Saturday, October 3, 2015

Review Round-Up - September 2015

Build your own Mario masterpieces with Super Mario Maker,
SuperPhillip Central's Game of the Month for September.
SuperPhillip Central didn't receive its biggest total month of reviews-- far from it-- but it did have quality over quantity. We kicked off the month with Solatorobo: Red the Hunter, as a retro review that earned a B-. Then the Game of the Month, Super Mario Maker, scored an excellent A. Following that was another Nintendo DS retro review with Tony Hawk's American Sk8land, a much better product than what Activision recently put out with Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5. Sk8land ollied into a B. Finally, two Nintendo 3DS reviews capped off the month, LBX: Little Battlers eXperience and Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer. They earned a B and a C respectively.

Solatorobo: Red the Hunter (DS) - B-
Super Mario Maker (Wii U) - A
Tony Hawk's American Sk8land (DS) - B
LBX: Little Battlers eXperience (3DS) - B
Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer (3DS) - C

Not all was happy with Happy Home Designer, but I enjoyed
the customization options enough to give it a mild recommendation.

Friday, October 2, 2015

The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes (3DS) The Princess's Tell-All Trailer

The Legend of Zelda series isn't above getting goofy and whimsical at times, as this voiced trailer for the upcoming 10/23/15 release, Tri Force Heroes, shows. Partner up with two friends or total strangers as you solve one of over 25 dungeons together.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Bad Boss Battles in Gaming History - Part Six

WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS FOR THE FOLLOWING GAMES AHEAD!

  • Star Fox Adventures (GCN)
  • Metroid: Other M (Wii)
  • DmC: Devil may Cry (PS3, 360)
  • Borderlands (PS3, 360)
  • Resident Evil (PS1)

Are you ready for part six of Bad Boss Battles in Gaming History? In a sense, I'm going to be beating these bosses all over again, but instead of with Arwings and Power Beams, I'll be using the might of words to skewer these disappointing, annoying, boring, and/or awful bosses. If you have recommendations for bad boss battles for future installments of this long-running series, SuperPhillip Central would love to have them. First though, let's get you caught up to speed on past entries of the series:


Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer (3DS) Review

The other of the Nintendo 3DS reviews I was speaking of yesterday is for Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer, a game that quenches my thirst for the fun customization options of the Animal Crossing series. However, as you'll see with my review, this thirst-quencher is quite shallow.

Home, Sweet, But Repetitive and Shallow Home


One of my most loved aspects of the Animal Crossing series outside of interacting with the various villagers of my town is the customization options allowed to me within the games. I adore updating my appearance through clothing styles, updating my house with the coolest furniture and decorating in smart ways, and keeping my style up to date. When Nintendo announced Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer, a game focused on the customization aspects of the series, I jumped for joy... well, not literally. However, the final product is mired with shallow and repetitive gameplay despite having some glimpses of brilliance inside.

Starting out with Happy Home Designer, the character customization allows you to create your character your way without the traditional way of the series of some traveling cat asking you questions with the answers influencing your appearance. In Happy Home Designer, you get a selection of faces, hair styles, and skin colors (and yes, there's finally something for darker folks out there) to choose from. Like many things in the game, you can design your character your own way.

The internal clock isn't used like a typical Animal Crossing game. Instead, in Happy Home Designer, you go to your desk at the Happy Home Academy to save your data and progress to the next day. Each day you can do just one project, whether it be for the town plaza or for a villager.

Mingle with the townspeople (aka perspective clients)
and admire your handiwork in the town plaza.
Each villager that frequents the town plaza has a particular request for you to fulfill. This is always to get a themed room or house of some sort. For instance, starting out, a villager wants something as simple as something with an exotic series of furniture, while later on, the desires of the villagers get a little more complicated, perhaps a wedding themed house. However, as long as you use the two or three furniture pieces that are listed as must-haves you can go crazy and do whatever you want, sadly. Happy Home Designer does not punish you for otherwise going outside the particular vision your villager in question has.

Eat your heart out, Baskin Robbins.
Town plaza requests are a bit more involved due to having more than one room to worry about for the most part. You start out by choosing from a handful of building designs, and then you enter the building to your designing. There are projects like schools, shops, restaurants, and more to create delightful designs for. Again, though, you can go outside the box with your designs and won't be penalized for it.

