Friday, April 6, 2012

Ninja Gaiden 3 (PS3, 360) Review

The first review of April and the review to begin the next 300 reviews, Ninja Gaiden 3 was an anticipated title of mine that has finally released. (It is also planned for the Wii U.) How is it? No need to wait for the answer. Let's find out together!

Itagaki: (laughs)


Known for his work on the popular fighting game franchise Dead or Alive and for his revival of Ninja Gaiden, developer Tomonobu Itagaki recently left Tecmo and Team Ninja to work on his own pursuits, most notably a new game called Devil's Third. There was a lot of concern regarding whether Team Ninja could pick up the pieces of Itagaki's departure and still craft a fine experience with installment number three of the Ninja Gaiden HD franchise. Unfortunately, the cause for worry was justified as Ninja Gaiden 3 does little to satisfy the action gamer's thirst for blood, fun gameplay, and fierce action.

In London, England, a terrorist group has taken over a residency, and they desire the presence of Ryu Hayabusa or they will continue to kill off hostages. The nimble ninja agrees and arrives at the residency where he meets a man dressed in a red robe, face obscured by a white mask, and head covered by a hood. During their encounter, the mysterious man, claiming to be a part of the Lords of Alchemy group, infects Ryu's right arm with a curse. The curse penetrates the skin, calling upon all the souls Ryu has slain, and will rot not only his arm but will grow to his body unless Ryu can come up with a cure. So not only does Hayabusa need to fend off the curse, but he must put a stop to the Lords of Alchemy's terror-filled crime spree. The story is much more pronounced than in previous Ninja Gaiden games, and it isn't for the better either. Long cutscenes (though not Metal Gear Solid bad) infect the title like Ryu's arm curse, and the game attempts to turn Ryu into a more human-like character with deeper emotions. These moments in the story are merely cringe-inducing and further verify that video game stories are rubbish.

This hooded man holds the key to Ryu's curse.

Ninja Gaiden 3 follows a simple structure for its 8-10 campaign. You follow a linear path with no exploration to speak of, you slay rooms full of foes with various sword slashes and shuriken throws, and you move onto the next room or area. Getting lost is incredibly difficult to accomplish, but if you do somehow, you can always click in the right stick to light your path. In between sections there are opportunities to show off Ryu's platforming prowess through performing wall runs, using his kunai blades to climb off vertical walls, and utilizing poles to swing across gaps. Each checkpoint occurs after a given battle, so losing one's health (health is regenerated after every encounter) and dying isn't too punishing to the player. As you progress in the relatively short campaign, you receive new weapons such as a new sword (Ryu's Dragon Sword gets sucked up by his cursed arm) and a bow for attacking foes long-range.

Yeah, I'm sure this guy's internal injuries are just fine.

Fighting is as streamlined as possible, and usually streamlined means dumbed down in video game public relations speak. That is exactly the definition of Ninja Gaiden 3's combat. You battle wave after wave of enemies with one of three different attacks: a weak attack, a strong attack which is good for taking down enemies with shields and/or great defense, and shurikens to trip up foes from afar. When engaging enemies, you really don't have a choice as to which baddie you give priority to. It seems like the game makes you lock onto which ever opponent it wants you to combat with. This can get frustrating when there is a goon blasting you with rockets, and all you want to do is take him out. Yet the game makes you continue to do battle with the people right next to you.

Even mechanical foes need some tough love.

Additionally, most encounters with enemies are efforts in button-mashing and that is all. There were many rooms where my attention was diverted to something else, yet I still managed to clear the room. I imagine that difficulties beyond Normal make for a more interesting challenge which makes the dodging/evading mechanic more useful. That said, enemies take way too many hits to defeat, there is no real reason to experiment with new attack strategies as spamming moves seem to work well, and even though there is plenty of violence and blood to give the game its M ESRB rating, severing limbs and dismembering them has been eliminated. Furthermore, the camera is simply awful. It is persistent in changing angles and direction while in combat, so you are constantly fighting it to look at your desired target. Then there's the moving sections where you're on a monorail or what have you. I have not gotten a headache from a game in a long time, but Ninja Gaiden 3's spastic camera certainly gave me one.

