Friday, May 7, 2021

Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade (PS5) Final Trailer

Although we're a month ahead of the game's release on PlayStation 5, Square Enix and PlayStation have shared what they're dubbing the final trailer for Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade. Intergrade features an upgraded version of the base game, but more interestingly, it also includes INTERmission, a brand-new additional episode starring Yuffie from Wutai. If you already own the PS4 version (whether physical or digital), you can upgrade to the PS5 base version for free. INTERmission, however, is an additional purchase that does not come with the upgrade. Either way, Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade launches in just over one month on June 10th, exclusively on PlayStation 5.

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Three Mario Games That Really Turned Things Around with Updates

With the advent of patches and updates to video games, games can now have new additional modes, characters, and enhancements added to them. While that is a pro, there is also a con of having certain games shipped incomplete or bugged, with a later promise of fixing said issues in a future update or patch. Not even Nintendo, one of the most prolific (if not THE most prolific) publishers around, escapes this issue, nor does its main mascot, Mr. Video Game himself, Mario, evade having games that require updates to end up in a satisfying condition. 

While there is a motley crew of Nintendo titles that started off weak when they released, this particular article focuses on a trio of Mario games that began rather poorly or not up to their potential when they launched, but have since become pretty great games now, even better than they were when they originally released.

The most Mario recent game to get an update is one that was quite a surprise. Not only was the update significant, but it was a long-requested one for the franchise that finally came over two years after the game released. I'm of course referring to Super Mario Party. In the original SuperPhillip Central review, I ended up really enjoying the latest entry in the long-running series of party games, but there was one major caveat. That caveat was the haphazard, half-hearted implementation of online to the series. 

Fans, such as myself, have been clamoring for online for the Mario Party series for over a decade now, and Nintendo and developer ND Cube's approach to finally implementing it into the series with Super Mario Party was less than satisfying. That's a charitable statement, as well. The Online Mariothon originally was the only online play available in Super Mario Party, offering five random mini-games for four players to compete against each other for the highest score. 

Of course, that's not really what fans wanted from the series' online. It was somewhat of a monkey's paw wish gone bad. No, the real wish was for the boards of Mario Party to become available to play online, and as of last week, Genie Nintendo made that wish come true. 

Not only is the board game mode, whether the free-for-all traditional Mario Party mode or the Partner Party mode--which pits two teams of two against one another on a grid-like board--now available to play online, but so, too, is the ability to play the majority of mini-games online with friends as well. The only caveat now is that there isn't any matchmaking, but you can simply tell total strangers online your three-digit room code to have them join--thus it's not just limited to playing with your friends.

Last night I was able to finally try out the Mario Party mode online with a dear friend of mine who lives in the same state as I do. Now, I live in the suburbs while we lives more in the rural country part of the state. I'm pleased to say that the online connection was pretty much flawless for the two of us. The only lag present was during a random board sequence rather than an actual, much more intensive mini-game. We both enjoyed ourselves, and are both interested in playing another board really soon.

And really, this update is perfect for the current harrowing times we find ourselves in, what with the pandemic and all. Despite some parts of the world seeing the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel in some ways with mass vaccinations, the timing is still rather great. Of course, it would have been better if Nintendo had this online update for Super Mario Party earlier in the pandemic, but perhaps this update itself was built out of necessity, made during the pandemic so people could continue to enjoy Super Mario Party while staying apart from one another. Either way, it's a most welcome addition, and one that will keep me coming back and partying like it's 1999 all over again, only this time I'm enjoying the party online with friends as opposed to at a sleepover.


While Super Mario Party is the most recent game to get a major update, Mario Kart Tour, meanwhile, is a game that is perpetually getting updates since it's a live-service game. I was pretty harsh on the game in my review around this mobile racer's original launch, but I have to admit that after returning behind the steering wheel with Mario Kart Tour, I discovered a game that was much improved and decidedly rather enjoyable now.

