Friday, June 19, 2009

MySims Racing (Wii) Review

First it was The Munchables, and now it seems SuperPhillip Central has the first review for MySims Racing for the Wii. How do I explain this atypical behavior of the site? Moneyhats. Pure moneyhats. Or if you prefer the 20s, moneyfedoras. In all seriousness, I keep getting surprised by the MySims franchise. It's a really worthwhile series-- despite MySims Party. Here's the review for MySims Racing for Wii.

I Have the Need. The Need for Sim.

It seems with any successful casual game that there's a bundle of yearly sequels that later come out. With Rayman Raving Rabbids, we've just seen the fourth installment of the mini-game franchise with TV Party. An extreme example is Guitar Hero which has Aerosmith, Metallica, Van Halen, Smash Hits, Donnie and Marie Osmond, KC and the Sunshine Band, The Beats, and many more within a year's time (perhaps I'm off on some of those). Now after the impressive and surprisingly good yearly titles of MySims and MySims Kingdom, EA has decided to create some spin-offs for the family-friendly franchise. The first was the critically-panned MySims Party. The second has the MySims crew taking it to the tracks to burn rubber in MySims Racing. Does this spin-off speed past the competition, or does it need a permanent pit stop?

MySims Racing features a story mode which most single-player racers will spend the most of their time in. The story goes something like this. Your town's racing hero has mysteriously disappeared, and if that wasn't bad enough, the dastardly Morcubus is attempting to take the town deed for himself, effectively kicking your neighbors to the curve. The horror! The horror! But Ol' Gabby has an idea. Perhaps you can stop Morcubus' evil plans by outracing his goons, helping your fellow townspeople, and taking big baddy Morcubus on wheel-to-wheel in the Ultimate Cup. As with the past games, the writing is top-notch and very humorous. One of my favorite gags is a girl who tries to pretend she's not a robot. "HELLO, FELLOW HUMAN! WOULD YOU LIKE TO GO TO THE GARAGE? Y/N/Maybe?" It's humor that's for everyone no matter if they're a young kid, a seasoned gamer, or whoever. I can definitely dig that.

The hair makes this Sim aero-dynamic.

The MySims franchise is known for accessible customization-- creating your Sim's appearance and building various doodads. MySims Racing is no different. No, you can't build your own tracks or anything (see: ModNation Racers), but you do start off by building your own MySims racer. You can perform a real-time sex change making your male sim and female in the blink of an eye, change their hairstyle, skin color, eyes, voice, and clothing. After working on your looks, you can start fine-tuning your own vehicle. In your garage your character can hold three different cars of varying weights-- light, medium, and heavy. You can tinker everything from the body, front and back bumpers, horn sound, sideview mirrors, and even pimp your ride with rockin' new rims.

Of course, style isn't heavily favored over substance when it comes to designing a car to hit the pavement. The inside of the car matters, too, and here you can change your engine and other vehicle parts to enhance your top speed, weight, handling, and more. At the beginning of the game, you start with a modest amount of vehicle parts, but by completing story mode missions you unlock blueprints to build new parts. You build new parts using the colorful essences strewn about the game's fifteen tracks.

This item makes the victim temporarily drive upside-down.

The tracks in MySims Racing are honestly well-designed. They're not to the caliber of Mario Kart Wii, but then again neither is the item imbalance which isn't a problem in MySims Racing. There are no game-breaking items to be found though a lot of imitators of Mario Kart Wii's arsenal such as screen-obstructing items, homing items, and green shell-like dangers in the form of soccer balls. Regardless, the fifteen tracks span across snowy slopes with ski lifts to avoid, wild west-like canyons full of perilous turns, a race down a speedy stream in a dark forest, and racing inside a pinball-inspired labyrinth. Some of the shortcuts are really well-hidden, and speaking of which, each track has a secret blueprint hidden on it usually after a clever shortcut.

A certain skinny mean-spirited plumber
is not going to be happy with this.

Be prepared to get familiar with these races because in story mode, you only do 2-3 different tracks at a time before you finally unlock a new batch. The progression of the story mode has you either pointing to the map with the Wii remote or driving around to point to point talking to citizens and passersby. Each Sim has 2-4 challenges for you to complete. Complete one challenge, and another unlocks either from the same Sim or a new one. Beat enough rival racers, and you'll have enough entrants in one of the mayor's cups. Beat the cup, and you'll unlock a new area of the overworld to explore. At first, your little abode isn't very impressive, but as you complete missions for your citizens, their homes will expand as will their friendship for you. Reach a maximum friendship with a Sim, and they'll give you a rare blueprint.

