Saturday, September 17, 2011

Top Ten Towns in Video Games

Let's end the week right, shall we? Borrowing an idea from NeoGAF, towns are an important part of video games. They're where players purchase goods, talk to non-playable characters, and sometimes start quests. These bustling hubs are especially popular in RPGs. This is a top ten list of my personal favorite towns, villages, and cities in video games. After you check out this list, rattle off some of your own in the comments section.

10) Midgar (Final Fantasy VII - PS1)

This steampunk-inspired city is gigantic. When I first picked up the game as a younger lad, I was amazed that there was a whole other world outside of the large Midgar. This industrial city is blocked off into various sectors from the seedy slums, the underbelly of Midgar, to the richer districts, this town is absolutely massive. What stands in the middle of Midgar is the Shinra Corporation whose iron-fisted grip looms heavily over the city. Plus who can forget racing and battling Road Rash style on a deadly highway?

9) Viridian City (Pokemon Red/Blue Versions - GB)

The second town introduced to aspiring Pokemon trainers is the vibrant and forest-like Viridian City. Although there is a gym leader in this city, only after trainers collect seven badges will the sinister leader of Team Rocket and Viridian City gym leader, Giovanni, will open his door to challengers. The town tune is additionally quite catchy, too. For a humble beginning that leaves a lot to nostalgia, Viridian City may be my favorite town in a Pokemon game.

8) Windfall Island (The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker - GCN)

Windfall Island is essentially the Kakariko Village of The Wind Waker. It's where a plethora of happenings occur. From talking with Tingle the fairy to bidding on goods in the auction house to mixing up helpful potions with the potion master, there's plenty to see and do on this hustling and bustling isle. The wonderful art style the game possesses only further showcases the beauty of Windfall Island.

7) Flanoir (Tales of Symphonia - PS2, GCN)

Flanoir is a winter wonderland with its own academic library. Though you have to be pretty stupid to build a city in an arctic area, so just how much do these guys need an academic library anyway? Nonetheless, Flanoir is a beautiful city with a fantastic track composed by Motoi Sakuraba to accompany it. One could stare in amazement as snowflakes fall from the sky and touch down softly upon the snow below. I just hope Lloyd Irving and friends packed parkas!

6) Tibetan Village (Uncharted 2: Among Thieves - PS3)

The Uncharted series isn't known for its sprawling cities. It's more known for its swashbuckling adventures in jungles, temples, and other ancient areas. When players first get a glimpse of the Tibetan Village after waking up from a near-death experience, they get to see a magnificent mountain town before their very eyes. Sure, no one here speaks English, but they're kind people regardless. There's even some treasure to pick up as well as farm animals to play nice with. What more could Nathan Drake ask for? It's masterful Naughty Dog's design behind this jaw-dropping village.

5) Luca (Final Fantasy X - PS2)

Luca is a seaside metropolis full of life and places to go and people to meet. There's an enjoyable blitzball stadium (blitzball was listed as one of my favorite mini-games in a special article on SPC), a theater where players could listen to music and watch past cinematics, a gorgeous fountain, and a pleasant marina to sit down and hear the sounds of seagulls crying in the distance. The only downside to Luca is that this city was where the infamous "laughing scene" took place. Regardless, I love this town nonetheless.

4) Clock Town (The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask - N64)

The final burg from a Zelda title, Clock Town is right smack-dab in the center of Termina Field. It is the main hub of Majora's Mask. In order to reverse the flow of time back three days, Link must return to the clock tower in the main part of town. There's always something going on in Clock Town whether you want to reunite lost loves, help out an old lady, or save up enough rupees in the bank for a Heart Container. The Asian flare of the architecture is also a very nice touch.

3) Halure (Tales of Vesperia - PS3, 360)

Such a gorgeous autumn town with a tremendously tall tree resting over the entire city, Halure is truly a sight to behold in Tales of Vesperia. Known affectionately as the City of Blossoms, Halure proves that HD towns can be done, and they can be done marvelously. I'm looking at you, Final Fantasy XIII. Though it appears early in the game, Halure makes a lasting impression upon the player from beginning to end.

2) Kakariko Village (The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past - SNES)

In the Light World, Kakariko Village is a peaceful village. One can participate in a racing mini-game through wild grass, bush, and past fences, read a book or two in the library, or get guards sicked on them as Link is a wanted fugitive. The color palette chosen is pleasing to the eye with its subdued green grass and white tiled paths. Link, with ocarina in tow, can even summon a bird to fly him across the land of Hyrule in a hurry.