For one, the amount of characters and more importantly courses to Mario Kart Tour has increased considerably. For the former, characters are less of a challenge to acquire. Now, there's certainly still dreaded, scummy "gacha" elements present in the game, but there are both more opportunities to acquire the rubies needed to pull from the game's pipes, as well as more opportunities to earn characters without rubies as well. One of the best things implemented now in Mario Kart Tour is how the game awards you with pipe pulls from simply earning Grand Stars, won from performing well in offline races and completing challenges. There are four green pipes that give you one free pull apiece, which can sometimes reward you with a High-End pull if you're fortunate enough, but there's also a All-Clear Pipe now, which automatically rewards you with a High-End character, kart, or glider for completing a given cup. Since all cups last two weeks, that's a free High-End each week.

Furthermore, there is a Medal shop now, which doesn't require you to spend money at all to earn the wares inside. The shop is updated with each cup, presenting goods like characters, karts, gliders, tickets (which are used to enhance your characters, karts, and gliders), as well as rubies and coin bundles. These are purchased with medals collected in races, and how you earn medals changes with each cup. Sometimes they're lying on tracks like regular coins, while other times you earn them from hitting opponents with a specific item like a green shell or a banana, for instance.


The amount of tracks has increased immensely as well, offering the enjoyable city-themed tracks, such as the most recent Sydney Sprint, but there's also now wholly original tracks not based off of any real world city at all. While there's just been two of these thus far with Merry Mountain and Ninja Hideaway--the latter of which is one of the most impressive tracks in Mario Kart series history with all of the routes incorporated into it--they are a ton of fun to race on.

Finally, there's the addition of something that was greatly amiss at the launch of Tour: online multiplayer. This allows multiple players to join either matchmaking races or friend-based races, and compete against one another. Of course, this type of competition does not rival Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, as you might expect, but it's an entertaining enough distraction--well worth checking out at least once. 

I'm pleasantly surprised by the 180 I've had with Mario Kart Tour. It was a game I found detestable at launch and promptly deleted it off my phone (of course, that was partly due to the game always crashing on my old phone after a race or two), but now not only do I participate in every Grand Prix in every cup every two weeks, but now I even subscribe to the Gold Pass, that $5 susbcription each month. It's not because I feel I need to in order to have an advantage or to keep up with the whales (good luck with that, by the way), but it's more due to the fact that I'm actually loving Mario Kart Tour that much.

Moving on from parties and kart racing, we turn to our final Mario game that most certainly turned things around with its updates: Mario Tennis Aces. This game seems timely to talk about as the game I'm honestly most anticipating that has a firm release date this year is Mario Golf: Super Rush. That's another Camelot game, and no doubt as soon as Mario Tennis Aces finished development, Camelot went directly on to start work on the latest Mario Golf while a skeleton team worked on some much needed updates for Mario Tennis Aces. 

Aces was another game I didn't take too much of a shining to, as it was rather bare-bones and lacking in content. My review tagline pretty much said all you needed to know about my opinion of the game at the time. However, like Mario Kart Tour, I did a 180 with Aces, essentially moving to the other side of the court--to use a tennis analogy. Now don't get me wrong--I enjoyed the tennis gameplay for the most part of Aces, but characters weren't very balanced. The fighting game analogy for Mario Tennis Aces is really apt, as matches really are like battles where you duke it out on the court and try to outsmart and outplay your opponents. Heck, you can even break their rackets with well timed power shots, even K.O.ing them--immediately disqualifying them from the match!

Thankfully, Camelot worked extra hard to make Mario Tennis Aces a terrific tennis game instead of a middling one. It took some effort and some time, of course, but the addition of a new character each month for over a year, the inclusion of some fine-tuning to all characters so not one of them was broken (looking at you Waluigi, Boo, and especially YOU, Bowser Jr.), and the appearance of new modes like a Yoshi-based Ring Shot and even an addition to the Story Mode made all the difference. If I ever decide to go back to Mario Tennis Aces for an updated review, my tagline would have to be updated, too. No longer would it be "Game, Set, Suck", instead it'd most likely be "Game, Set, Wow!"

===

Have you played any of the three games I mentioned in this article? If so, did you play them before or after their patches/updates? Do you still play any of these games? Let the SPC community know your thoughts in the comments section below!

