Friday, October 29, 2010

Hot Shots Tennis: Get A Grip (PSP) Review

I'm on a roll now. This game came out during my era of indifference towards video games. It's Hot Shots Tennis: Get A Grip for the PSP, and it's a good one. Check out how in this brand-new review!

Get A Grip on tennis with the Hot Shots crew.

Tennis isn't that popular of a sport in the United States. It ranks under golf but above bowling and lacrosse, so there's something positive to say at the very least. Many video games have tried to bring tennis to life in virtual form from Mario to Top Spin. The Hot Shots crew even took up the sport with the PlayStation 2 entry, Hot Shots Tennis. While the game handled the fundamentals well, you could complete the game in an afternoon, and with no online play you were limited to local play with friends, drunk or sober. Now a new challenger has arisen with Hot Shots Tennis: Get A Grip. Does this PSP exclusive feel like real-life tennis, or does it serve a double fault? Tee-hee. I'm using tennis terms. Ain't I cute?

The main meat and potatoes or main balls and rackets in tennis terms is the Story Mode which pits you on a team of happy-go-lucky players wanting to rid the world of indifferent tennis players, and to revitalize several characters' love of tennis. How is this done? Simply by flying from area to area righting wrongs and taking down opponents in our happy little game of tennis. Each map has a lead character that you're trying to get to join your team. Before you can do that you must prowl each map for smaller-role tennis hot shots and compete against them. If you win, not only are you one step closer to facing off against the area's fledgling tennis champion, bur you also unlock a new piece of wardrobe for your cast of characters.

From training halls to amusement parks,
there's a court for everyone.

Much like the Hot Shots Golf series on PSP, you can outfit your collected characters with a bounty of different costumes, hats, hairpieces, and accessories. Don't like the look of your character? Spice him or her up with a Justin Bieber-like bowl haircut or a ballerina outfit or a baseball jersey or a gorilla costume or a-- you get the idea. There's thousands of different combinations for costumes for your characters. You can even unlock four different spaces to save your favorite designs for a particular character by playing matches as a given player to build his or her loyalty to you. The higher the loyalty, the greater the bonuses that character receives from more costume spaces to faster serves.

Playing Hot Shots Tennis for PSP requires a bit of finesse. You can't just go flapping your racket around all willy-nilly. Instead you should time your shots well to get the ball where you want it to go on the other opposite side of the court. The game helps out with your timing with various signs that appear above your character's head when playing. A musical note means you hit your shot perfectly while a red exclamation point bubble means you missed completely. A bunny head means your shot was too early in effect causing the ball to angle to the left (or to the right if you're left-handed) while a turtle means your shot was too slow causing the ball to angle to the right (again, opposite if you're left-handed). An empty bubble means your shot was hit straight while a cloud indicates you performed a weak backhand shot. Finally, a red cloud shows that your shot was very late and your ball will curve off-target completely. This is when you probably hit it out of bounds, something that's very annoying when you're playing a top-ranked AI player.

Keep an eye on that stamina gauge in longer duration matches.

There's plenty of shots in your character's repertoire to show off when you're playing against a truly powerful opponent. There's the simple volley shot which is performed by smacking the ball without letting it bounce once on your side of the court. There's the rising shot (used with the X button) which means you hit the ball perfectly, and it will fall to the far side of your opponent's court. The smash shot comes into play when your opponent lobs the ball into the air causing a yellow circle to appear somewhere in your court space. Smash the shot while standing on the circle to unleash a powerful blow that speeds the ball to your opponent like lightning, giving him or her little time to prepare. If a player stays in one place he or she can perform a charge shot, a stronger strike than your average shot that sends the ball flying into your opponent's court. As you can see there's plenty of strategy to be had with the various shots. This is what makes Get A Grip so rewarding-- outsmarting the AI or a human opponent with a menagerie of menacing shots. And this is without even talking about the most basic shots, the topspin, slice, lob, and drop shot.

There are more than a dozen different tennis courts to test out-- each with their own court-type such as hard or soft. You'll duke it out in the ghetto underneath an overpass home to a roaring metro train. You'll face off in a tropical resort, an amusement park, a mansion, and even an oriental paradise. Each court booms with personality and charm as do the twelve characters you can unlock. As you defeat the quote/unquote "boss" of a map, he or she will join you on your quest to spread the love of tennis to the world. You can then outfit him as you please with as many accessories and clothes as you see fit. Each character has their own ratings and skill levels. While one character might not do so hot in extended matches as they'll tire out quickly, another may stink at topspin but be a master in drop shots. Again, there's strategy as to who to take into tennis battle which is always a good thing in my book.

Tennis? In MY aquarium!?

