Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Dodgeball Academia (Multi) Review

I'm a little late to the party with this next review, but it was such a fun and unique title that I would have been remiss had I not covered it on SuperPhillip Central. It's Dodgeball Academia, and class is now in session with the SPC review.

To enroll in Dodgeball Academia or to drop out? The ball is in your court.

Despite the popularity and love of the RPG mechanics and stories found in some of the Mario Golf and Mario Tennis games as well as the more modern Golf Story (and hopefully upcoming Sports Story), the sports RPG is a genre that doesn't see the light of day too often. While golf is a now well-trodden sport to base an RPG off of, now we have a brand-new entrant in the scene with a new sport: dodgeball, and it's by developer Pocket Trap. It's none other than Dodgeball Academia.

Dodgeball Academia stars Otto, a precocious young boy yearning to become a dodgeball pro--so much so that he defies his parents' wishes and drops out from a school for referees (of course, without them knowing) and joins an academy for up and coming dodgeball youths. The story features an eclectic and eccentric group of characters, and while many of them spout off incredibly antagonistic lines and attitudes, they're all charming in their own ways. The humor in Dodgeball Academia is at quite a high level, offering plenty of moments where I either laughed loudly or cracked a smile, whether that was with the game's wild and wacky scenarios, plot points, or many references to other games. It all adds up a story and game that provides a lovely Saturday morning cartoon feel to it, and one I absolutely appreciated. 

And thus, Otto's academic adventure in dodgeball begins!

Dodgeball Academia is, of course, a dodgeball RPG. It has all the trappings of the genre, but turned on its head to make for one interesting and unique game. You gain experience and levels from participating in dodgeball battles. These are similar to Pok√©mon games in how a character will have an exclamation point over their head, and if you enter into their line of vision, you do battle with them. There's also lots of equipment to outfit Otto and his party of five other zany characters as well, though each character only has two slots apiece. These boost various stats like health, attack power, defense, and much more. 

The competition is fierce at Dodgeball Academia, but keep your eyes on the prize!

Battles in Dodgeball Academia are all in real time. While Dodgeball Academia doesn't follow standard dodgeball rules (for instance, a character is only eliminated from the match when they lose all of their HP as opposed to when simply getting hit by a single ball), matches play out in a similarly heated fashion. Battles begin with both teams on opposite sides of the court with a column of balls in the center, ready for the grabbing and then subsequent throwing. Balls ready to be thrown can be charged to deliver and dish out more damage, while balls thrown by the opponents can be caught as a means to evade damage. 

It may be a game at the end of the day, but Otto certainly isn't playing around here.

Some characters throw balls in unique ways or earn different powers as they level up. Otto, for instance, can add burn damage to his thrown balls, setting opponents on fire and delivering chip damage over time to attacked opponents. Meanwhile, Mina forgoes catching balls entirely, instead performing a counter to knock them back right in her opponents' faces.

True to RPGs, each character has a super powerful ultimate ability, cleverly called their "Balltimate" move. As players hit other opponents, catch balls thrown by opponents, or when players charge up their Balltimate when balls have been cleared from their side of the court, a gauge fills. When it's maxed out, a Balltimate move can be unleashed. Some dish out massive damage by throwing a litany of balls out at once, while others serve better for defense, serving as a means of healing your party.

Careful, as opponents can unleash their own Balltimate attacks as well!

Needless to say, there is plenty to take in with regard to Dodgeball Academia's rules, gameplay, and matches, but the game does an excellent job of delivering players info and introducing new concepts at a slow and steady pace. I was never overwhelmed by a new mechanic because there was enough time in between mechanics to learn and become comfortable with them. That's whether the game introduced Balltimate moves, courts with unique gimmicks like traffic or tall grass, or even special dodgeballs that deliver status effects like poison, burn, freeze, and stun upon getting damaged by them. 

Generally, Dodgeball Academia is a balanced experience gameplay-wise. It's especially so if you engage in every battle you possibly can, as battles aren't lengthy excursions at all--perhaps taking a minute or two to finish. However, Pocket Trap smartly added some accessibility options allowing players to change how much damage they take and how much damage they give in battles. This is performed by moving percentage sliders around. You can get to the point where there's no challenge at all by sliding your damage taken output to 0% if you'd prefer to experience the story. Conversely, you can make the game harder on yourself, too, by increasing how much damage you take and decreasing how much damage you dish out. This way you can customize Dodgeball Academia how you want, depending on your skill level and gameplay experience you want.

When you're not engaging in dodgeball battles, you're strolling around the academy's multiple areas, chatting it up with fellow students and talking with teachers and staff, participating in side quests, shopping for items and new equipment, and more. Any other game would provide a run button for players to skirt around the game world quickly, but Dodgeball Academia cleverly keeps things dodgeball-themed by having Otto curl up into a ball and roll around the academy that way. It's far too easy to crash into objects and obstacles, which sometimes makes rolling around irritating, but there's no penalty for absent-mindedly slamming into things. 

The forest, one of a handful of unique areas within Dodgeball Academia's world.

One point about Dodgeball Academia that I'd like to broach about is that the game's world is relatively small. Thus, you're tasked with moving backtracking to and from similar environments over and over again, ad nauseum, which does make for a taxing experience at times. Several points are closed off at the beginning of the game, and one major area of Dodgeball Academia doesn't even open up until the near the end of the adventure. Thus, you will be frequenting the same places perhaps more times than you may like.

