Friday, September 28, 2012

The 50 Best Nintendo Wii Games - Part Two

I'm sure you read the title of this article and did a double take. Perhaps if you had a liquid in your mouth, you spit it all over your screen. Sorry about that. You might say to yourself, "The Wii doesn't even have ten games were playing, so how can you possibly list fifty?!" Well, this series of five articles is intended for such uninformed statements. You might look at a game on this list, and laugh. They might not all be AAA blockbusters, but a great game is a great game regardless of content or budget. Lots of people learned that lesson with the Wii and handhelds devices.

On this week's installment of The 50 Best Nintendo Wii Games, we have a cornucopia of genres and franchises being represented. We have platforming, shooting, survival-horror, swordplay, and even some golf thrown in for good measure (yes, golf). Perhaps this second list of ten best Wii games will pique your curiosity and make you "dust off" that Wii of yours and try a game out you would never have known about otherwise.

Once again, I remind people that only North American releases will be listed here. Sorry, Fatal Frame, Disaster, and Pandora's Tower fans.

Super Mario Galaxy 2


Here we are, starting off with one of the best games of this generation, Super Mario Galaxy 2. The game was essentially a game based on the ideas that the developers of the original Galaxy couldn't fit into that game. Super Mario Galaxy 2 brought with it a stiffer challenge, basically heeding the calls of those who criticized the first game for its ease of difficulty in most levels. And if a certain level is too difficult to complete for a player, that player can use the Cosmic Guide function to have the computer play through the level for them. However, the player won't earn a regular gold Power Star, they will be stuck with a bronze Power Star until they have completed the level on their own. The game itself, much like its predecessor, had so much innovative and intelligent level design, great ideas like a level that changes with the beat of the music or a 2D level that switches gravity on the fly, and a fantastic soundtrack. Super Mario Galaxy 2 is definitely not as groundbreaking as Mario's first 3D adventure on Wii, but I would dare say that it is no doubt superior. It oozes perfection within its creative levels, tight gameplay, and constant surprises. If you own a Wii and don't own this game, you are doing yourself a major disservice.

Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars


I said it in my review that many said that Capcom localizing their seventh game in their popular Vs. fighting series, Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars, would not stand a chance of coming out legally outside of Japan. But with the help of Tatsunoko Production, Capcom was able to plow through the red tape and deliver the one of the greatest traditional fighting games of the generation. Multiple reviewers asked if the Wii was the right platform for the game, but then again, most of these people didn't and still don't view the Wii as a "real" gaming console (whatever that means), thinking the Wii didn't deserve "hardcore" games (how dare Nintendo steal our games!). Despite these doubts, Capcom has stated that the project was a success both critically, mechanically, and financially. Regardless, I enjoyed Tatsunoko vs. Capcom over Marvel vs. Capcom 3 for the reason that the gameplay was accessible enough for fighting game tyros like me (it used three buttons for attacks), yet containing enough depth for fighting game veterans. The gameplay generally involved two teams of two duking it out along a 2D axis. The characters and backgrounds themselves were modeled in 3D. Many Wii owners, including myself, can't thank Capcom and Tatsunoko Production enough for finding a way to bring this excellent fighter overseas. What it lacks in capable netcode, it contains enough characters, stages, and modes to make for a great game.

Red Steel 2


I never played the original Red Steel. I think it is safe to say I dodged a metaphorical bullet there. The original Red Steel was a Nintendo Wii launch title, and it was the first Wii game to be revealed with screenshots (aka bullshots). The game sold well, a million seller, but many who played through the game were left with a sour taste in their mouths. Perhaps they shouldn't have eaten the game (rimshot). This reason alone killed any enthusiasm for Ubisoft Paris's sequel, Red Steel 2, despite this sequel actually fulfilling the broken promises of the original game. In Red Steel 2, you were actually participating in not only great gun-fighting, but the swordplay portions of the title were excellent as well, utilizing Nintendo's then-new MotionPlus peripheral. You could switch between your gun and your katana at any time, opening up the gameplay possibilities exponentially. On the aesthetic side of things, Ubisoft Paris went with an impressive cel-shaded art style. The Wii was perfect for such an artistic choice as realism generally doesn't do well on the system. There is no doubt that the Wii launch's Red Steel took the wind out of the sails of the franchise for many people. It's a shame because Red Steel 2 is honest to goodness a terrific title with loads of personality and great gameplay.

Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition


I am calling it right now. Resident Evil 4 on Wii is the definitive version of the game. You may have played Resident Evil 4 on every possible device imaginable: GameCube, PlayStation 2, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC, iOS, etc, but you have not played the most optimal experience until you try it out on the Wii. Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition contains all of the content you could want from the game, including the PlayStation 2's bonus content, such as Assignment Ada. However, what makes this version the bee's knees (how that turn of phrase fits in with the realm of Resident Evil 4 is beyond me) is the Wii remote's pointer functionality. Aiming with Leon's wide array of weaponry was never easier, more intuitive, and just a blast to do, and if you felt the game was too easy with this control setup or don't care for pointing the Wii remote at the screen (it is a huge workout to hold your arm up, after all), you could utilize the Classic Controller for a more traditional gameplay experience. Resident Evil 4 is one of the greatest games of all time, and it is likely the greatest survival-horror title, too. The Wii version just makes an already phenomenal game even more phenomenal.

