Saturday, January 16, 2010

Kirby Air Ride (GCN) Retro Review

It's Saturday night here at SuperPhillip Central. Let's put out a retro review to mark the occasion. I'm here, you're here. Let's do it. A retro review-- that is... sicko. Here it is, Kirby Air Ride for the Nintendo Gamecube.

Chow down and speed up!

Kirby was ready for his first racer on the Nintendo 64, but it was canceled and later put on the Nintendo Gamecube. Now with updated assets, characters, and visuals, Kirby Air Ride aims itself to be a racer for everyone-- both casual gamers and veteran gamers. Is Kirby Air Ride the perfect racer for both gamers, or is this game just full of hot air?

There's three main modes to Kirby Air Ride. There's the titlular Air Ride mode for traditional racing, Top Ride for overhead Off-Road-style racing, and City Trial. There's no story to speak of, so progress in Kirby Air Ride is marked by three checkerboards each with 110 panels each, one for each mode. As you complete in-game tasks such as achieving a record lap or race time or sucking up ten enemies in one race, these panels unlock revealing a green or red square. Red squares are the good ones to get as they unlock content from new air ride machines, characters, colored Kirbies, music, and race options. Each time you unlock a panel, the four surrounding it will reveal what you need to do to unlock those adjacent panels. It's very similar to Super Smash Bros. Brawl's challenges, or should I say Brawl is very similar to Kirby Air Ride's challenges? You can even unlock the ability to open a square or two for free much like Brawl.

Don't let those Waddle Dee get in your way!

Of the three main modes, Air Ride is probably the one that will get the most playtime for most players. There's nine tracks in all spanning from gardens to deserts to beanstalk skyways. Playing Air Ride only involves two inputs-- the control stick and the A button. Some might be put off by the simplicity of the controls, but there's a lot to do with just two inputs. You can swallow enemies, taking their powers for a limited time, gobble up foes and spit them out at rivals, slide around corners to shave precious seconds off your lap time, and hit boost plates to speed up temporarily. Holding the A button at a turn will slow your character down to a crawl allowing you to turn easily. Let go of the A button, and your character will boost out of the corner. There's plenty of powers for Kirby to consume from fire to ice to a speeding tire to a flying bird-- there's plenty of enemies to eat and powers to grab. Races are fun, and the simplicity of the controls means everyone has a chance to play without feeling the game's dumbed down.

Beanstalk Park is one of the more scenic courses.

The second of the three modes is Top Ride. This is akin to the Super Off-Road series of games. You play on short, small, isolated, and overhead tracks completing laps while avoiding your rivals and obstacles and collecting items dropped. There's two control setups available to use. One is the traditional Off-Road-style controls: left to drive left and right to drive right, regardless of the angle you're driving. The other uses all three-hundred and sixty degrees of the control stick to drive your warp star to the finish. Like Air Ride, there's several tracks to race on each with its own elemental theme from fire to water to metal to light. Each track has its own obstacles to avoid such as spinning floors, lava and magma floor, waterfalls, and much more. This is the true party mode of the game, and it's a heckuva lot of fun. Throw in some items into the mix, and things get even more crazy!

Classic overhead excitement in Top Ride.

The final mode in Kirby Air Ride is City Trial. This mode has up to four players scouring a city for appropriate vehicles and power-ups as they're timed. The goal of this city excursion is to grab as many helpful power-ups to assist them in the upcoming challenge that occurs once the time limit expires. These challenges range from a series of events. There's a demolition derby where the goal is to eliminate your rivals and score the most points. There's a high jump which is what it sounds like. Also, there's an event where players glide into blocks with different points assigned to them. The best score within two turns is considered the winner. Finally, there's a drag race where speed is key on this linear stretch of track. Each event has numerous different versions offering enough variety for all. City Trial was my least favorite mode as you're forced to at least play around in the city for three minutes before you can try out a new event. This meant just hanging around waiting for a new game to occur. It can get tedious. Thankfully, once you play a new event, you can select it from the stadium menu without having to go through that pesky city ordeal. Regardless, it's still a fun mode to play through with friends or even the competent CPU.

There's no time for shopping in this city!

