Saturday, March 13, 2010

Perfect Dark (XBLA) Local Multiplayer Footage

Perfect Dark-- I must have put in over 100 hours easily on that game, and I still didn't get to the Perfect rank in the Combat Simulator. Watch as this player tinkers with some of the expansive list of options, enters the Felicity stage from Goldeneye, and prepares to be creamed. Mm... cream.

Tony Hawk's Project 8 (PS3, 360) Review

Tony Hawk: Ride recently hit the land down under where woman go and men plunder. Or is it blow? I don't remember. Leave me a message in the comments on that one. Regardless, here's a classic review of Tony Hawk's Project 8, one of the first twenty reviews I ever wrote.

He was a sk8r boi...

Annoying song for the tagline aside, the "good" folks at Activision bring out the Tony Hawk Pro franchise for an eighth outing in the form of Tony Hawk's Project 8. The aim of the game is to have your no-name skater start at the bottom of the ranks and make his way up towards the top eight-- Project 8. The top eight skaters will star in a Tony Hawk video production. How do you rise up in the ranks? Easy. By completing skating challenges around Beaver Creek (the game hub) you'll slowly begin to make a name for yourself.

Take your skater from skating rags to riches.

Starting out in the quaint confines of Suburbia, you'll create your skater. Admittedly the skater options are horrible. You'll basically be choosing a model and be sent off on your way. In my eye, that's a total letdown. Regardless, by completing tasks at either the am, pro, and/or sick difficulties, completing various pro challenges where a professional skater will ask you to perform a specific goal, participating in skate competitions, finding secret spots hidden all around Beaver Creek, and nailing gaps you'll slowly but steadily rise among the ranks picking up new sponsors and notoriety. Goals range from performing tricks in front of a camera to taking down graffiti off of walls. The art of bailing presents itself in Project 8 in various Jackass-styled objectives such as activating a bail to knock down ten bowling pins. These objectives are pretty much too goofy, unrealistic and clash with the supposed realistic skating experience Project 8 wants to offer.

Bob Burnquist shows us how it's done.

Additionally, a new Nail the Trick mode can be activated by pushing in both analog sticks while in mid-air. This slows time down and focuses in on your deck. By moving the analog sticks to kick the board around and timing your movements just right you can perform some very cool flip tricks with your deck. This can be used to rack up some serious scores which you'll need to complete sick difficulty competitions. Speaking of sick challenges, these are meant for the most professional Tony Hawk players. They will seriously kick your ass if you don't know what you're doing. Thankfully, they really aren't needed to enter Project 8-- only if you wish to be #1. And, achievement whores, don't look at this game for an easy 1000/1000. You will be lucky to break 700 points.

Even though all of the areas are based within the same town of Beaver Valley, the sections are quite varied. You'll start off in Suburbia, move on to the center of Beaver Creek in Main Street, thrash tricks around a Skate Park, hit the books in the School, kick it old school in the Slums, impress your forefathers at City Hall, piss off the squirrels in City Park, work for the union in the Factory, and ride the rides of the Fun Park. As you begin Project 8 you'll be limited to the Suburbia, but as you progress the whole town will be open for you to skate in.

Skate alone or with friends/strangers online.

Online allows you and a handful of humans to skate via various modes include a variant of tag, trick attack, a mode to see who can score the highest combo, and more. When a player drops out, the game still continues. Online has a very casual feel to it, and it never feels overly competitive like some games such as Gears of War or Halo 2.

Ulitmately, Tony Hawk Project 8 is a solid title that mostly heads back to the basics. While not too much has changed the total package is one that is both challenging, satisfying, a delight to play, and rewarding. Those who aren't a fan of the series won't be persuaded by this title to pick up. Those who are though will discover a THPS game that harks back to the originals. Not bad for the old bird.

[SuperPhillip Says: 7.25/10]

NBA Jam (Wii) Debut Trailer

BOOM SHAKA LAKA! NBA Jam storms the court and the Wii with a brand-new take on the classic arcade basketball game. Just look at how impressive and old-school the game looks in motion. It's really something for sure. Catch more probable footage coming out of E3 with the game due to release later this year.

Friday, March 12, 2010

200th Review! - Darksiders (PS3, 360)

Here we are. It's been a long time coming, but it's finally here- my 200th review! I wanted to choose a game that was anticipated for such an anticipated moment here on SPC. It's the God of War/Zelda clone, Darksiders, for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3!

The Apocalypse Was Never This Much Fun.

So these two games walk into a bar, all right? The first one is named God of War, and he's a buff, tough, bad dude and doesn't afraid of anything. The other one's a legendary girl named Zelda. They get a few drinks in 'em, start talking together, and God of War gives Zelda his motel key. Seeing that Zelda's been around the block a few times and is liquored up, she accepts. The two passionately and romantically rumble in the bedroom, and what do you know? A baby is born nine months later. They name it Darksiders. Is this game inspired by two of the top franchises in their respective genres worth taking a walk on the dark side?

It is said when the apocalypse reigns supreme on Earth, the horseman, War, will lay siege to the land. Unfortunately, War was duped into coming onto a false alarm orchestrated by someone duly sinister as they are crafty. War is wrongly charged as starting the destruction of Earth and is thereby punished, having all of his sweet moves and abilities stripped from him. Now with a demonic creature known as the Watcher, voiced by veteran actor Mark Hamill, keeping War on probation, the once mighty horseman is now thirsty for revenge. The game's story has you going after the hearts of the four Chosen, The Destroyer's hand-picked bodyguards in order to access the big bad's tower. It's nothing we haven't seen before, but it serves its purpose well enough. There's just enough story to make mowing down countless demons have some much needed purpose.

War. Huh. Good God, y'all.

