Friday, April 23, 2010

Jak and Daxter: The Lost Frontier (PSP) Review

It's Friday, the end of the workweek! Time for a new review of a more recent game. I'm sure you've had your fill of retro reviews for now. Today we're looking at Jak and Daxter: The Lost Frontier for the PSP. It's also available for the PlayStation 2, but I'm just worrying about the portable version.

Bad Guys Don't Amount to Jak

The PlayStation Portable has been home to a renaissance of Sony properties. There's been Resistance, MotorStorm, LittleBigPlanet, WipEout, Ratchet & Clank, God of War, Hot Shots Golf, and Syphon Filter. One series that took an extended holiday, but is now back in action is that of Jak and Daxter. The tag team are back, and ready for a new journey in Jak and Daxter: The Lost Frontier. Is this lost frontier worth finding?

Jak and Daxter have returned in all-new adventure. The duo are back on a mission to uncover the reason behind a shortage of eco in the world. It leads them to an area of the world called The Brink, where it is foretold that the fabled precursors stopped building pieces of the planet. Along the way they meet up with a ragtag group of pirates who wish to plunder their vessel. Jak and Daxter are forced to land on a nearby island, and thus the story truly begins. What there is of the story is told through brilliantly-voiced cutscenes. Daxter, as always, is the tale's comic relief, never letting the tale grow dark unlike previous games in the series. Rest assured, the game's rated E10+, so younger players can check out this adventure and not forced to have played the PlayStation 2 trilogy.

Say it with me, "Jak is back, baby!"

There are three types of gameplay in The Lost Frontier: Jak and Daxter together, Were-Daxter, and aerial combat via plane. Jak and Daxter together is what fans of the series have grown to know and love. Jak can come across a wide assortment of firearms to take out goons and villainous scum alike. He can scavenge the levels of the game for treasure chests giving him new weapon mods such as increased range and damage as well as obtain new armor for defensive purposes. There's different types of guns for Jak to use such as a machine gun-like weapon, an assault rifle, a grenade launcher, and a shotgun for close-range pursuits. All of the running, jumping, and shooting fans remember are available in this portable chapter of the series.

Jak mows through this army of robots.

Along with something old, something new pops up in The Lost Frontier. Special precursor idols endow new powers and abilities to Jak. These can be cycled through with the directional pad's left and right buttons. There's a multitude of powers Jak can concoct such as shooting out a red ball of pulsating power that can be detonated by shooting at it, causing devastating damage to enemies and even big bad bosses. Jak can use his newly-hone precursor idol abilities to construct green crystal walkways at specific points in the game to cross over dangerous chasms or other obstacles. When Jak glows with yellow eco power, he can perform a rocket jump to reach new heights. There's also an ability that slows down time, causing previously perilously speedy platforms to slow down to a crawl, safe to cross. The other two powers include one that switches positions with a special totem and a shield that allows Jak to roll on top of deadly dark eco for a limited time. Unlike other games, this edition of Jak and Daxter doesn't just introduce a new power and forget about it. You're constantly using your acquired abilities throughout your journey.

When Daxter becomes separated from Jak, he finds himself subjected to dark eco. This turns him into Dark Daxter, or as I like to call him, Were-Daxter. Regardless of the name, Dark Daxter has a different playing style than him and Jak as a team. For one, the ferocious furry can't jump. He relies on heavy damage dealing melee attacks as well as other powers such as spinning into a tornado, taking out all enemies daring enough to stand in his way. Dark Daxter can also throw orbs of dark eco at enemies, too. The Dark Daxter segments happen but a few times throughout the game, and they often are puzzle-focused as well as battle-heavy.

Aye! T'is be t' life fer me, mateys!

The final portion of Jak and Daxter's newest adventure occurs in the sky, flight. As the duo play through the game they acquire new aircraft. Each aircraft has its own strengths and weaknesses, and they can be upgraded and customized as the player sees fit. Flight is a key component of The Lost Frontier. It's how you get around the five overworlds the game possesses, it's how you do battle with the numerous sky pirates, and it's how you unwind after a long, hard day of smashing up baddies. The left shoulder button fires lock-on missiles while the right is your primary firing lasers. The tertiary weaponry is performed by pressing the triangle button. Your planes are very nimble and can turn on a dime. Air combat feels nice and smooth. It's just right.

