where there wasn't a new 2D Mario platformer to be found? This reviewer does. Now they seem to be coming out of the woodwork. Well, actually that isn't that fair to say. Since New Super Mario Bros. on the Nintendo DS, there comes only one new 2D Mario platformer for every Nintendo system. Speaking of which, the New Super Mario Bros. series might come off as one that doesn't try hard enough to push the platforming genre forward. Some might even say that Nintendo has rested on its laurels.

With a new home console and a new Mario game to go along with it, something that hasn't happened since the Nintendo 64 in 1996, Wii U owners have a mighty helping of new 2D Mario to enjoy in the form of New Super Mario Bros. U. Does the Wii U GamePad and added features offer a valid reason for Nintendo to still be putting "New' in front of "Super Mario Bros."?

If you have played one of the myriad Mario titles out there, you know how Nintendo has set this up plot-wise... or do you? This time around, Bowser and his many minions have invaded Princess Peach Toadstool's castle, have held the princess as a prisoner in her own home, and have physically ejected Mario and friends from the vicinity. It is up to you, the player, to find your way back home, platforming through many levels of running and jumping fun. The story is a nice change of pace. It's still an excuse for players to do all the aforementioned running and jumping, but it's different from the usual plot of a 2D Mario game regardless.

Well, at least they'll get a lot of travel miles.
Mario's adventure begins in the Acorn Plains and ends at Peach's Castle. There are nine worlds in all, one of which being the standard bonus world. Although the worlds--and even the levels-- are named this go around, you're still playing through the same world tropes as usual of the New Super Mario Bros. series: grassland, desert, water, ice, forest/jungle, mountain, sky, and fire. 

Take flight with the new Squirrel Suit.
However, you won't be traversing the worlds in the same style as past NSMB games. This time, the entire world map is interconnected. There is a feeling of cohesiveness not seen since Super Mario World back in 1991. The world map features lots of visual touches, branching paths, and secret exits, allowing you to skip entire worlds, that make for an appealing map that you just can't stop wanting to explore. The only problem when it concerns secret exits is that unlike Super Mario World, levels containing secret exits are not marked, making for searching through every nook and cranny of each level, looking for an exit that may or may not even be there.

The new interconnected world map is 
all kinds of awesomeness. 
Each world contains the tradition Mario fare. You have your standard courses, your towers (generally concluding with a battle against Boom-Boom), your haunted houses, your Toad Houses in which you can earn items or 1UPs, and your final level in each world, a Koopaling castle. Levels each have their own element that is used repeatedly throughout-- from a tower containing rotating stone cogs that can crush you like a tin can, to a level filled with spinning star platforms, to a swimming level where you are constantly being pursued by a dragon-like eel. One particular "airship" level that appears in the second half of the game is one of my favorite levels in New Super Mario Bros. U.

Go pick on some other plumber, Dragoneel!
Although there are some new ideas presented, a good portion of level elements are things we've seen before in past New Super Mario Bros. games, specifically the excellent (and SPC Game of the Year 2009) Wii iteration. While the levels in the Wii U game are by no means rehashes of past games, there is a lot of retreaded ground, including a level that takes place aboard a raft that stops if too many things are resting on top of it at one time, a level where there are bubbles of water floating in the air, one where meteors fall from the sky, and a dark underwater level where enemies light the way for you-- all ideas taken from New Super Mario Bros. Wii.

Get nostalgic for Super Mario Bros. 3's
Giant Land with this first level of Soda Jungle.
Exclusive to New Super Mario Bros. U, however, are the Squirrel Suit and three different colored Baby Yoshis. The Squirrel Suit allows Mario or whomever to glide across gaps and perform a flying squirrel jump by floating up into the sky. It's an awesome addition to the lineup of Mario power-ups. In addition to that, there are a trio of Baby Yoshis alongside Adult Yoshi that have different uses. The Pink Baby Yoshi balloons up when activated, acting like a hot air balloon for Mario to cross over chasms and fly high into the sky. THe Blue Baby Yoshi spits out a swath of bubbles that can imprison enemies, turning them into coins. Lastly, the Yellow Baby Yoshi is used to light darkened areas and can stun nearby baddies. 

Nothing like spending New Year's Eve
with a good bunch of bubbly, no?
Even with all of these helpful new items to Mario and the gang's arsenal, the Wii U sequel might just be the most difficult of the New Super Mario Bros. series yet. It poses a great, fun challenge that will demand the greatest platforming prowess from players. Getting through levels is enough of a challenge, but when you add trying to collect all three Star Coins that are hidden or placed in hard locations in each level, you get a lot of welcomed hardness. 

The Star Coins are necessary to unlock levels in the ninth world of the game. Gathering all of the Star Coins in a given world opens up a level in world nine. Going back to the hardness of the game, these final levels are  seriously twisted in their design. Prepare to lose a lot of those lives you have been saving for the right occasion. World nine is the right occasion.

Like the Wii version before it, New Super Mario Bros. U features multiplayer, which is an absolute grand old time, with or without a packed room. This time around up to five players can have some entertainment. Four players control Mario, Luigi, Blue Toad, and Yellow Toad, and the fifth player can use the Wii U GamePad to place helpful rectangular blocks for the other players to leap on. (Or to completely mess them up!) This is known as Boost Mode. It makes reaching and surviving certain Star Coins in the game a breeze when the GamePad player can simply place a series of blocks leading to it. 