As stated already, Darksiders seems to draw inspiration from both the God of War series and The Legend of Zelda franchise. The combat is very similar to Kratos' escapades as you slash and slice your way through hordes of demons, devils, and the undead, leaving a bloody trail behind. This is all the while keeping your combo amount tallying high. When an enemy is weak enough, a contextual clue will pop up over that opponent's head. That's War's cue to unleash a finishing move. These are always big, bloody, and beautiful to watch. War also gets a moment of invincibility while in these finishing animations which makes combat against six demons all the more manageable. Unlike God of War, however, there's hardly any quick-time event sequences to speak of. It's simply hit the grab button when the context clue pops up. Nothing more, nothing less. War also has the ability to lift and toss automobiles, desks, and other unlikely weapons at enemies. These little nuances help differentiate Darksiders from other games of God of War's ilk.

Big sword, big insecurities.
...Or just a bad-ass dude.

Speaking of combat, the game has enough different enemies to keep the game feeling fresh. Sure, there's your stereotypical locked rooms which will only open until all enemies have been vanquished, but the game still chugs on at a sweet pace. Each enemy telegraphs their moves, so either War has to dash out of the way or block. However, not all enemy attacks can be blocked. Then come the big, bad bosses that await War, readied to fight. These aren't taken down with just good old brute force. Each boss is like a puzzle. The bat woman, Tiamat, for instance, can only be downed by tossing a bomb onto her, using a boomerang-like weapon to transfer flame to the bomb to cause it to detonate, damaging the boss. Easier said than done when you have someone very big and ugly who eagerly wishes to get her fangs into you!

Every hero needs a trusty steed, right?

Darksiders especially feels like The Legend of Zelda with five dungeons each with cryptic puzzles, hidden treasures, a special item needed to defeat the dungeon's boss, and yes, plenty of enemies to destroy. Fans of Zelda will definitely get a sense of deja vu playing through this game right down to riding a trusty steed across an overworld map. Dungeon puzzles are rather clever, but few will necessarily have you scratching your head in frustration. Usually the solution is with the special item you pick up in each dungeon. These items have a wide range of abilities from a grappling hook to swing across chasms to a musical horn that wakes up sleeping rock titans to a shuriken boomerang that can attack faraway enemies or hit away switches opening up bridges and doors. Some puzzles are of the obvious variety while others will test your mental mettle and force you to think outside of the box. One such puzzle involves blowing up a red crystal blocking the way to proceed. You have to throw a bunch of defused bombs in a line leading from an active bomb to the red crystal. Set the active bomb to explode the line of bombs, thus destroying the crystal. You can be sure there's plenty of block-pushing, lever-pulling, bait-and-switching puzzles in store for War.

Shot through the heart, and you're to blame.

War uses wrath in order to conjure up various magic spells and abilities. He can learn new spells, skills, and abilities from the demon shop-keep who always has time for souls, the currency of the underworld. War can purchase new weapons, new attacks, and wrath moves such as a stone shield that raises his defense and attack for as long as his wrath meter has energy in it. It's hard not to think of Zelda when you think of how War's wrath and life energy increases. Stop me if you've heard this one before. War has to collect four lifestones in order to increase his health. Alternatively, he needs to collect four wrath cores in order to boost his wrath. It might be borrowed from Zelda, but why not borrow from the best? Treasures, artifacts, and pieces of an armor set are all hidden in very clever locations. One might have to resort to a walkthrough just to find them all! In fact, just beating the game will take anywhere from 15-20 hours total, and that's with no filler except for a final "Triforce Shard" like quest near the end of the game which involves a lot of backtracking.

Darksiders is a gore-geous game with plenty of visceral killings to be had. The textures are nice and crisp, the lands are heavily detailed, and there's enough level variety to keep things fresh. The art work is tremendous, and the game feels like a dark, brooding comic book. It's no surprise that the man who did the 90s Uncanny X-Men also did the art for this game. Visually the game is a winner. That isn't to say everything is perfect on the technical side. There's a small amount of tearing and slowdown when things get dicey and there's a lot of enemies on screen at the same time. The voicework and soundtrack is fitting for this game, and they're both done very well. There aren't really that many memorable or recognizable tracks to be heard, but what is there works. We weren't expecting pop tunes, after all.

Say hello to my not-so-little friend.

Darksiders may be a mishmash between God of War and The Legend of Zelda, but the title does enough things that are new to make the game feel like not just another Zelda clone. The combat is tight, responsive (for the most part), and feels right, the dungeon design is textbook-worthy stuff, and the presentation is very much high-budget and high-class. For those looking for a violent, more adult-oriented, visually-stunning take on Zelda, there is no better choice than Vigil's Darksiders.

[SuperPhillip Says: 9.0/10]

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Top Ten Mario Kart Tracks

I recently have gotten back into Mario Kart Wii. Let me tell you, it's a lot more fair when you're playing teams. There's only six opponents that can screw you over instead of eleven! I've won many races without too many problems this way, and it's much more manageable to play for my older brother. For this reason, I've decided to count down my favorite Mario Kart tracks. Since the 3D tracks are much more intricate and detailed than their 2D counterparts, I think it's only fair that I rank the 3D ones. It wouldn't be fair otherwise. With that said, let's get to counting down my favorite Mario Kart tracks!

10) DK Summit (Mario Kart Wii)

The first of two Mario Kart Wii lists on the countdown, DK Summit is full of acrobatic opportunities, snowboarding Shy Guys, and heavy snow to slow you down. You start with a right turn, leading to a barrel cannon that sends you to the top of the ski village. It's all downhill from here with plenty of opportunities to pull of tricks, dodge the heavy snow, watch out for snowboarding Shy Guys, and try to come out with first place!

9) Mushroom Bridge (Mario Kart: Double Dash!!)

