Friday, January 22, 2010

Dragonball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 2 (Wii) Review

Here's the second classic review from my old reviewer days. It's not my proudest work by any means, but it sure is my earliest. We started the week earlier with a Dragon Ball review, so let's end it with a DBZ review. Here's a classic review of Dragonball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 2 for the Wii and PlayStation 2. This review focuses on the Wii version.

A kamehameha burst of fun.

Dragonball Z Budokai Tenkaichi 2 is the fifth installment of the Budokai series and the second of the Tenkaichi series. Basically the words more, more, and more adequately describe this game. There's more characters, more arenas, more capsules, more sagas, and more battles to be had.

There's not too much of a difference between the Playstation 2 and Wii versions, however, save for an alternate control scheme, and even then the control scheme isn't mandatory to use. Regardless, you'll have the best Wii DBZ experience by using the Wii remote and nunchuk combo. The control stick moves your fighter, swinging the nunchuk makes your fighter dash, the B button unleashes an energy attack called a Ki Blast, pointing the Wii remote up and holding down on the control pad makes your fighter block, A is used for attacks fittingly, holding the C button and moving the nunchuk up enables your fighter to jump or rise into the air, the opposite is how you descend-- yeah, there's a lot to remember which may turn people off immediately, but when you get a hang of it it's quite rewarding. Alternately you can use either a classic controller or Gamecube controller to play. However, don't expect to look in the instruction manual for help on the button configuration-- there isn't any.

The bigger they are....

The meat of Budokai Tenkaichi 2 rests in the Dragon Adventure mode. It's basically a mode that has you go through all of the sagas of Dragonball Z and GT lore. You fly around an overworld map, go to the designated area, and pick a fight. There is a lot of fighting and a plethora of sagas to be had in this mode-- almost too much that it gets monotonous at parts. You'll begin in the Saiyan Saga and go all the way to GT's climatic confrontation against Omega Shenron. There's also Ultimate Battle Z where you fight a series of battles against various DBZ characters, Dragon Tournament-- a three round ring out or KO battle to earn zenny to buy items, Dueling-- a mode for you to face the CPU or a friend on your terms, Ultimate Training which will help the uninitiated get their bearings, Evolution Z which is a mode to equip skills to your fighters, the Item Shop where you buy and sell Z Items, and finally a Dragon Library where you can brush up on everything Dragonball Z. Whew. A lot modes, huh?

Her looks could kill... and did.

Not only are there a lot of modes, but there's a lot of characters. Taking a handful from Dragonball, a ton from Dragonball Z, and a nice collection from Dragonball GT, you'll discover a lot of fighters to face off with and against. Most are merely cosmetic as they really play the same as others. Such characters include mainstays like Goku, Piccolo, and Krillin to lesser talked about fighters such as Cooler, Lord Slug, and Janemba. Almost every Dragonball Z character is accounted for, and by combining Z-Items you can unlock new ones.

One hell of an air show.

To say Dragonball Z Budokai Tenkaichi 2 is fun is an understatement. It's literally a blast to play, but the story mode-- filled with voice work from the show-- is just the same thing over and over again which gets somewhat boring. Additionally, some characters-- besides their appearances-- are far too alike. Nonetheless, even if you aren't a fan of Dragonball Z and think it's the most overrated anime on the planet (like me) you will still enjoy this fighter.

[SuperPhillip Says: 7.5/10]

Mario Hoops 3-on-3 (DS) Review

Today my plan is to post a pair of classic reviews of mine. These were some of my earliest reviews ever written. I think you can tell by the quality, no? Here's the very first of two classics, Mario Hoops 3-on-3 for the Nintendo DS.

Not exactly a slam dunk.

Let's see, Mario's done kart racing, refereeing, baseball, tennis, golf, and now he's entering another sport with Mario Hoops 3-on-3, a title developed by Square-Enix. As the title suggests you play on teams of three on a variety of courts stemming from Mushroom Kingdom lore. After choosing your team of three superstars-- each with their own strengths and weaknesses-- you're ready to school your opponents in a round of B-ball.

Mario takes it to the fridge.

