Saturday, April 28, 2012

Rayman Legends (Wii U) Leaked Trailer

This is old by Internet standards, but I don't get paid to post new videos in a timely fashion anyway. This trailer for the sequel to Rayman Origins leaked. It is not representative of the final game, the final controller, or the final hardware of the Wii U according to Ubisoft. Watch the faux reactions of the actors that play this game. If only they knew that they were playing something spectacular... There's no doubt Rayman Legends will appear on other platforms, so no worries on that front.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Rank Up! - Excite series

The Rank Up! train chugs along, and this time we are checking out the blistering fast Excite series. Rank Up! is no stranger to the SPC faithful, but for those unaware, this segment is where I rank several items in a series from least favorite to most favorite. It's as simple of a concept as you can get! Still don't understand? Why not read on? You're sure to get the gist of it. But first, what games will I be ranking up this go around? Note: The arcade version of Excitebike is not listed as machines are hard to find.

Excitebike (NES)
Excitebike 64 (N64)
Excite Truck (Wii)
Excitebots: Trick Racing (Wii)
Excitebike: World Rally (WiiWare)


Originally released in 1985, Excitebike roared and revved its way onto the Nintendo Entertainment System with motocross-styled gameplay, side-scrolling intensity, and plenty of crashes and spills for the masochist to adore. It would be over a decade for a sequel to happen, and it would bring the series into three dimensions with Excitebike 64. Two generations later, Nintendo would swap out the bikes for trucks in Excite Truck. Then, several years later, swap out trucks for bots. For a series that will get your pulse pounding, the Excite franchise is the ticket.

5) Excitebike (NES)


The originator, Excitebike on the Nintendo Entertainment System is a racer unlike many others. You can choose to play in two ways: 1) by your lonesome against the clock, or 2) against several CPU racers. Either way, there are only so many times you can do either of this tasks before boredom sets in. There is a track creator, but this suffers from two problems (two seems to be a popular number here): 1) the amount of pieces available is limited, and 2) you cannot save your creations on the NES version. (This changed with the 3D Classics iteration on the 3DS.) What you are left with is a title that may have been exciting back when it released in 1985, but it is now an ancient relic and a reminder of how far the series has really come.

4) Excitebike 64 (N64)


The nineties were rad and all, but the 00's brought us a new 3D Excitebike in Excitebike 64. Racing against five other opponents through one of twenty indoor or outdoor motocross racetracks, jockeying for position, and pulling off mad tricks were but some of the activities you could do in the game. Who didn't love a rousing game of soccer while riding aboard motorbikes, or climbing up an increasingly steep mountain as you aim to reach the top? Sure, crashing was easy to accomplish (especially for the timid), but that doesn't stop Excitebike 64 from being a stellar entry in the Excite legacy.

3) Excitebike: World Rally (WiiWare)


Taking the idea of the original NES Excitebike and giving the game an isometric view, Excitebike: World Rally (for this month only is available for North American Club Nintendo members for a small coin fee) gave players a letter grade depending on their time on each race, set across the world. Places like Canada, London, Japan, and Mexico were just some of the exotic locales players could virtually visit. By tilting the Wii remote, you tilted your motorbike to land correctly off of slopes to keep your speed high. How else will you get those record times? I greatly enjoyed my time with World Rally with the Wii points it cost me, so getting the game (up until April 30) with Club Nintendo coins should be a no-brainer! Download your copy of this game today!

2) Excite Truck (Wii)


Excite Truck launched with the Wii back in 2006. Seems so long ago, doesn't it? And while most of the spotlight shined down on a little known series called The Legend of Zelda, I had just as much pleasure playing through the insane racing experience known as Excite Truck. These trucks certainly packed a wallop as they were heavy suckers, able to slam into other opponents and send them flying. Introduced to this game was the concept of earning stars for your driving performance. Of course, winning netted you an abundant amount of stars, but doing tree runs (driving through narrow paths lined by dangerous tree hazards), doing incredible aerial acrobatics, and other sensational stunts earned you great accolades as well. The terrain deformation which changed the ground when you passed over a certain icon could send your adversaries soaring if they were unfortunate enough to be racing in front of you. Excite Truck keeps on truckin', and for that I award it with the number two spot.

