Thursday, June 11, 2009

Comments Like This Annoy Me.

Hey, gang. I'd like to refute various comments I've read on the internets since E3. This isn't meant solely for the person who wrote them (it's really not for them at all), instead it's for like-minded people. Perhaps you'll agree with some of (or none of, pessimists) my points.

"No one gave a shit about four-player Super Mario Bros. I dunno about you. But I really don't care any more about jumping and hitting brick platforms with my skull to elicit coins and mushrooms. I've grown up. I'm not a Toys R' Us Kid any more." - James Mielke

Now for those who don't know who James Mielke is (everyone basically), he is the person who was under leadership of EGM when it went out of business. I will not say that he is the reason it happened, but if 1up somehow goes under as he's the leader of that, then we'll know for sure, right? I winked right now. Did you see it? He also said in his LittleBigPlanet review that-that game had more originality in it than the last five Mario games put together. I'm sensing a bias here, yeah? He runs 1up, too. That's the sad thing.

That notwithstanding, I'm sure the millions who purchased New Super Mario Bros. and haven't become jaded manchildren can say that yes, they "gave a shit". And let me say that yeah, people like Milkman (that is his nickname, right?) still are Toys 'R Us kids. Instead of playing with your G.I. Joe action figures, you're now playing your Halo, Gears of War, Killzone, and any of the plethora of lack-of-personality military shooters. You just don't have the power anymore of posing Marcus Fenix with his hands on his crotch like you could with the Cobra Commander action figure. What? We ALL did it. Instead of facing off against Cobra, you're now facing off against the Horde, the Locust, or the Helghast. Instead of shouting "die, Cobra Commander" you're shouting "get raped" or "die, n*****".

To somehow say that people who enjoy Mario, a game with personality and doesn't need to pretend it's mature by adding guns, blood, swearing, and a lack of primary colors, are childish is an incredibly incompetent and hypocritical stance to take. Is there any wonder why so many of you game jour-- game press people are continuing to become more and more irrelevant? If that makes me a "Toys 'R Us" kid, then bring Geoffrey over so we can laugh at 30 year old bodies with 14 year olds trapped in them. What annoys me most is that these people being in the industry, having a bunch of sheep who hang on their every word, and then these people shout out the same garbage on message boards everywhere because their fearless leader said it, spreading the ignorance to an insufferable level.

"Super Mario Galaxy 2 sums up everything wrong with Nintendo." - GamesRadar

I think we could easily find a bounty of articles summing up everything that is wrong with the industry and GamesRadar in general, but I digress. The argument is that Super Mario Galaxy 2 is a rehash because it's not a new IP or whatever. InFamous is a new IP, yes? But it's really just Crackdown with electrical powers. That makes it automatically better than an old IP tied with a totally new gameplay mechanic? No. It makes you an idiot. Congrats. So tell me why Ratchet & Clank: A Crack in Time-- a game that is somewhere around the seventh game in seven years or so with the same formula isn't called a rehash but the sequel to one of the greatest games of this generation is-- especially when we've just seen ONE trailer? Are some of you REALLY that against a video game company? Well, enjoy staying irrelevant. Between mouth-breathers and socially accepted people, I'll take something inbetween.

"Natal = Wii killer" - Bette Midler

Microsoft's Natal is an impressive piece of technology. I mean, sure now motion controls are cool and Nintendo is doomed. I'm sure a bunch of message board people have blown their loads when they smiled and said that. Then their moms came in and kicked them out of their basements. Regardless, how is it a killer of the Wii? Suddenly a company that has never put out a mass-market product of any success will do so? Suddenly a bunch of the mass market Wii owners will buy 360s? It doesn't make sense. I don't understand why anyone would want a console to fail either. That's extremely embarrassing. You don't get to whine that the industry isn't taken seriously and then post such garbage. Then again, most who post such slime are the same ones who think all Wiis are in the closets, no one buys games, and everything that is positive towards the Wii isn't true.

