Friday, May 21, 2010

Monster Hunter Tri (Wii) Review

It's been awhile since I've reviewed something big, y'know? Well, all that changes with this brand-new review of Monster Hunter Tri, the Wii's biggest third party game to date. Here's hoping sales continue to be positive for the title!

The Thrill of the Hunt

The Monster Hunter franchise is very big business over in the land of the rising sun. Over in our neck of the woods, however, the same cannot be said. After failed experiment after failed experiment, the series just hasn't caught on for most Western audiences. That said, Capcom is determined to make it work with a big, blockbuster advertising campaign and placing the series on this generation's most popular console, the Wii. The end result is none other than Monster Hunter 3... er... Monster Hunter Tri. Is this hunt one that you'll want to join in on?

A nameless fisherman's village is in need of a hero. A sea serpent constantly causes terror and peril whenever it reaches the village's shores. No, they don't need a hero. They need a monster hunter to save the day! That's where your character comes in (after setting your appearance, of course). Lagiacrus is one tough customer, so you won't be able to tackle it immediately. Instead, you take on oddjob requests to start off, slowing and gradually making your way up in the monster hunting ranks to finally put an end to the sea serpent once and for all.

Manage eye color, hair style, voice, and more
as you begin your Monster Hunter Tri experience.

A hunter is only as good as his (or her) weapon, and there's a mighty long list of weaponry to choose from. From powerful but slow great swords to long-distance attacking bowguns, there's a weapon for every type of player. And that's a good thing because each weapon plays and handles differently. As stated, the great sword is a powerful beast, but you leave yourself open after each swing. Meanwhile, the relatively weak sword and shield combo can slice and dice foes with ease with plenty of time to dodge attacks. There's no worry about being stuck with one weapon because you can exchange weapons between quests and upgrade them using gathered materials and drops from monsters. There's no experience to gain like a traditional action-RPG. Your armor and weapons do the growing, not the hunter him (or her) self. With repeated use, each weapon loses its luster and durability. By using whetstones to sharpen the blade of a given weapon, your attack strength will be at its maximum.

Starting off, you vanquish some Jaggis.

The road to being the ultimate monster hunter is paved with many obstacles and challenges. Starting off, you're relegated to tackling small monsters, gathering mushrooms and animal horns from the surrounding forests, and making your way up to larger encounters. By the end of the game, you're hunting two colossal monsters in the same quest. Once you complete an urgent quest such as slaying a specific monster to forward the story, you graduate to the next level of increasingly more difficult quests.

Quests themselves vary from objective to objective. Many have sub-missions to complete that are optional. Completing these awards you with more zenny, the currency of most Capcom games. One quest you'll be doing menial tasks such as gathering mushrooms, mining for ore, and taking out a set number of small nuisances while others you'll be hunting a giant monster such as a Barroth!

The Royal Ludroth is one mean hombre.

Each monster encounter is different from the last. That's just how it is with Monster Hunter Tri. The variables constantly change. A wounded monster will limp away to another area of the map, trying to fall asleep to regain its health. Sometimes a completely different monster will enter the fray out of nowhere. Now you have two monsters to contend with! Each monster has its own personality and attack patterns. Learning them is the difference between winning the hunt and fainting for a third time. In Monster Hunter, fainting three times in a mission is automatic failure. Then there's the strict time limits to worry about. Fifty minutes may seem like a lot of time to work with, but when your target is constantly moving from area to area, attacking you, and making life miserable for you, it becomes a problem. Some players may not like having to fight one monster for upwards of forty-five minutes only to lose in the end. That can be frustrating. Regardless, taking down a monster after such an exhausting battle is truly fulfilling, and I think that's where Monster Hunter Tri really shines.

Some quests require the player to capture a given monster instead of simply taking them out of commission. In these cases, you have to weaken the monster enough to make it look noticeably weak (i.e. limping from area to area). Then you have to set a trap be it a pitfall or shock trap, lure the enemy into the trap, and then pelt it with tranquilizers. A successful catch reaps more rewards than simply slaying it, so it's usually better to do things the hard way in this game.

You might want to rethink that strategy.