Dodgeball Academia is a colorful, crisp-looking game, exuding immense Saturday morning cartoon vibes through its super-fun story and eclectic cast of characters. The immense amount of dodgeball battles (how ever enjoyable at first) and backtracking may grow tedious and repetitive at times, but the game introduces enough variety to keep things from getting too stale. All in all, you'll want to enroll at Dodgeball Academia if you haven't already. You'll have a ball.

[SPC Says: B]

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Mario Party Superstars (NSW) Overview Trailer

Halloween is fast approaching, and I can't think of a better "treat" than Mario Party Superstars, launching on the Nintendo Switch on October 29th. Party hardy with Mario and the gang with five classic, remade boards from the Nintendo 64 era of Mario Party games, over 100 mini-games, and online play for essentially every mode available in the game. Check out all that is in store for prospective partygoers with this three-minute-long Mario Party Superstars overview trailer.


Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Review Round-Up - September 2021

Sonic the Hedgehog reached for the stars with this remake of Sonic Colors,
earning a B+ grade and top honors as SPC's Featured Game of the Month!

The month of September brought autumn to SuperPhillip Central as well as four new reviews published to the site. Let's dive into them like a pile of freshly fallen and newly raked leaves with the Review Round-Up!

We started the month of reviews early with an impressive, classic shoot-em-up known as DariusBurst: Another Chronicle EX+, which blasted its way to a B- grade. Following that was another game receiving a satisfying B- grade, Kitaria Fables, though this was an adorable but grind-heavy action-RPG.

Wrapping up the month were two stellar titles. SPC's Featured Game of the Month was Sonic Colors: Ultimate, bringing back of the Blue Blur's best 3D outings and making it marginally better in some ways, worse in others. It got a B+. Finally, we blasted off in more ways than one with the high-octane rides of Cruis'n Blast, which got a solid B.

As you can see, it was a month of satisfying games, all within the B range for September! If you want to see something else, check out the SPC Review Archive for every review ever published on SuperPhillip Central. Let's wrap up with a link to each review and a concluding excerpt from each, as we is customary to do on the old Review Round-Up! See you near the beginning of next month, all!

DariusBurst: Another Chronicle EX+ (NSW) - B-

DariusBurst: Another Chronicle EX+ is another shoot-em-up to add to the pile of stellar games within the genre on the Nintendo Switch. There is a ton of content to be found for those who enjoy partaking in the genre, and plenty of challenge to be discovered as well. The limited field of view and screen real estate utilized for the Switch version is a bummer, but ultimately, DariusBurst: Another Chronicle EX+'s mission to be an entertaining Switch home port of an older arcade game is a success.

Kitaria Fables (Multi) - B-

At the end of my 20 hours with Kitaria Fables, I found myself having played some marathon sessions of over five hours at times. There's certainly a "let's do one more day" or "let's do one more quest" type feeling I got from this game. There is definitely no shortage of things to do to preoccupy yourself in Kitaria's whimsical world, whether that be monsters to slay, materials to craft, treasure chests to open, bosses to battle, dungeon-like areas to explore, and quests to complete. You'll be doing all of this with a hefty focus on grinding and backtracking, too, so if you're not of the right mind for an experience like this, you need not accept your invite to Paw Village. Sure, you'll probably be put on the Empire's bad side, but at least you won't have to do busywork--whether enjoyable (like it was for me) or not.

Sonic Colors: Ultimate (Multi) - B+

Sonic Colors: Ultimate takes a great 3D Sonic game from the Wii and makes it marginally better. Not so much better that it makes the Wii version obsolete by any stretch of the imagination--which I could see as a bit disappointing for many--but marginally all the same. With glorious new graphics, mostly lovely new remixes alongside the original musical themes, new additions like Rival Rush, Tails' rescues from bottomless pits, and unlockable cosmetics, Sonic Colors: Ultimate makes a great impression. I loved the Wii original in 2010, and in 2021, I enjoyed revisiting this wonderful Sonic game. 

Cruis'n Blast (NSW) - B

Cruis'n Blast was a game that as soon as I saw videos of it being played in arcades, I felt the urge and definite desire to play it. It has taken a few years of patience, but now that I got to experience the game on the Nintendo Switch thanks to this home console port, I am pleased to say that my patience indeed paid off. Cruis'n Blast is ridiculous and crazy in all the right ways. How can you not love speeding through tracks where you witness UFOs whiz by, blowing up a dam, all the while you drift into your opponent, causing them to crash in a burning blaze of glory!? I defy you to not love that! Despite lacking online, longevity, and track variety, Cruis'n Blast delivers an action-packed arcade racer that will most likely make you laugh and smile with how outrageous its racing scenarios can get and how fun the overall package truly is.

We also went cruisin' with Cruis'n Blast on the Nintendo Switch, which is very much a "must-play" arcade racer!

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (NSW) "The Last Key" Trailer

This morning, Nintendo and Masahiro Sakurai revealed the final fighter to be added to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. It's been a long, lengthy, but enjoyable journey. It's almost impossible to imagine what the gaming world will be like without the sound of hype trains chugging for unannounced DLC fighters for Smash, but all good things must eventually come to an end! With this final character announcement revealed in this super special trailer (and that final shot in said trailer--my goodness!), a chapter closes on Super Smash Bros. and gaming history itself. 

Watch this trailer to find out the identity of the final Smash character, and then let the SPC community know what you think in the comments below!

Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania (Multi) Launch Trailer

To commemorate today's launch of Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania, SEGA has put together this gorgeously drawn animated launch trailer for the game, celebrating the Super Monkey Ball franchise's 20th anniversary. See the animated hijinks of Aiai and the monkey crew mesh wonderfully with lovely gameplay footage. Stay tuned to SuperPhillip Central for a full review of Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania in the coming weeks!