Looks like a suitable waiting room for this hospital to me!
Let's open it up to patients, shall we, Isabelle?
This brings the question of what the point is for designing a room properly because it's impossible to fail a design challenge. Isabelle will simply inform you that you need to include a certain piece of furniture to satisfy the brain-dead simple conditions. Really, the only point is to satisfy yourself with a proper design. What you put into Happy Home Designer is what you get out of it. The experience is quite shallow, but the fun comes from designing a cool room to show off to your friends.

Ah, the great outdoors. Customize the house,
place trees and flowers, and just let your imagination run wild!
And you can show off creations not just to your friends but anyone in the online universe. You can upload your house designs to Nintendo's servers either after you've designed a creation or in between design sessions. The option to upload online designs does not appear until a good way through Happy Home Designer. However, viewing designs and getting people to like your own designs is quite fulfilling. It's just sad that the base game doesn't feel as rewarding.

What is rewarding, however, is how simple, easy, and intuitive it is to design homes both outside and indoor with Happy Home Designer's interface. No longer are you stuck pushing and pulling furniture in place like the traditional Animal Crossing games. Instead, you use the stylus to choose furniture, plop it down, and you can move and spin it around with pulls and taps of the stylus. Copying either furniture or patterns on the ground is as simple as holding the L button and tapping the desired item to be copied. You not only design the indoors of homes, but you can customize each villager's lawn with decorations, furniture, and even customize the appearance of their house with a large range of options and features. It's a great interface that I hope is used in future Animal Crossing games. It'd be an absolute travesty if it's not.

It's fulfilling to make a design that is appealing to the eye--
even if the game doesn't care how well you do it.
When you're not designing homes and town plaza projects you're unfortunately doing much. You can return to past creations and visit villagers, but sadly they only have about two lines of repeated dialogue to offer to you. Still, you can admire your work, and even add to it because new furniture options unlock as you take on new villager requests. For instance, that wedding themed house I mentioned earlier gives you a bunch of wedding themed furniture options to utilize. There is no need to purchase furniture yourself this time around. You can also use Play Coins to purchase new lessons in a book, which unlock new things like soundscapes for homes, fossils, fish, bugs, gyroids, and ceiling and window options, for starters.

Getting an early start on next month's Halloween holiday.
Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer is unfortunately shallow in its gameplay. Making a successful project is as simple as including two or three required items, making for a game that can sometimes feel as going through the motions. The only real reasons to make competent designs is to challenge yourself (because the game certainly won't) and impress the worldwide audience via the online sharing function. Overall, I enjoyed my time with Happy Home Designer just because I love the customization options so dearly. However, many will need something more to have a very good time, and it's a shame that Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer doesn't have it.

[SPC Says: C]

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

LBX: Little Battlers eXperience (3DS) Review

We have two reviews to end the month of September here at SuperPhillip Central. Both are Nintendo 3DS releases, so let's kick things off with the first. The game is in a series that has seen multiple games, but this one is the first to reach the West. It's LBX: Little Battlers eXperience.

Custom Robo


Based off the anime that currently airs on the Nicktoons channel here in the United States, LBX, standing for Little Battlers Experience, features small toy robots with huge power behind them. Battles take place in the safety of special fortified cardboard box arenas where up to six robotic battlers can combat one another either in teams or in a battle royale setting.

While Nintendo and Level-5 have come together to localize LBX: Little Battlers Experience for the Nintendo 3DS in the West, there have actually been a myriad of titles based off the property that first released on Sony’s PlayStation Portable before moving onto the Nintendo 3DS. Now, for the first time, us lucky Westerners get the opportunity to see what all the fuss behind this miniaturized mech combat series is all about. Does LBX: Little Battlers eXperience make for a good first impression to the series for the West?

LBX follows the story of Van Yamano, a middle school student who is unlucky in the way that all of his friends battle and enjoy LBX robots, miniature figures with awesome power, and his mother currently does not let him do the same. It seems this will continue to be the status quo for young Van until a mysterious woman gives him a special LBX model that she says could help save the world. Now, not only does Van have an LBX to call his own, but he has a shifty organization looking to retrieve his LBX through any means necessary.