There's a pretty good variety of challenges asked of you to accomplish. These range from Outrun-like checkpoint challenges, one lap time trials, one-on-one racing, obstacle courses, collection sprees, and a three lap race against five other opponents. Each challenge has three medal requirements. Gold being the hardest to achieve such as beating an opponent by ten seconds or passing through all the gates before time runs out. While beating the game may take just five hours, getting all golds (100% completion) is another story altogether.

That notwithstanding, while the single-player is much longer than Mario Kart Wii-- and the constant comparisons are because the games are similar, and MKWii is the top dog on any current-gen console at the moment-- MySims Racing's multi-player mode is local only. There is no online functionality which is a huge oversight considering how cool it would be to take your created character and vehicle online for the world to see. It's just a missed opportunity. Nonetheless, there is split screen play through various cups and tracks. It just won't last very long if you don't have friends nearby.

The only multiplayer here is offline.
He without friends races alone.

MySims Racing caters to all four available control types. Yes, the Wii remote to steer by itself is awesome and handles splendidly, but you can also use the Wii remote and nunchuk, or if you don't want any motion controls at all you can use the Gamecube or Classic controllers. The game uses a different way of boosting. It's not by power-slides, though they do help. You get a bar on the left side of your screen. Every time you gather F-energy from collecting essences, power-sliding, or having a sizeable amount of air-time, your bar increases. When it reaches the top or after you come off a zipper, you can press the boost button to get a powerful boost of speed to jet past opponents or shred some seconds from your time. Your kart can even jump to leap across small gaps or coming off a ramp to achieve a good share of hang time for boost energy.

One of the first tracks of MySims Racing.

While MySims Racing does share some common design ideas from Mario Kart Wii, it never feels like a complete rip-off. There's enough original things here to make the game worth a look. It may not have online play, but it's also ten dollars less than full retail. If you've got friends or want an enjoyable single-player experience, MySims Racing is definitely a game you should race on over to pick up sometime soon.

[SuperPhillip Says: 8.0/10]

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery

Sometimes you get the greatest ideas for stories from third-parties. Take this article, for instance. We've seen a lot of games that were the originators in its particular genre, and then had games that imitated said originator yet came out better for it. This article deals with just that: imitators that outdid the originators. With that, let's start with the first pair of games.

Saints Row 2 > Grand Theft Auto IV

Grand Theft Auto IV (PC, 360, PS3)

GTA IV sold millions of copies on release. It has one of the most fleshed-out worlds I've ever experienced. It's just mind-boggling the attention to detail Liberty City possesses. That said, GTA IV had its share of problems. For one, many of the missions had little variety-- drive to point A, chase after car, kill everyone in sight. The unfortunate part of all this is that none of these missions had checkpoints, so if you failed a 20 minute mission, you had to start all over from the beginning again. The downloadable content, The Lost and the Damned, however, felt like what GTA IV should have been, and it's a fantastic experience.

Saints Row 2 (PS3, 360)

One of my favorite open-world games is Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. It had a plethora of variety, a kickass soundtrack, and a lot of side-missions and content to do. Saints Row 2, although very juvenile in its humor, feels like the spiritual successor to San Andreas. There were a myriad of clothing options available, bigger variety in mission types, a grander amount of side-missions, and yes, checkpoints!

EA Sports Active > Wii Fit

Wii Fit (Wii)

Another originator, Wii Fit is packed with the balance board peripheral which can also be used for games like Shaun White Snowboarding and Skate It, for example. Armed with yoga, jogging, and strength training exercises, plus several inventive mini-games, Wii Fit is a great way to start shedding pounds or at least starting feeling healthier.

EA Sports Active (Wii)

Simply put, EA Sports Active gives the user a much greater work-out than Wii Fit. While both are great ideas for those interested in getting or staying in shape, EA Sports Active will burn the calories much more.

Banjo-Kazooie > Super Mario 64

Super Mario 64 (N64)

Nintendo has a habit of innovating and having a motley crew of followers take the basics and expand on them for a better game or experience. As you'll see with the following examples, Mario gets one-upped a lot, but that doesn't make the originator any less fun or historic for the gaming industry. Super Mario 64 brought 3-D platforming to consoles, and boy, did it knock one out of the park utilizing the brand-new analog stick that was never before standardized for a console.