Regardless, I really hope Natal allows current HD games with motion control. I'd love to play Halo with Natal or something like that. It's good for all gamers, so don't try to bring your console wars nonsense into everything.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Legendary Starfy (DS) Review

Today is Sunday when I'm posting this since I'm behind, but this post is for Wednesday. I'm just going to call this a time paradox and move on. Where shall I be moving onto? How about a brand-new review? All right. Sounds good to me. It's close enough to call it summertime, so I think a game featuring majestic coasts and swims through coral landscapes is perfect to kick us off, no? Here's The Legendary Starfy for the Nintendo DS.

A Star is Born

Starfy... Starfy... That name rings a bell... er... star. Actually, it probably doesn't for most people. There's definitely a good reason for that as Starfy has had four past video games starting with his debut in 2002 on the Game Boy Advance. The only obstacle here is that no one outside of Japan got a retail release for it... or the sequel... or the sequel of the sequel.. or the-- you get where I'm going with this. Now up to its fifth installment, and Starfy has finally swam all that way into the Western world with The Legendary Starfy for the Nintendo DS. Hopefully after such a long period of time, the wait will be worth it. Is Starfy really legendary, or should this legend have just stayed in Japan?

The star spin is Starfy's main line of offense.

The legendary Starfy isn't just a hero-- he's the prince of Pufftop, a kingdom in the clouds. Napping one day in his royal chambers, a mysterious visitor, an amnesiac bunny in a space suit, crashed through the ceiling and rammed into our sleeping star. As if one unexpected guest wasn't enough, three more marched into the room. This dastardly trio had orders to capture the bunny. During the commotion, the startled bunny escaped with the shadowy trio pursuing. Starfy, alongside his best friend: a clam named Moe, leap into the sparkling ocean far below. The game has you collecting crystal shards from bosses and major enemies which bring back a piece of Bunston the bunny's memory. It's rather formulaic, and it's nothing we haven't seen before in a video game. The game has some heartfelt moments, but they just come off as cheesy.

The story itself is told through comic book-styled cut-scenes as well as in-game speech bubbles for ordinary conversations. These can all be skipped with a press of the start button for those not caring for prose when it concerns a cute spinning star. As for the in-game visuals, The Legendary Starfy uses an impressive mix between 2-D foreground walls, ceilings, floors, and character sprites and 3-D backgrounds which really show off the DS's power, moreso than other platformers on the system. While most of the enemies are 2-D, a couple bosses are actually rather well-done 3-D models. The music is largely forgettable, but don't be surprised if you come off humming a tune as you play.

2-D foregrounds and 3-D backgrounds
create a wonderful effect for the eyes.

The Legendary Starfy has two types of gameplay in it. The first is your traditional run and jump platforming that is synonymous with games of the genre. The second displays Starfy's sensational swimming prowess. Swimming is fast, fun, and easy to do. This isn't Mario taking a plunge in Super Mario World. No, no. Starfy can turn on a dime underwater, boost to gain speed, and use his star spin attack to smash various baddies out of the way as well as bust through walls and other breakable blocks. Use the spin attack too many times in too swift of a succession, and Starfy will become momentarily dizzy and vulnerable to enemy attacks. At the beginning of the game, Starfy doesn't have all of his abilities available to him. As you progress through the game Moe will help the forgetful starman remember his moves one at a time, from the ultra helpful double jump to the slow descent glide move plus many more. If you want to uncover every hidden treasure in the game, you'll need to return to past levels to utilize a move you didn't have when you originally ventured there.

There's plenty of bonus goodies to be had in The Legendary Starfy. There's eight worlds throughout the duration of the game's story with two bonus worlds, one of which features Starfy's precocious sister, Starly. Each world has a different theme from haunted pirate ships, great glaciers, and hot springs to sky high hijinks, a lush tropical lagoon, and even outer space. A map, similar to what you'd see in Donkey Kong Country, ties together all of the levels, although much less detailed. In each world there's four main levels with three secret levels that can be unlocked by finding a special door in a given level and completing a challenge. You'll never do the same type of challenge twice whether you're racing someone to the top of a room, counting bad guys in the background, or taking down all of the enemies in a room. There's also treasure chests in each level to plunder, 102 in all to be exact. Some levels have three while others only have one to find. Some house notes while others hold costumes for Starfy to wear in the pause menu or give Starfy more health or a new bonus to one of Bunston's abilities.

