Friday, March 30, 2012

300th Review! Kid Icarus: Uprising (3DS) Review

Almost forgot completely about this. It's SuperPhillip Central's 300th review! The conclusion of 3DS Week ends with my review of Kid Icarus: Uprising, a hotly anticipated game from the mind of Masahiro Sakurai, the man behind Kirby, Meteos, and Super Smash Bros. Is the return of Pit triumphant or terrible?  

The Fight Is On!


Much like when the Ice Climbers appeared in Super Smash Bros. Melee, when an angelic boy named Pit wound up as a playable character in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, the general consensus from unknowing owners of the game asked "who is that?" It has been over twenty years since the series Kid Icarus soared onto a Nintendo platform, and now the precocious Pit has returned thanks to the assistance of Super Smash Bros' creator in Kid Icarus: Uprising for the Nintendo 3DS. The game was one of the first titles announced for the system a couple of E3s ago. Is this a heavenly return for Pit, or do his wings burn up?

Twenty-five years ago the Underworld's ruler, Medusa, was demolished at the hands of our hero, Pit the angel. Since then her defeat has fueled her incessant rage towards Palutena, the goddess of Light, Pit, and the human race. Medusa calls upon her Underworld forces to strike above ground, causing doom, disaster, and destruction. It is up to the sassy goddess Palutena and her humble servant Pit to save the day. The story has plenty of twists and turns and will last most players anywhere between 7-10 hours for one run. What makes Kid Icarus: Uprising's story so endearing is the extensive amount of tongue-in-cheek, self aware, charming dialogue that constantly breaks the fourth wall and ensures that you know that you are playing a game. There are an abundant amount of Nintendo and past Kid Icarus games references, and they are all done exceptionally well. Basically, take Star Fox 64's script and multiply it exponentially. That's how much speaking is done in this game.

Welcome back, my white-winged friend!
Each of the game's multiple chapters are divided up between three types of mechanics. The first are sky battles which are akin to something like Sin & Punishment: Star Successor on Wii. These have you zooming along on an on-rails section, blasting at enemies while avoiding their fire and environmental hazards. The second mechanic are ground battles. These take the fighting directly to Medusa's tumultuous troops as Pit dukes it out with numerous foes either from far away or up close and personal. During these sections, there is ample time to explore for hidden treasure chests that contain helpful items, weapons, and health-healing food. The final part of Kid Icarus: Uprising are boss battles. These put you in a three-dimensional arena with the goal of taking down the primary villain before they in turn take you out of the picture. Note that not every chapter follows the order of air/ground/boss. Some chapters mix the order up to keep things fresh and interesting.

Air fighting controls really well and is intuitive. The main controls (you can switch and tailor which control scheme you prefer best) have you using the Circle Pad to move around, shoot with the L button-- you can either hold down the button for continuous fire or wait for the reticule to enlarge to blast a powerful charge shot-- and you use the stylus to aim. Clearing a particular wave of enemies nets you with bonus points and more hearts. Hearts as you'll discover later on in this review are paramount.

I ask the age-old question: 
are three heads better than one?
Ground battles are a little more tricky. I would be doing a disservice if I said that they didn't take some getting used to. When a game comes with a stand, you know there might be a problem (my hand cramped constantly at first). The learning curve can be steep, especially for left-handed players. And seeing as there is no dual analog option to use the Circle Pad Pro peripheral with (though left-handers can use the CCP's analog nub to play), this can bewilder beginning players. A quick flick of the Circle Pad at the correct time allows Pit to nimbly dodge enemy attacks, and you move the camera around by flicking the bottom screen with the stylus. Just like Pit says in-game, think of it as spinning a globe. You also aim with the touch screen as well. Combining spinning the camera with aiming can be confusing at the start, but to be totally truthful, I found myself and the controls gelling together by the second chapter's conclusion. Of course, I quickly adapted to playing first-person shooters with the Wii remote and also played Metroid Prime Hunters on DS with stylus controls, so your mileage may vary. Even with the difficult to grasp controls, the fun outweighed any frustration 100% of the time.

