Friday, May 22, 2009

Introducing Quickies: Bite-size reviews

Welcome to a brand-new installment on SuperPhillip Central-- Quickies. What are SPC Quickies? They're paragraph-long reviews for games that don't really need a long review dedicated to them. We're talking about games like from the Virtual Console and other downloadable services. It makes little sense to score such games on the normal in-depth review scale, so instead quickie reviews will be scored from 1-5 with no decimals to worry about.

5 - Fantastic

4 - Great

3 - Fair

2 - Poor

1 - Awful


Banjo-Kazooie (XBLA)

Banjo-Kazooie is definitely one of my all-time favorite games of all time, and it still holds up well to this day. The visuals have been slightly enhanced, and playing the game with the Xbox 360 controller is a delight. The goal of Banjo-Kazooie is to traverse through ten themed perpetually more difficult worlds in search of Jiggies. They're like power stars in Super Mario 64 as they open up new worlds and sections of Gruntilda's (the villain) complex castle. A cool enhancement to the game is when collecting notes. In the original when you died, all the notes you collected in a level would return to their locations. Not so with this version. It makes collecting 100 notes in each world much less of a frustration. Banjo-Kazooie is highly recommended.

[SuperPhillip Says: 5/5]

Super Metroid (VC)

Originally released on the Super Nintendo in 1994, Super Metroid screw attacks its way onto the Wii Virtual Console. Let me just say that the game world is extremely well-designed. Everything is logically done. When Samus Aran gains new abilities, she can access new areas in the game either to progress further or to discover missile, health, or bomb upgrades. Super Metroid brought with it a godsend, an incredibly detailed map allowing you to figure out where you need to go and how to get there. My only beef with this adventure is that the wall jump and the space jump moves are more difficult to pull off than they should be. Otherwise, Super Metroid is a terrific game that I regret missing out on until now.

[SuperPhillip Says: 5/5]

Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards (VC)

Although the Nintendo 64 touted itself as a 3D machine, Kirby 64 is a traditional 2 1/2 D platformer. There's six planets in all each with a multitude of levels. To get the best ending, you need to collect all of the crystal shards which there are three hidden in each main level. The addition that sets this game apart from the other Kirby games is the option of combining abilities. Kirby can grab a burn ability, lift it over his head, and then toss it at an Ice enemy to create a Burn + Ice combo ability for much more powerful and helpful results. The only real problem with Kirby 64 is that it's over far too soon, something common with the franchise. You can complete this game 100% in 4-5 hours if that.

[SuperPhillip Says: 4/5]

Punch-Out! (VC)

Punch-Out! is an action-puzzler where the key to victory is dodging your opponent at the right time and then striking him while his guard is down. Little Mac's opponents become progressively more difficult and have much more complex and hard-to-dodge attacks. It's a fun game thanks to the pick-up-and-play nature of the game, but it's over too soon and there's nothing left after you complete the game. The gameplay is a little too simple for my tastes.

[SuperPhillip Says: 3/5]

As these reviews are too short to be fairly listed among the more in-depth reviews in my review database, they will be listed under SPC Quickies: Volume 1. Let me know what you think about this new feature!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

New Play Control!: Donkey Kong Jungle Beat (Wii) Review

I had this review planned for the past two weeks, but I fell ill. Regardless, here it finally is-- my review of New Play Control! Donkey Kong Jungle Beat.

Rumble in the Jungle All Over Again

A little known development team created a fresh new platforming bonanza which utilized a special bongo peripheral. This project was the cult-classic known as Donkey Kong Jungle Beat for the Nintendo Gamecube. This same team's next project was a game you may or may not have heard of. It's something called Super Mario Galaxy, and this development team is none other than Nintendo EAD 1, the premiere first-party team under Nintendo's arsenal of capable developers. It's 2009 and the New Play Control line of Gamecube games remade with Wii controllers in mind have already made their assault on Wii consoles with varying degrees of success. It's Donkey Kong Jungle Beat's time to get a second chance in the spotlight, but this time, the bongos are nowhere to be found. Is this bongo-less version of Jungle Beat one you'll go bananas for?