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Game Builder Garage (NSW) Announcement Trailer

Talk about an unexpected but welcomed surprise! It's Game Builder Garage, a game-creation software from Nintendo using what is sure to be easy-to-use tools for players to channel their inner game designer. Share made creations via codes and then play other likeminded makers' crafted experiences as well! Game Builder Garage launches on the Nintendo Switch in both retail and digital forms on June 11th for a MSRP of $29.99.

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Review Round-Up - April 2021

Rising to the occasion in a big way, Monster Hunter Rise definitely delivered,
 earning Game of the Month honors here at SuperPhillip Central.
An April shower of reviews--eight to be exact--brings May flowers! That's how the saying goes, right? Or something similar to that, at any rate! It's the conclusion of another month, so before we make the march into May, let's review the month of reviews for SuperPhillip Central that was April 2021!

Beginning with some family-friendly fare, we joined Ty the Tasmanian Tiger's Bush Rescue team for the remaster of a 2004 game with Ty the Tasmanian Tiger 2: Bush Rescue HD. It received a C+ grade. Then, we took to the starting line and raced with Nickelodeon's all-star lineup of colorful characters with Nickelodeon Kart Racers 2: Grand Prix, speeding through the slime to get a satisfying C grade. 

We then went cheep--er, cheap, with an ultra-affordable Nintendo eShop game more than worth its one dollar price of admission, Toree 3D, a 3D speed-running platformer with some out-of-place spoopy elements. The game earned a solid B. From 3D platforming to 2.5D platforming, we then took a look at Stitchy in Tooki Trouble, a pretty short and unoriginal game, but also a somewhat enjoyable one, receiving a C+ grade.

We then moved from consoles to mobile with SuperPhillip Central's first ever assortment of Apple Arcade reviews, starting at the tee with Clap Hanz Golf, from the makers of the Everybody's Golf series. The game birdied for a great B grade. The other Apple Arcade exclusive reviewed this month was Way of the Turtle, a side-scrolling 2.5D Metroidvania. It was a shell of a time, getting a B-. More Apple Arcade reviews and content will be forthcoming here at SPC in the coming months.

Concluding the month of reviews in April were two extremes. Effie, specifically the poorly performing Nintendo Switch port, received the lowest score of the month, a C-, while Monster Hunter Rise rightfully earned an A grade and Game of the Month honors here at SuperPhillip Central.

It was a surprisingly busy month of reviews here at SPC, full of variety and good games. Let's continue the momentum as SPC heads towards its 1,000th review, which we're just eight reviews away from at the time of this post. To see all previous reviews ever posted on this site, check out the SPC Review Archive. Finally, for your convenience, here are links and excerpts from all eight reviews published this past month. Until next month, we'll catch you later, Review Round-Up!