Using the Boost blocks smartly here
made these Thwomps less of a hazard.
There are other modes outside of the main story such as one where you can choose to play as your Mii. The level scrolls automatically. The more coins players collect, the faster the screen scrolls. In addition to that, there is an updated Coin Battle mode that puts the Wii U GamePad player in charge of placing coins in a level for the other players to collect. The person with the highest coin count at the end of the level wins.

Finally, there is Challenge Mode. This puts even the most adept 2D platforming champion to the test. You get multiple trials across various categories that you try to earn medals in. Some are as simple as timed foot races, but others ask more of you, such as dodging the fireballs of a Fire Brother for a set period of time, running through a level without killing any enemies, or bouncing off the heads of foes for 1UPs, being careful not to touch the ground. There are even challenges that require two players, one with the Wii Remote and one with the Wii U GamePad. The GamePad player places platforms for the Wii Remote player. Both players need terrific teamwork to complete these challenges.

What kind of medal you earn is based on
how well you do on a given challenge.
The characters in New Super Mario Bros. U control well-- any time not on ice, that is. It seems that in this sequel the ice is much more slippery than in past games. Nonetheless, NSMB U can be played with the Wii U GamePad or the Wii Remote. The benefit of the former is that you can play the game entirely on the GamePad and use the television screen for something entirely different. Perhaps catch the Super Bowl in February while trying to take down Iggy Koopa, for instance. Also with the Wii U GamePad, you need not shake it to do a spin in midair, though you can if you really want. All you need to do is press a button

The New Super Mario Bros. series is oftentimes frowned upon for its presentation. Those who deride the series's art style will most likely continue doing so with New Super Mario Bros. U. The game features the same sterile and clean aesthetic from past games, but this time it is all in glorious high-definition. By far the most impressive part of the package aesthetically are the beautiful backgrounds. The first world, Acorn Plains, possesses one of my favorite backgrounds. Things aren't so lively on the sound side. The music is mostly stuff taken from New Super Mario Bros. Wii. There are new tracks such as the world map and athletic themes, but considering this is Mario's big debut on a new console, the fact that there are that many recycled tracks is lazy and inexcusable.

New Super Mario Bros. U might not set the world on fire with its innovation, but it does deliver a satisfying, if not an expected, layer of fun. Perhaps it was the release of two New Super Mario Bros. titles in the span of four months, but I am getting to a point where I am going through the motions with the NSMB series. Yes, it's entertaining as always. Yes, the levels are well designed as always. Nonetheless, something has to change with the New Super Mario Bros. franchise. The "New" in the title can only go so far when Nintendo refuses to considerably change the formula. Ironically, at the end of the day, "New" Super Mario Bros. U feels like more of the same. However, that "more of the same" is still so much darned unadulterated fun.

[SuperPhillip Says: 9.0/10]

SuperPhillip's Favorite VGMs - Happy Endings Edition

It is the final day of 2012. While it is a time for reflection for some, for SuperPhillip's Favorite VGMs, it's a time for five more video game tracks! This is a special edition of my VGMs. Because it is the end of the year, we're going to listen to five songs that were at the end of their respective games. From Super Mario 64 to Xenogears, the music selection is definitely eclectic.

v281. Super Mario 64 (N64) - Staff Roll


Let's go inside the castle and have some cake. Lord knows that Mario worked out enough running and jumping in his first 3D platforming adventure that the calories from the cake shouldn't really factor into things. This peppy credits theme from Super Mario 64 plays while the game shows off all of the courses Mario trekked through. Koji Kondo really shows why he's a marvelous VGM composer with this doozy of a theme.

v282. Star Fox Adventures (GCN) - Credits


The staff roll theme for Star Fox Adventures begins with a tribal beat followed by the Star Fox 64 main theme. It soon fades out and we enter into a rocking good time with the electric guitar playing. The end of this credits theme has a sultry sax, a fond memory of the relationship between Fox McCloud and his new friend Krystal.

v283. F-Zero X (N64) - Staff Roll (Guitar Arrange Version)


This version of the F-Zero X staff roll theme comes from a guitar arrange album released after the launch of F-Zero X. It's a fusion of metal and jazz, and it is quite brilliant, more so catchy as well. If you have the chance, look into the entire F-Zero X Guitar Arrange album, as it features some incredibly awesome tracks from an incredibly awesome game.

v284. Resident Evil 4 (PS2, GCN) - Sorrow


This credits theme from Resident Evil 4 starts out very dreamlike with the gentle flute playing the main melody. However, the dream turns into a nightmare when the song gets a heavy dose of strings. You didn't really think the credits theme for one of the best [survival horror] games of all time would end on a perky note, did you?

v285. Xenogears (PS1) - Small of Two Pieces ~ Restored Pieces


One of my favorite ending themes from a video game, Xenogears's Small of Two ~ Restored Piece features a moving melody and wonderful vocals, done by Joanne Hogg of Ireland. While the first verse is lovely, the second brings in some percussion to give the song a beat to go along with its beauty. This song is one terrific treat for those who beat Xenogears.

===

We're not quite through with 2012 yet. Not only is there one more brand-new review to see, but we have the SuperPhillip Central Best of 2012 Awards to start tomorrow. Stay tuned to SuperPhillip Central as this week is going to be very busy!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Pros and Cons of the Wii U: From A New Owner's Perspective

I have now officially owned a Wii U for three days. It has been an eventful and arduous journey, but my wounds have healed and my hands are free of blisters.

