Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving from SuperPhillip Central

Make sure you fill your little bellies with lots of grub. Yum-yum-yum. I'm off for the rest of this week, so see you Monday where my VGMs will initiate the start of the new week and my being back from vacation! Hope you have a great and safe Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Sonic Colors (Wii) Review

Sonic the Hedgehog has always been a favorite hero of mine. The combination of fast speed, slow platforming, and can-do attitude always enamored me. Heck, I even enjoyed Sonic Heroes and Shadow the Hedgehog if that gives you any indication of my admiration for the little blue hedgehog. Now, a new game has come out, and it's Sonic Colors for Wii. Finally, that title we Sonic fans don't have to be ashamed of liking!

Color Me Impressed!

The poor blue hedgehog has had it hard for the past decade. The consensus is that his 3D exploits aren't any good. You can blame the Sonic Cycle for part of that. Getting excited for the initial game, starting to turn on the game by seeing an unnecessary gameplay gimmick in Sonic's newest adventure, and then the game turns out to be garbage. Many a Sonic fan has fallen for this time and time again. They're not that bright of a bunch an outsider might say. Regardless, Sonic Team's newest attempt unveiled its gimmick when it was announced, Wisps, alien creatures that give Sonic special powers when used. Does Sonic Colors fall into the Sonic Cycle, or does it speed its way far from mediocrity?

Dr. Eggman has opened up a new planetary amusement park to atone for his past sins against man and robot kind. Sonic, not believing Eggman's turn to good is for real, enters the amusement park to see just what Eggman's scheme is this time. Could Eggman actually be on the side of good this time? Spoiler: no, he's apparently using the power of the alien creatures, Wisps, to power his amusement park as well as his robotic creations. Can't say Sonic's intuition was wrong this time! So now it's up to Sonic with help of Tails to right the wrongs of the evil Eggman and save the planets that Eggman has imprisoned inside his park. Not to mention rescue the Wisp population!

Run, Sonic, run!

There are seven areas in Sonic Colors. There's Tropical Resort, Sweet Mountain, Starlight Carnival, Planet Wisp, Aquatic Park, Asteroid Coaster, and the final zone. Each area of the game save for the final has six acts each ranging from long to short and concluding with a boss battle at the area's climax. These boss battles are sadly reused once each, so you're really only facing three unique bosses in all six main areas. Also on the world map is the Sonic Simulator. By collecting red rings (don't worry, Xbox 360 owners, these are good ones!), five in each act, more stages open up in the Simulator. There's three acts for all seven worlds, and beating each third act rewards the player with a Chaos Emerald. I won't spoil what collecting all the Chaos Emeralds does, but let's just say it's a nice playable surprise that we've seen in past Sonic games.

As soon as hit new game, you're immediately thrust into Act 1 of Tropical Resort. There's no cut-scene, no introductions, it feels like how the old 16-bit Sonics played. Of course, as your progress through the area you come across two or three cut-scenes. These cut-scenes are clever and are decidedly for the younger set, but darn me if I didn't giggle at some of them.

If it's a Sonic game, you can bet there will be rails to grind.

Sonic Colors plays quite differently from past 3D Sonic games. You see, it's actually good. Nearly 75% of the game plays in 2D while the other quarter plays in a 3D/straight path fashion. The 3D sections surprisingly control well with the ability to drift around sharp curves like a knife on butter-- smooth. The quick step ability is used to efficiently move a step to the left or right in a fast manner. Sonic can use his boost ability to speed through robots and anything else that gets in his way, all the while rings will flock towards Sonic during this maneuver.

The 2D portions feel the most Sonic-like. This is 1994 Sonic. mind you. New to the series is a double jump to reach extra heights or save yourself from falling to your death. As a beneficial help to the player, bottomless pit segments are marked with a yellow, exclamation pointed triangle caution sign appears at the bottom of the screen to warn of upcoming dangers to Sonic. It's better than speeding blindly into death without warning.

