Friday, August 8, 2008

SuperPhillip's Top 100 Games of All Time

Another week, another five games to be unveiled as my personal favorites. Have your personal favorites been already listed? Well, maybe this week will register with you for those who have yet to see one of their favorites appear on my ever-expanding list!

As always:

The first ninety games are in NO particular order. For someone with OCD, compiling a list of 100 games in order would drive me absolutely crazy. There's a good mix of titles from multiple consoles, developers, and genres. Hope you leave this list with some fuzzy memories and good times.
- Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES)

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Third time's the charm

Mario returns with a bang and an all-new platforming adventure. Eight themed worlds filled with contrasting amounts of athletic levels, fortresses, toad houses, and airships. This game consistently threw players curve balls. Originally, did you honestly expect the sun to come down and attack you? Wowzers!

Many consider this to be the pinnacle of 2-D gaming, and I'm hard-pressed to disagree. I loved this game on the NES, then on the Super NES in Super Mario All-stars, and then the GBA remake, Super Mario Advance 4 which had e-Reader support allowing you to download new levels. Pretty cool for someone jonesin' for new 2-D Mario levels! Whichever platform you played it on, Super Mario Bros. 3 is honestly a game to be reckoned with, but is it my favorite Mario?

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- Super Mario Kart (SNES)

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Mode 7 Magic

Super Mario Kart pulled a wheelie onto the Super Nintendo with a racing title like none had seen before. This one was in Mode 7, the type of graphics used in F-Zero, for example. This gave players the ability to drive around in 360 degrees of kart carnage.

Besides obvious reasons, Super Mario Kart could be considered to be a precursor to Mario Kart DS as Super Mario Kart had two horizontal halves of the screen. One half of the actual race while the other was a map of the track. In two player races, one half was player one and the other-- you guessed it-- was player two.

The multiplayer fun was limited to two players, but it was fun competing with a sibling or friend in one of four cups-- each with five tracks each-- or blast the balloons out of each other in battle mode.

No matter what mode you choose you'll have a fantastic time as I still do coming back to this decade-old classic!

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- Mario Kart DS (DS)

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Let's Kick Asphalt

Take the frenetic action of Super Mario Kart, add the handheld fun of Super Circuit, mix in the fantastic level design of Double Dash, and bring the true 3-d racing experience from Mario Kart 64 to a handheld, and you get Mario Kart DS. This game is the meatiest Mario Kart to date with 32 tracks-- 16 retro and 16 new-- new items such as the Bullet Bill and Blooper, 12 characters (four of which are unlockable), and numerous graphical touches that are becoming of the DS's abilities.

The biggest addition to Mario Kart DS was that it kicked off the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection (for better or worse). This meant that for the first time players could race one another from across the globe. The online system was archaic even by 2004 standards. And then there's snaking-- don't get us started on that.

Nonetheless, Mario Kart DS remains my favorite Mario Kart/kart racer period, and Mario Kart Wii is shaping up to be even better.

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- F-Zero X (N64)

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X marks the spot.

I didn't really give the VC version of F-Zero X its fair share due to the fact that I very much prefer playing the game with the standard Nintendo 64 controller with rumble. Regardless, whichever version you played had a great sense of speed, thirty pilots with different craft to choose from and to compete against, multiple cups of varying difficulty, tracks that twisted and turned on top of themselves, a sensational soundtrack, and multiple rewards for the persistent gamer. Death Race was a phenomenal minigame in which you tried to destroy the other 29 pilots in a set amount of time while you race on a short, oval track.

This game had some of the coolest tracks, too. One cup was completely random-- meaning it created random tracks on the fly. There was also a version of Mario Kart 64's Rainbow Road created in all its glory-- just watch out for the sides! F-Zero X was a nice game to look back on for the Wii Virtual Console, but where it truly shined was on the Nintendo 64 where your friends could come over for some 4-player racing action without needing to invest in Classic Controllers. I love F-Zero X. XOXO

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- Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (PS, SAT, DLC)

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Music to My Ears

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night was the first Castlevania game to follow a new Metroid-ish formula-- that is, you journey through a giant, explorable castle, gaining new abilities, to reach new rooms and castle areas. This is all the while earning experience from slaying monsters and the undead to gain levels giving you new skills, health and attack boosts, and other helpful bonuses.

The formula proved to be a rousing success as many Castlevania fans look back on this title as the best Castlevania, and for good reason. This title was originally released on the Playstation and Sega Saturn, the latter getting bonus content. Currently you can download this game from either Xbox Live or the Playstation Network. It's definitely worth it, especially if you're a fan of Dawn of Sorrow (which I'll get to later) or any of the Game Boy Advance Castlevania titles.