Traffic congestion isn't a big problem, but there are lots of vehicles to watch out for-- in particular, a bob-omb car that blows up upon impact and a giant green wiggler car. The track is a favorite of mine because of its surroundings. It's pleasant to look at, has a great tune accompanying it, and it has a fun shortcut at the end of the track. The course is relatively straightforward with little room for exploration. There's a hidden pipe one can enter for a double item box, a hill, that with a mushroom, one can boost over to skip a turn, and the most fun part, riding the final bridge's very narrow railings for free boosts. It's the perfect way to ease into the Mushroom Kingdom's traffic situation, it's Mushroom Bridge.

8) Toad's Turnpike (Mario Kart 64)

If Mushroom Bridge let you ease into the traffic of the Mushroom Kingdom, Toad's Turnpike will give you a PhD in dodging traffic! The track is a simple figure-eight. The problem? There's loads of moving cars occupying the track, giving you one bad crash after another that your insurance provider would quickly drop you over! This problem worsens in Mirror Mode where your karters are driving against traffic! It's hectic, it's crazy, and it's all loads of fun, it's Toad's Turnpike from Mario Kart 64.

7) Luigi's Mansion (Mario Kart DS)

This Mario Kart DS track has you racing through the haunted halls and spooky surroundings of Luigi's Mansion. First you drive up an S-curve hill into the mansion itself. After three sharp turns, you enter the ballroom before exiting into the wide-open cemetery. The cemetery leads you to the fear-inducing forest where walking trees and swampland water aim to slow you down. From the mansion to the cemetery to the swampland, this multi-tiered track shows the creative genius Nintendo has when they design their tracks.

6) Sherbet Land (Mario Kart: Double Dash!!)

This festive version of Sherbet Land has colorful flags hanging from it. The course starts with a quick S-turn to a patch of ice where Shy Guys merrily skate on it, hampering your progress if you get attacked by them. What follows is a cavern filled with twists and turns leading to the back stretch of the track. A few simple turns to navigate leads to another much larger frozen lake where Freezies inhabit. Hit one of them, and you're frozen for a brief moment or two. Salvage a way through this Freezie minefield, and you'll be at the finish for a well deserved cup of cocoa. It's much more intricately designed than 64's Sherbet Land is why I prefer Double Dash's version.

5) Rainbow Road (Mario Kart: Double Dash!!)

Now this one was a hard pick. Do I go with the Rainbow Road that's long but has that cool shortcut that lets you skip half the track, or do I go with the better designed and much more fun one? Fun conquers all with Mario Kart: Double Dash's Rainbow Road. With an awesome rendition of the Mario Kart 64 Rainbow Road theme, lots of elevated hairpin turns, parts of track without railing, and a cool look of a twilight city below, Rainbow Road is a track that's the best installment yet!

4) Coconut Mall (Mario Kart Wii)

A popular Delfino vacation spot, Coconut Mall is a shopper's paradise, but you won't have time to do window shopping as you'll be speeding through it! The track is filled with multiple pathways to explore, shortcuts through shops, a choice of two ways to go, the normal way or a giant leap to the parking lot where Miis driving cars love to back over unsuspecting karts. A bright, festive track, Coconut Mall is one of my two favorite courses in Mario Kart Wii.

3) Baby Park (Mario Kart: Double Dash!!)

A simple oval track that takes less than fifteen seconds to complete a lap is what Baby Park is all about. What could possibly be fun about that? Throw in eight karts, a bunch of items, and you have total and utter chaos in Baby Mario and Baby Luigi's track! Shells bouncing off the walls, across the median, bananas placed all over the track, and you trying to dodge each and every item with finesse is quite the challenge. Many laughs are had when you pull ahead of someone only to be wiped out by a gigantic spiny shell! It's a crazy race indeed, Baby Park is a terrific seven-lap endurance race.

2) Delfino Square (Mario Kart DS)

Take a nice ride through a Delfino Isle town. No time to see the sights, however, as there's a race to be won. The first part of this race is perfectly straight, leading uphill to a 270 degree turn around a fountain of a Delfino denizen. Then comes a jaunt through the town itself on the cobblestone paths opening up to one of two ways, left or straight. The paths converge where another choice can be made if one has a mushroom. One can boost off the course, over the bay, and onto a pier for one death-defying shortcut. Or they can wait and cut through a mud-covered alley for an alternative shortcut. One final boost across a drawbridge and an S-turn makes victory but a few yards away. I love city courses, so it's no doubt that this one ranks as one of my favorites.

1) Bowser's Castle (Mario Kart 64)

The number one track on my list is Mario Kart 64's Bowser's Castle, also available as a retro track in Mario Kart Wii. Bowser's Castle has appeared in every Mario Kart track, and are always full of tricks, traps, and tight turns. This track is no different featuring sharp turns, terrorizing Thwomps, and more. You first cross a bridge into Bowser's first courtyard where a giant statue aims to fry you if you get too close. Followed that is a turn into the actual castle itself where Thwomps slide and stomp their way through the first and second hallways. After a brief breather, you make a right turn into a room full of sliding Thwomps followed by a left turn into a narrow hallway culminating with a rail-free wooden bridge. Make a fall, and you're in for a lava-ly bath! A right turn sends your karter down a staircase into Bowser's second courtyard. After navigating through the cobblestone path, you cross another dilapidated bridge hanging over lava, ride up a spiral tower, and make two jumps over lava towards a final right turn where the finish line awaits. It's big, it's bad, and it's Bowser's home base, it's Mario Kart 64's Bowser's Castle, my favorite Mario Kart track yet.

And the racers cross the finish line with just a few seconds to spare. Some honorable mentions include Royal Raceway (N64), Dino Dino Jungle (GCN), Bowser's Castle (GCN), Bowser's Castle (DS), and Airship Fortress (DS). What are some of your favorite Mario Kart tracks? Let us know in the comments section!