Some levels you'll slide on ice while
others you'll ride on a mine cart.

Speaking of Bunston, once you catch up with him and he finally tags along with you, you'll have multiple opportunities throughout the game to transform into one of four animal forms. You'll only get to transform when Bunston is thinking of transforming, and you'll only get to transform into what Bunston is thinking of. Selfish little wascally wabbit. Each transformation has a different use. The red dinosaur can breathe a heavy wall of fire out at enemies while the white seal-like creature can swim through water at a break-neck pace. There's an animal upgrade for each of the four transformations. Collecting these is a must to reach secret areas within the game.

Something that is a must for a good game is good control, and The Legendary Starfy delivers that in spades... er... stars. The control is very accessible to younger players without feeling dumbed down for the older gamer. Just the control pad and face buttons are generally used. B and Y are primarily used in tandem with the control pad in order to perform most of Starfy's moves while the X button enters doors and the like. The touch screen is relegated to changing the HUD where you pearl total (used to purchase new costumes from Moe's shop in the pause menu as well as get character figures from the toy machine) and the options menu is located.

Two players can co-star in the game via local play.

I think the largest problem someone going into The Legendary Starfy will face is that the game is on the easy side. Those who are looking for a serious challenge should stick to Yoshi's Island DS as we're talking Kirby-easy here. Bosses rarely put up a challenge, gaining back health is as simple as picking up five pearls which are generously placed throughout the game, and the levels, while a joy to play, rarely pose a problem for an experienced gamer. Is that to say this game isn't worth playing or owning for someone older? Of course not. Just don't expect your gaming skills to be put through the ringer.... well, until you reach World 10.

The Legendary Starfy is a wonderful platformer that any open-minded DS owner will fall in love with. There's enough content to last upwards of fifteen hours with eight story worlds to complete plus two bonus worlds, multiple treasures to track down, seventy levels to explore, a boss rush mode to tackle, and an adventure that's worth going through over and over. Here's hoping we won't have to wait for five more installments until we get another one of Starfy's adventures.

[SuperPhillip Says: 8.5/10]

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Perfect Dark Zero (360) Review

Earlier today we saw comparison shots of the new Perfect Dark remake for Xbox Live Arcade to the Nintendo 64 original. Makes perfect sense to look back at one of my favorite games on the Xbox 360 which just so happens to be a launch title. It's Perfect Dark Zero.

A gun for every occasion.

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Perfect Dark hit Nintendo 64 consoles in the spring of 2000. Nearly five years later, two console generations later, and after Microsoft purchased Rare from Nintendo, Perfect Dark Zero premiers as one of the Xbox 360 virgin console titles. PDZ is the prequel to one of the greatest FPSes ever concocted in this reviewer's opinion in Perfect Dark. Set in the near future, 2020 to be exact, the trio of Joanna Dark-- who is for some reason American in this title-- Jack Dark, her father, and Chandra, their intel specialist, are essentially mercenaries for hire. Their current objective follows a human and gun smuggler in the form of Killian, one of the worst voiced bad guys I have ever heard. After a tutorial mission where players are introduced to various game mechanics such as rolling, melee attacks, crouching, and cover. Two of which are new to the realm of Perfect Dark.

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Cover brings a whole new form of strategy to the gameplay.

When moving, with the tap of the Left Button, players can initiate a roll. This is great to dodge enemy fire or just to keep your foes on guard. When near a wall, crate, or other means of cover, Joanna will either lean back against the wall or crouch behind the crate. So instead of turning around a blind corner only to be greeted with a profusion of gunfire (whatever happened to "Hey, I'm going to kill you if you don't mind." Now it's just immediate gunfire!) Joanna can now run up to a wall and look around the corner to see if the coast is clear. This is a great addition and it only feels like a natural evolution to the gameplay of the series.

