Sunday, November 19, 2017

Super Mario Odyssey (NSW) Review

Time for a big review for a big game. Super Mario Odyssey launched just under a month ago, and I have 100% completed it. My review shares my thoughts on the game, and despite loving it, I do have some gripes with aspects of Odyssey. I have tried to remain as spoiler free as possible in my review, but let me know if anything jumps out and surprises.

The game where Mario finally busts a "cap" into some Goombas

Two of my favorite video game franchises have received big, blockbuster entries this year, and both are on the Nintendo Switch. I already was blown away by the breadth of the content, world, and freedom seen in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and now I turn to my number one genre of adoration, the platformer, with Super Mario Odyssey.

A 3D Mario game, much like a new 3D Zelda, is a gaming event. It doesn't happen often, but usually when it does, there is something quite magical in the air and unadulterated joy to be discovered. That's how it was for me on the Nintendo 64's launch day, running in circles and jumping like a madman in Super Mario 64, in my final year of elementary school. In my early high school years, cleaning up the mess left behind by Shadow Mario in the GameCube's Super Mario Sunshine was also a positive gaming memory for me that sucked hours away from my summer vacation. Then, the magic from my early 3D Mario days returned, but this time in handheld form with Super Mario 64 DS. That N64 game that I fell in love with -- the one where I ogled my Nintendo Power strategy guide to find what "Rainbow Across the Skies" meant, the one where I wondered where the heck that blasted eighth red coin in Whomp's Fortress was, and the game which was one of the earliest video games that I owned the soundtrack for (albeit in tape cassette form) -- was now playable in my hands. What was once a game confined to a television screen could now be played in a device that could be folded up and could fit in my pocket!

Following that were two of my favorite gaming experiences of all time, the one-two knockout punch of the Super Mario Galaxy games. The first was a revolution, offering gravity-centric platforming beyond the limits of earth and moving to small, spherical planetoids and amazing orbiting obstacle courses. The second game served a bit like an expansion kit, adding a stiffer challenge while throwing in platforming concepts and ideas that the original Galaxy just couldn't fit. It was an excess of excellence! Super Mario 3D Land and Super Mario 3D World followed, dialing back the scope of 3D Mario, and bringing it back to a feel of a 2D obstacle course with linear levels but played out in a 3D atmosphere, with World showcasing a greater variety and more complex designs. These four games (the Galaxy titles, 3D Land, and 3D World) took Mario away from the established structures of 64 and Sunshine. While those games introduced then-unimaginably big and complex sandbox, platforming playgrounds to explore and just let the player run loose in, Galaxy 1/2 and the 3D Land/World games were obstacle courses where getting from the beginning of the level to the goal was the primary objective.

With a brand-new console on the market, Nintendo has been taking different approaches to its main entries, a somewhat fresh take, if you will. I started out by talking about The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and that's a series that has had an established structure for years. By updating and changing series conventions, a profound Zelda experience was made, loved by fans and critics alike. With Mario, his 3D games have continually added new bells and whistles as well as the occasional shakeup to the formula and structure to his starring roles. This is no different with Super Mario Odyssey. While not being as large of a revolution as Breath of the Wild was for The Legend of Zelda series, the game offers a new and worthwhile approach to 3D Mario games.

Mario and Cappy: On the road to Bowser!
Super Mario Odyssey begins in medias res as Mario confronts Bowser on the Koopa King's own custom-built airship. Once again, Princess Peach has managed to find herself kidnapped yet again. (Start giving those Toads some steroid-laced Mushrooms or something, Peach, so they can start protecting you!) Bowser reveals his master plan, wishing to marry the princess against her will, and immediately sends Mario flying off the airship and down into the clouds. When he awakes, Mario finds himself with a new friend, a ghostly spirit wearing a top hat named Cappy. It turns out Bowser has taken from Cappy someone special as well. Mario and his new, stylish friend decide to work together to take down Bowser's nefarious scheme and put an end to this ill-conceived wedding for good.

Cappy is headgear for the discerning hero.
Cappy isn't just a fashion piece, however. There's form and function to this delightful piece of headgear. Mario can throw Cappy forward to not just take out enemies, but most can even be captured. I'm not talking like Ash Ketchum in Pokemon, where a Goomba winds up inside of a little ball so Mario can work his way to be the overall Goomba Master. No, I mean literally capturing and possessing them. To use the Goomba example, when Cappy is thrown at such an enemy, Mario's spirit will enter into it, becoming that Goomba -- though not without his trademark red hat and mustache, of course. Goombas can then pile on to one another, creating towers of Goombas to reach high places.

Ever wished for a chance to be a Paragoomba? (Of course you have.) Your dream's come true!
A lot of enemies and even objects within Super Mario Odyssey are able to be captured. A corralled Chain Chomp can be captured, pulled back against the force of its chain, and then launched forward to break through walls and in to other enemies. An electrical wire can have Cappy thrown at it, instantly turning Mario into an electrified Amp, charging and coasting along the wire to speed up skyscrapers or make shortcuts from the bottom of a mountain to the top. Even poles can be used, sort of like a platforming hat rack, allowing Mario and Cappy the ability to launch off them across great expanses. What you're able to capture as Cappy and control as Mario throughout Odyssey's length left me continually surprised. Whether it was a high-hopping frog, a lava-exploring ball of fire, or poison muck-spewing creature akin to what you'd see in Little Shop of Horrors, creatures that had long been haunts in past Mario games were now playable to me and used in truly creative ways. This was mind-blowing to me.

That purple stuff isn't grape juice, Mario, so stay away from it.
Nevertheless, the added benefit of having Cappy around isn't limited to his capture ability. No, a bonus ability is just how expansive the little cap makes Mario's arsenal, adding to the already vast lineup of platforming tricks the plump plumber could do in previous 3D mainline Mario games. You can use Mario to launch Cappy forward, hold the Y button to keep him there, and then vault off Cappy to perform a high jump. This can even be used with enough practice to cross huge gaps like throwing Cappy, jumping or even "long jumping" (a 3D Mario staple) on top of him, throwing the cap again, bouncing off him, and then performing a dive to cover the most ground. (And hopefully not smacking Mario's face into a wall over a bottomless pit.) The possibilities and combinations to chain Mario's moves is at an all-time high, and this goes well with completing certain challenges or merely doing them faster.

Cappy introduces plenty of new possibilities into Mario's repertoire of moves.
However, with all of these possibilities and chaining combinations to advance your ability to navigate the various lands of Super Mario Odyssey, there is an issue. A small numbers of moves and even captured enemy abilities are locked behind motion control movement, or at the very least, they're performed more easily with motion controls activated. Hence, the game's obnoxious need to show you an unskippable recommendation to use the Joycon controllers split apart while playing every time you boot up the game. There aren't many moves locked to motion controls, but the ones that are can make for a harder, more frustrating time for players who opt out of using them.

For example, rolling is a new technique in Super Mario Odyssey that is performed by holding down the crouch button after a long jump or while going down a hill. To get the most speed from a roll, you need to shake the Joycon controller. For one post-game challenge in Odyssey, it's almost impossible to do otherwise. (Keyword being "almost".) Things like swinging Cappy upward or downward to attack as well as home-in on enemies are completely impossible to do without motion control gestures, and capture abilities like leaping higher in the air than a normal leap with the frog or blazing a trail faster in the air as a Bullet Bill are only possible with motion controls, too. Disappointing.

