Friday, October 28, 2011

Most Overlooked Xbox 360 Games - Part Three

We've reached the end of the work week, Friday, so let's end it with style with Most Overlooked Xbox 360 Games - Part Three! From Dynasty Warriors Gundam 3 to Child of Eden, we have a set of games that are criminally overlooked by Xbox 360 owners. Let's try to remedy that, shall we?

Dynasty Warriors Gundam 3

Gundams are go. With a plethora of Gundams to pilot through multiple battlefields full of enemies to hack, slash, and shoot, Dynasty Warrior Gundam 3 is a futuristic take on the Dynasty Warrior franchise. Newcomers include Deathscythe Hell, Knight Gundam, Double X, Tallgeese II, Unicorn, Physalis, Sinanju, and many, many more on top of the 30+ returning Gundam to control and unleash their power upon opponents. The all-new cel-shaded art style lends well to the universe and anime aesthetic, giving off a cartoon-like feel to the game. Those who don't mind repetition and short print runs should pilot themselves to a local video game retailer and nab a copy.


This Mature-rated action-RPG stars Nier as he struggles to find the cure for the Black Scrawl disease, an ailment that has struck his dying daughter. Through his journey he'll slay monsters and demons both big and small with unwavering resolve. NIER received middle of the road reviews which may have put off potential purchasers looking for an action-RPG on their HD system of choice. Not even the Square Enix name (which is slowly but surely losing traction in today's ever-changing game economy) could save this title from sluggish sales. Regardless, fans of RPGs that don't star effeminate young males and games that have rewarding gameplay would be amiss to not check out NIER.

No More Heroes: Heroes' Paradise

Travis Touchdown made his debut on the HD consoles with little fanfare. The Xbox 360 version relied on analog controls instead of the more fulfilling motion controls found on the Wii and PlayStation 3 versions which might be a reason this version sold so poorly. Nonetheless, those who sat down and persevered through the sloppy framerate and graphical glitches could discover an intriguing tale about a sex-crazed otaku who joined the assassin game with only a beam katana won in an online auction. Slicing the heads off unassuming enemies remains an entertaining experience to this day, and it's a shame that more Xbox 360 owners overlooked this gem.

Shadows of the Damned

In Shadows of the Damned players met Garcia Hotspur, a demon hunter searching for his long, lost love in the demented depths of Hell. In order to slay the various demons that stand in the way of his goal, Garcia wields the power of light as well as Johnson, a former demon who can shift-shape into a myriad of useful weapons. On his quest he'll have to face vicious bosses, solve mind-bending puzzles, and venture into the blackest part of Hell if he wants to save his love. This Suda 51-directed, EA-published game failed to capture the attention of consumers even with its unique premise. Unfortunate as there's a lot to be impressed by this hellish romp.

Child of Eden

Exactly what are people buying on their Kinects? Apparently not much as most software sales aren't stellar, and games like Child of Eden are cast to the wayside. It's a shame as this gorgeous game where players are put right in the heart of combat to save Project Lumi is breathtaking. Created by the same man who was behind the PlayStation 2 cult-classic, Rez, Child of Eden is a remarkable journey that utilizes the controls of the Kinect Xbox 360 peripheral in some incredibly unique ways. Along with the Dance Central and Kinect Sports series, it's one of the few games that are worth owning a Kinect for. Unfortunately, a limited print run and poor marketing sent this game out to die.


That just about wraps up Part Three of the Most Overlooked Xbox 360 Games. Stay tuned in the coming weeks for further installments of your favorite SPC segments.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

October Nintendo 3DS Playtime Results

Let's begin something new here at SuperPhillip Central. I've owned a Nintendo 3DS since mid-August, and it's been a wild ride with the portable. The 3DS is stacked with features both useful and useless. I still haven't had a StreetPass hit, and my friends list is completely bare. One cool feature that is borrowed from the Wii's Nintendo Channel is the Activity Log which details how long one has played all games, how many times, the average playtime, and first/last time played. Here's a countdown to display what games your old bud in SuperPhillip has put the most time into. To the ranking!

10) Dead or Alive Dimensions (5:14)

The fifteenth anniversary of the versatile franchise kicked off with a bang with Dead or Alive Dimension's debut on the dual screened Nintendo 3DS. Kick, punch, combo, juggle, and throw your opponent, and knock them off multi-tier stages such as a cruise liner, arctic wasteland, rope bridge situated by a waterfall, or ninja village to show them who's boss. Download DLC in the form of costumes and take on challenging throwdown assailants to earn rare character figurines. Or opt to take the fight online against the world or with friends! I breezed through the discombobulated story mode showcasing the story of past DoA games, and downloaded a new costume daily for approximately thirty days.