When you've got an enemy in your sights, you can tap the circle button to bring up a special lock-on function. You can jettison Daxter via tow cable onto a given enemy's ship. Then, by completing a bunch of QTE button presses, Daxter can destroy an enemy's vessel from within. Sometimes you'll even be rewarded a new ship part or healing item from this dangerous excursion.

Destroy an enemy ship from within with Daxter's help.

As enemies are defeated, they leave behind Dark Eco which a local helper can turn into new moves and abilities for Jak such as increased bonuses of moves and even extra health. Scrap metal from obliterating enemies in the sky and from completing bonus activities such as target races, barroom brawls, and bringing back eco to a special statue. Scrap metal is used to upgrade the various vessels Jak pilots, from upgraded armor to more devastating weapons. Finally, the mainstay of the series since the very beginning, precursor orbs, are hidden throughout the game's levels and from participating and winning the aforementioned bonus activities. When the game is completed, a special Hero mode opens up. This more challenging mode carries over all of the weapons and bonuses from the previous game. However, this time around, players can use the precursor orbs to unlock cheats such as invincibility to unlimited ammo. All-in-all, the first playthrough will take anywhere from 8-10 hours.

Relive the adventure all over again with Hero mode.

Jak and Daxter look quite good on a much smaller screen. The game usually runs at a steady clip even with rain, lasers, tons of enemies, and special effects. Though there is some slowdown in especially heated confrontations. The game's models are quite impressive, and there's some awe-inspiring places to visit and explore. As stated, the voice acting is terrific. Meanwhile, the soundtrack is quite good as well with plenty of epic-sounding themes to complement the gameplay.

While perhaps not worth spending forty hard-earned dollars for, Jak and Daxter: The Lost Frontier is a fantastic adventure for players young and old. There's plenty of checkpoints available to make repeated efforts all the less maddening. Yes, the camera can a bit of a bother. And yes, the game is a bit on the short side, but Hero mode offers plenty of longevity as does finding all of the precursor orbs, purchasing every available ship upgrade, and powering up Jak to maximum. High Impact Games has done another excellent job with an original PSP title.

[SuperPhillip Says: 8.5/10]

Super Mario Galaxy (Wii) Transmission 2

Good gravy! Check out this new look at a 2D galaxy. It's very reminiscent of levels in the original Super Mario Galaxy as well as Gravity Man's stage in Mega Man 5. The 2D fun has Mario switching between gravity, swinging on flowers, and sliding down a ramp while collecting coins. It's very similar to Donkey Kong Jungle Beat in some aspects. Shouldn't be a surprise as it's the same developer!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest (SNES) Retro Review

This past Sunday we took a look at the O.G. Donkey Kong Country. Today we're taking time out from SuperPhillip Central to examine the second in the trilogy. I happen to enjoy this one the most, so sit down, relax, and unwind with this brand-new review.


In 1994, Donkey Kong Country was released to much fanfare both critically and commercially selling millions of copies. No less than a year later did Rare create what I consider to be the best of the Donkey Kong Country trilogy, Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest. It is the ultimate 2D experience from the fine folks at Rare, so hop inside a blaster barrel and get ready for the ride of your life!

K. Rool is back, and this time he's pulled rank! He's a Kaptain now-- Kaptain K. Rool to be exact! He's somehow, someway captured Donkey Kong, and has fled to Crocodile Isle. It's up to Diddy Kong and Dixie Kong to save the day, plunder the isle, and void it of all Kremling pests. The story is very small in this game. It's just the means to an end-- an excuse for all this running, rolling, jumping, and twirling the game throws at you.

Cartwheels are the only way to travel.

Donkey Kong Country 2 is made up of 40+ levels and eight areas to explore. The locales you'll be visiting are much more varied in this installment. From windy mines to hot volcanoes to icy waters to sunken depths to shipwrecked vessels, Diddy's Kong Quest has a lot to offer the player. Each area map has multiple levels all concluding with a boss encounter. These are as simple as dodging the boss' attack patterns, tossing a barrel, egg, or shooting a nut at the boss' weak point, and rinse and repeat until it is defeated. The boss battles have a lot more variation to them than the original DKC, and it is certainly welcomed. Also on each area map are helpful Kongs to assist you along the way. Banana coins are newly introduced in Diddy's Kong Quest, and they're the currency of the game. They're spent on tips at Cranky's Monkey Museum, spent to give the ability to save at Wrinkly's Kong Kollege, and used to be a contestant on Swanky Kong's hit game show where answering questions correctly could earn you extra lives.

