Friday, January 13, 2012

Kirby & the Amazing Mirror (GBA) Retro Review

It's Friday the 13th, and what could be scarier than a pink blob that consumes everything? Nothing, that's what. Is it a coincidence that tonight is Friday the 13th and the next game I'm reviewing has to do with a broken mirror? ...Why, yes, it is. Tonight I have a retro review to share for a game that 3DS Ambassadors have been enjoying since the end of last month. It's Kirby & the Amazing Mirror.

A Mirror Image of Something Above Average


The character of Kirby has generally been introduced to the most different types of gameplay mechanics than any other main character in Nintendo's stable of well-known mascots. We've twisted and titled our Game Boys to move the pink puffball through a series of mazes, we've earned high scores with a pinball version of Kirby, and we've even played through a Tetris-like game with falling blocks with the pink hero. For the Game Boy Advance, however, Nintendo and their many partners opted to take the normal, more traveled route with their mascot. Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land was a remake of Kirby's Adventure, the NES classic, and the subject of this review, Kirby & the Amazing Mirror, takes the traditional and familiar gameplay of the Kirby series and adds onto it a Castlevania flair. Is the end result amazing?

Once upon a time there was an amazing mirror. A dark force emanates from it, unleashing a Dark Metaknight to go up against the real Metaknight, a protector of Dream Land. Not only does the Dark Metaknight swipe his sword and slashes Kirby, splitting him up into four alter egos, but he also shatters the amazing mirror into nine different pieces, spreading them across the various lands. That about does it for the narrative. But then again, if you're playing a Kirby game for the engaging story, then you must the live-action Transformers movies for Shia Lebeouf's stupendous acting skills. Oh, snap! Regardless, the story is just a means to get the player interested in the game, and it managed to do so, at least for me.

Somewhere... over the Rainbow Route...

Despite having nine worlds, you might believe that this adventure will be like Kirby's other some-odd journeys-- a linear progression from world to world, collecting mirror pieces. This would be where you are dead wrong. Sure, the game starts you out in the clouds, chasing after Dark Metaknight, but as soon as you enter the room where the amazing mirror rests, the decisions are all up to you on where you wish to go. The game is completely nonlinear, offering multiple areas to visit, doors to enter, and secrets to uncover.

At the beginning of the game you are limited to entering the first area, but there are numerous choices in the form of doors to pass and venture through. The areas of Kirby & the Amazing Mirror are essentially large, elongated rooms to explore. Some doors lead to completely different areas while others lead you through a labyrinth of passageways. Getting lost is incredibly easy, and this is one part of Amazing Mirror that I detest. The general feeling of frustration as you think you're making progress only to end up in a room you have already been in. The map does little to assist you in moving forward. I had to use a guide to assist me which not only slowed the game down to a crawl, but it was annoying looking up at the computer, looking down at the hand-held, and doing this time and time again.

Hitting big switches gives Kirby
shortcuts to the different areas.


There are nine areas in total to explore. There's a palace made of ice, a haunted mansion, the typical nature/forest area, a red hot volcano, and many more. If you somehow manage to find the correct path, you will end up in a room leading up to the boss-- not to be confused with the many sub-bosses that patrol various sections of levels. You'll know you're close when you reach a room with a series of abilities just waiting for Kirby to consume. Boss battles can range from laughably easy to surprisingly difficult. Kirby will clash with giant elder trees made of stone, Master and Crazy Hand of Super Smash Bros. fame, and even Kracko makes his much anticipated return to kick some pink puffball fanny. Well, he doesn't have legs to kick with, but be quiet. Don't ruin the colloquialism. After beating a boss, Kirby earns a shard of the amazing mirror. Though if you return to a place where a boss fight occurred, you will once again have to face the boss. There's no way to opt out of battle which is obnoxious, personally speaking.

I mentioned abilities, and Kirby comes full force with the power to inhale enemies, digest them, and take their ability right from them. There's all sorts of abilities in Amazing Mirror such as Beam, Ice, Fire, Wheel, Spark, Burning, Sword, and many more. As long as Kirby does not take damage he will keep the ability. If you press Select or get hit, the ability will disappear from Kirby, and bounce away in the form of a star. Kirby can suck it back up to reclaim it, but it will completely vanish after a few seconds.

The puns write themselves when referring to the Ice ability.

Since Kirby was split up between four versions of himself, pink Kirby can at any time (as long as he has juice on his walkie-talkie) call the other Kirbys to take on enemies and play through areas with him. Some obstacles like giant gray blocks can only be moved when all four Kirbys are sucking in air simultaneously. The problem with doing this solo is that the AI is terribly brain-dead. They push you into hazardous traps and enemies, get in your way, and do a poor job of actually assisting you. Thankfully, you can team up with a human friend or friends and play through the game with them via link cables and extra Game Boy Advances. Sorry, 3DS Ambassadors, but you are stuck trekking through the game alone.

