Friday, March 25, 2011

Most Overlooked PlayStation 3 Games - Part Three

It's time to seek out some more overlooked gems, and this time we're doing it on the PS3 with this our third installment. Let's see which games the gaming populace either didn't buy or overlooked altogether. If you missed previous PlayStation 3 installments, check 'em out here at the following links:

Saints Row 2

The Saints are reuniting to take the city of Stilwater back from the gigantic Ultor Corporation and other rival gangs in this excellent sequel. PS3 owners did not get to experience the first Saints Row as that was an Xbox 360 exclusive. It was originally supposed to hit the PS3, but those plans were canceled. Subtract trophy support, and you have a game that did not sell all too well on the PlayStation 3. Their loss as this game is what Grand Theft Auto IV should have been-- pure, unadulterated fun. Leave your realism at the door.

Eternal Sonata

A port of the Xbox 360 game, Eternal Sonata was developed by Tri-Crescendo. The PlayStation 3 version included exclusive cut-scenes, features, and game content. Even the lower price tag wasn't enough for most PS3 owners to bite. Players delved into the mind of 19th century composer, Frederic Chopin, and played out his dreams in real-time/turn-based hybrid battles that were wildly entertaining. The gorgeous watercolor art style and stunning soundtrack only further gets appetizing to those who are fans of the JRPG genre.

Star Ocean: The Last Hope International

This fourth installment of the long-running Star Ocean franchise did not do so hot at retailers. Again, a port of the Xbox 360 version, the International version featured Japanese and English voice tracks, the entire game on one Blu-ray instead of multiple discs, and a whole slew of other enhanced features making this the version to buy. With a satisfying battle system, gorgeous, updated graphics, and a rousing soundtrack by none other than veteran composer, Motoi Sakuraba, Star Ocean: The Last Hope International is one meaty JRPG not to be missed by fans of the series.

de Blob 2

de Blob 2 went multiplatform with the sequel, and it sold poorly compared to its Wii original, only selling less than 75,000 copies across all four platforms. Perhaps the game was too colorful for the Call of Duty crowd? Regardless, many gamers missed out on this excellent sequel that fixed some of the problems of the original and added a new mission structure for fans of the first de Blob to enjoy. The music itself was funky, the visuals were drop-dead gorgeous, and the game's characters exuded an incredible amount of charm. For a budget price, de Blob 2 is one platformer PlayStation 3 owners should not miss out on.

Mass Effect 2

A port too little too late for most PlayStation 3 owners, Mass Effect 2 won a ton of Game of the Year awards for the Xbox 360 version. The game is a Western RPG where players take control of the heroic Commander Shepard. The game offers up choices as to what the player wants to do, who to affiliate with, and so forth. With nearly all of the bells and whistles of its Xbox 360 cousin, Mass Effect 2 did not do well at retail on the PlayStation 3. That's a shame as I hear it's a good game.


Disagree with a game placed on the Most Overlooked list, or perhaps you'd like to name a few games of your own that you deem underrated or underappreciated? Let the world know in the comments section.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Top Five Yoko Kanno Soundtracks

Last Thursday I listed Yoko Kanno as my personal favorite composer out of a list of five. Now we take her works and put those in a top five. There's many of her soundtracks to choose from, so which five will be the bee's knees? Pardon the old-timer expression, by the way. Anywho, let's find out.

5) Visions of Escaflowne

When you put on the track, Dance of Curse, you're in for a wild ride. The theme is a chorus-based affair that will have you getting goosebumps on all parts of your body. The anime itself is set in medieval times. Instead of fighting it out with swords and shields, humongous robots are used. Yoko Kanno shows her stuff yet again on this our first entry of the top five.

4) Brain Powerd

From one show about medieval mechanical fighting robots to another, Brain Powerd (note the missing "e" in Powerd) is a show about Gundam-like robots duking it out for supremacy. The soundtrack itself has a whimsical feel to it, mostly made up of orchestral and symphonic pieces. My favorite of which is Power of the Light as shown in the examples.

3) Wolf's Rain

Gravity is one of Yoko Kanno's most popular themes, and for good reason-- it's a wholly beautiful piece performed by Maaya Sakamoto. There's a slew of wonderful pieces to be mentioned, but I could only choose three to represent the soundtrack as a whole. From Run, Wolf Warrior, Run to Cloud 9, there's something for everybody in the Wolf's Rain score.

2) Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex

In the all digital world of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, ghosts can switch in and out between bodies or shells with a simple link-up. The music is heavily computerized featuring excellent rock riffs, ballads, and jazz pieces. As you can hear from the three examples provided, there's plenty of variety in the GitS soundtrack.

1) Cowboy Bebop

My first run-in with Yoko Kanno's music was Cowboy Bebop, but that's not the reason this soundtrack is number one. It flawlessly mixes a multitude of genres and styles for one essential soundtrack. There's the token jazz, but there's also funk, heavy metal, country, blues, rock, pop, and much more.

