Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Buzz - August 4th, 2012

With the change of domain names SuperPhillip Central lost a lot of regular traffic from search engines. This problem will remedy itself as old entries of SPC are re-indexed by sites like Google, Bing, and Yahoo. Let's see what changes that created with the most popular posts on the site.

August 4th, 2012 Buzz results.
My list of my 13 Most Anticipated Games For the Rest of 2012 received a lot of traffic here and on various other sites such as N4G. It gave my blog the most traffic in one day ever. This was followed by the Top Five Spider-Man Games, a list that needs retooling as my opinion has changed, an episode of SuperPhillip's Favorite VGMs, the first installment of Killer Soundtracks, and the list of Pushmo QR Codes. We don't normally see an edition of the Review Round-Up on The Buzz, but I'm not complaining. What trails that are two Rank Up! installments, one of which was the former traffic king of SuperPhillip Central before the url change. Finally, we have Top Ten Greatest Gaming Spinoffs and New-stalgia, my newest segment on SPC. It is interesting how the new domain name shook the popular post lineup up quite a bit.  

Friday, August 3, 2012

Rank Up! - Mega Man Franchises

This year marks the anniversary celebrations of a number of famous video game franchises: Ratchet & Clank is ten years young, Kingdom Hearts is the same age, Final Fantasy parties for its 25th, and so does a little-known blue bomber known as Mega Man. Rank Up! is where I take a popular series or line of products and list them from least liked to most liked (by me personally, of course). Our subject today is the various spinoffs and series of Mega Man. Before we can get to what spinoffs I like the best, we must see which ones will be ranked:

Mega Man (Classic)
Mega Man X
Mega Man Legends
Mega Man Battle Network
Mega Man Zero
Mega Man ZX
Mega Man Star Force


Mega Man celebrates his 25th anniversary this year. While Capcom commemorates the occasion with a whimper and not a bang, Mega's fans are there to pick up the slack, despite their deep depression when they finally came to the realization that Capcom no longer really cares about the blue bomber. As of the end of 2012, the Mega Man series (and its various spinoffs) have sold over 29 million copies worldwide. Now, to be fair, it is pretty hard not to sell that many copies when only a few years ago you couldn't turn around without seeing a new Mega Man game on store shelves.

7) Mega Man Star Force 


Mega Man Star Force as a series isn't necessarily bad, but the reason I don't really care for it is because it's essentially just Mega Man Battle Network with an over-the-shoulder point of view and dumbed down mechanics. I mean, didn't we just already have six similar titles already with Mega Man Battle Networks 1-6? Did we really need more of the same just on a new handheld platform? The same gameplay with less complexity, the same exploration with few changes, and the same battle mechanics but using Battle Cards instead of Battle Chips? Apparently not as sales spoke loudly. The series was put on hiatus after three successive middling titles in a row on the Nintendo DS (and various versions like a mainline Pokemon game). Regardless, like I said, the Mega Man Star Force series is not particularly awful. It is just uninspired compared to past Mega Man series.

6) Mega Man ZX


Taking place two hundred years after the finish of the Mega Man Zero series, Mega Man ZX brings for the first time the ability to choose between a male or a female hero. Through acquiring Biometals, players can change forms. Model H allows for the ability to air dash up, down, left or right, hover, and utilize two blades to assault enemies while Model L grants its wearer the powers of swift swimming and dashing underwater. Mega Man ZX has an open world map, though the first game in the series had an immensely confusing world map. Mega Man ZX Advent, the sequel, fixed this problem. It also added the ability to turn into defeated bosses and use the range of their powers to advance to new sections of the game, like greater eyesight in dark areas and increased underwater functionality. ZX Advent, unlike ZX, had a full English voice cast which added to the perceived value of the game. Both are capable Mega Man titles, but the backtracking and challenge might put some players off.

5) Mega Man Legends


Although there have been only three games in this spinoff series, two mainline games and a Tron Bonne side story, Mega Man Legends is one of Capcom's most requested games that fans clamor that they want a sequel from. Like pouring out a canteen of water in front of a man dying of thirst, Capcom shamelessly and cold-heartedly cancelled any further development of Mega Man Legends 3, a much-desired and anticipated game bound for the Nintendo 3DS, even after asking for fan input at multiple moments. This announcing from out of nowhere sent a ton of negative publicity and criticism to Capcom. There's even a (futile) Facebook campaign to resume development of the game. Regardless, unlike the majority of other Mega Man games, Legends was played in a fully three-dimensional world. Players assumed the role of a Digger named Mega Man Volnut in a world flooded by water. The Mega Man Legends series was originally made to show off the 3D capabilities of the PlayStation 1. It did that, but the game suffered by the lack of a second analog stick. I find going back to the game difficult as the combat is rather clunky, making it artificially challenging because of the controls.