These 2D sections are wonderfully made. There's classic loop-de-loops, moving platforms, gravity sections, underwater areas where that blasted drowning jingle with play but in orchestrated glory, and boxes that will push you off the screen into death if you don't time your leaps just right.

The primary gimmick this time around are the Wisps, the creatures that enable Sonic to use different abilities. One provides boost energy while another allows Sonic to blast off and rocket high into the air for secret sky-high goodies. The light blue Wisp gives Sonic the ability to turn into a laser, bouncing off objects and through crystallized paths as if he were a beam of light. There's a massive amount of Wisps to collect in the game, but not all are open to Sonic to use right away. On the first act of the game, you'll be taunted by a yellow Wisp pod that you can't utilize yet until you've unlocked it. You'll have to come back to the act once you've unlocked it to use it. This aforementioned Wisp allows Sonic to burrow deep underground and underwater searching for subterranean goodies. I was afraid the Wisps would ruin the title, but instead they add to the formula offering even more exploration than I thought possible. I was glad to be proven wrong (as I usually am).

"Houston, we have lift-off."

In order to simply "beat" Sonic Colors, you must play through all thirty-eight (math was never a strong suit) acts of the game, playing through all seven areas of the game, and taking down the final boss of Sonic Colors. If this sounds like all you want to do, then a rental is in order. However, perfectionists and completests will want to collect all 180 Red Rings, five per act. Some of these are in wide-open locations while others are cleverly hidden in creative ways. One example is a Red Ring hovering over a pit with self-destructing boxes placed over. What you need to do is use the pink Wisp's spikes power to carefully scale down the wall, leap on the self-destructing box to make it cause a chain reaction to explode the other three, and then perform a jump off the wall followed by a quick double jump to snag the ring and make it to the other side of the room safely. Phew. Even typing that tuckered me out!

Whoa, nelly! This sea is rough on a hedgehog!

Visually, Sonic Colors is as it name suggests-- vibrant, colorful, beautiful with a nice glaze of pretty. The backgrounds and worlds are brimming with things for your eyes to explore-- if you have the time, you know, speeding along as Sonic. The character models are sensational and animate wonderfully. The new voice actors sound much better than the old 4Kids cast (not to say they were horrible, mind you, just not as great) with Tails actually sounding like a boy! Huzzah! Meanwhile, while we're talking about sound, the soundtrack is absolutely fantastic with many memorable tunes and songs. This could be soundtrack of the year material, folks. No hyperbole intended.

Ultimately, if you've been jaded over Sonic for the past decade, perhaps this game could change your 'tude. Sonic Colors is a nearly masterful game with plenty of cool moves-- even the homing attack works in this game-- and sights to behold. The Wisps are a welcomed addition to the game adding new ways to explore levels and find those elusive Red Rings. Instead of just going through the motions like with past Sonic games, you'll be actively engaged in this incredible, speedy package. Sonic Colors gets a high recommendation, and it shows that Sonic Team isn't as incompetent a developer as we thought! (Please don't hurt me, Sonic Team ninjas.)

[SuperPhillip Says: 9.0/10]

Monday, November 22, 2010

SuperPhillip's Favorite VGMs - Thankful for Super Mario Galaxy 2 Edition

Here we are with Thanksgiving week, and what do we have to show for it but a generous helping of VGMs to put beside your cranberry sauce and mashed potatoes. Mm.... Delicious. This week is all about Super Mario Galaxy 2, a possible Game of the Year contender at this year's SuperPhillip Central Awards. Enough from me, let's start gobbling this goodies!

v606. Super Mario Galaxy 2 - Throwback Galaxy

We've had this theme before via the Mario and Zelda Big Band Live concert performance. Now we have a very similarly constructed version for Super Mario Galaxy 2. Just like the original, you can be rest assured that there's going to be a lot of future installments starring our favorite portly plumber. That is, unless you have a best friend or relative who happens to be a portly plumber. Then Mario would be second place, but you know what I mean. This theme plays during the Throwback Galaxy, a galaxy full of odes to Super Mario 64. I'm getting nostalgic all of a sudden!

