Friday, May 14, 2010

Top Five Super Mario Galaxies

The worlds of Super Mario Galaxy are funnily enough known as galaxies. There's more than fifteen individual galaxies in the game to explore and conquer. Which ones made my top five list? You don't have to wait long to see!

5) Freezeflame Galaxy

The Freezeflame Galaxy is similar to Banjo-Tooie's Hailfire Peaks. One side is a fiery volcano, lava-filled area while the other is an arctic paradise where Mario can skate on ice as well as Scott Hamilton. I'm partial to the ice side as that one is much more open to explore. It's also where one of the more difficult purple coin challenges takes place. You have to scour the mountain up to its summit to find all of the purple coins. Meanwhile, the fire side has Fire Mario who can temporarily chuck fireballs at enemies and crates alike.

4) Toy Time Galaxy

A galaxy filled with bots and toys, but be forewarned that it won't be all fun and games for Mario. Spring Mario gets introduced here, and he can leap way high into the air over pits, obstacles, and walls. My favorite part of this galaxy is taking down a giant Mecha Bowser toy by scaling his body, screwing off its arms, and then ground pounding his head to defeat him. Another fun challenge is Luigi's Purple Coins where you have to collect 100 coins while the platforms you walk on constantly disappear.

3) Melty Molten Galaxy

Melty Molten is one of the final galaxies Mario visits, and it's a definite challenge. Podoboos, flowing lava, burning spheres of fire, and a mountain that sinks into the lava are but some of the obstacles Mario will have to watch out for. My favorite part of this galaxy is entering a warp star, the camera facing back at Mario while the volcano behind him erupts (seen below). Very cool. The daredevil run where you have to collect a star without taking damage was one of the more difficult stars for me to obtain, but once I did, I was content.

2) Gusty Garden Galaxy

Gusty Garden is built on wind. Not only that, but it's a beautiful, lush, green galaxy full of sights to behold and moles to mash. Riding on the wind isn't just cool, it's essential to reach out-of-the-way planetoids. Ground pounding apples in the depths of space will make a worm charge out of them, creating a path to a new platform to scamper about on. Just watch out for the area's boss, a mean mole who will claw anyone who gets in his way!

1) Bowser's Galaxy Reactor

Bowser's Galaxy Reactor is the culmination of everything you've seen throughout Mario's journey through space. There's deadly sand from Dusty Dune, frozen tiles from Freezeflame, scorching fire from Melty Molten, and one of the coolest finales to a level ever. Words don't do it justice, so check out the accompanying video to see what I'm talking about.

Direct Link Here

Those are my personal favorite galaxies. What about you? Send me your thoughts and comments in our comments section!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

April 2010 NPD Results

What a sucky month for the game industry. Don't believe me? Check out the sales of hardware as well as software!

Data care of NPD Group
Reporting Period: 4/04/2010 through 5/01/2010

PlayStation 3 180.8K
PSP 65.5K
Xbox 360 185.4K
Wii 277.2K
Nintendo DS 440.8K

5. GOD OF WAR III* PS3 SONY Mar-10 180.3K


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

I'm tearing up, it's so abysmal. Wii leads the carnival of tears with under 300,000 consoles sold. On the other end of the spectrum, the PSP is pretty much dead in the water. Now is the time to unveil a successor, Sony. Like anyone from Sony reads SPC, but you know what I mean. Software-wise, the biggest surprise is not seeing Monster Hunter Tri in the top ten. I hate to say I was right, but this does support my statement that third parties squandered the now absent hardcore Wii userbase. Splinter Cell: Conviction takes the top prize with over 450,000 total sales with both Pokemon titles following closely behind. Meanwhile, SPC's Game of the Year for 2009, New Super Mario Bros. Wii, continues to tear up the charts (even in Japan, too). Throw in God of War III and Battlefield: Bad Company 2 with the usual suspects, and you have your April 2010 NPD. Hopefully, next month jumpstarts things with several anticipated titles coming out with Super Mario Galaxy 2 headlining.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

RE: New Super Mario Bros. Wii (Wii)

Super Mario Galaxy 2 is just over a week away! Time for RE: to come to the RE:scue! On today's installment of RE:, we'll be taking a look at the portly plumber's most recent console outing, New Super Mario Bros. Wii. Does it still shape up as well as I remember?

