Friday, July 21, 2017

Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite (PS4, XB1, PC) Gameplay Trailer 4

San Diego Comic Con brings a new trailer for Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite featuring six new characters to add to the roster, such as Haggar, Nemesis, Frank West, and Spider-Man. More reveals should be coming as the actual panel for the game at Comic Con has yet to occur.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Top Ten Spider-Man Games

SuperPhillip Central's been on a much needed vacation for the past couple weeks or so, but here's some new content for the readers that pass by regularly and every so often (and of course, completely new friends as well). For the purposes of this article, the vacation was definitely necessary after need to get all of the hype out of my body over watching Spider-Man: Homecoming, which was really phenomenal. However, my specialty is reviewing games, so I'll graciously offer you links to more reputable film critics than I!

Instead, with the excitement of a well executed Spider-Man film after several misfires of varying degrees, it seems like a perfect opportunity to swing in and look at a subject near and dear to my favorite hobby and favorite superhero with this top ten list featuring the best Spider-Man games of all time. After you've read my picks, would you say you agree with them and the order?

10) Spider-Man: Web of Shadows (PS3, 360, Wii, PC)

Beginning this webhead-related countdown is Spider-Man: Web of Shadows, a game that put players in a wonderfully HD crafted version of Manhattan to explore with various main missions and side activities to engage in. Stellar boss battles featuring Web of Shadows' sensational combat and impressive window dressing like the original story and voice acting all further highlight this game. However, a tricky and often cumbersome camera to work with in addition to the much advertised choice system within the game left much to be desired. Still, Spider-Man: Web of Shadows remains a game starring Spidey that is worth checking out, though you'll have to find a physical copy as the majority of Activision's games licensed by Marvel were delisted on digital marketplaces--Web of Shadows being one of those.

9) Spider-Man and Venom: Maximum Carnage (SNES, GEN)

We're going back in time a bit further to the 16-bit era days of gaming with one of the first video game adaptations of a comic book story, Spider-Man and Venom: Maximum Carnage for both the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis. The two versions of the game played and looked the same, serving as a side-scrolling beat-em-up similar to Streets of Rage of Final Fight. The difference here is that instead of original characters, Spider-Man, Venom, and a whole host of Marvel heroes and villains were the stars. Despite playing well, Maximum Carnage suffered from a tendency of repetition in its gameplay. The game didn't offer much in the way of an extended repertoire of moves, but for a lazy afternoon with my brother back in the day, Spider-Man and Venom: Maximum Carnage provided more than enough fun for a pair of webhead siblings like us.

8) Spider-Man: The Video Game (ARC)

From one beat-em-up on consoles to one that exclusively appeared in arcades (seriously? No digital release of this yet?!), we turn our Spider Sense towards Spider-Man: The Video Game. This brawler didn't do much to distinguish itself from the multitude of other games of its genre released at the time, but this Spider-Man-themed vibrantly vivid colors, superb sprites with impressive animation, and inclusion of voiced dialogue made for a spectacular showing. To spice things up a bit, there were some platforming segments to partake in, made less frustrating than it would normally sound thanks to a zoomed out camera. For Spider-Man lovers, the appearance of our webbed hero's most nefarious villains like Kingpin, Doctor Octopus, Scorpion, Electro, and even the then-relatively new Venom should be enough to arouse some interest in this arcade gem.

7) The Amazing Spider-Man (Multi)

With the reboot of Spider-Man as a film franchise, Activision also put out video games based on the new direction of the movies. However, with The Amazing Spider-Man, developer Beenox took a different approach than just retelling the same story of the film it was based off of. Instead, the team crafted a story that took place after the events of the movie. This strategy worked out well, and the actual game was tons of fun. Web-swinging throughout Manhattan was just an enjoyable as always (though sticklers of Spidey web-swinging without any buildings nearby weren't too happy), but the thing of it was that Manhattan itself didn't have much fresh in it content-wise that other previous open world Spider-Man games didn't already have. Still, The Amazing Spider-Man game definitely turned out much better and more engaging than the film's sequel. Woof.

6) The Amazing Spider-Man vs. The Kingpin (SCD)

Returning to retro gaming for just a little bit here, we have The Amazing Spider-Man vs. The Kingpin. Although the Sega Genesis version was no slouch, we'll be focusing on what many consider the definitive version of the game which is found on the Sega CD. This version improved the entire package whether with gameplay improvements like quicker gameplay to remove any sluggishness from the original Sega Genesis version, two new levels exclusive to the Sega CD port, the ability to gather collectibles in the form of comic books, animated cutscenes with fully voiced dialogue, and also related to the presentation package, a wholly new soundtrack. All of these improvements made what was what I consider the best 2D Spider-Man game, The Amazing Spider-Man vs. The Kingpin, even better.

5) Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions (PS3, 360, Wii, PC)

If you've ever said to yourself that one Spider-Man wasn't enough, then did Activision have a game for you! In Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions, four Spider-Men from alternate universes are the playable characters (The Amazing Spider-Man, Spider-Man Noir, Spider-Man 2099, and Ultimate Spider-Man), each with their own abilities and gameplay mechanics which are tied together with one thrilling story. Shattered Dimensions proved that not every Spider-Man game needs to be open world to be enjoyable. In fact, the linearity of the game allowed for some interesting level ideas, action sequences, and encounters. Whether it was free-falling in an intense free diving sequence as Spider-Man 2099 or stealthily exploring a trainyard as Spider-Man Noir, the degree of gameplay variety on offer was excellent, making Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions a terrific game, though I'm still bitter I could never survive that damn final boss' rings of doom.

4) Spider-Man 2: Enter Electro (PS1)

Spider-Man from Neversoft may have released on the PlayStation, Nintendo 64, and Dreamcast home console-wise, but the sequel only ended up on Sony's box, despite originally being conceived for all three. Spider-Man 2: Enter Electro doesn't have the same caliber of villains in Spider-Man's rogue's gallery, but all the same it did some things to improve upon its predecessor, such as outdoor areas now having street levels to them--although this limited the openness of areas considerably. Enter Electro may not be as memorable as the original, but it was just as solid gameplay-wise, even bettering certain aspects affecting gameplay such as more realistic AI, for starters. Thus, Spider-Man 2: Enter Electro is a stellar Spider-Man game, but it didn't do as much as it needed to in order to get a recommendation over the next title on SuperPhillip Central's list.

3) Spider-Man (PS1, N64, DC)

While Spider-Man games in the 16-bit era and prior all ranged from good to utterly atrocious, the gaming world didn't get a truly amazing Spider-Man game until Neversoft's effort on the original PlayStation with the simply titled Spider-Man. Though the games have obviously since improved in tech since Spider-Man's first PS1 outing, it's not an exaggeration to note just how big this game was for pushing Marvel's friendly neighborhood Spider-Man into the modern era of gaming. While limitations like tech and budget kept outdoor swinging sections strictly to rooftops which might seem lame now, being able to swing around an open space as Spidey was liberating unlike any experience featuring the webhead before it. The cast of characters and nods to the comics were delightful for any Spidey fan, and most importantly of all, the game felt satisfying to play, something even 2D Spider-Man games of the past had trouble nailing down. 

2) Spider-Man 2 (PS2, GCN, XBX, PC)

Not to be confused as the sequel to Spider-Man's PlayStation debut, Spider-Man 2 based off of the Sam Raimi film of the same name is to this day still the standard that all current open world Spider-Man games are measured against and compared to. The reasons for this are simple. For one, swinging as Spider-Man had never felt more rewarding. In many Spider-Man games, you can swing with wild abandon, even if there is literally nothing above Spidey to attach his webs to. This wasn't the case with Spider-Man 2. You needed to be near buildings of the appropriate height in order to swing, and while challenging to do, once you got a rhythm and mastered it, web-swinging was SO rewarding. Then, there was the number of interesting places and activities to be found all around the open world setting of Manhattan. Whether you were saving citizens or children's balloons, you were making progress in Spider-Man 2. All of this adds up to a brilliant Spider-Man game that works so well as both a complement to the tremendous film of the same name and just a standalone experience--but it's not the best Spider-Man game to me.

1) Ultimate Spider-Man (PS2, GCN, XBX, PC)

Not resting on the team's laurels after finding great success with Spider-Man 2, Treyarch hit the air swinging with Ultimate Spider-Man, their second open world game. Having a solid foundation from Spider-Man 2 certainly helped with the development of Ultimate Spider-Man, allowing the team to focus on crafting an even larger playground for players to jump, swing, and soar through with more mission types than ever before. (The latter being something that has yet to be challenged by even later Spider-Man games--here's hoping for Insomniac Games to pull through, though!) Based on the comic book series of the same name written by Brian Michael Bendis, Treyarch took an arc of the comic book and made an entire game revolving around it to terrific effect, having players shift between Peter Parker/Spider-Man and Eddie Brock/Venom. Since the game was based on the comic, Treyarch went with a superb cel-shaded style that makes Ultimate Spider-Man still look incredible unlike so many other Spider-Man games of the past, even from around Ultimate's time! With varied missions, an appealing story (especially for lovers of the Ultimate Spider-Man comic book series from when it was around), splendid web-swinging, combat and other gameplay mechanics, and so much more, Ultimate Spider-Man is what I consider the best Spider-Man game currently available.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Miitopia (3DS) “Look Up, Look Down” Trailer

The young gamer in this commercial uses his family and friends as characters in Miitopia, an RPG adventure where players get to use their Mii collection as heroes and villains. If reality won't let you take Michael's girlfriend, young lad, make it so in Miitopia! Like Hey! Pikmin, Miitopia also releases on July 28 for the Nintendo 3DS lineup of systems.