Rayman Origins


Unlike most games that have been and will be listed on these fifty best Nintendo Wii games, Rayman Origins is also available on other platforms including the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Nintendo 3DS, and PlayStation Vita. It is really a tremendous title regardless what platform you play, and I would include Rayman Origins on a list for the fifty best HD games, too. Regardless, what makes Origins so invigorating and enjoyable to play is that it is 2D platforming fun in such sensational simplicity. You run, you jump, you traverse up walls, you glide, you swim, you collect Lums, save Electoons in cages in various hidden areas, and you go to the goal. The responsive and entertaining platforming is split up occasionally by segments where you ride on a mosquito, sucking in foes and shooting them out, in these auto-scrolling segments. Then there are treasure levels where you make a mad dash through a collapsing obstacle course as you chase a treasure chest. These are platforming nirvana as well as some of the most challenging segments of the game. But what Rayman Origins is also known for, outside of up to four players going through levels locally, is its impeccably spectacular art style. The game is absolutely gorgeous, HD or not. Rayman Origins is a modern classic, and I cannot wait for the mechanics of the game to be shown in all of its glory in Rayman Legends on Wii U.

We Love Golf!


Now I imagine you might be wondering how a cartoony golf game can be listed as one of the best games of a platform. Well, that's easy as on the PlayStation Portable Hot Shots Golf: Open Tee 2 would definitely make such a list. On Wii, Capcom and Camelot's We Love Golf! is such a title. Remember what I said earlier about a great game being a great game regardless of content. Using the Wii remote to pull it back to set the power of your shot was intuitive, and swinging the controller forward once the mark passes over a specific spot on the power gauge made for an easy-to-learn, hard-to-master golfing experience. The game takes you across eight unique courses and three short courses of the par 3 variety. There's English countrysides full of castles, Japanese gardens, sprawling deserts with ancient ruins, and sweltering jungles to perfect your swing in. Outside of the standard Tournament modes, there is Match Play to unlock new characters, modes that focus on specific shot types like approach shots, and for the North American and Australian versions, online play. While the cast of characters is on the vanilla side, unlockable costumes depicting characters from other Capcom series can be gained through accomplishing certain in-game goals. Such characters include Ryu and Ken from Street Fighter, Zack from the Wii's Zack & Wiki, Arthur from Ghost 'n' Goblins, and Apollo Justice from the Ace Attorney franchise. A superb game of golf, don't immediately write it off -- it's quite good once you get the "swing" of things.

Mario Kart Wii


Mario Kart might not be a series known for dramatic changes, but don't be fooled -- there are some significant changes that alter the mechanics and/or gameplay of each entry. For instance, with Mario Kart Wii, the addition of four more participants were race made for some chaotic and crazy rides. Besides karts, racers could now choose to hop on a bike, something that differed in handling (e.g. bikes couldn't take corners as sharply as a kart, but bikes could ride on one wheel for extra speed while sacrificing control). What makes Mario Kart Wii so spectacular is its wide range of well designed tracks such as Mario Circuit, Koopa Cape, Maple Treeway, Toad's Factory, Dry Dry Ruins, Grumble Volcano, Coconut Mall, among many others. Alongside the sixteen new tracks were sixteen of the retro variety from such games as Super Mario Kart, Mario Kart 64, Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, and Mario Kart DS. There was also a stunning 24 character roster set across three weight types: light, medium, and heavy. Depending on the weight of a character, that roster member could only choose from a certain selection of karts and bikes. The kart and bike designs, having a grand amount to select from, were also a great inclusion. Perhaps what makes people return to Mario Kart Wii is the splendidly done online where, for the first time in the series, all tracks and battle courses were available to compete on. While much more dependent on luck than previous entries in the franchise, Mario Kart Wii is still a lovely entry in the legendary arcade racing series.

Monster Hunter Tri


Most probably know that the third mainline installment of the popular in Japan Monster Hunter franchise was originally intended for the PlayStation 3. However, the high cost of development and perhaps the popularity of the Wii console made Capcom change their minds on what platform to release the game on. Their end creation was Monster Hunter Tri. For those unaware of what the hubbub of the franchise is about, Monster Hunter Tri had players participating in quests to vanquish a certain monster prowling within one of the many sectors of a given land (split up by short loading screens). A monster could cross into any sector, so the player would have to keep up and keep track. When the monster was found, most of the time a battle of endurance took place, sometimes lasting upwards of a half hour in one encounter alone. The fun of the series not only comes from learning the attacking patterns of each monster, keeping not only your reflexes sharp but your weapon, and hacking away the monster until it is slain; but it comes from farming unique and more powerful equipment to make your warrior look and become more powerful. Online play allowed friends and total strangers from across the world to engage in the thrill of the hunt with other players. If you haven't yet checked out Monster Hunter Tri, you are best off waiting to get Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate on either the Nintendo 3DS or Wii U when the game launches in March of next year.