Ground battles can be hard to grasp,
but practice makes perfect.
Boss fights often end chapters. You will be duking it out with plenty of foes familiar to Kid Icarus veterans such as Medusa's Underworld guard dog, Twinbellows, the always bickering trio of dragon heads, Hewdraw, and the "mist"-shapen head, Pandora. In these chapters as a prelude to the battles, Pit reminisces about his past encounters showing the original 8-bit versions of these monsters on the bottom screen. The tips of the hat to the NES classic don't end there either. Regardless, fights demand your full attention, particularly on higher intensities.

Now this pooch would make a nice Nintendog.
What do I mean by intensities? Well, there is a feature at the start of each chapter called The Fiend's Cauldron. The standard difficulty level is 2.0, but you can increase it up to 9.0 or as low as 0.0 for the price of a handful of hearts. Hearts are earned by beating enemies. The higher the difficulty, the harder enemies hit, the more attacks they unleash, and the more challenging to defeat foes are. Each time Pit gets finished, the player loses a fair amount of hearts and the game lowers the intensity by one full point. However, there is a beneficial side to playing on higher intensities. You earn more hearts and points as well as getting more powerful loot like weapons and powers, so there is a risk/reward nature to Kid Icarus: Uprising. Play as stress-free as possible or as self-destructive as you want.

On the matter of weapons and powers, there are a plethora of weapon types for Pit to master and use such as blades, enemy shot reflecting clubs, orbitars, sniping staffs, and long-ranged bows, for starters. Each type of weapon has numerous iterations with different stats and bonuses. One Fortune Bow might be weak with low stats and low melee ratings while another Fortune Bow can have a power rating in the two-hundreds with stat bonuses like poison and petrification. Weapons can be fused together to create even more powerful forces of obliteration. Additionally, you can receive special stones from StreetPass or SpotPass that can be used (for a price) to create new weapons or to fuse gems together. Apart from weapons, powers can be obtained which grant abilities like armor, counter attacks when hit, powers to shoot off mega lasers and meteor showers, and much more. You receive a grid that you piece various blocks representing powers onto. As long as you have room to fit them, you can place as many powers as possible, or if you are lazy, you can have the game auto-fill a random selection of powers onto the grid.

As they say, all's whale that ends whale.
Aside from the meaty solo campaign, there is Together mode which is the multiplayer portion of Kid Icarus: Uprising. This can be played locally either with friends or with bots of custom difficulty, or it you can hop online to battle in special rooms joined by buddies or against the world and random strangers. There are two types of multiplayer battle: Free-for-All and Light vs. Dark. Free-for-All sounds exactly like it is. Up to six players charge around one of several well made maps trying to defeat one another. Every defeat gives a player points. The player with the most points win. Light vs. Dark is more complicated. Two teams of three, the light team and the dark team, do battle. Each time a person loses a life, their team's health bar goes down. When it reaches zero, the person who last perished comes back to the battlefield as either Pit (light team) or Dark Pit (dark team). The first angel/captain to be defeated is the loser. Light vs. Dark is more strategic than Free-for-all. Both modes allow you to equip any weapon and powers you received in the story, but in Light vs. Dark, the more powerful your weapon is, the more health your team loses when you are defeated. As for lag, I have played countless games online, and lag is seldom (if ever) a problem. The fast and frenetic action is enjoyable, and the hot and heated competition is always great for tense excitement. 

The fight is definitely on when you team 
up with two other players.
Much like most of Masahiro Sakurai's games (he's the creator of Super Smash Bros. and Kirby, don't you know), Kid Icarus: Uprising is packed with content and secrets. Like Kirby Air Ride and Super Smash Bros. Brawl, there is a challenge grid (three, in fact) that unlock content for accomplishing various goals such as completing a chapter within a set amount of minutes, beating a boss with a certain weapon, among other tasks. In total there are over 300 tasks to attempt. You get rewards like idols (think of Super Smash Bros. Melee and Brawl's trophies), music to listen to, weapons, powers, and new battle arenas in Together mode. This is by far the meatiest Nintendo 3DS game on the market, and it will last you hundreds of hours.