In all seriousness, the Wii U is the first home console of the eighth generation of gaming hardware, and it is the newest gaming hardware edition to the SuperPhillip family. There are many aspects of the Wii U that I adore, but at that same token, there are many aspects of the Wii U that I abhor. This written piece is a pro and con list from the viewpoint of someone who is new to the Wii U. From the innovative controller to the future lineup, this is what I like and dislike about my shining new Deluxe Wii U.


-CONS-

- Initial Update: Or, Update Me on When I Can Finally Play, Nintendo

Let's start with the bad first, shall we? I hate to end on a negative note, after all. We begin with what all new Wii U owners will most likely have to deal with after hooking up their system-- the initial update. Now, the length of the update varies depending on connection speed and other factors. It personally took me just under two hours, and I have a satisfactory connection. However, I have heard horror stories of updates taking up to five hours. Throw in the idea of unknowing users powering off their systems mid-update, which is an absolute no-no in firmware updating, and the problem becomes even more troubling.


The update that every Wii U owner needs to install does a myriad of online functions such as the ability to create a Nintendo Network ID, installing new features like Miiverse (more on that later), the Nintendo eShop, the friends list, Wii U Chat, the Internet Browser, and there's a lot more where that comes from. Thus, it is a necessary evil that all of that gets installed. It's apparent that the Wii U systems were manufactured long before these aforementioned features were fully realized, so that is why the update is so large.

- Hardware Problems: Or, Problems With the Hardware

Someone actually, with a straight face, said to me that the Wii U was so weak that Nintendo should scrap the console in two years and release a successor. I didn't call the person stupid or anything, but I gave him that look. You know, the one where you look like you're squinting at the guy and your mouth is open. Your face is basically saying it cannot believe he just said that either.

Anyway, the modest graphical power of the Wii U does not really bother me. I mean, I am amazed that current generation games can run on a little GamePad's screen. That is really cool to me. It doesn't make sense for Nintendo to try to go head to head in power with Microsoft or Sony either. It tried that with the GameCube, and it failed (it wasn't the only reason, but you know what I mean). Nintendo has successfully carved out its own niche, and I think it needs to continue to do that.

Regardless, there were other problems associated with the hardware from a technical perspective-- countless reports of hardware freezes, and the operating system of the console is still rather slow. I am uncertain whether the former issue has been resolved yet or not. If someone who has experienced such issues in the past would let me know, I would really appreciate it. In any case, the hardware as a whole is a somewhat troublesome issue.

2013 Is Barren: Or, How Nintendo Is Keeping Its Cards Too Close To Its Chest

Nintendo has opted for an altered strategy concerning their release dates and the announcements of new games. To avoid incidents like The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, it has decided to not announce a game until it is far enough in development-- sometimes near completion. This can be a good thing in the sense that a given game is not subject to over-hype by the gaming populace and turns out to be a disappoint. It is a bad thing because it makes the future of Nintendo's systems look barren and uncertain.

Nintendo is happy to give us a bone now and then with the official announcement of Pikmin 3 at last E3. This game goes against that strategy I was talking about, as it is in the further future. Another title that goes against that strategy is The Wonderful 101. Meanwhile, games like LEGO City Undercover, Wii Fit U, and Game & Wario are coming out rather soon.


This strategy bit Nintendo in the butt rather hard. The company said it was building up strong relations with many third-parties. When little word was coming out of future games for the Wii U, many believed it was because of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs). However, when the sizzle reel was released of upcoming third-party titles, a bitter pill was swallowed by fans claiming Nintendo was hiding the good stuff with all of its secrecy. There basically was no good stuff to be found.

Now don't get me wrong. I am sure there is plenty of "good stuff" coming for myself and others as Wii U owners. I jumped in (forgive me for stealing the Xbox brand slogan there) to the Wii U full well knowing that the release list was dry after launch. I have Rayman Legends and Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate to look forward to and hopefully Nintendo has a lot more that they are getting ready to astound the gaming world with, as they are wont to do. Let's just hope that stuff comes down the pipeline sooner rather than later.

- Sixty Dollar Games: Or, What Am I, Donald Trump Here?

Well, no, because my hair isn't that questionable. Regardless, while I am on the subject of games, it was an inevitability that Wii U games would get the "next gen" selling price of sixty smackeroons. Why would Nintendo want to isolate third-parties even more by keeping its game prices at a solid fifty? All it means to me is that I cannot buy as many games as I did on the Wii, which was admittedly a lot (underrated system, that was). It also means that I have to much more careful on my purchases. Getting burned by a sixty dollar game hurts far more than getting burned by a forty or fifty dollar one. I get a moment of repose, however, by seeing Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed have a forty dollar price tag at release. (By the by, if you have not checked out that game out, you are doing a disservice to yourself.) Could we see more budget-priced software on Wii U? I certainly hope so!

-PROS-

- The Controller

My first experience with the Wii U GamePad was at my local Best Buy. (You folks in the industry don't have your product demos at Best Buys? Well, I'll be.) I did not think that much of the GamePad in a gameplay sense. Sure, the resolution and visuals were sharp on the GamePad's big screen, but I had trouble with the gyro-controlled sections of the Rayman Legends demo. Now that I have the GamePad in my possession and have spent a good amount of time with it, I can say that it does impress. In fact, it impresses big time.