4) Mega Man Battle Network


Ten years ago Mega Man Battle Network premiered on the Game Boy Advance in an attempt for Capcom to bring some role-playing game elements into the Mega Man series. Six games, an anime, and various spinoff titles later and you have a competent and addicting action-RPG full of collecting chips and defeating evil Net Navis, most of which based off Robot Masters from the Classic series. Players take on two roles during the game: while exploring the real world players control an elementary school student named Lan. When he connects to the Internet, players control his Net Navi, MegaMan.EXE. Lan's gameplay was mostly typical RPG fare -- moving around destinations and conversing with the locals. He could jack into numerous Internet-ready and electronic devices where MegaMan.EXE could explore, finding items and collectible chips, and battling computer viruses. Many times in the games MegaMan.EXE could help Lan advance. For example, if a floor was electrified in Lan's world, MegaMan.EXE could find a switch on the Internet to shut it down. Battles had the blue bomber moving across a 3X3 battlefield, having the player select from a random selection of attack chips, and using them on the various viruses Mega came across. I enjoyed mastering each game, but the spinoff series became a victim of sequelitis and many of these were too samey for my liking.

3) Mega Man Zero


What I would consider the hardest of the Mega Man line of games, Mega Man Zero is a series that quite obviously stars Zero. It is set many moons after the events of the Mega Man X franchise and begins with a girl named Ciel awakening a hibernating Zero. The story involves a resistance putting up a fight against a xenophobic Neo Arcadia. Throughout the plot and the Mega Man series as a whole, the common thread is if humans and robots can coexist. On an interesting note, Mega Man Zero marks the first time a Mega Man series has had a definitive conclusion. As for the gameplay, it isn't that much of a dramatic departure of the Classic and X series. It's your standard run and gun, but this time Zero's performance is critiqued at the end of each mission based on time completed, damage taken, and Cyber Elves used. Scoring excellent ranks gives Zero new abilities. Although the scoring system is pretty harsh (once you get a C, it's pretty hard to push it up to an A over the course of the game), the Mega Man Zero series actively rewards players for continuing to work hard and strive to be better. If you don't wish to track down all four original Game Boy Advance carts, you can grab the Mega Man Zero Collection on the Nintendo DS which has the series on one game card with extras, an easy mode, and the ability to play through all four games consecutively.

2) Mega Man X


Most definitely the Mega Man series that I like the gameplay most out of any other, Mega Man X continues the tale of the Classic franchise and gives it a darker theme and more complex story with Reploids raging war and lives being lost. Mega Man X was a character who had much more mobility than his predecessor. He could climb walls, charge his X-buster (as well as the weapons he picked up from defeated Maverick bosses), dash, and even equip upgrades from hidden away capsules by Dr. Light. Such helpful benefits from the good doctor could be a midair dash, the ability to headbutt blocks, armor that provided double the defensive capabilities, and charged shot upgrades. Instead of Robot Masters, animal and object-themed Mavericks took residence in each game's eight primary levels. The X games also possessed a lot of secret goodies to uncover such as the aforementioned Dr. Light capsules, health-increasing Heart Tanks, and Sub Tanks that allowed X, Zero or later Axl to restore their health in battle. Later Mega Man X games experimented with 2 1/2D and 3D gameplay to varying degrees of success.

1) Mega Man (Classic)


My mind was a battle zone between thoughts of Mega Man X prevailing and Classic Mega Man being listed as number one. While I do enjoy the gameplay of X over the Classic series, there really hasn't been a stinker in the mainline Classic Mega Man games while there has been with the Mega Man X games (notably Mega Man X6 and X7). The original Mega Man was an incredibly novel experience. Instead of playing through a linear order of levels, players are allowed to choose from one of six Robot Masters (all future installments would provide a choice of eight). Each Robot Master has its own weakness. By defeating the boss in a given stage, Mega Man would acquire their signature weapon to use in the other levels. For instance, Elec Man has a huge weakness against Cut Man's Rolling Cutter weapon. It would take much fewer Rolling Cutter attacks to defeat Elec Man than any other weapon. (In fact, the other Robot Master weapons would hardly put up much of a fight at all.) This rock-paper-scissors type gameplay makes the strategy of playing the levels in the correct order all the more important. Of course, expert players can opt to play through the game's levels in any order they want for added challenge. Even Mega Buster-only, Mega's primary weapon, runs are commonplace. The Mega Man series had a bit of a renaissance several years ago when Inti Creates developed a bit of a retro revival of the Classic games, releasing Mega Man 9 and later on Mega Man 10 on digital platforms. The games returned to the 8-bit style of the first six Mega Man titles (7 and 8 were more modern takes on the franchise).

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Are you a fan of Mega Man? What are you favorite Mega Man franchises/spinoffs? What do you think of Capcom's treatment of the franchise in recent years? Let the SPC community know in the comments section.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

New-stalgia: New Super Mario Bros. Wii

New-stalgia is a brand-new segment gracing us with its presence here at SuperPhillip Central. The concept behind New-stalgia is to highlight recently released (within the past five years or so) games that I consider to be modern classics -- ones that I will look back on in the future with, you guessed it, nostalgia. To kick off this sensational segment, we have New Super Mario Bros. Wii to run and jump its way back into the spotlight.