Kid Icarus: Uprising is a fascinating to look at game. From the speedy flight sections where environments and enemies alike flash by you to the awesome special effects and lighting, Uprising does not play around graphically. Some enemies look better than others, but the amount of architecture, things to gaze upon, and everything running at a smooth framerate make for one incredibly impressive game. The 3D effect can sometimes be lost as you move out of the recommended viewing window, but it helps to judge distances between platforms and other dangers and how far away foes are from Pit. Musically, Kid Icarus: Uprising has other games this year beat with its phenomenal collection of orchestral pieces composed by a selection of the best composers in the business. We are talking about Yasunori Mitsuda (Chrono Trigger and Xenogears), Motoi Sakuraba (Star Ocean and Tales of), and Yuzo Koshiro (Streets of Rage and ActRaiser), to name a few. I found myself just sitting in the Music Player listening to these beautiful arrangements and melodies. I have broached a bit about the voice acting. Not only is it quite humorous, but it is performed exceptionally well. If you don't care for it, after you beat the game you can opt to silence them completely. This makes multiple play-throughs of chapters less strenuous on the ears.

Kid Icarus: Uprising manages to be worth the long wait for the game. The amount of content is simply staggering with twenty-five chapters to complete, a competent multiplayer element with functional online, a myriad of unlockable content, sliding difficulties for the most advanced and the poorest of gamers, a wide selection of weaponry and powers, colorful, playful, self aware voice acting, and one heck of a symphonic score. The ground controls hold this game back from being perfect, and they can be quite a hurdle to jump over. However, once you master them (it depends on what type of player you are) you will discover a game that is remarkably unforgettable. Here's looking at you, kid.

[SuperPhillip Says: 9.25/10]

Pandora's Tower (Wii) New Trailer

Pandora's Tower is coming soon to PAL territories. It is the third of the trilogy of Operation Rainfall games that North America has been clamoring for. I think this one lacks the polish of the previous two titles, Xenoblade Chronicles and The Last Story. Decide for yourself with this new trailer.



Thursday, March 29, 2012

Top Five Nintendo eShop Games

Remember when the Nintendo 3DS launched and the Nintendo eShop was an intangible thing that was not yet in existence? Not so good times. Nintendo's eShop finally launched on June 6th, 2011 in North America and the following day in Europe and Japan. With it it brought a selection of Virtual Console games, the ability to purchase DSiWare games on 3DS, and eventually original content specially made for the eShop for 3DS users exclusively. This list consists of the best original 3DS games. Applications like Pokedex 3D and Swapnote, however great, will not be listed. The pickings were slim at first, but now the library of the eShop is more robust with more first and third party games in the pipeline and coming soon. Which five original eShop titles make the downloadable grade? Only way to find out is to press on and read my abbreviated list.

5) Mutant Mudds



Coming from the small team that created some of the most graphically impressive and ambitious Nintendo DS games like Moon and Dementium comes a taste of the retro variety with Mutant Mudds. Coined as a 12-bit platformer, Renegade Kid's newest treasure has players venturing through pixelated worlds as hero, Max, on his journey to oust the titular creatures of the game, master devious jumping gymnastics as he switches between the foreground and background, and collect Water Sprites and Golden Diamonds. The game is riddled with secrets to discover and challenging yet satisfying gameplay. Those hankering for an old-school game with new-school sensibilities should check out Mutant Mudds.

4) Freakyforms: Your Creations, Alive!



One of Nintendo's first downloadable titles exclusively for 3DSWare, Freakyforms: Your Creations, Alive! pits you as the artiste. You craft a creation using various shapes, arms, legs, and features, and unleash them into a 2D platforming world, collecting coins to purchase new doodads, completing missions for fellow Freakyforms, and opening up treasure chests. The controls take some getting used to as you solely utilize the stylus to sling your custom creations all over the landscape. As you make as many monsters and friends as possible, your planet expands as does your playground. The ability to share creations via QR codes makes you want to manufacture the best possible Freakforms as you can.