I love the ergonomics of the controller. It is not overly hefty as one might expect. I have piano player fingers, and mine can easily fit around the good-sized GamePad. Holding the controller just feels right. It feels great in my hands.

I feared that sense the GamePad was glossy, it would get a lot of unsightly fingerprints on it, especially with my Deluxe Black Wii U GamePad. This, however, isn't as bad as I thought it would be. You can see fingerprints on it, but only on the front and only from close range. The back of the controller is entirely a matte finish. Now, where was this on my Nintendo 3DS, I wonder.


The GamePad's touch screen can only read one mark, swipe, touch, etc. at a time. This is a bummer as I know Apple and other tablet designers have made the thought of such technology seem prehistoric. Still, the screen is clear, crisp, and it looks exquisite. I love just wasting time doodling gibberish words and ugly stick figure men/women.

Without a doubt one of the coolest features is the ability of some games to be played entirely on the GamePad while the television screen is used for something else entirely. Perhaps you could run through the Soda Jungle world of New Super Mario Bros. U while keeping up to date on the big game. Yes, the big game-- that pinochle world championship. ...That isn't what you guys watch? Never mind.

Regardless, the Wii U GamePad offers something that I didn't feel was really explained well by Nintendo-- asymmetrical gameplay. This is most prevalent in Nintendo Land, a title that has truly surpassed my rather high expectations. One great example of this is in the Animal Crossing: Sweet Day attraction of the game. In this, one side of the game is trying to retrieve 15 fruits and take them to a safe spot. These players use Wii Remotes and look at the TV screen. Meanwhile, the player using the Wii U GamePad controls two armed guards, and his or her job is to utilize both analog sticks (one controlling each guard) to tackle the fruit gatherers three times. Two different vantage points are being seen, one on the TV screen and one of the Wii U GamePad. This is what asymmetrical gameplay is all about, and Nintendo Land showcases it brilliantly. It's something that the Wii U does the best, and it should do it the best when the console's focus is built on the GamePad's unique features.


- Fun Launch Lineup

I talked about how the future release schedule looked barren and uncertain. Maybe that is a good thing as the Wii U had so many titles at launch that it is an impossibility to have gotten through them all.

We have Nintendo's home-developed software such as New Super Mario Bros. U, the first new Mario game to launch with hardware in seemingly ages, and Nintendo Land, which comes automatically with Deluxe systems.

New Super Mario Bros. U takes the tried and true 2D Mario series to new heights-- high-definition heights, to be exact. It is the second 2D Mario to allow four players to run and jump through levels together, and the first to allow five players. The fifth player can use the Wii U GamePad to place blocks for everyone else. The GamePad player can even play the entire game by their lonesome on the controller's screen, offering a chance to play NSMBU in the luxury of their bed while watching a Roseanne marathon, for instance. Maybe a certain writer has done that...


Meanwhile, Nintendo Land has seriously astounded me by how good and clever it is. While it is fun in doses by one's self, the game is truly meant to be played in multiplayer. Even with only two people, it is a blast. However, when you can get five friends or family members around the Wii U for some Metroid Blast, Luigi's Ghost Mansion, or Mario Chase, then the true fun begins. I've mentioned a brilliant use of the GamePad above, but it really cannot be emphasized enough.

Then there are third-party offerings like the intense and terrifying ZombiU. There's Batman: Arkham City - Armored Edtion, featuring Wii U-exclusive features and all the DLC from the other versions on the disc for free. There's Assassin's Creed III, Darksiders II, Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge, Skylanders Giants, and Scribblenauts: Unlimited. Don't forget the download-only games (all retail games can be purchased digitally from eShop) like the gorgeous Trine 2: Director's Cut.


I found myself flabbergasted when I went to the store to pick a game for my new Wii U. The choices are really amazing, offline or on.


- Miiverse and Nintendo's Improved Online

I am absolutely in love with Miiverse. It is so simple of a concept and very Twitter-like. It gives users the opportunity to share all sorts of things-- comments, completed goals, and even old school handwritten notes with any game's community. A game can be suspended while a message is posted (messages are swiftly moderated for appropriateness) and then the player can jump back into their game. Not only is Miiverse available in many games (at least those that are supported), it is of great prominence in the Wii U's system menu.


What I adore about Miiverse is the capability of seeing what other players just like myself (and those completely not like myself) are doing in the games I am playing-- what they're struggling with, what challenge they just overcame, etc. It is also fun to see users express themselves through art, and boy, might I tell you that a lot of that art is amazing. Jeremy Perish has a lot of doodles he has done through Miiverse messages.


Miiverse goes along with the Wii U's online. Compared to the Wii, it is a night and day difference. Gone are those miserable, ill-conceived friend codes that plagued each and every game, and what has replaced them is the NNID, or Nintendo Network ID. You can choose a name, six characters or more, and assign a Mii to it. There the fun ensues. I must admit that I don't ask for the world when it comes to online gaming, but even with that said, the Wii U and Nintendo have gone a long way to impress me with their efforts.