Muramasa: The Demon Blade


Japanese art and mythology intertwine to forge Muramasa: The Demon Blade, a beautiful title for the Nintendo Wii. The game was developed by Vanillaware, makers of Odin Sphere, which Muramasa is the spiritual sequel of. The gameplay has you choosing between two characters, each with a different starting point within the game and alternate boss battles and story. The game is a 2D affair, and action-adventure game with role-playing elements. Each character begins with one of three swords, but there are over 100 to forge, find, and collect. Overuse of a sword will make it break, but a broken sword can mend itself over time through sheathing it. Muramasa: The Demon Blade is coming to the PlayStation Vita, no doubt with added content to sweeten the deal. No doubt this already gorgeous game will look even more fabulous on the Vita's large OLED screen. Whether you want to wait for that version or just pick up the cheaper Wii game is really up to you, but don't pass up on playing this title. It is an artistic delight on any platform with the gameplay to back it up.

No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle


The original No More Heroes was a fun but flawed game directed by Suda51 and released internationally in North America by Ubisoft of all publishers. Most of the problems I had with the original game have been fixed in its 2010 sequel, No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle. For one, gone is the need to make money in order to pay the fee to fight the next boss in the game. Also gone is the empty overworld map which tasked players with driving around a desolate Santa Destroy, searching for ways to make money, finding collectibles, and just slowing down the pace of the game. There are still ways to make money in Desperate Struggle, but these have been made into engaging (if not simplistic) 8-bit style games. But the main meat of the game comes from protagonist Travis Touchdown slicing and dicing his way through armies of enemies and taking on powerful bosses which stand in his way of becoming the number one assassin. To join you along the ride of excellent motion control combat is a wacky off-the-wall story with plenty of comedic moments, featuring pop culture references and "loads" of sexual innuendo. (See what I did there?) A poor seller -- send out a game to die never works for big sales -- No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle is a worthy action game for any Wii owners thirsty for a more adult experience than generally publicized on a Nintendo platform.

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There you have ten more terrific Wii titles to titillate your gaming senses. Perhaps a game that passed by you that was listed here is one that you will look into. The Nintendo Wii has a stellar amount of variety within its massive library. It's important to pick out the good among the many items of software that are bad. This list of fifty Wii games is intended to help you do just that, and I hope so far it has. Next Friday we will have the third sampling of Wii games that no open-minded gamer should ignore. We'll see you next week.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Ratchet & Clank Collection (PS3) Review

Yesterday I touched upon the 20th anniversary collection for Kirby in a review. Today I am going to delve into the 10th anniversary package for Sony and Insomniac's Ratchet & Clank series. The lombax and robot pair have seen better days (looking at All 4 One and Full Frontal Assault's disappointing beta), but at least we can still enjoy the pair's past successes. Here is my review.

A Collection Worth A Million Bolts


It's an amalgamation of anniversaries this year in gaming. Final Fantasy is enjoying its 25th, Mega Man is powering up for his 25th (despite Capcom's gross disinterest), Kirby is celebrating his 20th, and the subject of this review, Ratchet & Clank are ten years strong. Yes, it was ten years ago that a precocious pair (and an unlikely one at that), a lombax named Ratchet and a robot named Clank, teamed up together to thwart the plans of Chairman Drek. The series would go on to span three sequels on the PlayStation 2, two titles on the PSP (Size Matters and Secret Agent Clank), and five original games on the PlayStation 3 (with the upcoming Full Frontal Assault being the fifth). To commemorate the 10th anniversary occasion (it is the gold bolt anniversary, you know), Sony assigned developer Idol Minds to craft a collection of Ratchet and Clank's greatest adventures in Ratchet & Clank Collection. Should fans who have already traversed Planet Veldin, Pokitaru, Hoven, Endako, and Oozla on countless occasions take the time to pick up this trilogy of some of Ratchet and Clank's finest action-platforming romps? And what about newcomers? Should they, too, get ready to lock and load?

The Ratchet & Clank Collection contains the three most popular PlayStation 2 games: the original Ratchet & Clank, Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando (known as Locked and Loaded in Europe), and Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal. Each game brought with it something new to the table to entice players, along with the franchise's trademark sense of quirky humor. The series itself is a combination of traditional 3D platforming and run and gun shooting. Along the way there are loads of entertaining mini-games to participate in. These can be as simple as gadget games to open locked doors or as intricate as hoverboard racing and ship combat. Going back to shooting, the series is known for its innovative and awesome weaponry. Who wouldn't want to set off a Mini Nuke onto foes or turn intimidating baddies into adorable sheep? Outside of weapons is a gaggle of gadgets Ratchet employs including the always trusty Swingshot, the water freezing and thawing Themanator, and the platform-summoning Dynamo.

Smile for the camera, everybody!
The game that started it all, 2002's Ratchet & Clank, introduced the world to a fix-it wizard Ratchet and and an intelligent, if not naive, robot named Clank. The two did not immediately hit it off. In fact, Ratchet did not originally even care about the galaxy being in peril. I mean, who would care about a corporate despot who takes pieces of planets around the galaxy to build his own greed? The two would eventually settle their differences and become the powerful pair that fans know and love. Unlike every other traditional Ratchet & Clank title, this first game does not have upgradeable weapons through the standard means of continued use. Instead, gold versions of weapons can be purchased via Gold Bolts (which I consider to be the hardest-to-find items in any Ratchet & Clank game) and a certain amount of regular bolts, the currency of the series.

