Friday, March 19, 2010

God of War III (PS3) Launch Trailer

The Gods have forsaken Kratos, and now Kratos wants revenge. He will get a chance at that revenge in God of War III, the conclusion to the epic trilogy that began on the PlayStation 2. Watch the struggle of the ghost of Spartan in the launch trailer below.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Hot Shots Golf Fore! (PS2) Retro Review

Let's continue this PlayStation-themed week with a retro review of Hot Shots Golf Fore! This game may just be my favorite goofy golf game around. Let's find out as we check out this all-new review.

I'm swingin' at it!

Cartoon golf is a genre heated with competition. There's Mario, Pangya, Outlaw Golf, and then there's the veterans of the genre, Hot Shots Golf. The gang is back for another round on the course with a cast of new characters, courses, and options including at one time online play. With enough holes, fun, and laughter all coming from one game, Hot Shots Golf Fore may just sink that ever-elusive albatross.

Hot Shots Golf Fore! is packed with content and options. Firstly, there's twenty-four characters in all to start with including a stereotypical cheerleader, stoner, and precocious young girl, but there's also Jak and Ratchet from their respective Sony game series. You start out with four characters, and you unlock the rest in VS. mode where you compete one-on-one against a character in a nine hole face-off. Win, and you unlock that character for use in any mode of your choosing. There's also a hard version of each character where winning unlocks a special costume for said character. It's not as simple as just playing nine holes against a computer opponent. Sometimes there will be special rules involved such as hitting it in the rough or sand equals a two stroke penalty or the course that the round that will be played on is predetermined. Each character in HSG4 has their own stats, strengths, and weaknesses like being good in rough and being poor in rainy conditions.

Grip it and rip it.

Then there's the Tournament mode where players play 18 holes on a course of their choosing, aiming for the number one spot each time around. Completing a tournament wields big rewards such as course experience points. Earn enough experience points, and you unlock the next rank. Complete the entry requirement for said rank, and you advance to it. These requirement matches usually have you playing against no one but yourself as you try to score above a set score such as +4 or -1. There's numerous ranks to achieve unlocking progressively more difficult courses and tournaments.

Additionally, there's several other modes to challenge yourself with. If your game has got you down, you can always scope out the training mode that allows you to set the conditions of the hole. From wind to weather, there's something for everyone in training to adjust. If the big version of golf is too taxing, you can try the mini-golf mode which has two courses of nine holes. Then there's the short course of eighteen holes-- all par threes. Finally, there was the once lively online mode. Unfortunately, if you want online in your Hot Shots Golf experience, you'll need to upgrade to a PlayStation 3 and a copy of Hot Shots Golf: Out of Bounds as the online here is now defunct. Furthermore, there's even a video recorder to capture your best shots so you can watch them over and over until your eyes turn red.

As you play through the single-player modes of Hot Shots Golf Fore!, you earn points based on your course performance such as earning birdies, eagles, chip-ins, pars, and more. These points can be used in the game's shop where a wide assortment of goodies are available to get your consumerism on. There's new club and ball types from the extra-helpful to keep the ball on a straight path, the straight ball and club to the extra-strength using big-air set of clubs and balls. The store is also where you can purchase new caddies as soon as they become available like the hilarious Scotsman Greg whose useful caddy advice ranges from "hit it in, pudgy" to "the last hole is last". There's also two familiar caddies from both the Jak & Daxter and the Ratchet & Clank series, the wise-cracking Daxter and the ultra-intelligent Clank.

Aloha Beach Resort is but one of the
twelve courses in Hot Shots Golf Fore!

There are twelve courses in all in Hot Shots Golf Fore!, and some of these are returning favorites while most are brand-spanking-new. There's several that lie on the foot of tall mountains such as Mt. Fuji while others take place in England, the sunny shores of Hawaii, and in the feudal zones of China. Each course has great variety, well-designed courses that are fair while simultaneously being tricky, and numerous opportunities to experiment with your characters.