3) Sakura Samurai: Art of the Sword



Sakura Samurai: Art of the Sword is like Punch-Out!! except instead of punching pugilists, bright lights, and boxing rings, you have dueling blades, flashy kimonos, and feudal Japanese forests and castles. Your goal as a lone swordsman is to save Princess Cherry Blossom. Unfortunately (well, fortunately as there would be no game without them), the big bad has let loose a load of henchmen wielding swords and other fierce weaponry. You need skill and style to attack at the right moment and dodge with quick precision. In between duels with savage foes and big bosses are trips to the local villages to acquire new gear, assistance, and help from the kinder. Keep your wits about you and your sword strong as button mashing will only lead to a dull blade.

2) Dillon's Rolling Western



Combining intense action with tower defense, Dillon's Rolling Western has the titular armadillo rolling around the land in ten towns each with a three day cycle. One day you're gathering materials while another you're fending off vicious and ever-vigilant enemy Grocks as they march slowly and steadily to eat up each town's collection of animals. Only you and your strategic positioning of gun turrets and other towers can assist each town in their survival. Rolling around each of the game's large distinct areas feels incredibly smooth as you use the touch screen to determine your rolling speed and distance. Take heart, though, as the game can be quite difficult as you manage resources such as time and materials to save the day. At least you can replay towns at your leisure. At ten bucks, Dillon's Rolling Western will set you back the most financially on Nintendo's eShop.

1) Pushmo



From Intelligent Systems, the studio behind Paper Mario, Advance Wars, and Fire Emblem, comes Pushmo (or Pullblox as it is known in PAL territories), the greatest game currently on the Nintendo eShop. Full of over 200 unique puzzles which have you pushing and pulling blocks to reach the trapped child within a structure of shapes. The catch is that the main character Mallo can only move a certain block at most three steps forward. As you progress through the tutorials, you learn the ins and outs of the game and reach increasingly more challenging puzzles. You even unlock the ability to create your own puzzles and are able to share them like Freakyforms via QR codes. The critical acclaim for Pushmo isn't just around SuperPhillip Central. It is all over the place to the smallest of blogs to the biggest of game enthusiast sites.

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The eShop continues to grow and evolve with unique titles unavailable on other platforms. Which five eShop games do you adore the most? Let me know in the comments section.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Kid Icarus: Uprising (3DS) North American Advertisement #2

How are you enjoying Kid Icarus: Uprising, gang? The game is out in most territories (Australia is still waiting, I believe), and online is packed with people. Nintendo has issued out another commercial for the game. This time it features reviewer comments and a multiplayer focus. Once again, expect my Kid Icarus: Uprising review this Friday as part of 3DS Week here on SuperPhillip Central.



Top Ten Nintendo 3DS Retail Games of the System's First Year

Yesterday marked the one year anniversary in North America of the little handheld that could, the Nintendo 3DS. It started slow out of the gate (publishers canceling games, little online content to speak of, etc.), but it picked up a significant amount of steam with a well timed price cut and a sizable amount of appealing games. The latter is the subject of today's top ten. There have been plenty of titles released for Nintendo's glasses-free system, but which ten do I deem the best of the bunch? These games have the most replay value, the best production values, the greatest gameplay (of course), and the most bang for your buck.

10) Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D


The Mercenaries Mode that originated in Resident Evil 4 and popped up in Resident Evil 5 landed on the Nintendo 3DS with its own style of arcade action. There were an abundant array of missions to tackle that took players straight into the path of axe-wielding terrors, chainsaw-carrying crazies, and infected that infested the various levels of Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D. The goal of each game is simple. Take down all of the enemies in a given level within the time limit. The better your time and the longer your combos last, the better your score will be. The "one more play" nature of the game, the cooperative online play, the numerous unlockables like load-outs and characters such as HUNK and Barry Burton (where's my Leon, Capcom?), and the achievement-like medals to attain added to the enticing package. Capcom's MT Framework made The Mercenaries 3D one of the earliest lookers of the system. While it has been surpassed by later releases, this game still remains a graphical beast worthy of a play-through.

9) Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Legacy


Despite having an HD game called Ace Combat: Assault Horizon that wasn't too interesting (or good for that matter), Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Legacy has nothing to do with that title. In fact, it is a remake of the second installment of Ace Combat. The bite-sized missions with plenty of well placed checkpoints allow for a great pick-up-and-play mindset. Making aerial maneuvers around fighters trying to flank you and shooting them down with machine gun bullets or missiles always feels good, dodging bogey fire at the last possible moment makes you reminisce about the movie Top Gun, and listening to the chatter of your captain and rival fighters keeps you from feeling lonely in the deadly skies. The campaign of Assault Horizon Legacy demands you to play it at least twice just to experience all of the 20+ missions the game has in store for a flying prodigy like yourself. It's a shame Namco relinquished all of their marketing money on the skunk that was Assault Horizon and not the superior 3DS entry. Live and learn, I guess.

8) Dead or Alive: Dimensions


Dead or Alive arrived on Nintendo's 3DS in a big way with what could be considered a Greatest Hits collection of the fabled franchise. The story mode was an extremely loose tale of past Dead or Alive games all combined into one convoluted, confusing mess, but damn, I'd be lying if I said that smashing perfectly curved girls and brawny men through walls and off balconies wasn't fun! Unlike the next game on this list, Dead or Alive's battles take place in a three-dimensional arena. As stated, you can knock your opponent into other areas for a massive amount of damage. From low punches to high kicks and throws, the arsenal of moves is grounded more in reality than say, Street Fighter (what, with its giant green, red-haired monsters and all), but it is a nice change of pace. This version of Dead or Alive offered free downloadable costumes on a daily basis, an exclusive Metroid: Other M-themed arena, online play, and various doodads to collect. Like attempting to have an intelligent discussion on a gaming message board, to say that this game lacked content would be an ill-advised move.

7) Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition


Take it outside, inside, within the walls of your fragile mind-- wherever with Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition. Somehow Capcom managed to take all of the content of this port's bigger HD brothers and fit it all inside one miniscule game card while adding some exclusive nuances like StreetPass battles and collectible figurines. The cast of 35 or so fighters is present, the stages are there (albeit with static backgrounds), the numerous modes? Check. And the anime cutscenes that bookend Arcade Mode for each character have arrived on this version of Super Street Fighter IV as well. The option to set harder to pull off moves to the touch screen is a godsend to a genre scrub like myself, and the 3D effect is quite pronounced especially in the over the shoulder viewpoint. There is currently no better fighter on the 3DS market, so if you've got an itch for a competent fighting game, snatch up a copy of 3D Edition today.

6) Star Fox 64 3D


Star Fox has returned, and while his past efforts have been either poor or not well received (Star Fox Assault was fun; deal with it.), Fox McCloud returns to the cockpit of his Arwing, to the ground in his Landmaster, and for one time only under sea in the Bluemarine. Being a remade version of the Nintendo 64 original, you can be assured that the graphics were upgraded greatly. The sensational shimmering of the water of Corneria, the magnificent explosions, and the many polygons of backgrounds, building and nature architecture, and ships, bosses, and other enemy fighters all look tremendous even without viewing them in stereoscopic 3D. The voice work has been redone with all of the classic actors from the olden days. Nostalgia overload right over here. Also new is the battle mode. Sadly, this game came out before Nintendo became a tad more serious about online with their handheld, so you can only play with local friends or bots. Whether you're riding alongside a train bound for a supply depot on planet Macbeth, searching for a secret weapon in Sector X, or taking the fight to Andross directly in Area 6, there is a multitude of memorable action in Star Fox 64 3D.

5) Mario Kart 7


Mario Kart revs up onto the Nintendo 3DS with sixteen all-new tracks such as the melodic roadways of Music Park, the Donkey Kong Country Returns escapade of DK Jungle, the boulder-dodging romp through caverns and alongside cliffs in Rock Rock Mountain, and the best version of Rainbow Road yet. Speaking of best versions yet, we haven't seen Nintendo nail online as well as they did with Mario Kart 7 and the ability to set up communities where like-minded players join together with their own set of rules and racing conditions. Don't like that infuriating blue shell? Don't play with it. Feel the need for speed? How about setting the items to Mushrooms Only? The choices are up to you. New to the series is kart customization, gyro driving, and racing underwater and gliding through the air. The subtraction of Mission Mode stings a bit, but the total package of Mario Kart 7 allows for a seemingly endless amount of racing exuberance. Put the pedal to the medal, and steer clear of items.