9) The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Anniversary Edition (5:25)

I didn't get to experience the original Four Swords that came with the Game Boy Advance port of A Link to the Past as I didn't have any friends with a copy of the game, a GBA, and a link cable. Talk about a hassle. That all changed with the Anniversary Edition that enabled players to take two Links solo through the game's four main areas followed by several retro areas accompanied by an even more difficult dungeon. While the last dungeon handed my fanny on a silver platter, I feel I got the most out of the game, and I truly enjoyed this free (until February 2012) download. Hop on the eShop and get this game while you can, 3DS owners!

8) Pilotwings Resort (7:06)

Ah, clear blue skies, azure waters, and a series of islands to explore in Pilotwings Resort... Just how I like it. This launch title was reviewed far after the fact, but I happened to love the content offered unlike some critics. Some said that the game could be beaten quickly. While that is certainly true, it takes some serious time to get perfect scores on all missions, discover every hidden item in the Free Flight modes, and get a grasp on handling all six unique vehicles. Wuhu Island may be familiar to most Wii owners, but it was like returning to an old friend for me. I assume it'll be the same feeling when I rev up and burn rubber on the course in Mario Kart 7 later this year.

7) The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening DX (8:31)

One of Link's greatest handheld adventures, Link's Awakening DX features an all-new photo side quest as well as a color dungeon. The prize for finishing this is either an upgrade to the Hylian's offense or a boost to his defense. The main game is comprised of eight dungeons full of keys to collect, treasures to nab, bosses to battle, and Wind Fish instruments to acquire. To wake up the Wind Fish is Link's goal, but in doing this the island he is on and all the people he met in his journey will disappear. Quite the conundrum, wouldn't you say? For the longest time this game was the highest in average time played. I must have gone through the game in two or three sittings. No life during the summer much?

6) Star Fox 64 3D (9:42)

Fox and friends soar onto the 3DS with impressive 3D effects, improved visuals, and three difficulties to plow through. The choice is yours as to what path of seven planets and areas Team Star Fox pass through, blowing up Andross' facilities, satellites, fighters, and ugly mug. Sure, you always have to save Slippy's rear, listen to Falco's smart ass comments, and take Peppy's advice to heart, but it's all relative anyway, right? I do, however, miss the force feedback especially when the train in Macbeth slams smack dab into the weapons facility. BOOM! KABOOM! BZZZZZZZT! Well, you know... The only thing really missing from this pleasant package was online play which is something I definitely think Nintendo lazily skimped out on.

5) Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D (12:17)

Ganado, Majini, and mad maniacs with chainsaws, gatling guns, and hammers-- all in a day's work for the mercenaries. The game is set up as a high score fest. You try to keep a combo going by killing enemies within ten seconds or less of each other. Slaying a foe with a melee attack is good for bonus time as is attacking hourglass statues. Unlockable medals, skills, and characters further adds to the longevity of the game as does the excellent online play with friends or total strangers. Sometimes you get stuck with a fool who runs off and gets killed, but oftentimes you and your partner will play in sync with one another. Resident Evil fans should certainly not pass up on this tremendous arcade-like experience.

4) Kirby Mass Attack (15:27)

A brigade of cute, cuddly Kirbys march onto the field, ready to clobber anyone and everyone that gets in their way. With five worlds (the fifth being open after every rainbow medal is collected) and multiple mini-games ranging from an RPG to a shmup to a memory game to a whack-a-mole game, Kirby Mass Attack is one of Kirby's best handheld outings. There's just so much content jam-packed into a thirty dollar game. Occasionally your army of Kirbys will get lost via the camera not catching up to them, but this is so rare that it's not too vexing of a problem. Even if you lack a 3DS, DS owners without an insecurity complex towards things pink and puffy should look into this second-to-last swan song of the system.

3) Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift (16:25)

With multiple job classes, abilities, races, maps, tactics, spells, summons, and strategies to gloss over, Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift (I swear they keep making these titles longer and longer) is a candidate for one of the best tactical RPGs period. It has everything. The visuals are charming, the soundtrack is splendid, and the story-- while wet behind the ears-- is engaging enough for players to see it through. I didn't have the time to see my own personal journey through the world of Ivalice through myself to the finish, but what time I did have with the game was tremendous and memorable. Luso may dress weird, have bad fashion sense, and carry a grossly huge pizza cutter for a weapon, but his story is one to behold.