By far for me the highlight of Ninja Gaiden 3 comes from its intense boss battles pitting you against war planes and mechs and screen-filling deities. This is where the God of War influence comes in with all of Ninja Gaiden 3's quick time events. Sure, they are a cheap way of separating the player from the actual action, but I would be lying if I said they didn't look cool. The time limit for each necessary input is very lax, so failing a QTE is almost something that the player needs to try to do. That notwithstanding, launching Ryu from a building, striking his sword into the cockpit of a military airplane, and sending it crashing to the ground while escaping only seconds away from the explosion is just plain bad ass.

Red is a popular color to see in Ninja Gaiden 3.

Aside from the one and done solo campaign (really, what motivation will there be to play it again?), new to the series are a myriad of multiplayer modes such as Ninja Trials where you and another player try to endure horde after horde of ruthless enemies and Clan Battle which pits you in a Team Deathmatch-esque setting with up to seven other players. Ninja Trials won't take many players long to complete as there are but less than a dozen trials to actually partake in. In the online competitive multiplayer you start out as weak ninja, but as you play games you gain levels giving you new powers and customization options to make your silent warrior of death look unique from the pack. The actual fighting in the competitive multiplayer isn't going to win any awards for innovation or longevity. Most of the battles feel random as you mash on the attack buttons to slay your online opponents.

Your online escapades will consist of
cooperative and competitive multiplayer action.

Even with its lackluster gameplay, Ninja Gaiden 3 is a beaut to look at. Gone are the shiny textures and characters of past titles in the series. For all the hack and slash action with rooms crawling with enemies that happens in the game, there is nary a case of slowdown. Everything appears to run at a steady framerate. From visuals to sound, despite the incredibly cheesy story, the voice work is excellently done. Though in battle you will hear the same taunts from thugs ad nauseum. Their sentences will sometimes cancel one another out just so they can repeat what they were going to utter. Also bad on the sound side is the music which is forgettable at best with loads of butt rock and atrocious at worst.

Such is the life of your everyday henchman.

Team Ninja seems to have lost their way without the humility-lacking Tomonobu Itagaki at the helm. Ninja Gaiden 3 is a mess of boring, repetitive gameplay, an unwelcome emphasis on story, and an unneeded addition of multiplayer. The focus on less complexity and violence makes for a game that is... well, less intriguing of a title to experience. The game is not necessarily broken, but it is not necessarily all that entertaining to plop down and play through either. Unless your desire to resume the role of a ninja is strong, you're better off with one of the previous (see: better) installments in the franchise.

[SuperPhillip Says: 4.0/10]

Two Quick Things...

Good Friday, everyone. Hope you have a wonderful day. Now with that out of the way, I want to focus your attention on this month's poll. The last choice states, Used games = no buy. Hopefully through context clues, most of you can discern that this is supposed to read No used games = no buy. If not, then there you are. So vote accordingly. I obviously cannot change the poll once a vote has been placed. This is for the reason that I don't change a popular option to "SuperPhillip is the best and I am a loser" just because it has the most votes.

Secondly and this is more humorous than anything, one of the top traffic sources this week comes from a site called Americans Who Hate Obama. Considering I long wrote (think 2008) a satirical article comparing Obama's success with the Wii's success and laughing at all the haters of both, I find it funny that there are people from that site being referred here to our humble blog. Keep your thoughts about how America's president (my man) is a socialist, foreign-born Muslim to yourself. Thanks!

As for everyone else, we will have a new review up on SuperPhillip Central today, so look forward to that. I'm currently playing through the game. I don't tend to rush reviews, I don't get review copies (though I'm open to free games as that would be cool~), so no worries about the quality. It will suck as usual. No, no, I'm kidding. I'm proud of my work here on SPC. Not so much in 2008, though. We'll see you here in a half day or so. Take care!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

April 2012 Nintendo 3DS Playtime Results

One of my favorite features of the Nintendo 3DS is its ability to track playtime results for every 3DS, DS, eShop game and apps. I am hooked to seeing what games I have been playing the most. It has been three months since the last playtime result post, so let's see if new games have cracked the top ten. If you wish to compare, check out January's post. With that, let's get to the results!