Golf is a fickle sport. Sometimes you'll have the game of your life while the next you'll have your worst performance yet. It's all about learning the intricacies of the game and the game's controls. Hot Shots Golf Fore! uses the traditional three-click system. One button press starts the meter towards the left end of the gauge, the second sets the power of the shot, and the third sets the accuracy of the shot. Holding the d-pad while hitting sets whether or not you're giving the ball backspin, topspin, or drawing or fading the ball to avoid obstacles such as trees. There's many factors to consider when making a shot which can feel overwhelming at times. There's incline, slope, wind velocity, lie of the ball, and weather, for starters. If the wind is blowing far to the right, you'll want to aim more to the left to compensate.

Your long game is just half the equation in golf. There's also your short game to consider. You can hit the ball on the green in one, and it won't matter if you're a lousy putter. On the green, arrows run down it, indicating its slope and slope speed. The later courses are full of tricky hills, problematic putts, and fast slopes. Instead of hitting the gauge thrice, you just need to start the gauge and select the power of your shot based on the slope to the hole. To put it bluntly, both the long game and short game takes practice to master, but once you do it is greatly rewarding. There's no better feeling for a golfer than sinking a forty-foot putt over rough terrain.

Cheerleader Phoebe hopes her aim is true.

Hot Shots Golf Fore! is a graphically competent PlayStation 2 game. It obviously looks dated compared to current-gen games, but it won't hurt the eyes too badly as it still holds up well. There's little in the way of slowdown to worry about, and the courses and characters animate smoothly with little touches here and there such as ants marching around the rim of the cup and tumbleweed blowing across certain courses. The music is very memorable, and it doesn't do much to distract from a player's round. The voice acting is particularly cheesy, but it's perfect for a game like this that doesn't take itself seriously. Overall, Hot Shots Golf Fore! is a presentable package fitting for the PS2.

Ratchet ditches Clank as a backpack for a bag of clubs.

Ultimately, Hot Shots Golf Fore! does a lot better compared to previous entries in the Hot Shots Golf franchise and even most of its competitors. With 24 unique characters, 12 dazzling courses, and a bevy of bountiful options, HSG4 is an extremely capable golf game. It may feel too unforgiving for newcomers, but veterans of the franchise will definitely appreciate this awesome golf game. That patented Hot Shots Golf charm is here, that accessibility for most players is around, and the trademark humor is easy to spot. For a rip-roaring good time on the green, look no further than Hot Shots Golf Fore!

[SuperPhillip Says: 9.25/10]

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Most Overlooked PlayStation 2 Games - Part Two

We all have them-- games that we love but were overlooked/underappreciated by the masses. Well, that's exactly what SPC's Most Overlooked series is all about. It's about those games that deserve a second chance in the spotlight. Once again we have five more games that are deserving of such a chance. It's the Most Overlooked PlayStation 2 Games, Part Two!

Klonoa 2: Lunatea's Veil

Our first game on the list was critically well-received. Unfortunately, that did not translate to great sales. Another case of no advertising equaling essentially no sales. Klonoa 2 is a 2 1/2D platformer where the floppy-eared hero can grab enemies and propel himself off them to reach new heights. There's tons of level variety, and the level design is just terrific. It's a true shame that this game didn't generate more interest, but it seems it might just be the series that isn't interesting to the majority of people because Klonoa for Wii, both Klonoa games for the GBA also failed to ignite the sales charts.

Magic Pengel: The Quest For Color

In the last installment of Most Overlooked PlayStation 2 Games we took a look at this game's spiritual sequel, Graffiti Kingdom. This time around we're checking out at the game that started it all, Magic Pengel: The Quest For Color. The premise revolves around catching and creating your own monsters to duel it out one-on-one in arena-based combat. Sounds very Pokemon-ish, no? That's exactly where the inspiration came from. Making your own monsters is easy and fun, battles are varied and seldom the same, and music is composed by none other than Yasunori Mitsuda of Chrono Trigger/Cross fame.


We go from bright and bouncy to bloody and brooding with Killer7. The Gamecube version seemed to fare much better than the PS2 port, generating more buzz and thus more sales. The game seems to be a love or hate kind of game with its on-rails movement. You can move around, but only along a predetermined path. The game is particularly scary with the evil Heavens Smile being normally invisible to the naked eye. They don't attack long-range most of the time, they come up close and grab you! A whacked out story and some disturbing imagery makes for one strange yet wild ride with Killer7.