This enemy? Well, this thing's just a blowhard.
The worlds in Super Mario Odyssey are known as kingdoms, and Mario and Cappy's ship, the Odyssey, grants you the ability to choose your next kingdom location to travel to. Of course, you need to acquire a specific amount of Power Moons (the equivalent of Power Stars in Super Mario 64 and Shine Sprites in Super Mario Sunshine) to charge up the vessel sufficiently enough to be able to travel to a new kingdom.

The main story-related objectives in each kingdom are spelled out to you in full cinematic glory. Some kingdoms have one main challenge to do while others have multiple main challenges. Usually it's something like "reach this destination" or "beat this boss". The completed story objectives earn you one Power Moon while the kingdom's ultimate story objective grants you a Grand Moon (three Power Moons attached to one another similar in appearance to a banana bunch). Unlike past 3D Mario games of this type, once you and Mario collect a Power Moon, you're not booted outside of the level. You just continue as you were Banjo-Kazooie style! However, just getting the Power Moons from the story won't be enough to continue pursuing Mario and Cappy's hunt for Bowser and his captive Princess Peach.

Many kingdoms feature some truly cool boss battles that put Mario and Cappy's skills to good use.
Thus, you need to find Power Moons, and that shouldn't be very difficult as they are everywhere in Super Mario Odyssey. Well, not literally "everywhere", but it sure seems like you come across them from doing a whole slew of simple as well as complex tasks relatively easily. In most kingdoms, practically every turn is crawling with Moon opportunities. "Oh, here's a mysteriously glowing spot on this hill! Better ground pound it!", "Oh, here's a button in the shape of a Goomba with the number six on it! Better become a Goomba and leap on four others!", "Oh, this is an interesting-looking pipe that I've never seen before. Better go in it!"

The really enjoyable and entertaining Power Moons come from diverse platforming challenges as well as solving puzzles, entering secret challenge rooms that test one ability (whether one of Mario's or that of a capture ability) in reward for a Power Moon (and a second if you're exploring well enough), and mini-games like jump rope, RC racing, beach volleyball, as well as racing with Koopa Troopas and adorable denizens of the Snow Kingdom. One challenge might have Mario crossing a breakable bridges of blocks that gets increasingly more perilous as Bullet Bills barrage and blast into it, while another might take Cappy away from Mario for an athletic obstacle course over a bottomless pit, featuring rotating and spinning platforms. Then, there are sections of Super Mario Odyssey where you'll enter purely 2D sections with 8-bit mural art. You'll be going at it like old school Super Mario Bros. but on a 3D surface like a tower as seen in the Sand Kingdom.

As seen displayed on the tower in the background, a 2D platforming challenge for Mario.
However, many times Power Star challenges can be as simple as ground pounding a specific spot, chasing and catching a cowardly rabbit, having a playful pup dig up your desired treasure, dressing in the right outfit to acquire access to an otherwise locked area, finding Captain Toad, seeing a Power Moon on a platform and just picking up, looking into a viewfinder, and so forth. A fair amount seem like undercooked ideas that were just placed as padding to up the count of total Power Moons in Super Mario Odyssey. When I started getting to post-game, I already learned most of the "basic" Power Moon types in kingdoms, just like chasing and catching a cowardly rabbit, having a playful pup dig up my desired treasure, looking into a viewfinder, and so forth. Thankfully, the truly creative Power Moon challenges do come at a varied amount and are much more interesting. Heck, even these simple Power Moon objectives can build up your count quite easily, and perhaps that was Nintendo EPD's intention to allow younger or less skilled players access to Odyssey's ending.

This purple goop certainly isn't grape juice either, Mario.
By the time you reach the ending of the game, save the princess, and view the credits, you might have a sizable amount of Power Moons under your belt, but you can easily beat Super Mario Odyssey doing the bare minimum and collecting only a handful of Power Moons from various kingdoms. Doing this, though, is a huge disservice to the game. This isn't your typical 3D Mario with just 120 total collectibles. There's a seriously large tally of Power Moons to get. Post-game unlocks include new kingdoms and new Power Moons in already visited kingdoms. More Power Moons unlock new outfits for Mario to purchase at the various Crazy Cap clothing stores in each kingdom.

Speaking of which, Super Mario Odyssey isn't just a globe-trotting platforming adventure but a celebration of Mario's history. This is best displayed within the game's Crazy Cap brand of stores, one in most kingdoms. You can mix and match hats and outfits that Mario can proudly display throughout his journeys all across the world, as well as buy souvenirs with kingdom-exclusive purple coins. Whether it's an American flag-inspired golf suit from NES Open Tournament Golf, Mario's artist outfit a la Mario Paint, a red and yellow construction suit as seen in the Wii U's Super Mario Maker, or other surprises from past Mario entries both mainline and not, the amount of clothing and options is astounding and remarkably wild.

What better way to go on an odyssey than with an explorer's outfit on?
It's better yet, then, that you have a way to display Mario's fashion or set up action shots to your friends or to the Internet with Super Mario Odyssey's built-in photo mode. A press of the down direction on the D-Pad during gameplay will grant you the necessary tools to create your stunning, funny, mysterious, bizarre, artsy, and/or provocative pics with zoom and tilt functionality, filters (like blur, black-and-white, overexposed, Game Boy, and more), and the ability to create a landscape or portrait photo. Share it with friends easily with Twitter and Facebook. (But hopefully not spoil the crap out of awesome post-game content like that one kingdom...)

How do you cook your Mario? Al dente? 
Let's actually talk about the kingdoms. They are boosting and exuding with creativity and personality. Every kingdom you start at is set up in a particular way. Once the threat of Bowser has been removed from it, the kingdom greatly expands, and places where there may have been obstructions are now gone. Each kingdom has a different theme spelled out in its name: Cascade, Sand, Wooded, Metro, etc. These kingdoms also have unique citizens that behave and appear differently from citizens of other kingdoms, like the Day of the Dead rhythm-loving creatures of the Sand Kingdom or the highly mathematical robot gardeners of the Wooden Kingdom. Even the in-game brochures of the various kingdoms within Odyssey go in to detail on these locales.  Rather than just a map of the kingdom (which is highly helpful in locating Power Moon locations and transporting between fast travel points), but detailed information about sights to see, things to do, backgrounds on the people and culture, and points of interest, too.

From the fresh mountain air and serene waterfalls of the Cascade Kingdom (where you can also use Cappy to capture a giant dang T-Rex to do exhilarating damage!) and the platforming playground in both Mario's ground game as well as vertical game with the Metro Kingdom, to the simple polygonal fruits and vegetables and pink lava flowing through the Luncheon Kingdom and the blissful beach and glorious sunset of the Seaside Kingdom, Super Mario Odyssey's different kingdoms are packed with platforming challenges, fiendish puzzles, hidden secrets, unpredictable scenarios, and wondrous views. Don't even get me started on the tremendous quality that is Odyssey's version of Bowser's Castle!

Sure, it's not Jurassic Park, but I argue it's better -- it's Mario as a T-Rex!
By far my favorite kingdom in Super Mario Odyssey has to be one I mentioned before, the Metro Kingdom, and that is where New Donk City is located. This metropolis perched on top of an enormous skyscraper is home to some smooth citizens, all wearing suits and caps, as they go about their business. Mario saves the day in his initial visit here, where the sky was dark, the weather was rain with a definite chance for storms, and a gigantic mechanical Wiggler wreaked havoc throughout the city thanks to Bowser's work. After the mechanized monstrosity is defeated, the skies turn blue and the denizens go about their business. Now, the place is all opened up, allowing for Mario and Cappy full privilege and pleasure to go hog wild, riding on scooters, vaulting off signposts and taxi cabs, wall jumping in alleyways up to rooftops, heading to the tallest building in town -- city hall -- and leaping from top all the way for the gut-wrenching ride down to street level. With Mecha-Wiggler defeated, a full festival gets underway, and it's one of my most cherished moments in recent gaming history. I won't spoil why, but it's worth playing for any Mario fan.

