Thursday, September 1, 2016

Review Round-Up - August 2016

The grand reboot of the Ratchet & Clank franchise kicked off this
 sci-fi-centered month of games. It's SuperPhillip Central's Game of the Month.
Welcome to the start of September! Soon, at least here in Central City, the trees will begin to display glorious and gorgeous autumn colors and leaves will start to fall off their branches. However, before we fall into fall, let's take a look back at summer's last full month with the Review Round-Up for August 2016!

It was a bit of a science fiction-themed month for the most part here at SuperPhillip Central. The Game of the Month was Ratchet & Clank, a stunning platformer in both gameplay and visuals, getting a great A grade. The latest chapter in the Star Ocean series, Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness went a little too old school for my tastes, earning a C+, While this next game had a promising premise, Obliteracers unfortunately became more frustrating than fun. Sadly, I had to give it a D+ grade. Following that game was a return to the lombax and robot pair with Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal, a retro review that scored an A-.

Then, another vehicular combat game, Cel Damage HD, managed to be a smashing good time, blasting and hammering its way to a C+. The Skylanders took center stage following that review with Skylanders SuperChargers, which was a fantastic game for kids and adults, getting a B+. Finally, the sci-fi fixation at SuperPhillip Central continued with the final review of the month, Metroid Prime: Federation Force. I surprisingly found a lot to like about the game despite still wanting a traditional Metroid. It earned a B.

Did you know that SuperPhillip Central is at 698 reviews? We're almost at 700, and just in time for the conclusion of summer! Hey, I called it the Summer of 700 for a reason, folks! I have a big game to review for #700, so please look forward to that and more in September!

Ratchet & Clank (PS4) - A
Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness (PS4) - C+
Obliteracers (PS4) - D+
Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal (PS2) - A-
Cel Damage HD (PS4, XB1, PS3, Vita) - C+
Skylanders SuperChargers (PS4, XB1, Wii U, PS3, 360) - B+
Metroid Prime: Federation Force (3DS) - B

I guess my other problem with Metroid Prime: Federation Force is why us North Americans got the inferior box art!

Mario Party: Star Rush (3DS) Main Modes Game Trailer

A new Nintendo Direct launched worldwide this morning, and with it came multiple game announcements and trailers. The first trailer I have to share with you, the SPC faithful, is Mario Party: Star Rush, which looks like a very enjoyable entry in the long-running party game series featuring Mario and friends. This new trailer focuses on the new modes that makes this Mario Party stand out over the others.

Atypical Card Games in Video Game History

Card games offer a ton of strategy and fun for a small price. It’s why they’ve withstood the test of time, continuing to entertain players, whether it’s casino-style card games like poker or blackjack, or even collectible card games such as Magic the Gathering or even the Pok√©mon Trading Card Game.

For the latter, it seemed like a no-brainer to merge collectible card games into the digital world. Here, there’s no need to have a physical binder full of cards. Instead, you just need a gaming system and a game disc or card to play them.

However, rather than talking about video games that straight up are digital versions of collectible card games, I thought it’d be more interesting to take a quick look at three video game series that used cards in an interesting, atypical way.

If card games appeal to you, you can check out Bingo Mania.com’s selection of games, featuring video poker. It’s all the fun of the real thing without being in a darkened room with the faint smell of cigarettes. Plus, you don’t have to wear sunglasses for when you’re bluffing!

Metal Gear Acid series (PSP)


When Sony’s first handheld, the PlayStation Portable was announced with support from Konami, gamers started dreaming of the Metal Gear Solid franchise hitting the system, pondering the possibilities of the series on new hardware. What they didn’t expect for the first game in the series to hit the system was a turn-based card game. That’s exactly what they got with Metal Gear Acid. Thankfully, the actual final product was a wonderfully done one, offering cards based on elements like weapons and characters from the Metal Gear series. The cards give players the opportunity to either move or use their abilities in offensive and defensive scenarios. Deck customization is an important factor to Metal Gear Acid, giving players the ability to outfit their deck as they see fit for the mission ahead.

Baten Kaitos series (GCN)


A turn-based role-playing series that saw two releases by Namco, exclusively for the Nintendo GameCube, Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean (2004) and its prequel, Baten Kaitos Origins (2006), utilized a type of cards known as Magnus. There are four main types of Magnus, which affect various aspects of the game, from interacting with NPCs in order to complete quests to being used in battle, equipping each party member with their own deck outfitted with a variety of cards. As you can no doubt tell, the world of Baten Kaitos is dependent on the usage of Magnus, offering lots of strategy and cards to get for the collector and completionist in players.