Even after all of the mirror shards have been restored and evil has been vanquished once more by everyone's favorite pink blob (seriously, what other pink blob can you think of that wouldn't hurt the feelings of a famous actress?), there is still plenty to do. Gunning for 100% is a task that should give most players something extra to do. Treasures are hidden and placed in inconvenient and/or secret locations, just waiting to be opened. These contain maps of the area, CDs for the Sound Test, new colors for you to paint Kirby (who doesn't love a goth-looking Kirby? Ugh.), health, and batteries to charge up our hero's walkie-talkie. In addition to gathering treasure, there are several sub-games to try out with or without human opponents. The fun just never seems to stop with Kirby & the Amazing Mirror.

Each enemy comes with its own health bar.

The worlds of Kirby's second and last Game Boy Advance entry are full of vibrant colors. Backgrounds are gorgeous and glamorous, characters are well-detailed and animate wonderfully, and little effects like rain and splashes when Kirby and others enter water are nice touches. All this and a steady framerate make for a splendid-looking game that is easy on the eyes and a testament to the ideology that you don't need high-powered hardware to make great-looking software. I think I've nailed that point home enough in every review I write, so let's move onto sound. The tunes heard in-game are pleasant, and they're what you'd expect from a Kirby title. Don't be surprised if after countless hours retracing your footsteps because you don't know where to go that you begin humming selected songs.

The backgrounds are something to marvel at.

Kirby & the Amazing Mirror is one of the odd games out when it comes to Kirby adventures. Normally when terrific Kirby titles are brought up, Amazing Mirror is seldom mentioned. I can see why some might want to forget about the game (i.e poor map system, easy to get lost, high difficulty for a Kirby game, awful teammate AI, etc.), but there is enough positive content to justify picking up this underrated gem. It might have a few cracks in the mirror (whoever did those is bound to have some bad luck), but don't let that deter you from trying out Kirby's Castlevania and Metroid-inspired outing.

[SuperPhillip Says: 8.0/10]

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Misunderstood Marvels - Part One

I was going to title this article Misunderstood Masterpieces, but that would be stretching it quite a bit all things considering. You'll see why once you peruse the entries. Regardless, tonight I am showing off a series of games that happen to be misunderstood, in my opinion. There might be one or a series of glaring flaws that make the games impossible to enjoy for many. Perhaps through my arguments you'll find something to like about a game you already made up your mind about.

Metroid: Other M (Wii)


The common complaints about Metroid: Other M are that the story is silly (which I won't argue against) and the means of Samus Aran gaining abilities is also ridiculous. The argument is that this game ruined the character of Samus Aran, as if she had any resemblance of a character to begin with. The strong silent type is hardly an archetype we haven't seen before, and it's not Samus Aran is your character anyway. It's Sakamoto's, the creator's. He can do whatever he wants with it for better or worse. You'll see many making fun of "the baby, the baby, the baby", etc. It seems Sakamoto insisted that Nintendo of America call the baby Metroid "the baby" and not "the infant" which would have been much better and easier on the ears.

However, the complaint about how Samus Aran gets abilities is somewhat unwarranted. In some regards it makes sense. Samus is just starting out and Adam is her boss/mentor. The space station they are on is mysterious and could fall apart at any moment. Using Samus' ultra-powerful moves might blow the entire place or survivors up. Getting new abilities and having Adam allow them should have been done better in all honesty. Nonetheless, those who call the game garbage because of it didn't give Other M a fair shake.


The gameplay of holding the Wii remote on its side for standard fighting and movement and pointing it at the screen to go into first-person mode worked well. Only one instance where it annoyed me and that was a purely optional part (where you slide down a slope and have to aim a hatch on the ceiling to reach-- if I recall correctly-- a missile expansion). The action was fast and fluid, Samus moved elegantly, and battles were always enjoyable. Metroid: Other M might not reach the levels of the Prime franchise, but it is hardly the death of the Metroid series that so many pathetic drama queens and pitiful message board users argue. We'll see, I guess!

Wii Music (Wii)



Another Wii title that the message board community once again embarrassed themselves over-- something they are very wont to do, Wii Music had a less than stellar E3 presentation, and many accused Nintendo of turning their back on the "hardcore" gamer. It's the typical "wah! Nintendo isn't focusing on me 24/7, so I'm going to whine like an entitled little baby whenever they try to reach out to an untapped market" syndrome.

When the game released, critics slammed the game without so much as even playing an hour of it. Wii Music has you shaking the Wii remote and nunchuk and hitting buttons as a melody plays. Your inputs vary how the melody is heard. You can play as little or as much as you want. You can also add up to six or so tracks. For instance, if you play the clarinet your first time, you can choose to play the trumpet the next. Your performance with the trumpet will go on with your clarinet performance playing alongside you. The end result is a symphony of sounds that you helped manufacture. It doesn't allow total creative freedom, but there's enough there to enjoy for even the most tone deaf player. The hate for this game was disappointing. Not everyone who disliked the game was a "hardcore" gamer, but that faction helped in damning Wii Music before it ever hit shelves. A struggle of sound, indeed.


