Friday, August 23, 2019

Mortal Kombat 11 (NSW) Review

Continuing on here at SuperPhillip Central, a new review is here for your eyes to read and enjoy. It's a Nintendo Switch-specific review for Mortal Kombat 11. Check it out below!

Your port is mine!


It seems like a dream that big-time Western-developed games are hitting a Nintendo home console, and not only that, but they're day and date with the other versions. It doesn't happen too often, but the fact that they're happening at all and are mostly successful ports is something to celebrate. Mortal Kombat 11 is one of the most recent of these games that has released on the Nintendo Switch. While it's by no means a flawless victory, Switch owners who are Mortal Kombat fans have scored a victory by having this miraculous port available to them all the same.

As someone with limited experience with the Mortal Kombat series, Mortal Kombat 11 was a terrific jumping in point for me. The amount of exhaustive tutorials that guided me through everything from the basics to advanced techniques and specific character tutorials, I didn't feel like I was simply thrust out of the proverbial nest to fend for myself with no knowledge of how to play the game.

Fights in Mortal Kombat 11 are as gloriously gruesome and beautifully brutal as ever. (Though, I have to admit, some of the more intense/disturbing portrayals of violence left me a bit squeamish.) The fighting system has you performing front and back punches and kicks, throws, blocks (with a dedicated block button instead of the more traditional means of holding away from your opponent), and using a series of memorized combos to take down your opponent. Special moves can be augmented by holding the R button upon performing the required button combo and making contact with your opponent with the attack in order to deal even more damage and deliver more hits.

I do not think you have a license for this kind of surgery, Kitana.
Mortal Kombat 11 also brings with it environmental hazards that opponents can interact with. These flash in the arena when they can be used, and result in everything from picking up a chainsaw and cleaving it into your opponent's flesh to chucking an undead spectator at your foe.

When you or your opponent's health enters into critical territory, a Fatal Blow attack can be used with the tap of the ZL and ZR buttons. If it connects without your opponent blocking, this one-time-per-match attack delivers a devastating amount of deadly damage to your foe in a really grisly manner. For instance Erron Black's Fatal Blow has him shooting bone-piercing bullets into his opponent, and has a duo of shots banking off a pair of coins and into and through his opponent's eyes. Yee-ouch. If a Fatal Blow fails to connect, it can't be attempted again until a little time has passed. However, these Fatal Blow moves are a bit of a match-pace killer for me. At first they're... interesting enough, but after seeing them a seemingly endless of time, they grow tiring to see, as there's no way of skipping through them. They just take too long to unfold.

Fatal Blows are provocative enough the first dozen times seeing them,
but after the fact, they're quite bothersome as they interrupt the flow and pace of matches.
Brutalities and fatalities return from past Mortal Kombat games, and the latter allows even beginning players to mercilessly murder their opponent in a macabre fashion without the need to memorize a unique button combo based on the character and fatality used. You can earn and purchase Fatality Tokens that when you're ordered to "Finish Him/Her", you can just hold the ZR button and press the A button to use. You can have all the disturbing realistic violence without any of the work!

For each of the 20+ characters in Mortal Kombat 11, they all feel markedly dissimilar to one another in how they play. There are characters for beginners like series mainstays Scorpion and Johnny Cage, and then there are more technical characters that take some practice getting used to. Fortunately, as mentioned early on in this review, learning a new character isn't too terribly daunting thanks to the in-depth character tutorials that explain how to use and the time to use each special attack in a character's repertoire.

Kombatant Skarlet uses her own blood as a weapon.
The characters in Mortal Kombat 11 all have their own unlockable gear and various cosmetics to unlock, though this is a bit of pain in the butt process. More on that in just a little bit. Each character can have different introductions and post-match victory cutscenes, unique moves equipped to them, as well as specific fatalities to select from. Additionally each has three gear slots they can equip gear to, and these can earn experience points through battle to earn augment slots. Unfortunately, augments slots come in various varieties, and require a lot of grinding and a lot of luck to get the ones you want for the particular character you desire. It's rather random, but once you do, augments serve as a way to boost up different stats and abilities of characters. Some make their defense towards specific elements stronger, while others make specific attacks stronger by a certain percentage.