10) Resident Evil: Revelations (12:06)


I have a nasty habit of dropping a game as soon as I review it. This was the fate of Resident Evil: Revelations. I was two chapters away from once again beating the game, but newer titles came into my life and Revelations was brushed aside like hair in one's face. I still want to get back to this, and seeing as we are in a month of little to no new releases, April seems like the perfect opportunity to jump back onto that terror-filled cruise ship, hop online for some Raid mode, and unlock some Ooze-killing weaponry. Anyone up for some online play?

9) Pokemon Rumble Blast (12:15)


Pokemon Rumble was a WiiWare game that featured Pokemon in toy form battling it out against one another for supremacy. The addicting nature of that game turned into a retail title for the 3DS, Pokemon Rumble Blast. There were over 600 Pokemon to collect through knocking them out and hoping for the best. The boss Pokemon were particularly tricky to capture as you had only one chance per level to nab them. Triple team battles were introduced in this installment of this spinoff franchise, and they were efforts in frustration near the end of the game. To this day I have not beaten the final boss. It's seemingly impossible!

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


Just like last time's playtime results, Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D barely edges out Pokemon Rumble Blast by two minutes approximately. The entertaining Mercenaries mode that originated in Resident Evil 4 and continued in the fifth installment came as a standalone game with this 3DS arcade-styled title. In many ways, Resident Evil: Revelations' Raid mode has outdone The Mercenaries 3D. From replay value to the amount of loot and achievements one can try to accomplish. That said, this game is still worth picking up (but not used).

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


The only Ambassador game on this list, The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap is one of my all-time favorite Zelda titles. It took Link to new heights-- albeit extremely small heights, literally. Introducing to the series the ability to shrink at specific points in the overworld and in dungeons (of which there were six in the game) and the funniest companion in the franchise's illustrious history in Ezlo, The Minish Cap has a lot going for it. It isn't too challenging, and there is a small amount of filler, but take this last Capcom-developed Zelda out for spin and you will discover a well made game.

6) Kirby Mass Attack (15:27)


The first Nintendo DS game I played on my new 3DS back in August, Kirby Mass Attack is outclassed only by Kirby Canvas Curse as the best DS Kirby game. It, too, used stylus controls to send a mass of Kirbys to attack enemies, pull heavy switches that one Kirby could only hope to move, and collect medals to not only progress in the game but to unlock several entertaining mini-games. Heck, the mini-games alone could have been their own title, but combined with the main game, Kirby Mass Attack packs a lot of bang for one's buck.

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


Packed with many missions, quests, treasures, enemies to defeat, bosses to battle, and a charming story that doesn't take itself too seriously, Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift is a bright, engaging game that scratches the tactical RPG itch of DS owners. Even though I didn't have the time to give to reach the conclusion of the game, for the time I spent with A2, I did indeed enjoy it. It might not be as dark as the original Final Fantasy Tactics, and it might not be as good, but A2 is a competent addition to the franchise, Luso's blade looking like a giant pizza cutter notwithstanding.

4) Kid Icarus: Uprising (16:49)


The most recent game I have been playing on my 3DS is number four on this list. It's Kid Icarus: Uprising, and the 16:49 playtime is through my playtime only. My older brother hasn't even started his save data, so expect the playtime to go up dramatically. To say Kid Icarus: Uprising isn't in the upper echelon of 3DS titles would be a disservice to the game. It has the most content, features, and goodies out of any 3DS game. The dialogue is a delight, the secrets are numerous, the flight and ground controls (once gotten used to) are splendid, and Sakurai's touch is definitely apparent. If Smash Bros. 4 is half as good as Uprising, Nintendo fans are in for a true treat.

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



I am done playing Golden Sun: Dark Dawn, but its extensive amount of playtime will persist and linger on the top ten for a long time most naturally. The game itself was not as good as the previous Game Boy Advance entries, but what RPGs really are? It was amusing seeing the cast of Golden Sun and The Lost Age return in older form while viewing and playing as their offspring. Even with the Nintendo DS system's weak 3D graphics, Dark Dawn still looked awfully impressive when considering technical limitations. It's just a shame that the game is a breeze up until the final boss battle which is crazy as all get out.

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


Staying at the same amount of playtime as January's results, Super Mario 3D Land is a title that I would soon like to return to. It is the perfect mesh of 2D Mario like Super Mario Bros. 3 and 3D Mario like Super Mario Galaxy. Even when the initial eight worlds are completed, you are not finished. Instead, the big surprise is that you have another eight special worlds to contend with, a playable Luigi, and earning gold flags on every level. That's no simple task. Just look at the 25 hours and 8 minutes that it took my brother and I to accomplish this on both of our save files. Super Mario 3D Land wasn't awarded best handheld game of 2011 for nothing!