From its humble roots in the original R&C...
Going between the first Ratchet & Clank and then playing Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando is sort of like being in a pitch black room for an extended period of time and then turning the light on. It's night and day. The franchise's controls evolved and feel much better and less clunky. In fact, the whole series evolved with Going Commando. Now, Ratchet's weaponry could increase in power and function after repeated use, encouraging players to not just rely on one weapon but to spread the love (and the pain to enemies). Along with leveling up weapons, Ratchet could improve his Nanotech (health) by slaying countless enemies and finding hidden upgrades as well as get armor upgrades. Then there is the godsend of being able to strafe, making difficult encounters less daunting and tasking to the player. Oh, and the ability to smash the ground with Ratchet's wrench, breaking all boxes around the loveable lombax. If you've ever had to do the time-consuming task of breaking each box or series of boxes individually, you'll know how much of a savior this unlockable feature really is. Finally, the Challenge Mode from Ratchet & Clank returns, but this time players can get a bolt multiplier through defeating many enemies without taking damage. From the pitch perfect pacing to the excellently designed levels to the humorous story of manufactured pets threatening the galaxy, Going Commando feels like the most complete and the most satisfying Ratchet & Clank game. It is at the top of my list, not just in the Ratchet series, but the PlayStation 2 generation as a whole.

...To platforming perfection in Going Commando.
The final game of the collection, Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal, debuted a long-running villain in the series, the... nefarious Dr. Nefarious. Alongside his butler Lawrence, the sinister doctor wishes to end the reign of the "squishies" by turning everyone into a robot. This is all the while having the occasional slip into broadcasting a soap opera. (Trivia: The voice actor behind Dr. Nefarious, Armin Shimerman, went onto voice Andrew Ryan in Bioshock.) Regardless, Up Your Arsenal focused a little more heavily on the combat aspect of the series rather than platforming. But don't get me wrong -- there's still plenty of the latter to be had. It is just the game seems to have been a prelude to Deadlocked, one of the black sheep of the series. There are several sections in the game where Ratchet is let loose on a battlefield, commandeering vehicles, and fighting off wave after wave of enemies. Up Your Arsenal also has one of my favorite mini-games in the series, a 2D platformer starring Captain Qwark, telling the story of the franchise in his decidedly polluted and biased viewpoint. Up Your Arsenal was the first Ratchet & Clank game to include a multiplayer component. Just like the original PlayStation 2 release, this PS3 version supports online play as well with modes like Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, and Siege (players storm or protect a base). These modes remain as fun as they were when they debuted in 2004, though nothing groundbreaking by any means.

Geronimo!
All three of the main PlayStation 2 Ratchet & Clank games have been remastered -- all are in 1080p HD resolution and contain the capabilities for 3D play. The framerate of each game has been bumped up and set to a steady 60 frames per second, whereas in 3D the framerate is only 30 FPS. The decision to go with 60 or 30 all depends on whether you prefer a very smooth or a very stereoscopic visual experience. In addition to graphical and technical improvements, all three games support trophy functionality, each giving the player a platinum for obtaining all trophies. Most trophies are tied to getting skill points, earning a certain amount of bolts, finding all special bolts, buying every weapon, leveling up all weapons, and story-related accomplishments. The games by themselves take anywhere between 8-10 hours to beat the first time around, but to obtain every trophy for a given game will last you up to 25-30 hours. You will definitely get your bolts' worth.

I can't be "arsed" to know why the game
is called Up Your Arsenal.
However, not all is well with the presentation, content, and tech of the game. For one, the main menu of the game is unremarkable and just lazy. There is the choice to select between the trio of titles and no other interactivity. The only thing to accompany you is an orange and yellow screen with videos of the series playing in the bottom left corner. But that is passable and not much of a bother. What is a bother is when I press the Home button during a movie and after the clip is over it repeats for some odd reason. There is also stuttering and visual hiccups within said movies that I don't remember being in the original games. There were also times when the game just crashed on me, forcing me to hard reset my PlayStation 3. These unpolished moments do not pop up often, but when they do, they are spectacularly off-putting.

Each planet gives off its own creative,
cohesive, and whimsical vibe.
Ratchet & Clank Collection is a phenomenal deal. Last generation, each Ratchet & Clank game would run you fifty dollars, and those were in standard definition only with varying framerates. In the incredibly commendable collection, you are getting remastered high-definition versions of the intergalactic duo's three best PlayStation 2 games for essentially ten bucks a piece. That is one heck of a steal. Not even Gadgetron's vendors could give you a better deal. The collection isn't perfect as there are some atypical freezing and stuttering issues, but for thirty dollars, no Ratchet & Clank fan should do without this collection in their library. If you're a platforming fan, you can enjoy a genre that has been tremendously sparse on HD consoles. Grab a handful of bolts and head to your local game retailer. This collection is golden.

[SuperPhillip Says: 9.0/10]

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Kirby's Dream Collection: Special Edition (Wii) Review

I am planning on having three new reviews before the end of the month. The first is Kirby's Dream Collection: Special Edtiion, a pumped and primed package for the pink puffball. At the time of this review, the Kirby compendium is only available in North American and Japan. Here is my review.

The Imperfect Pink Puffball Package


Kirby is without a doubt Nintendo's most versatile character. He's been in traditional platformers, atypical platforming games like Kirby: Canvas Curse and Kirby Mass Attack, racing games like Kirby Air Ride, puzzle games like Kirby Star Stacker, pinball games, and even a blend of billiards and golf in Kirby's Dream Course. This year marks the pink puffball's 20th anniversary. (Nintendo's little bundle of cuteness is almost old enough to legally drink!) To commemorate, Nintendo has released Kirby's Dream Collection: Special Edition, a compendium of six Kirby games on one disc with numerous extras. Is this collection a dream come true?