Likewise, the other side of the Monster Hunter Tri coin (or I guess zenny) is online play. Whereas offline takes place in a fisherman village, the online play occurs in a hustling, bustling city. You choose one of many servers to play on, select a city, and enter a room. Up to four people can share a room. Right away, let's get rid of the problems here. For one, you cannot message people or befriend others if they are not online at the same time as you are. Two, you cannot join quests already in progress, and three, Wii Speak is totally useless so get a functioning USB keyboard. If you can get beyond those caveats, you're in for one of the Wii's best multiplayer experiences to date.

As you complete online quests, you gain experience points. These points add up to total your Hunter Rank or HR. Your Hunter Rank determines what quests you can and cannot go on. So if you're in a party of four, and everyone is HR 20 and you're still HR9, you're out of luck. That said, the online quests heavily mirror the offline story mode's quests. However, there's some even crazier quests online than off, and with four players going after one colossal creature, the fun is at a feverish level. There are some really great times hunting monsters, participating in teamwork, and reaching a common goal. If you lack a keyboard or Wii Speak, you can use the in-game keyboard which works, but it's not very convenient for mid-battle play. There's also several preset phrases that can be displayed such as "let's do this" and "I'll lay the trap" to help out those unable or too lazy to type a message out themselves.

Underwater play is new to the franchise.

Monster Hunter Tri can be played with either the Wii remote and nunchuk combination (my preferred method of monster hunting) or with the Classic Controller. Some players might be put off by the sheer difficulty of the game. Others will lavish in its brutal challenge. A part of this comes from the lack of lock-on which to me, would totally ruin what makes this game great. It requires great skill to block and evade attacks from enemies as well as finding a window of opportunity to attack yourself. This is all the while managing and cycling through the necessary items such as healing potions, stamina-building rations and steaks, and status-effect changers like antidotes and manually moving around the camera. There's a lot to worry about other than the monsters you're currently facing whether it's weapon durability, fatigue, or other monsters in the same area.

Monster Hunter Tri is a gorgeous game with lots going on in the various environments. There are five major maps to hunt on, and each are divided up into areas or rooms. Transporting from area to area causes a brief, two second loading screen to pop up. It's a slight annoyance, but you really do get used to it. On the graphical side of the spectrum, you have vivacious visuals from the character models which change depending on what armor you are equipped with, the jaw-dropping backgrounds, and of course, the impressive monsters themselves. Sound-wise, the soundtrack is very summer blockbuster-esque with tribal drums, loud brass, and percussive strings. It's a well put together soundtrack overall.

He sure as hell isn't here for tickets to see Boston!

Overall, Monster Hunter Tri shines as one of the best presented third party games on Wii, and it's also one of the best online multiplayer games around despite its problems with communicating with others. It's a challenging yet rewarding title full of frustration for most players but the rewards definitely outweigh any irritation one may experience playing this game. You'll get your ass handed to you by a winged Rathian, and come back for more. That's just the addictive nature of the Monster Hunter series. I get it now. I get why this series is so beloved by our friends in the East. Give Monster Hunter Tri a chance, and while it may not be for you, at least you can say you've been there and done that. If you happen to love it like I do, that's just the icing on this incredibly sweet and delicious cake.

[SuperPhillip Says: 9.0/10]

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong's Double Trouble (SNES) Retro Review

My brother and I played through the Donkey Kong Country trilogy, and boy are our arms tired! Did that joke even make sense? Well, what does make sense is that it's time for a retro review. Our game this time is Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong's Double Trouble. Long name, good game.

Double Your Pleasure, Double Your Trouble.

The year was 1996. The Super Nintendo held a long reign of dominance, but it was dying out to the brand-new visual prowess of the Nintendo 64. Released right after the world was blown away by Super Mario 64, Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong's Double Trouble was the final installment in the incredible Donkey Kong Country trilogy. Did Dixie and Kiddy Kong give the trilogy its proper send-off?

