Friday, June 3, 2011

Top Ten Anticipated Games of E3 11

E3 is less than a week away, and two hardware are going to dominate the floor along with their games. Let's take a look at my top ten anticipated games of E3 11.

10) Star Fox 64 3D (3DS)

Star Fox 64 3D is a reskinned version of the original galactic dogfight. Now there's new upgraded textures to gawk over, multiplayer via local connection, and new voices added into the mix. One of my favorite N64 classic, I look forward to trying the game out on a small screen and in glorious 3D.

9) Uncharted: Golden Abyss (PSP NGP)

A side-story featuring everyone's favorite everyman (how someone who shoots with stellar accuracy, can climb walls like a monkey, and can stop international terrorists is beyond me) returns, but this time in handheld form. If the visuals don't impress, you can always stick around for the treasure-seeking trials and tribulations that Nate Drake and company come across. The PSP NGP launch can't come soon enough.

8) WipEout 2048 (PSP NGP)

WipEout hits Sony's next-generation portable with blazing fast speeds even with only 30 fps action. You can guess this 8-player online racer will get the adrenaline going. As one of the promised launch titles for the PSP NGP, you'd be crazy to not pick this game up. That is, unless the next PSP is over $400!

7) Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception (PS3)

Nathan Drake's third treasure hunt takes him to flooded rooms to the scorching heat of the desert. You can probably guess than Sully and Elena have returned to assist Nate in this action/adventure title. Here's hoping for a better balance between gunplay and platforming.

6) Resistance 3 (PS3)

The Chimera return, and there's a whole lot of them to frag back to Hell. I enjoyed the original and sequel very much. Cooperative play where gunners took on missions across various maps. Hopefully this feature returns. You can bet your butt that the single-player and multiplayer are going to be tinkered to a "T". Insomniac is one dedicated studio, and I look forward to their next game.

5) Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One (PS3)

Ratchet, Clank, Captain Qwark, and always humorous Dr. Nefarious team up against a brand-new evil corrupting the galaxy. It's up to this team of four to stop it. With drop in/drop out cooperative play, the trademark wit of the series, and so many secrets to uncover, it's nice to see Ratchet branch out into untested waters instead of doing more of the same like past games.

4) Batman: Arkham City (PS3, 360)

Play under the cape and cowl of Batman as he enters a war zone in Arkham City. Rocksteady promises a new combo system, tons of new re-imagined villains, and enough detective work to make Dick Tracy jealous.Even a playable Catwoman comes to party. Hopefully we'll see a gameplay demonstration at E3.

3) Mario Kart 3D (3DS)

Ever since Mario Kart DS, the series has been a tremendous hit for Nintendo. The Wii version is somewhere over twenty million units sold worldwide. We've seen but a tech demo of the game in action, so here's hoping we see more of this game at E3. Perhaps during their montage of upcoming Fall release games?

2) Super Mario Bros. 3D (3DS)

Mario in stereoscopic 3D? Sign me up. With 3D enabled on the portable, you can judge your jumps much better and much more precisely. This game has a chance of stealing the show. Even the logo of the game features a surprise-- the raccoon tail power-up. As a combination between Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Galaxy, this game has all the makings of being a blockbuster.

1) The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Wii)

For two years now we've been waiting for some kind of information regarding this new Zelda entry. Twilight Princess was overhyped, so this is Nintendo's way of keeping the hype train chugging along but at a slow and steady pace. Hopefully the game is almost done as there really is nothing to play on the Wii this year. I'll probably be shown up at E3 with Wii announcements, but hey. Give us a story trailer and upgraded demo for Pete's sake.


Another list down and another week down the metaphorical drain. What are your top ten most anticipated games coming to E3? Let the world know in the comments section.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Best Levels in Gaming History - Volume Two

It's a warm and blistery Thursday in Central City-- the perfect day to stay cool inside and write up a new article. It's time for more Best Levels in Gaming History! A month ago we started this new series of articles, and it's now the grand opportunity for a new one. Let's see which five levels will be chosen this time around!