I wonder what the latest memes are in a place like New Donk City...
Super Mario Odyssey doesn't disappoint in its attention to detail, level design, or amount of content, and I'm glad to report that it doesn't disappoint in its presentation either. I played the full game on my TV, as I thought the latest 3D Mario deserved nothing less but a big screen appearance and play-through, but in both docked and undocked forms, Super Mario Odyssey runs rock solidly. The details in the environments are stunning to look at, though close up textures like grass can look a bit off. Though I admit the photo mode certainly helped picked things like that up for me. Visual special effects like the glimmer of the Seaside Kingdom's sunset between a rock archway or Mario being all shiny as he exits a body of water are some of just a myriad of amazing things I noticed while playing the game. There's so much more, and definitely a lot more lovely touches. Musically, Super Mario Odyssey's soundtrack is superb. It has a mix of musical styles, much like the mix of locales featured in the various kingdoms in the game. Instead of being a unified "orchestral" sound like the Galaxy games or something that is mostly "big band" like Super Mario 3D World, Super Mario Odyssey's music runs the gamut and a quite striking and great one at that.

Super Mario Odyssey is a masterful game, but after all the insipid and seemingly throwaway Power Moon challenges in the game (that thankfully don't make up the majority of the game's content), the forced recommendations by Nintendo in both menus and gameplay to use motion controls, and a generally low difficulty make it a game that isn't my favorite 3D Mario. It's a superb new structure to 3D Mario, however, offering a massive playground with specific story-tied missions and a whole slew of challenges to find and complete outside of finishing one and then getting kicked out of the entire level. Super Mario Odyssey isn't a revolution to 3D Mario like Breath of the Wild was to 3D Zelda, but at the same time, it doesn't have to be. As I said, Nintendo has reinvented 3D Mario time and time again. They've done it before, they've done it partway here, and I hope for the long term they'll do it again. For now, I'd love to see Nintendo take what worked from Odyssey and perhaps make a sequel with some more fleshed out ideas and any concepts that were left out of the game since there's SO much potential. Regardless, Super Mario Odyssey is one of the best games of 2017, so once again, Nintendo (specifically Nintendo EPD), my hat's off to you.

[SPC Says: A]

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Rogue Trooper Redux (NSW) Review

Generally around SuperPhillip Central, the word "redux" is used for "Review Redux" where I take a second glance at a game I've already reviewed. This time, however, it's an actual game's name that is given the "redux" treatment with Rogue Trooper Redux. Confused yet? I wrote this intro, am supposed to know what I'm talking about, and you bet I'm confused! Oh well. To the review!

Way to be a trooper.

The original Rogue Trooper came out at a time where cover shooters were just coming in to their own. Unfortunately, the game had competition in the crowded holiday season with a "little-known" (sarcasm definitely intended there) third-person cover shooter called Gears of War for the Xbox 360 releasing. One game moved the needle on how cover shooting is supposed to be done and is still a prime example of it, while the other is Rogue Trooper.

Thus, it's clear to say that Rogue Trooper Redux, released on the Nintendo Switch eShop, is a game of its time. What was serviceable in the cover shooter department isn't quite as good now, as that's most apparent when trying to actually aim while behind cover. Quite frankly, it's next to impossible, as your aiming is greatly limited as to what you can shoot. And when you do shoot at the few areas beyond your strict limitations, your bullets generally don't connect. What is laid out as a cover shooter turned more into a run and gunner.

You can sure look cool propping up against that rock, but I dare you to be able to see anything to shoot.
But hiding behind cover isn't the sole gameplay focus of Rogue Trooper nor its Redux version. It brings more to the table than attempting and failing to do something that Gears of War and its subsequent sequels did magnificently.

Starting off, let's begin with the premise of the game. You serve as Rogue, a G.I. who looks like a disgruntled member of the Blue Man Group. Instead of satisfying show attendees with music and paint, Rogue delivers on the battlefield with enemies' screams and blood. His kind is slaughtered before him, but the troopers that served on his squad routinely get their microchips transplanted from their living bodies into Rogue's various arsenal. For instance, right at the beginning of the first level, Rogue's trooper who is the comic relief gets slain, and just before he dies, his microchip is implanted into Rogue's gun. By the third or fourth level's end, all four troopers are back together again (though three travel within the weapons and armor of Rogue) and they're all looking for a taste of revenge.

Rogue Trooper Redux feels good to play for the most part. Analog movement on the Switch makes aiming sometimes a bother, costing you precious health in exchange for a steady target and that satisfying kill. Here's where Rogue Trooper gets to be more than just another cover shooter. The game routinely unlocks upgrades for you to purchase with currency from fallen enemies as well as hidden in certain corners and areas of levels. You can upgrade your assault rifle to carry more ammo, invent new grenades like incendiary ones to blaze a burning trail to victory, and also restock on ammo and the most important of all, med kits, which restore health.

"Covering is for blankets and quilts. I'm a G.I., dammit!"
Rogue's buddies can also be used in various ways to be used to your advantage in combat scenarios. Sure, you might get fed up the game's lackluster cover-based systems and may want to run it and gun it the entire game, but you can also use your buddies' skills like throwing a turret or projecting a hologram of Rogue to have the enemies' attention on those while you sneak behind them and unleash a barrage of bullets in their backs. All's fair in love and war. The combat options these abilities provide as well as the upgrade system make for some positive distinguishing features for Rogue Trooper Redux that makes the lack of a compelling (or competent, really) cover system.

The campaign of Rogue Trooper Redux will take most players about 6-8 hours. A lot of it will be repeating segments of levels over again as there aren't as many checkpoints as I would have liked in each. Regardless, it's ultimately an engaging enough campaign, though nothing earth-shattering, of course. After the campaign is over, there's a couple online modes with competitive multiplayer as the focus, but defending a base or reaching a specific point in a level didn't really appeal to me to enjoy them at any length.

Those looking for a blast from the past can find one with Rogue Trooper Redux, but don't expect an amazing game. Heck, the visuals haven't even received an amazing bump either. The visuals are just like the game, really, dated but passable. If you really like shooters of the PS2 era (heck, the original game DID release on that platform), then Rogue Trooper Redux might have enough for you, especially if you want to play it in the Nintendo Switch's undocked mode. Otherwise, either wait for a sale or just pick up the PS2/Wii original.

[SPC Says: C]

Review copy provided by Rebellion.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs - "For Your Convenience" Edition

You might notice something new this week as you scroll down this edition of SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs. Instead of clicking on a separate link to have readers go to YouTube (you can still do that, though), why not just click on the video itself, embedded right into the blog for readers to not have to click so many things? That's exactly what I did, making things slightly convenient for myself in the process. See? We both win!

On this edition, JRPGs are the flavor of the week. We begin with Final Fantasy III with its originally Nintendo DS-only remake before we enter the early days of online console lobbies with Phantasy Star Online Episode I & II. Our palette of color and sound grows with music from Paper Mario: Color Splash. Then, we finally trek onto magical kingdoms and the Wild West with music from Fantasy Life and Wild Arms 3.