With King/Kaptain K. Rool defeated and nowhere in sight, a new leader has risen to take charge of the Kremling army. Its name is Kaos, a robotic menace bent on defeating the Kongs once and for all. Dixie Kong arrives at her usual vacation spot to learn that the Kremlings have taken over. The hairspinning Kong isn't along in her adventure as this time newcomer Kiddy is along for the ride. It's up to the two of them to take down Kaos, drive out the Kremlings, and save the area for Kong-kind. Again, the story is just a small piece to the overall game. It's merely an excuse to run through the various level and stages the game throws at the player.

A wet start to a wild vacation!

Donkey Kong Country 3 has more to do than anything other Donkey Kong Country game before it. Yes, there are more than forty levels to explore and conquer, but there are now secret caverns hidden on the world map. These contain Simon Says-esque puzzles in order to obtain banana birds-- crucial to getting 103% completion in Donkey Kong Country 3. There's also a family of friendly bears who Dixie and Kiddy will initiate trades with either for new items or banana birds. As new items are obtained, Funky Kong can fix Dixie and Kiddy up with new vehicles to reach new, otherwise unreachable areas of the world map.

The 40+ levels in DKC 3 are quite varied. The duo of Kongs will visit mills, traverse the treetops either in or around a gigantic tree, race along the riverside, enter stone cold factories, go bobsledding inside a large tube, scamper up waterfalls, and even swim underwater inside lakes. Each area of the game of which there are eight houses various levels to explore as well Kongs to help you along your way. Wrinkly Kong returns as the means of saving your game while Swanky Kong pits you in heated competition against Cranky Kong to see who can hit the most targets within the time limit. Each area concludes with a boss battle. These are all very diverse compared to previous Donkey Kong Country games. You'll be tossing insects into the mouth of a belching barrel to send him careening over the edge before he has the chance to knock you off your side, chucking snowballs at a very unfriendly snowman, and poking fun at a giant barbed crustacean.

Some Prevacid would help this boss out.

More specifically, the levels are consistently sending new gimmicks your way. One level you'll be racing up a tree while a giant ripsaw is on your trail, another you're dodging the fireballs and bazooka fire of various enemies as you climb ropes, while another you're inside a rocket-propelled barrel that's set to self-destruct unless it gets the fuel it requires. Much like the second game in the series, the difficulty level here is a gradual one. Might I say though that this installment is most definitely the toughest yet!

If you've played a previous Donkey Kong Country game before, you know how it works. You have two Kongs, Dixie, who can hover over large chasms with her ponytail, and Kiddy who acts like a much heavier Donkey Kong. One Kong is quick while the other moves slowly. The two can work in conjunction with one another to throw each other at enemies, reach higher platforms, or break through cracked floors. If a Kong takes damage, the other Kong steps in. If that Kong takes damage, you lose a life. DK barrels, placed throughout the given levels, bring back a missing Kong. Thankfully, there's midway point continue barrels, so there's no need to redo the entire level if you mess up near the end.

DK Coins are obtained in a different way in DKC 3.

The Kongs get by with a little help from their friends, and in this case we're talking about animal buddies. Three animals return from previous games including Squawks, a parrot that carries the Kongs and can shoot out nuts at foes, Enguarde, a swordfish used for underwater levels, and Squitter, a spider that can shoot webs at enemies as well as create platforms out of the webs it spins. New animals include Ellie the Elephant who can carry barrels with her trunk, suck up water with her snout, and shoot them at baddies big and small. Then there's Parry the Parallel Bird who hovers directly above a given Kong. If a Kong jumps, so does Parry. If a Kong falls, so does Parry. The bird stays perfectly parallel with the Kongs. Sometimes, the Kongs will find barrels that turn them into one of these creatures for some accelerated animal antics.

In DKC 3, players can just run through the game if they want, but they'll be missing out on the loads of optional content. Hidden treasures like DK Coins and bonus barrels await persistent explorers. This time around, DK Coins are uncovered by snatching them from a creature named Koin. You can only defeat him by attacking him from behind, usually by tossing a barrel over his head, having it bounce off the wall, and back into his backside. Bonus coins are grabbed by winning bonus barrel games. These games are all timed and require great skill to win. Some include collecting all of the stars in a room, grabbing 15 green bananas, defeating all of the enemies, or just making it to the goal. In addition to the seven normal areas, there's an optional Lost World full of exceedingly difficult levels, but it's the only way to unlock the true ending of the game.