Hey! Pikmin (3DS) “Hey Helper” Trailer

What?! A Nintendo game commercial that is meant to appeal to families?! Sound the alarm of insecure teens and supposed adults berating this ad! For everyone else, here is a cute and dare I say, funny, ad meant for North American territories for the upcoming July 28 release of Hey! Pikmin for Nintendo 3DS. Since it used both screens, the title is 2D only as opposed to allowing 3D depth on the top screen. I hope to cover this game for SuperPhillip Central soon.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Splatoon 2 (NS) "The World is your playground!" Trailer

A city inked up in chaotic color, that is what this Splatoon 2 trailer for Nintendo of Europe shows off, with "players" (i.e. actors) getting seriously excited in hotly heated multiplayer battles. Splatoon 2 splashes on to the Nintendo Switch on July 21.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Best Levels in Gaming History - Volume Nineteen

Best Levels in Gaming History skipped an entire season (spring, if you're interested), but now this long-running series is back with Volume Nineteen, showcasing some of the most enjoyable, well thought out, intricately designed, and just plain fun levels in gaming's past and present. Due to a certain plumber having a seriously good-looking game coming out in a few months, we begin this volume with a double dose of Super Mario before checking out some other platforming mascots like Sonic the Hedgehog and Donkey Kong, all mainstays here at Best Levels in Gaming History. So sit tight, read up, and enjoy.

Before that, however, take a look at all past volumes of this article series with the following links!

Volume One
Volume Two
Volume Three
Volume Four
Volume Five
Volume Six
Volume Seven
Volume Eight
Volume Nine
Volume Ten
Volume Eleven
Volume Twelve
Volume Thirteen
Volume Fourteen
Volume Fifteen
Volume Sixteen
Volume Seventeen
Volume Eighteen

Delfino Plaza - Super Mario Sunshine (GCN)

Since this is the first new volume of Best Levels in Gaming History since the summer season started, let's take a closeup look at one of my favorite gaming hubs in a 3D platformer, the sunny shores of Delfino Plaza. Of course, things don't start out so bright and cheery, as there is an ominous shadow stretched over the tropical town, but as Mario cleans up the city streets alongside the help of FLUDD and collect Shine Sprites, Deflino Plaza's murkiness clears up.

Part of what many players cherish about Super Mario Sunshine is its wonderful feeling of summer, no matter what season you play it in. This theme might limit the amount of level types and tropes available to Mario's GameCube adventure, but it creates a nice and pleasant cohesiveness to the entire game.

Delfino Plaza encapsulates the feeling of summer so well, and it's neither much too big nor much too small. It houses plenty of secrets, too, most enjoyable to seek out with just a tiny fraction being obnoxious (e.g. getting Yoshi, jumping from boat to boat to reach an island that contains the worst bonus level in Sunshine in a game that already sports plenty bad bonus levels).

Also, the amount of flexibility there is to Mario's moveset with FLUDD allows for a lot of different platforming options and means to get around town. Whether it's wall jumps, a backwards somersault into a rising burst from FLUDD, or simply a launch via FLUDD's hover nozzle, you're hardly limited in what you can do and how you can go about reaching your desired location. For all these reasons, I find Delfino Plaza to be exquisite as a hub level in a less than strong Mario outing.

Bob-Omb Battlefield - Super Mario 64 (N64)

With Super Mario Odyssey returning Mario to a sandbox style platformer with his 3D installments, there's no better time than to bring up the game that started this platformer structure to begin with -- Super Mario 64!

It seems almost like gaming sacrilege to have a Best Levels in Gaming History series of articles and not bring up the first world of Super Mario 64 until volume freaking nineteen! Maybe it was so obvious that I assumed I had already done it ages ago, but looking back, it appears I hadn't!

To correct this egregious error on my part, let's talk about Bob-Omb Battlefield! This mountain and surrounding areas that are home to the Bob-Omb clan is a perfect playground for getting used to the controls of Super Mario 64 in more complex and complicated situations than merely leaping around the grounds of Peach's Castle. There's danger in Bob-Omb Battlefield, but a minor amount that makes it relatively safe to learn how to go about playing the game, honing how to control Mario, interacting with enemies in a 3D space, and doing more sophisticated platforming. There's a safety net here with no bottomless pits, and few ways to immediately reach high ground and falling from such a height that Mario takes severe damage.