Too Good Too Bad
The EGG and YOU
Slipper Sleaze


And there you have it-- my top five favorite soundtracks from my favorite composer, Yoko Kanno. Have anything you'd like to share with me? Give me a ring in the comments section!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers 2 (NES) Retro Review

Here we are in the middle of the week, and it's time for another retro review. This time we're taking a look at the second of two Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Ranger games for the Nintendo Entertainment System. This one is the less-than-stellar sequel. How does it hold up? Let's find out.

Chipmunk Funk

Following up the pretty successful Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers game, Capcom and Disney teamed up for the sequel, cleverly titled Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers 2. When Fatcat breaks out of prison (an animal pound maybe?), it's up to Chip and his goofy brother Dale to track the morbidly obese feline down and put him back behind bars.

Rescue Rangers 2 plays a lot like the original which can be considered good or bad. There's no world map this time so players simply move from one level to another. Each level concludes with a somewhat simplistic boss battle. Levels will take players from the counter-tops of a kitchen to the saloons and gun-slinging foes of Western World, so there is a level of variety to the game's playgrounds. Chip and Dale do not have the ability to directly attack enemies. Instead they opt to pick up various boxes scattered throughout the levels to chuck at the baddies blocking their way. In the levels Chip 'n Dale can find little R/R tokens. Collecting fifty of these will give them an extra life to work with. However, this game is pretty easy, so players will probably only lose lives to an occasionally difficult boss battle or missed jump.

Forgive the brevity of the review, but we can attribute that to the brevity of the game. Players will most likely breeze through the title in an afternoon. However, if one has another buddy they can play through the game with them like the original Chip 'n Dale title. It's amusing to toss a friend at an enemy or into a bottomless pit (I'm such a bastard), but with how short the game is the average player's attention span will long for some other title. Ultimately, those looking for a very good Capcom/Disney NES game should look toward the original Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers and only pick up this title if they have a fetish for chipmunks in human clothing.

[SuperPhillip Says: 5.0/10]

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Bomberman Hero (N64, VC) Retro Review

Bomberman is not quite a household name in America, but he's very well-known in gamers' hearts and minds. Bomberman Hero recently hit the Wii's Virtual Console, so what better time to check it out on my old Nintendo 64 than now? That's rhetorical, mind you. Here's the review, our first retro review of the year.

Bombs Away!

Now that Hudson has been taken over by Konami, I thought it'd be a perfect opportunity to look back at Hudson's masochistic mascot, the white bomber, Bomberman. Armed with nothing but an endless supply of bombs to blow up enemies with, Bomberman has seen it all from 2D to 3D. In all, there were three Bomberman games for the Nintendo 64. Bomberman Hero is the odd duck as it was not a sequel of the original Bomberman 64. That said, how does Bomberman Hero shape up to other games on the system, much less other Bomberman games in general? Is this game a blast, or does it just blow?

When an evil galactic federation attacks Princess Millan's home planet, she escapes via starship towards Planet Bomber. The princess is captured, but not before giving a special disc to her robot companion to send to Bomberman. Bomberman receives the disc and its contents and declares that he will rescue Princess Millan. What follows are five planets of action featuring dozens of levels each.

Get reacquainted with Bomberman, our hero.

Bomberman Hero is one of the most unique titles in the franchise as this time around, Bomberman can jump. No longer do short cliffs taunt Bomberman as he can happily leap up to them. Our hero can also leap into the air and toss bombs at airborne foes. The bomb kick maneuver is still intact. By pressing the R button, Bomberman drops a bomb. Just walk up to the bomb, and he'll kick it in the direction he's facing. Power-ups like firepower and bomb upgrades allow Bomberman to drop more bombs at once as well as have the blast radius of each bomb explosion increase. When Bomberman loses a life, his maximum firepower goes down by one.

As stated already there are five planets in Bomberman Hero to tackle. Each one gets progressively more difficult than the last. There's three acts to each planet. Each act is divided up into 4-6 levels. The conclusion of the second act is always a battle against Nitros, Bomberman's then-newest adversary. His battles involve circling around a squared-arena, dodging his attacks. The attacks he unleashes depends upon what square he is currently standing on. As you meet Nitros again and again, newer attack squares are added to the battlefield. The final act's ultimate level features a boss battle against one of the game's five major bosses. One has you hopping over four electrified poles as you toss bombs at the boss who stands in the middle of the arena while another has you avoiding the whip of a woman of the feline persuasion.

Crates hold priceless gems that beef up your score.

When you're not fighting bosses you'll be playing the game's many normal levels. These levels are short with the longest taking about five minutes. There's no checkpoints, so die (run out of hearts or fall off the level), and you have to begin the level anew from the starting point. This is annoying, but since the levels are so short, this doesn't become a huge frustration as it could have been. These short levels have Bomberman collecting pieces of a key to open the exit of the level to riding the Bomber Marine through a chamber of water, dodging mines and enemies alike to using the Bomber Jet to play a level Star Fox 64-style, albeit in a much slower fashion.