4) Resident Evil: Revelations



I would advise players to indulge in this game with an empty bladder as there are some portions of Resident Evil: Revelations that can and possibly will send you jumping, gasping, and squealing like a little baby. Not that there's anything wrong like that. Who could resist when an albino monstrosity with one loose tongue drops down from the ceiling or saunters out from a bathroom stall? The episodic nature of the title constantly switches between traditional old-school Resident Evil survival horror and the more recent action-oriented gameplay of Resident Evil 4 and 5. Then there's Raid Mode which is a loot lover's best friend. Playing through missions either alone or with a partner via local or online play, wiping out B.O.W.s together, and being rewarded with new guns and upgrades make for a highly addicting experience. And if you aren't a fan of aiming with either the face buttons or with gyro controls, there is always the Circle Pad Pro attachment to utilize. Point being, there is a lot to love about this dark and disturbing portable ride.

3) Kid Icarus: Uprising


After twenty years or so of being on hiatus, angel Pit is back under the guidance of the goddess of light, Palutena, in Kid Icarus: Uprising. Developed by the creator of Super Smash Bros. and his team at Sora, Uprising is one part rail shooter a la Star Fox 64 and Sin & Punishment and one part ground battling. The developer stated in an article from Nintendo Power that he likes his games to have a lot of freedom. Not that you are placed into an empty area and can go anywhere, but giving players a plethora of tools and trinkets to play with and enjoy. It is like a buffet. Players can get as much or as little of everything as they want. With hundreds of achievements to unlock, idols to collect, online action, and plenty of flying and ground sections to adore, players can do just that making Kid Icarus: Uprising the meatiest 3DS game on the market. Expect a full review on Friday.

2) Super Mario 3D Land


Nintendo EAD are masters at their craft. If you need any proof of that, I point to their latest effort, Super Mario 3D Land. The premise of the game is simple enough. Combine the gameplay of a 2D Mario with a 3D Mario to create one exemplary experience. That is exactly what the fine blokes at Nintendo EAD did. The game reintroduced mechanics from past Mario games such as Super Mario Bros. 3's Tanooki Suit and airship levels. Just when you believe you have beaten the game by completing the first eight worlds, you are blindsided with reality. You have a set of eight special worlds featuring some of the most challenging gameplay of Super Mario 3D Land to sink your teeth into. While the 3D effect isn't absolutely necessary to play the game, it is extremely useful for judging jump distances. Plus, it is just awfully cool to view whether in pop-in or pop-out 3D.

1) The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D



Now don't complain because I listed a remake as my number one game. You cannot just bat an eye to the best game ever made. And how do you improve upon the best game ever made, the original Ocarina of Time? You upgrade the visuals, lock in the framerate to actually be steady this time around, add in a difficult Master Quest and Boss Rush mode, throw in some optional gyro controls for excellent aiming, and make great use of the touch screen. Gone are the days of repeatedly and annoyingly pausing the game just to equip and take off those blasted Iron Boots in the infamous Water Temple. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time holds up to this day, and that is no small accomplishment. A game that was initially released in 1998 somehow plays just as well in 2012. That is just the magic and gameplay prowess that Nintendo is known for, and it makes Ocarina of Time 3D not only the greatest release of the Nintendo 3DS' first year, but also one of if not the best game of all time... which it is.

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The Nintendo 3DS amazingly turned its fortunes around and is now a wonderful success story in an era where smartphone gaming threatens dedicated portable devices' existence depending who you talk to. There are without a doubt more worthy titles to look into that are worth a look such as Pilotwings Resort, Pokemon Rumble Blast, Tetris: Axis, Cave Story 3D, Tales of the Abyss, and Ridge Racer 3D. The future of the system looks even brighter and E3 hasn't even arrived yet. No matter which genre you enjoy the most, there seems to be a title in the 3DS library that is right for you.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

RE: Nintendo 3DS

The Nintendo 3DS has officially been alive for one year in North America. Huzzah! The launch period was mighty rocky with third parties quietly canceling games, sales meandering into the mediocre, confusion over whether the 3DS was a new system or an upgrade to the Nintendo DS line of products, and gamers screaming for more quality titles for their personal libraries. Nintendo somehow managed to turn it around. Sure, it only took a massive price cut, two mainline Mario games, and twenty free games for Ambassadors, but they did it. I think it's high time for an another edition of RE:. This is where I take a game or product and look back on it. Perhaps my opinion has changed since my original hardware review. Perhaps not. We'll find out with this installment of RE:!

