Friday, March 11, 2011

Top Ten Wii Soundtracks Thus Far

Music in the air tonight on SPC. Can you hear it? It's the sound of symphonies, orchestras, and jazz bands playing music for various Wii games. This list is composed of my favorite ten soundtracks for the Wii. It was challenging just picking ten, but I somehow managed to put together a list. Let's start the countdown with number ten, shall we?

10) Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz

A game that many feel was the start of the series going downhill, the Wii launch title, Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz introduced two new concepts to the series. Both of which would not appear in any other Super Monkey Ball game-- boss battles and the ability to jump. While the game was a disappointment, the catchy and infectious soundtrack was anything but as you can tell by the three examples listed below.

9) Wario Land: Shake It!

Wario shakes his rump to the music as he digs in for precious treasure in this Wii musical masterpiece. Composed by the same man who lent tunes to the Gamecube cult-hit, Wario World, this soundtrack is full of fun tracks whether they be percussive, Latin, or Cuban in feel. These three examples best describe how big of an ear-worm this soundtrack still is to this day.

8) Sonic Colors

Sonic Colors was the first 3D entry into the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise in a long time that was better than just average or worse. In fact, it was quite great. Incidently, the soundtrack was great, too, featuring opening and closing themes by Cash Cash, music composed by an amalgamation of Sonic Team staff, and music that was infinitely memorable. Sales were great for this game as well. Hopefully the next Sonic game is quality over quantity like Sonic Colors is.

7) MadWorld

I'm no fan of hip-hop or rap, but when I heard the having-a-good-hook songs of MadWorld, I was surprised to finding myself really enjoying them. Just take a listen to the examples provided. They may be on the explicit side, but they get the job done. MadWorld's soundtrack was so impressive to me that MadWorld won Soundtrack of the Year in the 2009 Best of SPC Awards! What it loses in class, it makes up for in catchy beats and music.

6) Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles

Most of the music heard in Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles, the less-than-popular rail-shooter on Wii, were remixed versions of already well-known RE songs. REmakes, if you pardon the pun. When I heard the Theme of Alexia I and II remade in orchestral glory, I knew I was listening to something special. With stirring symphonic music, haunting choirs, and ambiguous ambient music, Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles does a lot to impress, even a casual Resident Evil fan like myself.

5) Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers

This game won runner-up for Soundtrack of the Year 2010 even though the game released at the tail-end of 2009. It felt wrong to exclude it from voting because of this little caveat. Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers is the latest in the Crystal Chronicles line of (so far) Nintendo-exclusive games. I don't know which soundtrack I prefer better, the original Crystal Chronicles on the Gamecube or Crystal Bearers. This sounds like the perfect setup to an SPC Showdown!

4) Kirby's Epic Yarn

Heavily relying on the piano, Kirby's Epic Yarn was an easy game to beat as the little pink powderpuff could not die. Instead when he took damage, he'd lose a copious amount of beads. Collecting enough beads in a level opened up new levels to take on. Regardless, the music in Kirby's Epic Yarn was mellow at some times, chaotic at others (most notably during boss encounters). If you're into a memorable soundtrack, KEY is the game for you despite its ease of difficulty.

3) Super Smash Bros. Brawl

Not number one because most of the music are of the remixed variety, Super Smash Bros. Brawl is an impressive beast. Not only is it loaded with content and things to do, characters, stages, trophies, and modes to unlock, but it's packed with remixes from every single Nintendo staple, including long-forgotten ones! A myriad of Japanese composers including Nobuo Uematsu (who composed the main theme of the game), Motoi Sakuraba, and Yoko Shimomura contributed to this project of a grand scale.

2) Super Mario Galaxy

Mario returns to the third-dimension, and this time he's brought the Mario Galaxy Orchestra with him to perform epic symphonic tunes, perfect for a space odyssey the likes Nintendo fans have never heard before. With so many memorable melodies and remixed tunes, it's no wonder fans are concocting shrines (not literally) to the then unknown composer, Mahito Yakota. It just doesn't get any better than this, does it?

1) Super Mario Galaxy 2

Well, if number one on our list has anything to say about it, it does get better than Super Mario Galaxy in Super Mario Galaxy 2. With more orchestral music, more galaxies to explore, and more boss fights than you can shake a bee suit Mario at, there's no other Wii game in the universe with this much musical goodness. Just listen to the examples provided to find out just how awesome this soundtrack is. Go on-- I'm done talking for now!