You can unlock different cosmetics for each character, such as Sub-Zero's classic line of outfits.
If you want to unlock gear and cosmetics like new costumes for characters, you're going to spend most of your time grinding in Mortal Kombat 11, which is an unfortunate part of the game. The Krypt from past modern Mortal Kombat games returns, and it has you controlling a character in an over-the-shoulder perspective through Shang Tsung's island, gathering keys and special items to progress further into the depths of the island. You use Koins and other currency to open the plethora of treasure chests strewn about the island. (Ha-ha, get it? KOINS?! Mortal Kombat 11 has a penchant for replacing the first letter of words that begin with C with the letter K instead because it's klever like that. Dammit! I just did it now, too!)

While this is all fine and dandy, the loot that you get from opening treasures is completely random. Most of the time instead of getting the desired costumes you want for your favorite character or characters, you'll be unlocking concept art, Konsumables for the Towers of Time, and other items that you might not be too interested in.

As for the aforementioned Towers of Time, this mode introduces an ever-rotating assortment of challenging towers of varying difficulty. Each is themed, generally having each combatant you face off against in a given tower have a helpful Konsumable that they use against you in a fight. Thankfully, you can also use Konsumables either to counteract the effects of your opponent's Konsumable or to give yourself some other benefit. Such Konsumables can be used multiple times in a single battle, but depending on how powerful and useful they are, there is a cool down time for each. Some Konsumables fire a series of bloody shurikens at a foe or otherwise interrupt an enemy with an attack, while others have defensive benefits like healing your health bar by a certain percentage or giving you temporary armor.

Complete all of the objectives of a tower to earn beneficial rewards.
The towers in the Towers of Time award different bonuses for completing them--from Koins and Konsumables to new gear, costumes, and more. Technically, there's a seemingly endless amount of longevity for solo players to tackle each tower--as they rotate out regularly (every few hours or so) and there are hundreds upon hundreds of different towers in total--but the repetitive grind is real and it doesn't take too terribly long for tedium to set in.

Thankfully, tedium is not something that sets in with Mortal Kombat 11's 6-8 hour story mode, told through cinematics that seamlessly flow into actual battles. (Well, not so seamlessly in the Switch version where the actual cinematics are pre-rendered and then have an abrupt change into the Switch's downgraded visuals when the battles begin. Regardless, the pacing is done well, and while there are significant sections of the story mode where you're simply watching the narrative progress, when it is actually your time to play, you get to do so for a good while. The story mode is set up between chapters, and each chapter has you controlling a different character or duo of characters. With the latter, you're given the option of who to control in a particular fight. Fights are essentially one right after the other in each chapter--it's merely given a bookend by extended cutscenes.

Generations collide in Mortal Kombat 11's entertaining story mode.
I alluded to the downgrade of the Nintendo Switch version of Mortal Kombat 11 just a little bit ago when comparing the cutscenes that are pre-rendered in the Switch version but in-engine with the PS4, Xbox, and PC versions. Let me go further into detail. It's an absolute accomplishment that Mortal Kombat 11 runs as well as it does on the Switch. Frankly, I'm more than pleased with the game's performance. However, there are problem spots. For one, the Krypt looks and runs pitifully on the Switch. There isn't even a genuine skybox in the Switch version, and it's slowdown central whenever you open up a treasure chest in the mode. Furthermore, character models in battles have a weird glow and sheen to them, notably wherever there is hair--specifically on their heads and on their eyelashes. It's a bit jarring and distracting when zoomed in. There have also been some game crashes I've experienced while playing, but these are infrequent. That said, the development team hasn't turned their back on the Switch version at all, and they continue to produce patches and upgrades to the game.

Docked mode is rather sharp, but handheld mode on the Switch can be a bit fuzzy.
Mortal Kombat 11 manages to impress on the Nintendo Switch with a version that while not anywhere as technically amazing as its bigger brothers, delivers a game that isn't dumbed down for Nintendo players. Switch owners get the full, satisfying experience of Mortal Kombat 11 and one that they can take with them on the go. The choice of having to grind for gear and not being to select which goodies and prizes you want brings down the game (and this isn't just for the Switch version, but all versions in general of MK11), but all in all, Mortal Kombat 11 dishes out a brutally satisfying eleventh entry in the long running fighting game franchise.

[SPC Says: B]

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana (NSW, PS4, Vita) Review

After some posting of a selection of trailers fresh out of Gamescom, SuperPhillip Central has a new review to share. Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana released several years ago on the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita, and recently as of last summer launched on the Nintendo Switch. After taking an extended break from the game, I recently jumped back into the adventure and completed the game. Here's my full review.

Weep not, as this Ys entry is one of the series's absolute bests.