1) Delfino Plaza (Super Mario Sunshine - GCN)

Number one goes to a place that perpetually reminds me of summer, Delfino Plaza. Mario goes short sleeves in Super Mario Sunshine, the black sheep of the three-dimensional Mario games. That doesn't stop sun-soaked Delfino Plaza from making this list as one of my favorite towns in a game. From cleaning graffiti high and low, scaling rooftops via wall kicks, using Yoshi to make it from boat-to-boat to an isolated island, and trading blue coins for Shine Sprites to kicking fruit into nets for Piantas, the denizens of Delfino, this plaza definitely has a lot to do. It was also named as one of my favorite game hubs of all time.


So there you have it. My list of my personal favorite top ten towns in video games. I'm sure you can't wait to dissect this list and share your own opinion on the matter. Feel free to directly in the comments section. Don't forget to vote on September's poll while you're at it!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Star Fox 64 3D (3DS) Review

It's been a busy week here on SuperPhillip Central with more blog entries posted in a week than ever before, and we're still not finished. Thank the Nintendo press conference and the Tokyo Game Show for that. What I have in store for original content is a review of Star Fox 64 3D, the latest remake on the Nintendo 3DS. How does it shape up?

The infinitely quotable game takes flight on the Nintendo 3DS

In March of 1993, the original Star Fox soared onto the Super Nintendo with a special chip known as the Super FX chip. This chip allowed for intricate and impressive (for that time) three-dimensional objects such as arches and enemy fighters. Four years later, Star Fox 64 touched down upon the Nintendo 64 with an engrossing story, intense dog-fighting, and a whole Lylat System to explore. Now fast-forward to the present where a remake has been born in Star Fox 64 3D, utilizing the Nintendo 3DS's glasses-less 3D, improved textures, and updated music and voice work. Is all of these new features worth the hefty forty dollar price tag?

Back before the current Team Star Fox of Fox McCloud, Peppy Hare, Falco Lombardi, and Slippy Toad were together, the team was compromised of Fox's father, James McCloud, Peppy Hare, and Pigma Dengar. On a mission on Andross's home planet of Venom, Pigma betrayed the team, thus imprisoning James and Peppy. Somehow and someway Peppy escaped and came back to Corneria to inform the good guys the bad news. It's several years later, and now the new team has blossomed. The threat of Andross looms over the Lylat System of planets and stars, and it's up to Team Star Fox to stop the mad scientist from conquering the once peaceful system before it's too late. The highly cinematic style of the game tells the aforementioned tale through a narrative piece and cutscenes. It's your typical space soap opera, but it is effective nonetheless to give the player incentive to play the game.

Star Fox 64 plays in two types of ways. The first is as an on-rails shooter of sorts. You're always moving forward in your vehicle, blasting down opposing Andross fighters and avoiding enemy lasers. The other is all-range mode which allows you to fly your Arwing around in three-hundred and sixty degrees of freedom. When you reach the outer perimeter of the battlefield, you'll automatically be forced to make a U-turn. The game is controlled either by using the circle pad or using the gyro controls. The gyro controls take a lot of getting accustomed to, and they're more of a novelty than anything. My advice is to stick with the traditional controls and only utilize gyro if you're morbidly curious.

And thus an internet meme was reborn.

The Lylat System is compromised of fifteen planets, but there's only seven levels per play-through. Each play-through lasts about an hour depending on the player's skill level. So how does this work then? Players always begin their adventure on the planet Corneria and end on Venom. By completing certain requirements in a given level, the path the player takes switches. For instance, on the first planet of the game you'll have to rescue Falco from enemy pursuers before he retires from battle, and then you must fly through several arches. Then Falco will inform you of a secret path leading to Sector Y. If you fail to rescue Falco or opt not to fly through the arches, you'll travel to the asteroid belt of Meteo instead. Another example is on the toxic wasteland of the once-beautiful planet of Zoness. If you fail to destroy all searchlights and they detect you, you'll be forced to travel to Macbeth as opposed to heading to Sector Z. In order to get the most out of Star Fox 64 3D, you'll need to play through the game at least three or four times to play through all planets.

To further increase the longevity of the game, there's medals to earn through shooting down as many enemy fighters and scoring as many points as possible. There's three modes to earn fifteen medals in each: 3DS, N64, and Expert mode (Expert is unlocked once all fifteen medals are earned either in 3DS or N64 mode). 3DS is essentially easy mode whereas N64 mode is your normal mode where enemies do more damage to Fox and friends. Expert mode gives more enemy fodder for Fox to blast to kingdom-come, and it also gives our ace pilot his father's infamous sunglasses to wear. Obviously, damage given off by enemies is increased even more from N64 mode. In addition to these three difficulty modes, there's an unlockable Score Attack mode which allows players to go through a planet of their choice, aiming for the top score and one of three medals: either bronze, silver, or gold.

