Friday, April 13, 2012

Pokemon Black 2 and White 2 (DS) First Trailer

When Pokemon Black 2 and Pokemon White 2 were first announced, Pokefans the world over clamored over what platform the pair of games would be on. It turned out the games are appearing on the DS. Bigger user base, so why not? This is the first time a mainline Pokemon game has had a direct sequel. Usually we get a third version that comes off as a director's cut. Regardless, catch this first trailer for the games. Also, I will no longer be providing a direct link for videos. YouTube comments sections are just too awful.

Top Ten First-Party Nintendo Wii Games

Yesterday I graded the overall performance of the Nintendo Wii, the "winner" of this past generation of consoles. You may recall an article in February about third-party exclusives. Well, today I am going to list my favorite ten first-party Wii games coming from the house that Mario and friends built. The Wii gets a lot of hate for having "no games", yet how many critics really bother investing time into examining the system's library? Not many, and that is a damn shame. Regardless, which ten top tier titles deserve to be on this list? Note: At the time of this list I had not played Xenoblade Chronicles yet.

10) Wario Land: Shake It!


On presentation alone, the first game on our list is an impressive feat. With cutscenes created by famed anime studio Production I.G and a hand-drawn art style that makes the game overflow with vivid colors and charm, Wario Land: Shake It! kicks off the countdown. Each level had Wario moving through bashing baddies, collecting treasure, jewels, and coins, and solving platforming puzzles in his quest to vanquish the sinister Shake King. The second part of the level has Wario making a mad dash to the goal before time runs out a la previous installments of Wario Land. The game added replay value through challenges like not getting damaged in a given level, racing to the goal within a set time limit, and gathering enough money to satisfy the game's goal. As good a game as it is pretty to look at, Wario Land: Shake It!'s art and gameplay mesh together to create one unforgettable 2D platformer.

9) Kirby's Return to Dream Land



A popular theme with Nintendo's 2D platforming titles was the addition of cooperative play. We'll see this theme pop up again in numerous games which are forthcoming on this list. Kirby's Return to Dream Land featured the return of Kirby sucking up powers, turning into various forms like Ice, Sword, and Spark, finding special gears to open up new mini-games among other secrets, and exploring multiple themed worlds with creatively designed levels. While the game is on the easy side, after the first-time completion of Dream Land, an extra mode opens up where Kirby and the gang get less health to work with. This mode is definitely the opposite of easy. On the co-op side of things, up to four players can work together to beat the game with drop-in and drop-out cooperative play. Friends with benefits and all that.

8) Excitebots: Trick Racing


My favorite racing game of this generation does not follow the same rules as your typical racer. You aren't just competing for first place-- no, you have to win with style. Performing stunts and tricks like pulling off a Super Spin in midair, finding the ingredients to fix a Super Sandwich, punting field goals, and kicking soccer balls into a net as you race around the lush and vibrant tracks all around the world are goals of Excitebots: Trick Racing. For each stunt you manage to pull off, you earn stars. The racer with the most stars at the conclusion of a race is deemed the victor. Of course, it doesn't hurt to score first place as you net a nice chunk of stars as a bonus. The game is controlled entirely with the Wii remote held like an NES controller, and surprisingly, the racing feels incredibly smooth and responsive. Any game where your vehicle can sprout legs, start walking on them, and begin kicking other adversaries is worth a look in my book, and with online play, multiple vehicles to unlock, and several difficulties to master, Excitebots proves that we live in exciting times.

7) Donkey Kong Country Returns


With Rare gone the way of Kinect and avatars for Microsoft, it seemed that the fan of Donkey Kong Country would never get to play another game like the DKC trilogy. Sure, games like Jungle Beat and DK King of Swing were awesome in their own right, but players salivated for a new Donkey Kong Country from Rare. Well, while Rare had nothing to do with the game, it was Retro Studios that took control of the helm and unveiled Donkey Kong Country Returns. It was back to basics with the series as DK and Diddy once more teamed up (one could even team up with a friend for local cooperative play). With a high level of challenge, Donkey Kong Country Returns certainly made some critics change their opinion on all Nintendo games being easy to beat. The secrets were well-hidden, the visual style and art of levels were sensational, and the level design was eerily similar to Rare's finest works from the olden days. Here's hoping we don't have to wait over a decade for the next Donkey Kong Country.