No matter which mode you pick, there's plenty of options to tinker around with from number of laps in a given race to whether items or enemies are on or off. You can change how many CPU opponents there are, their handicap, and how much of a challenge they may or may not be. The Air Ride and Top Ride modes also have Time Attack and Free Run modes. One is the standard time trial whereas the other is a constant race to better your lap times on.

Kirby Air Ride's menus are very much designed and set up like Super Smash Bros. Melee even up to the tutorial videos. It's no surprise as both games were designed by the same developer. The game runs at a smooth framerate with no slowdown or tearing whatsoever. The music isn't what you'd expect from a Kirby soundtrack. That isn't to say it's bad. No, no. Quite the contrary. It's very epic-sounding and good! Just don't expect overly cheery music. Though you can expect some classic Kirby songs from series past thrown in for good measure!

All-in-all, Kirby Air Ride's simplicity does not detract from the overall game. It isn't a dumbed down racer by any means. There's plenty of depth and strategy, options to tinker with, and characters and vehicles to unlock. If you can somehow find a copy of this rare game, don't sit on your hands, pick it up and enjoy this enjoyable game. Kirby Air Ride doesn't quite soar into the stars, but it does come pretty darn close.

[SuperPhillip Says: 8.5/10]

Friday, January 15, 2010

Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles (Wii) Review

Welcome to the official start of the weekend here at SuperPhillip Central. Hope yours is off to a good start. If not, perhaps an all-new review is in order? Let's continue our Capcom love with something from the Resident Evil franchise. It's another rail-shooter, but don't be put off immediately. It's one of the better ones! It's Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles.

Take A Walk on the Darkside

Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles was an enjoyable rail-gun shooter that had its share of problems. It followed the story of Resident Evil and Resident Evil 3: Nemesis. This time around, Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles aims to tackle Resident Evil 2, Code Veronica, and an all-new chapter in a superior-to-its-predecessor way. Does it accomplish this?

The story of Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles starts off with a brand-new, never-before-seen scenario entitled Operation Javier. It stars Resident Evil 2 and 4's Leon Kennedy as a U.S. government agent alongside Jack Krauser on a mission in the remote South American jungle. This scenario is segmented by flashbacks from Resident Evil 2 and Code Veronica. The game does a good job of trimming out the fat of the two games to make a cohesive enough experience that doesn't keep the player in the dark. It becomes pretty clear what's going on in each scenario. Resident Evil 2 follows the G virus outbreak in the mountainside town of Raccoon City and stars Kennedy as well as Claire Redfield, in search of her older brother while Code Veronica takes place on an Umbrella island prison featuring initially Redfield and newcomer Steve Burnside. The cut-scenes are well-presented and look excellent, and the voice work is top-notch, too.

Operation Javier is the all-new chapter
featured in Darkside Chronicles.

The flow of the game has players taking part in one mission of Operation Javier before entering the Resident Evil 2 flashback of eight missions. Another Operation Javier mission occurs followed by the Code Veronica chapter of the story which is seven missions long. Finally, there's three Javier missions before the final boss encounter. Crack-shot players will have the opportunity to earn secret bonus missions featuring Krauser as well as a throwaway mission involving an attack of killer tofu. Don't ask. Most missions take anywhere from seven to twenty minutes, and you can skip cut-scenes and talking segments at your leisure unlike some other rail-shooters on the console... Cough! Dead Space Extraction.

The Darkside Chronicles is a rail-shooter meaning that your characters automatically maneuver on a set path. Sometimes you'll get a choice of which path you'd like to take, but mostly, all you do is point and shoot. Of course, there's some strategy in playing the game. Go for a headshot on a zombie or play it safe and shoot their legs from out from under them? Speaking of headshots, they're much easier to perform than Umbrella Chronicles. It still takes skill and good aiming, but it's easier to shoot the forehead of a zombie and not the edge of their crunchy cranium. There's many types of enemies to look for-- each with weak points and their own types of attacks. Little aphid bugs and spiders will leap onto you which means it's time to pull out the knife (simply hold A and perform a movement) to swipe them off before they cause too much trouble. There's enemies that will attack you with their long, piercing tongues, zombies that will puke out damaging bile at you that you can suspicious shoot at to dodge it, and giant frogs that you'll want to give them their last croak.