As stated, Kirby's 20th anniversary package possesses six of the more popular and well-known Kirby games. In the package there is Kirby's Dream Land (Game Boy, 1992), Kirby's Adventure (NES, 1993), Kirby's Dream Land 2 (Game Boy, 1995), Kirby Super Star (SNES, 1996), Kirby's Dream Land 3 (SNES, 1997), and finally Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards (Nintendo 64, 2000).

The six games of the collection.
Kirby's Dream Land debuted the blob-ular hero to the world. The game is on the easy side, and it is quite simple in mechanics as Kirby could not copy the powers of foes. However, his inhale ability was still available, allowing him to suck up and shoot out baddies, as well as float for an unlimited amount of time. I find the original Dream Land to be the weakest game in the collection.

The Game Boy titles have a special border around them.
Kirby's Adventure not only introduced the copy mechanic into the series, it made Kirby his endearing pink color. Unlike the ultra short Dream Land, Kirby's Adventure had eight worlds of multiple levels that could be played over and over again. Adding some replay value into the fold, Adventure had secret switches that were well hidden within many of the game's levels. Perhaps my main beef with the game in a mechanical sense, one that Kirby's Dream Land 2 shares, is that you lose your power from getting damaged. Later games in the series allowed Kirby to take several hits before a power was lost.

Kirby's Dream Land 2 brought with it animal buddies for Kirby to ride. Depending on what power Kirby had copied, each animal had a different attack style. There were three animals that joined Kirby's second handheld outing: Rick the Hamster, Coo the Owl, and Kine the Fish. Beating the game 100% is probably one of the most difficult tasks in a Kirby game. The game already is more challenging than your typical Kirby, but the addition of Rainbow Drops and trying to attain them makes matters more arduous.

Oh, how a series can evolve over time.
Kirby Super Star is one of the most well regarded entries in the series. It is a set of eight games. (I'm not going to make some lame Inception joke about how there's a game with eight games (Super Star) that is a part of a game with six games (Dream Collection). I'm above that for once.) Regardless, each game has its own objective. Revenge of Meta Knight has Kirby chasing after Meta Knight's ship while a time limit ticks away. Milky Way Wishes has Kirby going from planet to planet in any order, trying to collect new powers. The Great Cave Offensive is a maze where Kirby needs to collect as much treasure as possible. And so forth. This was, to my knowledge, the first game in the series that allowed for cooperative play between two friends or family members. This cooperative capability would return in the next game on Dream Collection's library.

Kirby's Dream Land 3 took the handheld franchise and placed it on a home console for the first and last time. The game is most notable for having an art style reminiscent of someone using colored pencils for all of the aesthetics. It is incredibly pleasing to the eye. Each level in Kirby's Dream Land 3 had its own side objective. For example, one level's objective would be completed by not trampling over any flowers. To reach the true final boss of the game, all objectives needed to be finished off.

Animal partners returned in Kirby's Dream Land 3.
Lastly, Kirby went 2 1/2D in Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards. Outside of Kirby moving so slow, the game is one of my favorite Kirby platformers. The main mechanic this go around was combining two powers to make a stronger one. Sometimes you could not reach a hidden area without having the right combination of two powers, and sometimes this annoyingly meant you had to play trial and error to get right combination of powers. In each level (besides boss battles, of course) were three hidden shards. Collecting every one of them allowed you to face off against the final final boss. Kirby 64 is what I would consider to be an underrated Kirby game.

Perhaps my only gripe with the collection of six games is that they are 1:1 conversions. That is to say that no alterations were made at all to make the games run or look better than they did when they released on their respective systems. Now, one could argue that this is a good thing -- they're faithful to the originals -- but there are obnoxious technical problems. For instance, in Kirby's Adventure, when there is too much hubbub happening on the screen at one time, there is an immense amount of slowdown. I would have loved to see Nintendo fix this. I knew it was not going to happen as Nintendo with their classic games (Virtual Console) are satisfied with releasing the original game with no touch ups, but it is disappointing regardless.

Apart from the six games the compendium contains, there is a slew of bonus content attached in the box and on the Wii disc. In the box alone are two goodies: a 40+ song soundtrack spanning across Kirby's stellar career (with two original tracks and a remix included), and a 45 page celebration book that possesses never-before-seen art work, design documents, and the history of every Kirby game ever released.

The collection in all of its opened glory.
On the actual disc is a bevy of bonus content such as an interactive timeline, challenge stages a la Kirby's Return to Dream Land, and three episodes of the Kirby anime. The interactive timeline allows you to take the role of Kirby, running along the timeline. Outside of checking out the year each game released, you can examine the original box arts of each game, and watch a trailer as well. The timeline also informs about events that took place around each year like Kirby's first appearance in Super Smash Bros. and info on pop culture and history. If you ever wanted a Kirby game to tell you when Janet Reno became U.S. Attorney General, Kirby's Dream Collection is the title for you!

From games to trivia, the timeline has you covered.
The challenge stages are similar to the ones found in the aforementioned Return to Dream Land. There are three "worlds" each with several stages, each with a different power for Kirby to utilize and master. Stages require Kirby to run through them, defeating enemies, grabbing gold, silver, and bronze coins, and trying to do all of this within a time limit. Complete mastery of each ability is necessary to gain the most points, nab the most coins, find all of the secret areas, and finish each stage in a fast fashion.