6) Metroid Prime Trilogy


Speaking of Retro Studios, their first project as a company under the wing of Nintendo was a first-person Metroid game. Seriously? How could they turn my Metroid into such a thing? That was the opinion of many Metroid fans at least when they heard/read of this news. Turns out there was nothing to worry about as the masters at Retro, under guise of key Nintendo staff, concocted one of most storied entries in the Metroid franchise. What was once a GameCube exclusive was ported with Metroid Prime 2: Echoes and given pointer controls, ones that vastly are superior and quicker to turn and shoot with than dual analog. Also joining the two GameCube classics was the Wii's Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. This compendium of Retro's finest was named the Metroid Prime Trilogy, and it was given a limited run. Collectors and gamers alike put a high price on even used copies. The Metroid Prime trilogy is a fantastic trio of titles, and if this is just the beginning of their rule under Nintendo, I cannot wait to see what they cook up next.

5) New Super Mario Bros. Wii


When one of the only problems players have with a game comes from aesthetic choices, you know a game has to be something special. New Super Mario Bros. Wii was something special, indeed. It followed the groundwork that was laid by its DS cousin, but offered more interesting level design, a greater challenge, and yet another kidnapping of Princess Peach by Bowser. It is getting to the point where I think Bowser has spent more time with Peach than Mario at this rate. Regardless, the nine worlds offered many different routes to take to reach the game's end, and levels possessed secret exits leading to harder levels and cannons to skip past worlds. New Super Mario Bros. Wii also introduced the concept of cooperative play to the series. No longer did one player have to wait for the other to finish a level. You could play together on the same screen. When a player perished, they would-- at least if they had at least one life left-- float back on screen in a bubble. The idea was so novel that Michel Ancel would "borrow" it for Rayman Origins, another tremendous 2D platformer. What it lacks in an intriguing art style, the newest Super Mario Bros. game makes up for in sheer fun.

4) The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword


It was a long five year wait between The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword. It seems to be a tradition that after a new Zelda is released, fans clamor that the one before is better. This has happened for the longest time, and it makes me hate the Zelda fan base. Nonetheless, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword blew me away. It all had to do with the colorful world full of places to explore, Pieces of Heart to collect, materials to nab to create better equipment, some of the best boss battles in series history, some creatively designed dungeons, fun-to-use items like the Beetle, and the most important part of the game, the added motion controls. Some just could not for the life of them get a handle for them, or they would just waggle like an idiot ("epic fail" as a typical message board dweller would annoyingly spout) and wonder why they stunk at the game. With precise slashes, you, too, could be a Moblin-killing machine. It turned almost every encounter into a puzzle. Where should I strike to damage this foe? How do I avoid this attack? What is Link's obsession with pointy hats? All these questions I asked myself while playing. Combined with a mostly memorable, orchestrated soundtrack and my second favorite 3D Zelda visual style, Skyward Sword soars higher above most three-dimensional Zelda games.

3) Super Mario Galaxy



Who knew that plumbers could breathe in space? Mario is always full of surprises, and this is yet another one to add to the ever-growing list. Super Mario Galaxy was quite a bit more linear in level structure than say, Super Mario 64 or Super Mario Sunshine. This helped to make levels that were more focused and similar to what one could imagine a Super Mario Bros. 3 level to look like in 3D. I remember going down to a local GameStop just to experience the demo of the game for myself before its release date. I was floored by the impressive visuals, all of the special effects that seemed to be pumping out of the little white box, and the super-satisfying symphonic score that greeted players as they toured the various galaxies of the game. Who could forget first stepping foot in the Gusty Garden Galaxy, hopping a ride on a flower, floating helplessly in the wind? Or how about playing a level that was one part fiery furnace and one part frozen fjord? Super Mario Galaxy managed to spark my imagination and expand my thinking about how fun video games could be. Galaxy is truly out of this world.

2) Super Smash Bros. Brawl


The all-star brawl is on! Masahiro Sakurai is known for cramming a lot of content into each of his games. His most recent creation was Kid Icarus: Uprising which showed that even on handhelds, he could send gamers for second, third, and fourth helpings long after they had beaten the game. Super Smash Bros. Brawl is no different. Offering an interesting story mode with heroics and villainy by the various characters of the Nintendo's unmatched lineup of stars, an abundance of new stages like Delfino Plaza, Mario Circuit, Mushroomy Kingdom, Spear Pillar, Frigate Orpheon, Norfair, Smashville, Skyworld, and many more, new characters like Ike, Pit, Wario, Metaknight, King Dedede, Lucas, Lucario, and third-party additions like Solid Snake and Sonic, and more modes and features than you can shake a Smash Ball at. The addiction of finding new trophies to add to your collection, battling friends and cursing one another out for throwing that Bob-omb at you, and sitting back and relaxing to the hundreds of remixed themes from dozens of veteran video game music composers all create one incredible party game that will have players invested in it for months (or in my case, years).