Yawn for the camera!

Boss encounters are common in Darkside Chronicles, and they are as epic as the rest of the game is. Each boss has a set attack pattern and a weak spot to hit before they attack in order to make them hit, minimizing any damage you'd otherwise take. The goal is simple in most boss battles: to deplete the enemy's life bar by continuously attacking the weak point or points. However, some fights are scripted, so even if you get the boss' life bar all the way down to empty, the battle still could wage on until a set period of time. This can be quite annoying, but it's not too terribly bad to cope with. Some battles are staged to where you have to defeat them by shooting a specific object such as one battle where you blast the locks of a missile, sending it directly into the boss, destroying it.

My, what big teeth you have!

At the end of each mission, you're awarded a ranking based on how well you performed. You're ranked by overall score, time allotted, enemies defeated, headshots obtained, whether or not you used a continue, and whether or not you took damage. Besides using a continue or taking damage, each stat is given a rank with the overall rank being tallied up: grade C through S. Thankfully, the game saves your high scores in each attribute, so if you get an S under the time score, you'll keep that rank through subsequent runs through the same mission. This ranking system encourages multiple run-throughs of levels, and they're not just for show, too. Earning S ranks unlock new costumes for the crew including Leon's Resident Evil 4 digs complete with styling jacket.

Revisit the good old days with this RE4 relic.

You also earn gold for completing missions as well as shooting out lights and other objects in the game. This currency can be used to customize your various weaponry for better strength and efficiency. There's plenty of firepower to use in Darkside Chronicles, and four at a time can be mapped to the d-pad or analog stick. There are infinite ammo handguns, shotguns, machine guns, bowguns, grenades and launchers, magnums, and more. You can spend gold boosting the power of your weapon, rate of fire, reload speed, capacity, and stopping power which is the power to stop a pursuing enemy in their tracks.

Playing Darkside Chronicles is quite easy. You can play with the Wii remote solo or utilize the nunchuk in conjunction with the remote. I prefer the latter as you can reload without taking the cursor off the screen. There's no way to turn off the cursor, unfortunately, but it's not really in the way to begin with. You can switch weapons on the fly with the d-pad or analog stick, and heal yourself immediately with an herb by pressing the plus button. For cases when you need your knife, you can hold down the A or Z button and swing the Wii remote to slash anyone or anything (mostly anything) that gets in your way. Sometimes you'll need to shake the Wii remote when a zombie has you in their clutches to break free. There's also context-sensitive moments (mainly in boss fights) that require a button press (never a Wii remote motion thankfully).

There's a lot to tide players over for the fifty dollar price tag. Some would say fifty dollars is too much for a rail-shooter, but this one is truly packed with content. There's five difficulty levels, multiple costumes and modes to unlock, secret archives to collect from character and enemy bios to titles awarded for performing certain in-game tasks, as well as multi-player for up to two players, and online leaderboards. This rail-shooter is jam-packed with things to do and zombies to shoot.

Zombies. It's like a video game!

Darkside Chronicles has some of the best presentation for a game in its genre. The voice acting, while lines are occasionally corny, is very good. You get the feeling that these characters are scared for their lives. The music is tense at times, and loud and blaring others. It's a great soundtrack with remixed Resident Evil songs for fans of the series to pick up on. The visuals are some of the Wii's best. The models are detailed, the areas have plenty of objects to shoot and destroy, and the lighting effects are particularly good. There's a mission where you're in a sewer-- pitch-black, and all you have is your flashlight to shine the way. It's absolutely impressive. The only annoyance that some players might be bothered by is the frequent movement of the camera during gameplay. It makes aiming an intermittent headache, especially when trying to stop a boss' attack.

Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles may just be the best rail-gun, light-gun, on-rails shooter-- whatever you call it-- period. There's enough content to justify the full retail price tag and last thirty or more hours with zombies to blast, titles to earn, bonuses to unlock, and guns to upgrade. Even as a casual fan of the Resident Evil franchise or an entire newcomer, there's enough to wrap your brains around and enjoy. Just watch out for those hungry zombies!