The anime cutscenes look absolutely glorious.
The story of LBX features well-done dialogue that while sometimes rote anime stuff, does occasionally separate itself from clich├ęs. Some of the dialogue is read aloud, while other times most of it is needed to be read. Special anime cutscenes play during more important scenes of the game. The story itself has plenty of twists to keep players engaged throughout its 10 or so episodes, loosely following the cartoon, so if you’ve watched the show, you will somewhat familiarity with what happens in the game.

Unfortunately, this leads to one of the first problems I need to address with LBX. On many occasions, you’ll find that you are unable to skip certain scenes of dialogue in the game. There was one point in a special tournament within the game that I kept failing. This meant I had to not only restart from an earlier point in the tournament, but to add insult to injury, I had to wait basically four minutes to get back to the point I was at, sitting through dialogue and flashy sequences with no guarantee that I would succeed my next “at-battle”. Nothing but anger and rage consumed my impatient soul as the game taunted me with no ability to skip a scene I must have watched at least five times after four separate failures at the tournament battle in question.

Furthermore, a lot of LBX’s play time will consist of you running from place to place in the real world, which can sometimes be very tedious, divided up between areas of the town, whether it be the residential district, commercial district, Tiny Orbit HQ, the riverfront, and so forth. This is particularly noticeable if you do the optional quests that can have you involved in mighty fetch quests with the bonus of having some nice rewards such as LBX parts, items, and money.

As stated in the introduction, battles in the world of LBX take place in arenas set inside fortified cardboard. The thought behind this is that before the invention of this special type of battlefield, LBX battles were much more dangerous, leading to a ban on the usage of them until fortified cardboard came along. This made it so battles have all the safety both LBX users and everyday citizens who might have been caught in the crossfire previously can appreciate.

Ready for battle? Then let's get it on!
Battles can have a wide set of rules. Some are one-on-one affairs while others are team battles with Van and his friend(s) taking on two or three rival opponents. Sometimes the goal is to simply eliminate the other LBX before they do the same to you, while other times you’ll have to knock them out three times.

The "D" in "Team D" stands for Destroyers!
With team battles, you basically have to micromanage, which if the partner AI were smarter, you wouldn’t have to do. This means healing your teammates with your own items, and hoping to the LBX gods that you aren’t once again put into a situation where it’s 1-on-3 because your worthless teammates’ LBX robots are already eliminated.

Typical battles give you various options to utilize: a simple attack button, a jump, a block, a dash, an item button, and a special attack button. Using these in conjunction in one another offers plenty of offensive and defensive possibilities in each LBX battle you participate in, whether as part of the story or through talking with an NPC in one of the game’s numerous hubs.

A wide selection of arenas is available in LBX,
from plains and forests to glaciers and ancient temples.
The life bar of each LBX is affected by what equipment (i.e. parts) is tied to it. In addition, there are other considerations to make note of in battle, such as the tension gauge. This gauge will quickly empty after successive attacks. Once it reaches zero, your attacks do little damage, so you have to back away and let it replenish itself which takes a few seconds. This is to make it so you can’t just mash your way through battles to win them. It takes some grace to win LBX battles! This goes into when an LBX falls on its back or front in battle. There is a nice invincibility period for LBX battlers that stand back up so they aren’t involved in an unfair and endless combo attack.

The customization options for LBX fighters are pretty much limitless. You can mix and match parts of models for the head, body, left arm, right arm, left leg, and right leg. Depending on the parts chosen, your robot will move faster if it has light parts or move more slowly if it has parts that weigh it down. It’s an important consideration to make outside of just designing an LBX that looks awesome. You can also opt to just use a basic model set if customization of LBX does not fully appeal to you. Any set of LBX that you come up with can be saved in one of 30 slots, so you always have a loadout perfect for the battle ahead.

There are a handful of weapon types that LBX can use. For instance, my favorite happens to be a lance or spear that has a good reach that can attack foes a little further away than those that use a sword. However, the latter is great because it can attack more quickly. You can even equip two swords at once for more attack opportunities, but the catch is that you can’t equip a shield to block enemy advances. In addition to close-range weapons, you have guns that can fire bursts at faraway foes, as well as sniper rifles that deal heavy damage from afar, but take precision aiming and some time to reload.