1) Super Mario Galaxy 2


The number one game from Nintendo this gen is also the best game of the generation. While some people are more interested in games that mimic the movie industry and offer "Oscar-quality dialogue", gamers like me just play for the experience and fun a given title has to give. Super Mario Galaxy 2 did not reinvent the wheel. Instead, it simply brought more than its predecessor-- more challenge, more deviously designed levels, more powers such as Cloud Mario, more variety, more epic music, more intense boss battles, more gimmicks (the good kind) in the form of the return of Yoshi, for starters, and more content. Even after the original 120 stars have been collected, you are only halfway done. There are another 120 green stars hidden in each galaxy in oftentimes precarious locations for you to gather. I previously said that Super Mario Galaxy managed to spark my imagination. Well, Super Mario Galaxy 2 managed to spark it, cause an electrical short, and set my brain a-blazing. It's been a long time since I had that childlike naivete that a game could be magical, but here we are with a game that couldn't be more magical even if Tinkerbell tossed a pound of pixie dust on it.

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What are your favorite first-party games on the Wii? Do some of my choices match yours? Nintendo really knocked it out of the park (hey, just in time for baseball season!) with this generation, and I cannot wait to see what they have cooked up for the Wii U.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Report Card - Nintendo Wii

Are you up for a new segment on SuperPhillip Central? I am ever trying to create new experiences for readers of my blog. The creativity comes and goes, but I do my best to come up with ideas that other blogs are not doing. Report Card might just be one of those. What is Report Card, you ask? It is where I take a product and review individual portions of it and give each a grade. Then I view all of the grades I have made and post an overall grade. Our first subject? It is the Nintendo Wii.


Hardware

To say the graphical capabilities of the Wii are modest at best would be an understatement. The console is using decade's old technology. It was underpowered at launch, and that fact is even more apparent six years into the console's life. That isn't so much a problem as is the quality and durability of the hardware. For the first time in my history as a gamer, a Nintendo system broke down on me. I could not get my launch Wii to load the health and safety screen, meaning the system was basically dead. All of my saves (Brawl hurt the most) were lost when Nintendo repaired (see: sent me a new Wii). It is with these reasons I cannot give the Wii anything short of...

Grade: B-

Controller

Nintendo does not normally show up at the Tokyo Game Show, so when they did, they had a specific reason. That reason was to unveil the Wii remote and a video showing some of the uses the unique controller could have in gaming scenarios. There was chopping vegetables, fishing, and swordplay, for starters. But just how games that were more involved like a 3D Mario or Zelda would be controlled with just a remote was a question many people had. The Wii remote (or Wiimote as fans like to call it) was only half of the equation. The nunchuk controller which had a wire that hooked up to the bottom of the remote created the actual Wii remote/nunchuk combo that most deeper games used.


This combination allowed for a wide range of movement and comfort. No longer was one tied to having their hands locked together. Hands could be spread apart for maximum relaxation. The only two problems I have with the Wii remote and nunchuk are: 1) the crappy speaker that sounds terribly tinny when in action, and 2) the cord that combines the nunchuk with the Wii remote. It can get tied up between your arms and get in the way when performing more perplex motion controlled actions like in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword.

The Wii remote would be upgraded with the release of Wii Sports Resort, offering an attachment called the Wii MotionPlus. It allowed close to 1:1 movement, something that many gamers thought the Wii would bring when it initially launched. The peripheral is now built inside the Wii remote, so there is no need to work with the annoying attachment. The Wii remote and nunchuk remains my favorite controller to work with in gaming this generation.

Grade: A-

Features

With the introduction of the Wii, Nintendo begin including packed-in software. This trend would continue with their 3DS portable. The software contained inside the little white box consists of a Photo Channel, the Mii Channel, and the Shop Channel. Miis have become massively popular. They are in-game avatars that you can make to look just like you, your family members, friends, or figures from history and pop culture. They were such a hit that Microsoft tasked Rare to create a knock-off in the form of Avatars.


The Shop Channel requires a broadband Internet connection. On the shop you can purchase games from the Virtual Console which possesses games from the Nintendo Entertainment System, the Super Nintendo, the Nintendo 64, the Sega Genesis, and the TurboGrafx 16 consoles. A handful of games were available at launch to be bought and downloaded with more being added each Monday (and then when that changed, each Thursday). The prices are set based on the platform the game is on regardless of value. So nearly every NES game is 500 points while nearly every N64 game is 1,000 points (special games like never-before-released-in-America ones cost more). Later on downloadable games like LostWinds and Toki Tori hit the Shop Channel via WiiWare. With little in the way of marketing as well developer griping, I feel WiiWare was a failure and a heavily missed opportunity by Nintendo. Better luck next time, I guess.