2) The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D (16:38)

One of, if not my favorite game of all time was updated with greater graphics, awesome 3D effects, and bonus content such as a more challenging Master Quest, boss rush mode, and special orchestrated ending theme. Exploring the land of Hyrule once again was a breath of fresh air, riding Epona in the sunset, beating down Bongo Bongo, being scared to death of Redeads, and collecting heart containers, bottles, Poes, and other items were all wonderful experiences. The game surprisingly still holds up well to this day. It's just ingenious game design through and through. If you don't like the series, this game won't change your mind, but if you do, Ocarina of Time will remind you what you love so much about this fabled franchise.

1) Golden Sun: Dark Dawn (25:01)

The third Golden Sun in Dark Dawn is my most played game. I have an average playtime of over three hours making it my highest average playtime by far. The quest to save Weyard from certain destruction with Leonard and friends was not as memorable as past games, but that's a high benchmark to achieve anyway. What I took away from the game was that points of no returns in games should be abolished. That's just sloppy design. I did love gathering Djinn, summons, and rare items. Sure, the game was pretty easy save for the final as well as optional bosses, but it's the journey not the destination, and this journey was surely an entertaining one for sure.


Do you own a Nintendo 3DS? If so, what games have you most played on your blue, black, or red system? Give me a heads up in the comments section.

Super Mario 3D Land (3DS) Japanese Spoiler Trailer

Do NOT watch this series of clips if you do not want parts of Super Mario 3D Land spoiled. Some post-game content and secrets are displayed in this footage. With that said, my review of Mario's 3D exploits will run and jump its way onto SuperPhillip Central about a week after the game's November 13th release date.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Top Ten Ending Themes

This article may contain what some consider spoilers, so beware!

Whenever there's a cast list or staff roll there is usually an ending theme that accompanies the names of the people who worked on the game you just beat. This list is composed of my ten favorite ending themes from games this gen, last gen, and gens prior. After you listen to my examples and read through my list, be sure to note some of your personal favorites in the comments section!

10) Dissociative Identity (Killer7 - PS2, GCN)

To kick off the countdown we have a relatively mellow piece from the mind of Masafumi Takada. It's Killer7's Dissociative Identity, the credits theme from the game. The piano medley is pitch perfect and sounds pleasant, the steady beats keep the pulse of the piece moving through your mind, and the accompaniment is especially haunting. When the truth is revealed about Garcian Smith, this song kicks in and overwhelms the emotions of the player. It's a great piece of music and a great start to our countdown.

9) Staff Roll (Super Mario 64 - N64)

I was amazed as a ten year-old or whatever my age was when I beat Super Mario 64 and the credits theme chimed in. Composed by Koji Kondo, Staff Roll is a peppy romp full of hummable musical cues and bodacious beats. It's augmented by the awesome camera work of every level that Mario visited in the game. I chose as the example Staff Roll alongside the actual credits in-game for maximum effect. It won't be the last time I do this either.

8) Cast Roll (Mega Man X3 - SNES)

Rock out 16-bit style with the song from Mega Man X's third installment. After finishing off Sigma and climbing walls to escape rising fire, X runs through the city streets while this energetic song plays. During the credits it shows off the various Mavericks in the game that X and Zero encountered along with stats and attributes. It's a terrific song for the victory that the Maverick Hunters achieved, don't you think?

7) To the End of the Wilderness ~To a New Journey~ (Wild ARMS - PS1)

Borrowing the melody of the opening theme, To the End of the Wilderness ~To a New Journey~ is the most superb song to wrap up a long, puzzle-filled quest that the trio of Rudy, Jack, and Cecilia embarked on. The guitar is certainly catchy, and the final take on the opening/main theme with a full orchestra sends shivers down my spine when I see it coinciding with the credits. Composer Michiko Naruke definitely knows how to scribe a tremendous track.

6) Standing Ovation (エンディングのテーマ)(Viewtiful Joe - PS2, GCN)

"Looks like the party's about to begin any minute now." Right you are, Viewtiful Joe, especially so when this theme begins. It's a rockin' melody that is accompanied by movie posters of the various levels Joe persevered through to rescue the lovely Sylvia as well as biographical information about numerous bosses and characters seen throughout the game. Take a listen to this song, and be ready to rock out at your leisure!