Star Ocean: Till the End of Time (PS2)


There were two reasons some players didn't like the way Star Ocean's third outing unfolded. The main one was the twist near the end of the game. Without spoiling anything for those interested in playing the game, it pretty much ruined the universe of not only the third game but the past two entries. The other reason was that if a party member's MP went down to zero, they perished in battle.

For the twist, it's difficult to argue about it without spoiling it, so I will just say that video games already have poor stories, so why are some of you taking Star Ocean's mythos so personally? Those who say that the twist ruins the first two Star Ocean games just make me laugh like watching an early episode of Roseanne. The gameplay is still there, and that is all that matters. Regarding the MP issue, I can see the disappointment in that design decision, but as long as you didn't overly spam spells and abilities and had plenty of MP restoring items, you were golden. Thus, it wasn't too grand of a problem.


Star Fox Assault (GCN)


The final game we will examine is Star Fox Assault. It put Peppy behind the scenes and Krystal from Adventures took his place. Many didn't like how the game was a short ten mission affair, but the missions were a blast to play over and over again for high scores and for new medals. The all-range mode, hopping in and out of vehicles, and the feeling of being behind the controls of the Arwing and Landmaster felt just fine. I didn't have any problem with the tank or on-foot controls. Am I just a better player? I don't think so. Meanwhile, the on-rails sections were Star Fox goodness that we all know and love. Who didn't love entering the enemy's core or flying through Meteo once again?

Then there was the marvelous multiplayer that on any other system would have had online (why couldn't you get it in gear earlier, Nintendo?). There were maps based on geometric designs, Zoness, Corneria, Sauria, Titania, and so many more planets and areas. Changing vehicles, exchanging weapons such as rockets and grenades, and unlocking new options and maps from simply playing the game made for tons of fun in the SuperPhillip household. Don't forget the excellent orchestral soundtrack-- one of Nintendo's earliest uses for a symphony orchestra. Definitely an underrated and under-appreciated game, Star Fox Assault deserved GameCube owners' love.


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Do you agree with my picks of Misunderstood Marvels? Perhaps not my reasoning, but do you agree? What games do you like that you believe are misunderstood? Type them up and place them directly in the comments section!

December 2011 NPD Results

We might be in the year 2012 now, but that doesn't mean we cannot take a look back at 2011. That is exactly what we're going to do with the NPD, showcasing the last month of sales in the United States. Which titles performed the best? Let's find out! Data courtesy of NeoGAF.

NPD Group's U.S. Games Industry Sales (New Physical Sales Channel*) - December 2011 & Annual 2011
5- week month; December retail reporting period 11/27/11 through 12/31/11

Software:

December 2011 Top 10 Games (New Physical Retail only; across all platforms incl. PC) Rank Publisher
1.) Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (360, PS3, Wii, PC)** 1 Activision Blizzard
2.) Just Dance 3 (Wii, 360, PS3) 2 Ubisoft
3.) Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (360, PS3, PC)** 3 Bethesda Softworks
4.) Mario Kart 7 (3DS) 4 Nintendo
5.) Battlefield 3 (360, PS3, PC)** 5 Electronic Arts
6.) Madden NFL 12 (360, PS3, Wii, PSP, PS2)** 6 Electronic Arts
7.) Assassin's Creed: Revelations (360, PS3, PC) 7 Ubisoft
8.) NBA 2K12 (360, PS3, Wii, PSP, PS2, PC) 8 Take 2 Interactive
9.) Super Mario 3D Land (3DS) 9 Nintendo
10.) Batman: Arkham City (360, PS3, PC)** 10 Warner Bros. Interactive

Annual 2011 Top 10 Games (New Physical Retail only; across all platforms incl. PC) Rank Publisher
1.) Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (360, PS3, Wii, PC)** 1 Activision Blizzard
2.) Just Dance 3 (Wii, 360, PS3) 2 Ubisoft
3.) Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (360, PS3, PC)** 3 Bethesda Softworks
4.) Battlefield 3 (360, PS3, PC)** 4 Electronic Arts
5.) Madden NFL 12 (360, PS3, Wii, PSP, PS2)** 5 Electronic Arts
6.) Call of Duty: Black Ops (360, PS3, Wii, NDS, PC)** 6 Activision Blizzard
7.) Batman: Arkham City (360, PS3, PC)** 7 Warner Bros. Interactive
8.) Gears of War 3 (360)** 8 Microsoft
9.) Just Dance 2 (Wii) 9 Ubisoft
10.) Assassin's Creed: Revelations (360, PS3, PC) 10 Ubisoft

**(includes CE, GOTY editions, bundles, etc. but not those bundled with hardware)

Hardware:

Xbox 360: Over 1.7 Million (-8.6%) [Best selling platform for the full year.]
Wii: 1.06 Million (-55%)
PS3: ~936K (-22.6%) [Math from 46% of console sales are Xbox 360 and above numbers.]