One problem that may plague gamers with Hot Shots Tennis: Get A Grip is actually completing the game. Even in Easy Mode the competition ramps up to such a level that players can easily feel frustrated. The AI can recover nearly every shot, come back from huge deficits and win, and generally make you look like a chump. It takes a lot of patience and effort to take down higher ranked opponents, but once you do it feels very great. Boo-yah.

Besides the single-player modes you can play with another PSP owner via the ad-hoc mode. You can play in singles or doubles action at your leisure. There's a nary a hint of lag, and the animation and controls are also lag-free. If you're playing the game alone, however, there's plenty of options to choose from such as match mode where you can set the parameters of your matches at your leisure. You can even unlock special costumes by beating a player on the master difficulty.

The visuals of Get A Grip are pretty good for PSP standards. There's some jaggies to be found from a lack of anti-aliasing, but other than things are on the colorful and charming style. Each character animates well, and special effects in the backgrounds of courts are pleasant to look at especially. The voice work isn't half-bad either, and the soundtrack is quite good, too. Ultimately, Get A Grip doesn't win an award for best presentation, but it's far from being the worst.

Overall, Hot Shots Tennis: Get A Grip may be a challenging game, but finally beating a hard computer opponent feels so good. The timing it takes to hit a perfect shot might frustrate beginning players, but I encourage you to stick with it as you'll most likely grow to love the mechanics of Get A Grip. One of the best tennis games ever, Hot Shots Tennis: Get A Grip serves up an ace in the reviewer's eyes.

[SuperPhillip Says: 8.75/10]

More Monkey Shenanigans With Donkey Kong Country Returns (Wii)!

NintendoWorldReport has just shown off a brand-new trailer featuring Worlds 1-6! Watch as DK mines his mine cart, leaping over chasms and ducking under stalactites on his quest to get his banana horde back from the evil Tiki tribe that stole them in the first place. Are you sick of me talking and want to get to the action? Then let me step aside as you become amazed at this new footage!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Goldeneye 007 (Wii) New Videos from IGN

You can't spell ignatius without IGN, and you can't get hands-on gameplay of the rapidly-approaching Goldeneye 007 for Nintendo Wii without them. Check out this series of vids taking a look at various modes in the game such as Goldeneye and Hero modes. Enough blab from me. Check these videos out!

Donkey Kong Country Returns (Wii) New Trailer

It's nearing Halloween as we watch the tricks and treats Retro Studios has put into their newest gaming incarnation, Donkey Kong Country Returns for Wii. The game is set to ship in mid-November, but for now check out this brand-new trailer for the Tiki vs. Kong-frontation.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Top Five Tennis Titles

I was planning to do this segment during the U.S. Open, but I obviously wasn't active during that time, so that idea blew out the window. Regardless, I share this with you tonight-- my favorite tennis games, and there's a whole gala to choose from. On this list we'll see appearances from Mario as well as the Hot Shots crew, so let's get our equipment ready, our laces tied, and our rackets ready for action!

5) Hot Shots Tennis (PS2)

Hot Shots Tennis took the easy controls of past tennis games and added the importance of timing your shots in order to win big. A whole cast of colorful characters played in this game with courts spanning from the underside of a highway to a court played on a calm, serene beach shore. My only real problem with this game is that it took little time to unlock everything the game had to offer. That's a big no-no in my rulebook.

4) SEGA Superstars Tennis (PS3, 360, Wii, DS)

Sonic and friends volley it off with this clever tennis title. It combines the ease of Mario with the complexity of the Top Spin franchise. It is, of course, the engine used after all. There was Sonic, Ulala, Aiai, Beat, characters from Golden Axe, Alex Kidd, and many more. If the normal tennis modes bored you, you could always challenge the game's career mode where the goal was to complete a myriad of different tasks such as completing a game of Puyo Pop-- tennis style-- or fighting off the undead in Curien Mansion. A good game, but not great, SEGA Superstars Tennis is an admirable effort.

3) Mario Power Tennis (GCN)

Mario Power Tennis amped up the content compared to its predecessor. This new content came in the form of new minigames where you batted away at different color barrels for points, colored in pictures of Mario and the gang, and tried to play tennis with a giant blooper. Also new to the franchise were power shots that when built up gave an edge to the player using them. Diddy Kong, for instance, would ride on his barrel-propelled jet pack and pound the ball down his opponent's throat. A colorful and fun game, Mario Power Tennis takes the middle spot on our list.

2) Hot Shots Tennis: Get A Grip (PSP)

The aim of Hot Shots Tennis: Get A Grip wasn't so much to play cartoony despite its aesthetics as it was to provide a challenge, authentic tennis experience where timing and ball position were important factors to take in unlike other tennis titles. What made Get A Grip enjoyable was the sheer customization, cast, and courts available to the player. By playing through the story mode you'd earn costumes that could be mixed and matched with other outfits. For such a portable title, this game has the content of a console game!