As always, check out the VGM Database for all past video game tracks featured on this weekly recurring segment. Now, let's get on to the music!

v1511. Final Fantasy III (Multi) - Memory of the Wind ~ Legend of the Eternal Wind

This composition was specifically made for the 3D remake of Final Fantasy III (a title that hit the West for the first time with this Nintendo DS game). Don't get it confused with what the West previously called Final Fantasy III, and that was actually the sixth Final Fantasy mainline entry, Final Fantasy VI. (Maybe it's just better if you just look that background info up if you need to.) Regardless, this orchestrated piece is a medley of themes from Final Fantasy III, and if you think its welcoming you to a breezy adventure, then you have got another thing coming!

v1512. Phantasy Star Online Episode I & II (GCN, XBX) - A Whole New World

Our theme this week beyond "easier to listen to music" is that of JRPGs. They come in all sub-genres: turn-based, action-RPG, and so forth. Phantasy Star Online presents us with an MMORPG, one of the earliest for consoles. However, this updated version of A Whole New World is heard in Episode II on the GameCube and Xbox. There's slight differences and unique orchestrations here and there, and it's my preferred way to listen to this rousing vocal track.

v1513. Paper Mario: Color Splash (Wii U) - Battle with Ludwig

While many argue that Paper Mario should return to its turn-based, two-party system where enemies give experience points upon being felled, Color Splash on Wii U certainly wasn't as disappointing to most as the Nintendo 3DS's previous Sticker Star was. Not only were elements of the adventuring upgraded, but so was the script, adding a lot more places for some really hilarious humor. One of my favorite things about Sticker Star and Color Splash is the duo of games' music, which Color Splash just excels at. Catchy themes abound in this delightful late release in the Wii U's life.

v1514. Fantasy Life (3DS) - Great Plains

Nobuo Uematsu has yet to surpass the pedestal he put himself on in my nostalgic heart with his compositions in Final Fantasy VI and Final Fantasy IX, but I'd by lying if I said his works in Fantasy Life wasn't a contender. Fantasy Life is an action-RPG where you explore fields, caves, dungeons, and more in search of loot and materials needed to upgrade weapons as well as your tools to adequately also level up your job level in addition to your experience level. Great Plains is a fitting theme to march along and begin your trek across the kingdom in search of glorious adventure!

v1515. Wild Arms 3 (PS2) - Gunmetal Action

I don't get a chance to talk too much about the Wild Arms series as it doesn't come up a lot in the articles I write, aside from SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs now and then. Well, I get another opportunity, as you can see, with this edition's entry with this battle theme of Wild Arms 3, the first PlayStation 2 game in the Wild Arms franchise. You definitely need a battle theme that sticks with you and doesn't become grating when it's going to be tagging along with your party the entire game, playing during virtually every random enemy encounter in your Wild West adventure. Composer Michiko Naruke once again made sure that didn't happen with her Gunmetal Action battle theme.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 (NS) “Close Call” Commercial

Though the game's release date isn't for another three weeks now, Xenoblade Chronicles 2's full commercial has been published on Nintendo of America's YouTube channel to view. This ad continues the "Close Call" lineup of ads that also includes Fire Emblem Warriors and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Xenoblade Chronicles 2 launches on December 1.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs - "Sonic Unleashed" Edition

Sonic's newest 3D adventure, Sonic Forces, releases officially today (despite many stores breaking the game's street date). Judging on impressions, however, I think it's a better opportunity to look back on -- let's say -- brighter entries in the Sonic the Hedgehog series with this special edition of SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs.

We blaze onto the scene with both Adventure games, just in the opposite order, beginning with Sonic Adventure 2 and then Sonic Adventure. Then, we go retro with Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and Sonic 3D Blast, both Sega Genesis titles. Finally, a more interesting and polished 3D Sonic than apparently Sonic Forces is, Sonic Generations is where our final VGM volume of this edition comes from.

Finally, check out the VGM Database for every past VGM volume posted on this weekly series of articles. Now, let's get on to the music!

v1506. Sonic Adventure 2 (Multi) - Escape from the City

We're rolling around at the speed of sound with this first song on this Sonic spearheaded edition of SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs, diving in to listen to the vocal theme that greeted players in the very first stage of Sonic Adventure 2, City Escape. It's a level so nice that when the 20th anniversary game for the Sonic the Hedgehog series, Sonic Generations, included it within its nine chosen zones.

v1507. Sonic Adventure (Multi) - Windy Hill... for Windy Valley

This chippy and uptempo tune plays in the first section of the Windy Valley stage in Sonic Adventure. It takes places high above the scenery in a mountainous valley with a blowing wind. Once Sonic gets through enough of the level, a giant tornado scoops them up and sends them blasting into the second half of Windy Valley. While the second half of the level features a more peppy theme (a remix of a tune from Sonic 3D Blast), I can't help but prefer the chillness of Windy Hill as heard in Windy Valley.

v1508. Sonic the Hedgehog 3 (GEN) - Hydrocity Zone, Act 2

Sonic the Hedgehog 3's Hydrocity Zone is a popular one from that game, and fans had been waiting for years for Sonic Team to revisit it. It was disappointing to not see this aquatic zone in Sonic Generations, but this year, Hydrocity returned in all its bubbly, strong current glory in Sonic Mania. Who could foresee that folks behind 2D fan games of Sonic the Hedgehog would outdo this year's effort by Sonic Team in Sonic Forces? Okay, well, probably a lot of people, sadly.

v1509. Sonic 3D Blast (GEN) - Bonus Stage

I prefer the Sega Saturn and PC versions of the Sonic 3D Blast soundtrack over the Genesis one, as not only is the sound richer on Saturn and PC, but the melodies are different as well. However, I do like a good deal of the songs on the Genesis soundtrack as well. As I've already shared the bonus stage theme for the Saturn/PC version of Sonic 3D Blast, here is the theme for the Genesis game. Certainly not as jazzy and uptempo as the Saturn/PC build, but this version offers something unique and special as well.

v1510. Sonic Generations (Multi) - Collection Room (Door into Summer)

Door into Summer is a song that plays in one of the earliest zones in the 32X-exclusive Knuckles Chaotix. While the original version uses all synth, this remade version takes my favorite song from Chaotix and makes it even more pleasing to my ears with a sensational violin providing the main melody. Sonic Generations ties with Sonic Colors as my favorite all-time 3D Sonic games, so if 3D Sonic had to fall in quality (again), at least it did so before those two games came out.

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 (NS) Character Trailer

A special Nintendo Direct featuring December 1's Xenoblade Chronicles 2 was played on various streaming sites. Included with this sixteen minute Direct was a character trailer showing off the primary cast of the game in all of their fashionable... glory. Jokes aside, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is shaping up to be a deep game in lore, exploration, and gameplay, and it arrives on the Nintendo Switch in less than a month.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Sonic Forces (NS, PS4, XB1, PC) Launch Trailer

While the latest 3D Sonic might take all of the goodwill the series recently has experience from the retro-styled Sonic Mania and sour it, it's hard to deny that Sonic is still a mighty mascot with millions of fans around the world. His latest game, Sonic Forces, releases tomorrow (though some have found stores breaking the street date), so Sega has unleashed this launch trailer for the game.

Friday, November 3, 2017

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (NS) “Close Call” Trailer

Have an adventure in the land of Skyrim around the house, or take your adventure with you on the go with The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim on Nintendo Switch. Nintendo has published an all-new special commercial for the upcoming November 17, 2017 release under its "Close Call" series of television marketing ads.