...Even as someone who didn't play the original games when they released but has a fond remembrance for games of this era, Ty the Tasmanian Tiger 2: Bush Rescue HD serves as a nostalgic trip for me. The platforming and level design are overall solid, as are the touched-up visuals. Everything else involved with the design? Well, that's better left in 2004. Still, I don't regret having Ty the Tasmanian Tiger 2 take up 15 hours of my time. It was a worthwhile game to play, despite my many misgivings with Ty's not-so-ripsnorting sequel. 
Nickelodeon Kart Racers 2: Grand Prix doesn't necessarily finish at first place on the podium, but it also doesn't necessarily limp across the finish line on fumes, either. I appreciated the improved presentation (lack of character voices and familiar music aside) and increased number of shows and characters included in the game, whether they be playable, chief and crew members, or track designs. Better balancing of the harder Grand Prix speeds would have made for a higher level of enjoyment, as I don't know what kind of kid would not rage at the nonsense that happens during these races when a grown adult almost does, but overall, Nickelodeon Kart Racers 2: Grand Prix 2 is good slime--er, time. Lack of originality and balancing, notwithstanding.
Toree 3D more than justifies its dollar price tag, offering well executed 3D platforming and engaging levels that encourage repeated play-throughs to attempt to aim for those coveted "A" ranks (though leaderboards, even offline ones, would have been appreciated). This is a game that is perfect to pick up and play, put down, and then come back to now and again. It's a beauty to look at, it runs well, and it even has some cool, light spooky elements as well, though these seem to clash with the style of the game ultimately. Still, if you're up for a quick, bite-sized 3D platformer, have a dollar or some Gold Points to spare, then you should definitely download Toree 3D.
Despite my brief and breezy time with Stitchy in Tooki Trouble, I did find myself enjoying the game. There are some well executed ideas and concepts presented in Polygoat's title, and it looks and sounds pleasant as well. Veterans of the platforming genre won't find themselves tested too terribly much from Stitchy's adventure, aside from perhaps certain time trials, and the short length of the game is another glaring issue that might make a purchase less than ideal. For everyone else, there is a lot to like about Stitchy in Tooki Trouble.
Between the over 20 characters to join your golfing team, 6+ themed courses taking place in locales like New York City's Central Park or the Egyptian pyramids, and hours upon hours of thrilling golf gameplay, Clap Hanz's first foray into self-publishing is a great success. While the swing system takes a lot of getting used to, as it has a somewhat steep learning curve, the overall difficulty of the game isn't that high that it creates a ton of frustration. Sure, I wanted to curse the golf gods when yet another shot of mine went off track or I missed a simple putt, but ultimately, I kept plugging and putting away, enjoying myself with Clap Hanz Golf. 
Currently, with what is available in Way of the Turtle feels like a complete title gameplay and length-wise, just with a sudden cliffhanger that left me wanting more. That's a good thing--the "left me wanting more" part, as it shows that I did enjoy my time with the game. Inconsistent touch controls, occasionally poor camera angles, and an unhelpful, undetailed map are issues with the game, but on the whole, Way of the Turtle gets from me a recommendation like a turtle's shell: a solid one!
Sadly, while Ellie is most likely a thoroughly enjoyable, if not short, adventure on other platforms, it simply is not that enjoyable on the Switch. The game is simply put, a technical mess in need of some serious fixing in the frame-rate and the bug department. It's wholly unpolished, which sadly is far too common an occurrence when it comes to ports from other platforms to the Switch. I do recommend Ellie--but with a HUGE caveat that it be for platforms other than the Switch, because what's here is just not worth it. It's a real shame, too, as I genuinely had fun playing Ellie on the Switch despite this port's problems.
All in all, Monster Hunter Rise definitely has risen to the occasion for this player. After so many unsuccessful attempts to fully breach into the series' intimidating defenses, I finally got through with Rise. With its magnificent new mobility options with both Palamutes and to a much greater extent, the Wirebug, I don't know if I'll ever be able to go back to previous Monster Hunter games with the same level of enjoyment. They may just feel like tremendous regressions instead. Regardless, Rampages, wyvern riding, online hunts, expansive maps with not a loading screen in sight, and a robust arsenal of engaging weaponry makes Monster Hunter Rise more than just my favorite Monster Hunter game yet--it's also one of my favorite games of 2021 so far.
Clap Hanz Golf was one of two Apple Arcade exclusives covered
by SuperPhillip Central in review form this past month.

Friday, April 30, 2021

Monster Hunter Rise (NSW) Review

Our final review for the month of April is a big one. It's all been leading up to this for SuperPhillip Central's month of reviews. Monster Hunter Rise launched late last month to equal positive acclaim from both fans and critics alike. Now, as both, I throw my Great Sword into the arena to give my opinion on the latest in a franchise of games that I have a difficult time getting into. Here is the SPC review of Monster Hunter Rise for the Nintendo Switch.

 The thrill of the hunt returns to the Nintendo Switch

I've tried to get into the Monster Hunter series so many times, and so many times I bounce off before even seeing the ending credits roll. I start off promisingly enough, completing quests, hunting smaller monsters, but eventually I get to a wall and just stop playing. Perhaps it's the included quality of life measures added to make the latest game in the Monster Hunter series, Monster Hunter Rise, so accessible that it allows a generally poor hunter like myself to feel actually competent and capable in hunts, but I wound up absolutely adoring this game. With so many new twists on the old, familiar formula, Monster Hunter Rise certainly does rise to the occasion, offering one of the most impressive series of hunts in series history.