Teammates will often give advice to the player.
Heed their words to survive.

Going back to the fifteen planets of the Lylat System, there's a wide variety of missions and objectives to complete as well as themes and backgrounds to explore. The red-hot sun of Solar will slowly drain the shield health of Team Star Fox's Arwings as the heat is simply too much for them to handle. Meanwhile, the arctic planet of Fichina (once called and mistranslated as Fortuna in the original Star Fox 64) has Star Fox attempting to stop a bomb from exploding inside the Cornerian army's base. This is all the while trying to fend off Team Star Wolf, their fierce rivals. The arid desert planet of Titania has Fox piloting the Landmaster which is a powerful tank. As he rides along the ground, Fox must rescue Slippy from the clutches of the planet's boss. Furthermore, on Katina players must shoot down a barrage of enemy fighters in all-range mode as well as destroy the enemy mothership before it can destroy the Cornerian base it hovers over.

There's three different types of vehicles for Fox to pilot. Most of the missions will ask for McCloud to control the ever-graceful Arwing. The Arwing can perform barrel rolls to deflect enemy lasers, somersault, boost, brake, and in all-range mode accomplish incredible U-turns. Somersaults, boosts, brakes, and U-turns require their be some energy in the boost gauge. This gauge eventually refills after a few seconds or so. Two of the fifteen planets of the Lylat System has Fox inside the Landmaster tank. The tank can move its cannon up and down to blast enemies from land, sea, and air. It can also hover over potential dangers. The final vehicle which is only experienced on the ocean planet of Aquas is the Bluemarine. This Team Star Fox patented submarine can launch an unlimited amount of torpedoes to not only blow away enemies but also illuminate the dark and dank depths of the isolated ocean. All vehicles can lock onto enemies. Destroying multiple enemies at once with a lock-on shot gives bonus points. This is the key for earning medals and high scores on planets.

The Bluemarine is only used on the ocean planet of Aquas.

Items are an essential part of Star Fox 64 3D, and there's a decent variety of them. Silver rings bestow Fox with health (think hearts in The Legend of Zelda) while collecting three gold rings will boost Fox's shield gauge. Acquiring another trio of gold rings will give the player an extra life. Gathering smart bombs allows Fox to launch them at enemies as well as detonate them for a huge concussive blast. This is perfect for crowd control. When one of the Arwing's wings are broken off, Fox can collect an item that instantly repairs all wings. Finally, the laser upgrade increases the efficiency of Fox's lasers. The laser can be boosted several-fold from the original green laser to twin lasers to pulsating and powerful blue lasers. If Fox dies in a mission or he loses a wing, the laser goes back to its original state. In certain missions ROB 64 (helpful guide aboard the Great Fox) will drop item boxes to help McCloud out.

We've been broaching about Fox McCloud throughout this review, but we all know there's no "I" in team nor is there any "I" in Team Star Fox. Fox is helped out by his trusty crew of cocky and crude Falco Lombardi, old and experienced Peppy Hare, and always in trouble Slippy Toad. Each hero has his own usefulness. For instance, Falco will oftentimes pinpoint roads to secret paths. Peppy will inform Fox of a boss's weak point while Slippy, when he's not under attack, will identify a boss's health gauge for the player. In fierce firefights Fox will usually have to fend off attackers who go after his teammates. If a teammate takes too much damage, they'll be forced to escape from battle. This means they won't be in the next mission, you won't be able to get a medal on that mission, and their helpfulness won't be available to you. It's a triple whammy of misfortune.

Speaking of bosses, Andross has many tricks in his metaphorical sleeves. Some bosses are as simple as shooting the backside or aiming for a weak point. Others require a bit more finesse. One boss has you shooting the cannons on its shell, then shooting its eye with as much laser fire as possible. This all the while avoiding the immense amount of fodder it spawns from its cannons. Another boss requires the player to launch smart bombs at its two exhaust pipes, then at the vessels that shoot off missiles. When the crane is exposed, this must also be destroyed or else one of the previously mentioned vessels will be revived.

Spyborg's weak point is directly in its eyes.