What are they scared of more--
the boss or the club he's carrying?

The level themselves constantly throw different objectives and obstacles at you. One you're racing up a tower while a pool of acid slowly rises underneath, another you're hopping off the heads of crocodiles where one false step could mean certain (fiery) doom. Each level is cleverly constructed and the difficulty level rises gradually instead of having spikes like in the previous installment.

Enguarde the swordfish returns from the first game.

The same general rules of Donkey Kong Country are in effect in Diddy's Kong Quest. You have two Kongs to work with, this time Diddy Kong stars alongside Dixie Kong, his girlfriend. Apparently they share the last name and are related. What is this-- the South? Anyway, Diddy Kong is fast and nimble while Dixie Kong is a little slower lugging around all that hair. Conveniently, her hair gives her the ability to perform a hair spin, giving her time to hover down to the ground and across long chasms. Dixie is invaluable in later levels or with levels with plenty of pits and gaps to cross. The two Kongs can now work together. One Kong can pick up the other and toss him or her at enemies or at a high, out-of-reach ledge. When one Kong takes damage, the other Kong enters the fray. If that Kong gets damaged, the player has to start from the beginning of the stage or at a halfway continue barrel located in the middle of a given level. By hitting a DK barrel, a missing Kong returns to battle, ready to go. These barrels are strewn about the various levels waiting for your Kongs to be rescued.

Animal buddies from the first game return. This time there's three that come back, a larger Squawks, Enguarde, and Rambi, and two new animal friends in Rattly the rattlesnake and Squitter the spider. Rattly can leap high in the air, bounce off the backs of bee baddies, and reach high up goodies that are out of reach for the Kongs on their own. Meanwhile, Squitter can shoot web shots out that can defeat enemies as well as ones that are able to be walked on. Shoot out several in quick succession, and you can reach higher areas otherwise inaccessible to the Kongs. This time around, there's special barrels that actually transform the Kongs into specific animals. Special signposts show up in levels to revert the Kongs back into their simian shapes.

Sometimes you'll be transformed into
an animal instead of just riding it.

In the Donkey Kong Country series, the main source of optional content comes from the various hidden bonus areas included in the game's levels. In the original Donkey Kong Country, all you had to do was reach the bonus area. In Diddy's Kong Quest, not only do you have to discover the location of a bonus area, of which there are 1-3 in each level, you have to complete a task inside the room such as finding a kremkoin token, collecting all the stars, and defeating all enemies. All of these tasks are timed with the reward of completing before time runs out being a kremkoin. Kremkoins are used at Klubba's Kiosk to reach the Lost World, a secret world where there's much more difficult levels to endure until one final showdown with Kaptain K. Rool himself. Additionally, there's secret hero coins shaped liked a circle and possessing the letters D and K inside them. They are new to the series. There's one per level, and when they're collected in a given level, stamp will appear next to the level's name on the overworld map.

Hero coins like this appear
once in every non-boss level.

Donkey Kong Country 2 is a good-looking game. The pre-rendered character models may come across as dated, but everything else is top-shelf quality. The backgrounds are busy (in a good way) with plenty to see and drool at. Everything runs rather smoothly, too, with little in the way of slowdown. On the soundtrack side of things, this game definitely has one of the best scores of the 16-bit era. It holds up remarkably well. I love how there's ambient noise like water sloshing or metal chains smacking into one another in addition to the music. It's a perfect fit completely, and it gives a unique sound and a great rhythm without sounding too synth-y.

Overall, Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest may be a mouthful to say, but it's an honest to goodness joy to play. Collecting everything and going for 102% completion will last players anywhere from 3-10 hours depending on skill levels and first time players. The levels are some of the 16-bit era's best as is the magnificent soundtrack (track down the soundtrack, people). The absence of a playable Donkey Kong may be a low blow to some players, but for me, having Dixie Kong as a substitution was quite alright with me. If you're looking for a classic game from the Super Nintendo era, here it is. Go bananas!