Monster Hunter Rise is set in Kamura Village, a blossoming and bustling little burg, which has recently seen a higher number of monster attacks including those known as Rampages. You play as the village's sole hunter, a promising new hunter which is tasked with completing quests and hunting monsters to keep monsters at bay. Though there are still quests where your hunter is asked to gather specific materials like in past Monster Hunter games, the majority of the time you'll be exterminating pests both small and large. Occasionally, you'll enter the aforementioned Rampages, an all-new type of battle in the Monster Hunter series.

Your custom-made character serves as the hunter here at Kamura Village.

Rampages are one of the new features presented in Monster Hunter Rise. These are essentially tower-defense battles where you place and plant a certain amount of defenses, such as turrets, cannons, bombs, and more, in an attempt to slow down and turn away the monsters that seek to destroy the last line of Kamura Village's defenses, a large gate. You can operate the defenses yourself, or you can jump in and attack monsters directly. The former offers the ability to attack foes from a safe distance, while attacking monsters directly delivers a substantial amount of more damage. Rampages not only have resource management to worry about but also micromanagement as well. Some monsters will attack your defenses, while others will charge gates, making them practically required to center your attention on immediately as your number one priority. 

These Rampage battles can get a bit tedious and frustrating at times, especially when you're operating a defense like a cannon or Gatling gun, for instance. It's annoying when you're constantly smacked around by a monster when you're just trying to get on the turret, or worse, in the chaos you accidentally uninstall the defense itself. This results in a mad dash to reinstall it and attempt to operate it without getting smacked on your butt again. Still, despite some annoyances with Rise's Rampages, they're overall a welcome addition and were quite enjoyable to me.

No, thanks, Royal Ludroth--I'm not interested in a bath just yet.

There is more that is new feature-wise to Monster Hunter Rise than just the Rampages, however. The biggest, most groundbreaking addition to the gameplay side of Rise and the Monster Hunter series as a whole is the Wirebug. This tool lets your hunter zip through the air quickly with short, intermittent slings. It's perfect not just for getting around and reaching higher places in a faster fashion, but it also helps in both retreating from a monster's attack and charging straight into a monster to deliver your own hunter's brand of offense. The Wirebug has a short recharge period before it can be utilized again, so you can't just use it freely with reckless abandon. Heck, if you do use it with reckless abandon, you'll often find yourself unable to escape from a monster's clutches in time--possibly resulting in getting knocked out in battle. 

The open, expansive maps of Monster Hunter Rise are the perfect playground for the Wirebug. These areas are all one map, rather than what previous Nintendo-centric Monster Hunter games possessed, which were individual areas or essentially "rooms" separated by loading screens. The level of verticality in these maps is impressive, and they're absolutely packed and dense with content, whether they be places to spawn Great Wirebugs, which launch you a further distance--many times across a large expanse of map--areas where materials can be picked, mined, or otherwise gathered, or find sub-camps to serve as fast travel points in hunts to instantly become transported to them for easy convenience.

What also makes Monster Hunter Rise so wonderful is how much more accessible it is as a game. Part of that is due to the ease of use of the Wirebug, but also another substantial part is that so much of the hassle from past Monster Hunter games has been streamlined. For instance, you don't have to craft consumable whetstones just to sharpen your weapon. Instead, you automatically have an reusable whetstone on you that does that itself. The addition of companions in the form of Palamutes and Felynxes that join you on hunts in single player, offer a means to not only distract monsters at times, but also deliver damage and occasionally heal you as well. The Palamute is especially helpful because you can ride on top of it to get around maps quickly. One of my favorite things to do in Rise with a Palamute is ride on top of it, rush towards a large beast, jump off my canine companion, and slam my weapon straight into the beast's back to deal some preemptive damage to it, starting the battle in style.

Here's some Great Sword in your beak!