Throwback Galaxy
Melty Monster Galaxy
Bowser's Galaxy Generator
Final Bowser Battle


Some notable titles excluded from this list include de Blob, No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle, New Super Mario Bros. Wii, and Mario Kart Wii. What do you think of this list? Let me know in the comments section. Until Monday when I pull out the VGMs, have a great weekend.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Sly 2: Band of Thieves (PS3) Review

Reviewed back in the beginning of this year, we've been meticulously going through The Sly Collection, playing each game in the trilogy, and reviewing them one by one. This time we're checking out Sly 2: Band of Thieves. Is it better or worse than its predecessor?

I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends.

Sucker Punch was a relatively unknown entity when they came out with the original Sly Cooper for the PlayStation 2. They quickly gained fame for the game's ingenious level design, fluid controls, and fun gameplay. Now it's a handful of years later, and the Sly Cooper gang is back with Bentley the brains and Murray the brawn as playable characters. Is this heist worth pulling off?

At the conclusion of Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus, Sly Cooper took on Clockwerk, the thorn in the Cooper family's side that took out both of Sly's parents, making Sly an orphan. Defeating the iron beast, Clockwerk fell apart, left to burn in the oozing lava of the volcano. Fast-forward to present day where a new group of criminals, the Klaww Gang each has collected a piece of Clockwerk. If the gang were to reassemble the mighty monstrosity, who knows if it'd be game over for Sly and his friends-- moreover-- the world. It's up to Sly and the gang to formulate heists across eight chapters to steal back the Clockwerk parts and destroy them before they can wreak havoc on the world. Each chapter begins with a comic-book-esque CG sequence detailing the background of the current member of the Klaww Gang and Clockwerk part Sly and the gang are going after. The animation is superb throughout each of these aforementioned sequences. The voice work, too, is top notch, and works well to blend in and never sound forced.

Paris' nightlife is about to get a tad more wild with Sly in town.

Each chapter begins with Sly, Bentley, and Murray setting up a safehouse in the hub world. Each chapter has a large hub to explore, but instead of entering levels like the previous Sly Cooper game, you're entering missions. This time around both Bentley the turtle and "The Murray" the hippopotamus are playable characters with their own set of missions. Of course, I'm getting ahead of myself as I naturally tend to do. The beginning of every chapter starts out with Sly needing to take reconnaissance photos for Bentley to formulate a plan of attack to pull off a daring heist. The missions that follow slowly build up in difficulty and excitement as you steadily progress closer and closer to pulling off the heist. For example, the first chapter has you stealing Clockwerk parts from a nightclub owner who is using them as plates to forge a virtually endless supply of money. By having Sly pickpocket keys from surrounding guards to access a truck, having Bentley and Murray shoot a grappling hook from the truck to the marquis of the nightclub which causes the sign to tumble into the fountain below, opening up a secret passage, you'll have access to the Clockwerk parts. But not before a boss battle, of course.

Boss battles are much simpler than in the Thievius Raccoonus. In this game you essentially strike your opponent three times, move away from the boss' attacks, and then go back in. Rinse and repeat. Some battles are much more intuitive. A later battle has you controlling Bentley who shouts commands at a computer-operating Sly. Each of the face buttons save for X is used to spring a trap to hit the boss with. There's logs that smash into place, flames that rise up, and sawblades that whir at a moment's notice.

The gang's all here.

Like its predecessor, in Band of Thieves stealth is key. Guards show where they can see you by pointing their flashlights around. They usually follow set paths, so it's easy enough to tiptoe around them, pickpocket them for coins or keys, or take them out stealthily from behind. Spotlights work the same way, except if you get caught, you're liable to get shot in the third degree. Indoors there's floor and ceiling lasers that will burn Sly, Bentley, or Murray to a crisp if they cross paths with them. Being a thief virtuoso isn't as easy as it sounds, and these traps will put even the most masterful thief in their place if they don't watch out.

Get caught by a spotlight, and the whole area will be after you.

Sly 2: Band of Thieves is a much more sandbox-styled game than the Thievius Raccoonus. Each hub is hiding thirty clue bottles (in the previous game it was levels that hid the clue bottles). By collecting all thirty and finding the chapter's vault, Bentley will decrypt the three digit passcode to open the vault and earn Sly a new move. Speaking of moves, there's a myriad of them to learn. You can find them in vaults, but most of the time you'll be spending coins on Thiefnet, the in-game store accessed via the safehouse on Bentley's laptop. There's moves for all three characters to learn such as Sly's paraglide move that allows him to glide down from tall heights that would make otherwise unreachable jumps all the more unreachable. There's also the Alarm Clock that detours the awareness of local guards for Sly to slip on by unrecognized. If you're lacking the correct amount of coinage, you can always steal priceless artifacts and treasures hidden throughout the hubs. Some are booby-trapped, meaning Sly, Bentley, or Murray must get them to the safehouse before they explode.