Dragon Ball FighterZ (PS4, XB1, PC) - Story Trailer #1

Namco Bandai has published a lot of character and gameplay trailers for the upcoming January 26, 2018 release Dragon Ball FighterZ, but now we have our first look at what the story of the game amounts to. A new original android is the villain this time around, and it doesn't look like she has any good intentions to go around.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Review Round-Up - October 2017

The month of Halloween dug up some treats with indie darling and SPC Game of the Month SteamWorld Dig 2.
The month of the year that features Halloween has passed, which means it's time for another Review Round-Up as we head into the last two months of 2017. The months just fly by, don't they?

Things kicked off with one of my favorite indie games in a long while, SteamWorld Dig 2, digging up a terrific A grade. Continuing the indie theme, three more digital downloads were reviewed: Yono and the Celestial Elephants (C), Squareboy vs. Bullies: Arena Edition (D), and Earth Atlantis (C+).

Moving on from digital-only releases, Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga + Bowser's Minions earned itself a wonderful A-. Finally, two fighting game reviews posted on Halloween night, Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 and Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite, both scored a B- for varying reasons.

SteamWorld Dig 2 (NS, PS4, PC, Vita) - A
Yono and the Celestial Elephants (NS, PC) - C
Squareboy vs. Bullies: Arena Edition (NS, Vita) - D
Earth Atlantis (NS) - C+
Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga + Bowser's Minions (3DS) - A-
Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 (NS) - B-
Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite (PS4, XB1, PC) - B-

The Capcom crossover returned this month to SuperPhillip Central with Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite (PS4, XB1, PC) Review

Our final fighting game of Halloween is Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite, which also just so happens to be the final review of October for SuperPhillip Central. Stay tuned for the October 2017 Review Round-Up tomorrow, by the way! Here are my thoughts on the latest Marvel and Capcom fighting game crossover.

The fate of two worlds depends on you.

Of all of the fighting games that come out from Capcom, my favorite has to be the crossover ones between Capcom and other companies. I have a fondness for Tatsunoko vs. Capcom on the Wii, particularly. Now, a returning crossover sees a new game in its historic fighting game series, Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite. From lackluster demos to bad impressions from the media, is there any chance for Infinite to actually be good?

Compared to past Marvel vs. Capcom games, Infinite has a much slower pace to its fighting. This presents a more strategic flow to battle rather than the super fast and fluid fighting of the previous entries in the Marvel vs. Capcom series. However, a new system has been added to complement the slower style of combat in the form of the Infinity Stones, not-so-coincidentally a big part of the narrative in the most recent Marvel blockbuster films.

Infinite moves from a 3 on 3 battle system to a 2 on 2 system. While the lack of an extra character to choose from for your team is a disappointing one, what it overall amounts to is giving you an added amount of strategy in choosing an Infinity Stone to equip to your team that will play well with their combat styles. These Infinity Stones augment abilities, restore health to characters, and more. Choosing which one to use for the given battle can be a stark difference between victory and defeat, especially if you're playing against a skilled opponent.

After many cries and urges for his inclusion, Mega Man X is finally on a Marvel vs. Capcom roster.
The controls of Infinite are relatively beginner-friendly, as each face button is assigned to a weak and strong attack, either a punch or a kick depending on the particular button pressed. All fighters have the same button combinations for attacks, which is also something nice and accessible for newbies. After all, Marvel vs. Capcom hasn't really been a friendly game for beginners compared to other fighting game franchises on the market. However, with all moves using simple button combos that are similar across all fighters, there's less necessity to remember different button configurations and more emphasis put on concocting killer combos. Setting up your opponent for a multiple hit combo is simple enough in easier difficulties, but as the challenge ramps up, you really need to learn how opponents will be impacted from your attacks so you can continue your combo in the right direction. Otherwise, you'll open yourself up to be attacked yourself.

A great thing about Infinite is that while it's accessible to new players, there is a markedly deep game here for series veterans and those wanting more advanced tactics. The more involved combat tactics allow you to really get inside your mains and preferred fighters, coming up with pro-level strategies that a beginner could only dream of plotting out and performing.

Thankfully, if you're not a seasoned vet, Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite comes supplied with multiple modes to get into the fighting system before engaging in battles online, where no doubt most players' energy and time will be put in to. The most helpful of these modes is Training, where you learn the basics of battle and start out with simple button combos to use against an AI opponent. Each combo completed is a mission finished. You can learn the ins and outs of Infinite with some overview tutorials or do character-specific tutorials, teaching you the most pronounced and effective combos for that particular combatant. This is terrific for some deeper learning of and training with a fighter you might want to main. If you're a more casual player like myself, you might just want to check out the introductory set of tutorial missions for each character to get a taste of what's available, as these combos can get very complex with both the button combinations and specific timing windows required for them.

Our two combatants zero in on one another for what is sure to be one exciting fight.
What Street Fighter V lacked when it originally released was a Story Mode, and Capcom seemed to have learned a lesson on this itself by including a mode within Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite. Not much background is involved with the story to help players understand why folks in both Marvel and Capcom universes are together, but the story involves heroic forces made up of characters like Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Mega Man X, Chris Redfield, and more taking on a new villain, a merge of Marvel's Ultron and Mega Man X's Sigma with the super powerful Ultron Sigma. After suffering a defeat by Ultron Sigma's hands, the resistance regroups and comes up with a plan to acquire the Infinity Stones, the only means to overcome their joint foe.

The story itself isn't too engaging plot-wise, but what really saves it for me is all of the clever interactions and banter between both Marvel's heroes and Capcom's. Though the latter understandably doesn't have as much importance due to Marvel being a household name and Capcom... well, being Capcom. Still, when you get scenes involving Spider-Man, Resident Evil's Chris Redfield, Dead Rising's Frank West, and Final Fight's Mike Haggar exploring a subterranean area owned by the Umbrella Corporation, it's pretty cool to see. While the story won't last you long, maybe 3-4 hours for most players, it is worthwhile to play through once, but maybe not again.

One of the biggest qualms many longtime fans of the Marvel vs. Capcom series have with Infinite is its roster selection, and I'm of the opinion that the complete roster has both pros and cons. To get the negatives out of the way, there are few completely new additions to the roster, as most are simply brought back from the previous game. Furthermore, a completely notable absence is that of the X-Men due to Marvel and Fox battling out rights for the characters, hence their exclusion in Infinite. It's still pretty lame to have a Marvel fighter without the likes of Wolverine, Magneto, and more included even if the legal situation is present.

Thor's mighty hammer vs. the Hulk's powerful fist: Which will come out the victor?
However, on the positive side, past Marvel vs. Capcom games had a lot of fighters that played similarly to one another. With Infinite, this issue is no longer pronounced at all. Each fighter presents their own combat style and combo potential without feeling samey compared to other additions on the roster. While the limitations on the Marvel side are disappointing, Capcom added enough of their own characters to make up for it decently enough. Of course, I expect more people would rather have the likes of Deadpool and Storm rather than the likes of Mega Man X and Darkstalkers' Jedah. Still, DLC is coming for those who want it, but the sickening part of that is that the characters of this first season were ready before Infinite even came to market, so your mileage may vary on if you feel it's worth supporting such a business practice.

Moving on from roster-related disappointment to the disappointment seen in the visuals, Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite does not continue the series' trend of impressive graphics. The backgrounds, though highly detailed, don't offer much visual engagement to the player, and especially the character models are a severe dislike to me, particularly the faces. Capcom already received a lot of flak for their interpretation of Street Fighter's Chun-Li, which was later remedied, but at the same time, the other characters' faces and expressions are a bit jarring at best. These type of faces make you wonder what is exactly off with them, which isn't a judgment I expected to ever say coming off brilliant looking entries like Marvel vs. Capcom 2 and then later on 3 and its Ultimate version. Even the music is less than stellar, offering ruined electronic versions of classic character theme songs. Overall, one can surmise that the budget for Infinite was unfortunately mightily toned down for this sequel.