February 2010 NPD Results

Data care of NPD Group
Reporting Period: 1/31/2010 through 2/27/2010

PlayStation 2 101.9K
PlayStation 3 360.1K
PSP 133.4K
Xbox 360 422.0K
Wii 397.9K
Nintendo DS 613.2K


(*includes CE, GOTY editions, bundles, etc. but not those bundled with hardware)

The big news is the 360 being the big winner this month. Was it supply constraints for the Wii? New gamers jumping into the 360? People buying second 360s after their first one died? Well, that's just me, but who knows? We do know that software-wise the 360 is also the winner with four titles to the PS3 and Wii's three. New Super Mario Bros. Wii gets second place to the super-hit Bioshock 2. Still, a half million three months after release is nothing to sneeze at! Meanwhile, PS3 exclusive Heavy Rain gets a heavy amount of sales as tenth place on the big sales list. Finally, the DS remains high in the proverbial saddle with the most sales of all. Stay tuned for the top twenty coming later next week.

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 (Wii) Demonstration

Did you know that Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09 All-Play was my 100th review? Thought that would be a good time to mention that as we talk about our next game, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 for the Nintendo Wii. This edition features even more in-depth driving, putting, and playing. Look at how the arm position now affects whether the ball is hit or not. Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 will be hitting all major platforms in early June. Expect a review sometime then.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Introducing... One-Sentence Reviews!

Time for another brand-new segment to celebrate the 200th review on SPC coming sometime this or next week. One-Sentence Reviews are simple. They're short, to-the-point reviews that last one sentence. No more, no less! We're going down a wide list of games for the premiere edition, so I hope you enjoy this new segment as much as I have had putting it together.

"Quite possibly the best game of this current generation, the game oozes with charm, ingenious level design, and a gravity gimmick that ties it all together for one great adventure!" Super Mario Galaxy (Wii)

"Made by manchildren for manchildren, this game is juvenile with all of its blood-splatter, macho man bullcrap, and sophomoric story." Gears of War 2 (360)

"If you can get used to the save system, Dead Rising remains a zombie-bombing blast with multiple playthroughs, lots of secret content, and cool bonuses." Dead Rising (360)

"I was expecting a game that was sweet as how can you screw up a game called Ninjabread Man?" Ninjabread Man (Wii)

"A heart-pounding Ganado-infested rollercoaster from beginning to end, Resident Evil 4 delivers on pure thrills, exciting chills, and awesome action." Resident Evil 4 (Wii)

"Heavenly Sword is a fun, exhilarating ride from beginning to end, but it just ends way too soon with little reason to join the adventure again." Heavenly Sword (PS3)

"Great fun in team mode, not so much in solo, it's Mario Kart Wii." Mario Kart Wii (Wii)

"An awesome game for hardcore platforming fans, but the game might be too daunting for the more casual player-- especially when creating levels." LittleBigPlanet (PS3)

"Dialogue, dialogue, dialogue, gameplay, dialogue, dialogue, dialogue, dia...zzzzzzz" Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots (PS3)

"Having a star stolen from you: angering, stealing a star from your angry older brother: priceless." Mario Party (N64)

"Who the %#&% is Bill Lambier?" Bill Lambier's Combat Basketball (SNES)

"The levels are built for maximum fun, four-player carnage is thrilling and crazy at best, and there's always laughter when you all bubble it up at the same time." New Super Mario Bros. Wii (Wii)

"Why can't this just be a normal Sonic game instead of a racing game?" Sonic Rivals (PSP)

"The perfect time-waster, there's something to be said about losing three hours on one crossword puzzle." Crosswords DS (DS)

"If you can get past the teen angst, Kingdom Hearts is a fun action RPG worth playing." Kingdom Hearts (PS2)

"Great controls combined with mediocre design equals The Conduit for Wii." The Conduit (Wii)

"Hit the right drum at the right time to score points-- sounds fun enough to me!" Donkey Konga (GCN)

"Be the bat in one of the best comic-book games of all time!" Batman: Arkham Asylum (PS3, 360, PC)

"More fun than Grand Theft Auto IV is a high proposition, but somehow Saints Row 2 does it with more to do, more to see, and more hos to spank!" Saints Row 2 (PS3, 360, PC)

"Perfect Dark Zero misses its mark on perfection, but it was darn close!" Perfect Dark Zero (360)

"Fart joke, running gag that stopped being funny a long time ago, jerkass Peter." Family Guy (PS2, Xbox)

"I'm getting sick of hearing Nolan North." White Knight Chronicles (PS3)

"You'll be wanting to catch 'em all until the tauros come home." Pokemon (GB)

"Steven Spielberg and EA have collectively rocked my blocks off with this one." Boom Blox (Wii)

"Mother%%#$%#%!!!!!!!" The House of the Dead: Overkill (Wii)

"If the game had more variety, less gratuitous swearing, and better controls, Killzone 2 might have been a definite winner." Killzone 2 (PS3)

"The later difficulties are intense, but if you can master them, you're in for one heck of a racing game!" Motorstorm: Pacific Rift (PS3)

"With clever and humorous dialogue, a charming cast of characters, and plenty to build and ultimately tinker with, MySims Kingdom gets a strong recommendation for the young and the young at heart." MySims Kingdom (Wii)

"RPG creation is an extended process, so don't think you can (or will) create one overnight." RPG Maker 2 (PS2)

"Things more fun than Sonic the Hedgehog: sodomy with a cactus, having a root canal, watching Youtube videos of LPers playing Sonic the Hedgehog, rubbing salt on a deep wound, reading Sonic the Hedgehog fanfiction, drinking dishwashing detergent, sitting through a Dane Cook concert, setting my wiener on fire, setting my actual wiener on fire, watching Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, watching Andy Dick's one-woman show, coming up with more things that are more fun than Sonic the Hedgehog..." Sonic the Hedgehog (PS3, 360)

Phew! That was a lot more work than I thought it would be. What do you think of this new segment? Let everyone including myself know in the comments section!