The amount of hunts and monsters featured in Monster Hunter Rise is quite sizable. You start off with smaller--though still twice or three times the size of your custom character--monsters to hunt, and these have easier patterns to pick up on, simpler attacks to avoid, and deal less damage. As your Hunter Rank increases from completing quests, the hunts get predictably harder, offering large behemoths of beasts to battle, complete with massively challenging and stronger attacks to evade. These are ones that can cause status effects like poison, burn, and weakened stamina, a kiss of death to unprepared hunters. 

One of the new innovations to battles in Monster Hunter Rise involves when two or more monsters enter into the same section of map and engage in a turf war. One monster will usually weaken the other, resulting in the ability to hop aboard the beast and ride it. From there, you can either bash into the other monster, slowly weakening it while chipping off rare resources in the process, or charge into walls, damaging itself in the process. It's a blast to ride one monster, weaken the other, and then luck out by being able to ride the second monster, starting the wyvern rodeo all over again.

Two insanely powerful monsters going claw to claw? Let them fight.

As the saying goes, to the victor goes the spoils, with ample opportunities for monsters to reward hunters with rare materials for battling them, defeating them, capturing them via pitfall or shock traps, or even carving up their corpses (macabre, yes, but it's not THEY'RE going to need their materials anymore!). These materials, like any Monster Hunter game, can be used to craft new weapons and armor, offering stronger attack power, defense, and even elemental advantages (as well as DIS-advantages). Petalaces and decorations are also available, with the latter being able to be equipped in certain weapons and armor to grant bonus abilities when worn. Of course, the rarest and most impressive of weapons and armor require the rarest of materials, and many times you'll need to battle a specific monster to either capture or defeat it multiple times before you ever get the specific material you're looking for. This can be frustrating at times, but I found hunts so fun in Rise that it wasn't that much of an issue for me, unlike past Monster Hunter games.

Getting attacked right now could make my hunter go a bit batty.

There are two types of quests in Monster Hunter Rise: Village and Hub quests. Village quests are solo affairs that are basically the tutorial of the game. That isn't to say the monsters you face are pushovers, but they're but an appetizer to the hunts that occur in the Hub quests. Essentially, the real game begins once you start tackling Hub quests. Monsters have more health, as well as take and give more damage, meaning that those who play alone will be at a bit of a disadvantage. However, those with a Nintendo Switch Online account and subscription can join up with three other hunters for some online hunts. You can either create a lobby to have players join you--this is better for people you know and can coordinate with--or do a Join Request. These Join Requests have you either creating and entering a Hub quest by your lonesome, with players eventually joining in, or have you joining in the middle of another hunter's quest like players will do if you create your own Join Request hunt. Either way, all of my countless hunts online were nothing short of lag-free and immensely enjoyable.

While several familiar monsters from past games return, many possess new moves and attacks this time around.

Monster Hunter Rise is one of the more captivating Nintendo Switch games in the visual department. The RE Engine really struts its stuff and looks incredibly lovely in Rise. Monsters are magnificently detailed and superbly animated, and the environments are full of strong ambience with lighting and shadows that look utterly phenomenal. I absolutely love the short but sweet narrated introductory sequences that play at the start of hunts featuring new monsters. They ooze with personality and charm. The music, too, strikes a sensational chord, bringing with it captivating tracks, awesome themes, and pieces of music that absolutely dazzle and impress. 

All in all, Monster Hunter Rise definitely has risen to the occasion for this player. After so many unsuccessful attempts to fully breach into the series' intimidating defenses, I finally got through with Rise. With its magnificent new mobility options with both Palamutes and to a much greater extent, the Wirebug, I don't know if I'll ever be able to go back to previous Monster Hunter games with the same level of enjoyment. They may just feel like tremendous regressions instead. Regardless, Rampages, wyvern riding, online hunts, expansive maps with not a loading screen in sight, and a robust arsenal of engaging weaponry makes Monster Hunter Rise more than just my favorite Monster Hunter game yet--it's also one of my favorite games of 2021 so far.

[SPC Says: A]