[SuperPhillip Says: 9.5/10]

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Mario Golf (N64) Retro Review

Retro reviews are reviews that are for games from last generation and prior. April is chockful of these, and I hope you're enjoying this look back at some notable titles. Today we're checking out Mario Golf for the Nintendo 64. I missed out on the Game Boy Color version which could sync up to the N64 game via the Transfer Pak. You'd unlock two or three new characters for play. Regardless, let's walk down to the first tee and see how Mario Golf fares!

Hit the links with Mario and company

Mario may be a simple plumber, but he's far from a slouch. In between excursions of besting big bad Bowser and rescuing the princess from harm's way, he gets a lot of exercise whether he's racing around the Mushroom Kingdom, playing tennis, or even playing a round or two... or twelve-- of golf. The original Mario Golf hit the Nintendo 64 in the late nineties, and it would become a great franchise in Nintendo's impressive arsenal of sports titles. Get ready to tee off and learn why.

Mario Golf sets itself apart from other goofy golf games of the past with a huge lineup of modes and things to do. As you play through the various modes and play rounds of golf, you earn experience points at the end of every round. These experience points add up and allow you to play on new courses-- six in all. There's a wide amount of modes to earn experience in from tournament, versus computer, match play, ring golf, speed golf, mini golf, and many more.

Many modes await you in Mario Golf!

Tournament play is what you'd expect. You play eighteen holes of golf, and you try to score big to stay on top of the leaderboards. While you play your round, you earn special birdie badges for shooting under par on a given hole. There's 108 birdie badges to collect in all (six courses times eighteen holes). Gathering these badges is the only way to unlock two of the better golfers in Mario Golf, Maple and the ultra-powerful Metal Mario.

The other way of unlocking characters is through facing off against the computer in match play. In match play, the player with the best score on a given hole wins that hole. The player with the most holes won wins. You start off Mario Golf with a paltry selection of golfers to hit the links with. As you beat new golfers, you unlock them to your repertoire of playable characters. The problem with this mode which otherwise makes it hugely rewarding is that there is sharp difficulty spike between playing Yoshi and playing Wario. Against Yoshi you'll be five up easily on him, but against Wario it's much more of a challenge. Other than this which could frustrate younger more inexperienced players, this mode is perfect.

Other modes include ring golf where the goal is to drive your ball through the all the rings on a given hole and stay at par or better. There's thirty-six separate holes in all of ring golf, six for each course. This mode will test the mightiest of golfers as the ring locations can be dastardly to try to hit through much more get par or better. This mode is the only way to unlock Donkey Kong without the use of cheats. Then you have speed golf which pits players against the clock to see how fast they can get through a course, mini golf which is played on a course shaped like the letters of the English alphabet, and traditional skins play.

The courses themselves are designed really well. The early courses have little in the way of rolling hills, complicated greens, and sloped fairways. Latter courses have a multitude of these as well as hazards like lakes, bunkers, and out of bounds locations. You'll pitch balls in the Toad Highlands, play a round in Koopa Park, chip out of the sands of Shy Guy Desert, go for a tropical escape in Yoshi's Island, play above the clouds in Boo Valley, and play on holes resembling various Mario characters in Mario Star. The courses quickly go from realistic to fantasy which a perfect mix for players.

Yoshi prepares his shot versus the wind.

Mario Golf plays like your traditional goofy golf game. It uses the three-click system. One button press starts the gauge, the second press sets the power of your shot, and the third press sets the impact. Of course, there's a myriad of factors that goes into preparing a shot. There's wind velocity, current slope, lay of the land, the current lie, among others. Golfers can use power shots to get extra distance from their shot. You only have a finite amount of power shots to use, so you'll want to use them wisely.

If it's not already obvious, driving and chipping is only half of the equation when playing golf. There's the whole short game side of the sport to worry about. In Mario Golf, putting is as simple-- simple to learn, not simple to master-- as one would expect from a title featuring Mario. A grid on the green shows where the green is sloping and in what direction, too. The game displays how far away the hole is from the player's location, much like when driving, chipping, and doing anything else for that matter. Now all it takes is for your aim to be true and a good putt for the ball to go inside the cup.

Get an eye-in-the-sky view of
the action to help plan your shot.

Mario Golf is a game that will take most players dozens of hours to complete. There's experience points to earn, courses to perfect, characters to defeat, modes to master, and multi-player matches to be had. Multi-player can be played with stroke play, match play, skins play, and mini golf. Players can humorously cheer and taunt one another's shots pending they're using separate controllers. Overall, it's great fun alone or with friends.