Bob-Omb Battlefield's central mountain is where King Bob-Omb looks over his subjects. Reaching the mountain is a platforming obstacle course in itself with a path requiring Mario to run along a clearly marked path (but of course, most players will want to explore off the beaten path) with some hazards like a Chain Chomp that the majority of new players won't want to mess with immediately, falling bubbles from the sky as well as charging Bob-Omb enemies directly in the path to King Bob-Omb, and a spiraling climb up to King Bob-Omb's roost.

Of course, like any early game boss he's a bit of a pushover. If he wants to throw his weight around, Mario can help him with that -- literally, by picking the boss up from behind and chucking him on his backside to inflict damage. Three goes at this and King Bob-Omb is defeated with explosive consequences to him.

Following that, Bob-Omb Battlefield opens up, offering a race with a friendly Koopa Troopa, cannon rides across the level, and when the Wing Cap is unlocked, a safe haven for some fast and fun flying through the sky. It all makes for a great introductory level in Bob-Omb Battlefield to what is a revolutionary game in Super Mario 64.

Sky Sanctuary Zone - Sonic & Knuckles (GEN) / Sonic Generations (PS3, 360, PC)

We move from Mario to his once-rival Sonic the Hedgehog. The original Sonic the Hedgehog games on the Sega Genesis / Mega Drive are without question classics, and I fail to understand the mindset that these games were "never good." That's hedge-hogwash in my opinion. No question my favorite of the Genesis Sonic games, like many, is Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles. Together, they're fantastic, but it's sort of cheating to combine them both like that. While I prefer Sonic 3 to Sonic & Knuckles, the latter game contains some really sweet zones that I have cherished memories of.

An important locale and zone within Angel Island in Sonic & Knuckles is Sky Sanctuary, a smattering of ancient ruins hovering among the clouds. It's central to the game's plot and climax while also being a beaut to look at and fun to play. There are multitudes of ramps, steady and breakable, as well as many of Robotnik's Egg Robos for Sonic to concern his bad, blue self with. The background is bright and blue while the architecture of the ruins is astonishing with its details and colors.

Sky Sanctuary is such a popular zone in importance to the series and fans that it was completely remade in Sonic Generations, a game celebrating Sonic's past and present. The two levels, one for Modern Sonic and one for Classic Sonic, looked absolutely stunning in full 3D, though not as colorful as what was offered in the pallet with the Genesis original. Nonetheless, the multiple pathways and secret areas to uncover in both Modern and Classic iterations made for a plentiful amount of replays for me, something I hadn't want to face in a Sonic game for a long while.

Sonic Generations wouldn't be the last time Sky Sanctuary would be represented in a Sonic-related game either. A part-land and part-sky race track in the multiplatform arcade racer Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed represented this glorious Sonic & Knuckles zone. All hail the echidnas!

Frantic Fields - Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (Wii U) 

Really, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze has so many excellently and expertly crafted levels that it's hard to choose what are the top levels within the game to feature on such a list like this. Regardless, you can be sure I won't be done perusing Tropical Freeze's lineup of luscious levels for future installments of Best Levels in Gaming History anyway.

For now, we take a look at Frantic Fields, a grassland level under stormy skies and hazardous conditions, much like a severe weather storm here in Central City. What starts out as a calm level though with a foreboding grey sky, as the Kongs progress, things get dicier with platforms tipping from left to right in the breeze, miniature twisters requiring the Kongs to pick up enough speed to push through them, deathly lightning strikes, and burning debris being blown from the background to the foreground -- requiring careful timing and dodges.

Then, it all culminates with the amazing ending section. I takes the idea of strong wind and storms and puts you directly in the heart of it all, a tremendously terrorizing and powerful tornado that has you hopping along the loose, undulating and uneasy platforms flying around inside it as obstacles, enemies, and even some goodies are swept across the screen by the howling winds. It's an astonishing section of level that really shows how well the level designers at Retro were able to escalate the stakes in the level, something they consistently did throughout Tropical Freeze's designs. Those who played the game and enjoyed it don't mince words when they call it one of the best 2D platformers of all time.

Stage 3 - Contra III: The Alien Wars (SNES)

Let's conclude this volume of Best Levels in Gaming History with a trip to a futuristic steel mill, featuring challenging platform, rigorous climbing, plenty of verticality, and some cool boss battles all thrown into the mix for one stellar stage. It's Stage 3 of Contra III: The Alien Wars on the Super Nintendo.

Bugs and soldiers serve as the main enemies in the opening area of the stage, where the goal is to make careful jumps while avoiding some truly tricky enemy placements. There are hanging girders to climb along, requiring precision shooting and competent evasion to avoid the flying bugs ready to end your perfect run in a jiffy. Outside of the girders are rotating arms that can held on to.