What I said then:

"Each level of the game's near-eighty levels is brimming with secrets, obstacles, enemies, hazards, and surprises. The fact of the matter is that each level is masterfully designed. Each level is one cohesively enjoyable experience. Super Mario Galaxy had plenty of moments, but they were strung together by small interruptions of standard platforming. Not New Super Mario Bros. Wii. This game packs a punch from beginning to end. It grabs a hold of you in the very first level with new surprises such as rotating pieces of land, and it doesn't stop. It doesn't let go. One level you'll think can't be topped, and then the next single-handily destroys your expectations. It's a phenomenally designed game."


"Old and new are mended together wonderfully in New Super Mario Bros. Wii. Remember those spiked pillars that would smash you in Super Mario World? Now they're even larger in New Super Mario Bros. Wii, spinning and churning with rapid rotations. Airships from Super Mario Bros. 3 return with three levels of challenging platforming action. They were always the most impressive and difficult levels in Super Mario Bros. 3, and they're no slouch in this version of the series either. Enemies old and new are ready to get in your way, too, from fire-spitting piranha plants, to punching and pummeling poltergeists, giant, ghostly boos, ball-chucking spikes, plumber-consuming fish, sledge, fire and ice-throwing hammer bros, and many, many more"


"If there was one game that I could call magical [in 2009] and mean it 100%, it'd have to be New Super Mario Bros. Wii. Nearly everything fits together like a nicely-designed jigsaw puzzle. Sure, a piece or two might have been less-than-gently squeezed into place, but the package as a whole is brilliant. The levels are constantly surprising, challenging (especially the later worlds), and the game is a blast to play alone or with friends. One isn't better than the other-- they're just different experiences and ways to play. Without a doubt, New Super Mario Bros. Wii is one of the best games released [in 2009], and perhaps even a greater 2-D Mario than Super Mario Bros. 3, nostalgia goggles off."


What I say now:

Having played through the majority of New Super Mario Bros. Wii once more with a partner over the past few weeks, my thoughts on just how adept the designers of the game truly were when they crafted each level. The game constantly introduces new challenges and obstacles to make the various courses all the more original. There are plenty of callbacks and throwbacks to past 2D Mario games. One of the castles in the game has you racing to outrun large, spiked pillars (as seen in Super Mario World). You must run like Usain Bolt to reach each safe zone in order to avoid getting hit. Those pillars move might fast as they jut out. While another is an auto-scrolling affair akin to the original Super Mario Bros. where there are three paths before you, and you must choose the correct one or you will here a buzzer sound and must redo the section, picking another path to go on the next time.

Then there's the returning airships from Super Mario Bros. 3, three in the game total. Like the aforementioned castle and tradition for these types of levels in 2D, these airships slowly auto-scroll as well. Leaping on screws that spin as you stand on them to stay on top of the tricky platforms, nimbly dodging the fire-spewing exhaust ports which want to cook your goose, and avoiding the projectiles thrown by the irritating Rocky Wrenches all hark back to a simpler time in Mario's long-standing career. Alongside the airships are haunted houses where Boos and other apparitions call their home. These are full of false doors, secret exits, and hidden passageways.


The levels aren't just borrowing concepts from past Mario games completely either. There are myriad of novel and creative ideas implemented to make New Super Mario Bros. Wii feel less like a nostalgia trip meant to cash in on people's fond memories of Mario and more like a game that constantly raises the bar on intuitive level design. Right from the first level you are presented with a grassland level with spinning wheels that hide pipes that can be entered as well as the introduction of the ever-spectacular Propeller Suit. One shake of the Wii remote (what, a quick flick of both wrists is a workout all of a sudden?) sends you soaring high into the air to reach otherwise inaccessible trinkets and areas.

Even the second level, while following the traditional trope of a Mario game by being an underground affair, features something new with crystallized purple platforms that shift left to right or up and down and special walkways that when stepped on, allow you to tilt them with the Wii remote. Following a rendezvous with Yoshi, who appears in a select handful of levels to help, and a swimming stage, world one's castle brings you through a hazardous huge gear-filled obstacle course with a date with lava as your reward for failure. 


You might be thinking, "so what?" Well, that's only the first world. Other worlds present much more interesting ideas and levels. From a koopa coaster that descends into lava at various intervals (making jumping a safe and smart option at each point) to swimming through bubbles that are suspended in the air, to going airborne as you hitch a ride on a pack of skyward manta rays, to using falling icicles as platforms (and not getting crushed by them in the process), to acting like Tarzan and swinging on vines to reach higher elevations, to ascending a vertical fortress where the walls, each lined by spikes, shift left and right, to riding a raft across a deadly river while enemies like Bob-ombs, Piranha Plants, and Goombas fall on your only means of safety, to trying to distance yourself from a pursuing cloud of poisonous purple gas, to staying out of the center of a vertical fortress as you climb your way to the top, avoiding the lunges of a thick and lengthy spiked piston, to one of the most epic encounters with Bowser in series history (seriously)-- phew! I'm out of breath!