Metal Slug Anthology

Released on three consoles: the PlayStation 2, the Nintendo Wii, and the PSP, the PlayStation 2 version received the best scores just by a hair to the PSP version. Regardless, the PS2 version failed to get a lot of sales for such a meaty, prolific collection. Six games for the price of thirty dollars? Yes, please! All the run and gun action that you may or may not have ever witnessed is here for you. There's also an easy mode that gives you unlimited continues to play through the games at your own pace. The game is perfect for newcomers or veterans of the series. It's Metal Slug Anthology.

Viewtiful Joe 2

Henshin-a-go-go, baby! Viewtiful Joe hit both the PlayStation 2 and Nintendo Gamecube in style with seven new chapters, seven new locales, and two heroes for the price of one game in Viewtiful Joe and Sexy Sylvia! All the old moves from the last Viewtiful Joe are here from mach speed, slow, and zoom. The levels are just as spectacularly crafted as they were in the past game, and the bosses were much more challenging. A bonus mode featured several rooms with varying objectives. Clearing all of them would unlock infinite FX powers! For a not-as-good-as-the-original take on the series, check out Viewtiful Joe 2.

Have you any PlayStation 2 games that you think deserve to be on the list? Let me know by posting feedback in the comments section!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days (DS) Review

Time for a new review, gang. This time we're checking out the perplexing Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days. It has a weird title until you find out what it means, but how is the game? Let's check it out with this review.

Kingdom Come?

Continuing its quest to hit every platform known to man, the Kingdom Hearts series is now marching triumphantly onto the Nintendo DS with an interesting and awkwardly-titled, Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days. Is this game a full-fledged hero or just another heartless Nobody?

You play as Roxas, a human-like being known as Nobody. Nobodies lack a vital part of being human-- a heart. Which goes to wonder how Roxas and the other Nobodies have any emotion at all. Regardless, our young hero joins up with Organization XIII, a black-robe donning group wanting to revitalize Kingdom Hearts for the stated purpose of receiving hearts for every member. Could there be some ulterior motive for this plan, however? Kingdom Hearts on the DS shows Roxas yearlong escapades with the Organization, leading up to the events of Kingdom Hearts II. Most of the game is told through text cut-scenes, but occasionally a CG sequence, especially in the beginning and end of the game, are thrown in for good measure. These scenes may just tug at your heartstrings which can't be said for a lot of handheld games, especially DS game, out there.

Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days doesn't have you actually playing all 358 days of Roxas' tenure at Organization XIII. Instead, the game constantly skips and fast-forwards through the days. Each day starts with either a cutscene or a new entry popping up in Roxas' diary. Then you go see Saix, second-in-command in Organization XIII to see the day's available missions. The mandatory ones are indicated by having a keyblade next to them. These must be completed to progress the story while there's a ton of optional missions to earn new gear and items. In total, there's around one-hundred individual missions to complete. Not only that, but these story missions can be completed in the game's mission mode where up to four players can play ad-hoc with the Nintendo DS' wireless connectivity. This is where old friends like Riku, Donald, Goofy, and even the master mouse himself, Mickey, are available to select from.

The missions themselves fall into two categories-- reconnaissance and hunting for heartless. Reconnaissance has you investigating and examining various portions of the game's many worlds. None of these are particularly new to the franchise, and many veterans of past Kingdom Hearts will feel a sense of deja vu re-exploring them. Roxas will be sometimes be joined by a partner in two in order to explore these new worlds ranging from Never Land to Wonderland to Agrabah. The goal of reconnaissance missions is to gather enough clues to land a breakthrough in the investigation. The other type of mission, hunting heartless, is what it sounds. There's a variety of mission types here such as collecting hearts from said heartless (a conundrum all to itself) and eliminating a set target or targets.

Roxas is equipped with all sorts of tools, and as missions are completed he earns new items and gear. In Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days, gathering new abilities and bonuses revolves around a panel system where players equip icons to said panels unlocking new abilities. This is also how levels are gained by equipping level icons to the panel. However, there's only so much room on a given panel, so players must be cautious and strategic in what they place as not to waste any space. Gear panels can be equipped with special icons to boost attack and defense while Roxas' equipment is dependent on what is placed on a given panel such as items and magic. It's an interesting take on the stat-tracking that RPGs are known for, and it works well in this case.