Call of Duty is a monster of a franchise that appeals to males young and old as well as some of the female persuasion. Speaking of monster franchises, how about that Just Dance? I'm guessing the Wii version of Just Dance 3 sold the best as evident by seeing Just Dance 2 in the top ten of games sold for 2011. Skyrim (hopefully not the PS3 version) sold well enough to reach third place with Mario Kart 7 coming in across the finish line in fourth. I can only imagine the legs that will come from that title. Super Mario 3D Land also charted, another 3DS exclusive. Does this mean that the 3DS is out of the danger zone?

Hardware-wise nothing has really changed. Kinect helped the 360, Wii is on cruise control, and the PS3 camp is doing fine, too. I'll update the 3DS, DS, and PSP numbers if and when they show up.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Mario Kart: Super Circuit (GBA) Retro Review

3DS Ambassadors late last month received ten Game Boy Advance games for purchasing the 3DS before a set date. The following game is but one of these ten games, Mario Kart: Super Circuit. Here is my review.

Off to the Races-- Portable-Style!


Mario Kart 7 recently released onto the Nintendo 3DS and brought with it 32 tracks total, 16 new, 16 old. Before Mario Kart: Super Circuit, the concept of putting a Mario Kart game on a portable was unheard of. That was until the Game Boy Advance iteration of Mario Kart came to the system and blew people's expectations away. Both Mario Kart 7 and Mario Kart DS have Super Circuit to thank for giving a hand-held Mario Kart game a chance. Somehow the developer of Mario Kart: Super Circuit, Intelligent Systems, managed to recreate the MK experience from the big screen and transplant it to the small screen in the form of Mario Kart: Super Circuit. Does this title burn rubber, or is it in dire need of a pit stop?

Right away when you pop in Super Circuit you will notice a flurry of options available. You can pick from the Grand Prix which has three difficulties in the form of 50cc, 100cc, and 150cc, Time Trial where racers ride for their best times on the various tracks and courses the game has to offer, and Quick Run which puts players in a race against the computer, with or without items, with or without coins, and on a track of their choosing. With the Game Boy Advance's link cable and multiple systems, players can race against one another, trade ghosts in Time Trial mode, and duke it out in one of many battle arenas in Battle Mode. Unfortunately, finding someone with a Game Boy Advance, a copy of the game, and a link cable is easier said than done, especially in 2012.

Mario Kart returns, but this time it's gone portable!

Unlike past Mario Kart games, there are actually five unique cups to choose from in Super Circuit instead of the usual four. There's the Mushroom Cup, Flower Cup, Lightning Cup (this is the new one), Star Cup, and Special Cup that unlocks after the previous four cups have been won. As a bonus, once players have completed a given cup in first place, they can return to that cup and try to earn at least 100 coins across all four races (each cup is comprised of four races) to unlock a series of tracks from Super Mario Kart. There are five retro tracks in all made up of twenty tracks, giving Mario Kart: Super Circuit the most tracks the series has ever seen. This is a record that still has not been beaten.

Races in Mario Kart: Super Circuit all take place in a Mode 7 setting. Backgrounds revolve around when you make a turn, and they are busy with animations such as a giant Cheep Cheep leaping into the air or a myriad of tubes filled with lava all pulsating in unison. Meanwhile, other backgrounds of tracks are impressive even without having any movement in them such as Boo Lake's ominous haunted houses, Lakeside Pier's volatile volcanoes, and Mario Circuit's fabled Peach's Castle resting among the colorful scenery. In the foreground there are special effects such as rain falling in Luigi Circuit, for instance. Furthermore, even though you are playing in a 3D space, the characters, objects, and items that litter the track are all 2D in design. Moving along to the sound, Mario Kart's cast of kooky characters (eight in all-- Mario, Luigi, Peach, Yoshi, Toad, Wario, Donkey Kong, and Bowser) all have various voice samples such as when you hit another racer with a shell, your character will taunt in victory. Additionally, the soundtrack is full of happy-go-lucky tunes that are standard fare when it comes to the Mario Kart series. You won't necessarily be blown away, but you might find yourself bopping your head to a tune or two.

Mushroom Kingdom traffic is always a nightmare.

Along with the twenty unlockable Super Mario Kart tracks available there are twenty brand-new tracks to race on. You'll be zipping along beaches infested with sidestepping crabs while avoiding being pelted by cannonballs being launched from a ship in the distance, you'll be weaving through Thwomps and Mechakoopas in one of four versions of Bowser Castle, and you'll be swerving and launching yourself over parts of the track in a colony made up entirely of cheese. Lactose intolerant racers need not apply for the latter. Whether you're racing along Ribbon Road, dodging falling shooting stars that will spin you out upon contact on Rainbow Road, or narrowly escaping sinkholes where hungry Piranha Plants want their lunch in Yoshi Desert, the course design is always top-notch and interesting-- at least far more enjoyable in comparison to SMK's tracks. There also just so happens to be plenty of shortcuts to discover when speeding through the twenty tracks, too. Moreover, while racing you will see signs pop up indicating what kind of turn is fast approaching such as hairpin turns, right or left turns, and U-turns.

Ah, where the streets are paved in cheese...