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We'll see you next week, everyone! Have a great one!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

GamesRadar makes a good list for once!

Well, 150 tries later and they finally have a list worth reading! Congratulations, guys! This article is about the annoyances that many gamers have had to deal with concerning "non-gamers" some of the most ignorant and obnoxious people in the lives of those who game regularly. Read up, and enjoy one of GamesRadar's lists (for once).

Click Here for Original Post

For years, we've endured their criticism. Gamers are immature. Gamers are immoral. Gamers are wasting time and money on silly, stupid toys. Nag nag nag. Blah blah blah.

Now, with those same people snatching up Wiis, fumbling through Guitar Hero and pretending to finally "get" our hobby, it's time to turn the tables. What annoys you about non-gamers? When they talk about gaming, what inane and ignorant comments irritate you the most? When they watch you play, what reactions and suggestions piss you off? And worst, when they actually attempt to "join in the fun," what rookie mistakes and head-shaking blunders make you want to scream?

Here's our list of grievances. Share yours.

#1 You can't have it both ways. Parents, politicians and pundits are constantly scolding kids for spending too much time with videogames. At the same time, however, they casually mock anyone who dares play as an adult. Which age group is being irresponsible again? Make up your damn minds!

#2 Look who's talking. If you spend most days building kitten orphanages and serving hot soup to homeless rainbows, then yes, you can tell us that gaming is "a waste of time." If you sit on the couch instead - watching sports, voting for reality television or browsing celebrity gossip blogs - then please shut your hypocritical mouth.

#3 Control yourself. That game pad is not a rock and you are not an angry gorilla. Smashing the buttons with all your ferocious might is not going to make your character any faster, stronger or smarter. It will probably break our $50 piece of equipment, however, so just stop.

#4 Yes, this stuff is expensive. If we ask you to put on the wrist strap, to take a step back from the HDTV, to wash your greasy Doritos-caked mitts or to grab "the guest controller," we have every right. Don't act offended and don't look at us like we're anal retentive freaks.

#5 It's your fault. Not the game's. Not the controller's. Not the connection's. Not the lighting's. Yours.

#6 "Hello 3" for the Sony Wii does not exist. It will never exist. When we patiently try to explain this to you, please don't blame us for your mixed information. Gamers have not organized themselves into a secret, worldwide conspiracy merely to keep the best titles away from you. Maybe you're just wrong.

#7 Games aren't THAT immersive. If you could refrain from physically ducking, dodging, bobbing and weaving every single time a bullet is fired or a vehicle drives past the screen, you might look like less of a mental patient and, therefore, we might be willing to sit next to you again. Rest assured that when the Holodeck is finally invented, you can flop and flounce around as much as your heart desires.

#8 Dur dur dur dur dur. Oh yeah, bumping into us in the middle of a competitive match is hilarious. Reaching over and messing with our controller is effing hysterical. Dying or crashing on purpose is the funniest thing ever. Now go play with your blocks and let the grown ups enjoy their real game.

#9 Quit quoting us out of context. No matter how many times you repeat the line for the amusement of our friends and family, "Can you help me level my paladin tonight?" still made perfect sense within the framework and rules of the game. Seriously!

#10 If you suck, admit you suck. Give up the guitar. Step away from the drums. Let someone else join the race or fight. You had your chance and you had your fun. At this point, you're spoiling the fun for the entire party. Know when to walk away with at least a shred of dignity and goodwill intact.

#11 No, this isn't "that Mario game." Every game ever made is not called Mario. Ditto for Pac-Man, Tetris, Doom, Myst and Pong. We have not been playing the same thing for 25 years. Similarly, Gears of War is not Halo "with new guns" and Soulcalibur is not Street Fighter "with different graphics."

#12 Please don't patronize. Don't ask us what we're playing and what's going on in the game unless you actually want to know. Complete disregard would be preferable to your barely veiled expression of disinterest and disdain.

#13 "Well, that's a great thing to teach children..." How observant of you! Yes, these severed limbs, crushed skulls and buckets of exploding blood are quite gory. Good thing the game is rated Mature and can't be sold to minors, right? Right?

#14 Do the research. Yes, games are full of foul language, awful violence, crude sexuality and other inappropriately mature situations. Protest all you like, but at least protest the right offenders for the right reasons. A single e-mail or phone call could have told the mainstream media that Mass Effect was not a sex simulator. Why is ignorance so acceptable on this one particular subject?

#15 No, his name isn't "Zelda." It's Link. Samus isn't "Metroid" and Pikachu isn't "Pokemon." Sometimes videogames - like books, films and television - are complex enough to contain characters with names different from the title. Hard to believe, but true!