1) The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D (25:33)


I have a new number one as my most played game, and it is The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D. I recently started a new save data, and I've been performing much better in regards to finding more Heart Containers, solving puzzles in faster amount of time, and taking down bosses with ease. The Master Quest side of the game still awaits me, and I look forward to the added difficulty of losing more hearts when in battle and the more devious dungeon designs. I thought the puzzles in the original quest were challenging, but I haven't seen anything yet. It says something about the longevity of this game when I can constantly go back to and enjoy it more and more.

===

Are you currently playing your Nintendo 3DS? If so, what titles are most recently stuck inside the game card slot for you? Let me and the community know in the comments section.

Mario Tennis Open (3DS) New Trailer

Due out May 20th in North America, Mario Tennis Open is Nintendo's next big title for the 3DS. This new trailer showcases some of the side games featured in the title. From Super Mario Tennis to the returning Ring Shot, there's no shortage of mini-games to hone your tennis skills to. You can then take your earned coins and personalize your Mii with all sorts of unique clothing and tennis rackets. Just view the video below to see all of this in action.



Mario Tennis Open (3DS) New Screens

Mario Tennis Open is my most anticipated 3DS title. Well, that isn't that hard to accomplish as the upcoming lineup for the system isn't too interesting. Most of the intriguing titles either have no release date or are coming out many, many months later. Scope out these sensational screenshots from Mario Tennis Open. Mario and friends will certainly make a racket on the colorful courts.

Mario Tennis Open (3DS) Court Art

It is a media bonanza for Mario Tennis Open! We have screens, a new trailer, and multiple courts which the latter is the subject of this post. Whether you're volleying above Mushroom Gorge or feeling the heat in Bowser's Castle, there's a court that fits your play style perfectly! Enjoy the various court art from Nintendo!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

SPC Showdown - 4/4/12

We have arrived at the eighth SPC Showdown. We had our last showdown in January. (View it with this link.) The SPC Showdown is where I have five battles between products or ideas of the same type. Wondering which recent Zelda game is most legendary, or which internet message board sucks the least? Find out with this installment of the SPC Showdown!

Round One: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword VS. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

The latest console Zelda games, both available on Wii, which legend is truly legendary?

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

The Legend of Zelda series has been certainly by-the-numbers for awhile now. That was until Skyward Sword which introduced a new structure and motion controls. No longer were you mindlessly waggling the Wii remote to attack. You need finesse and precision. With Wii MotionPlus, your swing direction determined victory and defeat. New items like the Beetle which could fly, carry bombs, and collect items and hit switches from faraway, the Whip which turned Link into Indiana Jones, and the Gust Bellows that blows dust and sand from dirty floors. Skyward Sword also contained the best boss battles in series history. All of this crafted together to be SuperPhillip Central's Game of 2011.


The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

After the colorful quest of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, Zelda returned to a more realistic setting and art style. The game was much darker than Toon Link's journey, and unlike Skyward Sword, the overworld was quite interesting to explore, especially on the back of Epona, Link's trusty steed. While waggle was what sword swings required, aiming with the bow and hookshot was much easier with the Wii remote than with the GameCube controller's analog stick. Twilight Princess also contained more dungeons than Skyward Sword, and the majority of them were true winners. That said, not even Wolf Link and companion Midna could make Twilight Princess better than Skyward Sword.


Winner: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

Round Two: Xbox 360 VS. PlayStation 3

This generation continues to truck on. Which of the HD consoles' is the definition of the best?

Xbox 360

Now, those who have been with me for a long time know my opinion on the Xbox 360. The hardware was so shoddy that Microsoft paid over a billion dollars in repair costs for the Red Ring of Death. This made me not purchase another one after my original died a few months out of warranty. The exclusives are fine if you like guns and racing, and Kinect is garbage and is a bigger catalyst to gaming than the Wii (at least that had many worthwhile games). That said, third party games run the best on the Xbox 360, and Microsoft will pay big bucks to let people know that. Nearly every third party game commercial has the Xbox 360 logo at the end exclusively.