Sonic Classic Collection (DS) Review

We've been looking at non-recent games this week, so let's dive into something more current with Sonic Classic Collection for the Nintendo DS. It has four classic Sonic titles in it, all from the Genesis days. Is it worth picking up?

Hedgehog A-Go-Go

Sonic the Hedgehog's gaming history is vast and varied. There's the good such as the titles listed in the Sonic Classic Collection for the Nintendo DS, and then there's the long list of bad. SEGA, being too busy and/or incompetent to emulate their own games contacted a third-party to do so, choosing the majority of Sonic's Genesis days. Is this collection one that you'll want to keep in your own collection?

Sonic Classic Collection comes with four Genesis titles including the original Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic the Hedgehog 3, and Sonic & Knuckles. Rounding out the games is the ability to link up Sonic the Hedgehog 2 or Sonic the Hedgehog 3 with Sonic & Knuckles in order to play as Knuckles in Sonic 2 or play the epic Sonic 3 & Knuckles which can be played with either Sonic, Tails, or Knuckles. Each game has a save/load option where you can save anywhere you like. These aren't like save states, mind you, as won't be loaded at the exact point of saving. Instead, you'll start at the beginning of that act or zone.

For those who have never played a 2D Sonic game, it's really pure bliss. The early Sonic games are all about a perfect balance of speed and precision platforming. While the Green Hill Zone is all about scampering to the end of the level, the Marble Zone is more about slow, controlled jumping and timing. Rings are the lifeline of Sonic the Hedgehog. If he's caught without a ring and he gets hit, Sonic loses a life and has to start at the nearest checkpoint. No worries though as there's plenty of rings to be found and collect with 100 giving him an extra life. There's also chaos emeralds to collect which are purely optional, but these give way to secret content and special endings within each Sonic game. Overall, if Mario is too slow, try the speedy blue hedgehog for a change instead.

One of the cooler Robotnik vehicles.

To delve into the history of the Sonic titles, the first Sonic the Hedgehog game used "blast processing" as a marketing buzz term. What does it really mean? Well, nothing. It was just a cool term to tell the kiddies into buying Sonic's first adventure. The game was blazing fast, and it was common for SEGA to market that while Mario, Sonic's once main competitor (his main competitors now are incompetent developers), was slow, Sonic was blazing fast. And indeed he was. Each of the six themed zones concluded with a boss fight against one of Dr. Robotnik's mechanized monstrosities. Unlike later Sonic games, Sonic 1 would utilize a three act, or level, structure to each zone. There was also the ability to collect six chaos emeralds in a rotating maze. Collecting all six would give the player the ability to see the secret ending.

Moving onto Sonic the Hedgehog 2, this title was bigger and arguably better than the previous game. It had more zones, more enemies, and a new partner for Sonic by the name of Miles "Tails" Prower (a take on the phrase Miles Per Hour). Tails, as he preferred being called, could temporarily give Sonic some extra height by flying him. This and further games would allow two player cooperative gameplay though Sonic Classic Collection does not have this in any of the games. This time when all seven (one was added) chaos emeralds were collected through playing down a bobsled-like course collecting rings and avoiding mines, Sonic could transform into the ultra-powerful Super Sonic. He had faster speed, but lost rings at a steady pace. When his rings were depleted, Sonic would revert back into ordinary but still butt-kicking mode.

Sonic the Hedgehog 3 moved the festivities to Angel Island where Dr. Robotnik was at it again. This time a feisty echidna named Knuckles would constantly get in Sonic's way, stealing his chaos emeralds, destroying bridges, and doing everything he could to stop Sonic from going after the Master Emerald. Unfortunately, Knuckles had been tricked by Dr. Robotnik. It was actually Robotnik who wanted the Master Emerald! Like Sonic 1, Sonic 3 was six zones long ranging from dense jungles to circus carnivals to underwater cities. Each first act concluded with a battle against a mid-boss while act two always ended with a battle with Dr. Robotnik himself. Originally, by putting the Sonic 3 cartridge into the Sonic & Knuckles game cartridge, a brand-new adventure awaited Sonic, showing the true ending to the Sonic quadrilogy.

Sonic & Knuckles also featured Robo-Robotnik!

Sonic & Knuckles allowed players to choose from either Sonic or Knuckles as you played through six more zones ranging from hot deserts to active volcanoes! Linking up to Sonic 3 with the Sonic & Knuckles cartridge allowed players to play though both Sonic 3 and then Sonic & Knuckles with all of your chaos emeralds intact. In fact, one could collect the seven Master Emeralds to transform into an even stronger version of Super Sonic or Hyper Knuckles. For Knuckles, the adventure ended in the Sky Sanctuary where he'd face off against Mecha Sonic while Sonic would have one more zone to go through before entering the Doomsday Zone where he'd take on Robotnik in a timed space battle as Super Sonic.

On the technical side of the things, the resolution of the DS just isn't enough when compared to the Genesis. To fix this, the screen was squished to make the proper resolution work for the games to run. It's a noticeable difference, but nothing too bad. Incidentally, there's something to be said about the amount of glitches and slowdown. Once I fell straight through a floor in the Green Hill Zone and died. It's odd when SEGA isn't even competent enough to handle emulating their own games that they have to give their games off to one contracted person to do them.

The menu presentation is basic as can be.

Regardless, Sonic Classic Collection is very much bare bones in its extras. You get some art, and that's it. I would have liked to have had a jukebox to listen to the game's music or something of that design. Additionally, if this is a Genesis/Mega Drive collection on-the-go, then why isn't there Sonic 3D Blast or-- stretching it a bit-- Sonic CD to play? Still, if you must have four Sonic classics to play with you in the palm of your hand, you can't do much better than Sonic Classics Collection.