Banjo-Kazooie (N64)

Using the same formula of Super Mario 64, collecting a special item to open new worlds and areas of the hub world, Banjo-Kazooie was Rare's answer to Nintendo's first 3-D Mario game. While Super Mario 64 knocked it out of the park, Banjo-Kazooie knocked it out of the city. Banjo and Kazooie acquired more moves, had ten wide-open levels to explore without having to restart once a Jiggy was collected, impressive visuals, a cute story, great humor, and a wonderful soundtrack makes Banjo-Kazooie more entertaining than Super Mario 64, and already near-perfect game.

Sonic the Hedgehog > Super Mario Bros.

Super Mario Bros. (NES)

The Nintendo Entertainment System hit U.S. stores after a hubbub with retailers. They were weary of selling another video game system after the famous video game crash. Nintendo opted to have them sell the NES as a toy instead. Then a little known title called Super Mario Bros. hit soil all across the world, and the rest as they say is history. I must say that the original Super Mario Bros. is too difficult for me. I must be getting old, but it really sapped my enjoyment of the game.

Sonic the Hedgehog (GEN)

SEGA's answer to Nintendo's Mario came about a little after the launch of SEGA's new console, the Genesis. It was none other than Sonic the Hedgehog. The argument from SEGA was that Mario was a slow pudgy middle-aged man while Sonic was fast, full of attitude, and had blast-processing. What is blast-processing? Well, it's pretty much a made-up term for marketing the game back in the day. Sonic was more enjoyable to the original Mario because as SEGA said he was much faster. I also liked how there was an optional quest of collecting all the chaos emeralds. The levels were larger, more colorful, and-- well, of course they were. One was on a more powerful system! But that doesn't stop Sonic from being a more entertaining game to me.

Diddy Kong Racing > Mario Kart 64

Mario Kart 64 (N64)

In January or February of 1997, Mario Kart 64 hit the Nintendo 64, and it quickly became THE multi-player game on any console-- and for good reason. It was one of the first games to support four-player split-screen, it had a bounty of ridiculous items, well-designed courses, grand prix and battle modes, and immense personality to it. Surely no title would ever beat this!

Diddy Kong Racing (N64)

While Mario Kart 64 only had grand prix, time trial, and battle modes, Diddy Kong Racing had a full adventure mode where collecting golden balloons opened up new tracks, worlds, and boss battles. Yes, boss battles. It was very similar to Super Mario 64 in this respect. Compared to Mario Kart's respectable sixteen tracks, Diddy Kong Racing boasted twenty included its own time trial, battle modes, and two unlockable characters bringing the count to ten.

Hot Shots Golf Fore! > Mario Golf

Mario Golf (N64)

During the SNES years but most abundantly during the N64 years, Mario spinoffs became more pronounced and popular. From Mario Party, Mario Tennis, and yes, Mario Golf. Mario and the gang took to the links for some light-hearted fun with six courses, characters like Mario, Luigi, Peach, Bowser, DK, and more, and several bonus modes such as ring golf, mini-golf, and speed golf.

Hot Shots Golf Fore! (N64)

While previous Hot Shots Golf games came close to or surpassed Mario Golf, none were as great as the fourth installment, Hot Shots Golf Fore!. With a multitude of characters unlocked through a VS mode with more improved characters able to earned through facing off against hard versions of said characters, a larger amount of courses spanning the globe, online play, and various bonus modes such as mini-golf, Hot Shots Golf Fore! truly takes the crown as best cartoon golf game around.

Perfect Dark > Goldeneye

Goldeneye (N64)

In 1997, a year after the original Goldeneye motion picture hit screens all across the world, Rare's Goldeneye video game sniped Nintendo 64's. This was the game that brought first person shooters to consoles and revolutionized them forever. Forget your Halos, Goldeneye and the game that trumped it are still king despite their low frame-rates and primitive-to-today's-standards of graphics.

Perfect Dark (N64)

Goldeneye was a single-player and multi-player masterpiece. Perfect Dark was single-player and multi-player perfection. More guns, more modes, sophisticated bots each with their own personalities-- something people to this day STILL don't copy for some odd reason, a bounty of multi-player arenas, modes, the most in-depth player statistics around, player creation, a caseload of innovative and impressive weapons, and so much more. Perfect Dark is still my favorite FPS period.