Melty Molten Galaxy - Lava Spire - Super Mario Galaxy (Wii)

This impressive and difficult level starts out with Mario needing to avoid steam that shoots out from the planetoid he starts on. Lava bubbles pop up from the ground, lava creatures can be shot down with some star bits, and some wicked wall jumps come to save the day. A few star transporters shoot Mario up into the wild red wonder with a volcano erupting right behind him. Following this section is a part of the level where Mario must carefully grab onto pull stars as he flirts every so closely to lava streams bursting from miniature lava planet to miniature lava planet. After surviving this maze, Mario finally finds solid ground. Unfortunately to continue he must collect five star piece shards to unlock the way to the final section of level-- a lava spire (hence the star name) which is slowly being submerged into the lava. Mario must reach the top, avoiding enemies, and making precision jumps to collect his coveted star prize. If that doesn't sound arduous, just wait for the daredevil run of this very level where Mario cannot get hit once.

Forest Temple - The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (N64)

The creepy forest temple, an area of the game with enough tricks and turns to make for an exciting dungeon. There's all sorts of vile creatures to contend with from werewolf-like enemies to wallmasters that will bring Link back to the beginning of the dungeon if he gets caught in their grip. Who can forget walking through that spiral room, or quickly darting through a room where the ceiling tries to crush Link, only offering a few holes of protection? The goal of this dungeon was to find and defeat four specifically colored Poe ghosts to open the way to the boss' door where a phantom of Ganondorf on horseback awaited Link. An extremely ambient dungeon, the Forest Temple remains to this day one of my favorite dungeons of Zelda series fame.

The Bunker - LittleBigPlanet (PS3)

Talk about a shocker! This level in the Wilderness area of the game features plenty of electrifying obstacles to persevere against. From spiraling platforms to shocking enemies that briefly alternate between their weak point and their danger zones, this level is the ultimate challenge in LittleBigPlanet. The whole level is fiendishly designed to trip the player up and keep them on their littlebigtoes. The final portion of the level is the cruelest. It's one gigantic circle that spins slowly with electrified floors. If you're too slow, you risk becoming a ragdoll of death. If you're too fast, you risk the problem of sliding off into death. Case in point you want to have a good rhythm in this almost-impossible section of level. Boy, did it feel good to ace this baby!

Rith Essa - Jet Force Gemini (N64)

A level set upon cliffside, Rith Essa is a gorgeous planet with a purple sky and wonderful foliage to gaze at. Too bad all those nasty drone soldiers and other buggy pests get in the way of the picture-perfect view. There's three areas to Rith Essa. One is the main path along the cliffside, another is a near-flooded waterway where you must find all of the Tribals hidden inside, and the third is a cavern setting with motion sensor bombs waiting to blow you and the Tribal captors up. Plus the music is just excellent. While some hated the idea of going through every level again to search for Tribals, I loved it. Jet Force Gemini remains one of my favorites from the N64 era, and Rith Essa is a testament to that philosophy.

The Cave of Trials - Star Ocean: The Second Story (PS1)/Second Evolution (PSP)

The ultimate dungeon in one of my favorite JRPGs, the Cave of Trials is a multi-floor dungeon with no save points. Each level of the dungeon features harder enemies and a boss to each floor. Some of these can easily one hit kill you while others are too fast to target. The final boss after making it all the way to the bottom gives you one of the best items of the game. To make it to dungeon you must reach the top floor of the final dungeon in the game, talk with an elder in the coliseum via private action, and answer that you'd like to go back in time. Not only does this make the Cave of Trials accessible, but it also makes the final boss infinitely more powerful and agile. Definitely not for the weak of heart.


There ends the second edition of Best Levels in Gaming History. What are your personal favorites? Just give me a tip in the comments section.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Review Round-Up - May

Jeanne D'Arc's battle prowess helped her
win the month of May at SPC.

This month, the very merry month of May, housed three unique reviews. One was from an early PSP game and two were from systems played long ago. We begin with the tactical RPG Jeanne D'Arc which scored the highest this month with a tremendous 9.5. Meanwhile, the original Mario Tennis on the Nintendo 64 fell right behind Ms. D'Arc with a 9.25. Finally, the last review of this shortened month was Mario Tennis: Power Tour for the Game Boy Advance which received a respectable 8.0. Overall, it was a pretty steady month of reviews at SuperPhillip Central.

