Friday, February 3, 2012

Announcing Our Newest Affiliate: Gamesplosions!

This is almost like a running gag now. No, I don't mean gaining new affiliates, but seeing how many new affiliates get added to my list of friendly sites and how often "Announcing Our Newest Affiliate" posts pop up. Regardless, I'm proud to announce that SuperPhillip Central has a new friend and it is none other than Gamesplosion, a British video game blog. The site is run by a man named Ian who has a snazzy interface, reviews without scores (I think the industry could use this and shy away from Metacritic and Gamerankings), insightful impressions on upcoming games, and much more. I believe the site is just starting out, so I not only loved what I saw from Ian's opening attempt at making something special, I wanted to spread the word on his blog to my readers. Maybe you'll find Gamesplosions to be something special, too.

Top Ten Anime Soundtracks

Two top tens within the same week? Have I gone mad?! Well, as longtime readers of SuperPhillip Central very well know I have always been mad. Despite this, we are trekking forward and capping off the week with a non-video game related entry into SPC history. As you may or may not know, I love imposing my taste in music on my readers and forcing them to adhere to my tastes. Part of that previous statement is not true. Can you guess which? Anyway, today's list is all about anime soundtracks and the best of the best that I have heard. Of course, I have not listened to every anime soundtrack there is, and even I will admit my bouts of anime fandom are limited at best. That won't stop me from making this list, though! Each anime soundtrack listed is accompanied by six songs. I felt that was the right number to show off the better themes and songs of each soundtrack. I hope through listening to these pieces that you expand your musical tastes outside of your comfort zone. Enjoy!

10) Macross Frontier


Starring a popular pop star, a rising pop star, and a military pilot, Macross Frontier is the latest in the long-running franchise. This go around Yoko Kanno lends her compositional talents and leads the musical crusade to craft an epic-sounding score to accompany all of the onscreen action. Since there's a duo of pop stars to work with, Kanno needed to create some pop-ish sounding tunes, and she delivered with songs like "What 'bout my star" and "Welcome to My Fan Club's Night!" Her other efforts add to the buffet of musical tastiness Kanno dished up for fans of her work and of the Macross Frontier anime. Especially listen to Zero Hour, her best work on the soundtrack.


9) Brain Powerd


Just to get this out of the way, you will most likely notice that half of the soundtracks on this list are composed by Yoko Kanno. With that mentioned, her work on Brain Powerd (no, I did not leave out a letter) is full of mellow melodies and gentle tunes. The majority of the soundtrack is orchestrated with a sensational use of strings and Kanno pounding away on the keys of her piano as shown in Power of the Light. One of her vocalist staples, Steve Conte, appears in True Love and once again delivers a stunning performance.


8) Darker Than Black



After delving deep into jazz with her Cowboy Bebop soundtrack (posted later on this list), Yoko Kanno returned to the genre with Darker Than Black. Full of tunes reminiscent of her work on Bebop, Kanno shines like a shooting star with tracks like GO Dark, Highheel Runaway, and Guy. Then there's non-jazz tracks to complete the soundtrack, rounding it out, and give it even more amazing music. There's no doubt that Yoko Kanno knows her stuff, and Darker Than Black is yet another piece of evidence to prove just that.


7) Fullmetal Alchemist


Is Michiru Oshima a name that rings any bells for you? Perhaps some of her works would shed some light on her. She has written music for several anime, video games, movies, and television shows. Her works spread from Godzilla movies to even having a hand in crafting one of The Legend of Zelda themes in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Her compositional creations in Fullmetal Alchemist are not to be taken lightly either. Gentle melodies at one time, powerful at others, Mrs. Oshima really knows how to tug at the heartstrings with her music.


6) Wolf's Rain


Yoko Kanno takes a more subdued approach with her Wolf's Rain soundtrack. Unlike Darker Than Black and Macross Frontier, there's little if any in the way of loud rock or peppy jazz pieces. Instead we get more rustic flavors of music and orchestra cacophonies. Wolf's Rain follows the story of a pack of wolves who can shape-shift into human forms to fit in with society while struggling to survive. I caught the show on Adult Swim back when anime was still relatively popular in North America. Scope out some of the sounds with the links below.


5) The Big O


Toshihiko Sahashi penned one doozy of a score with his The Big O soundtrack, made up of a rich range of styles like electronica and jazz. The entire score sounds like something from a combination spy film/film noir/sci-fi epic. What else could it be when you're concerning a show about a negotiator who dabbles in being a detective, has an android, a butler, and a big giant mecha known as Big O? Then you have several of the battle themes with bombastic brass and strings which come off as compositions for some kind of monster movie or something. See... er... hear what I mean by listening to these six fine examples.