[SuperPhillip Says: 8.75/10]

Tatsunoko VS Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars (Wii) - Commercial

Here's an interesting commercial for the upcoming Tatsunoko VS Capcom game. It's a stop-motion animation similar to something like Robot Chicken except without the juvenile humor. I'm not too big on fighting games, so I probably am going to pass on this game. Keyword probably. Tatsunoko VS Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars is set to hit the Wii January 26th.

Zangeki no REGINLEIV (Wii) - Trailer

Zangeki no REGINLEIV is an up and coming game published by Nintendo and developed by Sandlot (Earth Defense Force series). The game promises epic battles featuring mammoth-sized monsters and foes. The game is notable as it's the first Cero D-rated game from Nintendo in Japan as far as I'm aware of. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but first, watch the immense sense of scale you'll get from the many enemies the game throws at you. Here's hoping for a North American release.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

December 2009 NPD Results

December is traditionally the biggest month for sales in the gaming industry. Let's see how the combatants shaped up last month. To check out previous month totals, just type in "NPD" in the search bar.

PlayStation 2 333.2K
PlayStation 3 1.36M
PSP 654.7K
Xbox 360 1.31M
Wii 3.81M
Nintendo DS 3.31M


I'm just floored by the Wii sales-- a record-breaking month for Wii and DS easily. Even with announcements of third parties cutting back on Wii development-- on the market-leading console no less, the Wii is selling high and mighty. Just shows how messed up this generation is with third parties, no? Nearly four million in sales, just over three million for the DS. Meanwhile, the PS3 had a terrific month selling over a million as did the 360 which came in third place in the console wars this month. Meanwhile, the PSP treads water with over a half million units sold.

Software sales-wise, New Super Mario Bros. Wii outsells both versions of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. Could the president of Nintendo of America be right in his prediction? We'll find out next month on that. Nintendo titles once again dominate the top ten showing at least one company rocking it hard in North America. Other titles include Assassin's Creed II, the excellent Left 4 Dead 2, and the Call of Duty games.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Introducing the Terrible Trio...

I introduce to you the terrible three-- three of the worst pieces of video game garbage that I've played in the past decade. They're a chore to play through, they have next to no redeeming qualities if any, and they're on the cusp of just falling into gaming Hell. So what three titles are some of the worst I've had the misfortune of playing? Put on your $@$% boots. We're going to be stepping in a lot of it.

Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) (PS3, 360)

What was supposed to be a return to form for the blue blur was anything but. Shipped out to retailers as an unfinished product, this game is the most disappointing on my list. I loved Sonic Adventure, Sonic Adventure 2, Sonic Heroes-- heck-- even Shadow the Hedgehog, but nothing could prepare me for the sheer bowl of butt nuggets that was Sonic the Hedgehog's 2006 outing. The enemies weren't the badniks or whatever the Eggman robots are called. No, it was the glitches and bugs that were the true villains of the game. And those mach speed sections were nothing but absolute frustration as the physics were so wonky, you'd fly off the screen into nothingness. The only positive I can surmise from this title is the excellent soundtrack, but that's sort of like listening to your favorite song while you're getting your face punched in. Don't ask me how I know this. Just accept and move on.

YuYu Hakusho: Dark Tournament (PS2)

Coming off the great Dragon Ball Z Budokai franchise, the team moved onto the YuYu Hakusho series, a much less popular bishounen anime. What players received was some of the worst fighting controls I've ever had the displeasure of playing with. In normal fighting games, you hit a bunch of buttons and whatever button you hit first is the action your character performs. In Dark Tournament, every button you tap, your character will do. So if you hit punch, kick, punch, kick, punch, punch, kick, kick, punch, special punch, special kick, punch, punch, punch, kick within the span of three seconds, your character will perform all of those moves which takes about ten seconds for him or her to actually do. It makes combat in this game incredibly arduous to do! You have to worry about tapping the wrong button, blocking at the wrong time, and just a general cluster%#$% of wrong button inputs. I remember breaking a controller playing this game-- just being so freaking frustrated at this piece of pummeled poop.