Return to Dream Land lovers will feel right at home.
After a set of stages has been cleared, a special door unlocks. It is a challenge against Magalor of Return to Dream Land fame. These challenges has Kirby and Magalor racing one another through an obstacle-filled course. The first one to the finish wins. Along the way, Kirby needs to nab each coin and defeat each enemy before his opponent does or he will not get the points. Just like the regular challenge stages, Kirby is rewarded with a medal depending on his total points earned, with the difficult to obtain platinum being the best.

Kirby's Dream Collection: Special Edition is definitely one of the best collections Nintendo has put out. It puts Mario's 25th anniversary Super Mario All-Stars package to absolute shame. I would have liked to see the classic Kirby games given upgrades as done with Metroid Prime Trilogy's original games. That said, for forty dollars you get six excellent Kirby games, a soundtrack spanning Kirby history, a book with loads of information to absorb, a cool interactive timeline, original and fun challenge stages, and three episodes of the Kirby anime to sit down and enjoy. Kirby's Dream Collection will no doubt be a dream come true for Kirby fans. As for everyone else, what do you have to lose by trying out one of most accessible (but still enjoyable) franchises in gaming?

[SuperPhillip Says: 9.0/10]

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Top Ten Nintendo Franchises

Last week a Japanese survey's results were posted on a site named My Navi. The survey asked Japanese men and women what their favorite Nintendo franchises were. The results for both men and women can be found here. Nintendo, without question, has the most powerful portfolio of intellectual properties. These ten are the ones that I adore the most. At the end of this list I will show the series that didn't quite crack the top ten, but they're honorable mentions regardless. Will your favorites make the cut?

10) Advance Wars


The Famicom Wars series has been in Japan across various Nintendo platforms since 1988. It is a long-running series, but it did not storm the Western front until 2001 with the moniker of Advance Wars. Players assume the role of a commanding officer (CO) from one of the various armies within the Advance Wars universe as they do battle with the forces of another CO. Both sides take turns in moving troops alongside a grid-based map, building new units through paying for them with credits accumulated through captured properties, and attempting to achieve victory through capturing the enemy's headquarters, defeating all troops, or completing a given condition like destroying a certain unit or capturing a certain objective. The series has evolved throughout the years, introducing new unit types alongside standard infantry, tanks, and aircraft, giving players the ability to craft their own maps, and implementing online play. War may be hell, but the Advance Wars series makes it look seriously fun.

9) Animal Crossing


The original Animal Crossing was released in Japan in 2001 and called Animal Forest. In the following year the game would be ported to the GameCube and released in North America, Europe, and the Land of the Rising Sun. The games have a terrific sense of open-ended gameplay. You don't need to follow a specific set of rules like most games. Don't want to pay off your loan to Tom Nook? Then you don't have to. You can converse with your fellow villagers, participate in holiday events, hop online to play with friends (only in Wild World and City Folk), design patterns, interior decorate your home, catch bugs and fish, donate items to the museum, and play on your own schedule. Animal Crossing relies on the gaming hardware's internal clock quite prominently. Stores open and close at different times, so night owls be warned. The series has seen three main installments in the West: Animal Crossing (GCN), Animal Crossing: Wild World (DS), and Animal Crossing: City Folk (Wii), with a fourth coming to 3DS this year in Japan and in 2013 for everyone else. On the subject of City Folk, while I immensely enjoyed the game, it was quite similar to Wild World. This is a main reason why the series is listed as only number nine, even though I greatly like it and find it charming.

8) F-Zero


It seems to be a popular line of conversation between futuristic racing enthusiasts on which series is superior: Nintendo's F-Zero or Sony's WipEout. I tend to be on the camp of people who enjoy F-Zero more. This is mostly due to the fact that F-Zero GX is my favorite futuristic racer, the one I consider to be the best of its genre, and one of the most challenging, too. The game was a collaboration between Sega and Nintendo, and it expanded on the universe of the series, showcased gorgeous graphics, and tremendously addicting and difficult gameplay. Since its debut on the Super Nintendo in 1990, sporting Mode 7 visuals, there have been several entries in the franchise across various platforms. While WipEout has had more consistently great games, the best of the F-Zero franchise without a doubt (in my opinion, of course) blows out anything in the WipEout series. Regardless, unlike WipEout, F-Zero has slipped into hiatus. The last game in the series as of now was a Japan-exclusive Game Boy Advance title that failed to enthuse critics and gamers alike. The Wii U and/or 3DS seem like the most obvious platforms to revive this lost franchise to.

7) Donkey Kong


The main monkey, Donkey Kong has been a character that has been both a hero and a villain. In the original arcade platforming game, Donkey Kong captured Mario's girlfriend, much to the mustachioed one's chagrin. The basic principles of the original Donkey Kong would be present in future games with the similar style, but they'd implement a more puzzling (literally) approach to things as seen in Donkey Kong (Game Boy), Mario VS. Donkey Kong (Game Boy Advance), and Mario VS. Donkey Kong: March of the Minis (Nintendo DS). When DK became a hero, some of his best games were created such as the Donkey Kong Country/Donkey Kong Land games, Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat, and even off-the-wall spinoff games like DK: King of Swing and DK: Jungle Climber. Whether you prefer Donkey Kong as a protagonist or as a bad guy, this great gorilla's games are absolutely fantastic.