The middle of the level presents a vertical section where you must make a steady, straight-up climb while avoiding the attacks of various enemies, including a mid-boss. Then, you enter a moonlit sky far above the pollution previously seen in the level and take on one more mid-boss, but this time in a horizontal section of the level. Finally, you head indoors for some vertical platforming challenges, including evading enemy fire was leaping from platform to platform and hanging from ledge to ledge.

This all concludes with the destruction of a barrier door leading to two Terminator-inspired robots to take on, and then one awesome battle against a gigantic, fire-spewing one that rips through the background shutter to take you on. All in all, a well-conceived action packed stage that takes plenty of practice to survive, much more master.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Review Round-Up - June 2017

While not being a knockout punch in content, ARMS has a great base for a solid fighting game series.
It was a month of unique games and others that emulated more popular series with the reviewed game lineup of June 2017.

It began with a review of Zelda II-esque Elliot Quest, which got a great grade of B despite how easy and frustrating it sometimes is to get lost. Following that was the PlayStation 2 style 3D platformer Skylar & Plux: Adventure on Clover Island, which was short on hours and polish, but good overall with a C+. Meanwhile, I went back to my Wii U to take a look at The Girl and the Robot, a game which had some clunky controls and other issues, earning it a C-. From games that are inspired by Zelda II and PS2 platformers to LEGO's attempt at jumping in Minecraft's success, LEGO Worlds failed to impress with me giving it a D+ score.

The best reviewed game of the month was Puyo Puyo Tetris (B+), an excellent combination of SEGA's Puyo Puyo series and The Tetris Company's Tetris series. I then spent time with a Mega Man clone and then a Zelda clone with Mighty Gunvolt Burst and Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas, both getting a B score. Finally, I took the call to arms with... well, ARMS of all games. It punched and pummeled its way as hard it could, but a lack of compelling content to return to made me give it a B-.

Elliot Quest (PS4, XB1, 3DS) - B
Skylar & Plux: Adventure on Clover Island (PS4, XB1, PC) - C+
The Girl and the Robot (Wii U) - C-
LEGO Worlds (PS4, XB1, PC) - D+
Puyo Puyo Tetris (NS, PS4) - B+
Mighty Gunvolt Blast (NS, 3DS) - B
Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas (NS) - B
ARMS (NS) - B-

Whether Puyo Puyo, Tetris, or both, a terrific time was had with Puyo Puyo Tetris.

Central City Census - July 2017

We've gotten a taste of summer here in Central City, but now it's time for the first full month of the summer season with July. Before that, however, let's look back at the month that was June with both the Central City Census and Review Round-Up. Let's begin with the Central City Census poll first.

Some even results for voting this time around regarding how much portable gaming is done. 44.44% of the vote do a lot of or simply love portable gaming. Meanwhile, 28.89% of the vote stick more with console gaming or non-handheld gaming. Interesting to know, and interesting that this topic didn't get as many votes as we usually get despite June being good for traffic on the site! I need to advertise the Central City Census better, huh!

Going along with the portable theme for July's Central City Census, the question I'll be asking is whether or not you own a Nintendo 3DS or 2DS.

Friday, June 30, 2017

ARMS (NS) Review

Time for the fourth and final review of the week for this eighth and final review of June! It's ARMS, and SuperPhillip Central has an in-depth review on Nintendo's big new Switch IP! Let's take a look at it together with my review.

These ARMS get a little sore after awhile.

With the Nintendo Switch, the hype behind Nintendo's home console market is back with a vengeance after an ultra-embarrassing run with the Wii U. Outside of one of the best games of the year (and for some, of all time) with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Nintendo's focus early on with its new console is multiplayer. We've already seen Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Splatoon 2 is on the way later this summer in July, and now a new multiplayer fighting franchise is out under the name of ARMS. Is Nintendo's newest major IP a knockout blow? Well, not quite.

First and foremost, this isn't your typical fighting game here. Nintendo has once again taken a familiar concept and genre and turned it on its head to make a wholly experience experience. Rather than brawl with normal punches and kicks up close as well as attacks from faraway, the fighters in ARMS stretch and launch out their literal arms at opponents as their means of offense. The arms then swing back in place like elastic.

Not a typical way to attack in video games, but ARMS isn't your typical fighter.
Players choose from one of currently ten characters, select from a set of Arms with different abilities and elements -- one for each hand -- and get thrust into behind-the-back combat against their opponent or group of opponents. The goal in traditional battles is to whittle the enemy's health down before hitting that knockout blow, and you can do this in a variety of ways.