The build of the Nintendo 3DS is very much akin to its predecessor, the Nintendo DS. It is a dual-screened beauty that comes in black, blue, red, or pink in North America. There have been many reports of the bottom screen scratching the top screen when the system is closed. I know that when I have the system closed for extended periods of time, the Circle Pad rubs against the top screen and leaves an imprint of itself there. I use the plastic sheet of paper that came with the hardware to sandwich it between the two screens when the system is firmly shut. That prevents scratches. You can never be too careful with new tech, right?

This blue Nintendo 3DS is one of the better colors to look into.
(My brother bought me black.)

For me, the 3DS is just about the right size. My hands fit comfortably around the unit. To the left of the bottom touch screen are the d-pad and the Circle Pad, a nub that is of much better quality than say the PSP's. It is easy to maneuver in three-dimensional games. To the right of the bottom screen are the A, B, X, and Y buttons. Now, not everyone can view the system's auto-stereoscopic 3D or aren't old enough to be advised to. In that case, you can adjust the 3D slider found on the right side of the top screen to a suitable level. If the effect is to pronounced, you can simply lower the slider at your leisure.

Turning on the 3DS, you realize after a good three or four hours of playtime that the system needs recharging. The battery life of this and Sony's PlayStation Vita are woefully short. Another problem that some people view the system has it that there is only one Circle Pad. This makes some games challenging to control with only one nub and face buttons for camera movement. Some are awaiting a revision with not only a second Circle Pad (you can use the makeshift solution the Circle Pad Pro which hooks up to the back of the hardware), but they are biding their time for a system with better battery life. I personally want a 3DS that isn't a fingerprint magnet, so I'd desire a matte finish to the system.

I like the menus of the 3DS. The different icons which are lined up in rows and/or columns can be arranged to your liking. What I would like to see is the ability to have folders so I could put Virtual Console games in a specific folder, 3DSWare games in a specially marked folder, and so forth.

The 3DS comes with an abundant array of content already inside the system. (It also comes with your own SD card to save data and games on it. It has a lot of room for storage, too.) There's the prepackaged AR cards that can be used to play a flurry of augmented reality games like fishing and a billiard-like title as well as taking pictures of Nintendo's lineup of all-stars such as Mario, Toon Link, and Samus Aran, for starters. To play these games, you take an AR card and put it face up on a table, desk, or other flat surface. You then allow the 3DS time to read the card, and then bam! There it is in the 3DS's top screen. Face Raiders is the type of AR game that does not need an AR card to play it. Instead, you spin around shooting at floating heads for points.

Take photos of your enemies, and then blow
them away in Face Raiders!
...I can't be the only one that does that, right?

Miis return from the Wii and DSi onto the 3DS. You can scan QR codes to have a Mii automatically generate onto your system, or you can opt to create your own Mii masterpieces. Miis that you meet via the StreetPass feature allow you to use them in the Mii StreetPass Plaza's Find Mii game. It is an RPG where you utilize Miis to rescue your kidnapped and imprisoned self.

Speaking of StreetPass, this feature allows you to have your 3DS in Sleep Mode, walk around town in malls, around school campuses, and other places to have other players' 3DS systems wirelessly speak to another. You trade not only Mii info, but some games offer the ability to trade game content. In Mario Kart 7 you trade ghost data while in Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition your figurines battle against one another. There is also SpotPass which is an online means to communicate between 3DS systems.

One of the greatest examples of SpotPass is the free-to-download program Swapnote, known as Nintendo Letter Box in PAL territories. This is a creative way of messaging people on your friend list by drawing and writing notes with your stylus. You can choose various stationery, receive notes from friends and Nintendo, and have a gay old time showing off your penmanship to your buddies. The one drawback to Swapnote is that you can only reply to a given note once. I wish you could respond back multiple times. That is my only quandary with this program.