Mario Golf plays without much fuss. There's little in the way slowdown, and the framerate is stable and stays at a good clip. The early 3D models aren't much to look at nowadays, but they're still pretty clean and crisp. They do their job well enough. The soundtrack is masterful by Motoi Sakuraba who is best known for his work on the Tales Of and Star Ocean franchises. The music is very memorable, and I defy you not to hum along. The package still holds up well today which can't be said about a lot of Nintendo 64 titles.

Ultimately, Mario Golf, like its graphical package, still holds up rather well. This goofy golf game is perfect for beginners and veterans to enjoy with its lenient difficulty and perfect controls. While few other games have come along and bested Mario Golf such as Hot Shots Golf Fore, Mario Golf still remains one of the best goofy golf games in its genre without a doubt. The charm is there, the fun is there, the challenge is definitely there. The only question is: are you going to be there?

[SuperPhillip Says: 9.0/10]

Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii) Two Trailers

Two new trailers have surfaced for Super Mario Galaxy 2. These videos show off what appears to be a silhouette of Rosalina, the newest power-up, Cloud Mario, in action, and a host of new locales and galaxies alike. Super Mario Galaxy 2 will be out of this world, and it will hit the Wii May 23 of this year. Enough of me rambling-- check out the newest duo of trailers!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Most Played Wii Games According to the Nintendo Channel - Games 20-11

I know what you were thinking exactly two weeks ago today. You were thinking, "Hey, I'd like to see more games on SP's most played Wii games according to the Nintendo Channel." Well, by gum, I will deliver your wishes of more Nintendo Channel madness to you with the following list of games 20-11 according to that blasted Wii channel. Perhaps my play time amounts will give you an idea on how much longevity there is in each game listed.

20) Bully: Scholarship Edition - 21 Hrs. 30 Min.

High school is always tough unless you're one of the lucky few who mature early-- if you know what I mean. ...Boobs. For Jimmy Hopkins, high school is just another nesting ground to bully, swindle, and cheat his way through. This open-town sandbox game is full of secrets, classes to attend, teachers to trip up, nerds to torment, races to win, and missions to complete. This isn't a short game to 100% for sure. Throw in some excellent Wii controls for the classroom mini-games, and you have a sensational remake of a PlayStation 2 classic.

19) Metroid Prime 3: Corruption - 22 Hrs. 8 Min.

The action-packed conclusion of the Metroid Prime trilogy (not to be confused with the gaming compilation of the same name), Metroid Prime 3: Corruption offers for the first time precision Wii remote pointing to blast baddies into oblivion. The level design is much more segregated this time around separating areas into large chunks for Samus' ship to explore. The single-player campaign took me quite awhile to complete as you can see by the play time amount. For a kick-butt finale to the Metroid Prime saga, check out Corruption.

18) de Blob - 23 Hrs. 1 Min.

Oh, yes. There will be blob! de Blob has you playing as the eponymous hero, helping a terrorized town get its color back in ten levels of colorful chaos! By rolling over paint, de Blob can restore color to buildings all the while getting back color to entire city blocks, rescuing little paintoid creatures, solving simple puzzles, defeating enemies, and completing various missions for time bonuses. Y'know, more time to color the world of de Blob. My only gripe with the game is that many levels take an hour or more to complete with no save points mid-mission. Other than that, this is one game that I'd be happy for it to color my world.

17) Little King's Story - 24 Hrs. 13 Min.

All hail the little king! Little King's Story puts you in the cape, crown, and shoes of a little king who has acquired a small kingdom of his own. In order to expand the kingdom, you must lead an army of soldiers into new lands, pillaging, defeating monsters, and taking out the boss who owns said land. You'll get new land for new houses for new jobs for new soldiers to become new classes. Wow, that's a lot of new stuff! Don't miss out on this soon-to-be Wii classic from the wonderful folks at Marvelous!

16) MySims - 24 Hrs. 31 Min.

If you could get past the nagging load times and framerate issues, MySims was a very rewarding and amusing game. The goal was to get new citizens in your town and make them happy. How do you do this? By building houses and furniture for them made out of essences, of course. Essences are found all around the town through chopping down trees, farming, mining, and much more. There's all kinds of different types to be found and harnessed. I loved the simple creation process. Simple to use, not simple in lacking features. Though I must say I did enjoy the sequel, MySims Kingdom more, even if I played that game less.