ARMS is a game of reflexes, strategy, and concentration. You can't just wildly swing punches and expect to win. When you launch an Arm, you're open to attack. Yes, you can still move around, but your options for evasion and defense are lessened. While one of your Arms is out, your opponent can take the opportunity to evade and counter with their own Arm attack, or worse yet, grab you by launching both of their Arms at the same time for a great deal of damage at your expense. Movement is key in ARMS, as you don't want to telegraph where you're going to your enemy, so a combination of dashing and jumping is required.

It's also fantastic to see that every move in ARMS has a counter to it. The game is properly balanced from the get-go. If you are one to hide behind a guard to block punches, you can easily get grabbed. However, if you're spam-happy with grabbing, all it takes is one punch to your oncoming grab to block it. 

While Twintelle's grab attempt has made her vulnerable, Spring Man can take advantage with an attack.
This goes with the titular Arms in ARMS as well. In the game, Arms have numerous abilities, advantages, and disadvantages to consider. For one, each Arm is grouped within three weight classes: light, medium, and heavy. While a heavy punch will easily deflect lighter weight Arms in a head-to-head match-up, they're slow to attack, meaning that a lighter, faster Arm can attack that opponent by doing an evade to the side and then attacking. Different Arms possess different elements to them. By charging them, you can activate an elemental power in to your next punch, whether a punch that engulfs your opponent in flames, freezes them to completely slow their movement, or even shock them into a brief stun.

Master Mummy's Arm attack is on fire thanks to him charging his Arm beforehand.
From arc-flying Thunderbirds that shock and attack a foe from their flanks to Homies that zone in on their opponents before exploding, the Arms in ARMS have so much variation to them in the 30 variants in the game. While all ten playable characters begin with a selection of three, you can use funds earned in-game from battles online and off to engage in a target practice mini-game that allows you to win new, randomly selected Arms. This can be a pain when you want a specific Arm for a specific character since no doubt you'll uncover your favorites, but for me, many times I'd find that I'd go from loving one to discovering another that I instantly became enraptured with. It really depended on my opponent as well. 

This avian Arm variety closes in from the side. Better dash away, Ribbon Girl!
Constantly I'd be up against opponents where I thought I had a solid strategy down in facing them, but then they'd unload on me with this crazy strategy that I had never thought of. The thing of it is, is that like there's no move that can't be countered, no strategy can't be countered either. You have to shift, you have to adapt, and you have to practice to improve.

No more did I learn this than in ARMS' Grand Prix mode, the most basic of basic arcade modes in a fighting game like this. As I played through the beginning Levels, I was winning each series of matches with some issues. As I kept playing more rounds in the same Levels, my skills and knowledge of the game improved, so I could move on to Level 3 and later Level 4 (there are seven ranks in all). A week from starting with ARMS, I could hardly muster beating Level 2 computer opponents, but now I've beaten the AI in Level 4 to see the game's credits. It's not so much getting used to the controls, it's more practicing new techniques like successfully steering your punches into different directions to trip up your foes, jumping while punching, dashing after blocking a punch to counter, and so much more. It definitely helped me beat the Grand Prix's Level 4 more consistently, as the AI in general is one tough customer, as many players will tell you -- even on the most basic of difficulties. 

Unfortunately, Grand Prix is a very limited mode. You play through ten matches against all of the characters in the ARMS lineup as well as the upcoming free DLC fighter, Max Brass. Each fight has you needing to win two matches to move on before your opponent does. Thankfully, rematches are available if you lose. Some rounds involve ARMS' three mini-games, which will be talked about in a little bit. Later difficulties present you with the true final boss to battle against, and like a lot of fighting games, he's no easy pickings. Despite the initial fun of playing the Grand Prix multiple times, it wears thin, and since it's the only major solo mode available, it makes a recommendation for ARMS players who don't care for local or online multiplayer impossible to do. 

Outside of traditional one-on-one, over-the-shoulder battles, there are modes like V-Ball, which is a take on volleyball where the goal is to hit the ball onto the opposing side's court in any way possible. If the ball is in play for too long, it flashes red before soon dropping whichever court it's currently hovering over, scoring a point for the other team. Meanwhile, Hoops replaces basketballs for opponents. By grabbing an opponent, you can either slam dunk them for two points or throw them from further away for two or three (three only if you're on the outside portion of the court). Finally, Skillshot requires smart timing, usage, and control of your Arms to destroy as many targets as possible while avoiding the Arms of your opponent who is on the other side of the location of the targets. Hitting more targets with one punch of your Arm wields higher points than just hitting one or two at a time.