4) Outlaw Star


Koh Otani is the man behind the music for this anime and the next one on my list. Outlaw Star is heavily made up between rock and orchestral pieces. A great soundtrack is one that can be heard outside of the anime and you still enjoy it. Outlaw Star is just that. I loved the score so much that I "borrowed" some of the themes for my RPG Maker 2003 game, SuperPhillip RPG: The Crystal Quest (Away for the battle theme and Power for the boss theme; see below examples). What I consider to be the main theme of the series, Flight, is an exceptional piece that you can imagine Gene Starwind and the gang taking off into the great unknown. A tremendous soundtrack for a tremendous anime.


3) Gundam Wing


The other soundtrack on this list from Koh Otani (he also did the music for the PlayStation 2 classic Shadow of the Colossus), Gundam Wing takes both real instruments and synthesized instruments to create a soundtrack that is both rocking and harmonious. Taking cues from Outlaw Star (or was it the other way around?), Gundam Wing is mostly built upon rock and orchestral themes, sometimes even a combination of the two. One of the better themes is To Beauty, To Elegance, and To Noble-Mindedness which is a waltz version (played in 3/4 time as is customary of waltzes) of Relena Peacecraft's theme. This 50+ episode series is my personal favorite form of Gundam even though it is a spinoff. Regardless, enjoy these following samples.


2) Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex



If you are in desperate search for a soundtrack that encompasses the genres of techno, rock, rap, jazz, symphonic pieces, and a plethora of others, then look no further than Yoko Kanno's Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex soundtrack. Full of memorable themes, catchy riffs, and toe-tapping tunes, Kanno's masterpiece knows no bounds. Whether you're rocking out to Yakitori, listening to the female vocals of Gabriel Robin in Cyberbird, or bopping your had to the jazzy wonders of 3tops, you cannot deny the impressive amount of content Yoko Kanno dished out for this 52 episode series.


1) Cowboy Bebop


Yoko Kanno was listed as my number one favorite composer, beating out Nobuo Uematsu (Final Fantasy) and Yasunori Mitsuda (Chrono Trigger, Xenogears). She even got a top five (one of the most popular posts in SPC history) devoted to her. The reason for this is that her range is impossibly incredible with her work on Cowboy Bebop being a testament to this. Yoko Kanno and her band The Seatbelts comprised the majority of tracks with several vocal themes from singers like Mai Yamane, Steve Conte, and Gabriel Robin. Whether you like jazz, funk, heavy metal, country, or anything else, there is most definitely a song or theme on the soundtrack that has your name on it. Cowboy Bebop doesn't just stand as the anime with my favorite score, but it's also the anime that I admire the most.

Tank!
Blue
Car 24
Space Lion
Bad Dog No Biscuits
The EGG and YOU

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This concludes our dip into the deep, expansive ocean that is anime music. Did you find a song or soundtrack that you especially enjoyed? Great! Let me know about it in the comments section. Have a great weekend, everybody.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Rank Up! - Nintendo Consoles

Satoru Iwata, president of Nintendo, announced a worldwide launch for the company's upcoming Wii U. Rumors say the console could be anywhere between 2X-5X the power of the Xbox 360, and that Nintendo is possibly considering a name change. Regardless, you should always take any rumor with a grain of salt.

It seems like an opportune time to play Rank Up! This segment is where I take a series of games (or in this case consoles) and rank them from least favorite to most favorite. Our subject this go around is a different specimen entirely. Instead of ranking games, I'll be ranking consoles-- Nintendo's five to be exact. Let's see what five they are for those unaware:

Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)
Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES)
Nintendo 64 (N64)
Nintendo GameCube (GCN)
Nintendo Wii (Wii)


Nintendo is pretty much synonymous with gaming, and the public knows that. Many competitors have attempted to oust the company out of the industry with rivaling products, but Nintendo rolls on. Even when they were in a far and away third place in the GameCube era, they still made money (they only took a loss late in the gen). This is a company that knows how to do well for itself, and they have a crazy fanbase that backs them up through thick and thin. I truly believe that without Nintendo, their competitors would have no one to imitate.

5) Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)


The system that brought an industry back from the grave, the Nintendo Entertainment System or NES (aka the Famicom in Japan) was originally bundled with R.O.B the robot in the states because retailers would not carry full-fledged game systems after the infamous video game crash. Nintendo got around this by saying the NES was a toy, thus including R.O.B. I have a few fond memories of the system, but I never cared for 8-bit sprites or music. Games in this era gave me constant headaches, and apart from the birth of many popular franchises that go on to this day such as Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, Mega Man, Final Fantasy, Dragon Warrior/Quest, and Castlevania, the NES pales in comparison to Nintendo's future efforts. Some NES games held the moniker of being "Nintendo hard;" they were quite difficult with some being obtuse in how you had to come at them. That notwithstanding, the NES is still a wonderful console that many share loving memories for.