- Fast Internet Browser


Following the online, let's go into something from a similar category. I know what you're thinking-- "So what. I have a computer that already can browse the Internet, and it can do so faster. I use a gaming console for games." Well, yes, Mr. Scrooge, you can. However, I am not like you-- I am a simpleton who gets amazed by the simplest things. For one, being able to browse the Internet on the Wii U GamePad and the TV screen is just stupendous to me. I can view my favorite sites (SuperPhillip Central, SuperPhillip Central, SuperPhillip Central, Amazon, SuperPhillip Central), select and manage bookmarks, and effortlessly zoom and scroll to my heart's content. If you have ever dealt with the Wii or Nintendo 3DS Internet Browser apps, you know how horribly slow and how much they were wastes of time. Now you can get a browser on a Nintendo system that actually works and works well. That is the definition of progress.

===

For you new Wii U owners, are you liking the system? What are your likes and peeves regarding everything Wii U? Let me know in the comments section.

Also, if you wish to add me as a friend, hit me up with a message to my email account, seen in the sidebar.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Fantasy Life (3DS) Overview Trailer

A game that I would love to reach North American shores (along with the rest of the West, of course) is Fantasy Life, a grand title by Level-5. Rather than tell you what this overview trailer features, how about you take a look with this seven minute video and see for yourself? Even if you don't speak the language of the Land of the Rising Sun, you can at least drool at the footage like I did!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

2 Fast 4 Gnomz (3DSWare) Review

Once again, Merry Christmas to those of you celebrating, and if you aren't, have a wonderful holiday season. If you don't celebrate the holidays at all, then you're simply making this difficult for me on purpose, aren't you? Just kidding.

Regardless, that review I was alluding to earlier is for a downloadable 3DS game that you can try out via demo first on the Nintendo eShop. It is 2 Fast 4 Gnomz from QubicGames.

Sock It to These Gnomz


It is Christmas day, and you know, when many people associate Christmas with Santa, they associate elves with jolly old St. Nick. What about those lesser heralded small-in-stature folks? They decorate lawns across the world, and some of them-- unlike elves-- actually work all year long! I am talking about gnomes, and QubicGames is once again paying them their due respect with 2 Fast 4 Gnomz on the Nintendo 3DS's eShop marketplace. Wii owners might be familiar with this title as it originally appeared on the WiiWare service. Is this second helping of "gnomz" good or is it 2 bad 4 words?

2 Fast 4 Gnomz is a runner-type game. Your gnome is perpetually in motion, and it is your job to dash, jump, and duck your way through progressively more fiendish levels while gathering socks and avoiding hazards like pits, walls, spikes, tornadoes, and other devious traps.


At the start of 2 Fast 4 Gnomz, you are limited to simply jumping, but as you make your way through the game, you obtain new powers. These are activated via the direction pad. Holding up opens up a glider, perfect for crossing large chasms. Holding down activates Berserk mode, where your gnome can channel his anger and smash and crash his way through obstacles and stay grounded during tornadoes. Holding right gives a burst of speed, necessary to jet past falling icicles, for instance. The last power allows you to turn back time as you pass a clock. This is performed by pressing the left direction on the d-pad.

Starting out, 2 Fast 4 Gnomz possesses a relatively relaxed difficulty, but as new powers are introduced, your reflexes will get put to the test in a mighty fine fashion. It is commonplace for levels to have you switching between pressing d-pad directions with split-second timing. One second you're gliding up a wind tunnel while the next you are wanting to quickly fall to the ground and enter Berserk mode so you don't get blown away by the upcoming tornado.

Therein lies a problem with 2 Fast 4 Gnomz. A significant portion of successfully completing levels is left to pure memorization. Sure, that aforementioned split-second timing comes in at the occasional point, but the game mostly relies on having the player have the level ingrained in their memory to beat it. If you simply want to beat the game, then you need not worry about memorizing much. Dying simply takes you back to the last checkpoint you crossed, and you have an unlimited number of tries. However, if you wish to 100% the game, you will need to memorize each level and always be thinking one step (or several steps) ahead.


Speaking of which, there is a good amount of replay value in the game. Each level has three different ratings depending on how you do. There is one for collecting the socks sprinkled around the levels, one for how fast you complete a given level, and one for not dying much (if at all). You can earn up to three stars for each category for a total of  nine stars. Thankfully, you need not get all nine stars in a given run. You can go for the sock stars first, then try not dying a lot, and lastly try to get a great time. It makes for a less frustrating experience.

An issue many had with the WiiWare version of 2 Fast 4 Gnomz was that it was hard telling the background from the playing area. This issue has been cleared up with the 3DS iteration of the game. Not only does the stereoscopic 3D of the Nintendo 3DS do wonders, but there is a greater separation between both backgrounds and the playing space. The music is appropriate for the game, and even after you've died dozens of times on the same level, you won't grow weary of the soundtrack.


While there are many free alternatives on the iOS market to 2 Fast 4 Gnomz, 3DS owners looking for a competent runner game will most likely enjoy the game. It has a cute charm to it, it is engaging, and it is generally a rather fun time. The focus on memorization for completionists will no doubt put some players off, but overall, 2 Fast 4 Gnomz delivers a good challenge and plenty of enjoyment.

[SuperPhillip Says: 7.0/10]

Merry Christmas from SuperPhillip Central!

It's that special time of year where we spend time with our families and friends. I hope your Christmas is wonderful, and if you don't celebrate, may your day still be fantastic regardless. Even though today is a holiday, I have a review planned for the day. It's a short one, so it isn't taking much time away from the family. The best to you and yours this holiday season.