While not from downtown, Mechanica here has shown an incredible display of basketball ability nonetheless.
A big feature with ARMS and a superb source of longevity for the game is its online offerings. Ranked Mode unlocks once you beat Grand Prix at Level 4 or above. If you've managed to take on the AI opponents of the Grand Prix's highest levels, then you're ready to challenge ARMS' best of the best in ranked matches. Meanwhile, Party Mode is a more casual experience, having 10-20 players in one lobby. Matches happen on the fly between opponents for up to four players in one single match. The game's lobbies have it so players are paired between different opponents and match types constantly (such as 1-on-1, 2-on-2, 1-on-1-on-1, and free-for-all; as well as V-Ball, Hoops, and Skillshot) This make it so you seldom have a wait time while you're online. Even if you do, you can practice playing while in the lobby or happily look on to see health bars dropping, rage modes occurring, and when matches end. ARMS plays fantastically online with limited lag, a much better online experience than another Nintendo Switch online game, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, which wasn't even that bad to begin with!

Finally, what makes ARMS so appealing to me is in the designs and abilities of the actual characters. Nintendo's designers have amassed a solid roster of fighter oozing with tons of style and even a little substance as each character's personality comes through in their designs. You have Spring Man, which is a bit of your Mario of ARMS, but his special ability is that his attacks are automatically charged up when his health drops to a dangerous amount. Then, one of my favorite characters, Ribbon Girl, can perform multiple jumps in midair to dodge attacks. Ninjara can vanish and reappear in between dashing to blindside opponents while the slow, tank-like Master Mummy can heal while he guards. 

Each character gets their own arena that is their home turf of sorts. Spring Man's Spring Stadium is surrounded by walls that can be leaped off of for getting a height advantage over opponents while Ribbon Girl's Ribbon Ring has collections of blocks that rise and fall, perfect for cover or also gaining height over an opponent. Mechanica's Scrapyard has destructible pillars as well as an elevated portion of the arena because as many Revenge of the Sith viewers know, it's important to have the high ground in battle. Likewise, some arenas aren't as fun to fight on such as Snake Park which revolves around hovering platforms that can move fast around the arena. It's too much of a gimmick that takes the fun away from and over-complicates ARMS' core fighting. 

Min Min better watch out as not only is this Mechanica's home turf, but she doesn't have the high ground!
For controls, ARMS offers pretty much every controller and control scheme to punch and pummel with. The only one not available is using analog controls with one Joycon in each hand. It needs the peripheral that connects them together for analog controls, meaning if you bought two sets of Joycons, you need another connector to both play locally split Joycon style. While the motion controls do their job (tilting left or right to move, punching in one hand to attack with that hand, punching with both to grab, and so forth), I find for higher level play the possibilities for mistaken maneuvers are much higher than if playing with analog controls. It's surely a load of fun to fly your fists forward to pummel a virtual opponent (and a pleasant workout), but for less casual battles, I preferred to use either the Switch Pro Controller, the Joycons attached to each other, or the Joycons attached to the Switch for handheld play. 

What's a better way to spend a summer's day than with a battle on the beach?
ARMS is a tough game to recommend to anyone wanting a substantial amount of content right from the start. While more features are coming in free content, much like Street Fighter V and Nintendo's own Splatoon worked it out, what we have now is severely limited. The online is solid, and the fighting system is immensely engaging and deep for those who want the most out of it, but if you're bored easily when there aren't enough modes to go back to or new things to unlock, you'll quickly get tired of ARMS. The game is certainly worth playing, but wait until more of the upcoming free DLC rolls out from Nintendo. Otherwise, ARMS has its upper extremities taken care of, but its legs could use some strengthening. 

[SPC Says: B-]

Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas (NS) Review

This is a familiar game on this last day of June. It's been reviewed twice across three different platforms so far. This Nintendo Switch review of Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas is now SuperPhillip Central's third look at the game. What can I say -- I'm a sucker for Legend of Zelda-like adventures! Here's my review of Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas for the Nintendo Switch, recently released on the Nintendo eShop for $14.99.

Doesn't out Zelda Zelda, of course, but Oceanhorn is a competent Zelda-like all the same.

Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas has seen a release on multiple platforms in the past (I even reviewed it once on iOS and then a second time on the PlayStation 4), and now this Zelda-inspired game is on the Nintendo Switch. Finally, a game modeled after Zelda releases for a platform made by the company behind the storied franchise.

You might wonder why you would want to even bother with a secondhand Zelda-like when there is the real deal already on the system and in a big way with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. For one, Oceanhorn doesn't have full 3D movement or even an open world. It's an isometric action-adventure game whose areas span multiple elevations and the like, and exploration is occasionally based off of mastering how to cross the undulating areas for treasure and special points of events. The second reason that Oceanhorn might be of interest to not just Zelda fans but those who crave an actual-adventure game on a budget is that the game is overall rather good. It doesn't make huge strides towards shaking things up or pushing innovation, but Oceanhorn is a consistent and enjoyable gaming experience regardless.