Final Fantasy > Dragon Warrior

Dragon Warrior (NES)

Essentially the game that started the Japanese role-playing game genre, Dragon Warrior was released by Enix. Enix is now a part of Square-Enix. Who would have ever foreseen that? Regardless, it lit Japan on fire in a feverish frenzy to save the world from evil with all of the typical early JRPG action and mechanics you'd expect to find.

Final Fantasy (NES)

Another who knew is who knew that a company struggling to survive would put out a last hurrah and have it save their company? That is just what happened with Squaresoft who named their game Final Fantasy for the reason that they believed that would be their final game. Since then the series has become a worldwide sensation eclipsing Dragon Warrior in all regions save for Japan. While Final Fantasy is more technologically-advanced in theme, Dragon Warrior- now Dragon Quest sticks with the quaint medieval setting.

What do you think of this article? Post your feedback in the comments section to discuss this and many other articles.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Rune Factory: Frontier (Wii) Review

There's a lot to get through in order to write a proper review for Rune Factory: Frontier for Wii. My apologies for the tardy review. Regardless, I hope you'll read and enjoy it!

Growing Pains

Farming. They'll turn anything to a video game, but the Harvest Moon series proved that it could definitely be fun as well as addicting. The dozen or so sequels have certainly shown that. The first two Rune Factory games, a more action-inspired spin-off series of the Harvest Moon franchise, appeared on the Nintendo DS to decent reviews. Now for the first time ever, the Rune Factory series hits a home console, the Wii to be exact. Is it a bumper crop for fun, or will you want to plow this game over?

You play as Raguna, a young man entering the town of Trampoli to search for a girl named Mist. Of course, we need a stereotype right away, so here goes: Raguna has amnesia. Once he finds Mist, she tells our hero that she would like to help the town grow. Raguna, who can't return home without Mist, decides to stay and help, too. Raguna and Mist may be familiar characters to series veterans, but there's no worries as this story is separate from the rest. Trampoli starts out as a rather empty town, but as you meet new characters who will put up residence in your humble little abode, Trampoli will be full with life. The town is split up across numerous screens and houses meaning each time you leave one area, it takes 3-5 seconds to load the next.

Meet Raguna and Mist... again.

Rune Factory: Frontier uses a seasonal cycle which last thirty days. Each day lasts twenty minutes while each week last six days: Monday through Friday and Holiday. Each day, each character has a different schedule, so tracking down an individual towns-person can be difficult. There's also your four traditional seasons each with their own crops that can only be grown during a specific season. Of course, there's several areas in the game where it's constantly spring or forever winter. Then again there's crops that grow only after 120 game days meaning you have to trek all the way to the site you planted the crops, water them, go to bed, rinse and repeat ad nauseum. Now that's fun!

Grow a little...

With that said, Rune Factory is a spin-off series of the Harvest Moon franchise, so the tilling, the watering, the farming, the planting, the growing, and the wonderful life on the farm is here and accounted for as evidenced by all the crops you'll have. Your field starts out covered in debris, but as you upgrade your equipment through item forging, your tools will be strong enough to clear your field to plant more crops. Then summer comes, a storm or two blows over your farm, and you have to do all the work all over again. Hey, no one said the life of a farmer was easy. You can sell your crops for cold hard cash, or you can give your home-grown goodness to one of your neighbors. I'm talking crops, you sicko!

..or a lot!

It's not a good sign though that a constant theme of Rune Factory: Frontier is having no idea on how to progress the story. There's an incredible lack of direction in this game leaving the player to wonder if they're wasting their time or not. I have to go talk to the nun to pick up an axe? What is this-- an episode of Tales from the Crypt? Oh, and I can only do so after I use my tilling tool ten times? I'm so glad I have a walkthrough to help me since no one in town gave anything resembling a hint. This doesn't end throughout the duration of the game either. Dear developers, if a person has to constantly use a guide just to progress in your game, YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG.

And then sell them off.

This goes back to the art of farming which is almost broken by the use of a new Runey system-- something incredibly convoluted taking upwards of ten hours to perfect. The first problem here is that the game explains this process very poorly. There's a batch of magical Runey creatures, colorful beings, that float around each area of Trampoli. The idea is to keep a balance of the four colors in each area because they can become extinct. What happens when your town Runey total becomes extinct? Your crops won't grow. When a game is half-farming, half-everything else this becomes a problem of sorts, wouldn't you agree? Regardless, this whole process of collecting and distributing these Runeys across town is highly time-consuming and obnoxious, and it ruins trying to farm.