Ninjabread Man (Wii, PS2, PC)

The Wii is notoriously known as the shovelware console. Sure, it has its great classics and awesome games, but it's a pain in the proverbial butt to find them under all the sheer amount of crap that covers Wii store shelves. I rented Ninjabread Man on the off-chance of seeing how horrible the game was. It had a funny premise-- a gingerbread man as a ninja. Cool enough. How could they possibly screw this up? Firstly, the motion controls are wonky at best. Trying to attack is like trying to win at one of those slot machines-- it's just luck. The platforming is generally acceptable, but it's nothing to write home about. I think the biggest problem with the game is that it's just three levels long. That's it. No story, no "the end", not even "a winner is you"-- nothing! You play for less than forty-five minutes, and the treacherous journey of Ninjabread Man is over. To those children out there who got Ninjabread Man as a birthday, Christmas, or any other kind of gift, I salute you. Your ruined lives will not be forgotten, dammit.

So I've spilled my guts on three horrid pieces of garbage I wasted money buying (Sonic) or renting (YuYu and Ninjabread Man). Now it's your turn. Tell us what games you think are the worst you've ever played. I'm not talking crap like "Killzone 2 becuz i want 2 troll!!! lololol", I mean truly bad games! Let us know in the comments section.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A Decade in Gaming - Games of the Year

Recently on Everyview, the gang listed their favorite games of the past decade with yours truly leading off. This gave me the idea to go through the past decade and list off what game I think is my personal favorite of each year. Let's start this off with the year 2000, shall we?

2000 - Perfect Dark (N64)

We start off the decade with the spiritual successor to Goldeneye 007, Perfect Dark, which brought even more to the table. This first-person shooter still trumps many current day offers in gameplay, accessibility, and options. The single-player is fun, but the multi-player is truly where it's at. With up to eight bots of different personalities, customizable weapons, teams, and modes, and a host of large, expansive arenas, Perfect Dark still remains my favorite FPS period. Catch it when it an updated version hits Xbox Live Arcade sometime this winter.

2001 - Super Smash Bros. Melee (GCN)

The all-star brawl is one with Super Smash Bros. Melee. Compared to Brawl, Melee is much faster, but whether it's more fun is a small matter of opinion. (Brawl rules!) Filled with 25 characters, numerous themed arenas, items, and spanning several decades of Nintendo history with the addition of trophies, and you have one game that seemingly has it all. Who knew that Brawl would come out and have even more content and options?!

2002 - Metroid Prime (GCN)

When Metroid was announced to be entering the first-person genre, many gamers felt worried, suspicious, skeptical, cautious, apprehensive about the news. Thankfully, their shaky feelings would be put to rest once they played what would be called Metroid Prime. Retro Studios successfully translated 2-D Metroid into the third dimension, and they did so with glorious style. There were plenty of secrets to find, lands to explore such as the icy and ever-popular Phendrana Drifts, computers to scan, bosses to battle, and enemies to take down.

2003 - Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando (PS2)

Going Commando was and still is my first ever entry into the Ratchet & Clank franchise. It's an action-platformer with tight emphasis on the platforming part. There's a myriad of powerful weaponry to use, and as they're used they level up in strength and efficiency. The lovable duo of Ratchet and Clank are hilarious together as is the story. The locales are memorable, the game's difficulty is just right, and there's plenty of content to unlock, places to see, things to do.

2004 - Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (PS2, Xbox, PC)

Hot coffee, anyone? While I never got the chance to see this mod, I appreciated Rockstar's San Andreas all the same. The state of San Andreas was absolutely huge with three major cities, badlands, and a countryside. There was plenty of fun missions with enough variety to keep players coming back for more. It was almost overwhelming how much there was to the greatness that is Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Who doesn't love leaping out of a plane and falling to the ground without the safety of a parachute?

2005 - Resident Evil 4 (Wii, GCN, PS2, PC)

Resident Evil 4 reinvented the franchise, but what did I know? This was my first Resident Evil. It got me interested in the series in the first place. Perhaps had I played the earlier games, I'd be even more impressed with RE4. It ditched the tank controls and fixed camera views for an over the shoulder perspective that many current and future games utilize. It had massive creatures to take down, chainsaw-wielding wackos to avoid, and enough thrills to last the whole year.