6) Kirby


Celebrating his twentieth anniversary as a creation (his twentieth anniversary game just came out in North America two Sundays ago. Expect a review tomorrow.), Kirby is the can-do pink puffball. How many other pink puffballs do you know that can inhale foes, copy their powers, destroy armies of adorable foes, and still look so darn intimidating doing it? Rhetorical question. Regardless, Kirby is so popular with gamers because of the series' simple and accessible gameplay; charming visuals and music; and lovely everything else. Kirby is certainly Nintendo's most versatile character, appearing in so many spinoffs and original experimental games than you can shake a Waddle Dee at. He's tilted and tumbled, he's been turned into a ball and guided around by a player's drawn lines in Canvas Curse, he's been split up between ten Kirbys in Mass Attack, he's played a cross between golf and billiards in Dream Course, he's been placed inside a pinball board and smacked around, and that's just the tip of the metaphorical iceberg. As stated, it's Kirby's twentieth anniversary this year, and Nintendo celebrated with a game package that puts Mario's 25th to shame. North American and Japanese gamers can nab Kirby's Dream Collection today while PAL gamers will have to cross their fingers for the compendium of Kirby to reach their desperate grasps.

5) Pokemon


Man, talk about a long-running "fad!" Pokemon debuted in 1996 in Japan. I remember reading a special two or four page article on something called Pocket Monsters and how it was storming Japan. Little did I know that the same craze that affected the East would soon infect children and adults in the West. The mainline Pokemon games always release with two versions. The versions have subtle differences, mainly a selection of Pokemon that are only available in a particular version. The aim of each game to participate in turn-based encounters against wild Pokemon as well as other Pokemon trainers as you level up your collection of Pocket Monsters, have them evolve (watch out, Kirk Cameron!) into stronger creatures, and earn badges to become a Pokemon Master. Various spinoff like Pokemon Stadium, Pokemon Snap, Pokemon Pinball, Pokemon Mystery Dungeon, Pokemon Ranger, among others expand into other genres outside of the traditional RPG gameplay of the main titles. Pokemon as a brand (including games, toys, school supplies, etc.) is the second best-selling gaming entity, behind Mario himself. That is mind-boggling as the series is not even two decades old. Gotta catch 'em all, and apparently, gotta buy 'em all.

4) Super Smash Bros.


Did you know that the very first Super Smash Bros. on the Nintendo 64 was originally only intended for Japanese release? But when sales within Japan were quite high, Nintendo opted to localize the game for the West. And Nintendo fans and fighting game lovers around the globe can't thank them enough for their decision. And the rest is history, as they say. Super Smash Bros. pits a plethora of game characters from various Nintendo properties into 2D battles for up to four characters to smash, bash, and beat up. As opposed to traditional fighting games where the goal is to whittle an opponent's health bar to zero, the aim of Smash Bros.'s game is to attack a foe enough to smash them out of the arena. The series is more of a party fighter than a serious competitive fighter because of the transforming stages, simple controls, and introduction of items into the fray. While Nintendo fans argue between which Smash Bros. entry is superior: Melee or Brawl, or whether or not the series is a fighter, they can generally agree that the Super Smash Bros. is a love letter to them from Nintendo, and one that even non-Nintendo fans can play, enjoy, and cherish.

3) Metroid


This action-adventure series set in a science-fiction universe was one of the first showings of a female in a lead role in a video game. There are gamers who are 13 that just do not grasp how shocking it was to see this bad ass bounty hunter take off her gear and reveal herself to be a woman. "You mean I was playing as this chick the whole time? My mind is blown," or however people talked back then. Nonetheless, the original Metroid was not your typical action-adventure game. It was incredibly non-linear, offering exploration like never seen before in 2D game. It had tight platforming, fierce shooting, and many opportunities to get lost (and without drawing your own map back in the day, you really would get lost). Future games in the series adopted maps (the Metroid remake, Metroid: Zero Mission would add such a feature), and Metroid Prime ushered the series into three-dimensions, and it's one of the best games of all time. Perhaps a low point for a vocal group of fans is Metroid: Other M. While I wish the story weren't so heavy handed in its badness, I do appreciate the gameplay, even if it is more linear than normal and has some questionable design decisions (such as being allowed to use a weapon by your commanding officer instead of gaining one normally). That said, Metroid remains one of my favorite Nintendo franchises. I just hope the financial failure of Other M won't make Nintendo think no one cares about the series anymore.

2) The Legend of Zelda


For a series that is 25 years old, The Legend of Zelda has somewhat relied on the same design structure. Overworld -> Dungeon -> Overworld -> Dungeon, rinse and repeat. However, this formula has withstood the test of time as the games remain remarkable throughout nearly every entry. Many games in this legendary series have attempted new things, regardless. The original Zelda was very non-linear and open world essentially. How I'd love Nintendo to try something like that once more. Zelda II brought with it 2D action gameplay. A Link to the Past made a more structured approach, introduced two different world maps, and it's one of the best entries of all time. Ocarina of Time showed off time travel, Majora's Mask implemented a three-day system that Link repeated over and over again. The Wind Waker turned the world map into an ocean to explore. Skyward Sword had wonderful near 1:1 swordplay, really forcing the player to think about combat intently for every encounter, rather than just every now and then. The Legend of Zelda is one of the most endearing and well regarded franchises in gaming history, and it deserves all of the accolades and love it receives.