There's a wide variety of missions in Sly 2, and you'll seldom be playing the same mission twice. One you'll be trailing someone as they lead you to a hidden hideout. Just don't get seen by them, or you'll fail the mission. Another will have you gliding in the air, using balloons in the sky to get extra air as you attempt to land on the caboose of one of three locomotives. You then fight your way to the engine room, slipping past guards, spotlights, and laser grids both on the floor and sprawling on the ceiling. When you're not stealthily speeding through a mission as Sly, you're smashing up stuff like the Hulk as Murray. Each of our three heroes plays differently. For example, Bentley is weak, so he relies on shooting sleeping darts to put foes at bay. Then he can run up to them, drop a bomb, and blow them up to smithereens. Murray is a close-encounter brawler. His fists do the talking... and the thinking now that I ponder this. Case in point, "The Murray" isn't the brightest of characters, but he gets the job done when called upon.

What he misses out in brawn, he makes up for in sheer brains.

Controlling Sly and the gang is a snap. One analog stick moves the gang along while the other controls the camera. The circle button is a godsend for Sly as he uses it to climb up poles, sneak along electrical wires, use them for spire jumps, and swing along hooks with his cane with the magically all-in-one button. You can map acquired moves and items to the L1, L2, and R2 triggers while the R1 trigger is used for running and escaping from particularly heated situations. There's but one attack button to speak of for Sly and Murray, and that's the square button. Meanwhile, by pressing in the L3 stick, you can get a grasp of your surroundings, and discover where missions and objectives are located. Alternately, clicking in the right stick brings up first-person mode where you can zoom in and out on the stage.

Sly 2 looks glorious in its new high-definition glory. The game also supports 3D as do all the games of the Sly Collection trilogy. The cel-shaded visuals have been upgraded to look as great as ever. Even in standard-definition, they're not too bad. There are some problems with pop-up and draw distance issues, but those are forgivable considering how old this game is. The music is a step up from the original Sly Cooper with some memorable tunes that will have you humming along if you're into doing that sort of thing. Overall, the presentation package of Sly 2 is quite amazing for a game originally released in 2004.

Sly 2: Band of Thieves focuses heavily on missions. While I prefer the level-based structure of the Thievius Raccoonus, that still doesn't make Sly 2 a bad game. With an updated and more forgiving health system, more creative level design, a fifteen-plus hour story, and a variety of various gameplay styles, Sly 2: Band of Thieves is one game that's a steal.

[SuperPhillip Says: 9.0/10]

February 2011 NPD Results

We've reached close to the middle of the month, so it's time to look at the NPD numbers for the month of February 2011. This time they made us a nice chart to share with everyone! Remember games are now clumped into sales for every platform and not just one. This means that Call of Duty: Black Ops has a total of sales from the PS3, 360, Wii, DS, and PC instead of just the 360, for instance.

This month, Call of Duty: Black Ops is America's best-selling game of all time. Sort of shows you there's no accounting for taste here at the NPD. Marvel VS. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds chimed in with second place scoring 790.2K in sales. Meanwhile, Just Dance 2 continues to hot-step it with sales getting 554K, and that's on one platform only. Impressive. Other notable titles include Dead Space 2 making its second arrival on the NPD charts, Bulletstorm, Killzone 3, and Mario Sports Mix which resides in the tenth spot.

Hardware-wise, the Xbox 360 sold 535,000, up 27% from last February, and it's the 360's best non-holiday month. The Kinect train keeps rolling on. All the while the Wii train chugs along netting 454,000 units of hardware. Sony has not revealed the numbers for the PS3, but by going by the YoY math, they should be close behind the Wii with approximately 450,000 sales. What an incredible month of sales for all three competitors.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Rank Up! Mario Sports on Wii

Mario Sports Mix slam-dunked its way onto the Wii last month, so now's the perfect time for Rank Up! Rank Up! is the every now and then feature where we list a series of games from worst to best. It's a simple concept that's been very popular here on SPC. Today we're taking a look at Mario's sport outings on the Wii. There's been many, but which ones reign supreme? Let's find out, but first let's see which games we'll be putting under the metaphorical microscope.