#16 Time out. Oops! Your fat fingers have done it again. They've "accidentally" paused the game, or hit the dashboard button, at the very moment you were about to lose. Funny, that.

#17 "Hey, are you winning?!" Umm, this is an RPG with hundreds of quests and paths over dozens of hours, so it's really hard to s-... "Cool! How many points you got?" Sigh.

#18 Save! We're tired of watching you start your Sim family, your Animal Crossing town and your Viva Pinata garden from scratch - again. We know you just want to run around punching people in GTA, but maybe if you saved, you could eventually run around and punch people on a totally new island. How does that sound, hmm? Oh, and while we're on the subject...

#19 Hold the eff on. Whatever you want from us, we can't do anything until we save. No, really. No, nothing. You want to lose the last 45 minutes of your life, too? Then deal with it.

#20 Shush! If you don't like people talking during movies, walking in front of the television screen or singing over your favorite songs, then - for the love of God - don't interrupt us during a game's cutscene. The alien, the dragon and the talking spellbook were having a very important conversation...

#21 Learn your shit. Some ignorance is understandable, of course - we're all beginners at some point. If you can't muster enough patience to sit through a five minute tutorial, however, don't whine when you forget the controls. Don't bitch and complain when you end up interacting with a clearly non-interactive crate instead of the glowing, obviously interactive computer right next to it. And exactly how many times do we have to remind you which screen is yours in a multiplayer match before you memorize that simple, binary piece of information? This isn't calculus, genius.

#22 Look up, damn you, look up! There are no enemies on the floor. There are no doors on the floor. There is no nothing on the floor. So why does every non-gamer spend every minute of every FPS zigzagging drunkenly into obstacles while staring, dumb and confused, at every pixel of every floor? Frustrating. Nauseating.

#23 Scared stupid. If you're going to scream and run away each time an enemy fires a gun, swings a punch or makes the slightest noise, perhaps you should sample a hobby other than videogames. Quilting is quite rewarding, we hear.

#24 Don't be a cheap ass. By purchasing the crap for $20 instead of the quality for $60, you're just encouraging developers to produce extra bargain bin crap, usually worth less than 20 cents, instead of devoting their time and funds to more potential masterpieces. When your loved ones tell you what they want, listen. They know what they're talking about.

#25 Don't be an enabler. By purchasing licensed dreck (and the shitty sequels to licensed dreck) simply because you recognize the celebrity on the front of the box, you're pulling down the entire industry. Enter the Matrix sells millions while Okami sells thousands. Space Chimps and Van Helsing get multi-platform releases, while Psychonauts is denied a sequel. We all suffer because of your poorly informed taste. Buy good games or don't buy games at all. PLEASE.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword Review

Live By the Sword, Die By the Sword.

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It's been a long time coming-- over a decade to be exact-- but the Ninja Gaiden series has swiftly slashed its way onto a Nintendo platform with Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword for the Nintendo DS. When you have a successful and established franchise such as Ninja Gaiden, it's a gamble to experiment with an entirely new way of play. Most third-party developers wouldn't take such a risk. However, that is exactly what Tecmo's Team Ninja set out to do, and for the most part, this risk paid off.

Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword takes place a half year after the events of the Xbox rebirth. Fittingly, everything revolves around the mythical Dragon Sword and an ancient evil wanting to take advantage of its unspeakable power (hey, actions speak louder than words, right?). You actually don't begin the game playing as Ryu Hayabusa. Instead you take the role of a new character, the female ninja, Momiji. Not only is the gameplay device of starting off as Momiji imperative to the story, but it makes sense as the player is new to the non-traditional control scheme used in Dragon Sword so to learn the skills necessary to survive, you play as the less experienced Momiji. So essentially you're training alongside the rookie ninja as you play through the opening chapter. When she gets overwhelmed and subsequently captured, it's up to Ryu to rescue her. It's a simple, cohesive story that's all told in still-frame cutscenes and accompanied by the occasional voice sample.

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My, you look familiar...

Playing as Momiji, you learn the basic in and outs of Dragon Sword, but then you swiftly take over as your main man Ryu. Hayabusa Village is the main hub of the tale, and you'll be frequently returning to it after each linear mission. You enter a mission, go from room to room eliminating enemies, solve very uncomplicated puzzles, take on the big bad boss of the area, and return to Hayabusa Village for some R&R. This, by no means, is a formula that sets the action genre on fire, but it works. Inside the village you can chat with fellow ninjas, or talk to the elderly shopkeep Muramasa who will sell you health and attack upgrades, new abilities,and ninja magic. Once you're fully ready, you then enter the portal into the next mission ready to slice and dice.