If playing through the multiple paths (there's over twenty different paths to play through), going for high scores, and kicking Andross's monkey butt isn't enough for you, then try out the multiplayer. Through single cart download play, up to four friends can battle it out for supremacy on one of four maps. A glaring oversight is the lack of any kind of online play or online leaderboards. If Star Fox Command had online play, why can't Star Fox 64 3D? It just reeks of laziness. Regardless, if you can find friends with 3DSs of their own, you can fight against them freely. Though the face-cam that shows players' faces during and after battle is of an extremely low quality. Again, this would make sense to have this feature for online play, but why for people who are in the same room? Those without friends with 3DSs can select to play with very capable bots in one of three modes: Survival (last man standing), Point Battle (player who reaches set point limit wins), and Time Battle (player with most points by time limit is the victor).

Whether with friends or bots,
there's fun to be had in Star Fox 64 3D's multiplayer.

Going from multiplayer to presentation, nearly everything has been reworked in Star Fox 64 3D. From the updated visuals which look absolutely gorgeous (especially Zoness's jaw-dropping water effects) to the remixed music and voice work (which is the same cast of the original), this game is an intriguing package. The slowdown experienced in the previous game is virtually eliminated in this remake. Additionally, pushing the 3D slider all the way up allows for the ability to easily judge distances between objects and Fox's piloted vehicle. It makes shooting down and getting a read on enemies and objects all the more simple. This is a welcomed addition indeed. Throughout missions your shipmates will constantly chatter with some very unique dialogue. A new generation of internet memes can be born.

Overall, Star Fox 64 3D still stands as a terrific title. Those who think that once they reach the credits (which will only take approximately an hour) will be disappointed, but for those of us who aim to acquire every medal, achieve larger high scores, and unlock everything (even though the ultimate unlockable is on the lame side) will have a lot to enjoy. Star Fox 64 3D may not be worth the forty dollars to some, but there's plenty of content here to make a case that it is. Insert your own favorite line from Star Fox 64 here to conclude this review to your liking.

[SuperPhillip Says: 8.5/10]

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Soul Calibur V (PS3, 360) TGS Trailer

As if that last fighting game didn't do anything for you, then there's Soul Calibur V for 2012 from Namco-Bandai Games. Watch the introduction of new characters, moves, and locations all with the weaponry you've grown to know and love from the franchise. Soul Calibur V slashes its way onto the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 some time in 2012.

Ultimate Marvel VS. Capcom 3 (PS3, 360, Vita) Iron Fist and Virgil Trailers

As stated in my reasons to hate Capcom top five list, I don't appreciate the idea of releasing a revised version of a game that isn't even a year old. With that said it's hard not to get excited for Ultimate Marvel VS. Capcom 3 as a fighting game fan. Two new characters have been revealed (though the entire new character roster has already been leaked) in Iron Fist and Virgil from the Devil May Cry series. Whether you opt to fight with your fists or take your foe down with quick and nimble sword strikes, Ultimate Marvel VS. Capcom 3 has a character for you. The game brawls onto store shelves this November.

Iron Fist Reveal Trailer:

Virgil Reveal Trailer:

Tales of Innocence R (Vita) Announcement Trailer

Another announcement from the Tokyo Game Show is the upcoming remake of the Nintendo DS game Tales of Innocence for the PlayStation Vita. It features vastly improved visuals, touch controls to assign tasks to party members, and the same story that Westerners did not get a chance to experience as the original never came out over on this side of the world. Who knew that the Vita would get more remakes and ports than the 3DS? Never would have seen that one coming.

Little King's Story (Vita) TGS Trailer

The Tokyo Game Show trailer for the remake of the Wii cult-classic, Little King's Story, is coming to PlayStation Vita in a big way with a brand-new art style and touch screen controls. Build bridges, take down big bosses, and swoon princess after princess in this charming tale of the little king that could. This is just the beginning of the announcements from the Tokyo Game Show, so be ready!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Surprising Sales: Games that Outperformed Expectations

As long-time readers know all too well, too many times on SuperPhillip Central we've talked about games that were overlooked, sold poorly, and didn't do well. Let's change that and focus on the games that did the opposite. These titles are ones that no one saw coming, sold relatively well, and put some money in the pockets of their publishers and developers. These are the types of feel-good success stories that make following the video game industry all the more enjoyable.

Demon's Souls (PS3)

Sony passed on publishing this game, so a combination of From Software and Atlus did the job instead. What to me is an effort in frustration with balls-to-the-wall challenging gameplay and an unrelenting and hardcore difficulty, Demon's Souls found a niche among PlayStation 3 owners yearning for a tight and cohesive experience. I consider these fine folk gluttons for punishment, but whatever floats their metaphorical boat, right? The game went on to sell under a million worldwide, but for niche companies like From Software and Atlus, this game was purely money in the bank. A tremendous surprise indeed.