This Lost World finale is one challenging level!

Donkey Kong Country 3 is a much more colorful game than the oftentimes drab DKC 2. The pre-rendered character models still look competent if not a bit dated. The backgrounds have a lot going on in them from water effects to bugs buzzing in the background. The game usually runs at a steady clip with little in the way of slowdown except for particularly busy areas of the game. The soundtrack is without question the weakest the trilogy has to offer. There's plenty of catchy tracks, but overall it's worse than what the original DKC and Diddy's Kong Quest provide.

All-in-all, Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong's Double Trouble is a very worthwhile addition and conclusion to the Donkey Kong Country trilogy. It's full of challenge, great graphics, and plenty of content to play through. Being able to play cooperatively where one player plays as Dixie while the other plays as Kiddy only sweetens the deal. Most players will spend five or more hours trying to complete everything. The lack of the original two Donkey Kong Country stars, DK and Diddy and a less-than-perfect soundtrack are tough pills to swallow, but other than those caveats, if you're looking for a great way to cap off the DKC trilogy, look no further than the Super Nintendo original version of Donkey Kong Country 3.

[SuperPhillip Says: 9.25/10]

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii) Transmission 15

Are you growing tired of all of these Super Mario Galaxy 2-related posts? I hope not, but if so I apologize. It'll all be over this Sunday. Regardless this video shows off a remake of a Super Mario 64 level, Whomp's Fortress. If I read reports correctly, this is just one of the many parts of a Flash Back Galaxy or something to that extent. Enjoy this short clip of this remastered masterpiece.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Demo Round-Up: ModNation Racers and Rocket Knight

Today, two new demos came out for download on the PlayStation Network. The first I played early today, and here are my impressions. It's ModNation Racers on the PS3.

ModNation Racers promises players the ability to create, race, and share their own tracks with the world. With the demo you could create tracks choosing from one of four themes (village, desert, seaside, and jungle). Creating the track is as simple as driving the track builder across the empty field much like you'd be driving in the game. When you complete a circuit, you have the option of having the game automatically fill your track with props, trees, and other obstacles. Those wanting more control of their track-building experience will want to put them in themselves, and it's easy as pie to do so. Currently, you could race on the tracks as a test, but you couldn't share them in the demo... obviously. However, a future update promises that any tracks or mods made in the demo can be transferred over to the finished product. Pretty cool if you ask me. Which you are, or else why would you be reading these impressions?

Racing reminds me of a cross between Crash Team Racing and Diddy Kong Racing. You grab weapons via item pods. These weapons can be powered up by collecting another item pod. Do it a third time, and you have one powerful item to unleash on your opponents! ModNation uses a drift mechanic that earns you juice in your boost gauge. You also earn juice by drafting behind an opponent or side-swiping them. This gauge can either be used to perform a nitro boost for a limited amount of time or draw up a shield, protecting players from projectiles. Here comes some strategy. Do you use the boost to get ahead of the pack, or do you use a shield to dodge rockets and other weaponry?

At this point in time, the framerate is noticeably improved from the beta, but the load times are brutal. The developer, United Front, promises a patch for this problem as it is one heck of an inconvenience. Additionally, rubberband AI runs rampant in this game feeling more like Mario Kart Wii in this regard. I barely could scrounge up second or third place in a given race. Despite these problems, ModNation Racers seems to be a great treat for kart racing fans and an excellent alternative to Sonic and SEGA All-Stars Racing.


Next up is a character that hasn't been seen since the Super Nintendo/SEGA Genesis days, it's Sparkster from Rocket Knight Adventures. This time he's back in glorious HD for $14.99 on XBLA and PSN. It's Rocket Knight!

Rocket Knight is a pure platformer at heart. Instead of jumping on heads, our hero slashes enemies with his sword, shoots out fire from his blade, and uses his jetpack to temporarily boost up to higher, otherwise inaccessible platforms. There were just two levels in the demo, and both played differently. Similarly though, they both took me around six minutes each to complete. The first level was your traditional run, jump, boost, and slash gaming action. In each level there were a bountiful amount of gems to collect. The real fun is trying collect everything there is to find in a given level. This can be rather tricky as some levels are multi-tiered and full of clever hiding places.