Dante and Rocket Raccoon go out guns blazing. Could it have ended any other way between these two?
Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite gets the most important piece of a fighting game right, the actual fighting. It's everything else that seems a bit sub-par. Sure, the Story Mode is fun to play through once merely for the interactions between Marvel and Capcom all-stars, but the budget put into that mode could have gone to make the whole of Infinite better, such as creating a more interesting roster. Still, the content is there for those who want it and online play runs as expected for those who will desire to be the very best, or just rage quit a lot. Whichever, right?

[SPC Says: B-]

Dissidia: Final Fantasy NT (PS4) Overview Trailer

Let's continue this night of fighters with a question: Are you ready to learn even more about Dissidia Final Fantasy NT? Square Enix has you covered with this special overview trailer discussing character types and summons particularly. With four main character types, 20+ characters, and what looks like awesome 3-on-3 fighting, The Dissidia: Final Fantasy's home console debut is shaping up to a winner when it launches exclusively on the PlayStation 4 on January 30, 2018.


Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 (NS) Review

It's an evening of fighting games this Halloween night. Things start off with this review of Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2, as released on the Nintendo Switch last month. Stay tuned for more fighting game goodness later tonight, but first, here's SuperPhillip Central's review of Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 for Nintendo Switch.

Preserve the past while forging a hopeful future

Dragon Ball is back and in a big way as of late. A new anime that continues the adventures of Goku and crew marches along with Dragon Ball Super, and a jaw-dropping new fighting game for the series is due out early next year with Dragon Ball FighterZ. Before looking completely into the future, Nintendo Switch owners recently got in on the Dragon Ball fun with a port of 2016's Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2. Does being able to relive parts of the Dragon Ball Z and Dragon Ball Super anime series, as well as being able to grind on the go (or on the toilet) make for a worthwhile game for Switch owners?

Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 returns the story to a familiar concept. One very reminiscent of the first Xenoverse. Once more Towa and Mira are at it again, altering events within the Dragon Ball Z chronology to ensure the bad guys win. It's up to your avatar and Trunks to serve as the front lines of the Time Patrol, fixing various complications caused within the events of the game. Do you remember that one part on Dragon Ball Z during the Saiyan Saga where both Vegeta and Nappa turned into Great Apes? Well, that didn't actually happen, but with Towa and Mira's meddling, it does in Xenoverse 2's story. That's but one of the many alterations within the game. Xenoverse 2's story mode chronicles changes from Dragon Ball Z's Saiyan Saga all the way up to Dragon Ball Super's Frieza arc.

Battle like you've never battled before, Goku and Vegeta; The tournament crowd demands it!
Your avatar character is a custom creation made by you using various pieces of other Dragon Ball characters. Before you get down to the nitty-gritty, you first choose from one of five races like Human, Saiyan, or Namekian, for instance. Everything from the gender and color of your character's hair and skin to the sound of their voice can be customized.

Once you finish customizing your avatar, you're thrust into Xenoverse 2's new setting, Conton City, a much larger and less tedious place to travel around in than the original's Toki Toki City. However, on the Nintendo Switch version this overworld where all of Xenoverse 2's points of interest are interconnected chugs along at an inconsistent frame-rate at best. Still, it's a negative performance effect that doesn't mean much unless you're really sensitive to frame-rate. In my case, the stuttering didn't bother me whatsoever and I quickly learned to deal with it.

Looking pretty fly there, chief!
Conton City itself is home to an exhaustive list of things to do. The Time Nest houses the means to continue along with story quests while a counter in the westernmost part of the main city is where Parallel Quests can be tried out. As you progress in the story, more Parallel Quests unlock, bringing quests with varying scenarios, all of which never happened on the show. Whether it's battling Saiyan after Saiyan one after another, taking on the Ginyu Force in West City, or eliminating seven Cell Jr. enemies before taking on the head honcho Cell afterwards, the quests follow the same overall goal: beating the hell out of your opponents.

All Parallel Quests have secondary objectives (albeit hidden from sight) that when completed, introduces more fighting to the current quest. New opponents might appear yearning to fight or defeated ones might take a never say die attitude with you. Although failing a Parallel Quest after satisfying the primary objective but not finishing the secondary objective means you still complete the quest, it also means you won't be able to get an Ultimate Finish on that battle. This condition usually means better post-battle prizes and grades. Though the grade system itself in Xenoverse 2 doesn't generally follow any logical reasoning. One fight with a mediocre performance can give you the best grade, a Z, while a fight you thought you did well on nets you a B. The prizes you earn come in the form of items, costume pieces for your avatar, new moves to equip to your avatar, and money. Moves and costume pieces are the rarest to obtain, so even if you get an Ultimate Finish on a particular Parallel Quest, you're not guaranteed a rare item. In fact, there can be some annoying grinding involved to get desired items, but not nearly as bad as what was seen in the original Xenoverse.

Enter into some of the most memorable battles in Dragon Ball Z history... and some that never happened.
These Parallel Quests can be played offline with two other AI partners to assist you, or they can be played online with opponents the world over. Just don't expect to matched up all too quickly with people in the lobby. That said, once you're locked into a battle, everything runs steadily without much in the way of stuttering or lag, which was really great and satisfying to see in motion. Outside of Parallel Quests, multiplayer online battles are also available in both ranking and standard bouts. Meanwhile, local multiplayer can be played on one Switch with two controllers. The characters you've unlocked through normal play are the ones available to you, and with over 40 to choose from, the roster of fighters is quite impressive. (Alternatively, you can download a free code to unlock all characters instantaneously, but of course not the DLC ones that cost money.)

Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2's combat is mostly unchanged since the original game, but it still runs as fluidly on the Nintendo Switch with this port. Instead of up to eight characters on screen at once, the more limited hardware power of the Nintendo Switch results in only up to six characters being able to battle simultaneously. The Switch's Pro controller or Joycon grip work wonderfully with the game, granting the same experience as the earlier versions of Xenoverse 2 on the Switch's competing platforms. There's one face button each for weak and heavy attacks, one button to rise up while holding down the left stick results in your character lowering to the ground. one shoulder button blocks while the other provides a boost of speed to jet across the ground and through the air to get in the face of opponents, and holding down ZL, ZR, or a combination of the two presents a list of special moves that can be used (each assigned to a face button) as long as you have enough Ki energy to use them.

A boot to the gut will make even the strongest of fighters let out some serious air.
Ki is displayed on the HUD with an orange bar divided up between rectangles. It depletes as special moves are used, even if they miss their intended target (which is easy if you're just spamming them as there are few moves with actual homing capabilities). To restore it, you can either use an Energy Charge move, use a Ki-replenishing item, or deal damage to an opponent. Another bar on the HUD is the stamina gauge which is a series of blue rectangles that get used up each time you teleport behind your opponent, usually used to evade melee strikes and getting caught in a combo. Stamina also decreases when blocking. When the gauge is emptied completely, your character becomes dazed, and if they were blocking, their guard is broken, leaving them open to enemy attacks.