In the original Donkey Kong Jungle Beat your controller was a controller shaped like a pair of bongo drums. Smacking the left drum would move Donkey Kong left whereas drumming on the right drum would move him right funnily enough. Pouncing upon both drums at the same time would make DK leap into the air, and clapping or tapping the rims of the bongos to attack enemies or grab banana bunches within reach. The New Play Control version tosses aside these bongo controls with no option to use them. That makes sense as it'd defeat the purpose of having Wii controls, but that's all lost if the new control set-up is a hindrance (see: NPC: Mario Power Tennis). Thankfully, this is nowhere near the case with this Wii-make.

Leap on a foe, and pummel 'em into submission.

Jungle Beat now controls like a more traditional platformer as instead of banging a drum or direction to move DK, you just use the nunchuk's analog stick. Parts of the game that required extremely tight precision are less daunting as with the analog stick you feel that you have much more control over the rambunctious ape. Jumping is relegated to the A button while grabbing 'nanas and beating down baddies are assigned to alternating strikes with the Wii remote and nunchuk. It can get tiring, especially during boss fights, but it feels rather good overall. Plus your hands don't become raw after hours of time that flies by. Unless, of course, you're clapping for the heck of it.

There are around 18 or so kingdoms to explore in Donkey Kong Jungle Beat. Each kingdom has two fair-in-length levels followed by a boss encounter. The basic goal of each kingdom is to make it from start-to-finish and take down the kingdom's malevolent monstrosity in order to reclaim the land in the name of all that is right, pure, and banana-craving in the world. However, the real fun and the only way to see the true ending of the game is to collect enough bananas to earn crests. Bananas are scattered all about the levels in Jungle Beat, but there's more to it than just collecting them. If Donkey Kong performs a combo, his bananas collected are multiplied by 2,3,4, and however how he can go before his combo ends. A combo is maintained and boosted by performing completely different aerial moves in one combo such as wall jumps, rope swings, flying on a helibird, ground pounds, and much more. A combo ends when DK touches the ground. The strategy is to find the best way to chain combos in order to accumulate a bounty of bananas. It's entirely possible in later levels to start a combo and maintain it throughout the duration of a level. The immense intelligence of the level designers is immediately apparent as there's not just one way to score as many bananas as possible. There's ways that you'll probably overlook or not even think of until you see the many "Try This" videos that play at the conclusion of each kingdom.

Secret areas are common, so explore a bit!

At each kingdom's finale, you are put up against one of the game's many boss encounters. All of the bananas you've acquired from the past two levels are totaled up and serve as DK's health for the fight. Each time DK is hit, a bunch of bananas are lost. Reach zero, and your main monkey goes down for the count. There's two types of boss fights. The first feels very much like Punch-Out! lite. Your opponent gives you a tell of when they're about to attack, you dodge the attack, and the boss is temporarily vulnerable to a flurry of furry and fiery fists, performed by motion controls of the Wii remote and nunchuk. As the boss' health goes down, his pattern becomes faster and more unpredictable. The second type of boss is a traditional 2D platforming escapade against one of three different bosses. These three different bosses repeat throughout the game but with additional tricks. Regardless, many of the encounters do feel recycled somewhat. Once the boss is vanquished, your banana total is tallied up. Depending on how many yellow gods of fruity awesomeness you obtained, you'll earn up to three crests. Earn three crests in a set of kingdoms, and you unlock a bonus kingdom full of brand-new and more challenging levels.

What goes on in a meeting like this?
"Let's put a chicken head on a spiked plant root."

In the Gamecube original, throughout each level, bananas were Donkey Kong's life meter in the game. Each time DK would get damaged, he'd lose a handful of his favorite fruit. This made trying to get platinum crests (by getting over 1,000 bananas in a kingdom) a bit difficult later on. In the New Play Control version, Donkey Kong has a trio of hearts serving as his life. Lose all three hearts, and you have to start the level from the beginning of the level or from a checkpoint. In the original you could throw caution to the wind in completing levels as if you had enough bananas, you could get hit dozens of times. This obviously isn't the case in the Wii offering meaning certain sections of the later levels are quite challenging as you don't have as much of a safety net. Each heart you have left at the end of a level adds fifty bananas to your score which makes getting a high banana count not as hard as it was in the bongo-fueled original.

New animal friends help in many of the game's levels.