A proper balance of Runeys is important for crops.

Speaking of time-consuming and obnoxious, there's a wide variety of gals that Raguna can court. Some are as simple as giving a plethora of gifts to while others will be happy with Raguna for doing specific things for them such as not passing out from working too hard, visiting their shop on a daily basis, and so forth. It's somewhat creepy, however, as some of these girls are just too young for marriage. You crazy Japanese developers are at it again! It takes a while to actually see progress which makes this process feel like yet another long grind.

What sets Rune Factory apart from Harvest Moon is battling. Raguna can enter several dungeons, take down enemies, plunder treasure chests that restock themselves after each day, and navigate through multiple floors of dungeon-crawling action. If you're thinking there's a problem or two here, you earn a gold star! The first of which is that enemies on each floor have a significant jump in experience levels. This means grinding levels to stand a chance is a must. Another problem is that you'll have to grind your equipment high enough to destroy barriers. This takes a lot of work and is a lot of time wasted doing repetitive tasks. Third: growing crops in dungeons is pretty much mandatory if you want to succeed. However, you have to return to the same dungeon, trek all the way to the same room, all to water the crops each day. More repetitive fun for all! Finally, for every task you do such as forge, till, fish, attack, and so on your rune point meter goes down. And it goes down very quickly, too. Once it goes all the way to zero, your HP is used instead until you die. It's archaic game design for sure seeing as your only real choice to heal is from your grown crops in the dungeon.

Rune Factory is half-Harvest Moon, half-dungeon crawler.

From a technical standpoint, Frontier shines on Wii. The scenery is gorgeous, and everything chugs along a smooth rate. The soundtrack is nice and mellow-- some of which actually feeling like something from the original Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles. High marks indeed. At special scenes, the game shows off animated cut-scenes that are a sight to behold. Additionally there's some voice acting spread out. Sometimes it feels like the devs randomly picked and chose what lines to have spoken and what lines to stay silent.

So I guess I'm conflicted with this game. At one point it's addicting, and I don't understand why with all of these problems. Dare I say it? It's... it's... fun! However, Rune Factory: Frontier very much feels like one long, continuous grind. A grind to level up, a grind to farm, a grind to marry a girl, a grind to explore dungeons, a grind to upgrade your equipment, a grind to keep my town's Runey supply high, et cetera. For those who don't mind considerable work-- yep, work in a video game, then have it. I must say that even with these problems, I really did enjoy some of my time with Rune Factory: Frontier, but with maddening design decisions, it was definitely a love/hate relationship.

[SuperPhillip Says: 5.5/10]

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

SuperPhillip's Favorite Video Game Commercials Part 1

Commercials are an incredibly important part of marketing a game. I'm reminded of MadWorld for Wii which didn't really say much about what the game was all about, what you did, or even show off some of the selling points-- the violence. A simple "censored" box over bloody parts with commentary would have worked wonders, I think. Bah. I'm playing Tuesday evening quarterback here. Regardless, I'm put together fifteen of some of my favorite video game commercials. They either spark a memory, are from a game I really enjoyed, present the game well, or are just plain cool. Maybe some of these will spark a memory from you?

There are five commercials per playlist for easy access save for the first. The Ocarina of Time commercial is a separate link since for some reason it won't show up in the playlist.

Super Smash Bros. (N64)

This is most likely a fan-favorite of any fan of Nintendo. Why does Mario instigate the fight? Why does the portly plumber have so much hostility? It's ingenius how "Happy Together" continues to play while the four are still beating the crap out of one another.

Mario Party (N64)

"But it's-a-me, Mario!"
"Tell it to the judge."
I can only imagine how many of those four squirrely kids are now behind bars. It was all fun and games until you get a blister on your thumb from Tug-O-War, the cops come over because of all the noise, and your best pal Mario gets taken to the big house for something you started.

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (N64)

This commercial is a very well done one that gives chills and goosebumps to fans of the series. Perhaps not now, but when it originally aired it was darned cool. The music was also used for the unveiling of what would later be known as The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess.

The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask (N64)

Majora's Mask's commercial nailed the ominous nature and tone of the game. This is but one of the two commercials that aired in movie theaters all across the country. How scary would that be to look up one day and see a burning red moon with a scowl on its face looking down at you?