Jeanne D'Arc (PSP) - 9.5
Mario Tennis (N64) - 9.25
Mario Tennis: Power Tour (GBA) - 8.0

Nothing like pure tactical warfare to get the blood flowing.

Central City Census - June

Welcome to a new month. I swear, May just flew right by me! I guess that's what happens when you take two weeks off. Anyway, before we get into the new, let's delve into last month's census.

Which of the big three will have the best E3 presser?

21 (70%)
7 (23%)
2 (6%)

Votes so far: 30

It shouldn't be a surprise to anyone this month, what with all the rumors surrounding Project Cafe as well as new content for the 3DS. Sony came in second place with 23% of the vote as they probably have some great games on the way, some of which are already announced like Uncharted 3, Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One, and Twisted Metal's revival. Finally, it seems the core gamer has been all but abandoned by Microsoft as they are heavily focused on the high-selling Kinect accessory for the Xbox 360. We'll see if they can wow their fanbase after a poor showing last year. With that out of the way, let's sink our collective teeth into June's census.

June 5th is the three-year anniversary of SuperPhillip Central. The question this time is pretty simple. When was the first time you came to SuperPhillip Central?

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Mario Tennis: Power Tour (GBA) Retro Review

The French Open in tennis rolls on. Meanwhile, here at SPC, we're dedicating time to some tennis titles of yore. Yesterday we saw the review of the original Mario Tennis. Now we're going to look at the Game Boy Advance iteration in Mario Tennis: Power Tour, so grab a racket and get hopping to a court near you.

Forget Federer, Mario is where it's at.

Mario is a connoisseur of sports whether he's jetting it on a go-cart, shanking a shot while playing golf, scoring a goal in soccer, refereeing a boxing match, and hitting one out of the park while playing an inning of baseball. Case in point, the portly plumber does everything and the kitchen sink. He is one versatile plumber indeed. Now he's returning to handhelds to play a wonderful round of tennis with friends and rivals in Mario Tennis: Power Tour for the Game Boy Advance. Does Mario and company hit an ace, or do they get penalized for a double fault?

This is the game hub of Power Tour.
The single-player mode opens up with you choosing one of two characters-- one boy and one girl. In the long run, it really does not matter which you choose. The story begins with your character of choice waking up from his or her bed and being greeted by your doubles partner. It was a rough initiation process, so your soon-to-be all-star is still wiped out from it. Your goal starting today is to get up on the ranks starting in the Amateur circuit. After beating four players you move onto the Senior circuit where once again you or your doubles team take on four more players. Finally, there's the Varsity class which plays just the same as the Amateur and Senior classes only more difficult as the AI gets smarter and plays more desperately.

Whether it's singles or doubles, there's some kind
of fun to be had in Mario Tennis: Power Tour.

This game plays like the Golden Sun of tennis games. From the character gibberish to their animations to gaining experience points after every match, there's definitely a Camelot RPG feeling, and there's no doubt since Camelot developed this game. As you gain levels by accumulating enough experience points, you can upgrade your stats from serve strength to how much your shot spins after it is hit. You can upgrade your character to suit your play style which is a welcome addition to the game. Some players will divide up the points between all stats while others can pick and choose which stats are right for them. Want to be a power server? Then upgrade the serve category as you gain a level.

Like Mario Power Tennis which came out on the Gamecube, the Game Boy Advance edition of the game features power shots. There's two types of power shots: offensive and defensive. Say a ball is far away from you. Use a power shot to transport yourself to the ball location to save the day. For your character of choice to learn new power shots you must participate in mini-games. From running on a conveyor belt, leaping over barrels Donkey Kong-style to walking on a tight-rope and trying not to tip over into the water. As you continue to play these games, your power shot gets more... well... powerful.

There's over thirty characters to select from in Mario Tennis: Power Tour. Before blowing a gasket, however, at the promise of more Mushroom Kingdom characters than ever before, only six of the thirty-something characters are actually Mario-related. The others are generic humanoids with little in the way of personality. Out of the Mushroom Kingdoom cast presented only Mario, Luigi, Peach, Waluigi, Donkey Kong, and Bowser are playable. In fact, the Mario gang seems like an afterthought as they only appear in the story at the tale-end. That's pretty disappointing as it makes the game seem like a tennis title that has Mario characters shoehorned in.