v607. Super Mario Galaxy 2 - Yoshi Star Galaxy

I don't want to make this a themed week, so let's end our journey through the galaxy for the time being. This time around our specimen is the Yoshi Star Galaxy, the second major galaxy in Super Mario Galaxy 2. It's the first level you get to saddle up and ride Yoshi-- something we haven't seen in a 3D Mario game since Sunshine, and we all know how that turned out. This chintzy theme is quite catchy and never fails to put a smile on my superhero face.

v608. Super Mario Galaxy 2 - Bowser's Lava Lair

Well, I wasn't going to do another Galaxy 2 video until frequent commenter, Klagmar, mentioned this piece from the Super Mario Galaxy 2 soundtrack. It's an orchestrated, remastered version of Koopa Road from Super Mario 64. It features haunting vocals and stirring strings, perfect for the foreboding level that accompanies it. Bowser's Lava Lair is the second world's concluding galaxy, and it's one of my personal favorites.

v609. Super Mario Galaxy 2 - Melty Monster Galaxy

So apparently we're doing a themed week after all. This piece from Super Mario Galaxy 2 plays during the Melty Monster Galaxy, full of fiery foes and flowing lava. The song continues to escalate and escalate more until its satisfying conclusion. As of this writing, I'm at World 5 with 60 some-odd stars in my possession. Fantastic game. Better than the first without a doubt.

v610. Super Mario Galaxy 2 - Final Bowser Battle

We conclude our tour of the galaxy (for now) with a listen to Bowser's final battle theme, and boy, is it an epic one. I've yet to play through to the end of the game at the time of this writing, so I'm in for one heck of an intergalactic battle! The first two Bowser battles take place on a planetoid with Bowser summoning asteroids at poor Mario's path. This is all the meanwhile pummeling the planet with King Koopa's meteor-sized fists. They're epic confrontations for sure. How did you enjoy them?

Next week will be the usual-- more VGMs for your listening pleasure. That can't be all too bad, now can it? Until then, the VGMs are going to rest up for Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Top Ten Super Nintendo Games

Yesterday passed and it was the 20th anniversary of the Super Nintendo! So today I wanted to do something special to celebrate. How, you ask? By doing what every other site does to get views and easy content-- a top ten list! Hey, I'm being honest at least! It's my favorite top ten video games for the Super Nintendo. Let's hit it before we quit it, mother-- watch your mouth!

10) Super Mario Kart

Starting off our countdown is one of the first racers for the Super Nintendo, Super Mario Kart. You raced cups featuring five races each, each with five laps. Collecting coins made you go faster, and using items caused havoc to anyone that got in your item's way. The game supported split-screen multi-player for two players to race for the gold simultaneously. With three difficulties and a wide assortment of tracks to burn rubber on, Super Mario Kart was the one that started it all. No blue shells here, just lots of rubber-band AI.

9) Breath of Fire

This RPG was a fun collaboration between Capcom and Squaresoft. You played as Ryu who is part of a dragon lineage. Your village has been burnt down to a crisp, and your sister is missing. It's time to take down the Dark Dragon's leaders once and for all. Sporting a party of up to four characters with the cast being of different upbringings and species, Breath of Fire is a phenomenal RPG that was ported to the Game Boy Advance as was its sequel, Breath of Fire II (that was a stretch). Whether you want a fish, ox, or bandit in your party, the choices were yours.

8) Mega Man X

Take everything you thought you knew about Mega Man, and throw it out of the window. This is Mega Man X, the wall-climbing, X-buster-charging, capsule-power-getting reploid set off to take down the sinister Sigma. But he wouldn't be alone. He'd have the ever-popular Zero on his side. Instead of bosses like Fire Man and Toad Man, X would have take down animal Mavericks like Launch Octopus and Flame Mammoth. The original Mega Man X has a killer soundtrack, awesome visuals, and engaging and fast gameplay which makes it number eight on my list.

