Friday, June 22, 2012

Rank Up! - New Play Control!

Smell that in the air? No, it's not delicious body odor, it's the scent of a new Rank Up! in the air! Exactly one week ago I posted my review of the New Play Control! version of Pikmin 2. This version had all-new Wii-based controls and received a 9.0 out of 10. Since all of the NPC releases have been... uh... released (save for Chibi Robo, which is a JPN exclusive), now is the perfect time to strike while the iron is hot and rank this series of GameCube ports from least impressive to most impressive. But before we can engage in this activity, we must see what games will be ranked:

New Play Control! Pikmin (Wii)
New Play Control! Mario Power Tennis (Wii)
New Play Control! Donkey Kong Jungle Beat (Wii)
Metroid Prime (Wii)
Metroid Prime 2: Echoes (Wii)
Pikmin 2 (Wii)

The New Play Control! line of games was originally designed as a twofold proposition: 1) To hark back some classics from the GameCube library and retrofit them with enhanced Wii controls as well as other bonuses, and 2) To fill the gap in-between software releases. Whether the NPC line succeeded in either of these goals is entirely debatable. Nonetheless, for twenty dollars apiece, it was nice to revisit these titles once more.

6) New Play Control! Mario Power Tennis (Wii)

I really enjoyed the GameCube iteration of the Mario Tennis series, Mario Power Tennis. Its introduction of all-new gimmick courts, featuring obstacles and hazards like treadmills, Klaptraps, ghosts, and puddles of goop to give the sport of tennis some more Mushroom Kingdom flavor. The addition of power shots is something that arguably worked in the game's favor. It did slow down the pace of matches quite a bit, but they could be turned off if one wished. The cast of colorful characters consisted of the likes of standbys like Mario, Luigi, Peach, Daisy, Yoshi, and Bowser, and included atypical character choices such as Koopa Troopa, Paratroopa, Petey Piranha, Wiggler, and Fly Guy. The Wii version brings all of these aforementioned aspects to the fold, so it must be even better with Wii controls, right? Well, not exactly. The game hardly manages to read your ball-striking gestures, making you enter a den of relative frustration. By the time you're through trying to play a match, you'll have cursed as much as a classic John McEnroe match. You cannot be serious. Well, I am.

5) New Play Control! Pikmin (Wii)

Unlike New Play Control! Mario Power Tennis, the Wii version of the original Pikmin is not a bad game by any means. In fact, the brand-new controls work wonderfully with the game. The pointer is used to select targets and areas for your favorite fictional astronaut Captain Olimar to chuck his precious Pikmin army upon. His ship, the Dolphin, has crashed on a foreign planet (though it is remarkably similar to a certain planet you and I live on), and meeting the helpful Pikmin, the capable Captain Olimar search across five unique levels to find his missing ship parts. The reason Pikmin is listed as number five is the annoying (at least to me) time constraints. You have a limited number of days to succeed in Olimar's mission, and the constant pressure can get to a more timid player! Regardless of this, Pikmin is a modern classic that demands your attention, Wii or GameCube.

4) New Play Control! Donkey Kong Jungle Beat (Wii)

I adored the GameCube exclusive Donkey Kong Jungle Beat. This game came out around the era of Nintendo experimenting with their main monkey after they parted ways with Rare, the developer behind the Donkey Kong Country trilogy on the SNES/GBA, the Donkey Kong Land games on Game Boy, and the 3D platformer Donkey Kong 64 on the Nintendo 64. Nintendo made the criminally overlooked DK King of Swing for the GBA, but they also developed this ace of a title. The game had players bashing a bongo drum controller. Tapping the right drum would move DK right while tapping the left drum would-- you guessed it-- move him left. The faster you tapped, the faster the banana-craving monkey moved. After extended periods of play, one's hands would hurt considerably. Meet New Play Control! Donkey Kong Jungle Beat. Instead of tapping, you have a control stick on the Wii's nunchuk to move DK around. Jumping is assigned to the A button while smacking foes and nabbing 'nanas is the job of shaking both the Wii remote and nunchuk. At first glimpse, the game seems relatively short, deceptively so. Gunning for high banana totals earns you crests which unlock secret, more difficult kingdoms filled with new levels. It's a fantastic game, and one that the team would move on from to make a little-known classic called Super Mario Galaxy.