New channels would be added to the Wii throughout its life including the News, the Weather, the Nintendo Channel, Netflix, and now Hulu Plus. Netflix has seen the most success and most viewership of any other current gen platform, so at least there's that online victory for Nintendo. That said, I do enjoy the channel interface and the creativity Nintendo had in creating new ways for Wii owners to interact with their system.

Grade: B

Online

Nintendo's first real attempt at online for a home console was nothing less than an interesting experiment. They had some experience with the Nintendo DS and friend codes, twelve digit numbers that two people had to share if they wanted to play with one another. Nintendo thought that taking this strategy and sending it to the Wii would be a good idea. Unfortunately, each online game required a different friend code. Not only are friend codes as an idea are a pain in the you-know-what, but it is a hassle to go to a forum or whatever, share codes, add one another, and actually find each other online. Just as bad is that some of Nintendo's biggest online titles did not even function properly such as the infamously horrible Super Smash Bros. Brawl's lag-filled online play.

I really hope that with the Wii U (if that remains its final name) that Nintendo opts to have friend codes as something for players who have the parental settings on solely. That way they couldn't send messages and invitations to complete strangers or people they met online. Players who do not need parental settings would be free to send messages, voice chat, and send friend requests to whomever they desire. Such an idea is to forward-thinking for Nintendo, however, so I am wasting time pondering such a thought.

Grade: D

First-party Exclusives

When one buys a Nintendo console, they don't do it for third-party games. They do it for Nintendo's stable of iconic characters and magical titles. It is my belief that Nintendo has not been this hot and this on top of their game since their Super Nintendo days. We had a bounty of hits such as the intergalactic masterpieces known as Super Mario Galaxy 1 and 2, the best motion controlled game in existence in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, retro revivals like New Super Mario Bros. Wii and Donkey Kong Country Returns, a great collection such as Metroid Prime Trilogy, the brawl to end 'em all, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, the wildly successful titles like Wii Sports, Wii Sports Resort, Wii Party, and Mario Kart Wii, the highly overlooked Excitebots: Trick Racing, the epic RPG named Xenoblade Chronicles, and a whole slew of intriguing titles that prove that when Nintendo has it, they have it. It has been an extraordinary time to like Nintendo and enjoy their games.


Grade: A

Third-party Exclusives

Let's face it-- third-parties bet on the wrong pair of horses this gen, and it bit them in the ass. Studios closing, budgets reaching unprecedented levels, and the difficulty for Japanese developers to ease into HD gaming were all effects of this. That isn't to say there weren't any worthwhile titles coming from companies like Capcom, Konami, EA, Activision, Ubisoft, Namco Bandai, Sega, among others. They just were made by the B teams and lower instead of A teams. I have no question that this will continue with the Wii U as there is something about Nintendo that makes third-parties go stupid and leave money on the table.

Third-parties had the opportunity to build an audience for their games on the Wii. They failed to capitalize. Regardless, Wii owners had a fair amount of interesting titles to sink their collective teeth into such as Monster Hunter Tri, Tatsunoko VS. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars, Sonic Colors, the pair of on-rails Resident Evil games, The House of the Dead: Overkill, No More Heroes and its sequel, GoldenEye 007, We Love Golf! (seriously, one of my favorite golf games of all time), Boom Blox and Boom Blox: Bash Party, MadWorld, Rabbids Go Home, Red Steel 2, Elebits, Disney Epic Mickey, and Super Swing Golf: Season Two. The AAA blockbuster game mindset is unsustainable in these economic times, and if we don't get games with lower budgets (not every title needs to be AAA), the industry will soon see another crash, in my eyes. Nonetheless, if you have an open mind and don't care if you miss out on RPGs and big budget blockbusters, the Wii wasn't the hellhole most gamers would have you to believe.


Grade: B-

Overall

The Wii is my favorite console of this generation. I easily have around 100 games for the system, and no, none of them could be classified as "shovelware", a term that is so loosely thrown around. It isn't without its fault such as an embarrassingly bad online system. Regardless, what the system is is one that revolutionized the industry, made its competitors-- who once mocked Nintendo's insight into the future-- copy the company with their own forms of motion controls (though nothing as blatant as Sony's Move), and made it seem cool and natural to game for the mainstream. Gamers did not have to just be fat, neck-bearded individuals who raged over the ending of their precious game. They could be soccer moms, blue or white collared dads, and people of all shapes, sizes, and ages. Fun is a universal language, and Nintendo managed to help many in the world speak it.

Overall Grade: B
(not an average)


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And thus Report Card's first outing has concluded. Feel free to give teacher an apple. Hopefully this new segment has been an enjoyable read for you. Stay tuned in the coming weeks when more platforms and products are reviewed in Report Card!