Playing the game with friends or family members is by far the best and most fun multiplayer experience I have had this generation, online or off. Working together to reach an out-of-the-way Star Coin, or getting in one another's way, using a friend's head to get some extra height off a jump while they go falling into the bottomless pit below is always a laugh. When you're really working as a cohesive unit, firing on all cylinders, and speed running through levels, that is truly something special. Even beginners can join you and bubble up when they get left behind. (Bubbling up refers to the ability to press a button to have your character float in a bubble, floating around as the other player(s) move through the levels. By shaking the Wii remote, you can float the bubble toward the other player(s) for them to free you from it. This is a tactical move as well in multiplayer as you can make a suicide leap to get to a Star Coin and bubble up to prevent losing a life.)


If I have one complaint towards New Super Mario Bros. Wii, it is that it doesn't do more to wow people with its visuals. They are certainly competent and perform well. The framerate is solid, for that matter. Regardless, everything just feels sterile. I wouldn't call it generic, a word that is thrown about so often nowadays. I would just call it a bit bland compared to something like Rayman Origins. Then again, this art style is a much more neutral and inviting one. It makes judging and seeing where to jump much more manageable than Ubisoft Montpelier's tremendous effort. Plus the collision detection is perfect as well.

As New Super Mario Bros. 2 approaches and the much more anticipated by me New Super Mario Bros. U comes close (the game I consider to be the true sequel to the Wii game), I find myself returning to New Super Mario Bros. Wii quite often. I probably just won't be doing so when a new Mario platformer comes out. No, I'll be coming back to this game whenever and wherever. It is a masterful Mario game that sits on the same shelf as Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World. The ability to play with up to three other people make this a terrific installment as does the brilliant level design, hidden secrets (such as level exits, Star Coins, and World 9), and that quintessential Mario charm. New Super Mario Bros. Wii is a game that many take for granted. It obviously sold fabulously (upwards of 25 million worldwide as of December 2011), but I feel because it doesn't reinvent the wheel or have the production values of a Super Mario Galaxy, it is poo-pooed on much more than it deserves to be. It is a game that is near-perfect, has the right balance of old and new, and delivers one of the best (I'd argue the best) 2D platforming experiences of this generation.

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What are your thoughts on New Super Mario Bros. Wii? Did my retrospective look of the game open your eyes some or not at all? What games do you think will be considered modern classics in say, ten years? Let the community know with a comment below.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

13 Most Anticipated Games For the Rest of 2012

It seems every year gamers are saying that "this year is the best year in video games ever." We roll our eyes, we chuckle, we shake our heads in disbelief, but sometimes we understand where these people are coming from. 2012 has been a pretty packed year in regards to releases, and the second half is going to blow the metaphorical doors off the place. It is full of big releases and terrific-looking titles, but which games are the ones I'm most anticipating? I started out with a list of ten, but then I realized I couldn't leave out that one game. Then it became a list of eleven, twelve, and finally, unlucky thirteen. Which thirteen games am I most interested in running out and buying on day one?

New Super Mario Bros. U (Wii U)


Let's start off with what is probably my most desired game for the holiday season, New Super Mario Bros. U. I love 2D platformers, and while New Super Mario Bros. 2 (the 3DS game) feels derivative, by-the-numbers (including its lame million coin reward), and an appetizer, New Super Mario Bros. U feels like the main course with a more inspired art style, cleverer level design than most games of its genre, and an awesome new power-up in the form of a flying squirrel suit. The series's renowned coin-collecting, 'shroom-grabbing, Goomba-stomping action is present and accounted for as well. New Super Mario Bros. Wii was my favorite multiplayer game this past generation, online or off, and with the addition of another player using the Wii U GamePad to help or hinder others by spawning blocks in midair (admittedly not the most novel use of the new controller we've seen), the Wii U iteration looks all the more promising. Some call the NSMB series a rehashed one because the art style is too sterile or bland for their liking, but the most important thing about a platformer is the level design, and the NSMB series constantly changes things up with new mechanics and ideas on a level-by-level basis. Hardly stale or a rehash.

Halo 4 (360)


I am going to be brutally honest here. I don't really care for most parts of the Halo series. I find the games possess utterly boring single-player campaigns and they feel rather like uninspired sci-fi shooters. Then you throw in the fact that I am absolutely bored of first-person shooters with even the lightest of militaristic themes, and my problems with the series should be clear. However, with Halo 4, I have wound up caught up in the hype. I don't even own a working Xbox 360 system anymore, and I am still in the camp that anticipates every piece of new news for the game. I am without a doubt a passenger of the hype train for the game. It seems more open-ended, and after growing tired of Bungie's efforts, it is nice to have some fresh blood (343 Industries) on the franchise for an entirely new entry. I am quite excited to see how their vision for the Halo universe turns out. Plus, multiplayer for the franchise has always been a load of fun -- even without my necessity for an FPS to have AI bots.