You can play the game simply with the stylus, but I felt that those controls were too confusing so I switched to the help buttons which allow you to play with a conventional control style. You don't just simply score baskets in Mario Hoops. Instead you dribble around the court bouncing the ball over item boxes which will increase the amount of coins you have. This tally goes up to one hundred coins. Then you try to score a basket. The amount of coins you saved up plus the coin score for where you shot the ball equals how many points you earn. Additionally you can perform special shots for each character when using the stylus for more points. Thus games that have scores such as 405-350 are commonplace in the world of Mario Hoops.

Defensive players can pick up items from the aforementioned item blocks to use on opponents. Such items include the infamous invincibility starman, green shells which bounce all over the court, and banana peels to slip up the competition to name a few. Normal basketball moves such as stealing, passing, dribbling, and guarding the net are mainstays in the NBA and are present in Mario Hoops.

DK gets ready to slam dunk that mother.

There are various modes in Mario Hoops. Challenge mode features tasks like dribble races to see how fast you can pick up a certain number of coins to learning how to play the game in Practice mode. Tourney is the main mode of Mario Hoops. This is a three round trial that goes from the Mushroom Cup all the way to the four round Special Cup. Performing specific objectives in this mode will reward you with new basketballs (like the Cheep Cheep and platinum balls) and new players for your team such as the White Mage from the Final Fantasy.

A problem with this game is that your CPU characters never help out. You can simply pass to them, and you'll take over for them. Your teammates will never block for you, help steal from the other team, or use items to assist you. This is all the while you have three opponents who WILL do all of the aforementioned tasks that your own teammates won't ever do. Not fair at all, and it will cause you to get frustrated in the later stages of the game combined with the steal-hungry CPU players. The confusing stylus controls don't offer anything intuitive either.

A handful of Final Fantasy characters
are included in Mario Hoops.

Mario Hoops isn't a horrible game though. It retains a lot of charm of the Mario franchise with some beautiful courts and catchy tunes. However, the difficulty of the game and your lackluster AI friends will only aggravate most gamers. Those expecting an easy game should look elsewhere as Mario Hoops is definitely not cake.

[SuperPhillip Says: 5.25/10]

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Top Five Wii Rail-Shooters

The rail-shooter was a very niche genre back in the day. It still is, really. They were mostly relegated to arcades and the occasional home console. With the Wii, you have a controller that emulates a light-gun without needing to buy a bunch of useless attachments-- which isn't to say people don't buy them. Now the rail-shooter is a popular game for third-parties to run to and make games based on the genre. Whether you're sick of them or not, it seems rail-shooters, light-gun shooters, guided first-person experiences or whatever you prefer to call them are here to stay at least on Wii. Here's my top five rail-shooters on the Nintendo Wii.

5) Dead Space: Extraction

A visceral game for sure, Dead Space: Extraction takes the action to a whole new level as a quote "guided first-person experience". Perhaps that's a good name for it as there's countless sections of the game where there's little to no shooting and a whole heck of a lot of waiting around for something to finally happen. Add in thirty minute missions with no chance to save your progress mid-mission, and you have a hard game to recommend. To be fair, there are some cool things like using the nunchuk on the Wii controller to hack enemy parts off, shooting off limbs, and the impressive if not bleak visuals.

4) Ghost Squad

Saddle up and get ready to ride with the Ghost Squad. If all else fails, they don't. Isn't that someone else? Anyway, Ghost Squad made be a very short game-- three missions long, but as you play through the missions you can choose from multiple paths greatly improving the replay value of this arcade shooter. Blast terrorists to Hell and back, rescue hostages, snipe enemies from afar while timed, and much more. As you earn experience from playing, you earn new costumes like a police officer or even a panda suit, and new helpful guns. Despite its dated visuals for today's standards, there's plenty to love with a budget price, online leaderboards, and co-op craziness.

3) Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles

Taking place during scenarios from the original Resident Evil, Resident Evil 3, and Resident Evil 0, Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles is full of content to enjoy and zombies to blow away with a shotgun, rocket launcher, or magnum. The visuals are very impressive, there's a wide variety of enemies to tackle, learning their patterns and when to shoot at them, and plenty of unlockables to keep players coming back for more. The only real problem I have with them game is pulling off headshots. You don't blast at their heads, you actually shoot the edge of their skulls.

2) Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles

While Umbrella Chronicles took care of the original RE, RE3, and RE0, Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles takes place within the scenarios from Resident Evil 2, Resident Evil: Code Veronica, and an all-new scenario in South America starring Leon Kennedy and Jack Krauser. There's so much more to do in Darkside than Umbrella Chronicles, the game's paced much better, it's not as difficult-- though some parts are pretty tough, weapons can be upgraded, and the unlockables are greater including new costumes. The archives give you a much deeper history and understanding of Resident Evil monsters and characters.

1) The House of the Dead: Overkill

Are you ready for some bad mother-- you know the rest. Agent Washington and Agent G partner up to tackle a crazy nonsense story, a cavalcade of zombies, and a smoking hot tattooed vixen. While there's only six missions to play through, there's enough incentive to play through them multiple times, unlocking new guns to upgrade, money to earn, and character models to ogle. The soundtrack is crazy-good, the visuals are quite great, and the rail-shooting action is some of the best you will ever find on Wii. The House of the Dead: Overkill is the Wii's best rail-shooter.

There you are with my top five Wii rail-shooters. Did I leave out a game you're partial to? Let me know in our comments section.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Saints Row 2 (PS3, 360) Review

We're going gang-banging with the first HD reviews of 2010. It's been a year and a half since the next game came out, and I'm just getting to it. It's no secret that Grand Theft Auto IV was a disappointment to me, but that won't be the theme of the review for Saints Row 2, so no worries. I just mention it in the introduction, and then again later in the review. Now let's get bangin', yo.

Don't Be A Busta', Foo'. Get Saints Row 2.

There's no telling how disappointing Grand Theft Auto IV was to a certain sect of gamers. The city was well-developed, but the missions were pretty much the same, the characters were unlikable, and the lack of anything to do made some people angry. Volition Games is retooling its somewhat popular sandbox game, Saints Row, into a brand-new story and scenario with Saints Row 2. Are these the saints that you'll want to come marching in?

The events of Saints Row 2 take a year or so after the events of Saints Row. To recap, your character was riding high, having reclaimed the city of Stilwater from other rival gangs under the name of the Third Street Saints. Just when things were going your way, an explosion rocked a yacht you were gang-banging on. That was the cliffhanger conclusion of the original Saints Row. Now it's a year later, and you've been locked up in a cell. You haven't noticed since you've been in a coma, wrapped up in bandages. A friend of the Saints busts you out of your bandaged prison, and you escape to safety. Since your comatose state, Stilwater has changed. New gangs have surfaced and the might of the Ultor Corporation has risen to dizzying levels. The old Saints Row is no longer around. It's up to your character to lead the fight to the gangs and reclaim Stilwater for the Saints. The story really makes your character unlikable, and that really made me feel disappointed. This isn't an Oscar-worthy story, but it does enough to hold your interest until the very end.

See what happens when you mess up my masquerade party!?

As you begin Saints Row 2, you're asked to design your character. You can alter nearly everything from sex, skin color, facial hair, and voice. The voice options are pretty poor as there's only three to select from for each gender. Either you'll talk gangsta, speak with a Mexican dialect, or talk like you just got off the plane from the cockney area of London. That said, everything else is excruciatingly detailed. You can customize your face, change eye, nose, lip, arm, leg, and chest shape plus more. Once your gangster is ready for prime time, you can travel to one of many wardrobe shops and pep up your looks. From rags (jerseys and off-the-hanger chains) to riches (suits, pimp hats, highbrow retailers), there's enough clothing options to make your character stand out from the rest of the crowd in Stilwater.

Make your character your way.