It's not really a question of which being better when it comes to the Gamecube or Wii versions. It comes to being different. Not only have certain game elements been changed, a new boss rush mode has been added to the Wii version and many of the levels of the NPC game have been altered to accommodate the new Wii controls, so the two titles feel very much different to each other. This isn't "bad" different either. It's just two individual and fantastic gaming experiences regardless of which version you choose.

Donkey Kong Jungle Beat did not have much fanfare when it was originally released. It came out near the end of the Gamecube's life cycle, and it was on a console that did not have nearly enough excitement from many gamers and the public in general. Now Jungle Beat has been given a second life, and now it's on a platform which many more owners. If you missed out on the Gamecube or the original Jungle Beat, swing on over and pick this budget-priced game up. It's an enjoyable and creative game worthy of the title of "classic".

[SuperPhillip Says: 8.5/10]

Monday, May 18, 2009

SuperPhillip's Favorite VGMs - Takin' What We're Given 'Cuz We're Workin' For A Livin' Edition

As a tradition of the start of every work-week, let's kick it off with five of my favorite VGMs. This week we have a lot of genres represented: platformer, life sim, sports, hack 'n slash, and action RPG. The music is just as varied so enjoy.

V311. Sonic 3D Blast - Special Stage

This is the Special Stage theme of the PC and Saturn versions of Sonic 3D Blast. This theme is an extremely upbeat and fast-paced jazz tune perfect for a Sonic 2-esque quest for a Chaos Emerald. While not a terrible game, it definitely doesn't feel like a Sonic game-- more like something with Sonic characters tacked on.

V312. Animal Crossing: Wild World - The Roost (SSBB Remix)

Coming originally from Animal Crossing: Wild World and also used in City Folk is the theme of The Roost, the hangout in the basement of the museum. The song tugs onto the heartstrings with its magnificently mellow melody. The version used is the Super Smash Bros. Brawl remix as it has the best quality and it's my personal favorite version.

V313. Minna no Golf Online - Wonderland C.C.

Pardon the use of a Hot Shots Golf 5 screen. I couldn't find anything for Minna no Golf Online, the Japanese only Playstation 2 game. Regardless, this course and song appeared again in Hot Shots Golf Fore. This song sounds like something you'd hear as you drive your Ferrari onto the fairway, sunglasses on, leap out, and drive your ball into the hole.... or it could just sound like what you'd hear at the Wonderland Country Club...

V314. Phantasy Star Online Episode II - Tricktrack PART 2

The second part of the second area in the second installment of Phantasy Star Online, Tricktrack puts in the mood to slay monsters, grind levels, and hope for rare drops on a space station. The song is much more fast-paced than the also excellent Tricktrack PART 1. I encourage you to check out the first part as well if I don't get around to putting it up.

V315. Star Ocean: Till the End of Time - Expiration

Star Ocean: Till the End of Time seems to be a love or hate kind of RPG. The twist near the end of the game most likely didn't help things. Regardless and as usual, Motoi Sakuraba created just an exquisite soundtrack. My heart will always admire The Second Story's score more, but Till the End of Time is no slouch either. This heavy rock song is used in several of the game's dungeons throughout the game. Grating for some, "then mute the tv and shove it while I rock out" to everyone else.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

We Love Golf (Wii) - Political Coincidence?

I recently started playing some of my favorite golf games of the past in anticipation for the upcoming Tiger Woods 10. Speaking of which, I plan on writing an article listing my favorite golfing games of this generation thus far, so look forward to that! Back on track-- I looked at the back of the North American box art for We Love Golf! and I laughed out loud immediately.

Now the one character on the left I already associated with Barack Obama since before the game launched. His voice only seals that thought to me. There seems to be a slight political theme to the back of the box. For instance, the Mii looks exactly like political satirist, Stephen Colbert of the Colbert Report. The most interesting coincidence after coming back to the game and after the 2008 Presidential Election is the person to the right of the Obama-esque model. It looks just like Sarah Palin-- hairdo, glasses, and wink and all! The thing is that Sarah Palin wasn't announced or even introduced to Americans until the following August. We Love Golf! came out around June of 2008. As for the girl on the right, I got nothing. Nonetheless, how peculiar!