Falcom doesn't have as extravagant a budget as its contemporaries, so the Ys series hasn't exactly been the most ambitious when it comes to its presentation. With its first brand-new installment in over eight years and the first Ys installment made primarily for high-definition platforms, both developer Falcom and its Ys series do their best to impress with Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana, showcasing the series at its most ambitious. Does Ys VIII ride a ship to success, or is it marooned on an island of failure?

Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana has intrepid explorers and adventurers Adol and Dogi on a luxury cruise ship known as the Lombardia, where they serve as part of the crew. After all, saving the world multiple times over doesn't exactly pay well, so one has to pay the adventuring bills somehow! The cruise is going well, but it's not long before a monstrous ocean behemoth attacks the Lombardia and capsizes the ship. Adol later finds himself waking up on the beach of a deserted island of legend, one with its own secrets and legend that will make for one of his grandest and most memorable adventures yet.

No, you don't, as I even mentioned that adventuring doesn't pay the bills!
(Thanks for not reading my review, Dogi.)
The primary objective of Ys VIII is to escape the island Adol and fellow castaways have found themselves marooned on, but that's of course easier said than done. Luckily for us as players, that's what makes it a ton of fun. However, as you might suspect, the stakes get raised exponentially, and what starts off as a typical deserted island tale turns even more intriguing and interesting. 

Though the game starts out relatively slow and the story tends to meander quite a bit early on, once the narrative picks up, it really does pick up with extremely high stakes. Still, even with the slow-to-start story of Ys VIII, I found that the tried and true gameplay of the Ys series more than carried the relatively anemic beginning of the game. 

The surviving castaways of the Lombardia make their home in a makeshift town aptly named Castaway Village. The population starts off meager, but as you explore new parts of the incredibly large island, you come across various survivors from the Lombardia's upheaval. Each survivor has their own specialty and value at Castaway Village--well, some more than others--but by the end of the adventure, I felt I had been through a lot with this cast of characters. I enjoyed their company, and I really felt like I had been through hell and back with these folks. 

The Isle of Seiren is home to beasts of all sizes and levels of danger.
Part of that is how Castaway Village begins as a squalid and lonely place, but as more survivors join up with Adol and return with him to the village, it becomes a more bustling community. Different survivors bring different specialties with them, such as some that will make lifesaving medicine, help forge weapons and armor with materials found at resource points and dropped from monsters, assist with crafting accessories with said materials, and so on and so forth. 

Exploring the Isle of Seiren, as the island is known as by legend, is terrifically entertaining. Ys VIII is fully 3D, offering complex and intricately designed areas that are both expansive and a sight for the eyes. The ability to jump, climb certain objects, and platform in general make for dense areas full of fascinating places to venture to and treasure chests to discover. The amount of optional areas is tremendous, packing plenty of replay value and longevity to an already lengthy adventure. An island of this size with myriad areas to explore might seem overwhelming and quite the annoyance to traverse. After all, covering large distances and backtracking is common for both the story and optional quests. Fortunately, a fast travel ability is unlocked not too far along into the game, allowing warping between specific purple crystals.

The variety of locales on the Isle of Seiren is quite vast.
Furthermore, the map in Ys VIII is a particular godsend, as it offers not only detailed views of each area of the world, but it also houses information like amount of the map explored, treasures collected, resource points found, and also--and most importantly--icons that show where to go next in the story and other points of interest (think: side quests). I don't want to even ponder how much of a pain Ys VIII's world would be to navigate if not for the map. That's how useful and essentially it was to me and my enjoyment of the game.

That said, the survivors of the Lombardia do more than just sit around Castaway Village, twiddling their thumbs as Adol and his party of companions explore the island and progress the story. They're all a major help in progressing in the island. At many points around the Isle of Seiren there will be obstructions blocking progress. Said obstructions require the aid of a certain requisite number of survivors clear. Sometimes you'll readily have enough survivors, but other times you'll need to do some searching of the island to scrounge up the necessary number. 

Darn. And I left my bulldozer in my other vest, too.
Aside from teaming up to remove obstructions and help with various services at Castaway Village, there are multiple occasions throughout the story where monsters will attack the village, requiring all to present arms and fight. These raid battles have two halves: one which has Adol's party protecting a gate from waves of monsters, and the other half which has the remaining castaways doing fighting on their own front. If the latter does well in battle, they'll bestow helpful battle bonuses to Adol's party in these raids. To help out with raids, you can add defenses and reinforcements like barriers and traps with the spending of resources. 