3) Pikmin 2 (Wii)

While the sequel still had time to worry about, you didn't have to be anxious regarding beating the game within so many number of game-time days. Olimar's employer, an intergalactic shipping company, has gone in mad debt, and Olimar's boss sends him and newcomer Louie to the planet that the Dolphin previously crashed on in order to salvage as much valuable treasure as possible. Getting out of debt is never easy, after all. The Pikmin quickly get reacquainted with Olimar, and vow to assist him on his adventure. There's even two new types to be found, Purple and White Pikmin. Purple Pikmin are heavy creatures who may be slow, but they can really whoop a baddie brutally. Meanwhile, White Pikmin are poisonous (great for wading through toxic areas) and can uncover buried treasure. Despite their being only four levels in this sequel, the levels present are large and well designed. They also feature various caves which are essentially levels of their own. Deeper and deeper you delve in search of loot and survival. The greatest horrors lie in these dark and dank sublevel of the caves. Pikmin 2 is very much an improvement on the original's formula, and the Wii iteration brings with it the same superb pointer controls of New Play Control! Pikmin.

2) Metroid Prime 2: Echoes (Wii)

There were a lot of changes going on as well as a ton of hype for the sequel to the highly successful-- both critical and commercial-- Metroid Prime. Retro Studios had a lot of work to do if they wanted to appease their fans, and they quite possibly crafted yet another masterpiece. The light and dark world mechanic, similar to what was found in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, allowed players to transport themselves between both worlds, solving environmental puzzles, earning new suit upgrades such as for the first time in 3D history, the Screw Attack, and overcoming obstacles. Yes, the near end fetch quest might have soured some opinions of the game, but when you have such tight controls (especially the Wii's version highly responsive point to aim controls) the fun outweighs the bad most definitely. Added to this game and perhaps a precursor to the Nintendo DS's Metroid Prime Hunters was a multiplayer mode for up to four combatants, all playing as different colored Samus Aran characters. The lack of bots made this mode nothing more than a novelty for me and others. That said, Metroid Prime 2: Echoes is another essential play for any self-described gamer. Note: The Wii version can only be found outside of Japan in the Metroid Prime Trilogy collection.

1) Metroid Prime (Wii)

After multiple gos at transitioning Metroid from a 2D side-scroller to a fully 3D game, Shigeru Miyamoto stepped in and suggested that the wet behind the ears team at Retro Studios turn the game from a third-person action game into a first-person adventure. A crazy idea, but it would turn into be an extremely successful and novel one. From the moment you step foot on the planet of Tallon IV and have the steamy surroundings fog up your visor, you know you are in the midst of something sensational. The map design was impeccable, the abilities' tremendous representation in 3D, and the creature and boss design were all fantastic. The story was subtle, usually requiring the player to scan data from objects, wildlife, plant life, and computers strewn about the planet to gather information. The secrets like extra energy tanks, power bomb upgrades, and missile tanks were hidden especially well. Every inch, every segment, and every room of the world of Tallon IV had reason for existing. Metroid Prime is one of my favorite titles of time, and the Wii edition makes this the superior iteration. The controls are smooth, flawless, and make precision a priority and almost effortless to do. The fun of flanking foes and blasting them from behind is always a treat, and taking down the expertly created bosses is always a thrilling prospect. If you can somehow manage to score a used copy of Metroid Prime Trilogy, then you will no doubt play one of the best games in Nintendo's grand history. Note: The Wii version can only be found outside of Japan in the Metroid Prime Trilogy collection.


Rank Up! is all ranked out. We have flourishingly conquered yet another edition of this popular and most requested segment. Next week we will be hitting court and ranking the Mario Tennis games while our tennis rackets are still hot. Until later, have a magnificent weekend!

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