1) Mario Tennis (N64)

We've made it to the number one tennis title on our abbreviated list. It's the very first console version of Mario Tennis (not counting the Virtual Boy game) for the Nintendo 64. There were plenty of modes and content to unlock such as Shy Guy and Donkey Kong Jr. for instance. Almost every character had their own board to unlock whether it was Wario and first-timer Waluigi's grand court or Mario and Luigi's sky high in the clouds court. The mechanics were perfect with every shot feeling as epic as the next. Mario Tennis reigns as my favorite tennis title.

There you have it as I like to say after every list we do here on SPC. What are your favorite tennis titles of all time? Send me a comment in our comments section.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Metroid: Other M (Wii) Review

We stand here on this Tuesday with a new review. That's three within the span of one week. There must be something funny in my tap water. That just has to explain me coming back so vigorously. Regardless, let's check out Metroid: Other M for the Nintendo Wii.

Does the M stand for masterpiece?

The Metroid franchise has been around since the late eighties, and with it-it has barely ever disappointed. The director of the franchise, one Sakamoto, teamed up his studio with Team Ninja, best known for their Ninja Gaiden and Dead or Alive line of games. The pairing would make gamers across the globe salivate with anticipation of hoped greatness. This time around, however, story would be more prevalent than ever before. The end result is Metroid: Other M for the Nintendo Wii. Will more story ruin a series, or will a sculpted tale whet the appetite of long-time fans?

Metroid: Other M takes place between the events of Super Metroid and Metroid Fusion. Flashback sequences regarding Super Metroid, particularly the ending of the game, weigh heavily on Samus Aran's mind. When she gets a distress call while patrolling the universe, the call sends her to a desolate part of space and a mysterious vessel known as the Bottleship. When she arrives Samus finds the place eerily quiet. Suddenly, Samus realizes she isn't alone in her investigation as she comes across some Galactic Federation soldiers also with the task of scoping out the ship. An important relationship is made known between Samus and her former commander Adam Malkovich, no relation to film star John Malkovich. The story of Metroid: Other M delves into Samus' past from her being an upstart training cadet to her more professional career as a bounty hunter. In this game we get a more emotional Ms. Aran which may put off gamers who had Samus as a strong, silent figure who mercilessly killed hundreds of Space Pirates in her past games.

Metroid: Other M (which I still have no idea what Other M refers to even after 100% completion of the game) is one of more linear Metroids in the series. There's set paths to follow and map markers to guide you to your intended location. That isn't to say that Other M is lacking side rooms and secrets caverns, places for bombs to break, and hidden alcoves where Samus can earn more missiles, more health, and less time for it to take to charge her power beam. The camera does a terrific job of always focusing on the action or where Samus needs to go. There's seldom a time where you'll be frustrated that you can't see where you want to see.

The lock-on makes taking down these baddies a breeze.

Even if you can't see what you'd like in normal third-person view, you can point the Wii remote facing the screen and be transported into first-person mode. This mode is used to lock-on to enemies and unleash the power of missiles onto them, search areas for secret clues and hidden areas, and occasionally stop the action to scan a piece of the environment in order to proceed with the game. Switching between third and first-person is effortless and feels quite intuitive. It's a great feeling transferring between forms to take out invisible chameleon-like enemies who can only be taken out in scan mode.

First-person mode is perfect for taking out enemies with missiles.

In every version of Metroid, Samus Aran somehow always loses her abilities at the start of the game with her being forced into collecting each one spread out among a humongous map. That isn't how it works this time in Other M. Instead, Adam Malkovich, her superior, gives Samus instructions as to when she can use a weapon or ability right in the nick of time. Foe insusceptible to power beam shots? You now have access to missiles. No human life around the Bottleship? Power bombs are go. While this set-up might annoy players, especially when you're charged with entering a volcano-type area which is so hot that it saps your energy one life point at a time, and Adam doesn't give you clearance to use a heat-resistant suit (masochist perhaps?). Some weapons you do pick up in the traditional manner like the powerful diffusion beam or spreader missiles. There's a bounty of power weapons and abilities that Malkovich authorizes to use such as the space boots allowing for double-jumping, the screw attack where Samus spins constantly to attack foes and to get across massive chasms, and the wave beam which can shoot through glass walls with ease.

The grapple beam helps cross chasms without worry.

Samus Aran controls well pending your thumb isn't too big for the d-pad. The game is mostly played with the Wii remote in the NES style position. You just point at the screen to enter first-person view, and move the pointer away to switch back to third. Samus controls like a dream with her ability to evade enemy attacks with the double-tap of the d-pad in any direction you wish to evade. Sure, you can just mash on the d-pad to avoid attacks, but there's no honor in that, now is there? Samus can evade a pursuer, run circles around her attacker, and defeat them with single shots or a charge beam blow. When an enemy shows signs of dizziness, Samus can run up to them press a button and blast them to pieces with a killer and cool finishing move. From performing faceplants to grabbing a baddie by the tail and chucking them across the room, Samus can get down and dirty with her attacks in this game.