Resident Evil 6 (PS3, 360)


I was one of the countless people whose first Resident Evil was the action-packed fourth installment. I liked the game so much that I bought three versions of the game: the GameCube original, the content-rich PlayStation 2 port, and the superior version of the game, the Wii edition. Soon after, I played the previous survival-horror based Resident Evil titles, and I found them fun, if not a little clunky due to the slightly archaic controls. Then Resident Evil 5 came out, and while I really enjoyed it, it certainly could not hold a candle to its predecessors. Now with Resident Evil 6 on the zombie-filled horizon, Capcom has a chance to get back some of their lost fanbase who were disappointed with previous installments of the franchise. Of course, most of these downtrodden souls wouldn't be so disappointed with the direction the series has taken if they had played the Nintendo 3DS game, Resident Evil Revelations. Then again, not even Capcom cared enough about it to even market the game. Regardless, RE6 escalates the story of the mainline series, bringing Leon S. Kennedy, Chris Redfield, and other Resident Evil all-stars into the fold for one intense story. Will it appease those fans who want the survival-horror back in the Resident Evil series? We won't know until this fall.

Rayman Legends (Wii U)


Many gamers heralded the art style of Rayman Origins, and now with Rayman Legends (currently only announced for Wii U), somehow the world of Rayman looks even more detailed, saturated, lush, bright, vibrant, and colorful. I mentioned how New Super Mario Bros. U was my most anticipated game because it is the sequel to my favorite multiplayer game of this gen. Rayman Origins had multiplayer, but you couldn't really help your friends in the same way and to the same extent as you could in New Super Mario Bros. Wii (e.g. bouncing off the head of your partner to reach an out-of-the-way star coin, or carrying your partner through a hazard-filled room). Regardless of this, Rayman Legends is probably my second most wanted game as, unlike NSMBU, Rayman's latest uses the Wii U GamePad in some ingenious ways. The player with the GamePad controls Murfy, who can alter the environment and assist Rayman. One example is a giant spiked wheel where the GamePad holder spins the perilous wheel so Rayman and company can pass through without taking damage. The only caveat to having Rayman Legends on this list is that the release date for the game is nebulous. It could actually not make it to the Wii U's launch and skip 2012 entirely. I'm hoping it'll be side by side the Wii U when the console releases this holiday season.

Darksiders II (Wii U, PS3, 360)


We don't get many games cut from a similar cloth as the masterful Legend of Zelda franchise. It is just a genre that takes a lot of expertise to do, so when Vigil Games announced that their new Darksiders IP would be similar to Zelda, I was highly skeptical on how the finished product would turn out. Few have tried to outdo Zelda, and even fewer have actually come close. Darksiders was one of those games that honestly came close. The gameplay was a bit of a combination between The Legend of Zelda's puzzle solving and God of War's combat. The marriage of the two turned out to be a splendid pairing. The content of the game was obviously much more mature (and I mean that in the more-for-adults meaning and not the blood-and-boobs misnomer meaning) than The Legend of Zelda with a plot revolving around the apocalypse, demons, and the Four Horsemen. Darksiders II takes us from the role of War to the role of Death, and he's one vengeful dude. Darksiders II has the luxury of releasing in a month where not a lot of other competition is around, so I'm hoping it sells well for Vigil Studios to stay around as we all know how serious their publisher, THQ, is in financial trouble.

007 Legends (PS3, 360) 


007 Legends is a celebration of all things Bond, just in time for the spy series's 50th anniversary. The game is set to take place across several classic Bond films such as On Her Majesty's Secret Service and Moonraker. Already there is a great mix of locales to be had from those two movies alone. There will even be a special Skyfall chapter to represent the upcoming 23rd movie in the long-running franchise. All of the six movies will be tied together with an overarching narrative, and Legends will have an all-star cast, including Daniel Craig as 007, Dame Judi Dench as M, and many classic actors from their respective films will be reprising their roles exclusively for this game. Ever since first watching Pierce Brosnan as James Bond in GoldenEye I have been a huge fan of Bond, and this love letter to those enamored by the series will no doubt find something to adore with 007 Legends.

Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed (Multi)


Sonic and many of his fellow Sega acquaintances (plus some bonus characters like the odd choice of racing star Danica Patrick) once again take to the tracks with the sequel to, in my opinion, the best kart racer of this past generation. Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed takes Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, Dr. Eggman, Aiai (Super Monkey Ball), Samba (Samba de Amigo), Ulala (Space Channel 5), Vyse (Skies of Arcadia), and more through multiple transforming tracks on their way to capture first place. Of course, the tracks aren't the only things that are transforming in this sequel to Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing. No, so are the various vehicles the participants race in which also shape-shift to fit the given challenge. Vehicles can turn into planes and watercraft for when the necessity calls for it. Depending on the console the game is purchased on, the roster will have a varying size of characters. Can we expect platform-exclusive racers? With a desperate-for-money Sega, you bet we can!