1) Excitebots: Trick Racing (Wii)


Those of you who know me could smell this game coming from miles away as number one, couldn't you? I gush over this game at every opportunity I get, so why not gush over it now? Excitebots: Trick Racing is an absolutely manic experience. And I mean that in a positive way. It released to no fanfare, but I will forever be trumpeting its stellar gameplay and entertaining online. Where else can you win a race overall by kicking field goals, scoring soccer goals, flipping ten times around a vertical bar, collecting the ingredients to make the fabled Super Sandwich, gathering a handful of butterflies, and creating colossal crashes? I am drawing a blank, and you are probably too. Then there's gambling stars online in races. You can bet up to 5,000 per race, and if you win, you can earn up to five times your bet. You can even play a game of poker as you race. The zany nature of the game is unmatched in the arcade racing genre, and I can only hope Monster Games is working on the next installment despite the low sales (good idea letting no one know about the game, Nintendo).

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Okay now, be honest. Who saw number one coming? How would you personally order the Excite games? I almost forgot all about the WiiWare game. How embarrassing would that have been? Anyhow, please express your opinion on this edition of Rank Up! in the comments section!

PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale (PS3) First Trailer and Screens

Turns out that me calling Sony's Super Smash Bros. clone a clone wasn't too far from the truth. It's a 2D four player brawler akin to Nintendo's ultra popular series. I don't know what I'm more amused by: this awesome-looking game or Sony being one of the more creatively bankrupt companies in this industry. I'm sort of waiting for the PlayStation tablet now. Oh, calm down, Sony fans. I'm joking... sort of. Regardless, scope out this PS Blog interview and some direct feed action featuring Sweet Tooth, Fat Princess, Parappa the Rapper, and more!



 And as the title of this entry states, here are four nice screens for your eyes to ogle! Sly Cooper, represent!

Mario Tennis Open (3DS) New Screens

Nintendo Power, an American magazine owned by Future, in their May issue reviewed Mario Power Tennis with a 7.0 out of 10, citing a lack of an RPG mode as a negative point. I'm more interested in being able to customize my Mii to kick some online tennis player butt. I don't think I will succeed in doing the last part, but at least I'll look handsome doing so. Check out these all-new screens from the Japanese build of the game. Mario Tennis Open takes to the court in North America on Sunday, May 20th.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Report Card - Sony PSP

It's Thursday, so that must mean it's time to head back to class for another edition of Report Card! Today's subject is none other than Sony's PlayStation Portable or PSP. There are but a few games left to be released for the little-handheld-that-could, so allow me to grade everything from the hardware to the games the system has!


Hardware

The build of the PSP is fairly light for all the power the system possesses. The screen itself is 16:9, offering an exemplary view of gameplay. The system is the only handheld device to have an optical disc format known as the UMD or Universal Media Disc. These discs allowed lots of storage for games, but it also meant long loading times. Meanwhile, the battery life of the system is surprisingly good with a charge lasting anywhere between 4.5–7 hours. Not bad! The system takes about an hour-and-a-half to charge the battery. As for the controls of the PSP, the d-pad feels nice with each direction (left, right, up, and down) being its own individual button with the triangle, square, circle, and X buttons feeling great to press in as well. On the bottom of the PSP is the home button that can take you back to the XMB of the system, the volume controls (- and +), the brightness button, a button that sends you to the music player, and the select and start inputs. My main problem with the PSP comes from the analog nub, located under the d-pad. It's like a little disc that you slide around. It's uncomfortable for games that have three-dimensional gameplay, and for titles that require both the d-pad and the nub like Monster Hunter, for instance, you have to hold your hand like a claw. That notwithstanding, you have a technical beast on your hands with the PSP, a system that won't set you back in the cash department by much.

Grade: B

Features

The PSP prided itself in being a multimedia hub for gamers. It marketed itself this way to differentiate the system from its competitor, the Nintendo DS. The PSP has an MP3 player which you can store music to a memory stick and then play music from the system's speakers or through headphones. Though, I must admit that carrying around the large but thin system can be difficult to do. Regardless, outside of music functions, the PSP received its own line of downloadable games known as PS Minis. There's an abundant array of titles to be purchased and played, and the selection is quite good. Sony also dabbled in connectivity between the PSP and its latest home console, the PlayStation 3, as well as the Internet.


Grade: B-

Online

The PSP utilizes Wi-Fi play, so there's no need for wires to be connected to the system. Unlike Nintendo, which stumbled heavily with their online and went in kicking and screaming, Sony's online for the PSP is tremendous and easy to use. Online games like Resistance: Retribution, Hot Shots Golf: Open Tee 2, and MotorStorm: Arctic Edge offer simple access to the various multiplayer functionality each game contains. The online is usually lag-free and the entertainment value through playing with friends or total strangers is astounding.