March 2012 NPD Results

Are you a fan of game sales? No, not ones like buy-one-get-one-free, I'm talking about how much a game has sold. If you are, then strap yourself in as we have sales from the States to share for the month of March.


It should be no surprise that Mass Effect 3 managed to top all games for the month of March as it was the biggest, most advertised release even with its poor ending and constant crying from gamers. Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City at number two proves that there is no accounting for taste, and if you market a game enough (Capcom had ads for the game when Revelations released), your game will most definitely sell. I'm happy to see Sony's new MLB game at number three as it is the ultimate baseball simulator. Meanwhile, Street Fighter X Tekken punched and kicked its way onto the chart. Important to note that Mario Party 9 is the only single game (released on only one system) that actually made the top ten. For those concerned on how Kid Icarus: Uprising performed, do not worry:
"Frazier also pointed out that Nintendo's new Kid Icarus actually did pretty well: "In a list of the top 10 SKUs for the month (as opposed to top titles as listed here), 3DS Kid Icarus: Uprising would have been among the top selling individual SKUs for the month of March."

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Ni no Kuni: Wrath Of The White Witch (PS3) First English Trailer

As niche as niche gets, this RPG tells the tale of a child who recently lost his mother. The child's tears fall upon a stuffed animal his mother made for him and comes to life. Thus begins the story of Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, due out for the PlayStation 3 early next year. It seems so far way, doesn't it?



One-Sentence Reviews - Volume Three

It's been over a year since we've last taken a glance at this segment. It seems to be a yearly tradition on SuperPhillip Central. Perhaps I could make it come more often. What do you think? Regardless, it's time for One-Sentence Reviews once again. This is where I review a game in a sentence or less. Sometimes I happen to create a run-on which I get called out for justifiably, but I generally play by the rules. I have another thirty games (some reviewed fully already) just waiting to have their moment in the proverbial sun. How will I like them?

"The soul still burns, but it's more of a weak ember than a raging inferno." SoulCalibur V (PS3, 360)


"Not as strong as its second game, but Uncharted 3 delivers on thrills, chills, and enjoyable gameplay." Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception (PS3)

"You'll get hooked when you play Fishing Resort as it is the Wii's best fishing simulator." Fishing Resort (Wii)

"A poor ending doesn't damn this game from being anything short of excellent." Mass Effect 3 (PS3, 360)

"Full of goals to attain, characters and courses to unlock and master, and asynchronous multiplayer to enjoy, the latest mainline Hot Shots Golf entertains." Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational (PSV)

"Two Sonics for the price of one is one heck of a deal and one heck of a game." Sonic Generations (PS3, 360)


"The change to the familiar formula makes for a Ratchet game that is more action-oriented than past installments." Ratchet: Deadlocked (PS2)

"Taking the size and scope of Vice City and putting it on the small screen was no easy task, but Rockstar managed to squeak out an incredible open-world experience." Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories (PSP, PS2)

"A miniscule amount of mini-games, boring boards, and a Mega and Mini Mushroom gimmick make for a poor Mario Party experience." Mario Party 4 (GCN)

"The battle system is incredibly fun, offering a seemingly endless amount of tactics, strategy, and fun." Tales of Vesperia (360)

"The addition of new pinatas to lure to your gardens, new ways to breed and have them live there, and the gorgeous graphics create a game that makes you wish for the old days of Rare." Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise (360)

"Sakurai once again impresses with one of the, if not the, beefiest of games in terms of content on the Nintendo 3DS." Kid Icarus: Uprising (3DS)


"Get your whole body into the groove and shed those pounds as you shake your booty." Dance Central 2 (360)

"This game partly from the makers of Pikmin fails to satisfy with its boring combat and troublesome gameplay." Army Corps of Hell (PSV)

"As a perfectionist, having teammates perish permanently meant many migraines for a player like myself." Fire Emblem (GBA)

" Just like his latest project, Kid Icarus: Uprising, Super Smash Bros. Brawl comes packed with content in the form of characters, stages, trophies, music, and modes." Super Smash Bros. Brawl (Wii)

"Some chapters are tedious to play through and the game may be paper-thin, but it is certainly thick with fun." Super Paper Mario (Wii)

"Take your hat off and take a bow, Henry, as you've deserved it in your challenging and charming venture." Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure (DS)

"Wacky, wild, and wonderful, God Hand will kick your ass into the Milky Way." God Hand (PS2)

"Two artistic titles placed into one pleasant package make for a must buy, especially for those still waiting for The Last Guardian." The Ico & Shadow of the Colossus Collection (PS3)