Xenoverse's 2 battles are just hectic as the anime they're based off of, just without any filler involved. Sure, you still have chatty characters like heroes cheering their teammates on or giving them words of encouragement while villains taunt your ability, but it's all in good fun. My only real gripe with battles is the unwieldy camera, which can obscure the view of players, especially when nearby objects like trees and buildings, and it does very little to help out when surrounded by enemies. Behind-the-back attacks happen more often than I would like, and with Xenoverse 2's camera these become a lot more frustrating when they happen (which is one problem that unfortunately reappears from the OG Xenoverse).

I'm glad Cell evolved from his first form. In this form he has a monstrous case of pinkeye.
Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 has a ton of content to it. From all of the quests -- both story and Parallel -- to training with the over 20 teachers in the game to learn their exclusive moves, leveling up your character's stats in any way you like, and doing battles online and off, Xenoverse 2 kept me coming back for more long after my avatar gave Towa and Mira a history lesson (and that lesson was "don't f--- with history". Performance in the Conton City hub isn't spectacular (in fact, it's not good at all), but in battles where it matters, it's aces. If you have yet to check out Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 and want to hype yourself up for the continuing adventures of Goku and friends in Dragon Ball Super or the upcoming fighter Dragon Ball FighterZ, this game will keep your hype in check. There's no need for Switch owners to call upon Shenron with the Dragon Ball to make a wish. An excellent Dragon Ball game is right here for them with Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2.

[SPC Says: B-]

Monday, October 30, 2017

SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs - "Scary Good VGMs" Edition

A new batch of VGMs is here for you to snarf down like Halloween candy. The best part of that? There's no trick-or-treating from house to house required. You can still wear a costume as you follow along with this article, however.

SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs has video game music this week that's so good, it's scary. Moving on from last week's 1500th VGM volume, we start fresh with two huge games and Game of the Year contenders, Super Mario Odyssey and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. From there, Fire Emblem Warriors takes us on an exciting trip on through the battlefield with a rockin' cool remix of a Fire Emblem: Awakening theme. The spooks are then in great supply with a theme from Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon, and lastly, Mighty Gunvolt delivers some modern old-school goodness.

As a reminder, click on the VGM Database for a history of this article series in VGM volume form. Now, let's get on to the music!

v1501. Super Mario Odyssey (NS) - Jump Up, Super Star!

SuperPhillip Central will of course be covering Super Mario Odyssey in review form shortly, and I'll try to keep that review as limited on spoilers as possible -- no worries! As for now, we begin this new frontier of VGMs with the signature piece of Mario's latest 3D adventure, Jump Up, Super Star! This theme is a first for the series, a fully vocal piece of music, and it's sung by the character of Pauline of Donkey Kong fame. It's all comes full circle, huh?

v1502. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (NS, Wii U) - Hyrule Castle

We go from one Game of the Year contender on the Nintendo Switch to another with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, also available on the Wii U as that system's final hurrah. Hyrule Castle is the final destination for Link, but this time around he can face Ganon at any time -- true to the developer's words of breaking Zelda series conventions. And boy, did Breath of the Wild ever do that in a multitude of ways! Hyrule Castle's theme is forlorn at times while triumphant at others, a great atmospheric sound for Link and the player who controls him to become fully prepared to face Ganon.

v1503. Fire Emblem Warriors (NS, N3DS) - Prelude (Ablaze)

Rock onto the battlefield with this theme from Fire Emblem: Awakening, the very first Nintendo 3DS entry in the Fire Emblem franchise. It's included as a part of the Fire Emblem Warriors soundtrack, a game incorporating the casts of Fire Emblem: Awakening, Fates, and Shadow Dragon in an intense hack and slash Dynasty Warriors-style game. The game makes the already fantastic music of the Fire Emblem series rage on even harder, perfect for commanding one's troops to victory.

v1504. Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon (3DS) - Gloomy Manor

What would a Halloween eve edition of SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs be without a taste of the special day? Well, it would still be worthwhile, but it would miss that special touch. Here's a level theme from the absolutely amazing Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon for the Nintendo 3DS, a great game to play around this time of year for kids and kids at heart alike (and just those who enjoy engaging gameplay and superb design in general). Join our plucky hero Luigi as he investigates the strange phenomena in not one but five different mansions.

v1505. Mighty Gunvolt (3DS) - School

A small game released as a complementary piece to Azure Striker Gunvolt, Mighty Gunvolt features the characters from Mighty No. 9, Azure Striker Gunvolt, and Gal*Gun. It's a simple, bite-sized 2D platformer with an old school 8-bit aesthetic to it. Included is a retro chiptune soundtrack as well, and the intro School stage happens to be my favorite from the package, as it's so chipper and cheery.

Monster Hunter: World (PS4, XB1, PC) PGW 2017 Trailer

Monster Hunter: World has also received a new trailer at Paris Games Week, and this one in particular focuses on the PlayStation 4 build, showcasing an exclusive beta and Aloy playable character model. The game itself is shaping up to be the ultimate Monster Hunter experience for fans. Monster Hunter: World releases January 26, 2017.

Marvel’s Spider-Man (PS4) PGW 2017 Teaser Trailer

Spider-Man, Spider-Man... No, I'm not singing the theme song. More like ruminating about all the Spider-Man games of the past that just missed the mark in some way (or worse, completely missed the target). With Insomniac Games of Ratchet & Clank and Sunset Overdrive fame at the helm for this new Spider-Man game (exclusive to PlayStation 4), I have high hopes that this one will be in the upper echelon of games featuring the iconic webhead.

God of War (PS4) PGW 2017 Gameplay Trailer

Kratos may have a son now, but he's not the type to lounge around watching football on Sundays and picking his kid up from soccer practice. Instead, he and his son are on what is set to be an epic adventure and fantastic entry in the God of War franchise. Due out 2018, God of War has this new trailer from the PlayStation Paris Games Week conference.

Shadow of the Colossus (PS4) Paris Games Week 2017 Trailer

Relive Shadow of the Colossus or play it for the first time in this sublime-looking remake of the PlayStation 2 classic, rebuilt exclusively on the PlayStation 4. If you thought taking down colossi was nerve-racking before, I imagine you haven't seen anything yet. As we await the release of this 2018 game, Sony's Japan Studio remains hard at work on it. Seems like the work put into the game is making it something truly spectacular for PS4 owners next year.

Horizon Zero Dawn: The Frozen Wilds (PS4) Paris Games Week Trailer

The expansion to a game that for me is a contender for Game of the Year, Horizon: Zero Dawn releases in a couple weeks with The Frozen Wilds. Explore the uncharted icy tundra with new creatures and new tactics to take them down. For owners of the original game, this is downloadable content, but for those new, a special retail package with both the original Horizon: Zero Dawn and The Frozen Wilds comes out soon.


Friday, October 27, 2017

Top Ten Mario Power-Ups from the 3D Games

It's an exciting day for gaming today with three huge releases all coming out at once. Along with a new Assassin's Creed and Wolfenstein, a huge gaming event in the form of a new 3D Mario releases today! In celebration of Super Mario Odyssey's launch, SuperPhillip Central looks back at past 3D Mario games to pick out the best power-ups featured inside. Speaking of Odyssey, SuperPhillip Central will have its own in-depth review in the coming week or so. Until then, check out SPC's top ten 3D Mario power-up picks and let me know which ones you agree with!