Ultimately, with all of the collections and games featuring the Sonic Genesis/Mega Drive games on it, did we really need another so soon? Sure, this is the first time you can play a non-buggy (for the most part) Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic the Hedgehog 3, and Sonic & Knuckles on-the-go in portable form. If the thought of playing Sonic the Hedgehog 3 on the toilet or in the car on a long vacation ride to Branson has you salivating, then definitely pick up this collection. For everyone else, there's too little additional content to justify the thirty dollar price tag-- especially when you can get Sonic 1-4 plus other games for the same price on the PlayStation 2, Gamecube, Xbox, and Wii Virtual Console.

[SuperPhillip Says: 5.5/10]

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Castlevania Judgment (Wii) Review

I picked up Castlevania Judgment at Best Buy for the new price of $19.99. You can get it cheaper on Amazon currently. Regardless, I didn't know what to expect from the game, and I imagine neither do you. Let's journey into the game together with my review of Castlevania Judgment for the Nintendo Wii.

Judgment for Judgment

The Castlevania series has been around a long time, and it hasn't really branched out into new genres. Well, you can't say that anymore now that Castlevania Judgment has hit the Nintendo Wii. Surprisingly a 3D brawler, can Castlevania keep up with the likes of Street Fighter and Soul Calibur?

A mysterious being named Aeon has opened a time rift, creating an alternate reality where Castlevania heroes and villains can meet one another through the passage of time. You'll have Trevor Belmont meeting up with his younger ancestor, Simon, Shanoa from Order of Ecclesia meeting Alucard, and more. The story mode in the game lasts ten matches long, and each character's story is introduced with some background information regarding that particular character. Sometimes their reasons for fighting make sense such as Alucard wanting to take down his father while others are more nonsensical like Maria desiring to fight Carmilla all because her bust size is much larger. Don't try to make sense of it. Just move on.

There's 14 characters in all to select from.

Make no mistake about it. Castlevania Judgement is a fighter through and through. The game has tons of modes to choose from. As stated, story mode has you choosing a character, fighting through ten matches against predetermined characters, and unlocking one of twelve time door keys. When a character has cleared story mode, a new character is unlocked to play as in the same mode. Then there's arcade mode which pits a character of your choosing in a best of three match against several opponents. Meanwhile, Dracula's castle is an interesting mode where you battle from room to room. Each room has its own parameters for victory and defeat such as defeating a boss character or collecting several hearts. The twist is that each room also puts a handicap on both player and enemy like lowered or raised attack. Getting to the goal is fraught with peril, so making it to the lord of darkness is no easy task.

Judgment isn't your ordinary fighter. It does enough to separate itself from the pack, both good and bad. Fights are waged in a 3D arena where combatants are free to move around at their leisure. Main attacks are set to shaking the Wii remote. The problem here is that there's two types of waggle, horizontal and vertical, and the game does a lousy job of differentiating which from which. You might think that waggle is tiring after long periods, but it's actually not too bad and feels good to do. If that isn't your cup of tea, you can opt to use the Gamecube or Classic controller instead. Both work just fine.

Grant is also jealous of Carmilla's bust size.

Holding down the Z button while attacking will unleash a special attack. The A button uses up hearts in order to use a character's special weapon. When the blue gauge is full for a character, players can use a hyper attack, the strongest form of attack in the game. When an attack connects, the game enters a real-time cinematic showcasing your character bringing some serious pain on your opponent. Carmilla, for instance, puts her foe inside an iron maiden, slamming it shut, with blood flowing everywhere.

Even on normal difficulty, however, fighting in Castlevania Judgment comes down to one of two things: blocking and retaliating. You block, waiting for your opponent to attack, and then you retaliate. It also doesn't help that the characters are nowhere near balanced. Let's just say this game won't be played at EVO any time soon.

Playing through the story mode of Judgment will take players about five hours total with every character. Then there's slugging it through the arcade mode, Dracula's castle, and trying out the online portion of the game which has too many loading screens to count just to start up. Additionally, there's accessories, music, and gallery art to unlock. Accessories can be equipped to your character purely for aesthetic purposes, so if you ever wanted Alucard to wear a top hat and a monocle, now's your chance! Collecting everything the game has to offer will take upwards of thirty hours, but will anyone really want to do that? My guess is no.

On the presentation side, Castlevania Judgment boasts impressive visuals. There's occasional slowdown when there's a lot of stuff going on. The textures are a bit on the muddy side, but the character models look and animate beautifully. Each character's voice sounds as it should apart from Maria who is the bastard of the Castlevania Judgment voice acting family. Character cut-scenes are voiced well, and they make reference to a lot of lesser-known plot elements in the Castlevania legacy.

Just one of many hyper attacks in Castlevania Judgment.

As a fighting game, Castlevania Judgment is average at best. The fighting boils down to blocking and retaliating, the battles are simplistic, and the action is only good for so long before the novelty of fighting with Castlevania characters wears off. As a video game, there is plenty to see, plenty to do, and plenty to accomplish here, but most players won't last long enough to see everything there is to see. And as a Castlevania game, this is an interesting experiment at best. For those looking for a bargain-priced fighting game, stick with Street Fighter IV or Soul Calibur IV. Fans of Castlevania on the other hand should definitely check this title out for its new low price.

[SuperPhillip Says: 7.0/10]

Monday, March 8, 2010

Mega Man X7 (PS2) Retro Review

Let's continue with some more Mega Man mayhem with something from the X series. It's the black sheep of the X franchise, Mega Man X7. Is it deserving of such a moniker?

Seventh Heaven?

Since Mega Man X5, the Mega Man X series has been on a bit of a slide. X5 paled in comparison to X4, X6 was full of cheap deaths and rush job sensibilities, so it all comes to X7 to save the day. With a brand-new 3D perspective in addition to the tried and true 2D, does Mega Man X7 offer compelling enough gameplay for veterans and fans of the franchise?