"Offering an abundant array of unique high-powered weaponry, Insomniac's last take on their FPS franchise entertains enormously with a compelling solo campaign that can be played with a friend online or off and fun multiplayer modes." Resistance 3 (PS3)


"A game that is visually appealing to the max that could have had much better pacing and much less padding for playtime." Okami (Wii, PS2)

"The trial-and-error gameplay of some levels and the waggle-to-roll mechanic might put off some players, but those who stick with Retro Studios' latest will discover one hell of a kong-frontation." Donkey Kong Country Returns (Wii)

"Who knew photographing Pokemon could be not only an addicting concept but also such a snap?" Pokemon Snap (N64)

"Getting to create your own monsters is a joy as is playing as them in this darling but forgotten PlayStation 2 title." Graffiti Kingdom (PS2)

"Crash and the gang give Mario Kart a run (or is it race?) for their money with creative track designs, a multitude of multiplayer modes, a plethora of racers to unlock, and a fun solo campaign." Crash Team Racing (PS1)

"The sense of speed is incredible even if the difficulty is insanely high." Wipeout HD (PS3)


"Revving your engine and jetting through dilapidated streets, rushing through destroyed buildings, and drifting around deadly corners make for one intense racing ride." MotorStorm Apocalypse (PS3)

"With over 600 individual monsters to catch, train, and collect, online battling via WiFi, and an engaging story to follow, the latest generation of Pokemon is one for the ages." Pokemon Black and Pokemon White (DS)

"As a fan of Final Fantasy Tactics and its PSP port, I really loved the tactical RPG gameplay of Tactics Ogre's PSP debut, even if it isn't really an original game all to itself." Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together (PSP)

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Another end to another installment of One-Sentence Reviews. Did you like seeing this segment back in action after being gone for over a year? If you want even more OSR action, check out these two past editions:

Fire Emblem: Awakening (3DS) New Trailer

This trailer for Fire Emblem: Awakening features the various different unit types available for play in the game. There's archers, lords, snipers, fighters, mages, dragon knights, barbarians, tricksters, and many more where those came from. Fire Emblem: Awakening releases on the Nintendo 3DS next week in Japan, and if word from retailers in the Land of the Rising Sun are true, the game is seeing a load of pre-orders. Those of us in the west will have to wait a while for the game (if it comes at all in North America... which it probably will), but it seems like it will be well worth the wait regardless.



Dragon Quest Monsters: Terry's Wonderland 3D (3DS) First Trailer

The only Dragon Quest games I am familiar with are the Dragon Quest Monsters spinoff line of games. This is even with owning Dragon Quests IV, V, VI, VIII, and IX. Regardless, before Dragon Quest X (the MMO) hits the Wii and its next gen equivalent, Square Enix is putting the 1998 Game Boy Color classic, Dragon Quest Monsters: Terry's Wonderland, onto the Nintendo 3DS. The makeover has a multitude of monsters which look quite good in three dimensions, but things like backgrounds and character animations could come off better. What do I know, though, as I am not a graphical connoisseur. Check out this first trailer for the game here or via the direct link.



Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Mario Party 5 (GCN) Retro Review

Over the past several months we have been looking at previous Mario Party games and have been reviewing them. Last month I took a look at the newest Mario Party, Mario Party 9. Today I have in store a retro review for Mario Party 5, the second of four installments on the GameCube. Let's see if an RSVP is in order...

Feel Free to Party Hearty


Mario Party is one series that critics often complain is either A) too luck-based or B) a rehash time and time again. Mario Party 5 was the second installment of the series for the severely underrated Nintendo GameCube, and the franchise attempted to fix the latter gripe with a new capsule system. Does a new story mode, capsule system, and loads of intriguing mini-games make for a party you should accept the invitation for?

Mario Party 5's mode that most players will participate in is the Party Mode. Of course, having friends or family members to join you is a must unless you feel you can have enjoyment from playing with computer opponents solely. You simply select one of ten characters (Mario, Luigi, Peach, Yoshi, Daisy, Wario, Waluigi, Toad, Boo, and Koopa Kid), choose one of seven boards (the seventh becomes unlocked after Story Mode has been completed), and decide between how many turns the game will be (as short as 15 turns or as long as 50 turns).

The rules of Mario Party 5 pretty much remain unchanged from past installments. Each player rolls a dice block when it is their chance to play, depending on the space they land on they can earn or lose coins, and after every turn (defined as having all four players roll) a mini-game takes place. The winner or winners of the mini-game earn ten coins unless the game is a bonus mini-game. The goal of Mario Party is to earn the most stars by the conclusion of all turns. Stars are purchased with twenty coins, and the location of the star shifts after each time a star has been bought.