Mario Sports Mix (Wii)
Mario Kart Wii (Wii)

Mario Super Sluggers (Wii)

Mario Strikers Charged (Wii)

Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games (Wii)

Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games (Wii)

New Play Control! Mario Power Tennis (Wii)

Ever since the Game and Watch days, Mario has spread his wings and dabbled in other jobs and sports. On the Nintendo Entertainment System, he teed it up on the green in Golf, while it was on the Super Nintendo where seemingly his most popular sports entry was given birth in the form of Super Mario Kart. That series would go on to be one of most popular Mario sports series in history. From then til now, Mario has participated in nearly every sport under the sun sans North American football.

7) New Play Control! Mario Power Tennis (Wii)

The New Play Control! line of games was to fill the holes in Nintendo's own release schedule. What better way to do this than port Gamecube games to the Wii with special Wii remote controls? Seems flawless. Unfortunately, the controls in NPC Mario Power Tennis were anything but. In fact, they were fundamentally broken. The game did not register whether you were hitting with topspin or backspin, and the game would randomly lob the ball up into the air. After playing this game for less than a hour, I was embittered and quickly sent the game back to Blockbuster. A perfect chance to show off what motion controls can do, and Nintendo absolutely botched it.

6) Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games (Wii)

When it was announced that Mario and Sonic would be in the same game together, millions spun their rumor mills guessing what type of game it would be. Would it be a 3D platformer in the ilk of Super Mario 64 and Sonic Adventure? When it was revealed that their first game would be a mini-game collection, the hype died down considerably-- but not the sales, mind you. Regardless, most mini-games required you to waggle the Wii remote to speed up your character which by now, waggle was no longer a fun concept. We did it in Wii Sports boxing, we did it to control Link's sword in Twilight Princess, and most of us had had enough. Even with all of the fan-service in the game, nothing could stop this title from being the below-average game it was.

5) Mario Super Sluggers (Wii)

Taking Mario and the Mushroom Kingdom out to the ballgame, Mario Super Sluggers was the sequel to Mario Superstar Baseball on the Gamecube. In this sequel, the single-player mode consisted of an adventure-like mission mode where saving the day awarded you with new items and new teammates for your roster. The fundamentals itself added motion controls to swing at the ball. Holding the Wii remote back charged your swing while for pitchers, it charged their throw. With multiple stadiums to play on including the gimmick-free Mario Stadium, the topsy turvy Daisy Cruiser, and the frozen floors of Peach Castle, America's favorite pastime was well-represented in Mario Super Sluggers.

4) Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games (Wii)

One could label this as a glorified mini-game collection, and they'd be correct in that assessment. However, each sport unlike this game's predecessor did not rely heavily on waggle to play. Instead you twisted and turned the Wii remote and nunchuk to carve through the snow as you skied downhill, participated in one of many dream events which had you racing through Mario Kart Wii's Mario Circuit track or speed skating in Eggman's Base, and unlocked character costumes for your Wii in the in-game shop. There were many events to partake in from real to dream, and the variety of control made each event feel different from the last no matter if you were interested in speeding through the bobsled course or the slalom course.

3) Mario Sports Mix (Wii)

From multiple mini-games to four sports in one, Mario Sports Mix was an enjoyable romp through all four sports: basketball, volleyball, dodgeball, and hockey. Each sport had its own set of three cups to participate in to earn the mythical star cup trophy in each sport. Doing so enabled you to take on Behemoth from the Final Fantasy series in a two-on-one battle for supremacy. Each sport had just enough depth that repeated playings wouldn't get boring. The arenas were filled with eye candy as well from Waluigi Pinball's giant steel pinballs looming around the stage to Luigi's Mansion's ghosts turning off the lights during play. Mario Sports Mix ranks third on this impressive list of Wii Mario sports titles.

2) Mario Strikers Charged (Wii)

We go from a game with four sports with a game with just soccer as its focus in Mario Strikers Charged. In Europe, this was the first online game for Wii allowing players to take on one another across the nation or across the world. There were multiple captains and secondary teammates to choose from--from the eccentric Boo to the hammer-spamming Hammer Bro. You could even score up to five goals at once using a super shot which randomly shot five balls at your opponent's goalie who had to use the Wii remote to point at the screen and swiftly deflect said shots. One of the better anti-simulation soccer experiences, Mario Strikers Charged is an excellent edition to Mario's sports legacy.