15) Blast Works: Build, Trade, Destroy - 26 Hrs. 48 Min.

Blast Works is a severely overlooked Wii game published by Majesco. The game is a shmup in every sense of the word. Now there's the pre-made game where parts of blown up ships snap to your own vessel. Vestiges like enemy turrets could stick to your ship for maximum firepower. The real draw, however, is the ability to create and design your own ships, enemies, bosses, backgrounds, and levels! With enough time and effort, you could truly create some awesome creations. I know I certainly tried!

14) Dead Rising: Chop Till You Drop - 28 Hrs. 5 Min.

If you recall my review, I very much enjoyed the Wii port of Dead Rising, subtitled Chop Till You Drop. And boy, did I ever. I chopped, slashed, diced, pelted, blew up, sawed off, blasted a hole through, and cut up till I dropped! The game was much more streamlined and linear in its approach, but the fun basics were present and accounted for. I must have run through the game three or four times earning new costumes, items, and weapons for hero Frank West to wear. If you ignore most of the critics and listen to your old pal SuperPhillip, you'll be in for an entertaining and wild ride.

13) Excitebots: Trick Racing - 30 Hrs. 18 Min.

Speaking of wild rides, without a doubt my favorite arcade-style racer this generation (at least thus far), Excitebots: Trick Racing is a game all about exciting tricks, exciting tracks, and exciting speed. That's enough excitement for now. What other game can you pull off bar spins, tree runs, grab a super sandwich, crash into other players, and play the tambourine to earn those all-important stars? You see, winning the race is only part of the fun-- the real thrill comes from collecting the most stars to become first place! Meanwhile, you have an online system that works wonderfully, motion controls that are terrific, and single play times for SuperPhillip lasting four hours!

12) New Super Mario Bros. Wii - 31 Hrs. 34 Min.

No matter how many people you play with, New Super Mario Bros. Wii will have you jumping for joy. With nine themed worlds, the thrill of collecting the three star coins in every level, the return of the Koopalings, all-new, well-crafted levels, a modest soundtrack, and cooperative and competitive play, New Super Mario Bros. Wii is great fun. My brother and I worked like clockwork, leaping off one another to reach out-of-the-way star coins, messing with each other in harder levels, and just having a grand time playing this fantastic game together.

11) Mario Kart Wii - 37 Hrs. 23 Min.

To be fair, this game jumped to number eight since the last list two weeks ago, but I'm mentioning this game anyway only as number eleven. It's Mario Kart Wii. My brother and I recently went back to this title, and it's a lot more fun when you're not going it solo. Item-rape is a popular term, I'm told. There's sixteen new tracks and sixteen classic tracks, different themed vehicles including karts and bikes, tricks, some of the greatest Nintendo Wi-Fi play available, and wonderful cooperative gameplay thrown in because that's how Mario Kart Wii rolls.

And that was the week that was. Wait. What? If you have your own Nintendo Channel data to share, post in the comments section. Does anyone even use the comments section?

Dead Rising 2 (PS3, 360) Trailer

A new trailer has emerged from Capcom's Captivate event. The event took place last week in Hawaii, but now the info is no longer under embargo. Check out Chuck, a man with a dark past, a daughter, and thirst for blood-- zombie blood! The trailer even shows a backside glimpse of a recurring character from the previous Dead Rising. Dead Rising 2 rises from its grave in late August of this year.

Marvel VS. Capcom 3 (PS3, 360) Debut Trailer

For a decade fans have been clamoring for a sequel to Marvel VS. Capcom 2, and now they get their wish! Watch this awesome teaser trailer as we see Ryu, Wolverine, Chris Redfield, and the Hulk to name but a handful in what is sure to be a showdown of epic proportions! After Tatsunoko VS. Capcom, I'm ready for another high-octane, fast-accelerated fighter! Stay tuned for more information about Marvel VS. Capcom 3 in the coming months.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Monster Hunter Tri (Wii) Launch Trailer

The day is almost upon us. The largest third party game yet has already sold over one million copies in its native homeland. Now it's time for the West's turn at Monster Hunter Tri for the Nintendo Wii. Watch this captivating launch trailer and see for yourself that the hunt is definitely on!