Back before the game was released, there hadn't been a 2-D console Mario game in about thirteen years. That's a long wait for sure! But be assured, that-that wait was definitely worth it. 2-D Mario fans got a taste of old school meets new school with New Super Mario Bros. on the DS, but a console entry is what fans have been clamoring for over a decade. Now that it's here, how is it? Well, judging by SPC's Game of the Year award for 2009, it shaped up pretty well. Do I regret giving the game the highest honor I can give? Not on your ninety-nine lives, buddy!

Mario games aren't known for their incredibly deep or profound stories, and that tradition continues with New Super Mario Bros. Wii. Mario, Luigi, and a pair of special Toads are invited over to Princess Peach Toadstool's castle for none other than cake. However, the cake holds a sinister surprise as the long-missing Koopalings alongside Bowser Jr. leap out of the cake, grab Princess Peach, and hightail it to parts unknown. Mario and company quickly follow pursuit while a Toad inserts a bunch of items into a cannon, blasting them all over the Mushroom Kingdom.

There are eight main worlds in New Super Mario Bros. Wii. Each world houses a tower and castle. The tower is a vertical level concluding with a Koopaling battle whereas the castles are horizontal and end with a variant of the tower's Koopaling confrontation. Say, the floor moves up and down, the battle intermittently takes place underwater, or the battle takes place on three small platforms with a bottomless pit below. Each world has a different theme from grasslands to deserts to tropical islands to Bowser's badlands. Throw in special levels like ghost houses, and you have one varied game. The map for each world plays similarly to Super Mario World and Super Mario Bros. 3 with players moving along paths to each level. Some levels house secret exits opening doors to new levels, shortcuts, and warp cannons to new worlds.

The levels themselves constantly throw in new challenges to overcome and secrets to uncover. One level has you bouncing off the backs of giant Wigglers or else meet a deathly fate while another has Mario and the gang riding floating turtle shells over a bottomless pit. The smallest of mistakes spell doom for Mario, Luigi, and the two Toads. In each level there are three expertly-hidden or out-of-reach star coins. These are tough to collect as well as finish the level with, and collecting all of them opens up World 9, a collection of supremely challenging levels that will put your gaming prowess to the ultimate test. That's notwithstanding the already difficult game New Super Mario Bros. Wii has in store for players.

Additionally, New Super Mario Bros. Wii introduces new power-ups, too. My favorite is the propeller suit which when the Wii remote is shaken, causes your character to fly up into the air before slowly hovering back down to the ground. There's also the impressive penguin suit which allows Mario and company to shoot iceballs (similar to another power-up, the ice flower) as well as slide on their bellies on frozen ground. Meanwhile, returning favorites such as the severely underused Mini Mario power-up and fire flower round out the collection of power-ups.

My favorite component of New Super Mario Bros. Wii is that of the multiplayer variety, particularly with two players helping each other out. Four players is absolute hilarious chaos with players leaping off one another's heads, causing each other to lose lives, and getting in each other's way on purpose. Of course, it can work well with a competent team of players as not only were the levels designed with single-player in mind, but they were also crafted with multiplayer in mind, too. Playing with two talented players is really something special. It makes reaching out of the way star coins all the more easier, it gives both players a safety net in knowing that if they die, the other player can still save them from their bubble prison, and it's just an interesting take on the 2-D Mario formula. I remember shouting "bubble up" in order for my brother not to lose a life when missing a particularly difficult jump. Bubbling up is done to rescue yourself from a hazard or loss of life for most players, but it's real use was to allow beginner players to play along without getting in the way. If all players bubble up, then it's back to the beginning of the level or at the level's checkpoint.

The presentation of New Super Mario Bros. Wii is basic at worst, impressive at best. Sure, it would have been nice to see Super Mario Galaxy-quality visuals and sound, but what we have here is pleasant to look at all the same. It has its own unique style which can be appreciated by most gamers. The soundtrack itself is quite good with several memorable melodies and toe-tapping tunes. It may not be everyone's cup of Mushroom tea, but it's good enough for me.

New Super Mario Bros. Wii may just beat out Super Mario World as my favorite 2-D Mario-- as blasphemous as that might sound. The longevity is there, the multiplayer is boss, and the nods to classic Mario titles are present and accounted for. Playing with friends and family is some of the best times I've had with a Mario game. While not better than Super Mario Galaxy, New Super Mario Bros. Wii stands as SuperPhillip Central's 2009 Game of the Year, beating out God of War Collection, Uncharted 2, and The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks.

What games would you like to see given the RE: treatment? Let me know in the SuperPhillip Central comments section.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Tetris DS (DS) Review

Last week we looked at a puzzle game for the DS focusing around blocks. Today we're doing the same, but only with a different title. That game is Tetris DS, a game I've long played and enjoyed. Sadly, it's out-of-print as of now and probably forever, so hopefully you have a copy to call your own!