There's three difficulties in Saints Row 2, casual, normal, and hard. This can be switched at any time. As for the main structure of Saints Row 2, it is simple. You earn respect by participating in activities and pulling off cool stunts and tricks. The more respect you earn, the more story missions you can play through. After you start your reclamation of Stilwater, you can choose to do missions from any one of three gangs. These can be done out of order, and you can mix and match between gang missions at any time. You're not just relegated to one gang at a time to pick apart. As you complete missions, you slowly, piece by piece, regain sections of Stilwater. Where before rival gang member caroused freely, shooting at any rival gang members such as yourself, your fellow homies are now walking around.

Missions in Saints Row 2 are much more varied than say, Grand Theft Auto IV was. There's your traditional chase missions, kill this target missions, big-ass shootouts in different sections of the city, and much more. Thankfully, Volition decided smartly to include checkpoints after nearly every big turning point of a mission. There's seldom any gratuitous redoing of sections which was something that nearly killed Grand Theft Auto IV for me. One mission you're entering a secret test facility to steal some toxic waste to inject into a gang leader's face while another you're in pursuit of high-speed gangsters on boats. As I said before, there's a ton of variety in Saints Row 2, and it doesn't just stop at the story missions either.

After the first two or so missions of the game are over, you have the entire city unlocked for you to move about in freely. Wherever you want to go, you can go there. If you want to buy a safehouse, you can do it if you have the money at the start of the game. A great way to earn money and unlock new bonuses such as the ability to run infinitely and greater health is through activities. There's a host of new activities to sink your teeth into apart from the old standbys such as insurance fraud (intentionally injure yourself for cash), snatch (driving hoes to a from their destinations), hitman (find target, kill target), and chop shop (find car, bring car back to chop shop). Drug trafficking is all-new, and in these missions you ride shotgun as you unload bullets on gang members trying to take your car and your drug-dealing driver out. There's also Fuzz where you're a cop trying to perform as much action for the camera as possible. You'll be ordered to kill enemies with a certain gun or weapon, that sort of thing. Additionally, there's septic avenger where the goal is to shoot as much %#%^ as possible all over marked locations and people before time runs out. If that wasn't enough, there's fight clubs and demolition derbies to partake in-- all of which have six levels each, and all with great rewards.

"We have liftoff. Bail out!"

All this would be great if you're just into the city of Stilwater, but there's even more. You can join a buddy online and hop in and out of missions at your leisure. It makes certain missions all the more easy to complete with two players instead of just yourself. You two can explore Stilwater freely, taking out bustas, fools, and playa-haters as much as you like.

Saints Row 2 plays really well, too. You use the left stick to walk around, the bumper to run, and the right stick to aim at enemies. There's no auto aim, so let your aim be true. Holding down the circle or A button opens up the weapon wheel. There's where you can select from grenades, rifles, machine guns, rocket launchers, and melee weapons such as baseball bats and nightsticks to name a couple. The driving mechanics are pretty easy to get accustomed to despite them relying on buttons instead of the shoulder buttons like most games with driving nowadays. There's a seemingly endless amount of vehicles to drive, and they all pretty much handle as well as you'd expect.

Stilwater isn't as alive as Liberty City, but what is?

Not all is well in Stilwater, however. Sometimes, the camera can be a worst offender than rival gang members. There's also various glitches to watch out for that can make for some frustrating experiences, and there's more-common-than-I'd-prefer freezing after missions. Luckily, there's an auto-save feature, but the problem still makes for an annoying hindrance all the same. The citizens of Stilwater also seem to love driving in your way at the most inopportune times. Despite these issues, Saints Row 2 remains an entertaining game, so no worries.

Apart from the single player/cooperative story mode, there's a revamped multi-player component. Up to twelve players can duke it out in one of two modes. There's Strong Arm where the goal is to earn as much cash as possible before the other team buys out your hood. The other mode is Gangsta Brawl where the idea is simple enough: kill the opposing team by any means necessary. This time there's no true skill system to worry about or equally obnoxious player rating system. Multi-player is a cool diversion from the solo/co-op fun, but the main draw to this game's the story mode.

Take over or take cover.