LittleBigPlanet Karting (PS3) 


Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed isn't the only kart racer gunning for first place in your heart this holiday season. LittleBigPlanet Karting is also revving its engine for your hard-earned dough. The beta is currently in full swing, and I can see some potential in this game. Sure, the rubber-band AI, a problem from ModNation Racers, rears its ugly head into the fun, but the community is already strong. LittleBigPlanet Karting is unlike any other kart racer on consoles as players can create their own custom tracks with the incredibly detailed and exhaustive track creator. I couldn't manage to make anything in the beta as the game would freeze a ton, forcing me to hard reset my PlayStation 3. Regardless, I am assuming the final version will not have this as a problem. Outside of regular circuit races, creators can make battle arenas and special mini-games. The extent to what can be crafted is limited only to your imagination. If the final product fixes some of the problems I have with the beta, LittleBigPlanet Karting could be one of the PS3's top titles for me this holiday season.

PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale (PS3, PSV)


I am a person who has grown to no longer be able to tolerate console wars. Every matter and every subject on gaming forums (which are awful and impossible to have serious discourse on anyway because most gamers are insecure man-children) turns into such nonsense. When PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale was officially announced, forums were impossible to read without viewing constant assaults by Nintendo fans claiming Sony "stole" Super Smash Bros., and PlayStation fans vehemently defending like either side's corporation they were championing cared. Regardless, I am excited for anything similar to Super Smash Bros., and I adore a lot of the PlayStation's mascots, though they are decidedly not as memorable or marketable as Nintendo's. But with characters like Ratchet, Jak, Sly Cooper, Nathan Drake, and Parappa the Rapper, I can't complain. By building up meters through attacking others, players can unleash killer moves on their opponents to score points. The recent leaks revealed stages based in the Resistance, Uncharted, Sly Cooper, inFamous, LocoRoco, and Twisted Metal universes. If you're a fan of PlayStation or even a lover of party fighters, All-Stars Battle Royale seems to be a must-have.

Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time (PS3, PSV)


After a bit of an extended hiatus, Sly Cooper and the gang are back in an all-new adventure! With worlds described as being three times the size of past games, secret masks, clue bottles, and other collectibles to acquire, a multitude of Sly Cooper's returning and brand-new abilities, and the option of assuming the roles of many of Sly's ancestors, Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time is setting itself up to be an excellent 3D platformer. Despite the game not being developed by the original studio behind the original trilogy, Sucker Punch, from the gameplay footage I've seen, Sanzaru Games (they created The Sly Collection) is without a doubt going to continue the outstanding legacy the Sly Cooper series is known for. Like PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time will be available not only on the PlayStation 3, but it will also be released on Sony's Vita handheld.

New Super Mario Bros. 2 (3DS) 


Like I said previously, I consider New Super Mario Bros. 2 to be an appetizer compared to New Super Mario Bros. U which is the main course. While the Wii U game is being made by series veterans, the 3DS game was created by newcomers to the franchise. They even had to take a crash course on Mario to understand the philosophies behind the level design for the series. The notion that is supposed to separate the 3DS iteration from the Wii U one is the object of collecting coins. Coins are everywhere: in blocks, in pipes, dropped by enemies, and strewn all about the many lands of the game. If only money came this easily in the real world! Regardless, the actual reward for gathering the much hyped one million coins is in all honesty a joke compared to the publicity Nintendo was giving it. Very disappointing, but at the same token, I play Mario games not for little carrots at the end of a string that coax me into playing more like the reward, I play them for the creative levels. Knowing that, I'm excited to get my hands on New Super Mario Bros. 2.

Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon (3DS)
 

Luigi hasn't had many chances to have a starring role. I don't really know if Mario is Missing is a game he's happy to have starring credit in. However, the GameCube launch title, Luigi's Mansion, is definitely one the cowardly plumber can take solace in having on his resume, however brief the haunting adventure was. Now, many years later Luigi is getting another chance to shine with his own handheld trek through not just one, but many haunted houses with Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon. From clock towers to frozen abodes, Luigi will (not so) bravely trek through ghost-filled mansions and perform all the coin-finding, ghost-vacuuming action he can. Nintendo currently has Dark Moon scheduled for a holiday release, but an October launch would be perfect. I mean, the marketing writes itself!

Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion (3DS)


While Junction Point is away making the sequel to the Wii's Disney Epic Mickey with Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two, I am more interested in this 2D platformer, exclusive to the Nintendo 3DS. It stars Mickey Mouse as he moves through various Disney-themed worlds in search of friends to rescue. By using the touch screen to trace objects, Mickey can summon them onto the top screen, such as a pirate ship's cannon. He has to be careful, though. Tracing an object poorly will cause the object to be a danger to Mickey! Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion is a spiritual sequel to the Sega Genesis classic, Castle of Illusion. It is also being developed by Dreamrift, the team behind the Nintendo DS games Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure and Monster Tale. Even without being able to view the screens of the game in 3D, I can tell the effect is going to be breathtaking. I loves me some parallax scrolling. Oh, kill me now for using the phrase "I loves me."

===

With only thirteen games being listed, I'm sure there are plenty that I missed or purposefully left out (most likely the latter) that you would have liked to have seen. Which games coming out in the second half of 2012 intrigue you the most? Let me know in the comments or send a tweet to SP_Central.

Review Round-Up - July 2012

What's old is new again with Theatrhythm.
July was Retro Review Month, thus the majority of reviews written were of the retro variety. However, I am sort of interested in extending the old school fun till the end of summer. What do you guys and gals out there think should happen?