Monday, December 24, 2012

SuperPhillip's Favorite VGMs - Christmas Eve 2012 Edition

Much like the yearly SuperPhillip Central Best of Awards, selecting songs for the holiday season is a tradition too-- albeit not a tradition that is as long as my awards ceremony. Today on SuperPhillip's Favorite VGMs, I have a special edition to share with you. Think of it as your Christmas bonus from yours truly. It is ten winter-themed video game tracks from games like Donkey Kong Country, Banjo-Kazooie, Kirby's Epic Yarn, and even some Final Fantasy IX for you RPG buffs out there.

While you enjoy the holidays with your friends and family this season, join the SuperPhillip Central family as we celebrate the season with some SuperPhillip-approved video game songs. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a Happy New Year to you and yours! May your season be merry and bright. With that said, let's get to the music!

v271. Donkey Kong Country (SNES) - Ice Cave Chant


The oldest song on this list of ten VGM volumes is from Donkey Kong Country, and it sounds just as good as many of the themes on this list. Although the theme only plays once during Donkey and Diddy Kong's first platforming adventure, the Slipslide Ride level, its impact is astounding. It's an extremely catchy piece full of winter wonder.

v272. Banjo-Kazooie (N64) - Freezeey Peak


A winter wonderland full of angry snowball-chucking snowmen, a family of polar bears in crisis, a bear-hating walrus, cozy cabins, a bright Christmas tree, and a giant snowman with corn cob pipe and yellow and red scarf resting in the center of the level, Freezeey Peak already has that wintry feel to it. The piece that accompanies the level furthers the feeling. Even though a lot of the level wants to see Banjo and Kazooie dead, you can't help but sit back and enjoy Freezeey Peak.

v273. Final Fantasy IX (PS1) - Ice Cavern


Nobuo Uematsu probably composes music in his sleep. That's how much I feel he has mastered his art. Final Fantasy IX features some of my favorite music from the series, and I admire most of the pieces the game uses, despite never having completed the game. Ice Cavern is one of the early dungeons of Final Fantasy IX, and this xylophone-filled piece is what is played during the duration of it.

v274. Tales of Symphonia (GCN) - A Snow Light


The beautiful city of Flanoir is covered in feet of snow. It is a veritable winter wonderland. I cannot help but feel warm and cozy sitting in my room and traversing through the town. With Motoi Sakuraba's A Snow Light playing, the ambiance of Flanoir is only accentuated further. I especially love the piano that plays its descending melodic phrases.

v275. Diddy Kong Racing (N64) - Frosty Village


David Wise should be a familiar fan to Rare fans. He has composed a plethora of soundtracks for the developer such as the Donkey Kong Country trilogy. Frosty Village is a rockin' Christmas-sounding tune, perfect for the wintry village that Diddy and the gang speed through. I have many great memories of Diddy Kong Racing. It's only my favorite kart racer of all time, after all!

v276. Mario Kart: Double Dash!! (GCN) - Sherbet Land


From one kart racer to another, Mario Kart: Double Dash!! is one of my most cherished entries in the Mario Kart franchise. Its dual racer mechanic was fresh and innovative, I loved the track design, and the soundtrack is one of the series's best. Kenta Nagata (who did work on Mario Kart 64 and most recently Mario Kart 7) and Shinobu Tanaka teamed up to compose the cheery music for this game. The end result is tracks like Sherbet Land, that make you hum along and then curse the game for that one blue shell at the final stretch on the final lap.

v277. Kirby's Epic Yarn (Wii) - Snowy Fields


Everything about the Snowy Fields track yells "Christmas." We have sleigh bells, regular bells, and a happy disposition. Kirby's Epic Yarn's soundtrack is a terrific one, and it's one of the Wii's best. If you were a music love this generation, you had plenty of opportunities for fantastic music. Kirby's Epic Yarn was just another example of this statement.

v278. Mega Man 8 (PS1, SAT) - Frost Man Stage


The first thing that you generally associate with a level is its aesthetics-- its music, its background, its visuals, and so forth. With Frost Man's level from Mega Man 8, players who go through the level will probably just associate it with one thing, "Jump. Jump. Slide. Slide." The pace of the snowboard sections only quickens, making the computer voice instructing Mega Man on what to do speak even more swiftly.

v279. Paper Mario (N64) - Cold Reception in Shiver City


Two Mario games on the same Favorite VGMs edition? Craziness! Paper Mario was a departure from Squaresoft's Mario RPG, and many consider the game all the better for it. The Paper Mario series is known for its grand humor and timing-based battles. Cold Reception in Shiver City unsurprisingly plays during Shiver City, a frosty town full of talkative penguins.

v280. Viewtiful Joe 2 (PS2, GCN) - Ice Edge (The Polar Movie Land)


If I had but one video game-related wish for this Christmas season, it would be for Capcom to somehow, someway create a new Viewtiful Joe-- a Viewtiful Joe 3. Sure, there was a third game in the series in the form of Viewtiful Joe: Double Trouble on the Nintendo DS, but that wasn't of the original's quality. Ice Edge has all the makings of a holiday tune-- sleigh bells and a frosty piano to enjoy.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Announcing the SuperPhillip Central Best of 2012 Awards!


The annual tradition at SuperPhillip Central continues where I look back on a year in gaming and honor the best and boldest with awards in various categories. This is the fifth annual award show, so I'm going to make it even more special. Unlike previous years, the SuperPhillip Central Best of Awards will be starting at the beginning of the new year instead of simply leading up to the new year. There are more categories than ever for the Best of 2012 Awards, so please look forward to a fun ride!