The isometric camera angle and focus on elevation gives Oceanhorn a unique hook despite being a Zelda clone.
Oceanhorn starts off relatively slowly, introducing the basics of the game to players on the Hermit's Island. Your nameless hero wakes up and talks to the titular hermit living on the island, and is tasked with reclaiming his father's sword and shield in a nearby cave. The game doesn't hold your hand like many modern Zelda games had done so before Breath of the Wild, so all you really get for help are optional-to-read signposts along the way. The cave itself introduces simplistic puzzles to solve, but really, most, if not all of Oceanhorn's puzzles throughout the entire experience don't revolve around too much critical thinking. You won't really be perplexed all too long at all by any stretch of the imagination. Other than puzzles, mostly block-pushing fare, there's the typical need to find keys to unlock doors to progress. After you've acquired your dad's sword and shield, the true adventure begins.

It's then that you can go to new islands on the uncharted seas. However, there is a severely limited amount of freedom to do so than say another Legend of Zelda game, the GameCube's Wind Waker. Islands aren't automatically available to you on the ocean map. You have to talk to specific characters and examine certain objects to get keywords that will then open up those places for travel on the ocean. Not every island in the game is mandatory, but the story-related ones are usually quite easy to find their keyword to progress. The optional ones take a modest amount of exploring to uncover through the game.

Don't expect to sail with complete freedom in Oceanhorn. It's much more restricted here.
When you do actually set sail, you merely select an island to move across the ocean towards. Thankfully, if you change your mind on your destination, you can alter your course by selecting a new island mid-trip. At the start of the game, there is little interaction while sailing. You just sit and wait until you arrive at your intended island of choice and that's it. Thankfully, your small boat sails at a speedy enough clip that makes each trip serviceable instead of completely tedious. Once you reach a certain point in the game, you get a seed cannon added to the boat, allowing you to shoot at boxes, mines, and enemies in the water for coins, ammo, and other goodies.

Playing Oceanhorn features controls that are responsive but sluggish combat. Sword swipes don't always hit their targets, so you can sometimes be swinging wildly to no effect, only hitting rocks and walls instead of enemies. That said, movement with the Switch's analog stick is great. Much better than what was offered on mobile, and equal in feel to the PlayStation 4 and I imagine any other dedicated gaming system controls. Only one sub-item and one magic spell can be equipped at once, but they can be cycled through with the up and down directions of the left Joycon's d-pad. Sub-items include Zelda mainstays like bombs and a bow and arrow, but also a boot that allows you to jump over square-long chasms with ease.

Combat is sufficient enough, but does have its slight issues.
Oceanhorn has an upgrade system for your character that rewards you with experience for defeating enemies, uncovering experience shards within treasure chests, and completing certain island goals. These are as simple as reading 10 signs, pushing blocks 100 times, mandatory story-related objectives, and more. When you reach enough experience, your level increases, rewarding you with a new bonus such as the ability to carry more bombs and arrows, an increase to your energy meter, and so forth.

Like any dungeon of value, this forest dungeon has its fair share of puzzles and exploration.
Outside of the isometric view and the experience system, Oceanhorn strays a little too closely to The Legend of Zelda series' formula and structure. For instance, the item set is traditional Zelda, dungeons house small keys, puzzles, and most obviously the Master Key that unlocks the dungeon's main treasure and boss door (very Zelda, that one), and you need to acquire four heart containers to increase your health. But some of the influences of Zelda just aren't executed as well, such as many of the boss battles that feel low in polish.

While this one ups the ante puzzle and challenge-wise.
Despite these moments of error, Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas on the Nintendo Switch is an engaging adventure from beginning to end. Obviously it's been good enough and enjoyable enough that I've managed to play through it on three separate occasions on three different platforms. Each time, of course, I see more and more minor flaws that change my overall thoughts of the game. One part that remains great to me is the presentation with a lovely soundtrack mostly by Kalle Ylitalo with some additions by famous Japanese composers Nobuo Uematsu of Final Fantasy fame and Kenji Ito of Mana and SaGa series fame. The world is colorful and delightful to look at, though with the block-based world design, you can see small holes occasionally between adjacent corners of blocks. It's definitely dated graphically, especially since it was originally a lower budget mobile game from years ago, but I overall like the look of Oceanhorn.

If you want a different kind of Zelda-like gameplay romp on your Nintendo Switch with a campaign that will last you at least 7-10 hours if you're not rushing through just to finish the game but actually exploring the world, then Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas isn't a game you should sleep on. You may have on another platform already, so if that's the case, there really is no benefit of getting the Switch version again unless you really want to have the privilege of switching between docked play and portable play at any time. Oceanhorn is indeed a Zelda clone, but it being isometric and overall competently designed makes it a winner and a fun game to replay in my books -- or, in this case, adventure log.

[SPC Says: B]

Review copy provided by FDG Entertainment.


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