1) Mario Kart Wii (Wii)

At last we've reached the number one spot where Mario Kart Wii zoomed into first place. Filled to the brim with content, Mario Kart Wii features a multitude of unlockable characters, weekly online racing challenges, online play with up to eleven other racers from around the world, sixteen new races, and sixteen retro races from past Mario Kart games. If you can get past the cheap AI who constantly seem to abuse items in later difficulties, you're in for a wild ride. Yes, you'll be cursing out the computer or human opponents when a lightning bolts stops all of your momentum while you're careening over a pit, but for all the cheap moments you'll experience, there's a lot of fun ones to be had as well.


Rank Up! is out for the time being. Until next time where we rank a series of games, we'll be seeing you! Do you have a franchise you'd like to see get the Rank Up! treatment? Let me know in the comments section.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Marvel VS. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds (PS3, 360) Jill/Shuma-Gorath Gameplay

Today, Capcom has revealed gameplay trailers for the first two DLC characters for Marvel VS. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds. These characters are Jill Valentine of Resident Evil fame, sporting her Resident Evil 5 costume and Shuma-Gorath. Watch the unique styles of both new challengers, and also watch how effortlessly they chain their combos. Makes you want to get some skills, doesn't it?

Monday, March 7, 2011

SuperPhillip's Favorite VGMs - Marching Into A New Month Edition

Marvel VS. Capcom 3 is out now, but at the time I uploaded the video, it was not. Regardless, it's a new week here on SuperPhillip Central, so it's time to reach back into my bag of VGMs to share with the world. This week we have music from Pokemon Stadium, Super Princess Peach, and Mega Man Legends.

v671. Marvel VS. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds - Theme of Arthur (Haunted Graveyard)

Sir Arthur was an interesting inclusion to the cast of Capcom characters in the upcoming crowd-pleaser, Marvel VS. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds for both PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. There's even rumor of a Nintendo 3DS release. I'd be down for that. Take my money, Capcom, I dare you. Anyway, Sir Arthur comes from the bone-crushingly difficult, Ghost 'N Goblins series of games. Even in Marvel VS. Capcom 3, when damaged enough, his heart-covered underpants will show. How's THAT for detail and fan-service? The song heard is a rock guitar version of the Ghost 'N Goblins main theme-- at least the theme most associated with the Ghost 'N Goblins series.

v672. Pokemon Stadium - Pokemon Victory Poses and Cup Presentation

Pokemon Stadium (forgive the lack of accent marks) used the transfer pak to transfer over Pokemon from all three original Pokemon games, Blue, Red, and Yellow. It was awesome seeing the Pokemon you raised in full 3D. In fact, Nintendo would essentially use the same models all the way through to Pokemon Battle Revolution. That was a troll, mind you. Regardless, this theme plays as you complete a given cup or the Gym Leader's Castle mode. You'd get a trophy featuring your Pokemon team in all of their glory. Were you a bad enough dude to collect all 151 Pokemon trophies?

v673. Super Princess Peach - Tag the Flowers!

This theme was requested, and I was also wanting to put it up, so here we are. Tag the Flowers! only plays once throughout the entire game, and it's played in the first world during a flower puzzle. It's a simple memorization puzzle where you have to match the colors of the flowers with the previous screen. There's some Cuban flavor to this theme as with most of Super Princess Peach's soundtrack. I only hope I didn't make the requester wait too long on this one!

v674. Star Ocean: Till the End of Time - Confidence in the Domination

I really enjoyed the third Star Ocean game. It was a breeze once I outfitted my characters with impenetrable synthed armor and weapons! This theme, "Confidence in the Domination", is but one of the many optional boss songs in the game, and there's a lot of them. What is your opinion on Star Ocean: Till the End of Time? What did you think about the game's infamous twist near the end of the game? For me, it didn't really bother me. I don't think it ruined the universe whatsoever. That's just me though. What do you think?

v675. Mega Man Legends - Ending Theme

The ending theme of Mega Man Legends, an excellent 3D romp to itself, features mixed in voice work from the various character lines in the game. Tiesel Bonne probably has the most hilarious ones in the batch. They're not randomly thrown in, mind you. They're placed to fit with the beat of the music. Mega Man Legends was a fun game even if I thought it'd be a traditional eight Robot Master game when it was originally announced. Who didn't love kicking Reaverbot butt? I never did and probably never will get the chance to play the sequel as it is quite rare. Perhaps one of you could sell it to me on the DL?

Next week, Donkey Kong Country Returns, Star Fox 64, and Sonic Colors are a few of the headliners in store for next week. If you're interested in more musical goodness, check out my Youtube channel, SuperPhillip32! See you next week, everybody!