So now that we've decided that the tracks are stellar, how is the actual racing? Well, it takes some getting used to, and even with enough practice and hours logged into the game, I feel that the controls are simply way too slippery for my taste. Executing power-slides and mini turbos is needlessly complicated, requiring you to be in a power-slide for at least a couple of seconds before you can jostle the control pad back and forth to start the boost. The slippery feeling of the controls aside, I found myself easing off the accelerator on turns when I couldn't count on drifting through them (you end up making a really wide turn otherwise).

Of course, it wouldn't be Mario Kart without items to spice things up. This tradition continues with Super Circuit. The mainstays from Mario Kart 64 all make their return such as banana peels that will slip up whoever rides over them, invincibility stars, lightning bolts, green shells, as well as homing red shells that this time around can be shot from behind, but instead of just launching back with momentum, they stop, waiting for the first unfortunate soul to pass them and then home in on their victim. Unlike every other game in the series, items that home in on you give you a second or two to allow you a chance to deflect them before they zero in and attack. This makes for an easier, less frustrating go of it.

The Boo item will slow you down, steal your item,
steal your coins, and de-friend you on Facebook!

Returning from Super Mario Kart and what would be seen in Mario Kart 7 are coins. They are strewn in groups and individually all across the various tracks, just waiting to be picked up. To my knowledge there is no maximum amount that you can carry, so grab as many as possible to increase your speed. Every time you bump into another kart, you lose a coin. Bump into a kart without any coins in your possession and you spin out. At the end of each cup you are given a rank-- either a letter grade or one, two, or three stars-- based on how fast you sped through each race and how many coins you collected. For ultimate longevity, players should attempt getting three stars in every cup in every cc.

Tracks from Super Mario Kart make
their reappearance in Super Circuit.

Mario Kart: Super Circuit is certainly a less aggravating kart experience when compared to future installments in the series, but it also lacks the tight controls said installments, too. This makes for slippery controls that do not feel quite right. Regardless, when you factor in that this game has forty tracks total (half new, half from Super Mario Kart) and lots of replay value, you really can't go wrong in racing to pick up this game or-- if you're a 3DS Ambassador-- downloading this game now. While not coming across the finish line with a record time, Mario Kart: Super Circuit still manages to complete the race by a close margin.

[SuperPhillip Says: 8.5/10]

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

January Nintendo 3DS Playtime Results

If you recall, back in October I posted my first list of Nintendo 3DS playtime results showing that I put the most time into Golden Sun: Dark Dawn. Now that it is a new year and months after the fact, let's take a peak at the new top ten of games I have most played on Nintendo's stereoscopic 3D wonder.

10) Star Fox 64 3D (9:42)


With Star Fox 64 3D I got to relive one of my favorite on-rails shooters of all time. Revisiting areas and planets like Corneria, Katina, Zoness, Macbeth, and Bolse with updated, gorgeous visuals (oh, that water) gave the game new life even if I had played it seemingly to death on the Nintendo 64 and Virtual Console. I played through the Easy and N64 modes, collecting all of the medals for shooting down a certain number of enemy fighters. Expert proved to be a challenge with wingmates who would perish much more easily than in the previous difficulties. Add in a robust but offline multiplayer, and Star Fox 64 3D gave me a lot of fun.

9) Mario Kart 7 (11:23)


While I didn't get sucked into the online as much as other owners of this game, Mario Kart 7 offered plenty of enjoyment and excitement through racing on some of my favorite new tracks of the series including my personal most loved version of Rainbow Road. Then came the sixteen retro tracks which are the best the franchise has seen yet such as Luigi's Mansion, Waluigi Pinball, Coconut Mall, Koopa Cape, Dino Dino Jungle, Daisy Cruiser, and Koopa [Troopa] Beach. Online in Communities is a blast, but it could be refined even better. We'll see if Nintendo succeeds in doing so with their next online offerings.

8) Pokemon Rumble Blast (12:15)


There's only one 3DS in our household and I know no one else who owns a 3DS, so I had to play Pokemon Rumble Blast solo. That was alright as the fun came from battling a flotilla of Pokemon in linear stages, pounding on one or two buttons to attack, and sometimes getting a new Pokemon from defeating a toy Pokemon. This game is all about collecting new Pokemon through battle, and while I didn't care for the triple battles (they're kind of cheap), Pokemon Rumble Blast possesses a lot of content-- at least much more than its WiiWare counterpart.

7) Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D (12:17)



Beating Pokemon Rumble Blast in playtime by only two minutes, Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D is the appetizer before the main course in the form of Revelations, coming to the 3DS next month. This game is an arcade title at heart with the goal of keeping your kill combo up, gaining high scores, earning new loadouts and medals for great performance, and surviving until the clock hits zero. That's easier said than done with sickle-wielding foes, chainsaw-carrying madmen, and giant hammer-slamming maniacs. Online proved to be an engaging experience with myself teaming up with a random stranger, vying for a high score and survival.