This ties very nicely to the next subject of this review (as if it was planned that way... Hmm.). That would be the combat in Ys VIII, which follows a similar path of the most recent entries in the series with a trio of party members you can play as at one time, able to be switched between on the fly with a press of a button. This is great, as different party members deal more damage to certain enemy types. While the brute-like Sahad is fantastic at bringing down heavily armored enemies, Laxia is the party member to go to for flying pests. The AI controls the other two party members not under your control, and they behave in a relatively efficient and inoffensive way. They don't find themselves getting in the way or worse off, getting themselves killed. You can switch between characters with the security that the AI won't lose you tougher battles.

Bash those beaks in, Adol! Combat is a blast, staying true to the Ys series's rich history.
While Ys VIII allows only one attack button to chain attacks with, there's more complexity to its combat mechanics than one might surmise. For one, there are special attacks that can be used on enemies through holding one of the shoulder buttons and pressing the corresponding face button. These can't be spammed, as they cost SP to use. However, SP can easily be recovered by hitting enemies with normal attacks. Special attacks can be leveled up with continued use, making for more destructive and efficient offensive maneuvers, and new special attacks are learned as the game progresses. Additionally, as Adol's party gives and takes damage, a big orange gauge fills at the bottom right corner of the screen, and when it's full, the currently controlled party member can unleash an ultra powerful special attack that delivers devastating amounts of damage to a large area.

Of course, and as cliche as it is to say, any good offense needs a good defense, and Ys VIII encourages smart defensive play. Simply whacking an enemy to submission is fine enough for low-level foes, but for those of a more dangerous persuasion, there are plenty of options at Adol's party's disposal. Rolling out of the way of an attack is simple enough, but for those attacks with a wider field and range, it's important to learn how to evade and guard with proper timing. Not only does performing an evasion or guard, whether rolling or when standing still, negate damage that would otherwise be inflicted by an oncoming attack, but it also provides a bonus benefit. 

When all else fails, tuck and roll, Adol!
When performing a Flash Move by rolling with precise timing right when an attack is set to hit you, you temporarily slow down enemy movement, granting you normal speed to hack away at foes. When performing a Flash Guard, you simply defend just before an attack hits you to get a temporary but significant boost to your attack. On later difficulties and heck, just later enemies and bosses in Ys VIII, learning these moves and using them smartly are the measures between victory and defeat. It takes some getting acquainted with the timing of these helpful maneuvers, but they make combat all that much more satisfying. 

There's so much to love about Ys VIII, and one of these parts of the game that satisfies as well is its presentation. By far, I absolutely adored the soundtrack the most. Falcom's Sound Team knocks another one out of the park with a sensational score highlighted by energizing rock themes, emotional ballads, and terrific environmental tunes. This is Ys music at its absolute best, which is quite the statement considering the caliber of the series's music thus far. Meanwhile, the quality and direction of cutscenes and the voice acting is stellar. Though the former doesn't exactly stay true when it involves playing the game. Slightly off textures in the environment and small but noticeable frame-rate issues pop up more than desired throughout the game. Overall, though, Ys VIII sports an impressive presentation package.

Don't mind us. We're just admiring the view.
(Though for Switch players the view is much better in docked form.)
Ultimately, Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana succeeds off its thrilling combat and engrossing exploration. Those coupled with its entertaining story makes for yet another fantastic entry in the Ys series. Though the nearly 40-hour adventure does have some pacing issues and some technical problems that muddy the proverbial waters a little, Ys VIII is unquestionably my favorite entry in the franchise yet. High praise for such a long-running celebrated series, indeed, and I now cannot wait for Ys IX to grace us with its presence when it finally releases.

[SPC Says: A-]

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Final Fantasy VIII Remastered (PS4, NSW, XB1) Official Release Date Reveal Trailer

On September 3rd, Final Fantasy VIII Remastered lands on the PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox One in glorious high definition. Though considered the black sheep of the PlayStation 1 era Final Fantasy games, I look forward to returning to FFVIII's world, as it's one of the few Final Fantasy games I've actually beaten! Take a look at the revamped visuals and some snippets of memorable scenes with this release date trailer.

Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 (NSW) Classic 2D Events Reveal Trailer

Bringing back those old school Track & Field vibes, Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 has brand-new classic 2D events, taking some nice retro inspiration. This trailer showing these new events was revealed by Sega this morning as part of Gamescom 2019. Check it out below.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Gears 5 (XB1) "Kait, Unleashed" Story Trailer

The long-awaited story trailer for the upcoming Xbox exclusive Gears 5 is finally here. New faces join up alongside familiar old ones, and this combination is set to be extremely explosive. Gears 5 launches on Xbox One and Xbox Game Pass on September 6th.