The majority of your time in the worlds of Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days will be spent between exploring, collecting treasure chests and investigating areas, and battling. Combat should be familiar to any Kingdom Hearts veteran, and it's simple enough for newcomers not to be overwhelmed. One button jumps, one button blocks, and one button attacks. Tapping on the attack button with a good rhythm enables combo attacks to be unleashed on enemies. The camera can be mapped to the shoulder buttons or just assigned to the right shoulder button for ease and to open up the left shoulder button for item and spell shortcuts. The X button cycles between attacking, items, and magic as there's no analog stick on the DS obviously. This takes getting used to, but again after perseverance, it becomes second nature.

Locking until enemies is done by double tapping the R button. Unfortunately, many times the game will lock onto the closest enemy in reach instead of the one you actually wish to attack. Furthermore, forget the heartless as the camera can be quite a nuisance itself! It constantly spazzes (my technical term for it) out in heated confrontation leading for some frustrating moments. Thankfully, the combat isn't so complex that it needs a dedicated camera.

Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days is a mightily impressive looking and sounding game. The CG cutscenes are gorgeous to look at really showing that Square-Enix knows how to get the most out of any hardware. Meanwhile, the in-game characters and backgrounds are rather detailed, too. However, there's a lot of jagged edges to be found, ones that could cut through a brick in seconds. That said, it's still very astonishing the level of graphical detail and prowess this game has. On the music side of things, many tracks are remixed versions ripped straight from Kingdom Hearts 2. There's very little in the way of all-new music to be heard which is okay since what we already have is high-quality stuff. Overall, the presentation of Kingdom Hearts for DS is simply sensational.

Overall, Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days is a competent action-RPG that does enough to differentiate itself from its older, bigger brothers. The two modes, story and mission, allow for near limitless replay value with friends, and the story is one that you'll want to stick with up until the very end. There's enough variety to keep players interested, the presentation is terrific, and the action is fast and frenzied. For a game all about heartless, this game has got a lot of heart.

[SuperPhillip Says: 8.75/10]

Monster Hunter Portable 3 (PSP) First Trailer

Announced while most of you slept, SuperPhillip attended the event vicariously through blog posts and forum messages! What was revealed was Monster Hunter Portable 3, a game that is exclusive to the PSP. It's a brand-new title and not a port of the upcoming Wii game, Monster Hunter 3. The game will feature infrastructure mode for online play with people all across the world. No word on voice chat as of yet. May I introduce to you the premiere trailer?

Monday, March 15, 2010

SuperPhillip's Favorite VGMs - 16-Bit and It Hurt Edition

This is another themed week here at the favorite VGMs. This week we're listening to music exclusively from the 16-bit era. We have Mega Man X, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Yoshi, and Buster Bunny to share with you this week, so let's get nostalgic!

v511. Mega Man X - Spark Mandrill's Stage

My first ever issue of Nintendo Power was the silver anniversary issue. It was Jaunary 1994, and Mega Man X was on the cover in all of his glory. I remember studying the maps, pictures, and boss strategies with all my might. The theme I've selected this time around is Spark Mandrill's Stage. Rock out with this electrifying track!

v512. Mega Man X2 - Bubble Crab's Stage

This bubbly theme comes from Bubble Crab's Stage. It would be used again in remixed form in Mega Man X5 for Tidal Makoeen's level. The theme is very mellow. It's something you'd expect to hear on a soft rock station, don't you think? Mega Man X2 remains one of my favorite 16-bit games of all time.

v513. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time - Big Apple, 3 a.m.

The recently released Turtles in Time: Reshelled was a faint reminder of just how great the original TMNT IV truly was. It had awesome cooperative beat-em-up gameplay, fun source material, and of course, superb music.

v514. Yoshi's Island - Bigger Boss Theme

Played at the conclusion of every eighth level in Yoshi's Island, this boss theme relies heavily on the keyboard. Well, as close to an electric keyboard as the synthetic sounds of the Super Nintendo can give a composer! Rock out as you beat down Hookbill the Koopa and Navel Piranha among others.

v515. Tiny Toon Adventures: Buster's Hidden Treasure - Forest

We end our stroll through the world of 16-bit music with Tiny Toon Adventures: Buster's Hidden Treasure. This game was a 2-D platformer with a Super Mario World-style level progression. That is, many levels held secret exits and alternate paths. For a licensed game, it was quite good, and I encourage all who can track down a copy to try the game out.