Batman: Arkham Asylum (PS3, 360)

Past Batman games have been anything but major events. We've seen many developers try and try again. They all failed to varying degrees. That was until Rocksteady Games got hold of the license and created an incredible Metroidvania that not only wowed critics (including yours truly), but it also sold very, very well. This million-seller shows off what makes Batman so delicious as a character. The awesome villains, the rivalry with the Joker, the detective skills at work, and the mythos behind the cape and cowl. There's no question that come this October that Arkham City will no doubt light the world on fire in sales.

Catherine (PS3, 360)

The titular character of this game is such a tease. As Vincent, you're thrust into a love-triangle of devious proportions in this action-adventure game with clever puzzle elements. This decidedly Japanese-styled game seemed to be niche in the making, and perhaps it could be considered that. What I do know, however, is that Catherine is Atlus's best-selling game so far. This is a conclusion I could have never seen coming. From the anime art style to the questionable sexual situations, this game had "niche" steaming from its very core. Just goes to show you that you can't judge a book by its cover.

Xenoblade Chronicles (Wii)

Nintendo of America opted out of releasing Xenoblade Chronicles in North America much to the chagrin of loyal fans and JRPG lovers alike. In Europe and Japan, however, the game was released to moderate success. The party and family system as some like to refer to it as suddenly had one of the better RPGs of this generation, and it was literally out-of-stock in Europe. Tracking down a copy is currently an impossibility. Those who do possess a copy of the game are too busy partaking in the game's profusion of side quests, venturing through wide open worlds, and battling monstrous enemies to even care. Now if only NoA would get off their collective rear ends and localize the game for North American gamers...

Monster Hunter Tri (Wii)

In Japan there was no doubt that Monster Hunter would sell, regardless of the console. Even on the Wii which is known for not being overly kind to most third-party games a Monster Hunter game could do well. And it did. Now the West, like the menacing monsters of the game, was a different beast entirely. The formerly PlayStation-only franchise jumped ship to Nintendo, and Nintendo aggressively marketed the game in North America and Europe. What followed were approximately 800,000 units sold on both continents alone. A Wii third-party game success story? Now that's more like it, guys.

Kinect Sports (360)

Most of us didn't really know how Kinect would impact the market as much as it has. It seems to be cutting into the Wii's market. Who knows, who cares? The point is that without a capable killer-app to sell the peripheral to the masses, the Kinect was DOA. Fortunately, Rare put together an impressive sports package with Kinect Sports featuring events like volleyball, table tennis, and bowling, for starters. Who knew that Microsoft of all companies could pump out a friendly title for the casual market? Certainly not this blogger. Whether you're playing solo or have friends over for a party, Kinect Sports is one of the few software success stories on the Kinect. Plus it's a great way to get a wonderful workout!

Just Dance and Just Dance 2 (Wii)

In the past, dancing games and simulations were relegated to titles like Dance Dance Revolution which required a mat to play properly. Now with the advent of motion controls and more specifically the Wii remote, now we can dance without watching where we step. Ubisoft's breakout Just Dance franchise is stepping up to hit all three major platforms this go around, and it wouldn't have been possible without the unforseen success of series. Could you have imagined that waving your Wii remote around all willy-nilly would catch on so well? Well, to be fair, stranger things in this industry have happened...


This could be the start of a new series of articles here at SuperPhillip Central. There's many more games that had little hype and ultimately had great success. Do you have some that I intentionally left out? (We gotta have something for future articles, right?) Let me and everyone else know in our comments section.

Pilotwings Resort (3DS) Screenshots

In Pilotwings Resort for the Nintendo 3DS, one can control either the hang glider or pedal glider and use it in Free Flight mode to take pictures of various landmarks around Wuhu Island. I took advantage of this, saved my best shots to the included SD card, and now uploaded them to SuperPhillip Central. The shots take place in all three times of day: daytime, evening, and nighttime. Enjoy.

Professor Layton vs. Ace Attorney (3DS) First Screens

This wasn't revealed (we already knew this game was coming) at Nintendo's 3DS press conference, but it does seem to be at TGS. There may be just six pictures, one being just art, but they do divulge enough information regarding the art style being used. There's 3D models which look quite good in this superhero's opinion. No word on when Professor Layton vs. Ace Attorney storms Japan with the truth.