4) Nintendo 64 (N64)


It may have been the most powerful platform of its generation, but it was also the beginning of Nintendo well-known struggles with third-parties. The decision to persist on using cartridges instead of the new compact disc format that the up and coming PlayStation used made many companies jump ship like Squaresoft and Capcom who took their Final Fantasy and Mega Man franchises to Sony's gray box. Despite this, the Nintendo 64 had Rare in their prime, releasing such incredible titles like Banjo-Kazooie, Perfect Dark, Conker's Bad Fur Day, GoldenEye 007, Jet Force Gemini, Donkey Kong 64, Blast Corps, and Killer Instinct Gold, to name the majority of them. Then you had Nintendo's output which was quite good, too. Super Mario 64, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask, Wave Race 64, Star Fox 64, Super Smash Bros., Mario Kart 64, Mario Golf, Mario Tennis, Mario Party 1-3, Paper Mario, and many more. Unfortunately, this gen also introduced Nintendo fans to the infamous software droughts that Nintendo systems are now known all too well for. All in all, the Nintendo 64 may have started the downward spiral of the company's system successes, but the quality content, the introduction of an analog stick, rumble, four control ports, and the then excellent graphics might have made up for it.

3) Nintendo GameCube (GCN)


Last place (not counting the Dreamcast) in sales but number one in Nintendo fans' hearts, the GameCube was Nintendo's first attempt at optical media. Using mini DVDs instead of traditional DVDs (which peeved some developers), the GameCube received the fair share of third-party content, even getting some nice exclusives like the still gorgeous Resident Evil remake and Resident Evil 0, Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes, Tales of Symphonia (in the West at least) and Gotcha Force. Nintendo produced and developed some of their best games in this gen and some decent software, too, like Super Mario Sunshine, Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, F-Zero GX (developed by Amusement Vision), Animal Crossing, Wave Race: Blue Storm, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker and Twilight Princess, Custom Robo, Chibi Robo, Star Fox Assault, Luigi's Mansion, Pikmin 1 and 2, Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, and a lot more. However, the mantra that "third-party games don't sell on Nintendo systems" began with the GameCube. By the end of its life cycle, the Cube got little in the way of third-party support. This would continue to haunt Nintendo all the way through to their next console and onto the current day.

2) Nintendo Wii (Wii)


Nintendo struck gaming gold with their Wii, and the competition struggled to keep up for years. It sold record-breaking amounts of both hardware and software, and it elevated Nintendo to heaven. When the Wii remote was initially revealed at the Tokyo Game Show (where they seldom attend) to be the controller for the system and its various uses were shown, message boards all over exploded with comments berating it or wondering if Ashton Kutcher punk'd them (that's still a popular show, right? Ah, I don't care). At the following E3, crowds stormed through Sony's booth just to try out the controller for themselves. With titles for both the core and the casual, an intuitive control method, and a low price, the Wii had a blitzkrieg in sales. Games like Wii Sports, Wii Play, Wii Party, Super Mario Galaxy 1 and 2, New Super Mario Bros. Wii, Super Smash Bros. Brawl., Mario Kart Wii, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Donkey Kong Country Returns, Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, Animal Crossing: City Folk, Excite Truck, Excitebots: Trick Racing, Wario Land: Shake It!, Just Dance 1-3, Zumba Fitness, the Rabbids games, Kirby's Return to Dream Land, and Kirby's Epic Yarn either sold well and/or were critically acclaimed. The Wii showcases Nintendo's best first-party output since the next console on my Rank Up! list.

1) Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES)



The king is here. Nintendo's best console (known as the Super Famicom in Japan) comes from the 16-bit era where they were pitted against a worthy adversary in Sega's Genesis/Mega Drive system. The phrase "Sega does what Nintendon't" was popular in ads, but Nintendo prevailed regardless. Nintendo added shoulder buttons and two more face buttons to create the SNES controller. Having a robust line of first-party software like Super Mario World, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Donkey Kong Country 1-3, Kirby Super Star, Super Metroid, Star Fox, Pilotwings, Super Mario Kart, Super Mario RPG, among others and a plentiful amount of third-party content from past and present storied series such as Final Fantasy, Dragon Warrior/Quest, Mega Man, Castlevania, Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, Secret of Mana, Chrono Trigger, and more, the Super Nintendo is only rivaled by the PlayStation 2 and Nintendo's own DS as having the greatest library of titles in the albeit brief history of video games.

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What are your favorite consoles that Nintendo has released? Are you excited for the Wii U? Feel free to answer these questions or add your own thoughts on this piece in the comments section.

MotorStorm RC (PS3, PSV) New Trailer

MotorStorm RC, a spinoff to the mildly successful MotorStorm franchise, is set to hit both PSN and the PlayStation Vita in a few weeks. Both games offer cross-platform play, a playground to mess about in, and several interesting online features. This video showcases but a small sampling of said features. I liked Super Off-Road back in the day on the Super Nintendo, so this spiritual successor has me intrigued.



Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Top Ten Third-Party Exclusives on Wii

The third-party exclusive, at least on consoles, is going the way of the dodo, but the Wii differentiated itself from the competition immediately through having motion controls. Now, with Microsoft and Sony frantically playing catchup with Kinect and Move respectively (to different degrees of success), the Wii is now coasting as it most likely lies down and dies this year while the PS3 and 360 keep on chugging. Let's look back on the underrated (at least when it comes to the highly fickle gamer market) console this gen by taking a glimpse at the system's best third-party exclusives.

Since the Wii was so underpowered, many games from the HD consoles weren't ported to it. Instead, what the Wii received were exclusives. Some were great (but didn't make the list like A Boy and His Blob, Blast Works, Rabbids Go Home and Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure) while others were not so great (see: awful) like Ninjabread Man and Dragon Blade: Wrath of Fire. This list is of the best Wii third-party exclusives, so titles that were previously exclusive but are not anymore like GoldenEye 007, the duo of Resident Evil rail-shooters, and The House of the Dead: Overkill are disqualified from this list.

10) MadWorld


Platinum Games' only Wii title, MadWorld was decidedly not for the family-friendly Wii audience, but for those in the mood for some macabre fun found something to enjoy about the game. Slamming signposts through the skulls of opponents, revving one's chainsaw and carving a foe in half, and throwing a baddie into a wall of spikes were just a few activities one could participate in the Deathwatch competition. The black and white aesthetic of the game was heightened by the trail of blood "protagonist" Jack left behind of his victims. Then throw in a kick-ass soundtrack of rap and rock, and you have a solid action game on your hands.

9) Kororinpa: Marble Mania


It's marble madness up in here! I was not pleased with Sega's attempt at bringing Super Monkey Ball to the Wii with its Banana Blitz launch title (though the music was awesome, I'll give it that). Then a little-known game from the soon-to-be defunct Hudson Soft came the Wii's way in Kororinpa: Marble Mania. The game had players tilting the Wii remote to tilt the Kororinpa, or labyrinth, around. In doing so you guided a marble from the start of the level to the goal. Along the way you could pick up gems which unlocked new marbles like a soccer ball or a pig and locked levels. You could also compete against the clock to beat the target time set for each level. Kororinpa: Marble Mania is most likely out-of-print by now, but if you somehow track down a copy either in a secondhand store or online, do not hesitate to roll up a copy.

8) No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle



The original No More Heroes was a breath of fresh air on Wii, and it was later ported to the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 with limited success there, too. The much better sequel, however, remains a Wii exclusive. Travis Touchdown is in the market for revenge after one of his friends is mercilessly murdered in cold blood. Touchdown might have made it to number one in the United Assassins Association rankings last time, but he'll have to start the climb anew this go around. The whole getting around Santa Destroy has been streamlined. Gone is the relatively empty open world from the first game. Instead there's a map that you choose locations from. Aside from slicing up enemies with Touchdown's beam katana, you can also opt to partake in 8-bit mini-games to earn mad cash. While not perfect, No More Heroes 2 is a modern marvel from the twisted mind of director Suda 51.

7) Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo's Dungeon


I had a hard time choosing between this game and The Crystal Bearers, but I made my decision with some trepidation. The Final Fantasy series appeared for the first time on the Nintendo Wii with Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo's Dungeon. This beginner roguelike featured Chocobo as the main character on its journey to restore the memories of a broken town. A young boy named Rafaello has the ability to create dungeons out of the townspeople's memories for Chocobo to enter and hopefully reach the end to restore what the villagers forgot. Chocobo can learn different jobs like Black Mage, White Mage, Thief, and Dragoon in his quest to resolve the town's problems. The difficulty is just right for even the worst roguelike player to enjoy Chocobo's Dungeon, the remixes are some of the series's best, and the gameplay rewards forward-thinking and smart planning. It's the perfect Final Fantasy game for not only fans of the series but fans of the genre.

6) Red Steel 2


One of the first games to put Nintendo's should-have-been-there-at-the-Wii's-launch MotionPlus peripheral to great use, Red Steel 2 was a completely different beast from the launch title original. Unlike the original, Red Steel 2 didn't rely on launch day hype and bullshots to trick people into buying it. In fact, no one really bought Red Steel 2. Perhaps the foul taste of the original permeated in people's mouths and made them avoid the much superior sequel. Regardless, you were the wild west swordsman in Red Steel 2. You could deflect attacks (this was indeed necessary to survive), switch between your gun and your sword on the fly, and take down a swarm of foes effortlessly. Red Steel 2 is an underrated, overlooked gem in the Wii's library, and it is a shame that more of the gaming masses did not get the opportunity to try the game out.

5) We Love Golf!