PlayStation 3

My launch PlayStation 3 is somehow still running, but I know that it is a ticking time bomb. Apparently having a console that lasts is a fad. That notwithstanding, Sony's exclusives like Uncharted, God of War, LittleBigPlanet, Gran Turismo, inFAMOUS, ModNation Racers, Resistance, Killzone, and Ratchet & Clank far outshine Halo, Forza, and Gears of War. Not only are the exclusives more varied in different genres, but they are more enjoyable for me to play. All this comes at a price, however, as third party games (as said in the 360 portion of this battle) generally run worse on the PlayStation 3. An extreme example is the highly overrated Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. However, I feel that exclusives are the real reason to buy a console.



Winner: PlayStation 3

Round Three: GameFAQs VS. NeoGAF

Two popular internet message boards that are eerily similar to one another. Which is better?

GameFAQs



This site allows people to make multiple accounts as long as they have different e-mails, so this means that users constantly make alternate accounts just to troll. It is definitely quantity over quality on this awful site. And then you have joke accounts that always fail to be funny, mods who don't have real power in the real world so they take out their frustrations on the 13 year-old user base of the site, and too many message boards to count. How can NeoGAF possibly be worse?

NeoGAF



This site always makes fun of its competitor, but like it or not, NeoGAF, you are incredibly alike to GameFAQs. You both have the same amount of fanboys, trolls, and marketing shills. The only differences between GameFAQs and NeoGAF is that GameFAQs doesn't pretend its crap smells the cleanest, nor does it have a staff-sanctioned troll that is run by the mods. Nor does it have threads like this (seriously, how embarrassing. It makes me mad to be a gamer. I do NOT want to be associated with these people.) that make GameFAQs look like professionals. Admit it, you mouth-breathing trolls at NeoGAF are just as horrible as GameFAQs, maybe even more so at times as the constant baiting, trolling, and fanboyism of that thread proves.

Winner: Neither. They both suck.

Round Four: Dance Central VS. Just Dance

Two dance titles that are quite popular for the respective systems they are on. Which boogies the best?

Dance Central

Dance Central puts your whole body into the game as you perform various dance maneuvers to score mad points. Developed by Harmonix, the fine folks behind the Rock Band franchise, Dance Central features real-life choreography moves and fun mulitplayer modes for the entire family.


Just Dance

The more popular of the two (selling the best on Wii, then Kinect, then PS3) dance games, Just Dance even on Kinect only picks up arm movement and not the better part of your body. Even with its multiple sequels and spinoffs with decent soundtracks, Dance Central edges Ubisoft's wildly successful party game out.




Winner: Dance Central

Round Five: Vita will succeed VS. Vita will fail

The future of Sony's PlayStation Vita is unknown. Will it float or will it sink? I determine that right now.



Vita will succeed

The launch of the Vita was one of the best in recent memory, maybe history. It had titles like a mainline Hot Shots Golf/Everybody's Golf game, a new Uncharted, Wipeout, Katamari, ModNation Racers, and a new IP like Escape Plan. The tech is supremely impressive, offering gorgeous near-PS3 quality visuals, touch support on the front screen and back, and wonderful online functions. The tech is there, and it outclasses Nintendo's 3DS exceptionally. The question is: can Sony get more publishers and developers on board with Vita?

Vita will fail

Vita sales in Japan are near 10,000 on a weekly basis. The 3DS at worst was at least near 20,000 on a weekly basis. There are no system sellers forthcoming for the Vita either. Nintendo has taken Monster Hunter from Sony by making a capable system that can run the necessary graphical requirements the series needs (the DS's 3D was too weak for Monster Hunter). It says something when the only interesting titles coming to Japan for fans are ports of Final Fantasy X and a remake of a Persona game. The software situation is dire in Japan, and the desire for the system in the west is even worse. Western third parties still treat handhelds like they are "above" them. Most portables are sold to children and not the young adult market Sony is aiming for with the Vita. And with iOS being an opponent to the Vita, the system has a tough road ahead of it.

Winner: Like I'm really going to answer that this soon.

===

Man, does the new Blogger blow hard! It is next to impossible to format screens and photos. So incredibly stupid. Thanks for screwing up something that didn't need fixing. Anyway, that ends this installment of the SPC Showdown. Until later... see ya'!

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