Tetris With A Nintendo Twist

Since the original Tetris came out dozens of years ago, countless spin-offs and re-imaginings have since been released with varying degrees of success. With all the new bells and whistles of technology, the basic Tetris formula remains the same. Now it's once again Nintendo's turn to add their magical touch to Tetris with Tetris DS for the Nintendo DS. Now out of production due to licensing reasons, this game is hard to find. Is it worth tracking down?

There are six main modes in Tetris DS, and each of them has their own video game they are themed on. The standard Tetris mode is your most simple. Differently shaped blocks fall down from the top of the screen one at a time, and the goal is to create a line of shapes in a given row. Clear a row, and your score increases. Clear two or more lines, and you score even more points. Allow the set of blocks to reach the top of the screen, and it's game over. The Nintendo twist with this mode is that as you clear lines, the top screen scene progresses. In this case it's a level of the original Super Mario Bros. This mode can be played in marathon where you play until you finally admit defeat, line clear, and versus an AI opponent for a good old fashioned Tetris throwdown.

Push is a unique take on the Tetris formula. It uses a Donkey Kong theme as its background. Opponents try to push each other's blocks into their opponent's area by clearing two or more lines. So while your blocks are falling downward, your opponent's blocks are falling upward. Hence how you're pushing one another by clearing lines. Once the bundle of blocks has infiltrated the danger line of a given player, the push battle is over and a victor is crowned.

The touch screen intensive mode in Tetris DS is touch mode. There's two types of games involved. One is where you have a tower of blocks, and you must clear rows to lower balloons to the ground floor to achieve victory. The other has you solving puzzles by following directions located on the top screen of the DS. The modes get more complex and difficult when you're not allowed to rotate the Tetrimino blocks. By just sliding the blocks with your stylus, the blocks will move in that direction. Rotating blocks is performed by tapping on one side of the block and then touching the opposite. For example, if you wanted to rotate a block to the left, you'd tap the right side first followed by the left side. This mode is very inventive, and it's one that previous games of Tetris wouldn't be able to do.

Puzzle mode puts your mind through the metaphorical ringer, solving perplexing puzzles with only a limited number of Tetriminos to choose from. You have a series of blocks to clear in a limited amount of moves. You choose one of three blocks to place as well as the orientation. The game automatically places the Tetrimino into position. Clear all of the blocks after all of the turns are completed, and you win. There's nearly one-hundred different puzzles to solve, so you won't be growing tired of this mode any time soon! Puzzle mode borrows from Yoshi's Cookie.

Mission mode features the 8-bit world and characters of the Legend of Zelda franchise. The goal is to complete objectives as quickly as possible before your life bar (a collection of hearts) depletes. Such missions could be clearing three lines at once, clearing a line with an L block, or something else that's additionally challenging. Clearing missions destroys some of the blocks on the current game board giving you some much needed breathing room as if the Tetriminos fill the screen, it's also game over.

The final and most intriguing of the modes in Tetris DS is catch mode. You control a core and your goal is to catch falling Tetriminos. Unlike other modes, you're controlling the core and not where the Tetriminos fall. Your objective is to clear groups of 4x4 blocks by moving and rotating the core. The game ends when your bundle of blocks touches the top or bottom of the screen. Alternately, you lose if your energy runs out by being hit by enemy Metroids.

Not only is the single-player game deep and filled with fun and content, but so is the included multiplayer. Up to ten players can battle it out either locally or via Wi-Fi connection for some heated bouts of Tetris. In multiplayer, a question block will occasionally appear. Clear the line where this block is located, and you'll unleash an item onto the field. Some include speeding up the duration of falling Tetriminos, the inability to rotate blocks, two rows of blocks will be automatically cleared, among others. Multiplayer is just the icing on this colorful and blockbusting cake. It's mad fun to play in gigantic Tetris battles with friends or total strangers.

As you would naturally expect from a Nintendo-themed Tetris game, Nintendo cameos and references abound in the various games and modes. Everything has a slick and colorful 8-bit presentation visually while the remixed tunes from Nintendo games past sound absolutely delightful to the ears. It's one of the few Tetris games where you'll feel nostalgic playing it.

All-in-all, Tetris DS is one of the most complete, fantastic, and inventive Tetris games ever. It has the charm, it has the same tried-and-true Tetris gameplay, and it oozes with Nintendo style. Even if you aren't a die-hard fan of the big N, the intuitive controls, superb design, and original game modes will keep you coming back for more. If you can somehow track down a legit copy, do not hesitate to pick up Tetris DS. It's one heck of a block party!