Grade: B

First-party Exclusives

Behind Nintendo, Sony is a fantastic first party, and they deliver greatly on content for their systems. But unlike Nintendo, Sony does not mind investing heavily in new IPs, even at the expense of killing off old ones. We've seen quirky titles like the colorful LocoRoco, the rhythm-based war game Patapon, and the Sackboy-starring LittleBigPlanet. Then there's old standbys like the duo of PSP-exclusive God of War games, two off-shoots that surpassed the PS3 console installment, Hot Shots Golf: Open Tee 1 and 2, the ice-cold racing of MotorStorm: Arctic Edge, the third-person shooting bliss of Resistance: Retribution, and don't forget the lombax and robot pair of Ratchet & Clank in Size Matters. Even classic franchises returned like Syphon Filter and the F-Zero-inspired Wipeout. Sony definitely delivered on first party content with the PSP, but I feel they could have put their A teams on the games instead of their B and C teams.

God of War: Ghost of Sparta

Grade: B


Third-party Games

We already have come to terms that Sony's studios delivered on the PSP. Well, if Sony delivered on the first party front, then third parties mailed first class with delivery confirmation. The biggest franchises ended up on the system including Metal Gear Solid, Final Fantasy, Kingdom Hearts, Grand Theft Auto, Tactics Ogre, Star Ocean, Sonic the Hedgehog, Castlevania, Mega Man, Ys, and the title that cemented the PSP as a fierce competitor for the Nintendo DS, Monster Hunter. Sure, sales outside of Japan for PSP software was lukewarm at best, but the quality content from third parties certainly makes the system rank up there with the better of handheld libraries.

Monster Hunter Freedom Unite

Grade: A-


Overall

When Sony announced they were entering the portable market, many so-called "unbiased journalists" claimed it was the end of Nintendo's dominance in the handheld side of things, even though no games were revealed yet. Even though the PSP failed to defeat Nintendo's DS, it did become a serious competitor for Nintendo. It gained a fair share of third party and market mind share, and it also earned itself a legion of happy fans. This is all for good reason as Sony's first foray into the portable arena is one of my favorite handhelds period. It's sleek, it's sexy, it has a library that is hard to resist, it has an excellent set of features, and it's just fun to play. Here's hoping the Vita can get up and dust itself off because I'm still looking for an excuse to pick one up; Sony just isn't giving me any reason to.


Overall Grade: B+
(not an average)

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Do you agree with my assessment of Sony's PSP? Piracy damned it to failure, but it will always hold a special place in my heart. Let your comments about this installment of Report Card be heard/read below.

Dragon Quest X (Wii) New Trailer

The newest Dragon Quest is a massively multiplayer online game for Wii. Bet you never expected to read those words together! Dragon Quest X is expected to launch on Nintendo's box on August 2 in Japan. The various amounts of vistas, the battles with colossal monsters, and the modest-looking graphics make for an adventure that Wii owners should adore. Dragon Quest X is also planned for Wii U, so we'll see if we get any sign of it at E3 this year.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Colors! 3D (3DSWare) Review

Earlier in the week I shared a pair of my works from Colors! 3D. As I promised in the comments section of that article, I have a full review of this painting application today. Is Colors! 3D easy to use, intuitive, and worthy of your digital dollars?

Invigorate Your Inner Artiste


Back when the Nintendo 3DS originally came out more than a year ago, the system did not have an online shop. It was up until months later that the 3DS would get an eShop, and even then the pickings were quite slim. Now over a year later, the eShop has built a steady catalog of original content. Nintendo seems more interested in quality over quantity this go around as evident by the small selection of 3DSWare titles. One of the latest is Collecting Smiles' painting application (also available in 2D on iOS) Colors! 3D. It's the type of app that is beneficial and fun even for people without a sense for artistry.

Starting off with a blank canvas can be quite intimidating. The creative juices need time to get flowing, the ideas need to come pouring in, and you need to become familiar with the tools given to you. The latter problem is alleviated by the various help options Colors! 3D presents to the user. Every facet of the program is labeled clearly.

The controls of the application are easy to learn too. For instance, pressing the L button pops up the color wheel and brush settings. You can utilize an entire range of colors, shades of colors, and hues at your leisure. You can adjust the levers on the right side to make your brushstrokes as large or as small, solid or as fuzzy, and full or as translucent as you desire. Meanwhile, the R button is used as an undo function. Additionally, the d-pad is utilized in various ways such as moving around the canvas, changing the color of your brush to one that is already a part of your painting, and numerous other features.