6) The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap (13:00)


As of this entry I have played three Game Boy Advance 3DS Ambassador games. One of these has had a review while the other will have one tomorrow. The former of these is The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap, one of the original games in the official Legend of Zelda timeline. It follows Link as he teams up with a hat named Ezlo in his quest to collect all four elemental stones to power up his blade enough to take on the sinister sorcerer Vaati as well as rescue Zelda from her stone entrapment. While the amount of dungeons isn't too large, there is plenty of activities and side quests in the form of Kinstone Fusions and Heart Container collecting to accomplish, making for one memorable Zelda.

5) Kirby Mass Attack (15:27)


Remaining at the same number of playtime as October's results, Kirby Mass Attack appears on my list at the number five position. It's a game that came late in the life of the original Nintendo DS, and it split up our pink hero into ten copies. The goal of the game is to guide your army of Kirbys through obstacle and enemy ridden levels, flicking and tapping the screen to move them around. Finding hidden medals unlocks various mini-games such as a full-fledged shmup, pinball game, Whack-a-Mole title, an RPG, and even a memory match game. There's an extensive amount of content jam-packed into Kirby Mass Attack.

4) Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift (16:25)


While I didn't complete Final Fantasy Tactics A2, I did get relatively far and finished off a plethora of side quests during my time with the game. The whimsical story and setting might put off players looking for a game with the seriousness of Final Fantasy Tactics or Tactics Ogre, but if you don't mind the aesthetic, you'll find a game that will pick at your brain with its strategic battles. Luso might be wielding a giant pizza cutter, but don't let that put you off of the game. It's a competent tactical title, and it is worthy of your attention. Take it from me.

3) The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D (16:38)


With my game data I finished off the main story, not collecting everything possible but coming close. My next data I want to take on the Master Quest and see how much I like it if at all. Difficult games and SuperPhillip rarely go hand in hand. Regardless, I'm interested in the reconfigured dungeons, mirrored world, and new challenges that go with the new difficulty. It is no question that The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is one of my most cherished games growing up, and this remake on a hand-held is a dream come true. No more do I have to suffer with N64 textures and graphics and low framerates!

2) Golden Sun: Dark Dawn (25:01)


While not the greatest entry in the Golden Sun trilogy, it was awesome seeing this franchise return in some form. Golden Sun: Dark Dawn takes place decades after the events of The Lost Age with Isaac and Garet having children. These children are the stars of the game and on a new adventure to save the world. The game itself is relatively easy for the most part, and there are several items and spells in the game that can be permanently missed which I didn't like. However, if you are in dire need of a new RPG, then you can't go wrong with Camelot's latest role playing adventure in Golden Sun: Dark Dawn.

1) Super Mario 3D Land (25:08)



It is important to note that with this game it is the only 3DS title that both my brother and I played to completion. That is why the time is higher than the rest. Super Mario 3D Land was named the best hand-held game of 2011 as well as the Best Nintendo 3DS Game at the SuperPhillip Central Best of 2011 Awards, and for good reason-- it is a 3D Mario that everyone can get into. Nintendo made this game accessible to all without being overly dumbed-down. Just when you think you've beaten the game 100%, Super Mario Land 3D throws a curve ball and changes things up considerably. No doubt one of my favorite Mario games, 3D Land is one of the 3DS's must-have games.

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What are you currently playing the most on your Nintendo 3DS? If you don't have one (which is just fine and dandy), do you plan on getting one? And what games most interest you for 2012? Let the SPC community know in the comments section!

SPC Mailbag - January 10th, 2012

It's the first time we open the SPC Mailbag for the new year, so let's wear our funny looking hats, get out our noisemakers, and celebrate in style! ...Or I could just answer three e-mails from SPC's faithful readers as honestly as possible without offending anyone or any group of people. Good luck with that, SP!

Recently (or at least in the past couple years) you gave Game of the Year awards to LittleBigPlanet, Skyward Sword, and Super Mario Galaxy 2. Have these games moved onto your top ten games of all time list?

That's an excellent question, and it brings up an announcement. In the coming weeks I will be creating a brand-new top ten of SuperPhillip's Top Ten Games of All Time - 2012 Edition. They will have new titles along with old ones that just managed to hang on to the top ten by the skin of their teeth. Will Super Mario Galaxy 2 bump off the original SMG, or will LittleBigPlanet 2 take top honors on the list? Only one way to find out, and that's to stick around to SuperPhillip Central for the answer!

Can Mario maneuver his way to the top
of my Games of All Time 2012 list?


On your Christmas Eve post you named message boards as one of your least favorite things. Is there any message board out there that you actually like?

Most message boards are the seamy underbelly of the Internet, full of fools, trolls, and people who get off on being jerks to others through the anonymity of the web. I'm probably just going to the wrong places. However, there is one site that I do indeed like. It's called GameTZ. I should link to it even though they're too big time to affiliate with a site of my standing. Regardless, they're like CheapAssGamer except for the fact that the owner isn't a bald manchild, the community is full of reputable traders and not a bunch of scam artists, and there are practically zero trolls to speak of.