Introducing the Bomber Jet upgrade!

Most levels have a static camera. Static in that you cannot flip it around-- not static as in it never moves. Bomberman controls decently enough. Chucking and kicking bombs is a breeze-- just don't get caught in the ensuing explosions.

The visuals of Bomberman Hero show exactly how ancient early 3D technology was. Bomberman and other characters are made up of a handful of polygons while backgrounds and levels feature textures that are are practically two-toned in color. The textures are very simple, and nothing here will have you leaving your mouth wide open in awe. That said, this early 3D was astonishing back when it premiered in 1998 when Bomberman Hero originally released. Meanwhile, there's little in the way of voice-work, and what music there is-is catchy enough.

Even in deep heat, Bomberman is cool as ice.

Bomberman Hero is an imperfect game. It can be completed in less than three hours, but if you want a challenge, try collecting all of the gems and defeating all of the enemies in every level to get the top scores in each level. By scoring at or over the target score of a given level, you're rewarded with a number five (the absolute best you can achieve in a level). Score a five in every level, and you unlock a sixth planet which contains the most difficult levels in the game. On the Virtual Console, you can pick up this game for the price of ten dollars. Not bad for a game that features enough boom for the buck (if you try to unlock everything, that is).

[SuperPhillip Says: 6.5/10]

Monday, March 21, 2011

SuperPhillip's Favorite VGMs - Spring Fling 2011 Edition

Spring has officially sprung here in Central City, and the temperatures here show it. Nice and in the high seventies. This week we have some happy and mellow tunes from games such as Mario Sports Mix, Animal Crossing: City Folk, and Shadow the Hedgehog. Sit down, grab some nice lemonade, and let's do this!

v681. Mario Sports Mix - Koopa Troopa Beach

Mario Sports Mix is a game that features four sports: basketball, volleyball, dodgeball, and hockey. Each sport has its own locales that can be played on-- usually nine or ten. There's the traditional, no-gimmick Mario Stadium, and then for this song, there's Koopa Troopa Beach. As the tide comes in, green shells come in with the tide as well. Players can pick these items up and use them on their opponents. Just don't get caught using an item when you should be making a play! With negative reviews for some reason, I happen to really enjoy Mario Sports Mix. Once again, critics have no bearing on my opinion of a game.

v682. Mario Hoops 3-on-3 - Highlight Ending

We go from Square-Enix's second attempt at a sports title to their very first which in my view along with many others was mediocre. It was a three-on-three basketball game where your teammates did little to help you out. The game was focused more on collecting coins than traditional basketball gameplay. Regardless, the soundtrack was, and still is, fantastic. Composed by Masayoshi Soken who also worked on Mario Sports Mix, the score is appropriately cheery as evident by the staff roll theme, Highlight Ending. The vocals add to the charm of the closing song.

v683. Animal Crossing: City Folk - City (Early Morning, Daytime, Evening)

This is a three-fer for Animal Crossing: City Folk. It's the three versions of the City theme, the main new attraction to the Animal Crossing universe. My town, Central, was and still is incredible. I paved roads, I made a welcome sign that read "CENTRAL" in cursive letters, and I had awesome neighbors. Some folks disliked how similar City Folk (or Let's Go the City depending on where you are) was to previous Animal Crossing games, particularly Wild World. What is your opinion on Animal Crossing: City Folk? Did it do too little with the good old fashioned formula? P.S. Filbert owns you.

v684. Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo's Dungeon - Rafaello Battle

Rafaello is the penultimate boss in Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo's Dungeon for the Nintendo Wii. At the beginning of the game, Rafaello is just a little baby, but as Chocobo restores the memories of each guardian, he grows up from baby to kid to teenager to adult sprouting angel wings. Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo's Dungeon was listed on SuperPhillip Central as one of the Wii's Most Overlooked games period, and for good reason. It's an awesome roguelike game for beginners to the genre, and it's a blast to play. This song, Rafaello Battle, is a remix of Battle on the Bridge from Final Fantasy V.

v685. Shadow the Hedgehog - GUN Fortress

With all the gritty rock used in Shadow the Hedgehog the game, this is a relatively mellow piece with a very easy-listening guitar to it. Shadow the Hedgehog is generally frowned upon by the gaming community due to its use of language, guns, and vehicles. Regardless of these things, I happened to enjoy the game for what it was. Using guns meant I didn't have to rely on the homing attack to take down enemies. The homing attack in Sonic games is usually what killed me in past Sonic titles anyway. What was your opinion of Shadow the Hedgehog? For or against the direction the developers took the franchise?

A Happy Spring to all my followers and readers of SuperPhillip Central. If you're dying for more music, check out my Youtube homepage at SuperPhillip32. Until next week, the favorite VGMs are out of here.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Nintendo 3DS Launch Trailer

The Nintendo 3DS is but a week away for most consumers 'round the world. The following launch trailer shows off every launch game coming out along with some faux reactions from paid actors. Out of the launch titles presented, which are you most looking forward to, if any?