Regardless, even though we are smack dab in the dog days of summer and the paltry release schedule, July was busy month review-wise. We started off with the Game Boy's Donkey Kong, climbing its way to a remarkable 9.0. From high to low, we swung with the webhead with Spider-Man: The Movie, which could only muster a disappointing 4.0. I've gotta update my Top Five Spider-Man Game list. Moving on, the highest-scoring retro reviews of July were Kirby Super Star, getting a gold star with a 9.25 and Mega Man X2, running, jumping, and shooting its way to a 9.5. Even though we examined a new release, Theatrhythm Final Fantasy (8.5), this rhythm game featuring much old school styling made it still feel quite retro. But it wasn't all classics from gaming eras gone by. We had the chance to take to the kitchen in Order Up!! (6.75) and practice our balancing act with Art of Balance TOUCH! (8.5) We then quickly went back into the classics with my first experiences with Metroid II: Return of Samus, Kid Icarus: Of Myths and Monsters, Tomba!, and Spider-Man 2 -- all of which scored an excellent 8.0. Finally, Wario charged onto the scene and earned an 8.75 for his efforts with Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3. A very productive and nostalgia-inducing month.

All scores are out of 10.
5 = Average
* = Guest Review
 

Donkey Kong (GB, 3DS VC) - 9.0
Spider-Man: The Movie (PS2, GCN, XBX) - 4.0
Kirby Super Star (SNES, Wii VC) - 9.25
Mega Man X2 (SNES, Wii VC) - 9.5
Theatrhythm Final Fantasy (3DS) - 8.5
Order Up!! (PS3) - 6.75
Art of Balance TOUCH! (3DSWare) - 8.5
Metroid II: Return of Samus (GB, 3DS VC) - 8.0
Kid Icarus: Of Myths and Monsters (GB, 3DS VC) - 8.0
Tomba! (PS1) - 8.0
Spider-Man 2 (PS2, GCN, XBX) - 8.0
Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3 (GB, 3DS VC) - 8.75

Lightning leads the critical chain charge.

Central City Census - August 2012

The heat of July has transferred over to August as Central City is in the middle of yet another relentless heat wave. Regardless, I am staying cool inside, writing up my thoughts on the Central City Census results for the month of July 2012.


The question asked was - well, you can see, can't you? I guess I don't need to restate it. In any event, I'm actually surprised by the Nintendo console that won. I was definitely not expecting the Wii to win given all of the negativity surrounding it, the arguments that it has no games, and comments that it is the worst mainstream console in gaming history (you know my thoughts on what actually is). I had thought the Super Nintendo would easily pull out a victory, but thankfully I didn't bet money on this poll. My lone shark beat me up last month because of a poor bet regarding June's census. The GameCube earned third place, followed by the Nintendo 64, and finally the NES scored a respectable ten votes.

But that wasn't the only poll being conducted. A three month long special poll (one that required visitors to scroll down a little) was online as well. Here were the results of that one.

What is your favorite part about SuperPhillip Central?

The articles (i.e. Most Overlooked games)
  24 (40%)
 
The editorials
  16 (27%)
 
The reviews
  21 (35%)
 
The recurring segments like Rank Up!
  17 (28%)
 
The top ten/top five lists
  25 (42%)
 
The screens/videos
  8 (13%)

Now, with these results, this does not mean I am going to start spamming this site top ten/top five lists on a daily basis, but it does help me understand better what regulars of the site like seeing the most on SuperPhillip Central. I'm happy to see that articles and reviews were close behind as that is what I spend a good portion of time on. Sort of glad to see screens and videos in last place as they obviously take the least amount of effort to post. Those being the sole unoriginal content on this site.

Thanks to everyone who voted on both or either poll. Now what is in store for the steamy and sultry month of August? Let's find out.

Video games can be purchased virtually anywhere -- big box retailers, toy stores, game retailers, online, etc. August's Central City Census asks where do you purchase games from the most? The census closes at the start of September.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3 (GB, 3DS VC) Retro Review

I'm at a bit of a crossroads here. Retro Review Month has been so successful (really, it has) that I have been considering extending it to the rest of the summer. What do you guys think? Can you ever have too much retro goodness? Regardless, our next review takes us to the shores of Kitchen Island as we traverse Rice Beach, climb up Mt. Teapot, and hop aboard the S.S. Tea Cup for treasure and adventure. (But mostly treasure.) The game is Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3 for Game Boy and the Nintendo 3DS's eShop as a digital download.

It's Wario's Land: We All Just Live In It.


One of the more favorite characters in the Mario universe is Wario. He wasn't always so loved. A series of handheld titles under the Wario Land moniker helped bolster his reputation among gamers. The games held their own compared to other Nintendo platformers, sure, but they also distanced themselves from the formula Mario and friends built, especially in later Wario Land titles. Wario was not content enough with stealing Mario's castle in Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins. No, no. He upped and took the entire Super Mario Land series from the heroic plumber! Nevertheless, Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3 remains one of the better Game Boy titles on the platform. Its treasure-hunting, booty-plundering brilliance remains golden to this day.