7) Final Fantasy III (aka Final Fantasy VI)

I hate using the word "epic" to describe something since the word has sort of been misused/overused by the internet, but epic is what I'd describe Final Fantasy III. There were two worlds to discover. I couldn't believe after I faced off against one of the Weapons that the game had a whole new world for me to explore and regain my lost comrades-- all of which was done by choice. You could take on Kefka's Tower with just your four allies. That'd be insane to do, but it was possible. With the best musical soundtrack that Nobuo Uematsu ever composed, a new Magitek spell system, and beautiful 2D graphics, Final Fantasy III remains one of the great games of the series.

6) Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island

Charm is the word I used to describe this game. The watercolor-like visuals were just that-- charming. Yoshi was finally the star, and this time he had to throw eggs at enemies, ground pound, and keep that annoying baby on his back from wetting himself. This game got severely difficult if you planned on going for 100 points each stage. How do you do this? By having 30 stars, 20 red coins, and collecting all five flowerheads. Not an easy task when they put you in the line of danger constantly, and one screw up means you have to restart the level. I triumphed over this challenge as a kid, but not without rage-quitting occasionally. We all did as children!

5) Final Fantasy II (aka Final Fantasy IV)

Starting the second half of this top ten, Final Fantasy II. I enjoyed this RPG more than any other, finding all the secrets on my own as a young lad, following the incredible story, getting scared to death of being underleveled by the time I reached Mysidia, and enjoying the terrific soundtrack once again composed by the master, Nobuo Uematsu. This was the first Final Fantasy to take things into space-- on the moon, no less. Regardless, this title was the easy version of the game made for Americans who might have considered it too difficult. The Game Boy Advance port is the Japanese version with a harder difficulty. Food for thought.

4) Super Metroid

Called by many as the best Metroid among gamers, Super Metroid brings the heat with new powers, a massive map to explore, and sinister foes to take down. This was Metroid at its finest as you took down the four Guardians in order to make your way down to Mother Brain herself. By retrieving new items and abilities, Samus Aran, our heroine, could reach previously inaccessible areas to reach even more new items and abilities. The formula works well, and possibly never better with the fantastic Super Metroid. That's why it's number four on my list.

3) Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest

It may not feature Donkey Kong, but I enjoyed the tag team of Diddy and Dixie all the same. This game has incredible atmosphere, wonderful 16-bit music from Dave Wise among others, and secrets littered everywhere in the game's seven worlds. It was a bit more dark and dank than Donkey Kong Country as you were going through pirate hulls, theme parks, ghostly woods, creepy castles, and thorny mazes. DKC 2 remains my favorite of the trilogy, and just by playing it you can see why.

2) Super Mario World

While Super Mario Bros. 3 was an evolution of the original Super Mario Bros., Super Mario World was an even bigger evolution of Super Mario Bros. 3. There was little linearity in exploring the world map as secret exits were abundant in the game. The edition of the adorable Yoshi let players ride and gulp down enemies, fly in the air, and spit out a trio of arcing fireballs. The level design is some of the best the series has ever known, and those darned dungeons held up by the classic Koopa Kids were excellent as well. One of the best 2D platformers ever, Super Mario World deserves its praise and more.

1) The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

Zelda II was seen as a black sheep of the franchise. It changed the gameplay so drastically. Zelda III: Triforce of the Gods (the Japanese name) was a complete evolution of the original Zelda's design. There were two expansive world maps (a light world and a dark world) for Link and players to explore, finding hidden pieces of heart, slaying massive bosses and smaller cohorts alike, and dungeons that spanned floors. These dungeons were revolutionary as they took the idea and ran with it excellently. One dungeon revolved around falling through floors to reach hidden areas on another floor. This was unheard of back in the day. That's but one of the reasons why A Link to the Past has a link to my gamer heart.

You know I left off one of your favorites, so let me know in the comments section of which of your favorites I forgot!