Grinding for levels is an optional and by no means mandatory task in LBX, which is great as it bucks the trend of typical RPGs. Just because you’re a lower level than your opponent, does not mean that you’re necessarily going to lose or be at a disadvantage. It more boils down to your tactical fortitude and how you operate your controlled LBX.

LBX offers multiplayer, but it sadly and confusingly only offers local play for up to six players. Finding six players with the game much less another person can be tough in this day and age, so the lack of online multiplayer is a severe oversight.

Online play is very ni-- wait. No, no, no.
It's totally missing! Not very nice at all!
For those who like the idea of battling heavily customizable robots with a large layer of depth in its combat mechanics are sure to love LBX. It does have its small issues that gradually build up to be big problems, such as being forced to relive certain scenes again and again if you continuously fail the battles after them. However, overall, LBX: Little Battlers eXperience is a game that both children and adults can enjoy. It’s great for children for the joy of battling toy robots, and it’s great for adults for all of the customization options available to them.

[SPC Says: B]

Monday, September 28, 2015

The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes (3DS) Preview Trailer

The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes is a spin-off title that focuses on multiplayer, sort of akin to Four Swords Adventures, but with three characters instead of four. The game allows for online play, local play, and solo play, so if you have a preference, you're probably covered. The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes releases late next month for the Nintendo 3DS.

SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs - After the Blood Moon Edition

If you were at a place where you could see the fabled blood moon (curse you, cloudy skies!), then you saw quite the spectacle! Here's another spectacle for you-- it's SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs. It is here on a weekly basis that I delve into some of my favorite video game music tracks of all time. If you're just joining SuperPhillip Central, you're about 970 VGM volumes behind. That's okay, though. You can get caught up at the VGM Database.

For everyone else, we have a wide array of music to listen to together. We kick things off with some relaxing character select menu music from Dragon Ball: Xenoverse. Then we have a duo of platformers with Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time and Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando. Finally, we end the week's edition with two retro classics, Shining Force 2 and Mischief Makers! Now that everyone is all caught up, let's get to the music!

v971. Dragon Ball: Xenoverse (Multi) - Character Select


Some nice piano to start this edition of SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs. This tranquil piano-centric theme of Dragon Ball: Xenoverse's character select theme leads you into a false sense of security before dropping you off in chaotic and climactic battles in land, sea, and air. Xenoverse is the fifteenth Dragon Ball Z fighter, hence its clever acronym, XV. Oh, you clever developers!

v972. Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time (PS3, Vita) - Go West, Young Raccoon


The second main hub world of Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time takes place in the Old West. This song perfectly suits the level. The level itself houses an Old West town, a railroad that circles the map, canyons, and plenty of other sights to see. Hopefully the cliffhanger that was Thieves in Time's ending somehow, someday gets resolved, as many fans, including myself, would love to see a strong conclusion to the events of the game.

v973. Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando (PS2) - Planet Todano


We go from one PlayStation platforming franchise to another, one of my favorite PlayStation franchises period, Ratchet & Clank. Going Commando remains my favorite in the series, offering a near-perfect mix of platforming, exploration, and run-and-gun gameplay. Planet Todano is home to MegaCorp's testing facility. Be on the lookout for savage squirrels and this hella-funky spy-like theme.

v974. Shining Force 2 (GEN) - Lively Town


Retro time! Shining Force 2 was a Genesis exclusive that helped bolster the system's RPG lineup, something that paled in comparison to what its rival, the Super Nintendo offered, RPG-wise. For every Phantasy Star and Shining Force was a myriad of RPG titles for the old SNES. Shining Force 2 delivers old school RPG charm with a lovely soundtrack, evidenced by this Lively Town theme.

v975. Mischief Makers (N64) - Esperance 1


Still retro, but a little more recent, Mischief Makers was a Treasure-developed game that had the developer's creative and innovative mark all over it. The gameplay is still quite unlike anything else out there, and the game itself was 2D, something rare for the Nintendo 64, which generally was full of 3D endeavors. Still, don't sleep on this cult classic, as it's quite extraordinary.

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