The second level was like a shoot-em-up. You scrolled automatically to the right, dodging enemy fire, blasting baddies, and collecting gems and other worthwhile tokens. I found this level quite challenging, and I even lost a life. Thankfully, there's an abundant amount of checkpoints to be found, so dying seldom has you losing too much of your progress. At the conclusion of the demo, I fought a doppelganger nemesis of Sparkster. The battle was pretty routine, but it didn't stop the fight from being fun. A cliffhanger ending concluded the demo.

I really dug the visuals. They're colorful, crisp, and appropriately cartoony. There's nothing in the way of slowdown, so I think Climax did a wonderful job prepping this entertaining demo of the game. Would I shell out fifteen bucks for the game? I don't know. I'm waiting on impressions on how long the game is. If I do happen to purchase it, you can be sure I'll have a review up shortly!

Monday, May 17, 2010

SuperPhillip's Favorite VGMs - Viewtiful World Edition

Another week has hit us like a redheaded stepchild, and with it comes five more great video game tracks. This week we start things off explicitly with some MadWorld, go down for the count with Punch-Out!, get viewtiful with Viewtiful Joe, go into overdrive with Gran Turismo 4, and show our Pokeymans with Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver. Onto the music!

v556. MadWorld - Move

We go from the cute, cuddly Pokemon to murderous mayhem in MadWorld for the Wii. This game was awarded best soundtrack at SuperPhillip Central's Best of 2009 game awards. Take a listen why. It's not every day I listen to hiphop, rap, and heavy metal, but for MadWorld, my ears happily made an exception! This song is Move, and it's performed by Ox.

v557. Punch-Out! - Main Theme

Ding-ding! The round starts and the fighters circle around the ring. Glass Joe opens up a weakness, and Little Mac capitalizes greatly! K.O.! Punch-Out!! was an immensely rewarding, challenging, reflex-based game that was a lot of fun. Too bad I absolutely stunk at it! Here's the main theme from the Wii version.

v558. Viewtiful Joe - Joe & Sylvia (Shadow Space Fort)

Ah... here we have arrived at the ultimate chapter of the first Viewtiful Joe, Joe & Sylvia, modeled after the movie Star Wars. This level takes place in space aboard the big bad's space fortress. Viewtiful Joe remains one of my favorite Gamecube games, and it was so good I double-dipped so I could play as Dante in the PlayStation 2 version. Here's the track Joe & Sylvia (Shadow Space Fort) for your listening amusement.

v559. Gran Turismo 4 - Freedom to Win

Rev up your racer as we're putting the pedal to the metal with Gran Tursimo 4. This extremely catchy, soft rock track is from the official soundtrack performed by THE BAD. There's the good and the ugly, but I was always did prefer THE BAD. Here's hoping Gran Turismo 5 comes out sometime soon!

v560. Pokemon HeartGold/SoulSilver - Violet & Olivine

This jaunty little theme comes from the recently released Pokemon HeartGold and Pokemon SoulSilver. Which version did you pick up? I got SoulSilver-- bucking the trend of always buying the first of the two games. First it was Ruby, then it was FireRed, and then followed by Diamond. Back to my roots this time just like when I originally bought Pokemon Blue. Man, I feel so old!

This week of VGMs comes to an end, but they'll be back, bigger, faster, stronger. We can rebuild them. We can make them... bionic. Until then, have a great week, everybody!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii) North American Commercial #2

Earlier last week I posted the first North American commercial for Super Mario Galaxy 2. Now it turns out there's a second one to ogle over. It executes the planetoid/gravity concept beautifully though it is skewed towards a family angle rather than a gamer which will most likely make many gamers cry manchild tears. Here's the commercial.

Rank Up! - 3D Super Mario

Super Mario Galaxy 2 is but a week away, so let's Rank Up! What is Rank Up? Rank Up is a relatively new feature on SuperPhillip Central where I take a franchise and rank the titles from worst to best. Let it be known that there is no worst title when it comes to 3D Marios. Here are the titles we'll be examining.