There's no denying that the PlayStation 3's mainline installment of Hot Shots Golf disappointed me with its lack of features, content, and courses when compared to the PlayStation 2 entries. I did not know what to expect when it came to Camelot's We Love Golf!, but the developer knows how to make a good golf game. Who was I question them? Thus, I took the proverbial plunge and picked up a copy of the game. Armed with eight unique courses spanning the globe and consisting of various environments, multiple characters (including a dead ringer for both President Barack Obama and the woman that wouldn't go away Sarah Palin), unlockable Capcom costumes like Ryu of Street Fighter fame, Arthur from Ghost 'n Goblins, and Apollo Justice, online play that is unfortunately empty as the vegetable aisle on Super Bowl Sunday, and an intuitive swing system that actually works for once, We Love Golf! amazed and astonished with its entertaining gameplay and charm.

4) Boom Blox Bash Party



EA's partnership with director and producer Steven Spielberg rolls on with Boom Blox Bash Party, a game that somehow eclipsed the original. There are over 400 levels to enjoy, and with the ability to create your own and share them with your friends, it's a real Boom Blox boon. There's multiple styles of play that I enjoyed from simple chucking balls to topple towers of blocks worth varying amounts of points to carefully pulling blocks out of tower Jenga-style. New environments and gravity elements like space and underwater meant new physics entirely to take into consideration. While online play would have put this game into a whole 'nother stratosphere, what EA has in Boom Blox Bash Party is one sensational multiplayer game perfect for the Wii audience.

3) Sonic Colors


The daytime stages of Sonic Unleashed started a trend with 3D Sonic games. Who knew that they could be considered great? Then Sonic Colors came out for Wii, and it was truly an excellent game-- not just an excellent Sonic game, mind you, but an excellent game in general. Exploring Eggman's interstellar amusement park, hearing his quips over the various loudspeakers, speeding through levels in both 2D and 3D, bashing baddies, battling bosses, collecting red rings, and listening to the outstanding soundtrack were all parts of Sonic Colors that when added together made for one of Sonic the Hedgehog's best 3D excursions. Sonic Team went with an old-school mindset by having the story be as unobtrusive as possible. In fact, when you started a game, instead of seeing an intro cinematic, you were plopped right into the first level, ready to roar. Sonic Colors wasn't a one-time bout of greatness either as Sonic Generations showed that perhaps Sonic Team is learning a lesson about attractive game design.

2) Tatsunoko VS. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars


Many said that the day where Tatsunoko VS. Capcom wouldn't come over to the West. What are these people to say now? In a gaming miracle, Tatsunoko VS. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars released on Wii with minimal changes save for the replacement of a character. The two-on-two team fighting was fast and fun no matter which controller you chose to use. The cast of familiar Capcom characters like Ryu, Chun-li, Roll, Zero, and Viewtiful Joe and not-so-familiar characters from the Tatsunoko side like Ken the Eagle, Jun the Swan, Polimar, and Ippatsuman made for a diverse and entertaining roster. The combat system was easy to use and made for some intense battles. Yes, it is in Japanese arcades, but it is console-exclusive to Wii. Throw in lots of items to buy in the shop, an unlockable shooter mini-game, and online play, and you have the Wii's best third-party fighter (though that isn't that difficult of a title to take).

1) Monster Hunter Tri


When Capcom announced that Monster Hunter Tri was going to the Wii, many fans of the series were bewildered. Why on Wii? Why now? The game had been said to have been in development of the PlayStation 3, but then it was for some reason transferred over to the Wii. Nonetheless, Monster Hunter Tri has players either going it alone in the wild or teaming up online with friends or total strangers to take down behemoth-sized monsters. The fun is farming for rare items that can be turned into new and more powerful armor for your character. The game isn't simply about hacking and slashing. You'll get nowhere fast with that kind of attitude. Monster Hunter Tri is about waiting for an opening and then taking advantage of it to attack. Starting off taming wild Jaggis is fine and all, but when the Royal Ludroth starts breathing down your neck, you best be ready to do battle... or flee. Whichever is considered saner to do. The multiplayer entertainment, 100+ hours of content, and numerous quests make Monster Hunter Tri the ultimate Wii third-party exclusive.

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Just from telling by this list you can see that third-parties definitely bet on the wrong pair of horses this gen, and they suffered for it through studio closures and mass layoffs. They were so stubborn and set in their ways that most did little to rectify their mistake. They still put their B, C, and even D teams on Wii exclusives. This might be one of the biggest wastes of potential of a system considering how badly third-parties dropped the ball when it concerned the Wii. It was a self-fulfilling prophecy. "Our games don't sell because we didn't put much effort into them, so that means that third-party games obviously don't sell on Nintendo systems." I cannot wait for third-party excuses as to why they won't put their games on Nintendo's next console. What a silly industry this is.

What are your favorite third-party Wii exclusives?

The Last Story (Wii) First English Trailer

Final Fantasy creator Hironobu "The Gooch" Sakaguchi is behind the latest JRPG that has yet to be announced for North America, The Last Story. This trailer is the first to be shown entirely in English, and it dabbles in the numerous characters that players will meet on their journey. No doubt North American gamers will cry and moan that The Last Story isn't being localized even though they're lucky Xenoblade Chronicles is. Gamers are greedy little savages, aren't they? I want it, too, but I'm not going to be annoying about it.