With only six Mushroom Kingdom characters,
Mario fanatics might be disappointed.

Playing Power Tour feels great. Serve the ball just right, and you'll slam it down your opponent's throat. One button does topspin shots while the other does backspin shots. Tapping A then B performs a lob shot that sends the ball over the head of anyone severely guarding the net. Meanwhile, tapping B then A does a drop shot that puts a stop to players too far away from their side of the net. When your power shot meter builds up, you can unleash your shot while holding the R button and hitting the A or B button. It's a simple set-up, but damn does it feel nice.

DK's serve is a beast in this game.

Visually, the faux 3D models in the game look just like they do in the Golden Sun series of games. Again, not a shock considering the developer. The game does its hardest to replicate an authentic tennis experience, and for that it does an admirable job. From the announcer keeping tabs of the current score to wild applause and "oohs" and "ahhs" when a magnificent play is executed, there's plenty of presentation to love with this game.

Mario Tennis: Power Tour may not feature the Mushroom Kingdom cast as much as I'd like, and finding another player to play with you over multiplayer may be difficult if not impossible nowadays. The single-player game is also short even when you're getting championships in both singles and doubles play, but if you look past these errors you will find a fun portable tennis game. It's not the best one currently on the market, yes (that would be Hot Shots Tennis: Get A Grip), but Mario and company are still churning out remarkable sports games.

[SuperPhillip Says: 8.0/10]

Monday, May 30, 2011

Mario Tennis (N64, VC) Retro Review

The French Open marches along, so what better way to welcome it than a review of a tennis game? What's that, you say? "Good idea, SP!" Why, thank you. Thank you very much, good sirs and missuses. Here's the second Retro Review of the year in Mario Tennis for the Nintendo 64 and Wii Virtual Console (1,000 points).

Mario and crew make a racket on the tennis circuit.

Mario is an all-star. He's destroyed Bowser's plans multiple times, he's raced go-karts, played rounds of golf, even slammed one out of the park like Barry Bonds. In 2000 he returned to the sporting arena to play a game of tennis. Not only was there a companion game on the Game Boy Color that allowed you to transfer characters to the Nintendo 64 version, but it was the introduction of Luigi's archrival, Waluigi. With a colorful cast of characters, multiple modes, and awesome multiplayer play, Mario Tennis is one of the great tennis titles on any platform.

As stated already there's many modes to discover in Mario Tennis. The main single-player mode has you playing a tournament-styled mode either in singles or doubles play. There's ring shot where you volley between yourself and the computer, hitting the ball through the rings that pop up, going for a high score. Then there's a piranha plant game where you attempt to hit fifty balls that shoot out from the mouths of the plants. Meanwhile, you have to get your shots past a defender who will do anything he or she can to thwart your efforts.

Toad tries to make it past Peach's defenses in this mode.

Tournament play has you playing three rounds in three cups, Mushroom, Flower, and Star. The first two rounds of each cup is always a 1 set, 2 game deal. The third round of each cup is the best of 3 sets with 2 games apiece. Completing singles gives you a new character in the form of Shy Guy while dominating doubles will give you Donkey Kong Jr. to play as. The computer AI is quite smart and will do anything in its power to run you ragged across the various courts the game has.

Mario gets ready to serve up an ace.

There is a plethora of things to do in Mario Tennis. For one, you can earn trophies for all of the over-a-dozen characters in both singles and doubles play. By winning tournaments as certain characters, you unlock new courts to play on in exhibition play. Battle in the skies of the Mushroom Kingdom on Mario and Luigi's court or monkey around on Donkey Kong's jungle-themed court. There's an expansive number of unique courts to unlock through singles and doubles play.

Speaking of characters there's multiple ones to control and conquer with. Some characters are well-rounded like Mario and Luigi, some like Wario and Donkey Kong depend upon their strength to win while characters like Boo and Paratroopa rely on tricky curved shots to get a one-up on their competition. When you win a tournament as a specific character, you earn the ability to play as their star character giving them more power and speed in their ball-handling.