GameTZ has it where you can search for game, see who is in possession of said game (how much they value it for, how much Amazon has it for, the condition of the game, if it comes with the box and/or manual, etc.), and who wants said game. The message boards are just a means to an end, an alternate way to communicate. Instead of just using a feedback system, GameTZ uses an offer system. One party sends an offer (what game(s) person A will send to person B and vice versa), and the second party either accepts, rejects, or performs a counter-offer. One can send a tracking number, select when they have shipped/received, and the deal goes off usually without a hitch. If a problem does arise, an incident is reported, but these are so few and far in-between that these aren't commonplace. To check out and perhaps make an account of your own, check it out here.

You said message boards are one of your least favorite things. Which ones do you hate the most?

Aren't you the same person who asked last question? ...No? Anyway, oh, that's easy. There's three main ones:

GameFAQs - There is a typical GameFAQs poster that people use to make fun of this awful community (I only post reviews and top tens there as a means to draw users-- this works truthfully). To be a user at GameFAQs, you have to be 15, chubby, overuse memes like "over 9,000" that stopped being funny years ago (if they were ever funny), post Confirm or Deny topics constantly, continuously overuse the words "epic" and "fail", fall for blatant trolling all of the time, think that if something isn't to your liking it is the worst ever, think anyone who has a different opinion than you is a troll, and pretty much be a little pissant to everyone.

To be a mod, you must be anal, oh-so desperate for the power you lack in real life so you can bully the 15 year-old users who make up the majority of the GameFAQs community, and must not mod the trolls but everyone else instead.

If for some reason you are older than 15 and still use GameFAQs' message boards, what the hell is wrong with you?!

NeoGAF - Is there a site more in love with itself than NeoFAQs-- I mean, NeoGAF? The elitism is almost painful to read, and the majority of the posters there are really a mere step away from becoming GameFAQs users. Seriously, this is the best message board community that the industry can come up with? As Bender from Futurama would say, "We're boned." Full of trolls that the mods (some of the trolls are actually mods as evident by rampant title changes, unfunny and inappropriate tags they give to members, and rude posts) keep around because they amuse them, fanboys who all fall on my ignore list, and console wars coming up in every other topic, NeoFAQs... er... NeoGAF is hardly the ultimate when it comes to gaming forums. It'd be great if they could back their undue elitism up somehow, but this is one forum that fails to do so in every instance of the word.

CheapAssGamer - This was my experience on this pitiful trading site:

*posts Nintendo-related article*
"You are a fanboy! Herp derp!"
*posts Sony or Microsoft-related article*
*crickets*
*someone trades with me and doesn't send me their end of the deal; I get screwed over*

Do this ad infinitum until I finally left to GameTZ, a much better community with forums I don't cringe while reading.

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There you have it-- an edition of the SPC Mailbag with as little hatred as possible. ...I really need to try harder next time. If you have a question that you are just burning inside to discover the answer to, hit me up with an e-mail at superphillip32[at]yahoo[dot]com. I'll look forward to answering your most heated queries. I need them, too, as it is pretty cold here in Central City!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Top Five Most Wanted PlayStation Vita Games

Sony's sequel to their PlayStation Portable, the PS Vita, is set to release in North America on February 15th. In Japan, it released mid last month, but its sales have died down considerably, and that isn't good when the weeks it was available in were generally when gaming platforms perform well. Add to this that last week no PSV titles appeared in the Media Create top twenty, and Sony's newest hand-held isn't starting off incredibly. Nonetheless, we can only hope that the launch sales go better in the West than Japan.

Much like I did with the Nintendo 3DS, I have decided to make a top five list stating which PlayStation Vita titles I am most looking forward to. These are the most interesting of the interesting, the best of the best, the grandest of the grand, etc. Perhaps you will find a new title to look forward to from my list!

5) WipEout 2048


Little has been divulged about the latest in this futuristic racing franchise, but from videos and trailers the game looks much faster than the PSP entries. You can be for certain that the weapon-based action, quick thrills, harrowing hairpin turns, and races through futuristic forests, metropolises, and factories will all be on display on the gorgeous PlayStation Vita screen. Despite not knowing much about the game, we won't have to wait long to get it in our mitts as WipEout 2048 veers onto the PSV on launch day.

4) ModNation Racers: Road Trip


Another racer as well as another launch title for the Vita, ModNation Racers: Road Trip. Not only will this SCEA-developed game have all-new tracks, customization options, and a story mode, but the ability to create tracks of your own will not be streamlined even further thanks to the touch controls. Just draw the basic track design with the tip of your finger, and then plop in objects, obstacles, and scenery to craft a masterpiece of a track. Then challenge your friends to try it out. [UPDATE: It seems Road Trip will NOT have online play after all.] ModNation Racers: Road Trip appears to continue the tradition of speedy karts and great customization.

3) LittleBigPlanet (tentative title)


I seem to have a bit of a habit picking games for my most wanted list that the gaming public (including yours truly) knows next to nothing about. This continues with LittleBigPlanet (tentative title). What we can expect according to the box art of the game are touch controls making for easier creation of custom levels, objects, and characters as well as a new story campaign full of creative levels. Detractors of the series won't find anything to fall in love with this game, but fans of the franchise will have plenty of activities to do and levels to make.