Stilwater is a beautiful city, and Saints Row 2 is a beautiful game. It's not without dreaded pop-up and pop-in, but those are to be expected from a game as large and expansive as Saints 2. The voice acting is done in great way with many recognizable celebrity voices such as Neil Patrick Harris for one. Meanwhile, the soundtrack is much more varied this sequel with music from all genres and not just alternative rock and rap where they feel the need to say mother%#$%# every other line. Who doesn't love some Hall & Oates and Men at Work?

Overall, Saints Row 2 is an admirable and enjoyable follow-up to the original Saints. There's just more to do, more to see, and more people to screw around with. Those looking for a clever if not tactless alternative to the Grand Theft Auto series, you have one now with Saints Row 2.

[SuperPhillip Says: 9.0/10]

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Dragon Ball: Revenge of King Piccolo (Wii) Review

I recently picked up Dragon Ball: Revenge of King Piccolo for Wii on the cheap, so I was excited to play it. Turned out it wasn't that bad of a game. Is it worth your Zeni? Find out with this SPC review.

Grab King Piccolo by the Balls

My older brother noticed that in each of my Dragon Ball or Dragon Ball Z or Dragon Ball GT or Dragon Ball BLT Hold the Mayo reviews that I keep mentioning that I'm "not a fan of the source material". I reread past DB(Z) reviews, and I came to the conclusion that he was right. So in this review I plan on not mentioning at all that I'm not a fan of the source material. I will do my best to keep the fact that I'm not a fan of the source material all to myself since I realize it can get very annoying constantly reading that SuperPhillip is not a fan of the source material. Now that-that is out of the way, Namco's been pouring out the bargain-priced love for Wii owners. There's been the creative Klonoa, the awesome and delectable Munchables, and now for Dragon Ball fans, Dragon Ball: Revenge of King Piccolo. At a price of only twenty dollars, is it worth a rent or a buy?

Dragon Ball: Revenge of King Piccolo starts out after the events of Dragon Ball Origins. That's not to say this game's a sequel to that title at all. It starts from the beginning of the Red Ribbon Army saga and concludes with the battle against King Piccolo. What occurs between is a mishmash of quick cut-scenes (mostly just character portraits talking to one another), brief dialogue exchanges, and cut-out-the-fat storytelling. You need not know the source material (I didn't say anything regarding my possible liking or disliking of said material) in order to understand what's going on. Let's just say you won't need Cleland notes to understand the intricacies of the plot. It's straight up balls-to-the-wall action with the occasional horny Japanese joke thrown in for good measure. Each little story saga occurs throughout a stage. There's nine or so stages to play through each with numerous chapters, some have more than others.

"Goku, he's going to show you.
He's going to help you find the way."

Dragon Ball: Revenge of King Piccolo is a brawler at heart akin to something like Final Fight or Streets of Rage. You move through levels, taking out foes, sometimes not being able to proceed until all enemies are thwarted. There's also plenty of platforming to be done as well. Leaping over dangerous chasms that won't kill you immediately if you fall down them, they'll just take out some of your health, and locking on to levers and handlebars to swing across chasms. It's all very simple, and it's nothing players haven't seen before. However, it's done well enough that the game is enjoyable even if you're not a fan of the source material. Which I hear some people might not be. The game itself is 2 1/2D with multiple parts of the game spent running around spiral walkways and being shot from the foreground to the background.

In each explorable chapter-- I say explorable chapter because some levels are just battles against a group of enemies or a boss or two (usually the final chapter in a stage)-- there's treasure chests to find. This brings up the replay value of the game considerably as does getting S ranks on each mission. This makes an otherwise short six hour game even longer. By obtaining treasure chests and achieving S ranks in chapters, you unlock new fighters for the multi-player mode.

Bosses like this make up the most of the battling.

Unfortunately the multi-player itself is too simple for its own good. Two opponents battle it out in an arena, and pretty much the only moves you can use are punches and kicks until your kai meter builds up. By that time, the fight is already over, so what's the point? It's just too basic of fighting for my tastes-- nothing at all like the Budokai series-- which to be fair, that game is focused on one-on-one battling unlike King Piccolo.