Daisy just edges out Peach to reach the star.

There are a plethora of unique spaces for players to land on in Mario Party 5. Blue spaces net players with three coins while red spaces take away three coins. Event spaces, marked as green spaces with a white question mark in the middle, create a whole host of unique happenings. For instance, in the Undersea Dream board, a player can land on an Event space and be carried across to the other side of the board instantly. Then there's the DK space. Donkey Kong has retired from the chance-based life of Mario Party and offers bonuses for players who land on his space. This fine bloke can give coins to a fortunate player or initiate one of three special DK-themed multiplayer mini-games for all players. Likewise, there is a Bowser space on every board. When an unlucky member of the Mushroom Kingdom lands on this space, Bowser falls from the heavens to cause some trouble. He can steal a star, force players to participate in one of his mini-games where the losers must forfeit anywhere between half and all of their coins, and just make life miserable for everyone involved.

The new addition this time around to the series is that of capsules. These are earned through capsule machines resting around each board or through obtaining them in special events. A player can hold up to three capsules at a time, and they can opt to use a capsule on themselves for a price, or they can choose to throw it on a space ahead of them. There is a certain amount of strategy involved with where one should toss a capsule. There are several different types of capsules to chuck such as Movement, Coin, Capsule-shifting, and Miscellaneous capsules. Movement capsules can do things like giving the player an extra dice block to use on their next turn, allowing the player to switch places with an opponent, or granting you the ability to automatically fly to where the star is located. Coin capsules do a lot of interesting things, too, such as the Coin Block space that when landed upon gives the player ten coins, the Spiny space which steals 10 coins from a player as selected by a roulette wheel, and the Piranha Plant space which eats a player and takes half of their coins. Capsule-shifting capsules like Kamek shuffles everyone's capsules while Miscellaneous capsules offer some wild and wacky scenarios such as changing the location of a star, creating a duel or chance time space on the board, or creating a space where the person who lands on it can steal coins or a star. The addition of variety given by capsules is most certainly welcomed and helps mix the Mario Party formula up quite nicely.

This game just comes down to mashing on the A button.
Not very intuitive, is it?

As stated, after all four players have rolled the dice block and landed on their individual spaces, a mini-game begins. Depending on the color space each player has landed on, the mini-game can be a Free-for-All, a 1 vs. 3 game, a 2 vs. 2 game, or on special occasions a Battle mini-game where all players put some coins in a pool. The winner takes the lion's share of the coinage. The mini-games of Mario Party 5 are mostly winners and quite entertaining. Whether you're in front of Princess Peach's castle smashing your heads against coin blocks for cash in Coin Cache, catching fallen scoops of ice cream to create the largest cone possible in Coney Island, collecting different colored monkeys and giving them back to their parents in Chimp Chase, running from a sole player who is trying to run you over with a plastic ball in Flatiator, or teaming up with another player to control the flippers of a pinball board in Panic Pinball, the numerous different mini-games stay fresh, fun, and challenging.

This game actually encourages monkeying around. Get it?

There are also various Duel mini-games that occur when a player either lands on a Duel space or in the last five turns lands on the same space as another opponent. These games pit two players against one another for a wager, either coins or a star. Some of these, though, are solely based on luck which is a bummer, but the majority of them require a fair amount of skill. Duel mini-games appear frequently in Mario Party 5's Story Mode.

In the Story Mode, Bowser has infiltrated his way into the Dream Depot where all dreams rest. It is up to you to kick him and his Koopa Kid offspring out. The rules have you against three Koopa Kids with the goal of trekking around boards trying to win mini-games to make each of the trio of Koopa Kids lose all of their coins. However, the catch is that you only have a set amount of turns to accomplish this task. If even one Koopa Kid has any coins by the end of the game, you lose. When you pass a Koopa Kid or land on the same space as one, you play a Duel mini-game with them. When you land on a VS. space, you initiate either a 1 vs. 3 or 2 vs. 2 mini-game. This mode certainly won't make you want to play it over and over again, but unfortunately, it is a must if you want to try the final board of Mario Party 5, Bowser Nightmare.

Story Mode is a necessary evil if you
wish to unlock the seventh board.

Apart from Party and Story modes, there is Super Duel Mode (a vehicle-making and battling game) and a myriad of Mini-Game Mode options such as Free Play that lets you pick and play any mini-game you have unlocked, Mini-Game Battle, Mini-Game Circuit which is a racing game where the winner of a given mini-game gets to hit a dice block (the first player across the finish line wins), Mini-Game Decathlon where ten mini-games are played and the player with the most points in the end is declared the decathlon winner, Mini-Game Wars which pits players against each other to rule the most tiles on a game board, and finally, Mini-Game Tournament that is made up of Duel mini-games.