2) Uncharted: Golden Abyss


Nathan Drake returns, but this time he arrives on a portable thanks to the efforts of Sony Bend. This hand-held entry has Drake teaming up with an old friend as well as the granddaughter of an archeologist gone missing in their search of the Golden Abyss in Central America. Use the touch screen for a multitude of actions, climb cliffs and ledges, and participate in intense gunfights in this bite-sized treasure hunting adventure. Sony Bend has done their best to recreate Naughty Dog's IP for the small screen, and I cannot help but anticipate this title. It comes out on launch day, too.

1) Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational



It is no secret that Hot Shots Golf: Out of Bounds for the PlayStation 3 disappointed me with its lack of modes and options when compared to its PS2 predecessors. However, the PSP installments of Open Tee 1 and 2 were quite good and offered a myriad of modes, courses, and characters to unlock for me to continue playing into the hundreds of hours. Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational introduces optional touch controls to make chipping, putting, and driving even easier than before. Clap Hanz brings a golf bag full of crazy characters, picturesque courses, and online play for owners of the game to challenge friends and rivals over the net. For these reasons I list World Invitational as my most wanted Vita game.

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Sure, I'm probably going to wait for the PS Vita to drop in price (at this rate it is a given it will), and even then I won't be able to afford one, but the quality of quantity of titles is very much apparent. This is one of the best launch lineups of any platform in recent memory.

But what about you? What PlayStation Vita games excite you the most? Pick my brain (not literally) and list your most wanted PSV games in the comments section.

Announcing Our Newest Affiliate: 8-Bit City


SuperPhillip Central's network of friends knows no bounds. It grows and expands like a black hole in the galaxy... except this one won't kill anybody. I digress. SPC welcomes 8-Bit City, a site dedicated to classic and retro games from the Nintendo Entertainment System (old trusted) to Atari and Intellivision! Get your 8-bit gaming fix on at 8-Bit City, a metropolis of classic gaming gold!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

SuperPhillip's Favorite VGMs - Doubling Down Edition

Let's continue our celebration of the return of SuperPhillip's Favorite VGMs, and just make the entire weekend part of the festivities. You know the drill-- five of my favorite themes from video games both classic and modern. Just click on the name of the game and song to be whisked away to the YouTube video. Let's do it!

v6. The World Ends With You (DS) - Calling


The World Ends With You was quite unlike anything from Square Enix's output this past generation. It was innovative and aspired to something higher than SE's usual efforts. Players had action on both screens during battle as they followed the story of Neku, an originally unlikable character who later grows on you. Calling is one of many catchy vocal themes heard throughout the game. This particular song plays as you cruise though Japan's busy streets.

v7. Mario Kart 64 (N64) - Staff Roll


Mario Kart 64 was the Nintendo 64's first real multiplayer masterpiece. Four players could race or battle against one another on a variety of courses and maps such as Koopa Troopa Beach, Kalimari Desert, Choco Mountain, Freppe Snowland, Sherbet Land, Wario Stadium, Banshee Boardwalk, and of course, mainstays like Bowser Castle and Rainbow Road. The Staff Roll theme was on my ending theme list of favorites, and rightfully so. It is an outstanding piece that sends chills up my spine, especially when synced with the ending footage. Give it a watch, maybe you'll get the same reaction from it.

v8. Star Ocean: Till the End of Time (PS2) - Mission to the Deep Space ~ Sail Against the Wind


A song that appears in every Star Ocean "big" hidden dungeon, Mission to the Deep Space is but part of this arranged track from Star Ocean: Till the End of Time. It's a jazzier version full of keyboard and brass with Sail Against the Wind being an interlude of sorts. It's without a doubt my favorite version of Mission to the Deep Space, and encompasses all of composer Motoi Sakuraba's inherent musical genius.

v9. Perfect Dark Zero (360) - Rooftops Escape - Main Theme


Perfect Dark Zero may have been a disappointment to some (not to me as it received a 9.0/10), but this launch title for the Xbox 360 proved that Rare still had it even after being bought out by Microsoft. Sure, they don't even anything now, but that's beyond the point. Rooftops Escape had Joanna Dark, inexplicably turned American, and her father running from DataDyne goons. It all culminates with a battle with an attack carrier that can tear a player up in an instant. This rockin' tune pumps adrenaline throughout the body as you pick off snipers, ride ziplines, and pass through sewers.

v10. Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers (Wii) - Althea's Waltz


From what could be considered as a glorified mini-game collection, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers for Nintendo Wii was one of the first titles announced for Nintendo's current flagship console. It has players steering an airship through a tight canyon, fending off a horde of Zus, exploring ancient ruins, riding Chocobos in races, and sneaking on board a train. The amount of varying activities makes for a mini-game collection that stands out from the rest. Althea's Waltz is a majestic-sounding piece full of sensational strings.

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That does it for my specially patented VGMs. They will return a week from tomorrow on a normal weekly schedule. What are your favorite themes from games? Give me a holler in the comments section. Until tomorrow, adieu!

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