Mario Tennis plays like a traditional tennis game believe it or not. This was before the advent of power shots that Mario Power Tennis on the Gamecube introduced. One button hits a top spin shot, another controls a flat shot, while pressing A and then B executes a lob shot that flies over those occupying the net. Conversely, B and then A performs a drop shot for those defenders too far away from the net to reach in time. Lob shots are tricky to do as a star appears on the opponent's side of the court that your enemy can get under and strike with a strong, powerful shot that can speed past your defenses in the blink of an eye.

Mario Tennis came out in 2000, so it is an older Nintendo 64 game. Still, the character models are made up of simple polygons, court textures are nonexistent, and the crowd is made up of 2D characters. It looked good for the time, but the game looks severely outdated. That does not stop the game from being a blast to play with friends (up to four players at once), however. Meanwhile the audio is quite good and stands the test of time. Motoi Sakuraba's music is energizing and matches the action on the court. Who else gets tense when the match point theme plays? Continuing with the sound, Mario announces the score as well as who earned the point.

Bowser's court tilts and tumbles as you hit the ball
through items to trip up your opponent.

It's best to play Mario Tennis with having the camera on your side of the court at all times as playing on far side of the screen can get confusing real fast. There's an option to alter where the camera view is designated inside the options menu. Moreover, each time a player scores there's a replay of the winning shot. This can get tedious when you want to just play a game uninterrupted, but thankfully replays can be skipped entirely.

Mario Tennis is a tremendous tennis title. It has everything you'd expect from a game from Camelot including addicting gameplay, challenging modes, cunning CPU opponents, loads of unlockables, and a plethora of characters to choose from and master. The game is a steal at ten bucks on the Wii Virtual Console service, or you can find it for cheap on a site like eBay. It's definitely worth the cost of admission. Mario serves up an ace this go round.

[SuperPhillip Says: 9.25/10]

SuperPhillip's Favorite VGMs - SPC is Back Edition

I took an unannounced two-week vacation, and now I'm back-- just in time for E3! No better way to get back into the groove of things than returning to my favorite VGMs! This week we'll be listening and viewing music from Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, and Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg. That's just three of the games we'll be hearing music from! Let's get to it, gang!

v721. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night - Wandering Ghosts

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night was the first Metroid-styled game in the series. The style would continue henceforth through the Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS. Wandering Ghosts is a peppy song with an electric guitar as the main melody. Nothing like hearing this music while slaying some skeletons or other otherworldly creature.

v722. Klonoa 2: Lunatea's Veil - Stepping Wind (Snow Mountain Mira Mira)

This catchy vocal song plays during the snowboarding level of Klonoa 2: Lunatea's Veil for the PlayStation 2. After the massive bomb that was the Wii remake of the very first Klonoa game, it seems like the future is bleak for this floppy-eared feline. That's alright though as Klonoa lives on through in-game advertisements (Ridge Racer 3D, anyone?) and four great adventures.

v723. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past - Kakariko Village

Here's two versions of the same song with Kakariko Village from the Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past which is arguably one of the greatest 16-bit games of its time. The first version is a symphonic arrangement from the Legend of Zelda: Sound and Drama CD while the other is simply the Super Nintendo original. A Link to the Past holds a special place in my heart as it is an extremely well-crafted game, full of secrets and fun.

v724. We Love Golf! - Highland Leaf Country Club

Ah, We Love Golf! by the fine folks at Camelot, makers of the Golden Sun and Mario Golf and Tennis games. I loved this Wii-exclusive golfing romp, and I was saddened that more people didn't get a chance to play this excellent golf game. The Highland Leaf Country Club was the first of eight courses in the game. It was, of course, the easiest with large, sprawling fairways and very few bunkers and water hazards. If you're looking for your Camelot-golfing fix, why not try out We Love Golf!?

v725. Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg - Pop A Parade/A-Jack-in-the-Box

These two themes seamlessly transition from one to another to create a single-sounding song. It's Pop A Parade and A-Jack-in-the-Box! from Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg, created by Sonic the Hedgehog creator, Yuji Naka. The game itself had you rolling an egg around, crushing and rolling over enemies as you leaped through rings and beat down bosses on your quest to save Billy's island. The game did not receive the best of marks and for good reason-- the camera was pretty poor, and the controls weren't the best. However, the soundtrack is pure gold, Jerry.

And before you know it, time will fly by, and we'll be experiencing the next set of five favorite VGMs. Have a great week, everybody!