Review Round-Up - January

A slap happy adventure awaits you in
Rayman Origins, SPC's new Game of January.

The first month of the year is kaput, and we had a grand total of nine new reviews to celebrate. We started off with three retro reviews of Game Boy Advance/3DS Ambassador games with The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap (9.5), Mario Kart: Super Circuit (8.5), and Kirby & the Amazing Mirror (8.0). We then drove into Steelport with Saints Row: The Third which earned not only street cred, but also a terrific 9.0. However, it couldn't beat out the platforming bonanza that was Rayman Origins that leaped into a 9.25. Then we hit the slopes with 1080: Avalanche (7.5), rolled the die with Mario and company with Mario Party 6 (8.0), played with puppies and kittens in Nintendogs + Cats that got talked down to the lowest score of the month (5.25), and finally painted the town with Disney Epic Mickey which received an admirable 7.5. February is set to be exciting, too, with reviews of Resident Evil: Revelations and possibly Final Fantasy XII-2! And that's just the tip of our iceberg here at SuperPhillip Central!

The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap (GBA) - 9.5
Mario Kart: Super Circuit (GBA) - 8.5
Kirby & the Amazing Mirror (GBA) - 8.0
Saints Row: The Third (PS3, 360) - 9.0
Rayman Origins (PS3, 360, Wii) - 9.25
1080: Avalanche (GCN) - 7.5
Mario Party 6 (GCN) - 8.0
Nintendogs + Cats (3DS) - 5.25
Disney Epic Mickey (Wii) - 7.5

The Saints went marching in, explosions, guns, sex toys, and all.

Central City Census - February

Are you familiar with the Central City Census? It's a poll that is opened all month long and just begs for readers both faithful and one-timer to vote, expressing their opinion on it. Since February has the least amount of days in its month, even in a leap year like 2012, there's even less time to vote. Why am I wasting your time with formalities?! Let's get to last month's results-- quickly!

How many games are in your backlog (collection of games not yet played)?

Less than five.
10 (19%)
6-10 games
10 (19%)
11-20 games
7 (13%)
20-30 games
4 (7%)
More than 30 games
21 (40%)

Votes so far: 52

Christmas and other holidays must have been kind to our readers as their backlogs are overflowing with games. The majority of voters have at least thirty games to play through and possibly counting. On the other end of the spectrum, twenty voters have anywhere between 0-10 titles in their backlog. How I sort of envy and don't sort of envy them. Nonetheless, that wraps up the results from the first month of 2012. What question will be asked by the Central City Census for February?

The PlayStation Vita launches in North America and Europe this month. Perhaps you already have one imported from Japan (or even live in the Land of the Rising Sun-- hi from America!)... February's census asks if you are going to purchase a PlayStation Vita at any time. The launch titles are certainly there, but will anybody be biting?

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Disney Epic Mickey (Wii) Review

Just in time for the end of the month, I have a new review to share. With this Wii release I did not pull the trigger immediately and purchase it on release. Instead I waited a couple of years and found the game at the low price of $19.99. It's one of the Wii's biggest exclusives, Disney Epic Mickey. Should the Wii be proud to have this game in its ever-growing library?

Disney and Junction Point Paint a Pretty Pleasant Picture


Disney is synonymous with family-friendly characters such as Goofy, Donald, and of course, Mickey Mouse. In pop culture, Disney's mouse is still as popular as ever, but in the video game industry, Mickey has few cameos outside of the Kingdom Hearts series of games. Disney and Junction Point are looking to change that with the release of the Wii-exclusive Disney Epic Mickey. In an industry where dull, brown and gray shooters are the catch of the day and draw in both kids who shouldn't be playing M-rated games in the first place and adults, does a 3D platformer still have enough pull to draw in a grand crowd?

Epic Mickey begins with our hero being awoken in his bed by the sounds of sorcerer Yen Sid's magic. The magician spends his time painting over what appears to be a theme park as Mickey hides just out of his sight. When Yen Sid leaves, Mickey cannot help but try his hand at painting. He picks up the brush, dips it in the azure liquid, and begins painting over the figurines and buildings of the park. When Yen Sid hears a commotion coming from his lair, he begins to march toward Mickey's location. Knowing this, Mickey quickly attempts to return everything back to order, but in his rush to exit he knocks over a bottle of thinner into the model of the park. The mouse moves back through the mirror and into his room. Days, weeks, and months pass until one evening a giant blob's hand grabs Mickey, pulls him through the mirror, and jerks him into the model of the theme park. Mickey must right his wrong and help the forgotten characters of Walt Disney including Walt's first big creation, Oswald the Rabbit, who doesn't take kindly to Mickey at first. The story is told through beautifully rendered 2D animated cutscenes that each look like works of art.