And oh, how you'll be slicing and dicing. As stated before, Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword utilizes a very untraditional control scheme for players to learn. Thankfully, the tutorial mission as Momiji nails everything down for the player to pick up on. To play this title, the player will hold the DS like a book; this is the same way the film noir-inspired text-adventure Hotel Dusk: Room 215 was played. Just point to an area of the screen and your character will move toward. Flick up with a stroke and your character will jump. Flick again for a double jump. For attacks, your stylus is Ryu's sword. To attack a given enemy, draw horizontally with your swipe, and Ryu will slash his enemy the same way. Conversely, slice down, and Ryu will likewise attack. As you can imagine with an attack method like this, there's a lot of swiping to be had on the touch screen, but it all is fast, fluid, and most importantly, fun. With a quick tap to an enemy, you'll throw out a shuriken or launch an arrow to take care of those pesky flying fiends and foes from afar. As you upgrade your techniques at Muramasa's shop, you'll open up new sword skills and combo abilities such as the Flying Swallow and the grab-your-opponent-in-mid-air-and-crash-with-him-to-the-ground Izuna Drop.

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Slice, slash, hack, and attack all with the stylus.

If your blade is needing some cooling off time, you can choose to attack with your ninja magic or ninpo. Just tap the top left corner of the screen next to your health, trace out the symbol shown, and summon Hell on your opposition. These can be used to score huge damage on bosses or to clear an area of minions, or are simply useful for solving puzzles. Regardless of all these moves, the one you'll most likely desire to master is the Ultimate Technique which is invoked by rapidly sliding your stylus side-to-side to power it up. Once unleashed it can tear through a mob of monsters quite easily. Some may go out and spam this for all this is worth as it actually improves your score in the online leaderboard rankings.

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Each mission ends with a climactic boss battle.

But the best offense is a good defense which is where blocking comes in which is performed by pressing any of the buttons on the DS. Minor attacks can be shrugged off in battle, but even blocking the strike of a boss can still do some damage so rolling out of the harm's way is a better option. This is done by holding down a button and tapping on the screen in the direction you wish to tumble. I found that the directional pad was the most comfortable button to use for blocking and evading attacks.

There's plenty to unlock in Dragon Sword to give the six hour quest some legs. There's wood amulets to find which unlock biographies and character journals in the main menu. To collect them all you'll need to play through all four difficulties, and even on Normal the last few bosses certainly beat me into shape!

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One boss down, countless more to go.

Dragon Sword's pre-rendered backgrounds are very impressive for the DS, but sometimes going from room to room where the camera changes focus suddenly are a little befuddling. Zoomed out views (while infrequent) can sometimes hinder what the hell is even going on in battle. Regardless of these camera complications, the awesome 3-D action of Dragon Sword is a small price to play for it. Unfortunately, however, there's a lack of blood. Now this was probably to cater more to the Nintendo fanbase, but it's a notable omission as the game feels less serious without it. It sort of has a different personality than what I'm used to seeing from the Ninja Gaiden series.

Overall, Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword is a serious gamble that paid off for both the developer and gamers in general. The fast and flawless 3-D action all controlled by the stylus is quite an impressive feat all on its own. Couple that with a sometimes unforgiving difficulty and bonus modes to unlock (even one to play as Momiji) to make up for the pretty short quest, and you have a package that is hard to ignore. Those yearning for some quality Ninja Gaiden action can now strap themselves in and start slashing fiends and foes with the best of them.

[SuperPhillip Says]

Story: An ancient evil is after the power of the fabled Dragon Sword. They kidnap Momiji, and now it's Ryu Hayabusa's duty to save her.

Graphics: Pre-rendered areas with nary a bit of slowdown or a drop in framerate. It's very impressive all-around.

Gameplay: All controlled with the stylus save for defensive maneuvers. The action is swift and snappy-- just the way most action gamers like it.

Sound: The music fits the areas and boss battles quite nicely. Small voice samples are used sparing throughout the game.

Replay Value: While the main mode is approximately only six hours, there are multiple difficulty settings and wood amulets to hunt for the adventurous gamer.

Overall: 8.5/10 - Great. Recommended. Just wish the main mode was a little longer.

The Five Stages of Grief

An excellent post, actually. It's rare for me to use a message board post as a blog entry, but this one had me laughing but then accepting it as truth.

Captain Rainbow (Wii) - New Trailer

Captain Rainbow
He's a hero!
Gonna take heterosexuality down to zero!

So maybe the Captain Planet song doesn't necessarily fit with Captain Rainbow, but by God, I tried!