[SuperPhillip Says: 9.0/10]

Monday, May 10, 2010

Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii) North American Commercial

Only a game as magical and as epic as Super Mario Galaxy 2 could have just as magical and epic a commercial. Words do this no justice. Just check it out, and share your thoughts below.

SuperPhillip's Favorite VGMs - Endless Golf, LocoRoco, and Pokemon Edition

Can you believe we're starting another brand-new week here at SuperPhillip Central? I know! Neither can I! This week, we have in store for you Endless Ocean: Blue World, Mario Golf, and Pokemon Snap to name a few. If you'd like to look and listen to past editions of the VGMs, just type SuperPhillip's Favorite VGMs in the search bar. That's located at the top left corner of each page.

v551. Endless Ocean: Blue World - The Last Rose of Summer

This poignant Celtic woman theme comes from Endless Ocean: Blue World. I missed out on the original Endless Ocean, and now the game is worth sixty bucks sealed. I immediately salvaged a copy of the sequel, and it's quite an enjoyable experience. There's lots to do, lots to see, and lots to accomplish. It will take upwards of one-hundred hours!

v552. LocoRoco 2 - dadhi dado da

The lovable LocoRoco have leaped their way back onto my favorite VGMs list. This song is awkwardly titled dadhi dado da which means anything you want it to. Yes, even expletives if you so desire. The song really kicks in halfway when the LocoRoco start singing along in chorus to the theme. It fills my heart with love.

v553. Mario Golf - Mini Golf

Mini golf in Mario Golf was an intriguing experience. Each hole was a letter of the American alphabet with twists here and there such as water hazards and the like. Next to Hot Shots Golf Fore, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10, and We Love Golf, Mario Golf remains one of my favorite golf games of all time. Quite a hallmark, don't you think?

v554. Hot Shots Golf 3 - Opening Theme

Let's go back to the fairway, shall we? This time, however, we're swinging it to Hot Shots Golf 3 for the PlayStation 2. A great game filled with wacky golfers, witty lines, and well-designed golf courses. While not my favorite in the series, that goes to Fore, Hot Shots Golf 3 did bring with it some charm and good times. This is the opening theme of the game.

v555. Pokemon Snap - Rainbow Cloud

This is the final of seven courses in Pokemon Snap. The objective? Easy enough, right? Take a perfect photo of the ever-elusive Mew. Pokemon Snap was an awesome game allowing players to take their game cartridge to selected Blockbuster locations and print off stickers of their photos. I remember taking my copy down in middle school, and doing just that! Thanks, Blockbuster!

That is all she wrote for this week's edition of SuperPhillip's Favorite VGMs. I hope you'll look forward to next week when we have MadWorld, Punch-Out!, and Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

RE: Mario Kart Wii (Wii)

Welcome to an all-new addition to SuperPhillip Central's extensive list of segments. What is RE:? RE: is a look back at a recently reviewed title to see if there's anything I missed, anything I liked that I overlooked, or anything that annoys me after extended play of the game. This is not a re-review of the game. This is purely a look back at a game of my choosing and re-discussing the fine points of it.

I pondered what our first RE: segment should be, but with Super Mario Galaxy 2 coming out in exactly two weeks, I felt it was a no-brainer. For the next two Sundays we'll be looking at 3D Mario titles. The first of which today will be the Wii's ultra-popular Mario Kart Wii. The game originally received an 8.5 out of 10. Will I stand by my score?

Mario Kart Wii has become a multi-million seller in just a couple years. New families and gamers are constantly being introduced into this intense arcade racer. However, it's not without its quirks. Some call it the worst Mario Kart ever while some call it the best. Is my opinion that polarized?

There are myriad modes in Mario Kart Wii including the original Grand Prix mode which is four tracks played in succession with the player with the most points at the end being crowned the winner. There's four difficulties and four cups in total making for some hefty racing. The latter difficulties are prone to screwing the player constantly with a barrage of items from other players. Be wary of this as many times one can rage-quit from such an incident. Being first place the entire race only to be item-raped into seventh place or worse is not a fun feeling. Thankfully, the earlier modes are much more fair. Perhaps Nintendo's developers can strike a balance between item use and true difficulty like Sonic and SEGA All-Stars achieved.