10) Boo Mushroom 

It's a great power-up to begin with as Halloween's approaching! Debuting in Super Mario Galaxy and then making a quick appearance in the sequel, the Boo Mushroom turns Mario into Boo Mario, having our hero take on the appearance of his ghastly foe from Super Mario Bros. 3 and on. With it, Mario can hover over the ground, pass through fences, and read signs posted in the Boo language. The first mission in Super Mario Galaxy featuring Boo Mario requires the red plumber to nab a Boo Mushroom to sneak into a prison where Luigi has been captured. While Boo Mario has very few elaborate uses in the context of the Galaxy games, you can't deny that Mario is just adorable in Boo form as he wears his hallmark red cap, sports his bushy mustache, and has his tongue wagging as he explores.

9) Bee Mushroom

Another Super Mario Galaxy 1 and 2 power-up, the Bee Mushroom first appears in the Honeyhive Galaxy, one of the few nonlinear areas in the first Galaxy game. As you might expect, this mushroom turns Mario into Bee Mario, granting him the power to fly around in the air for a limited amount of time, cling onto honeycombs, and gives him a light weight for crossing over clouds and flowers. Taking a dip into any body of water will instantly end Mario's time in bee form, and seeing as there are plenty of galaxies in both games featuring water, it takes some careful flying to remain as Bee Mario. One of my favorite Power Stars in Super Mario Galaxy is the Honeyclimb Galaxy, a miniature galaxy that is essentially an obstacle course. It requires Bee Mario to climb across honeycombs while avoiding various hazards.

8) Propeller Box

Going from the Galaxy games (but don't worry, we're not done with those just yet on this list) to the Super Mario 3D Land and World games, the Propeller Box is an orange box with two long white eyes sporting a yellow propeller on its top. When worn, the player's jumps are heightened greatly allowing them to reach platforms otherwise inaccessible or to assist in creating some second-saving shortcuts. As the player falls downward, they do so slowly while wearing the box over their head. There's a particular level in the first world of Super Mario 3D Land that takes place over multiple waterfalls where the goal is to descend downward on multiple platforms with the Propeller Box in mind. It's not only a terrific way of introducing the power-up to the player, but it's also an insanely impressive use of the Nintendo 3DS's built-in 3D effect as well.

7) Ice Flower

The Ice Flower has been seen in numerous 2D Mario games, notably the New Super Mario Bros. series. In Super Mario Galaxy 1 and 2, it serves a different function. For one, the Ice Flower (like the Fire Flower) is a timed use power-up, only giving the player a limited amount of time before its powers go away (the faster the jingle plays, the sooner one's time is growing close to being over with the power-up). However, while that can feel limiting, what the Ice Flower in both Galaxy games makes up for is granting Mario the power to freeze both water and lava, allowing our portly plumber to skate across the newly formed ice like Scott Hamilton in his prime. One of the coolest ah-ha moments featuring Ice Mario was when a Power Star could be seen high in the air over two waterfalls. When the solution presented itself in players' minds, Ice Mario could perform wall jumps up both waterfall faces, freezing the spots where Mario leaped off of. Very cool. Literally!

6) Metal Cap

Our first of two Super Mario 64 power-ups, the Metal Cap is found in green exclamation point boxes found in various courses of the game. Of course, Mario has to discover the location of the green switch to make these boxes solid so he could open them instead of as they were, transparent. The Metal Cap turns Mario into Metal Mario, sporting heavy movements, able to sink and march underwater, become unaffected by bursts of wind or water, and finally, brave the harsh toxic terrain of the Hazy Maze Cave. Plus, when you have this rockin' remix of the Starman theme playing as you smash your way through enemies while exploring, how can you not like Metal Mario and the cap that transformed him into a metallic tank?

5) Boomerang Flower

Mario has been able to out-hammer Hammer Bros. and out-fire Fire Bros. with the Hammer Suit and Fire Flower respectively, but he hadn't yet discover a power-up that let him face Boomerang Bros. on equal footing. That changed with the introduction of the Boomerang Flower in Super Mario 3D Land. True to its name the Boomerang Flower allows Mario to unleash boomerangs at enemies of all types, having them come shooting forth before swooping back into Mario's glove. This feature is also important as various collectibles like coins, power-ups, and Star Medals can be nabbed with Mario's boomerangs. In a sense, the boomerangs used by Mario could be seen as a precursor to Cappy in Super Mario Odyssey in how Cappy can be thrown forward and comes back to Mario while being able to collect items out of his reach. Okay, it's a stretch, but that's why I love the Boomerang Suit. Who needs to stretch when you can just throw out a boomerang?

4) Cloud Flower

Here comes my favorite power-up from Super Mario Galaxy 2, the Cloud Flower. With this power-up, Mario turns into Cloud Mario, able to be light on his feet as he spins to create platforms crafted from clouds underneath him. Up to three of these cloud platforms can appear at once before Mario has to pick up another Cloud Flower. The power-up allows players to show off their platforming creativity, performing dazzling maneuvers, shortcuts, ways to bypass areas of level, and much more with how they smartly summon their clouds. Clouds can also be affected by wind, resulting in them blowing along with the breeze to create moving platforms to increase Mario's movement distance. With the Cloud Flower equipped, Mario is also able to leap higher and fall more slowly to the ground, making for a mobile and enjoyable form of Mario which is used in some of my most loved challenges within Super Mario Galaxy 2.

3) Super Leaf

Super Mario Bros. 3 saw the debut of a lot of power-ups and suits that have since been cast to the wayside. Heck, even the ones premiering in Super Mario Bros. 3 didn't get much chance to shine within the game itself. The Tanooki Suit was one of those, a rare find in World 4 and 5 of Super Mario Bros. 3, but Nintendo more than made up for its absence in that game and ever since with Super Mario 3D Land. The entire game was built with the Tanooki Suit in mind, hence all of the enemies with Tanooki tails and even that same tail in 3D Land's logo. While changing into the Tanooki Suit made many platforming parts of Super Mario 3D Land less challenging -- since you could flap you tail to mitigate danger from falling into a pit or completely bypass portions of level -- it didn't stop 3D Land from being a ton of fun. Once the second half of the game rolled in, the ability to transform into a stone statue revealed itself, a tip of the hat to Super Mario Bros. 3's original version of the Tanooki Suit.

2) Super Bell

Moving on from Super Mario 3D Land on Nintendo 3DS to Super Mario 3D World on the Wii U, the primary power-up featured this game was the Super Bell, turning any one of its collectors into a cat. The cat versions of Mario, Luigi, Peach, Toad, and the unlockable character could prowl around on all fours, pounce, crawl up walls, and perform some seriously cool platforming moves. In a professional's hands, the Cat Suit could result in some astounding level shortcuts and insane displays of speedrunning. Climbing up a wall and going into a dive meant the opportunities were potentially limitless. Outside of speedrun fare, the Super Bell is just the cat's meow in general, making for a modern Mario game power-up that felt truly worthwhile, genuinely creative, and fun to play as after some lackluster attempts in the past. (Seriously... Turning into a rock or worse yet, a spring?)

1) Wing Cap

Super Mario 64 meant the arrival of a lot of things, but most importantly it was successfully taking gaming into a brave new world with infinite possibilities. The general reaction by anyone who played Super Mario 64 at the time of its release was being overwhelmed by a feeling of utter awe. Never before had there been such freedom in a Mario game before, and one part of Super Mario 64 that hammered that point home considerably was the Wing Cap found within red boxes within the game. That first time you take to the air and soar through the skies for red coins, and then the next when you take flight over the entirety of Bob-Omb Battlefield, it's just unbelievable. Games now have copious amounts of freedom now as open-world games are common, but back in the day, Super Mario 64 was mind-blowing, and Mario wearing the Wing Cap to explore the bright blue yonder in a full open 3D space will never leave my mind as one of my most cherished gaming memories.


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