Here is the schedule of awards:

Tuesday, January 1st, 2013

Best Original Soundtrack
Best Multiplayer
Best Presentation
Best Box Art (new category)

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013

Best New Franchise
Most Unexpected Surprise
Most Innovative (new category)
Most Disappointing

Thursday, January 3rd, 2013

Most Overlooked
Developer of the Year
Multiplatform Game of the Year

Friday, January 4th, 2013

Best Nintendo 3DS Game
Best PlayStation Vita Game
Best Wii U Game
Best Wii Game
Best PlayStation 3 Game
Best Xbox 360 Game

Saturday, January 5th, 2013

System of the Year 2012
Game of the Year 2012

This time of year is always so bittersweet. It's amazingly fun to share my choices for best games of the year, but it comes at a price-- it is a severe workload. I hope you are pleased with the work I put into this year's awards ceremony!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Best of... Mega Man

The Best of... series is one that isn't the most featured... feature of SuperPhillip Central. It is saved for the anniversaries and celebrations of video games. This year we have multiple anniversaries, so we've had a lot of Best of... articles.


Today, coming off the Top Ten Mega Man Games, comes Best of... Mega Man. I list my favorite games, the best weapons, the best Robot Masters, and so much more. It's a celebration of all things classic Mega Man, so sit back, pop open an Energy Tank, and start drinking while you read!

Note: This article was a collaboration between myself and my older brother. Enjoy the brotherly read!

[Best Weapon Lineup]

Runner-Up: Mega Man 8 (PS1, SAT)


When you think about good weapons in Mega Man titles, 8's arsenal might not be your first choice. Well, it wasn't ours either, but it was a close second when you think about how good the majority of them are for a moment. Tornado Hold can take out flying foes, but it can also propel Mega Man into the air. Thunder Claw's good for its reach, but you can swing across pegs Indiana Jones style. The Mega Ball could be kicked away or used as an instant Rush Coil. Then you have more practical weapons like Flash Bomb that hit foes multiple times, Ice Wave which tears up foes along the ground, Homing Sniper that can be semi-rapid fired and lock on enemies out of reach, or Astro Crush which causes a screen-clearing attack. Sure, Water Balloon and Flame Sword aren't all that great, but seven out of nine ain't bad, especially when the seven mentioned here are really, really good.

Winner: Mega Man 9 (WiiWare, XBLA, PSN)


You mean it isn't Mega Man 2? Of course not. As good as Metal Blades were, how often did you really use Crash Bombs, Atomic Fire, or Time Stopper anyway? That balancing issue is something that Mega Man 9 manages to get just right. Much like our runner-up, some weapons serve multiple purposes, but all of them do have a purpose. Concrete Shot makes platforms, stops magma, and stuns enemies, Tornado Blow extends Mega's jump height while flying foes up off the screen, and Hornet Chaser can grab goodies out of reach and sting sentries from far away. Laser Trident can break through shields, Black Hole Bomb instantly engulfs almost every enemy, Plug Ball serves as your go to ground weapon, Magma Bazooka's range and power is perfect for minibosses, and Jewel Satellite is the best shield in the series for how many attacks it can block. Out of all of Mega Man's classic adventures, this is the only game where you can and probably will use every weapon in some point just to see how many different ways you can show Wily and his bots who's boss.

[Best Robot Master Lineup]

Runner-Up: Mega Man 8 (PS1, SAT)


Perhaps it's because the jump to double the bits to the PlayStation and Saturn when compared to the Super Nintendo made for Robot Masters that could be more detailed, but the runner-up for best Robot Master lineup goes to Mega Man 8. You get cool designs like Tengu Man, Sword Man, and Search Man, as well as creatively designed Robot Masters such as Aqua Man, Clown Man, and Grenade Man. The added bonus of hearing Wily's robots yak for the first time gave the characters an extra layer of charm.

Winner: Mega Man 2 (NES)


Mega Man's rogues gallery in Mega Man 2 is a veritable treasure trove of memorable Robot Masters. Metal Man alone gives Mega Man one of his most overpowered weapons in series history. Quick Man impresses with his swift speed. Flash Man stops time in an instant. Bubble Man was cool before Burst Man was even a concept in Dr. Wily's mind. Wood Man had a freaking body made out of a huge log. Heat Man and Air Man add to the fun, and Crash Man is one of the more popular Robot Masters when it concerns the Blue Bomber's fan base. There isn't really a stinker in this bunch, and it is for that reason why Mega Man 2's list of Robot Masters is numero uno.

[Best Robot Master]

Runner-Up: Elec Man (Mega Man)


As taken from my Top Ten Mega Man Robot Masters article from 2010:

"Short for and pronounced the same as electric, Elec Man is one of the only stages in the original Mega Man that's completely vertical. He fears Cut Man's Rolling Cutter as it can kill him in just a few hits. Thankfully, he isn't helpless. His Thunder Beam can destroy anyone in seconds with its electrifying power. I picked this up from the Mega Man Wiki, that this bot is actually Keiji Inafune's favorite robot master from the original game. Now we can see why!"