Single-player doesn't take itself too seriously which may turn some gamers off considering the subject matter and the target audience Perfect Dark Zero is intended for. The story is very forgettable and much less serious than the original Nintendo 64 version. There are allusions to the previous game with returning characters such as the rich Scotsman, Daniel Carrington, and the scientist who we knew as only a hovering computer in PD, Dr. Carroll. The game is divided up in missions. Each mission includes various objectives that must be completed in order to finish the mission. These objectives range from destroying a security system to advance to another part of a level to locating another character. Nothing out of the ordinary. There's also support objectives that are not mandatory to completing a mission. When completed, these will make the job of completing your main mission much easier usually. Levels are for the most part non-linear. There's multiple ways of finishing a mission, ways to fail, and places to explore.

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Missions will have you infiltrating
a Pacific Ocean research lab...

Speaking of multiplicity, there's an abundance of weapons and gadgetry for our spicy spy to use at her disposal. Weapons have primary functions as well as secondary functions. Some even have tertiary functions, too. The Superdragon, for example, is a regular machine gun, but use its secondary function and you can use it as a grenade launcher. What kind of masochist designed these weapons, because if you're like me you'll have fun blowing yourself up unintentionally. There's approximately twenty-five weapons that Joanna can arm herself with, but there's a limit to how much she can hold. Weapon classes range from pistols, heavy weapons like rocket launchers and the ultra-cool plasma rifle, sub-machine guns, to assault rifles, sniper tools, thrown items like grenades, and close-combat weapons such as the shotgun. Combine these weapons with the second and third functions and you have a multitude of uses to kill the opposition or support the busty redhead in Ms. Dark. Furthermore, Joanna can dual wield some smaller weapons as made famous by Halo, but used in earlier games as well.

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...To mowing down enemies in the steamy jungles of South America.

I mentioned gadgetry, and what spy game lacks cool gadgetry? Certainly not Perfect Dark Zero. Ms. "Use your locktopus" Chandra recommends the locktopus often in missions. Got a locked door? Use the locktopus. Date stood you up? Use the locktopus. Accidentally get splash-back while peeing? Use the locktopus. By moving the left analog stick, the locktopus will change color. When it turns green, you'll know you're holding the stick in the correct spot. The controller will also rumble. When the locktopus stays green, the door will instantly unlock. Another tool Joanna will use in her repetoire is the datathief-- all one word. This is the gadget for the girl on the go who can't resist hacking a computer while checking out the latest dresses at Macy's. Pressing A while a cursor passes over a blue block will unlock one of three rings. Clear all rings while avoiding red blocks will give you control of a control panel or computer. For the girl who just likes to blow... I wasn't finished, perverts-- crap up, there's the demo Kit. Spin squares to form one continuous line to cause a weakened wall to explode allowing passage through. Other gadgets include the very cool camspy (a miniature bot which can be used to take photos or be attached with an explosive), the revive kit (used to pick up fallen co-op partners), and the audioscope (a gadget that would make former president Nixon cringe as it records conversations from far away).

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Sure, I'm a girl, but I know how to blow... things up.

There's four difficulties to single player ranging from easiest to hardest: agent, special agent, perfect agent, and dark agent. Agent and special agent missions have less objectives to them, body armor in some areas to increase Joanna's health, and less accurate AI. Perfect and dark agent modes include incredibly difficult AI, no checkpoints in mid-mission, and more objectives to complete. Some objectives are in different locations depending on the difficulty level. Only a seasoned and skilled gamer will be able to complete dark agent which is a great bragging right for achievement lovers.