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (GCN)

Narrated by a mysterious girl, this commercial tells the story of a legendary hero on a quest to save a girl-- the girl narrating the ad, by golly. Showing off great cinematic effects and a high production value-- which a lot of my favorites display-- this commercial does its job very well.

Metroid Prime (GCN)

This commercial was directed by Alex Proyas who directed The Crow. The commercial masterfully blended 3-D special effects, a live actor, and in-game footage to create an incredibly clever and cool commercial.

Golden Sun (GBA)

What starts out as an ordinary orchestra concert turns awry with dragons, lightning, and a fierce battle as the music escalates. It doesn't hurt that the commercial is for a fantastic RPG like Golden Sun either.

Mario Kart: Double Dash!! (GCN)

Fifteen seconds, but the announcer makes it all worthwhile. Not just his delivery but also the words used. It just flows well. The fact that Double Dash!! is one of my favorite Mario Karts might sway my preference of this commercial though.

Mario Kart DS (DS)

Another short commercial, this one shows off some 3-D models of Mario and Luigi racing across a globe to show of the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection. Comparing Mario Kart DS's online to Mario Kart Wii's online really is like night and day, isn't it?

Mario Kart DS (Japanese DS Ad)

The only non-North American commercial on this list, the Japanese Mario Kart DS ad is bizarre but in a good, hysterical way. It's a commercial that spawned avatars all across the internet, so while that puts a strike against this commercial, it's still funny all the same.

God of War (PS2)

Usually when the word "epic" is used on the internet nowadays, it's used incorrectly. No, the boxart of Sonic Heroes is not "epic". However, if you're using the word to describe the God of War series and the commercials for the games, you'd be right.

Sonic Adventure 2: Battle (GCN)

I could not find the original Sonic Adventure 2 commercial. Instead I found a lot of amateurish mock-up commercials. Regardless, both premises of the Dreamcast and Gamecube commercials are the same-- they use real-life hedgehogs for comedic results.

Jet Grind Radio (DC)

When I originally saw this commercial-- it must have been during wrestling or something similar-- I had thought I turned it on to some Japanese feed. Little did I know that this quirky and humorous Japanese-themed commercial was the American version. I still need to play the Xbox sequel now that I think of it...

Uncharted: Drake's Fortune (PS3)

This commercial uses the game's cut-scene engine to show off an impressive intro. While hero Nathan Drake is stealthily eavesdropping on the enemy, his phone goes off. What follows is some action accompanied by in-game footage of the game.

Ratchet & Clank: Future Tools of Destruction (PS3)

Saving the best for last, the latest retail release Ratchet adventure is set to "What A Wonderful World"-- a rock cover of the song made famous by Louis Armstrong. The entire commercial is CG only with no in-game footage to speak of. Usually I'd hate that, but the commercial still shines on its own.

That wraps it up for this installment, but in the coming weeks we'll see even more video game commercials of gamer past. I hope you'll look forward to them!

Mega Man ZX Advent (DS) Review

This may seem like a strange classic review to put up. There's not a Mega Man game for the DS or any other platform for that matter in sight for the near future. The reason is that this is a game that my brother is finally getting into and enjoying. Do we share the same opinion on the game? Let's find out with Mega Man ZX Advent for the DS.

Double the Mega, Double the Man

user posted image

Capcom's most industrious little mascot returns to the DS, marking his fourth appearance on Nintendo's dual-screened system (six if you count all three Mega Man Star Force titles). The newest Mega Man game is Mega Man ZX Advent, the sequel to the Metroid-styled Mega Man action of the original Mega Man ZX. Now many have shunned the blue bomber for recent rehashes of the once good Mega Man Battle Network series and the essential rehash with new characters that was Mega Man Star Force. However, Mega Man ZX Advent is one Mega Man title that old fans of the series and new ones alike should not let slip past.

user posted image
This is the first boss of both Ashe and Grey--
simply at different locations.

You select from two initial characters, a boy who wakes up from a capsule in a mysterious lab in Grey, and a girl searching for that elusive booty (no, not that kind of booty) in Ashe. Both characters never meet, and they mostly play through the same levels except for their introductory stage. However, each one has a different story that players need to follow both in order to see both of their endings and the reward that comes with that. With Grey you will learn why he awoke from a capsule in a desolate lab and what his true identity is, while with Ashe you'll discover the secret of her origin. There's three modes of play so any level of Maverick and Pseudoroid hunter can complete the game as easy or as difficult as they choose. Beginners will have players hardly breaking a sweat against enemies while the unlockable Expert difficultty has enemies and bosses with more attacks, more damage on Grey or Ashe, and more defense for baddies.