Controlling young Goku, our hero, feels very tight and responsive. You can choose from multiple control schemes-- Wii remote and nunchuk, classic controller, or Gamecube controller. I prefer the Wii remote and nunchuk as I can comfortably play with my hands apart. The only motion control to speak of is literal waggling-- something much zanier than an actual session of button mashing. This is so rare though that it doesn't really matter in the long run. Combat is pretty basic and often resorts to run, roll, and hit. Certain bosses are more difficult to predict and have fancier patterns to them. Those are incredibly fun to face off against.

In this game, as you beat enemies, get combos, destroy breakables, or complete chapters, you earn Zeni. Zeni can be spent at the game's shop to boost up Goku's health, but that's not all. You can also purchase music, 3-D figurines of the game's characters, cinema scenes, and voice samples from various characters. Again, this boosts up the longevity of the game by a reasonable amount.

Goku can use this tank's missiles against it.

Shifting gears, the visuals of Dragon Ball: Revenge of King Piccolo are very good, colorful, crisp, and full of cel-shaded goodness. The animations are nice as well as you'd expect from the anime industry. The voice acting is as... interesting as it ever was with hit-and-miss roles here and there. Finally, the soundtrack is rather unforgettable with rock guitar, memorable melodies, and pumping beats. It's an overall excellent presentation package. What else could you expect from developer Media Vision whose best-known title is Wild Arms?

Overall, Dragon Ball: Revenge of King Piccolo is a pleasant surprise. I was expecting something garbage-caliber and nothing like the greatness of Dragon Ball Origins. While the game falls short in some aspects such as easy gameplay, poor multi-player, and shortness, the strengths, a fun game, a colorful cast of characters, great presentation, and twenty dollar price tag, outweigh the negatives by a good sum. This is an entertaining brawler for as long as it lasts, and it should be amusing to fans and newcomers to the series, and those of us who aren't fans of the source material. Wait. That doesn't count, does it? It's not like I said "I like this game even though I hate the source material", right? Dammit!

[SuperPhillip Says: 7.25/10]

New Youtube Advertisement for SuperPhillip Central

I put on the finishing touches to a new ad that is now slowly circulating Youtube. It's all about SuperPhillip Central. What do you think about the ad? Do you like it? Is it presentable enough? Let me know in the comments section!

Monday, January 18, 2010

SuperPhillip's Favorite VGMs - Platformer-Palooza Edition

Kick off the week right with some VGMs. Last week we did RPGs, but this time we're checking out platformers in this edition of SuperPhillip's Favorite VGMs. What we have this week are Mario, Sonic, A Boy and His Blob, and Ratchet & Clank. Let's hop to it then!

v471. Super Mario Sunshine - Theme of Dolphic Town

Dolphic Town is the Japanese name for Delfino Plaza. This version of the song comes from the Mario and Zelda Big Band performance that can be purchased on CD if you really want. Super Mario Sunshine is one of Mario's most argued over adventures. I happened to love it, but it was still the weaker of Mario's 3-D exploits.

472. Sonic Heroes - STAGE 03: Grand Metropolis

As the title suggests, Grand Metropolis is the third stage of Sonic Heroes. It's much more mellow compared to the last two songs, Seaside Hill and Ocean Palace. It's another great track from Jun Senoue. Depending on which of the four teams you played as, Grand Metropolis was an easy or hard level despite it being number three.

v473. A Boy and His Blob - Deep Caves

Here's a second track from the overlooked Wii puzzle-platformer, A Boy and His Blob. This time we're listening to the song that plays as you explore the deep caves. Were you one of the few who picked up a copy of this treasure?

v474. Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando - Planet Joba

Planet Joba is where you can either race on a hoverbike in competition or compete in the gladiator arena. This theme is calming, relaxing, featuring xylophone and brass. Going Commando remains my favorite Ratchet & Clank game of all time.

v475. New Super Mario Bros. Wii - Castle

Here's our second helping of New Super Mario Bros. Wii. This time we're listening to the castle theme. While not as good as Super Mario World's, it's still quite good. Could this be the game that wins Game of the Year on SuperPhillip Central? Why yes, it did.

We'll try to catch you next week with more of my happy-go-lucky VGMs!