Moving away from single-player, by far the most impressive portion of Perfect Dark Zero is the incredibly robust multiplayer mode. As of this review there are currently twelve maps (four of which need to be purchased) ranging from locations in Perfect Dark Zero and two retro maps from the original Perfect Dark. Most of these maps are enormous and need the services of one of the two vehicles that can be piloted in PDZ, the jetpack and the hovercraft (one person drives, another serves as the gunner). There are a multitude of paths, hiding spots, camping spots, and other nooks and cranny to merrily explore while you're fragging one another. There's also variants to each map which closes and opens certain parts of the maps. The twelve maps currently available are: subway, urban, desert, old town, tower, temple, [trench, rooftops, plaza, gasplant], ruins, and facility. The ones in brackets need to be purchased as part of a map pack. Each map has its own unique feel, places to hide, and offer their own ambiance. Very cool battlefields if I do say so myself.

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I'm in your multiplayer, destroying your team.

Locally, players can have up to sixteen other bots (something that I disliked Halo lacking). There's multiple modes, too. Deathmatch consists of killcount and team killcount (standard killing fare), capture the flag (which is a blast with thirty-two players online), and territorial gains (a take on the infamous king of the hill modes of other games). Darkops is more strategic. Eradication consists of killing the other team's members before they do the same to you. Onslaught is a mode where a team is forced to defend a base while another team attempts to wipe them all out. Then the roles reverse. Whoever held the base for the longest wins overall. Then there's infection where skeletons try to kill human players, thus infecting them. Finally there's sabotage where the destruction of another team's goods is the main draw.

If you wish to play with other people, you can do so with co-op-- which has two players playing through the single-player missions. Additionally, multiplayer is where the online action is mostly at. The community is still active and for good reason. Unlike other Xbox titles, the multiplayer is so robust and allows for so much customization that there's a lot to go back to. Plus any patch added to the online play actually helps the community and gameplay! Crazy! Are you listening, Epic Games? Take an example for once.

Now to the aesthetics... Graphically the game is quite impressive even two years later. There's beautiful textures and character models which are fairly detailed. Explosions are some to marvel at as well. Sound-wise the voices can be annoying. Killian is the prime example of this. However, the soundtrack, composed by David Clynick is incredible and retains some of the themes from the original Perfect Dark.

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Sniper scopes are just one of the many
functions your weaponry can serve.

Overall, is Perfect Dark Zero a worthy successor to the original Perfect Dark? Well, it certainly isn't better ultimately, but at the same token it isn't horrible like some avenues wrongly play it out to be. The single-player is enjoyable, co-op is rewarding, and multiplayer allows numerous hours to be spent creating games with players all around the world. For only $29.99 USD now, Perfect Dark Zero is a game that most gamers won't regret purchasing. There's a lot to do, explore, and shoot at. Perfect Dark Zero may have missed the mark on being perfect, but it certainly didn't miss the target completely.

[SuperPhillip Says: 9.0/10]

Perfect Dark (XBLA) to N64 Comparison

An updated version of the original Nintendo 64 classic, Perfect Dark, will make its way to the Xbox Live Arcade this winter. Not only will it feature online play with split-screen for up to four players, it will also have an enhanced graphical engine. Below you can see the various shots. The first in each photo pair is from the Nintendo 64 game while the second is from the XBLA remake.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Kirby Squeak Squad (DS) Review

The Legendary Starfy makes its North American debut today at retailers everywhere. When I first saw Starfy, I got an immediate Kirby vibe from the game. Thus, why not mark Starfy's premiere with a Kirby game?

The pink puffer returns.

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That lovable pink powderpuff is back onto handhelds with his latest adventure, Kirby Squeak Squad for the Nintendo DS. Squeak Squad returns to conventional button and d-pad controls unlike its Canvas Curse follow-up which solely used the stylus. The stylus is used in this game but not as its main draw (forgive the pun). You use the stylus in game to use power-ups and items stored in Kirby's belly. They can be used by double tapping the bottom screen. Also, items and abilities can be combined to form helpful items and new abilities.

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Uh-oh. Looks like trouble.