There's a whole line of Mega Men competing in the "game of destiny" in order to see who will be the ultimate Mega Man, wielding the power of the omnipotent Model W. Grey/Ashe gets accompanied by a wise-talking Biometal named Model A which transforms your hero into one of the many Mega Men competing to either save the world or destroy it (most corrupted Mega Men are the latter). Of course, there's still bosses to battle that are simply Pseudoroids causing trouble like a flaming horse named Buckfire, a flowery foe named Rospark, and a bot with the feminine touch in Queenbee. The secret of Model A is that after one of the many bosses are defeated, Model A can take their form-- a nod to the original Mega Man where after defeating a boss, Mega copied their weapon. There's fifteen forms in all, and all have their uses. Buckfire can kick through breakable blocks, Rospark can scale up, down, and across iron pipes, Model H can dash upwards, Model P can chuck kunai blades at foes via the touch screen, and that's just four forms. Each form has its own special attack, normal attack, dash attack, and super attack. The only problem with all of these forms is that you'll constantly be switching through them either by selecting a form on the touch screen or cycling through them with X or the pause menu.

user posted image
Buckfire can scale walls and melt ice cubes.

Mega Man ZX Advent isn't set up like your typical old-school Mega Man game. There's missions to complete like the Mega Man Zero line of games, and there's journeying to each location like in Mega Man ZX or the game that spawned the idea, Metroid. However, the map system is much better than the eyesore that was ZX. You seldom have to wonder what place goes where like you do with the original. Almost all of the different areas are located just off the main hub-- Hunter's Base. Transervers not only save your progress, but they're also great for jetting around the world in a jiffy, provided you've activated a warp point for a small fee of energy crystals (it's free in Beginner).

user posted image
Model H treks through the fiery gauntlet.

Aspiring players will not only desire to finish the game by taking care of all of the story missions, but they'll also want to help everyone they can by taking care of all of the mission requests. These range from putting out fires to finding someone's lost canary. Completed missions net players with energy crystals (the currency of Advent) among other awards. There's also a wide array of well-hidden gems to find as well such as subtanks, life ups, biometal upgrades, and secret disks to be scavenged throughout the many levels of Advent. By collecting all 24 boss medals by beating a boss in a certain way from only using one form's attack on a boss to surviving two minutes against a boss and then destroying it, you'll earn an incredibly cool "small" reward. You'll have to earn that one, folks.

From gameplay to presentation, Mega Man ZX Advent looks very much like a Game Boy Advance game. It feels stuck in that graphical boundary. Sure, there are beautiful anime cutscenes sprinkled throughout the game, but the 2-D sprites and backgrounds could stand to step up. We're not on the GBA anymore, Inticreates. Nonetheless, what there is of the graphics is still pretty good, but the backgrounds and sprites could stand to have the definition that they couldn't have on GBA. Thankfully though, Advent features full voice-acting from the bosses to the main characters and adversaries. There's a lot of dialogue that can either be skipped, listened to, and/or read. Unfortunately, some of it is very hit-or-miss, especially the grating Model A.

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Two against one? I like these odds.

So what do you have when you take all of this and put it together? You have a very entertaining and action-packed sequel to the original Mega Man ZX. Mega Man veterans will most likely fall in love with ZX Advent, and newcomers will find a difficulty that's right for them. There's numerous forms for either Ashe or Grey to take, two stories to play through, three difficulties, unlockables in the form of minigames and other surprises, and voice acting and anime cutscenes to boot. While the presentation could stand to step even further into the DS' technology, what is there is still adequate and neither hampers or exhilarates the experience. Mega Man ZX Advent is one of the best Mega Man games since Zero 3 which came out several years ago. This title will remind you why you fell in love with Mega Man all over again.

[SuperPhillip Says: 8.5/10] - Great. Mega Man ZX Advent thankfully takes a different route from its Star Force cousin, and what follows is an incredibly addictive game that no fan of the 2-D action genre will want to miss.