As you play through the Grand Prix mode, this cannot be played with two players unfortunately, as well as the Time Trial mode, you unlock new characters and vehicles. There's twenty four characters in all not including being able to play as your Mii. Playing as your Mii is cool because on certain tracks a Mii's face will replace a sign or landmark of the track. It was funny seeing Jay Leno's show-stealing mug on top of a Sphinx in Dry Dry Ruins, or Batman in a dancing pose with Zelda. Miis are everywhere in the game, cheering you along on the sidelines, driving cars at the back stretch of Coconut Mall, and resting on signs plastered in several of the game's races.

Meanwhile, the track selection is awesome. There's thirty-two tracks in total with sixteen being recycled from past Mario Kart games-- four from Double Dash, four from DS, four from Mario Kart 64, two from the original, and two from Super Circuit. The track choices are hit and miss, but for the most part there's a great selection to choose from. My personal favorites from the retro side include Delfino Square, Bowser's Castle from the Nintendo 64, and Mario Circuit from Double Dash.

Then you have sixteen all-new tracks split up into four cups. While the Mushroom Cup is a bit conservative in the track design by the Special Cup, all conservative design is thrown out of the window with some absolutely crazy design. There's, of course, your traditional circuit courses with little in the way of hazards, perhaps a chained Chain Chomp or litter of Goombas to contend with, but other than that the tracks are focused heavily on pure racing. Tracks like Koopa Cape take you from a tropical cliffside track onto a gushing river, jettisoning your karts forward and into an underwater tube where electrical currents will shrink those that come in contact with them.

There's a bunch of new content and tricks (literally) in Mario Kart Wii. Let's start with the items. Double Dash's character specific items are long gone, but they've been replaced with a variety of new and returning items. The Bullet Bill and Blooper ink return, causing players to be pulled towards first place while knocking out anyone foolish enough to get in the way while the Blooper ink covers a good portion of the screen in black ink for a limited period of time. The Bob-omb returns with an exploding radius that can take out multiple targets, the lightning bolt and starman also return, as well as everyone's favorite nemesis, the blue shell. The blue shell goes solely after first place, and unlike Mario Kart 64, it flies over everyone to only take out you and anyone unfortunate enough to be caught in the blast radius.

Items aside, there's also two types of vehicles to play as-- karts and bikes. Karts can get a second boost when they powerslide whereas bikes can only receive one. However, what makes bikes better in skilled hands is their ability to wheelie, giving them a boost a speed on straightaways. On ramps and off cliffs, players can perform tricks. There's no fear of crashing which would add another level of strategy to this game. Instead, you'll either be allowed to perform a trick or not depending on how far away from the ground you are. Pulling off a trick gives you a helpful boost.

For the second time in the series, online play is available, and it's sooooo much better than Nintendo's first Wi-Fi game, Mario Kart DS. There's online leaderboards, twelve player racing (a first for the Mario Kart franchise), online rankings (up to 9,999 points), and so much more. You can even take a friend locally online for some two player online racing. Furthermore, if online isn't your cup of Koopa tea, there's always local multiplayer in versus or battle mode. Versus allows you to play by your own set of rules-- whether or not the AI is easy or hard, rides bikes or karts solely, how many tracks to race on, whether you choose the tracks or if they're randomly selected, whether you play on teams or not. This is without a doubt my most favorite mode of the game. You can race without the item rape, without the cheapness, and without worrying about trying to get three stars in a given cup.

The presentation of Mario Kart Wii looks a dab better than what we've seen with Double Dash, the last console installment of the franchise. With twelve racers, it's amazing how well and consistent the framerate is. Some courses, particularly the ones originally made with 3D in mind, are truly spectacular to gawk at. On the sound side, it's hilarious hearing the racers talk mid-race and after the race ends. "Luigi win!" The soundtrack is quite good, too, with various catchy melodies and memorable tunes.

All-in-all, Mario Kart Wii is a terrific kart racer marred by a few silly design decisions including the unbalanced items and cheap AI on later difficulties. Other than those caveats, the game is a blast to play either locally or online. There's plenty of characters, cups, and cool vehicles to unlock, plenty of tracks to discover shortcuts in, and plenty of hours to spend racing with buddies. Is this the best the Mario Kart series has to offer? Afraid not, but it's certainly not the worst!

What games would you like to see given the RE: treatment? Let me know in the SuperPhillip Central comments section.

Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii) Transmission 10

This tenth transmission is for the birds. View Mario as he competes in a race against several birds through a jungle-looking galaxy. The race promises to be very tense as one false move will end in failure. Super Mario Galaxy 2 reaches for the stars exactly two weeks from today! Can you handle the excitement?