2006 - Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence (PS2)

A remake of Snake Eater, Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence is a PlayStation 2 exclusive title that takes the MGS franchise into a whole new perspective. No longer will you have to deal with fixed camera angles as Snake has slid his way into a free-roaming camera. It makes surveying the land much easier without breaking the game entirely. Add in two classic Metal Gear titles, the opportunity to watch cinematics at any time, and one of the best tales in the Metal Gear Solid franchise, and there are your reasons why MGS Subsistence is 2006's Game of the Year.

2007 - Super Mario Galaxy (Wii)

This is the big one. Not only is it the Game of the Year, but I'd go as far to call it the Game of the Decade. But enough Game of the... talk. Let's see why Super Mario Galaxy is so great. Well, playing is believing, and that holds true with Galaxy. Mario controls tightly, the levels are colorful and well-crafted, the cinematics are absolutely gorgeous, and the musical score is orchestrated with great care. No other game this generation has given me more "wow" moments than Super Mario Galaxy. That definitely says something about this great game.

2008 - LittleBigPlanet (PS3)

Play, Create, Share-- it is the mantra of the LittleBigPlanet series. Play the pre-packaged levels, create your own masterpieces, and share them with the world. It's a happening community that is still going strong a year after release with new downloadable content and updates. The platforming may be too floaty to some, but for me it's absolutely perfect. It's very rewarding creating your own levels, and then having total strangers give their advice and comments on. It's very cool, and Media Molecule created a fantastic game.

2009 - New Super Mario Bros. Wii (Wii)

The most recent Game of the Year recipient is New Super Mario Bros. Wii. Not only is a terrific return to 2-D form, but it still possesses that Mario charm from the original games. The multi-player is a blast to play with up to four people either saving each others' hides or costing one anothers' lives. The level design is some of the best the series has ever seen with rotating blocks, great enemy placement, and a consistent number of new challenges each level. Nobody does it better than Mario, and nobody else is 2009's Game of the Year.

What were your favorite games of the past decade? Let us know in the comments section!

Monday, January 11, 2010

SuperPhillip's Favorite VGMs - RPG-O-Rama Edition

This week on the VGMs we have an entire list of songs from RPGs. Whether it's Final Fantasy or Star Ocean, there's sure to be something to enjoy listening to. So let's have it! Start listening!

v466. Star Ocean: The Second Story/Second Evolution - Theme of RENA

Whether you call it The Second Story or know it better as Second Evolution, the second Star Ocean is one of my favorite RPGs. This version of the Theme of RENA comes from the arranged Star Ocean 2 soundtrack. It's a haunting and powerful theme, don't you think?

v467. Tales of Symphonia - The Land of Sylvarant

Tales of Symphonia was a glorious gift to the RPG-thirsty Gamecube and its owners. It had everything: a fun cast, great gameplay, and of course, a wonderful soundtrack. Tales of Symphonia took place on two worlds. This theme plays on the overworld map of the first world, Sylvarant.

v468. Eternal Sonata - Pyroxene of the Heart

Here is the opening theme of the often overlooked HD RPG, Eternal Sonata. Once again, we have music composed by the great Motoi Sakuraba. This is the second theme we've come across from this game on our journey through my favorite video game tracks. Are you enjoying the ride?

v469. Final Fantasy X - Blitz Off!

Blitz Off! This is the theme that plays during a round of Zanarkand's favorite pastime, blitzball. Think of the sport as soccer, except you can use your hands... and you're underwater in a sphere. Regardless, this rockin' song is sure to put anyone in the mood for the fictional sport.

v470. Golden Sun - Venus Lighthouse

Venus Lighthouse is the final dungeon of Golden Sun. It's a towering level full of puzzles and peril. Once again, Motoi Sakuraba comes to the rescue with this soundtrack. He hits it out of the park. Golden Sun was a great portable RPG, and I really look forward to the third installment.

Next week we go from RPGs to platformers when SuperPhillip's VGMs return. Catch you next Monday!