Super Mario Land 3 is a typical 2D platformer. There are seven areas in total of Wario Land's Kitchen Island, one of which is hidden. Most levels are straightforward left-to-right affairs while some are vertical in appearance and design. The design of each level creates a terrific sense of variety, and not just because each area has its own trope. For instance, Parsley Woods is a mainly forested set of levels, but at the same time there are non-trope related train levels to enjoy and endure. Meanwhile, Stove Canyon has a course where the majority of the time Wario is running from a wall of fast-moving fire. Levels are relatively short. The longest ones take about five minutes to go through, but even those have checkpoint totems (turned on by Wario by spending a specific amount of coins) in a room mid-level.

The time limits of each course are very generous.
Every final level in a given area of Kitchen Island has a boss encounter to round off the platforming fun. These are mostly your standard three-hits-and-they-are-dead battles, but each has a great feeling of originality when compared to one another. Whether you're hurling stone boogers at the face of a foe or knocking a minotaur off the battlefield, you and Wario will have your work cut out for both of you. My only gripe with how bosses and the courses they occur in is that it can be annoying dying at a boss and having to restart the level midway through instead of near the boss's door.

A face only a mother could love.
At the conclusion of each level, you have the choice of entering one of two mini-games. The first is where you wager your currently held amount of coins and pull one of two strings. One bucket will dump a sack of coins on Wario which will double his earnings; the other will drop a ten ton weight on him, cutting his winnings in half. This game can be played three times before Wario calls it a day. The second mini-game has a foreground Wario chucking five bombs into the background at a moving enemy. Depending on how many bombs hit their intended target, Wario will earn a certain prize, a 1up being the best he can muster. I found this game too difficult to actually win.

Bashing baddies and conquering Kitchen Island is only half of the entertainment found in Wario Land. The other half comes from collecting coins and treasure. There are fifteen treasures in the forty courses (the levels of the game) of Kitchen Island. Each is hidden behind a locked skull door that Wario needs to retrieve the key of. Some of these are placed in exceptionally devious locations. I'm alluding to ones where you have to walk through an invisible wall to reach them. Pretty sneaky, sis. After beating the final boss of the game in Syrup Castle, the final area of Kitchen Island, the game tallies up the total of the treasures and tally of coins that you possess. Depending on how much you have acquired (up to 99,999), Wario will receive a different home. From owning a log cabin to having his own face on a moon, Wario's work will most definitely not be for naught.

Competent platforming is key in Wario Land.
Treasures are not the only secrets to be found in Super Mario Land 3. No, like Super Mario World and Super Mario Land 2, Wario Land has plenty of secret exits. Unlike levels where there are treasure inside them, courses with secret exits are marked clearly on the overworld map. Sherbet Land, the game's seventh and hidden area, can only be visited through discovering a secret exit within one of the levels of Mt. Teapot. Finding a lot of these exits can be quite challenging and require you to play through a level more than once just to uncover them. To discover all there is to Wario Land won't take too long of a time. In fact, I got a perfect game from just over five hours of fun. Even with the game beaten once, I am anxious to return to it once again.

Make your opposition see stars.
Like a standard Mario game, Wario Land has its fair share of power-ups in the form of hats to, well, power up with. Standard normal-sized Wario can charge into enemies and blocks with a shoulder thrust. By finding some bull horns, Wario can destroy blocks with one charge as opposed to the ordinary two. While in the air, the plump antihero is able to pound the ground, dazing nearby foes as well as crashing through blocks from above. Finally, Bull Wario can use his sharp horns to stick into the ceiling for an unlimited amount of time. While this feat has few uses throughout the length of the game, it is good to have. Meanwhile, Jet Wario can momentarily speed through the sky, flying over large chasms like a superhero. Finally, Dragon Wario grants the greedy treasure hunter the power of breathing fire to close by foes. Any time Wario is hit in a powered-up form, he turns into a miniature Wario, a form that cannot charge at all. If damaged in this state, you, the player, lose a life.

This level is a series of slow-moving carts.
Wario Land is a capable game graphically. It is without a doubt one of the better looking original Game Boy games as it released in 1994. The sprites of Wario, enemies, and bosses are detailed quite well. They're large enough to see the intricacies of, but they're not too big to take up a majority of the screen, resulting in unfair hits to Wario. The game is slow enough that you don't need to see far ahead of you to know what is coming. Backgrounds have a nice amount of character, especially indoor areas of the game. Regarding sound, the music is nowhere near as catchy as past Super Mario Land games, but Wario Land's soundtrack can still catch you humming it whilst you play.

Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3 was the start of something splendid. It turned Wario from villain to antihero, and launched a series of games with a cult following. Wario Land may never be as popular or have as many games developed for it than the Mario franchise, but it is yet another 2D platforming franchise from Nintendo that gamers around the world have accepted with open arms. The length of the game might bother some players who are used to 10+ hour adventures, but for the small asking price on the Nintendo eShop, Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3 is one treasure certainly worth taking.

[SuperPhillip Says: 8.75/10]

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