SuperPhillip's Favorite VGMs - Color My World Edition

I like color in my games. That isn't to say I don't enjoy a good gray romp now and then, but I do love my colorful games. The following VGMs are full of color and great bouncy melodies. Fun stuff! Let's get to it!

V536. Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg - Chant This Charm ~Theme of Giant Egg~

Believe it or not, Chant This Charm ~Theme of Giant Egg~ is the main theme of Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg, and overlooked but not really underrated Gamecube platformer. Controlling that darned egg was quite a nuisance in later levels. Well, you know how I feel about the game after reading my review. You DID read my review, right?

v537. Paper Mario - Angry Bowser

Bowser MAD! This is the main theme of Bowser in the Nintendo 64 RPG classic, Paper Mario. Paper Mario was a game that was tentatively titled Super Mario RPG 2. I know this because that was its name for years as I eagerly waited for the game to come out. When it finally did, I was overjoyed. Paper Mario is a great addition to Mario's repertoire of games.

v538. Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure - The Butler Did It!

The title theme of Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure, this jaunty song is quite nice, don't you think? Henry Hatsworth was an interesting puzzle/platformer hybrid that could be very unforgiving in its difficulty. That said, I very much enjoyed what the game had to offer and look forward to the team's next DS game coming out sometime this year.

v539. Pokemon Stadium - Gym Leader Battle

Of the eight original gym leaders, do you have a personal favorite? Mine would probably be Brock since he was always funny in the anime. Well, that isn't true since they stretched out his "gaga over women" deal about 200 episodes too many. Regardless, this theme is very recognizable to any Pokemon fan.

v540. Boom Blox - Blockland

If you're not familiar with the composer, Mark Mothersbaugh, he also did the music for the Nicktoon, Rugrats, back in the day. Boom Blox was a collaborative effort between bigshot Hollywood director Steven Spielberg and Electronic Arts. The end result is one of the best third party experiences one can have on the Wii. It's mad fun to chuck baseballs, toppling towers, and playing Jenga-inspired games.

Next week we'll be monkeyin' around with some music from games featuring those great gorillas and sensational simians. See you then!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Donkey Kong Country (SNES) Retro Review

It's the start of a new week, and the retro reviews keep rolling on here at SuperPhillip Central. This time we're taking a look at the Super Nintendo classic, Donkey Kong Country. So don your red necktie, grab a banana, and let's get to this totally tubular retro review.

If this is Kong, I don't want to be wrong.

Back in the Super Nintendo era and especially the Nintendo 64 era, Rare and Nintendo were bosom buddies, best friends, and friends for life. Under Nintendo's supervision, Rare developed some of the finest games to ever grace Nintendo's consoles. One of their greatest games hit the Super Nintendo in 1994, and it was titled Donkey Kong Country. With specially-rendered graphics and plenty of secrets to explore, DKC is one of the great platformers of the 16-bit era. But how does it hold up today in 2010?

Donkey Kong hasn't been in action for a decade or so, and he's been resting on his laurels. One day unbeknownst to him, the leader of the kremlings, King K. Rool, has captured all of the big bananas from DK's banana horde and have spread them out among seven worlds in Kong Island. It's up to Donkey Kong and his best buddy Diddy Kong to rescue the bananas, purge the kremling menace from the island, and do it in a timely fashion. There's very little in the way of story to muck things up. Just an introduction and conclusion with a bunch of entertaining gameplay in the middle thrown in for good measure. This is pure platforming here, folks.

There are seven worlds in Donkey Kong Country. Each world is built on a different theme from the opening trademark DK jungle to the wintry and icy Gorilla Glacier to the dark confines of Monkey Mines. There's something for everyone here. Donkey and Diddy Kong reach the forty levels of Donkey Kong Country on a world map similar to something you'd find in Super Mario World. Not only are their the challenging levels to explore, but there's also Kong relatives to visit. There's Candy who will give you opportunity to save your game, Funky who will offer you transport to any past worlds free of charge, and Cranky who will give you helpful hints while hitting you with his cane. Again, free of charge.

Rambi rides again!

The levels themselves run the gamut in difficulty. Some are simple while some will test your 2D platforming mettle. The game does a great job of constantly introducing new challenges to the player, and offering a steady difficulty curve with no spikes to mention. One level you'll be fighting off kremlings and other enemies while the lights flicker on and off, another you'll be putting your timing to the test as you blast yourself from barrel to barrel. There's different themes of levels such as jungle, underwater, vine valley, temple, mine cart, tunnel, cavern, glacier, and so forth. There's a midpoint in each stage, so getting to it is a must if you don't like replaying huge sections of levels all over again.

Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong are two Kongs with different sizes. They both have their advantages and disadvantages. Donkey Kong is strong enough to take down nearly the strongest of kremlings without much of a sweat, but he isn't as agile as Diddy. Diddy Kong is weaker than DK and obviously so, so he can't take out every enemy by bouncing off their heads. Some enemies can only be defeated by rolling into them while others can only be obliterated by leaping on their heads. At any time in a level if both Kongs are still alive, you can tag your current sidelined Kong in to play, and vice versa. If a Kong gets incapacitated by getting hit by an enemy, projectile, or obstacle, the other Kong enters into the fray. If that Kong gets hit while he's all alone, the player loses a life and must start either from the beginning of the stage or the midpoint barrel. A knocked-out Kong can be revived by hitting a DK Barrel placed throughout the many levels of the game. Additionally, this can either be played as a single-player game or two friends can team up or play competitively. One player plays as Donkey and one plays as Diddy for some excellent cooperative or competitive play.

These oil drums will light a fire under
any Kong daring enough to stand on them.

Going from point A to point B in a level is fine and dandy, but there's optional bonus areas to explore. These are hard-to-find areas hidden throughout the game. There's usually 1-3 in each level. These are found by entering specially marked booster barrels, by tossing a barrel into a dubiously unmarked wall, or hidden in an off-camera area. These bonus areas give the player the option of winning extra lives and other rewards by playing in mini-games such as one where you try to leap off the head or heads of an increasingly faster klaptrap or guess which barrel the 1-up is hiding in. Winning said games aren't mandatory to completing the game 101%, but they are fun to play and stock up on lives.

These frigid waters are home to some
nasty creatures called croctopi.

Apart from 1-up balloons shaped like Donkey Kong's head, there's other helpful items to collect. Collecting 100 bananas give DK and Diddy an extra life to work with, finding and spelling out the letters K-O-N-G also gives players an extra life, and gathering three golden animal tokens gives players a chance to play a mini-game for, you guessed it, extra lives. And DK and Diddy will need these extra chances at survival as the later stages get fiendishly difficult.

Donkey and Diddy aren't alone in their quest to tackle the kremling menace. In fact, there's a whole host of animal buddies that are placed in specific levels to help the Kong duo out. In underwater levels, Enguarde the Swordfish is there to help. To get some extra flight time, Expresso the Ostrich is willing to lend a wing, to plow through enemies with ease, Rambi the Rhino's horn is your weapon, and finally, Squawks the Parrot and Winky the Frog are available to help out. If a player gets hit while riding one of these helpful animals, the animal runs away while DK and Diddy's life stays intact, so you essentially get three hits to work with before you die.

Expresso helps to speed through
otherwise difficult levels.

The kremlings are a reptilian bunch known for their brute force and not much else. Of course, there's other enemies besides kremlings to worry about such as thorn-filled bees known as zingers, rolling armadillos that only Donkey Kong can take out in one hit, underwater foes that can only be humbled by Enguarde, and barrel-throwing outcasts of the Kong family, Manky Kongs. At the conclusion of each world you encounter a boss battle to reclaim some of Donkey Kong's lost bananas. These fights are relatively simple affairs. Leap on a boss' head five times, throw a barrel at a giant bee six times, dodge attacks from a giant oil drum several times, etc.

Toss barrels at this thorny boss to beat it down.

Donkey Kong Country used specially-rendered graphics to produce a 3D effect. While it looked great in 1994, it decidedly looks dated nowadays. The same can't be said for the music which is still as phenomenal as it ever was. It's amazing how three composers pushed the SNES to its limits with some sensational sound and music. Of course, the DKC trilogy is known for their graphical and audio prowess, and the first game is no exception to this rule.

Overall, you can finish Donkey Kong Country in less than two hours if you don't opt to go for secrets. However, finding all the secrets without a guide is quite a challenge, and a first time player will take plenty of time to discover everything there is to find. It may not be the best game in the series, but it's still one of more memorable titles in the Super Nintendo's awesome library. It's Donkey Kong Country, and you'd be bananas to pass this one up.

[SuperPhillip Says: 9.25/10]