Lost Kingdoms series (GCN)


Another game series that used cards in a non-traditional way was the GameCube’s Lost Kingdoms games, which had two releases on Nintendo’s sixth generation system. Lost Kingdoms and its sequel, Lost Kingdoms II, were known best for having real-time card-battling gameplay. The main character Katia used cards for her offense, each having a specific element type, whether fire, water, earth, or wood. Each element was weak and strong against another element. For instance, wood elemental enemies were weak against fire cards. New cards could get bought, sold, traded, and collected to build a powerful deck of cards to use on enemies. Also notable about the Lost Kingdoms games is that the developer would go on to make games for a little-known series called Dark Souls.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Metroid Prime: Federation Force (3DS) Review

Before the month of August ends and we venture in to September, let's take a look at a very controversial game. No, not No Man's Sky. That's a good one for a controversy, but that's a game for next month! No, I'm talking about Metroid Prime: Federation Force. Here's the SuperPhillip Central review!

A taste of Metroid after six years-- sometimes sweet, sometimes bitter.


To say that the reveal two E3s ago of Metroid Prime: Federation Force was met with ire from fans would be underselling things quite a bit. While I won't delve into the more ridiculous side of the Metroid fan base who made a petition wanting the game cancelled or developers/producers fired over the game, the reaction from most Metroid lovers was hostile at best. Now, that the game is out and in Nintendo 3DS owners' hands, is Metroid Prime: Federation Force the mistake some have made it out to be, or does it have enough to merit its creation? ...Or maybe both?

First and foremost, have your mind lead all the thoughts of Metroid Prime: Federation Force playing like a typical Metroid game to your brain's nearest exit. Federation Force is nowhere near a Metroid-vania title, but at the same time, this doesn't make it a bad game. It's just a bad game to tie the Metroid name to, especially when fans of the franchise haven't seen a traditional Metroid game in years. Instead, Metroid Prime: Federation Force is a mission-based affair through typically linear levels. There is some exploration to be found, however, as most missions offer secrets for the adventuring type to discover in them, and these are rewarding to uncover. Regardless, played either by your lonesome offline, locally with up to four friends (all of whom require a Nintendo 3DS and a copy of the game), or online with up to four players, Federation Force packs a lot more action in its 22-mission affair than standard Metroid offerings.

The members of the Federation Force aren't the only characters in this game. Maybe some familiar faces appear...
A problem I had with a similar game that focused heavily on multiplayer was last fall's The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes which had a single player component that seemed like a last second, not-well-thought-out addition, giving players a tedious solo experience. However, Metroid Prime: Federation Force is built for not only multiplayer missions but solo affairs as well. This is in part to being able to equip a specific item that grants you double damage on foes and halved damage from enemy attacks, making for a more balanced experience when playing alone. The inclusion of bringing up to three drones with you on a mission helps as well. These can be destroyed by enemies, but generally this wasn't a problem for the most part in my experience. With a squadron of players either locally or online, the specific item I mentioned doesn't work, nor are the drones available, so as a team you need to take down foes together, which is a lot of fun.

As long as there are Space Pirates breathing, there is a threat to this galaxy.
Playing online with up to four players isn't perfect due to the lack of voice chat between players. It can be very hard to form strategies with randoms, as all you get for trying to communicate with others is a handful of voiced phrases that you can assign to the four directions on the Nintendo 3DS D-Pad. Furthermore, I've had incidents where the host would disconnect, making the ten minutes of the mission our squadron had done all for naught.

Teaming up with randoms can occasionally be annoying, but overall it's an enjoyable experience.
Perhaps I'm getting ahead of myself, though. After all, I've yet to even say what the actual gameplay of Federation Force is even like. Fortunately, it plays like a mobile Metroid Prime. You move along in your mech suit, either freely aiming at foes or locking onto them, tapping the jump button twice and a direction to either swiftly strafe or charge towards or away a foe. This is all the while being able to use a combination of attacks from your mech's main weapon, a blaster, which can also be powered up to unleashed a stronger charged shot, as well as extra ammunition like series standbys like missiles and super missiles, and new ammo like elemental shots of three varieties. While locked onto an enemy or aiming freely, you can hold the R button and tilt the Nintendo 3DS system to get more finely honed aiming, great for targeting weak points of certain enemies. If you have a New Nintendo 3DS, you can alternately use the right nub to aim.

Before each mission begins, you are able to customize your mech. Not only can you update the voice commands that you give to teammates online and change the paint job of your mech, but you can also equip various mods, found and collected in each mission. These are the secrets found in many missions that I was talking about earlier. At the start of your save data, your mech can only hold one mod. Eventually, you get up to three to carry at once. Mods have numerous different effects to them: some make specific attacks more powerful, some give you better defense, some allow you to carry more ammunition and items, and so forth.