1) Mario


Who else could it be than Mario? Nintendo is known as the house that Mario built, and it's for good reason -- Mario is the best-selling video game franchise of all time, earning Nintendo loads of bank. However, sales don't factor into my adoration with the franchise. No, it's the always enchanting gameplay that I admire most. Mario is constantly in stellar titles that have the most magnificent level design in gaming. Even "rehashed" (a lazy insult used by sore gamers, but that's a subject for another day) Mario games sport thoughtful and clever design, as seen in New Super Mario Bros. 2. When Mario's not playing it safe, he's revolutionizing the industry (Super Mario Bros., Super Mario 64), expanding developers' and gamers' imaginations (Super Mario Galaxy 1/2), entering the RPG realm (Super Mario RPG, Paper Mario, Mario & Luigi), participating in sporty endeavors (Mario Kart, Mario Golf, Mario Tennis, Mario & Sonic), partying till the wee hours of the morning (Mario Party series, Fortune Street), and even doing some odd jobs (Punch-Out!). Even including solely Mario's platforming repertoire alone and ignoring his spinoffs, Mario is head and shoulders above most franchises in gaming. He is consistently superb, consistently entertaining, and consistently an endearing mascot with a cast of memorable characters.

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How could I possibly be satisfied with leaving out several series like Fire Emblem, Kid Icarus, Pikmin, Wario Land, Star Fox, Golden Sun, Earthbound, among many others? Nintendo has such a powerful supply of intellectual properties that it makes for a difficult decision on what and what not to include. It is my hope that my reasoning for including the ten franchises that I did (order great or not regardless) is articulated well enough for everyone to understand. While Nintendo's newest IPs don't get as much attention as their classic franchises, they, too, are a major part of the company's huge portfolio of intriguing properties.

What Nintendo franchises do you like the most? Any that I listed that you cannot find enjoyment in? Let me know in the comments section.

Monday, September 24, 2012

SuperPhillip's Favorite VGMs - Skyward Sword Edition

Starting this week and lasting for the next nine weeks, SuperPhillip Central is doing the VGMs a bit differently. Instead of having five different games, each edition from now until much later will be devoted to one single game. Today's first edition of this new and temporary treatment focuses on SPC's Game of 2011 and Soundtrack of 2011, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword for the Nintendo Wii. We started SuperPhillip's Favorite VGMs with a track from this game, and now we come full circle and start the next 200 VGMs with five tracks from the title.

v201. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Wii) - The Sky


Much like the ocean of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, Skyward Sword's sky is the overworld of the game, connecting multiple large islands and drop off points for Link to explore. Controlling the Loftwing took some getting used to, like any new control scheme, but once it was nailed, it was intuitive and felt great. The Sky's theme is a brass and woodwind-filled song that is incredibly triumphant.

v202. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Wii) - Koloktos / Moldarach


A brilliant boss battle theme for Koloktos, an idol that is listed on Best Boss Battles in Gaming History - Part Six, and Moldarach, this song increases the tension to an already tense battle atmosphere. For Moldarach, you had to use the Gust Bellows to blow away the sand to find the scorpion boss. For Koloktos, you needed to use the Whip to loosen and remove the golden statue's arms and then use a giant sword to unleash holy heck on it.

v203. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Wii) - Final Ghirahim


You face Ghirahim, the self-proclaimed Demon Lord, three times throughout Link's quest in Skyward Sword. This version of the theme, the final battle with the Demon Lord himself, starts off with a bang as a choir backs the traditional fight theme for Ghirahim. These battles put all of your sword-slashing skills and swordplay to the test. All those encounters with meager enemies has set you up for this final confrontation. Persevere, as Zelda and the world depend on it!

v204. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Wii) - Fi's Farewell


Fi's theme is played on piano and then pan flute for a gentle, forlorn theme, perfect for a goodbye. Master, there is a 99% chance that this theme tugged at my heartstrings. This was despite knowing that many players out there did not care for the character of Fi. Considering she constantly interrupted gameplay, I can empathize. Regardless, it's a fond farewell for Fi, and this theme only helps in giving the player a feeling of sadness.

v205. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Wii) - Staff Roll


The quintessential credits theme for a Zelda game, but then again it's so difficult to choose a best when many of them are so excellent, Skyward Sword's Staff Roll theme starts off with a flowing version of the Ballad of the Goddess, the main theme of the game. It is followed by the fully orchestrated version of The Legend of Zelda main theme, and finally, after an interlude, back to a rousing rendition of Ballad of the Goddess, punctuated by a full choir. A great sendoff to a great game.

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The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword was the first Zelda game to have the majority of its music be orchestrated. Not only did this punctuate the marvelous melodies and music very well, it brought a more "epic" - if you will - feel to the game. And it did so while retaining memorable melodies without having every song feel like its built for atmosphere solely like some games that are fully symphonic. I hope with these five songs you can see why The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword was nominated and won the category for Best Soundtrack of 2011.

Stay with SuperPhillip Central this week as we list the best Nintendo franchises, review Kirby's Dream Collection: Special Edition, and present ten more of the fifty best Nintendo Wii games. It's going to be a fun and busy week!

Until then, why not check out my VGMs Database for past video game tracks selected?

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