Super Mario 64 (N64)
Super Mario Sunshine (GCN)
Super Mario 64 DS (DS)

Super Mario Galaxy (Wii)

In 1996, when Mario went 3D, he revolutionized gaming. Yes, 3D had been done before, but never to the perfection and mastery of Super Mario 64. Mario's next adventure would take him to the tropical shores of Isle Delfino in Super Mario Sunshine, a game that many consider to be the worst of the bunch. Then again, the worst of the bunch in a Mario game is still pretty excellent. Then a remake came out when the DS released. The remake was of Super Mario 64 with added content. Finally and most recently, Mario shot for the stars in the superb Super Mario Galaxy. Now with that out of the way, let's Rank Up!

4) Super Mario 64 DS (DS)

Super Mario 64 DS was the headliner for the Nintendo DS' launch lineup. It was one meaty remake including thirty brand new stars to collect, several new worlds to explore, new bosses, and the addition of three other characters to play as in the form of Luigi, Yoshi, and Wario. This game would be higher on my list if it weren't for the controls. The d-pad takes getting used to when playing on a 3D space, and the touch controls were adequate at best. Throw in some clever touch screen mini-games which would also be included in New Super Mario Bros., and you have a wonderful game to anyone's DS collection.

3) Super Mario Sunshine (GCN)

Mario is on a pleasant vacation to the sunny shores of Isle Delfino. Unfortunately, a little impostor known as Shadow Mario is causing trouble, defacing the island with icky, paint-like goop as one of the Toads say. This puts Mario in the judicial system as the main suspect to the crime. His sentence? To clean up the island by collecting several shine sprites all around the island. Super Mario Sunshine for better or worse was more story-intensive than previous Mario games either 2D or 3D. Mario wasn't alone in his endeavor, however, as he came across a water-shooting nozzle device named FLUDD. Together, they helped to clean up the island, take out the main villain behind the pollution menace, and have a lot of fun doing it. Nearly all of Mario's moves were present and accounted for including the ability to hover for a limited amount of time, the wall jump, and the awesome rocket nozzle. The bonus stages where Mario was stripped from FLUDD were my favorite parts of the game. While the camera was imperfect and the locales weren't as varied as one might like, Super Mario Sunshine remains a fun and entertaining game.

2) Super Mario 64 (N64)

We go from a game that ran with the formula to the one that started the formula to begin with-- Super Mario 64. The game had fifteen unique worlds each with seven stars to collect. Collecting power stars opened up new areas in Peach's Castle, the hub of the game. The story was minimal at best. Bowser kidnaps Princess Peach after she invites Mario over for some cake. Mario arrives to see the castle in chaos, and opts to leap inside the worlds hidden among paintings to gather power stars, take down Bowser, and rescue the Princess for the umpteenth time. I remember first playing this game at a kiosk at a Best Buy. I couldn't get a handle of the controls, so I kept running in circles into the water and out. This play experience convinced me of getting a Nintendo 64 as silly as that sounds. With revolutionary 3D gameplay, awesome moves such as the long jump and wall kick, and impressive for the time visuals, and you have my second favorite 3D Mario.

1) Super Mario Galaxy (Wii)

Here it is-- the most recent and best 3D Mario ever (perhaps until Super Mario Galaxy 2 comes out). Mario and company celebrate the arrival of a comet at the Star Festival. Suddenly, Bowser's airship armada bombs the heck out of the village surrounding Peach's Castle, captures Peach, and sends Mario sailing into space. It's up to Mario to collect enough power stars to engage the mysterious Rosalina's observatory to reach where Bowser is no doubt hatching his next devious plan. The addition of planetoids and a more rigidly linear structure lending well to Super Mario Galaxy. It felt like you were playing a 2D Mario only in 3D with the point being you're going from the start to the goal of the level (the power star). Don't even get me started on the absolutely phenomenal presentation! From the sensational visuals to the supremely fantastic soundtrack (half of which was orchestrated), and you have my top pick for 3D Mario games.

What about you? Is your order of these games different than mine? Let me, and everyone else know, in the comments section!