Monday, June 15, 2009

SuperPhillip's Favorite VGMs - Rev Up and Ride Edition

Welcome to a new week with a new batch of favorite VGMs to last you each day of the work-week. This week we start off on the road with Gran Turismo 4 and Daytona USA followed by some flying in Dragon Ball Origins and Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts. Finally we cap things off with a tension-filled boss theme from Resident Evil 5. Let's get to it!

v331. Gran Turismo 4 - Moon Over the Castle

Moon Over the Castle is the opening theme of Gran Turismo 4. It starts off small with a choir, and quickly becomes very grandiose, poignant. It sent chills down my spine when I listened to it earlier. After the classical approach, a rocking guitar riff kicks in with the same melody. Nicely composed piece for a great game.

v332. Daytona USA - Let's Go Away

"Weh heh hee. Weh heh hee."

Few know this, but that set of lyrics is actually how Takenobu Mitsuyoshi laughs in real life. This version of "Let's Go Away" is from the Dreamcast game, Daytona 2001. Let's Go Away is present through every incarnation of SEGA's Daytona series except one. The song's so remarkably cheery and cheesy.

v333. Dragon Ball Origins - Overworld

This is the theme that plays during the outdoor forest levels among other places in Dragon Ball Origins for the Nintendo DS. This particular song is very upbeat and makes you wanna bop your head to it as you play. I must admit that even though I'm no Dragon Ball fan, I found myself very much enjoying this action-adventure game.

v334. Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts - Gruntilda's Challenges

This is the theme of Gruntilda the Witch-- the lovable broad who can never say "die" unless it's towards the bear and bird. Hearing this theme for the first time after ten years of only hearing synth versions blew my mind. I was bouncing around like a kid who just got a Nintendo 64 for Christmas. Okay. Not THAT happy.

v335. Resident Evil 5 - Wind of Madness

This is the penultimate boss theme of the recently-released Resident Evil 5. For those who moaned and groaned that RE4 was less survival-horror than previous installments, you better steer clear of the newest Biohazard. More thrills but way less chills. It's Wind of Madness from Resident Evil 5.

Next Monday we have some tunes from House of the Dead, Final Fantasy XI, and Kirby Air Ride. That's not all though. Hope we'll see you here next Monday for more favorite VGMs!

Bomberman Live (XBLA) Review

Bomberman Ultra blasted its way onto the Playstation Network this past week, so let's take a look at the similar Xbox 360 downloadable title, Bomberman Live.

A better title than Bomberman Dead.

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The tagline would have been an apropos title for the 360's first Bomberman outing in Bomberman: Act Zero. And unlike the expensive console game, this arcade title is a mere ten bucks. Thankfully in Bomberman Live, Bomberman is back to the cute model we've all grown to know and love, and yes, he's still a little pyromaniac.

This edition of Bomberman brings with it eight maps, numerous modes and power-ups, and best of all eight-player multiplayer over Xbox Live. For those who have never picked up a traditional Bomberman title over the past decade and some change, the aim of Bomberman is to blow up the opposition until they are the last Bomber standing. How does one blow away the competition? Simple- bombs, and lots of them. Each arena is one screen big and is littered with boxes that can be destroyed with bombs. Each player is positioned on one isolated corner of the map, and they'll need to blow up boxes to reach other players. Inside boxes are power-ups such as fire up which expands the blast radius of your bombs (normal bombs blow up in a cross pattern). Bomb-ups give your an extra bomb you can drop instead of just one. All power-ups are cumulative, so picking up a fire-up won't cancel out the bomb-up a player picks up. Collecting power-ups is key to scoring large explosive combos. Just don't get caught in the crossfire!

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Welcome to the jungle.

There's eight arenas to play in. Each has its own theme and gimmick to them. Classic is as ordinary a stage as any you'll see. Others include arrows which will send your bombs soaring in the direction the arrows face and transporters that will move the player to another point in the arena.

As aforementioned up to eight players can play over Xbox Live. The host chooses the rules whether the game will be player or ranked, and then the fun ensues. There's really nothing like ragging on a bud for blowing himself up for the fifth time that evening. One might notice that each player has a differently dressed Bomberman as well. Unlockable costume balls will give a player access to different hats, helmets, faces, and costumes for both online and offline play. There's a plethora of combinations to choose from allowing a player to create their own custom Bomber to blow the CPU and human opponents to smithereens.

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A pyromaniac's wet dream.

Overall, Bomberman Live is a fantastic party game that anyone can get into. Unlocking costumes and completing achievements boosts replay value, and playing online with up to seven other friends adds more fun to an already explosive package. For only ten bucks it's really hard to say why anyone shouldn't pick up this title.

[SuperPhillip Says: 8.0/10]