These nicely done cutscenes tell the intriguing story.

Epic Mickey is a three-dimensional platformer that has the player running, [double] jumping, spinning to knock enemies away and to gain more air from a jump via a flick of the Wii remote a la Super Mario Galaxy, and using painter and thinner to create and remove platforms and other objects for Mickey to traverse upon. The game is controlled with the Wii remote and nunchuk. By using thinner on certain platforms by pointing at the screen and holding down the Z button on the nunchuk, obstacles and walls that stand in Mickey's way are removed. With paint (used by also pointing at the screen but this time pressing B on the Wii remote), Mickey can color in translucent platforms and objects and use them to his benefit.

Add some color to a drab world with the brush's paint.

The blotlings and Beetleworx are the baddies of Epic Mickey with the blotlings being the easier of the two to defeat. You can either unleash a continuous spray of thinner to dilute them or opt to turn them friendly through spraying them with paint. There's blotlings that explode when you're nearby them, blotlings that chuck harmful balls of thinner at you, and blotlings that call other creatures to your location. Beetleworx, however, take a more hands-on approach, usually taking multiple direct hits after dousing them with thinner to defeat.

Epic Mickey's formula has Mickey going through various 3D areas connected by 2D platforming segments. Through entering Mickey's past cartoons like Steamboat Willie, Fantasia, Thru the Mirror, The Mad Doctor, and Jungle Rhythm, you jump and traverse through 2D fairly short 2D segments. In each cartoon there is a hidden film reel to nab located in either a precarious position or a secret location. These can be viewed in the extras menu of the game and can also be traded for bonuses by the character in front of the movie theater of Mean Street, the main hub of the game.

Take a trip back in time with Mickey's classic cartoon escapades.

Meanwhile, the 3D sections have characters of note that give Mickey quests to accomplish, most mandatory to move on, but some are in fact optional. These can be as simple as finding a way across a pool of hazardous thinner to repairing a ride with paint. Optional quests such as finding all of the parts of an animatronic Goofy, Daisy, and Donald Duck add to the fun. The only problem with these is that once you leave an area in the game, most of the time you are unable to return back to it. Since the game autosaves after each area and after completing quests and seeing certain events, once the game saves, you can't go back and retry an area unless you beat the game and start the New Game+ feature. This makes missing special items such as secret pins from beating quests and finding them in treasure chests (there's over 100 to collect), parts of the animatronic trio, behind-the-scenes content, and film reels very easy to accomplish. And when you do backtrack to a previously visited area such as the hub world of Epic Mickey, Main Street (where you can accept side quests, buy goodies with E-tickets like health upgrades, item upgrades, and other helpful things), you have to play through the connecting 2D level over and over again. This is quite annoying and time-consuming.

Lonesome Manor is home to ghosts,
ghouls, and one dastardly doctor.


Then there is the camera which is a pain to deal with. It can get caught on objects, stuck in a specific direction, and just act all wonky in general. Yes, you can control it occasionally with the Wii remote's d-pad or call the camera behind Mickey with a press of the C button, but it doesn't always work. If the game has the camera programmed to be in a certain spot, you cannot control the camera at all. I can't say it caused me many deaths, but it did mess up plenty of jumps.

Moving on from the camera, at certain times in Mickey's adventure, you'll come up against junction points. These are pivotal moments in Epic Mickey where you'll have to choose between performing one action over another. One example is when you are facing off against a robotic Captain Hook. You can choose to battle and beat Hook or save Pete Pan's fairy who is trapped at the top of the pirate ship. Not only does your choice affect what happens short-term, but it also affects the story at the conclusion of the game and what ending you receive. To see the best endings, you'll have to play through Epic Mickey at least three times total, and as the game takes at least fifteen hours to beat, you'll be playing this game for a long time if you so desire.

Saving Gremlins from their prisons is also an optional task.

Mickey's Wii platformer is a particularly dark game, and I don't mean in tone. Most areas are devoid of bright colors and look quite forlorn, a result of Mickey's mess-up with the jug of thinner. This can make some levels difficult to actually see. Environments themselves are interesting enough to look at and have intriguing geometry. Textures aren't too shabby, but the Wii has seen much better. Characters animate well, especially Mickey who waves his paintbrush around proudly. On the sound side of the game, Epic Mickey has a sensational, whimsical score that will most likely stay with you long after you turn off your Wii. Character voices are well done, even though the only speaking part is by Yen Sid in the opening and ending cutscenes. Otherwise, characters just grunt and holler. All in all, the presentation is pretty nice.

One of the earliest areas in Mickey's 3D platformer.

Epic Mickey is a valiant effort by Junction Point, but it suffers from the inability to revisit old areas to collect forgotten items. If you want to get 100% in this game, you will have to be extremely careful to gather everything before you leave a given area as the autosave feature is both nice and damning at the same time. While the platforming is decent enough, the camera is PlayStation One-era awful on some occasions. Meanwhile, the presentation is fair for the hardware, but after seeing the brilliant concept art for this game, it's a shame the developers chose the incapable Wii to place their vision on. The graphics just do not do the art justice. Regardless, if you are in the mood for an above average platforming romp that for once doesn't star a portly plumber, Disney Epic Mickey might make for an enjoyable ride.