Hopefully your drawings are as tasteful as hostess Nikki's.

Downloading programs and games is performed via the Nintendo eShop. Not only can you buy and download games from the Virtual Console, but you can buy DSiWare and 3DSWare games like Dillon's Rolling Western, Mighty Switch Force, and Mutant Mudds, to name a few. You can watch trailers and videos in full stereoscopic 3D, and now you are able to download demos for titles like Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater 3D, Resident Evil: Revelations, and Crush 3D. One of personal favorite things to do is watch North America's Nintendo Show 3D as hosted by the enchanting Jessie Cantrell.

The Nintendo eShop started off slow,
but now it is one satisfying week after another.

A year later and the library of 3DS games has grown exponentially from the paltry lineup we experience at launch. There's dozens upon dozens of great titles to pick up from various genres like action/adventure, RPG, platformer, fighting, and racing. There's The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D, Star Fox 64 3D, Super Mario 3D Land, Tetris: Axis, Pokemon Rumble Blast, Resident Evil: Revelations, Dead or Alive: Dimensions, and so many more. Tomorrow I will list my top ten 3DS games of its first year. It is going to be an exciting list, for sure.

Monday, March 26, 2012

SuperPhillip's Favorite VGMs - In Like A Lion... Edition

The arrival of a new work week means the arrival of a new installment of SuperPhillip's Favorite VGMs. What's on tap for this week? We have music from Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia, Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars, and Banjo-Tooie. I'm sure you'd rather listen to the songs for this week, so I will kindly be quiet now!

v71. Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia (DS) - Azure Wanderings


A gentle piano melody plays throughout this peaceful piece as our heroine makes her way through Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia for the Nintendo DS. This was the final game of the DS Castlevania trilogy, and it was the most difficult game of the three with some incredibly challenging boss battles and scenarios. It is my second favorite of the three games with Dawn of Sorrow being my all-time favorite Castlevania game, yes, even beating Symphony of the Night.

v72. de Blob (Wii) - DB 606 (Euphoric)



Are you in the mood for some funk? If you are, then you've arrived at the right place. de Blob was a commercial and critical success on Wii with its titular character painting the town red, green, blue, and whatever other primary and secondary color you can think of. Its sequel did not do so hot sales-wise even though it appeared on every major platform. In fact, it was a commercial failure and was the game that shut down the developer, Blue Tongue. Yet another developer closing thanks to the HD generation. So sad.

v73. Elebits (Wii) - Fancy Some Candy?



The second of two games from Konami on today's edition of the VGMs (Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia being the first), Elebits released within the launch window of the Nintendo Wii, a criminally underrated system with criminally underrated games. The goal of the game was to move around various landscapes and areas, sucking up Elebits to power up a vacuum. This tool would then be able to open up new sections of levels to explore. You had a strict time limit to accomplish your task, so be vigilant and swift in your actions. The composer for the Castlevania series worked on some of the music for Elebits. True story.

v74. Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars (SNES) - Beware the Forest's Mushrooms


Yoko Shimomura is a fantastic composer, and she is one of the best female video game music artists in the industry. Her catchy melodies have given her praise from players around the world. Her works include Breath of Fire, Kingdom Hearts, and the subject of this VGM volume, Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars for the Super Nintendo. This would be the last game that Squaresoft would put on a Nintendo platform for a looooong time. It wouldn't be until the GameCube's Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles that Square would return to the house that Mario built.

v75. Banjo-Tooie (N64) - Glitter Gulch Mine


Composer Grant Kirkhope has since left Rare (as any level-headed genius would do) to work on new projects for his new employer, but his golden days were with Rare in the Nintendo 64 generation. One of his best soundtracks was Banjo-Kazooie, so he had a lot to prove with its sequel. Let's just say that he lived up to expectations splendidly as evident by the various tracks of Banjo-Tooie. Glitter Gulch Mine harks to times sitting down by the ol' watering hole, playing a harmonica, and strummin' a banjo. Keep up the great work, Mr. Kirkhope, and enjoy your time away from Rare. You've earned it.

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That's a wrap on this week's lovely choice of VGMs. Next week we will be at it again with five more themes from video game history. We'll see you back here in a week, friends!

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