Mario Party 5 looks the part of a midlife Nintendo GameCube game. The models are nice enough, the backgrounds are decent, and the level of action seldom causes any instances of framerate drops or slowdown. Then again, the Mario Party series has never been a benchmark for graphical prowess of any of Nintendo's many hardware, so why should Mario Party 5 start a trend? The music is quite catchy this go around with plenty of tracks and themes that will get your head bouncing side to side and your toes tapping.

Don't be a pushover when it comes to these pushy penguins!

The new capsule system of Mario Party 5 offers an entirely different way of playing the game. While it isn't as extreme of a game changer as traveling in one vehicle a la Mario Party 9, this fifth fiesta of Mario and friends introduces plenty of fun changes, incredible mini-games, and an appealing if not sometimes infuriating Story Mode. While not my favorite GameCube instance of Mario Party, Mario Party 5 does a lot right for itself and is definitely one of the stronger entries in this long-running party franchise. Feel free to RSVP and get some friends as this party might last all night!

[SuperPhillip Says: 7.5/10]

Resident Evil 6 (PS3, 360) New Trailer

This trailer which comes from Capcom's Captivate press event has no qualms about spoiling a lot of the story regarding October's (the release date has been moved up) Resident Evil 6, the next mainline installment of the storied survival horror franchise, so be forewarned. Capcom has also announced that RE6 is not coming to Wii U. Better get used to that, Nintendo fans, as I'm sure the situation with third parties and Nintendo is not going to work out as well as you think it will next gen either.



Monday, April 9, 2012

SuperPhillip's Favorite VGMs - Spring Fever Edition

It seems like it was a week ago that we met here to listen to five of my favorite VGMs. That's because it was a week ago! On this week's installment of SuperPhillip's Favorite VGMs we have music from the lovely LittleBigPlanet, the legendary Final Fantasy Tactics, and the brain-busting Professor Layton and the Unwound Future. Are you prepared to sit back and unwind? Let's begin then!

v81. LittleBigPlanet (PS3) - The Gardens


LittleBigPlanet 2 is my favorite PlayStation 3 title, and the franchise is my favorite new one of this generation. Sackboy is a great mascot for Sony, and the gameplay of the series is just fantastic, especially when you team up with three other Sackpersons to perform platforming feats of a grand nature. The Gardens is the very first world of the original LittleBigPlanet. This song has a very homey feel to it if I do say so myself.

v82. Eternal Sonata (PS3, 360) - Leap the Precipice



This is the battle theme to the Japanese RPG called Eternal Sonata. The game takes place inside the mind of famed classic composer Chopin. Who knew this marvelous man thought of anime characters and monsters? Certainly not I. Motoi Sakuraba lent his compositional prowess to this title to craft the music for this game. Eternal Sonata was originally an Xbox 360 exclusive back when Microsoft cared about diversifying its library. The game would later come to the PlayStation 3 with bonus content in the form of costumes.

v83. Sonic Adventure 2 (DC) - That's the Way I Like It ...For Metal Harbor



Metal Harbor was Sonic's second level in the great Sonic Adventure 2. The song sounds like something The Mighty Mighty Bosstones would play with its hard rock core and accompanying brass. My first introduction to 3D Sonic was Sonic Adventure 2: Battle on the Nintendo GameCube. No one could possibly know that Sonic's rival to Mario would appear on a Nintendo system. It was a shock to the system when it happened, and Sonic has seen the most success on the Big N's systems. Chalk one up for another surprise!

v84. Final Fantasy Tactics (PS1) - Ovelia's Theme



A noble, majestic theme for Princess Ovelia, fitting for royalty, Ovelia's Theme is a magnificent piece that has such a glorious melody. Final Fantasy Tactics and its port on the PlayStation Portable, The War of the Lions, are both excellent games worthy of your attention. The PSP version has more content such as beautiful cutscenes and characters like Grimoire of the Rift's Luso to unlock and play as.

v85. Professor Layton and the Unwound Future (DS) - Main Theme


Professor Layton and the Unwound Future is my favorite of the four Layton titles released in North America. It had the most entertaining puzzles and side games as well as a truly touching story. The latest game in the saga, The Mask of Miracle, released on the Nintendo 3DS system's launch in Japan. We saw a translated demo at E3 of last year, so a localization definitely seems to be in the cards for the intelligent professor and his precocious apprentice.

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We've managed to reach the end of another edition of my favorite VGMs, but no worries-- we'll have five more video game themes to listen to and enjoy next week.

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