[SuperPhillip Says: 7.5/10]

Kid Icarus: Uprising (3DS) Intensity Trailer

Just when you thought that more secrets couldn't be revealed from the upcoming Kid Icarus: Uprising, Nintendo pulls the curtain up a little more again. This time we're dealing with the concept of betting more hearts for a higher difficulty level. If you succeed in your mission on a higher difficulty, you earn a rarer weapon than you would have if you played the mission on a lower intensity level. Check the fairly brief new trailer below, or click the creatively titled direct link!



Monday, January 30, 2012

SuperPhillip's Favorite VGMs - A Rare Treat Edition


Ever since Microsoft purchased developer Rare for an exorbitant amount of money, the company behind Windows slowly squeezed all life out of the house of Banjo, Jet Force Gemini, and Perfect Dark. You know when former staff are extremely bitter about the takeover and result from said takeover that there's a problem. Regardless, while Rare may be a shell of its former self and a company in name only, we can look back fondly on the company's past library and smile. That is the point of this week's installment of SuperPhillip's Favorite VGMs.

v21. Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts (360) - Banjoland (Daytime)


An orchestrated medley of some of the best Banjo-Kazooie themes of the series? Where do I sign up? ...NO! Forget signing up. Just hook it directly into my veins! All kidding aside, this medley plays during the daytime in the criminally overlooked Xbox 360 game Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts. Banjoland was made up of old parts of past Banjo-Kazooie stages, and the medley consisted of such themes like Click Clock Wood, Freezeey Peak, Mad Monster Mansion, Gobi's Valley, Cloud Cuckooland, Mayahem Temple, and Rusty Bucket Bay. It was the perfect way to take a loving look back at one of the greatest 3D platformers of all time. I'm talking about the original Banjo-Kazooie, of course.

v22. Starfox Adventures (GCN) - Thorntail Hollow



The last game from Rare that would appear on a Nintendo console (console, mind you, not portable), Starfox Adventures was initially a Nintendo 64 project called Dinosaur Planet. When famed game developer, director, and producer Shigeru Miyamoto asked the team to throw in Fox McCloud, Rare opted to follow his guidance and do just that. Many gameplay elements and battles would be carried over to this Gamecube title. The final product was a Zelda clone with tons of collecting items. Collect this, collect that, etc. Not the note that Nintendo fans wanted Rare to leave on, but it was an admirable effort nonetheless. This theme, Thorntail Hollow, sounds like something taken directly from The Lion King, doesn't it? It's rather soothing if I do say so myself.

v23. Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest (SNES) - Snakey Chantey


Taking the melody from Donkey Kong Country's Gang Plank Galleon, Snakey Chantey plays in only one level of Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest, and that's Rattle Battle, a stage where Diddy and Dixie get transformed into Rattler the Snake. The snake can bounce high into the air, leap off of enemies (even the usually dreaded Zingers), and reach unheard of heights. This toe-tapping tune gets you filled with excitement as you traverse through and aboard one of the Kremlings' many pirate ships. What is your favorite theme from Donkey Kong Country 2?

v24. Kameo: Elements of Power (360) - Thorn's Pass


Performed by the Prague Philharmonic, Thorn's Pass from the Xbox 360 launch title Kameo: Elements of Power is one sensational theme. Imagine yourself on horseback as you control Kameo through a variable battlefield of ogres and trolls. For a launch game from 2005, Kameo: Elements of Power is still one excellent looking game. Kameo was originally planned as a Gamecube title, but when Microsoft bought Rare, the game turned into an Xbox title. Once it was figured that the game wouldn't make it to the Xbox, it was transferred over to the 360 to be a launch title. Aren't game development stories fascinating?

v25. Viva Pinata (360) - Night 3



Viva Pinata was Rare's chance to make an ultra-popular series. It had all the elements: a collectible aspect, cute and cuddly characters, a TV series, and three video games (Viva Pinata, Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise, and Viva Pinata: Pocket Paradise). Unfortunately, Xbox 360 gamers tend to skew towards teenagers and young adults who prefer the drab, gray and brown worlds of Call of Duty and Gears of War as opposed to Rare's colorful output of titles. Night 3 is a gentle, flowing piece beginning with a comforting piano and then followed with pleasing strings and a poignant clarinet (which I used to play in middle school) that crescendo into something special.

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Another Monday in the books which means another installment of SuperPhillip's Favorite VGMs is complete. Stay tuned next week when the favorite VGMs expand to ten for a special Mario & Sonic edition. There will be five Mario tracks and five Sonic tracks to listen to and enjoy. I hope to see you then!

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