In the world of Mega Man X7, there are now two groups going after the same Maverick menace. One is the Maverick Hunter group while the other is Red Alert, a new group of bounty hunters who finish the job through any means necessary-- even less than noble ones. Axl, a young robot with the ability to copy and change shape, defects from Red Alert after growing sick of Red Alert's methods. This starts a war between the Maverick Hunters and Red Alert, but is there someone behind the scenes orchestrating everything? The story is told with stylized visuals and cut-scenes in-between each of the eight Maverick missions. Unfortunately, these cut-scenes are also accompanied by some of the worst voice acting to come out of the PlayStation 2. Some characters are merely tolerable while others like X and Axl are just abysmal.

This scorpion has one heck of a sting.

Mega Man X7 starts out in typical fashion. You start the game at the introduction highway level, taking out goons reminiscent of the good old days of the original Mega Man X, and proceed through the level taking out Mavericks. The twist this time around is that the game switches between a 2D and 3D perspective during areas. It happens so often that there's an indicator showing what perspective you're currently in. The 2D portions of the game are tried and true Mega Man X action, but the 3D parts have a camera that's difficult to control, gets in the way, and just becomes a hindrance most of the time. Thankfully, your Maverick Hunters can lock on to enemies in this installment making combat much easier to deal with in both the 2D and 3D perspectives.

Once again, there's eight Mavericks set loose upon the world, and the strategy for each is the same. Find the weapon that they're weak against to defeat them handily, otherwise it's a long, drawn-out fight with the mega buster, Zero's sword, or Axl's rapid fire buster. Some stages are entirely 2D while others are entirely 3D or a mix of both. They take place in areas such as a deep forest area, a magma plant, a series of tunnels, on top the backs of a fleet of airships, and more. Boss battles are also either in a 2D or 3D perspective. Sometimes you're in a 2D perspective while the boss is in a 3D one, allowing your character to fire off in the foreground or background. Regardless, working with the camera in X7 is a pain since it's mapped to the L1 and R1 buttons instead of the right analog stick like most 3D games on the system. This makes struggling with the camera while trying to fight a fast boss all the more common and aggravating.

Original Mega Man X, anyone?

There's plenty of side content to sink your teeth into. Each level has sixteen hostage reploids needing saving. Saving them will give your characters bonuses such as parts that can be equipped to boost stats, extra lives, increased life and weapon energy and more. Some of these reploids are placed in such precarious locations that they're near possible to rescue making for some frustrating times. There's also hidden heart tanks and standbys such as Dr. Light's capsules that can be uncovered in four of the eight Maverick stages. These give X the ability for increased movement, a glide ability, the option to charge special weapons, and increased weapon pick-up abilities.

One of the turn-offs of X7 is that the lead character, Mega Man X, isn't even available at the beginning of the blasted game. He must be unlocked by rescuing a set number of reploids. Another new addition is the team-based gameplay. Maverick Hunters now patrol levels in teams of two, and you can switch between partners with a tap of the L2 button. Unlike the sequel, Mega Man X8, when a partner passes on in X7, it's back to the beginning or checkpoint for both players.

Some boss fights incorporate a 2 1/2D perspective.

Mega Man X7 uses nice 3D models, but the level textures are quite muddy and not very pleasant to look at. When the action is fierce with lots going on, the game enters slowdown mode which is never fun for a precision platformer such as this. The music is rather catchy, but that, too, pales in comparison to previous entries of the series.

Ultimately, Mega Man X7 is a failed experiment that still happens to be somewhat entertaining. The bothersome camera does cause problems as does the mapping of the dash to double-tapping a directional button which caused me enough deaths. For those open to the idea of having Mega Man in 3D, perhaps Mega Man Legends would be a better choice. For everyone else, Mega Man X7 is a frustrating yet fun entry in the Mega Man X franchise.

[SuperPhillip Says: 6.0/10]

SuperPhillip's Favorite VGMs - March to the Music Edition

Welcome to a glorious day here in Central City as the favorite VGMs and I celebrate with some new songs to share. This week we have music from Tatsunoko VS. Capcom, The Sky Crawlers, and Starfox Adventures to name a few. Get primed and ready because here they come!

v506. Tatsunoko VS. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars - Orbital Ring Systems Cargo Bay

Tatsunoko VS. Capcom is the first real fighter (sorry, Smash Bros.) that I've enjoyed in a long, long time. It's a great, fast-paced game that any fan of anime or Capcom will love. Orbital Ring features some trance-like music to it which I truly like. While the character themes from the Japanese version aren't present, these new Western themes are quite acceptable, too.

v507. The Sky Crawlers: Innocent Aces - BGM 05

Ripped by a nice user on the Final Fantasy Shrine forums, The Sky Crawlers: Innocent Aces soundtrack is full of memorable melodies and catchy tunes. This theme, first heard in mission 03, is but one of such songs. If you have an extra thirty dollars burning a hole in your pocket and own a Wii, why not check out this intriguing game?

v508. Sly 2: Band of Thieves - Rajan's Palace

Rajan's Palace is the second overworld of eight in Sly 2: Band of Thieves. It's set in India, so it has a foreboding, mysterious feel to it. It's something most people can lay back and relax to. Sly 2 changed things up by being more sandbox, mission-based than the original Sly Cooper. It's still a great game to play for any PS2 platformer fan.

v509. Starfox Adventures - Ending Credits

This credits sequence is divided up into three parts. The first is the traditional Starfox melody, the second chimes in with a cool rock guitar section, and the final part is played by a sultry saxophone. David Wise helped compose the soundtrack, and it would be one of his last mainline Rare games before leaving the company for other ventures.

v510. Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie - Ivan Ooze

I remember going to see the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers movie back in the day. My older brother sat in the back, embarrassed having to see the movie. I also remember renting the game, and being very overjoyed. Who knows if the game still holds up today? The theme I've chosen this time is for the final boss, Ivan Ooze. It's quite catchy, don't you think?