The color wheel has a seemingly infinite 
amount of hues to choose from.
The difference between the 3DS version of Colors! 3D and iOS iteration is that with the 3DS you can switch between one of five layers to create a 3D effect for your painting. This is where the super-helpful Circle Pad comes in. With it you can alternate between the five layers to create impressive stereoscopic effects that aren't possible on the iOS version. Also with the Circle Pad you are able to zoom in or zoom out on your canvas which allows for either a full view of your aesthetic wonder or the ability to perform delicate details on your painting. The tools are there to craft some of the most jaw-dropping and gorgeous works imaginable.

With five layers to work with,
your paintings can come to life.

For those who don't have the greatest artistic sense or cannot draw as well, Colors! 3D allows you to take a picture from your 3DS' SD card and use it as an overlay. You can then trace it to the best of your ability. Of course, painting and shading in your tracing is up to you.

After your work of art (or lack thereof) has been completed, you can upload it to the Gallery. First, however, you must set up an account. All you need to do is use your 3DS to put your artist name, put in an e-mail, and set a password to have an account. You can view other artists' works and see them drawn out in real time. You can also save your favorites to your own personal gallery, add a comment, like it, and save it to an SD card. If you lack a 3DS and want to see works by aspiring artists, you can log onto the official Colors! 3D website where you can view paintings by artists and subjects. The level of expertise created by the community is incredible. The majority of the art is fantastic, though there are a fair share of duds such as people putting their system's friend code as the sole attraction of their piece. Sort of missing the point on not only the program, but also how friend codes are supposed to work.

Watch a blank canvas turn into a completed 
project with the timeline function.
The interface of Colors! 3D is sleek and easy-to-use. Regardless, the lack of a fill tool makes for an annoyance when you want to paint in a section of your canvas with a snap of the fingers. Also, occasionally when uploading or downloading another's work, a layer can get removed. This is a known glitch that can only be resolved by doing a backwards-minded series of steps. I've also had the application crash on me once or twice. Luckily I had my painting saved. Finally, making details on direct locations of the canvas can be tricky as the brush cursor does not always match the stylus' position on the touch screen. You can get around this by recalibrating the bottom screen, but it will affect your controls in other games. These problems are all small, but they add up to be major inconveniences.

Colors! 3D's interface is amazingly simple to use.
Colors! 3D is an excellent painting app that those skilled with the brush will absolutely love, and even those without an artistic bone in their body will fine some enjoyment in. The ability to share your works with the community, paint locally with some friends via multiplayer, and overlay pictures to trace all create a masterpiece of an application. This is one of the better titles on 3DSWare, and it is one that if you have a lot of ideas, you will find plenty of bang for your proverbial buck.

[SuperPhillip Says: 8.75/10]

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Sequels I'd Love to See - Part Two

It was three years ago give or take where I originally posted a list of sequels that I desired. My lust for new games in dormant franchises sends my stomach turning in weird and unusual ways. Sometimes I get my way. For instance, last time I wanted a Donkey Kong Country sequel, and wouldn't you know it that a year later Retro Studios came out with Donkey Kong Country Returns for Wii. Well, let's hope my calls for new games don't fall on deaf ears. The following is a list of games that I would adore seeing sequels to. Let's bring on the list, brother!

F-Zero GX (GCN)


There were two games released around the same time for the F-Zero series: F-Zero GX for the GameCube and F-Zero AX for arcades. You could take your memory card for the GameCube and place it inside the AX arcade cabinet to unlock content for GX. GX had it all: intense races, fast and frenetic speeds, a wealth of unlockables, a nine chapter story mode, brutally designed tracks, a high difficulty, and massive production values. Can you imagine seeing the F-Zero franchise's blistering speeds put into full HD on the Wii U? Oh, my mouth and eyes water just thinking about it!

Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing (PS3, 360, Wii, DS)


Speaking of racing games, there were a line of toys hinting at a sequel to this game, but since then there has been no word. I would love to a sequel to this, one of my favorite racers of the generation. There was no overuse of items, no rubber-band AI, and no cheap tactics by the computer racers. The online was entertaining, the mechanics such as drifting were delightful, the shortcuts were well hidden, the courses (though derived from a handful of locales) were crafted in a brilliant manner, and the character selection got me filled with a mighty case of nostalgia. I wonder how Sumo Digital would prevail at a sequel...