After setting this up, you get a transmission from your commanding officer in the Federation, giving you details about your upcoming mission. Then, you are able to load up to weapons and items for your mech. Starting off, your mech can only hold a small amount of extra goodies such as missiles, elemental ammunition, healing tools, and other notable items. If you try to give your mech too much, it becomes overweight, and you have to decide what to unload off it. With completed missions, you earn more space to equip more items. This ensures that you aren't some ultra powerful entity and makes it so you're required to use some strategy in what you bring into a mission.

A concern I had going in to Metroid Prime: Federation Force was that the missions would play out too similarly from one another. There wouldn't be enough variety was the main worry. Thankfully, these concerns were put to rest after only a handful of missions. While some do pretty much have you eliminating an enemy threat or reaching an area to take out a boss, others are much more varied in type. Some have you transporting some pods from point A to point B, all the while entering safe zones when the all-too-common electrical storm breaks loose. Others have you luring beasts called Ice Titans into cells, timing it so the gate slams shut while they are inside (and you aren't, of course). Then, there are missions that have you exiting your mech, moving about as your pilot, doing some fun and engaging platforming to avoid lasers, acid, and other hazards, and stealthily evade Space Pirate forces patrolling the area. My point with describing some of these missions is that you won't often be doing the same thing over and over again. This isn't some generic corridor shooter that will becoming tedious. Instead, you'll get tons of different styles of missions to complete either with others or by your lonesome.

This early mission requires players to direct different orbs by shooting them into various chambers to open doors.
Missions are scored by points you've accumulated by defeating enemies (bonuses given to defeating multiple foes at once or defeating them with an explosion like a missile or charged shot), as well as factoring in a time bonus for completing a mission within a target time. There is also one more consideration given, and that varies from mission to mission. Each mission has its own bonus goal that when met also awards points. For instance, one mission requires you and/or your squad to defeat a certain number of a particular type of enemy. Once these points are all added up, you earn up to three medals depending on how well you did point-wise. Medals are not just something to earn for completionists; they also unlock new paint jobs that can be used on your mech. In addition to the regular 22 missions (the selection isn't totally linear either-- you can occasionally choose from a trio of missions to play first, second, and then third), after beating the game, you unlock a hard mode, where damage is much greater against players, and new medals can be earned for new paint jobs.

What is your major malfunction, son? Don't get cozy with the wildlife! They're dangerous!
The 22 missions played solo and with others isn't the only piece to Metroid Prime: Federation Force either. There's more to it in the form of Blast Ball, a competition mode where two teams of three face off that was originally debuted at the Nintendo World Championships at E3 2015. This game has you shooting at a hazardous-to-the-touch ball across a court, trying to launch it into your opponents' goal. Each time you score, your opponents' goal shrinks in size to make it harder for you to win. No worries-- this happens to your goal when the other team scores, too! As stated, the ball can damage your mech, resulting in it exploding and having you leave the field of play for several seconds, so watch out! Blast Ball may seem pretty tame compared to the much more frenzied pace and popularity of Rocket League, which has some similarities to Metroid Prime: Federation Force's extra mode, but overall, Blast Ball does have enough to it that it kept me coming back for more. And that's whether it was against the capable AI or online against friends and randoms.

Metroid Prime: Federation Force doesn't seem that graphically impressive for the Nintendo 3DS, especially for a game this late into the system's life. Still, the chibi-style mech and character design, while not really lending itself well to the Metroid series, do an adequate job of making it easy to distinguish between targets when things get a bit crowded. The environments, while not breathtaking, do offer some nice views and possess a fair amount of geometry to them. It's a simple look for the game, but one that serves it rather well. On the sound side, the music can be subdued at times, while at others rather bombastic. It's a healthy mix of tunes that delivers what one would expect from a Metroid game.

What are you lookin' at, ugly? (But seriously, this game isn't the greatest looker in the 3DS library.)
While not the Metroid game many of us were wanting from Nintendo, especially since the last real Metroid game was in 2010 with the Wii's Other M (and many didn't care for that one, though I didn't mind it), Metroid Prime: Federation Force manages to pull off an exciting blend of action-packed Space Pirate-blasting, fun and varied mission design, and Metroid Prime-style controls for a handheld gaming device. Whether alone, with friends, or with randoms, the experience is an engaging one, and shooting for medals and playing Blast Ball should offer a lot of longevity. The online experience depends on how active the community is and remains. Otherwise, you'll need to scour some forums or friends for online action. This may not be Metroid Prime 4 or Metroid Dread, but Metroid Prime: Federation Force is a fun excursion and taste of the franchise... for now, Nintendo. *gives stern look*

[SPC Says: B]

2016’s most captivating single-player games

Many of 2016’s most high-profile games like Overwatch have tended to focus on the multi-player options. And whilst these may be great fun, sometimes there’s nothing like a single-player to provide the best in gaming entertainment.