Winner: Tengu Man (Mega Man 8 and Mega Man & Bass)


As taken from my Top Ten Mega Man Robot Masters article from 2010:

"Just a cool-designed robot all around, Tengu Man is the not-so soft-spoken yet ever cocky at the same time robot master with lines such as "Kid, you're almost not worth the effort" and "Are you worthy of my challenge?" He comes from an underrated Mega Man game, Mega Man 8, and his weakness is the Ice Wave, Frost Man's weapon while his own is Tornado Hold. He was so popular that he returned for a rematch in Mega Man & Bass (SNES, GBA) where he had a new level, new attacks, and a new weakness."

[Best Wily Stages]

Runner-Up: Mega Man 7 (SNES)


A problem with many of the NES fortresses is that most of them would only have one stage worth mentioning. Maybe it's the unique look, that every stage finally has its own song, or the fact that Mega gets to finally have a true face-off with his new rival in Bass, but Mega Man 7's fortress proves to be a memorable one.

The opening act sees the lights go out when you step on various platforms here, and it's not long until you're doing this over a bottomless pit or spikes. These track-based platforms occasionally will try to dump you into said perils if you aren't paying attention to where you're going. After that, you get to face Bass for real and then yet another incarnation of Guts Man just after that. Wily 2 gets interesting right when you meet up with Bass and face off with him combined with Treble. Once you make it past him, you have to deal with these containers from Turbo Man's stage that will shoot out fire. It's pretty crazy if you try to go without the buster, but if you use weapons or collected the Super Adapter, you can make it by just easily. The third stage is the most forgettable, but it still has a split path to choose and a rare auto-scrolling boss fight against a giant demon head. Of course, most will remember this game's castle for Wily himself. This fight is one of, if not the hardest final boss fights in the entire series. It takes precision, planning, and sometimes a bit of luck to escape from this one in one piece. It was a pretty great conclusion to a great set of stages.

Winner: Mega Man 10 (WiiWare, XBLA, PSN)


The moment you step foot at the grounds of this fortress, this ominous tune is playing while it's raining heavily. The moment you make it past the opening guards, you're met with a blast from the past when you go up against the Wily Archive. Beating three bosses here lets you advance into the next section where the real theme of the stage begins. This is also where the level splits apart in so many directions, and it's kind of crazy how many ways you can progress through this opening stage. Still, having to battle nine bosses spread out over three encounters makes it a classic.

The second level has conveyor belts in the early going, but it's the crushers in the second half of the stage that will be the main thing you recall about this one... until you make it to the giant enemy crab at the end of the stage anyway. The third stage has a couple of elevator rides with buttons that you'll have to step on to make sure you avoid the floating spikes only to throw at you an underwater section with more spikes and only a couple of platforms for safety. Then you get the unholy combination of a Devil and Pico Pico Master (Mega Man 2's Wily 2 boss) in a crazy struggle. After that, you get to face off with Wily again, but the game does make sure to throw in one last hilarious moment before you reach the credits. If you don't know what I'm talking about, you will when you're about to enter the final stage. No, the final final stage. It's a series of stages with very few lulls. It's because of the high quality in the game's cumulative conclusion that Mega Man 10 earns top honors for having the best set of Wily stages around.

[Best Music]

Runner-Up: Mega Man 4 (NES)

While I like the original 8-bit themes of Mega Man 2, I prefer the Complete Works soundtrack of Mega Man 4, and it ranks right up there for me among the great Mega Man soundtracks. Themes like Skull Man, which has several terrific official remixes, Bright Man, which certainly brightens up my day with its slap bass, and Dr. Cossack Stage 1 are quite nice. Toad Man gets my toes tapping too. All around it isn't the greatest soundtrack in 8-bit form, but Complete Works-wise, it more than does its job well.

Winner: Mega Man 2 (NES)

From the uptempo title theme that kicks in as the Blue Bomber overlooks the city as he stands atop a building to the ever-popular Wily Stage 1/2 theme, Mega Man 2 sports an unquestionably good soundtrack. You get familiar tunes like Air Man, the wonderful Flash Man, and the ultra-catchy Wood Man theme. These songs aren't just appreciated out of nostalgia-- they are tried and true themes that have withstood the test of time.

[Best Overall Game]

Runner-Up: Mega Man 3 (NES)


Introducing loads of new things into the Mega Man gameplay and canon world such as Mega's trusty dog Rush, Mega's brother Proto Man, and the ability to slide, Mega Man 3 is my second favorite game of the classic series. While it is most certainly true that the development period for the game was especially trying for the team behind Mega Man 3, I feel the end product is a sensational game. I loved the level ideas presented-- a greenhouse, a sewer, a stronghold built to resemble snakes-- it goes all over the place. The game also felt longer than past installments, but not needlessly so. These attributes make Mega Man 3 the runner-up in the best overall game category.

Winner: Mega Man 2 (NES)


What else could it be but Mega Man 2? You probably saw this coming miles away too. Well, it helps when yesterday's top ten list names it as the best classic series game. Regardless, Mega Man 2 set the gold standard for the series. All other classic Mega Man games followed the formula Mega Man 2 laid down and perfected. The rest of the classic series was just those games grasping for the golden ring that Mega Man 2 had grabbed. The level design is superb. The music is the series's best (see above). The gameplay is pitch perfect as well. If you are somehow new to the Mega Man franchise and you have yet to pick up and play this game, find a way to [legally] play it. You won't be disappointed, and you will find out why all us old farts keep championing it.

===

That wraps up this celebration of all things classic Mega Man. What would your picks be if you were awarding honors to each Mega Man game? Let your nominations be read in the comments section!

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