Another week has gone by, and sooner than you know it, another edition of SuperPhillip's Favorite VGMs will be here. Catch you then.

ModNation Racers (PS3) Boxart and Preorder Bonuses

A release date for the hotly-anticipated ModNation Racers has been announced. Turns out the game will be racing its way to PlayStation 3s on May 25th. Here's the boxart.

Moreover, if you preorder the game from one of three locations, pending on your location you'll get a unique mod and kart with your game. Preorder from Gamestop and you get Kratos. Amazon, Ratchet. Best Buy, Nathan Drake. Hopefully these will be purchasable via DLC for those of us who want them all without going to all three stores! Enjoy these new pics showing off the characters in action!

Once again, SuperPhillip Central will have a review of this game and more when it hits PS3s on May 25th.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Ode to the Strategy Guide - Part I

If you've visited my blog before, you know I have a secret love for strategy guides. Well, that isn't 100% true. I love strategy guides to complement the games I love. No use buying a Gears of War 2 guide for a game I can't stand, right? One could simply go to GameFAQs or another website with walkthroughs to get all they need. Well, no, not me. I love holding something tangible with masterful artwork, maps, and pictures. There's no substitution for a strategy guide that you can feel the pages turn, hear that crackle as they turn, and smell that new book smell. My biggest problem with guides is that they've gone up in price since last gen. Before they used to be $14.99 usually, and now they're five dollars more for the same content. Now I buy from Amazon where they're even less. That's where I got my latest stack of guides from as well as from trades/purchases from members on CheapAssGamer. The Nintendo Power came in the mail, and I have no idea why I included the blasted thing.

I also wanted to take this time to talk about some of my favorite guides in my collection. I don't quite remember the very first guide I ever purchased or was bought for me. It was most likely a Nintendo Power brand one like the first three are. I used to love when Nintendo Power put out a new guide. They were clean, detailed, and witty all at the same time.
The first guide is The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. I love this guide because it's written like a storybook. "As Link delved deeper into cavern he noticed a switch on the northwestern wall." Something like that. It also had gorgeous artwork, colorful maps, and plenty of secrets to spoil.
I lucked out, and I got one of the final copies of this guide straight from Nintendo Power. It's a great read, and it helps players like myself gain all 20 red coins, 5 flowers, and keep 30 stars in each level. The maps are varied and vibrant with plenty of icons to point out notable problem areas. Overall, a great, early guide from Nintendo Power. This was when they still made their books smaller. It wasn't until later in the N64's life that the books grew to this size:
Bigger, bolder, sleeker, sexier... did I just call a player's guide sexy? Dear God... Anyhoo, while other students were studying pre-algebra, I was studying this baby. Looking at the detailed maps, figuring out strategies to sneak past the guards without getting caught, and mastering the Combat Simulator. Perfect Dark remains my favorite FPS to date, and this baby was my Holy Grail. After the Pokemon Battle Revolution guide was published, it was the end of an era. Nintendo stopped manufacturing and writing their own guides. What a crappy send-off, by the way. They gave their duties over to Prima which disturbed me. Their guides were usually shoddily made, and they'd fall apart at the binding just like my Final Fantasy Tactics and Breath of Fire III guides did. The only one that didn't was this one:
Mega Man Legends. It wasn't written too well, and the pages were cluttered with nonessential graphics. Nonetheless, it helped me out through the harder portions of the game. I can't imagine how rare this guide is, but I know the game it covers very much is. Darn myself for not picking up MML 2 when I had the chance. It seemed though that my worries were for naught as Prima came out with two of my favorite guides:
New Super Mario Bros. Wii was full of beautiful and highly detailed maps making locating every star coin a snap. Well, locating them, not actually getting them. That was still difficult to do. As for their Mario Kart Wii guide, I love how it's organized with full-page maps with the proper racing lines to take for all thirty-two tracks. Both guides are put together well and haven't yet fallen apart on me after continued use. Next up is part two of my ode to the strategy guide-- BradyGames and Versus. Stay tuned, gang, and feel free to comment on your thoughts regarding strategy guides and your favorites.