Skies of Arcadia (DC, GCN)


Vyse and the gang successfully fought off an evil pirate empire in the original Skies of Arcadia. A port with enhanced content and less random encounters (making for a less tedious experience) would end up on the GameCube. Collectors will pay a high price for a copy. I loved nearly everything about Skies of Arcadia. There was nothing like it at the time. Flying around a sky overworld in search of new locales and areas made you feel like you were in uncharted waters... so to speak, of course. Then there was the air battles against other ships and colossal creatures. I would hope a sequel would bring either the old cast back or a new line of heroes. Though, it seems Sega is committed to playing it safe with just a small selection of franchises they know will sell. Losing a billion will do that to a company.

Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem (GCN)


Eternal Darkness was a title on the GameCube, a console that the mainstream media and "gamers" derided as "kiddie." This was despite Nintendo allowing an uncensored version of BMX XXX, exclusive entries in the Resident Evil franchise, and this game, Eternal Darkness, on their system. It seems Nintendo's critics will say anything, even if it isn't grounded in reality. Eternal Darkness messed with one's mind. The sanity effects such as pretended to delete your data and lowering the volume of the game made for some hilarious reactions of players. We know that Silicon Knights has a Wii U devkit. We also know they are working on a project that goes "back to their roots." Is their project a sequel to this nightmare-inducing game?

Resident Evil: Revelations (3DS)


Sent out to die by Capcom, Resident Evil: Revelations should have been the game that got the lion's share of advertising by Capcom instead of the awful Operation Raccoon City. Revelations had the lower user base for the system it was on, it was of higher quality, and PS3 and 360 owners love their gun games so the marketing for Operation Raccoon City did itself. Regardless, Revelations was a semi-return to series' roots. The game was one half survival-horror and one half action a la Resident Evil 4 and 5. The game was convincing in bringing forth the frights, and I hope Capcom sees the critical acclaim for the title and puts out a much deserved sequel for Revelations.

Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia (DS) 


2D Metroidvania on the 3DS just seems like a simple notion. The Castlevania titles sold extremely well on the Nintendo DS, and they were of great quality. Those two things hand-in-hand make for a series that needs to come to the 3DS to continue the success. The fact that we haven't even heard a word from Konami on this is bewildering to me. 2D Castlevania is popular. Nonetheless, Konami has proven if anything this generation that they are pretty incompetent and can only survive by hanging from Hideo Kojima's pockets. They killed off Hudson, they handed off Silent Hill to a poor Western developer, and their Pro Evolution Soccer series is getting its butt handed to it worldwide by EA's FIFA franchise. Perhaps a 2D Castlevania this day and age is considered a gamble. 

Advance Wars: Days of Ruin (DS)


One of my personal favorite handheld franchises is currently in limbo. Intelligent Systems, the developer behind the series, has its collective hands in Fire Emblem and Paper Mario. Hopefully when they finish both games they can return to this excellent strategic series. Some did not like the darker direction of Days of Ruin. In fact, the game never released in Japan. I don't know if the darker direction is the reason for that or not, but I enjoyed the title regardless. Planning a tactical assault on your enemies, battling online with friends, completing missions, and creating your own maps were all popular and entertaining tasks in Advance Wars: Days of Ruin.

LocoRoco: Midnight Carnival (PSP)


The first and only downloadable entry in the quirky LocoRoco franchise, Midnight Carnival was a tricky and challenging game. It was also remarkably rewarding to play. Using the shoulder buttons to move your LocoRoco around the various areas, clicking both in to make him or her jump, and maneuvering through increasingly more difficult levels made for a bloody good time. LocoRoco just begs to be placed onto Sony's PlayStation Vita. The series could be given a new lease on life, a second chance in the spotlight, etc. Just imagine the vibrant visuals of the franchise on the Vita's glorious OLED screen. Are you salivating heavily like I am? I thought it was rabies at first, too, but I think it is my excitement towards the idea!

The Munchables (Wii)


Pac-man meets Katamari Damacy, the goal of The Munchables, a terrific title by Namco Bandai, is to gobble up enemies to increase your Munchable's size. As you grow you are able to visit new areas in levels and advance. The game oozed charm and cuteness with your Munchable being able to be customized with various accessories unlocked through getting high ranks and discovering presents in the numerous levels. There's nothing like battling big bosses like a giant vine of grapes, a chocolate monster, a humongous stalk of broccoli, and many more edible baddies. The Munchables released under the radar to no fanfare. To be completely truthful, SuperPhillip Central was the first place to release a review on the game. If you can find a copy, definitely gobble one up.

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Those are nine more games that I'd love to see some sequels out of. Do you have several games that you long for sequels to? Don't keep it to yourself-- tell your fellow SPC readers!

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