That's all she wrote on this edition of SuperPhillip's Favorite VGMs. Until next week, we bid you adieu!

SuperPhillip's Strategy Guide Collection

I love strategy guides. I love them more than online walkthroughs for the same reason I love comic books more than digital comics. I love thumbing through the pages, the smell of the paper, the beautiful maps and illustrations. It's much more inviting and personable than some Notepad document. I've been collecting guides for more than a decade starting with my Nintendo Power guides such as Super Mario RPG, Yoshi's Island, and Donkey Kong Country. I'd like to share my collection with you guys.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Top Ten Mega Man Robot Masters

To celebrate the release of Mega Man 10 on all console platforms, I'm taking this time to list my favorite robot masters whether they have an intriguing design, fun personality, or entertaining weapon in battle. Join me, will you? As I count down my personal favorite robot masters from all ten original Mega Man games!

10) Commando Man (Mega Man 10)

The first Robot Master on our list comes from Mega Man 10, a game we haven't seen the last from on our countdown. Commando Man leaps into the air, crashing to the ground, dazing anyone foolish enough to not be in the air when he does. His Commando Bomb is powerful, but it uses up a ton of weapon energy to use. His weakness? Nitro Man's Wheel Cutter. Something tells me this won't be the last we hear from Nitro Man on this list! Something I didn't know, Commando Man was one of Search Man's beta names!

9) Metal Man (Mega Man 2)

Metal Man is not only incredible because of his design, but his weapon, the Metal Blade, is one of the most useful weapons in the entire Mega Man series! It can shoot in one of eight directions, it uses little weapon energy, and it can take out a laundry list of enemies quite easily. Taken out easily with the mega buster, Quick Man's weapon, the Quick Boomerang, can also take Metal Man out within seconds.

8) Sword Man (Mega Man 8)

From Mega Man 8, Dr. Wily stole the sword Sword Man possesses from a museum. He can split his legs from his torso and attack with two body parts at once. His main mode of attack is the Flame Sword. It's no big guess then why his weakness is none other than the Water Balloon, given to Mega by Aqua Man. An ancient-looking robot master, Sword Man just oozes with ancient style, and it's why he is one of my favorite robot masters.

7) Nitro Man (Mega Man 10)

Another robot master that can turn into a vehicle, this time a motorbike, Nitro Man races onto the scene in the newly-released Mega Man 10. His weapon is the Metal Man blade-like Wheel Cutters that can not only give Mega the ability to carve into foes and baddies with ease, but it is also useful for riding straight up walls. A former daredevil stunt man, the Roboenza virus caused him to go insane. Only Chill Man's Chill Spike is good enough to be his weakness.

6) Turbo Man (Mega Man 7)

The other robot master on this list that can turn into a vehicle, Turbo Man is one cool-looking dude sporting shades and transforming into a race car. He's so fast that he is a rival to another robot master, Quick Man, as told in Mega Man Battle & Chase. Unable to stand loud noise, Shade Man's Noise Crush is his weakness while Turbo Man's move, the Scorch Wheel is a powerful burner. Turbo Man is the only 16-bit robot master on our list, so big congratulations to him for making this fast-paced list!

5) Yamato Man (Mega Man 6)

Full of feudal flair and modeled after an ancient Samurai, Yamato Man dons a cool spear that he uses to skewer anyone that stands in his way. From Mega Man 6, Yamato Man calls his home inside a giant feudal fortress full of tricks and traps. The Silver Tomahawk, however, can easily take him down earning Mega Man the Yamato Spear weapon. The word "yamato" literally means "ancient Japan". Pretty cool, huh?

4) Skull Man (Mega Man 4)

Who can't resist a robot master modeled after a human skull? Creepy to say the list, and one hell of a goaltender in Mega Man Soccer, Skull Man makes a cameo appearance in the Robot Museum of Mega Man 7 in 16-bit form. His Skull Barrier nullifies damage while sending ghostly apparitions after Mega Man and other enemies. Luckily, he has a weakness-- Dust Man's Dust Crusher!

3) Pharaoh Man (Mega Man 4)

Also appearing as a cameo in Mega Man 7's Robot Museum midpoint stage, Pharaoh Man can sometimes be with or without his purple cape depending on his mood. He's just an awesome, ominous figure whose move the Pharaoh Shot sends out a ball of solar energy to attack opponents. He can be handily defeated though with the Flash Stopper as he'll be helpless to Mega Man's mega buster shots as he's frozen solid.

2) Elec Man (Mega Man)

Short for and pronounced the same as electric, Elec Man is one of the only stages in the original Mega Man that's completely vertical. He fears Cut Man's Rolling Cutter as it can kill him in just a few hits. Thankfully, he isn't helpless. His Thunder Beam can destroy anyone in seconds with its electrifying power. I picked this up from the Mega Man Wiki, that this bot is actually Keiji Inafune's favorite robot master from the original game. Now we can see why!

1) Tengu Man (Mega Man 8)

Just a cool-designed robot all around, Tengu Man is the not-so soft-spoken yet ever cocky at the same time robot master with lines such as "Kid, you're almost not worth the effort" and "Are you worthy of my challenge?" He comes from an underrated Mega Man game, Mega Man 8, and his weakness is the Ice Wave, Frost Man's weapon while his own is Tornado Hold. He was so popular that he returned for a rematch in Mega Man & Bass (SNES, GBA) where he had a new level, new attacks, and a new weakness.

There you have it. My list of my personal favorite Mega Man robot masters! If I could count Mega Man & Bass, I would definitely have to throw in Burner Man onto the list somewhere. What about you? You may not agree with my order or picks, so what are your favorite robot masters? Let everyone know in the comments section!