The premise of the game is quite simple as all Kirby games have been. Kirby is one day sitting in the grass behind a delicious-looking piece of cake. Suddenly when he goes to consume it, a member of the Squeak Squad comes and takes it away from him. Now Kirby must enter through various locales such as grassy plains, rustic castles, and sandy beaches to get his prized possession back. Each level is filled with enemies that Kirby can consume to transform in order to counter any obstacle or enemy that he is presented with. Such abilities include: fire, fighter, bomb, ice, tornado, and UFO. Need to hit down a stake? Use the hammer ability to smash it down. Need to light a fuse? Suck up an enemy for the fire ability to ignite that sucker. Sometimes you will need to hold onto a certain ability for a later part of a level. The aforementioned belly system where Kirby can hold five items and/or abilities in his stomach helps out immensely at this juncture unlike previous Kirby titles where you needed to hold onto an ability that you didn't want in order to use it in a later part of a level.

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From grassy plains...

Speaking of levels, level design is pretty fine-crafted. Never did I question the developer's design decisions or find that a challenge or boss was unfair. The game is pretty easy to complete with only a rare instance where the game became out of the norm in challenge. A typical gamer could probably beat the game within six to eight hours truthfully. However treasure chests are strewn about levels encouraging replay value. Treasures unlock hidden content such as new colors for Kirby, artwork, and more. Bosses cap off each level ranging from ridiculously easy to frustrating all abound.

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...To the fiery depths of a volcano...

Overall, Kirby is certainly not revolutionary or does anything to impede on its typical formula, but for what it's worth Kirby Squeak Squad is a fun, albeit short adventure. Those looking for a large challenge will need to float elsewhere. Those wanting a cute platformer starring Nintendo's signature pink puffball will find a lot of enjoyment in this game.

[SuperPhillip Says: 7.0/10]

SuperPhillip's Favorite VGMs - From the Macabre to the Magical

Welcome to a new week of my favorite VGMs. We're starting off heavy this week with MadWorld, but we'll quickly scamper into lighter fare like Viewtiful Joe 2 and Ghost 'n' Goblins! If there are no objections, let's get on with it!

V326. MadWorld - Come With It (Explicit)

From the ultra-violent bloodbath known as Madworld, Come With It is an infectious song. Most of Madworld's soundtrack is an eclectic mix of hip-hop, rap, and metal. I don't generally listen to rap or hip-hop, but Madworld's music is fantastic and very catchy-- perfect for the carnage on screen.

V327. Viewtiful Joe 2 - Happier Ending

The credits theme of Viewtiful Joe 2, Happier Ending, features several motives used earlier in the game from the last level to Big John, the tyrannosaur that just won't throw in the towel. I'd love to see another Viewtiful Joe but for the Wii. I think the Wii remote could be put to good use and not make it just seem like a rudimentary sequel like VJ2 was.

V328. NiGHTS: Journey Into Dreams - Wandering Wildness

I really feel bad for the various members of Sonic Team's sound team. They constantly put out excellent soundtracks only to have them made for critically-hammered and oftentimes mediocre games. Regardless, this song comes from NiGHTS: Journey into Dreams for the Wii. I only played some of the game, but I did like what I played for the most part. I could do without needing to watch the cutscenes though...

V329. Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure - Banson's Aria

This impressive track comes from the newly released Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure for Nintendo DS. It plays during the second world's ultimate boss battle with the self-absorbed Banson. It's incredibly astounding how well it sounds on the DS. The vocals are almost haunting. If you're interested in the rest of the soundtrack (as you should as it's quite good!), you can download it for free straight from EA's official Henry Hatsworth website.

V330. Super/Ultimate Ghost 'n Goblins - Main Theme

It's been a long time since I've done a two-for-one, so let's make up for it. These are the Super Nintendo and PSP versions of the Ghost 'n Goblins main theme. Catchy and haunting, what better music is there to fight in your skivvies to? The second song begins at around three minutes in.

As always, next week will bring us five new pieces of video game music to start off the work-week. We'll start things with a duo of high-speed racers. Until then, the VGMs are on vacation.