Samus lays down the law with these killing blows.

Also something new to Metroid: Other M is that enemies don't drop health or missiles. Instead, Samus must recharge herself either with a save station or impromptu field recharge. You point the Wii remote up to the sky and hold the A button to slowly regain health and missiles. This can only be done while Ms. Aran is on the brink of extinction, so it pays to smartly use this in a place where you won't be vulnerable to enemy assaults.

Metroid: Other M isn't a particularly long game. For 100% completion (which is made easier by all secret items being displayed on your map after beating the final boss of the game), it took me about thirteen hours to complete. Then there's hard mode and the ability to play through the game with the ability to finally skip cut-scenes. You couldn't do that your first playthrough which is a fault in my playbook. After you beat the game, you're treated to a cool epilogue where you face a familiar foe in the ship's pilot chamber followed by a Super Metroid-inspired countdown to destruction.

Other M is a beautiful game-- there's no questioning that. The story cut-scenes while questionable in taste do look absolutely stunning. The in-game action is also appropriately orgasm-inducing with plenty of cool special effects like the light from Samus Aran's charge beam and particle effects in certain areas of the game. The soundtrack is considerably more ambient this time around with little in the way of actual music in some parts of Other M. Other areas are full of memorable music. While not Kenji Yamamoto's work, the music and sound effects are top-notch.

Overall, Metroid: Other M is an interesting experiment. While some will bitch and moan that the character of Samus Aran is ruined. For others, more sane people will appreciate this new Samus for what she is-- an actual human being and not some android with no personality. However, there are some snags in the game including forced parts in first-person where you're searching for a specific object or taking on a roomful of bad guys in the same view. The circling of enemies is the best way to defeat them which may pose little challenge to veteran gamers. That said, this collaboration between Nintendo and Team Ninja is very much a welcomed one, and it changed the series just enough to feel familiar yet feel different at the same time. Kudos, Sakamoto-san. May future Metroid titles be as different as the past.

[SuperPhillip Says: 8.5/10]

Monday, October 25, 2010

SuperPhillip's Favorite VGMs - Let's See If I Remember How To Do This Edition

What is this all of a sudden? We're on a schedule once again. Oh, I assure you that this won't last very long. While it does though let's enjoy it for all it's worth, shall we? This delayed edition of the VGMs includes music from the Rabbids, Mega Man, and Boom Blox to name a few. No more talk! Have at you!

v586. Rabbids Go Home - Bubamara

Rabbids Go Home is an entertaining game where you control a pair of rabbids, crazed bunnies, as they pick up parts and garbage alike in their shopping cart. Why? They're freaking crazy! That and they're trying to build a tower out of trash to reach their home, the moon! Why? Like I said, they're freaking crazy! But in a good way, mind you.

v587. Super Monkey Ball 2 - Amusement Park

The amusement park is but one of ten unique areas in Super Monkey Ball 2. The theme is bright, cheery, and saccharine sweet. Super Monkey Ball 2 was a very entertaining game if not very difficult. Some levels it was better to just run full-steam ahead into obstacles than wait patiently. Regardless, I remember persevering and making it to and completing the Master stages!

v588. Wild Arms - Abbey (Arranged)

We've already heard the original version of Abbey on the favorite VGMs list already. This time around we're checking out the Wild Arms the Best ~ Feeling Wind version which is a quieter acoustic version. The instruments included are the piano playing the main melody and the clarinet as the accompaniment. A peppy little ditty, don't you agree?

v589. Boom Blox - Boom Blox Main Themes

These are such quaint little themes. So cute. So precious. Boom Blox was a game partnership between Electronic Arts and Hollywood film director Steven Spielberg. The outcome was nothing of the action-packed cinematic sort that many were expecting, and that was perfectly a-okay with me. Boom Blox has players tossing balls at towers to knock them down, score points, and have fun. Call the series the Wii's one true "blockbuster". I slay me.

v590. Mega Man Battle Network 2 - Battle Spirit

It has been over 500 videos, and we've yet to explore the Mega Man Battle Network franchise. We've talked about Network Transmission, a spin-off, but not the actual series it was spun from. Mega Man Battle Network 2 was my favorite installment of the series. It had just the right amount of pacing, fun characters, chips, and secrets. If memory serves me right, it's also the only Battle Network game I completed 100%. Enjoy the boss theme from Battle Network 2. Just don't get deleted!

There goes another Monday for the VGMs. Hope you listened and enjoyed what was offered this week. Next week is the day after Halloween, so I'll have some great music in store for you for sure! Stay tuned, fellow audiophiles!