So whether you’re into intense combat or challenging casino strategies, here’s a rundown of some of the most captivating single-player games of 2016 so far.

Combat games


Many people were sceptical when iD Software announced that they’d reinvented Doom for 2016. But unlike other comebacks - hello Mass Effect 3 - this year’s Doom was an endlessly violent and engrossing alien-slayer that pushed the boundaries for how much fun you could have as a single-player.

If massive guns weren’t your thing, then Dark Souls III provided nearly as much carnage and beasts to fight with your bows and swords, and proved a fitting end to this hugely enjoyable single-player series.

Strategy games


But it’s not just violence that can serve the solo-gamer as there were plenty of great single-player strategy hits in 2016. In particular Star Trek Timelines finally gave mobile gamers a title worthy of the sci-fi franchise thanks to the way that the role-player allowed you to explore galaxies and command a range of cool spaceships from your smartphone.

Back on Earth it’s traditional table games like poker and blackjack that provided the best single-player thrills with Betway’s online casino games showing us how these games might be some of the oldest games in history, but they’ve lost none of their charm.

And similarly, would could resist the fun that could be had in delivering planet Earth a range of diseases and viruses thanks to the endlessly-popular and thoughtful Plague Inc.

Adventure games


2016 also gave us many great adventure games to test the solitary player. Obviously one of summer’s biggest hits is No Man’s Sky that’s seriously expanded the horizons of what we expect from our adventure games with its procedurally-generated universe that hints at how games are now building themselves so as to better serve the singe-player.

And for those who prefer a little more narrative, then we’d definitely recommend Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End which gave a fitting conclusion to the exploits of Nathan Drake. Not only did this have a richly-detailed world to explore as you hunted down Captain Henry Avery’s long-lost treasure, but the improved extra characters like Sam and Sully made you feel like you weren’t even alone in this enthralling single-player!

Monday, August 29, 2016

SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs - Sci-Fi, Pokemon, and Lombaxes Edition

Welcome to a new installment of SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs. This week we have a trio of science fiction-related games kicking things off with Phantasy Star Online, the mighty Xenoblade Chronicles, and the platforming fun of Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal. We then wrap things up with Pokemon HeartGold and Pokemon SoulSilver, as well as Half-Minute Hero: The Second Coming.

For those who want to listen to past VGM volumes featured on this weekly segment, look no further than the VGM Database. Now, on to the music!

v1216. Phantasy Star Online (DC) - Song for Eternal Story


We begin this edition of SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs with a fantastical, ethereal title screen theme song for Phantasy Star Online known as Song for Eternal Story. What epic adventure with your friends awaits in the mystical world of Phantasy Star Online? The answer is always "a fantastic one", and being backed by a superb soundtrack is always a good thing.

v1217. Xenoblade Chronicles (Wii, 3DS) - Mechanical Rhythm


Rock out with this boss theme from Xenoblade Chronicles, one of the greatest JRPGs to release in quite some time, at least in this writer's opinion. While its successor, Xenoblade Chronicles X was much grander in scope, it was a bit more overwhelming, and if you've played the original on Wii or 3DS, you know that Xenoblade Chronicles was already quite overwhelming for those trying to do all the side quests, so X being even more overwhelming is quite the feat.

v1218. Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal (PS2) - Starship Phoenix


The third entry in the Ratchet & Clank series saw the lombax and robot pair joining the Q-Force and Galactic Rangers to take down Dr. Nefarious. The Starship Phoenix was the base of operations for both the Q-Force and Galactic Rangers, serving as a nice, safe place to return after a long, hard-fought mission in the game.

v1219. Pokemon HeartGold / Pokemon SoulSilver (DS) - Route 29


A quaint theme to trek along Route 29 to, this theme has a nice, homey feel to it. Pokemon HeartGold and Pokemon SoulSilver were Nintendo DS remakes of the Game Boy's Pokemon Gold and Pokemon Silver, the second generation of Pokemon games. Good luck finding these games for a nice price, as they go for a pretty penny for even a used copy-- especially after the release of Pokemon GO.

v1220. Half-Minute Hero: The Second Coming (PSP, PC) - The Legend of Hero


It wouldn't be a JRPG without a hardcore rock song for the battle theme. Okay, okay. That's not how it always works, but a fair amount of the time it is-- even for a totally atypical role-playing adventure like Half-Minute Hero: The Second Coming, which released on the PlayStation Portable in Japan while releasing worldwide on Steam.

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