5) Staff Roll (Mario Kart 64 - N64)

Finishing first in the 150cc or Extra cup of Mario Kart 64 reveals the credits of the game, showing off the sixteen tracks with exotic camera views and angles. Staff Roll by Kenta Nagata would later have its accompaniment sampled in Mario Kart: Double Dash's credits theme. I'm referring to the piano at the beginning of the piece. Regardless, Mario Kart 64's credits are a treat to view, and I hope you enjoy watching them by clicking on the above link.

4) Credits (Skies of Arcadia - DC)

Beginning with a soft piano melody, Credits from the Dreamcast classic in Skies of Arcadia is a beautiful tune. When the flutes and strings glisten their notes like the morning dew I simply swoon. Everything crescendos at the end to accomplish a fantastic, booming sound that rumbles through one's room, moving all that listen to its heavenly harmony. Who doesn't love a live orchestra? I certainly prefer it to MIDI, that's for sure!

3) Fantasia Alla Marcia For Piano, Chorus And Orchestra (Kingdom Hearts II - PS2)

There's actually two themes played during the long-winded credits, Passion ~ After the Battle and this one, Fantasia Alla Marcia For Piano, Chorus And Orchestra. It's an especially poignant and majestic series of themes. It starts out with a triumphant melody then it changes to a dark, chilling chorus chanting in Latin for those who love that sort of stuff like yours truly. Then it returns to a softer take on the opening melody and concludes. Yoko Shimomura is a tremendous talent, and this work only augments my opinion of her.

2) Ending Theme (Final Fantasy VI - SNES)

There were over a dozen individual characters in Final Fantasy VI (then known to Americans as Final Fantasy III), and each one possessed their own theme, masterfully composed by Nobuo Uematsu. The ending theme of Final Fantasy VI is a compilation of these compositions against the backdrop of the various party members teaming together to escape from Kefka's tower. There's some particularly emotional moments during this piece which makes it rank number two on my list.

1) Small Two of Pieces ~Screeching Shards~ (Xenogears - PS1)

On the Final Boss Theme list Yasunori Mitsuda's composition ranked tenth. This time he leads the pack with Small Two of Pieces ~Screeching Shards~, an exquisite vocal piece backed by a pleasant pan flute and strings. The lyrics are poignant, the harmonies are splendid, and the female vocalist (Joanne Hogg) is undying in her spirit, sporting a terrific texture and timbre in her voice. Listen to this song, and I defy you to find an ending theme that's more perfect than this one.


Another list and another day down here at SuperPhillip Central. What say you now? Surely you have your own favorite ending themes that I neglected to mention. Let your voice be heard in text form in the comments section. They're truly appreciated. See you tomorrow, all!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Tetris: Axis (3DS) Review

Ah, Tetris... Like an old friend returning after a long time away. The first experience I had with the franchise was with the Game Boy version, and the last time I played Tetris was on the DS with its Nintendo-themed visuals. Now it's time for Tetris: Axis, the 3DS installment. Let's see how well it stacks up (as if the headline doesn't already answer this question).

This version of Tetris stacks up pretty well.

Tetris by now is a household name. You can play it anywhere and everywhere from the Wii to the DS to the original Game Boy to the Nintendo Entertainment System. Each version brings with it new challenges and modes specific to the platform it is on. This is no different with the release of Tetris: Axis, the now-defunct Hudson Soft developed, Nintendo published game, Nintendo 3DS iteration of the popular puzzler. Is this new entry of the long-lasting Tetris franchise worth the thirty dollar price of admission?

For those of the uninitiated, what is Tetris? Traditional Tetris is a puzzle game where the goal is to place Tetriminos, differently shaped blocks coming in the varieties of S, Z, J, L, I, and square blocks, down and create horizontal lines across the board to clear them. The game ends when Tetriminos stack up to the top of the screen, so it's important to be fast, vigilant, and strategic when placing down the blocks. Players can rotate the Tetriminos clockwise or counterclockwise via the A and B buttons. At any given time a player can hold a Tetrimino in their possession and use it whenever they feel like it. This is great when the Tetrimino the player is given won't fit on the current board the way they like, so they can hold it to use later on for when it will. There's twenty modes total, far outperforming the DS version which only had six. They come in Featured and Party mode variations.


The goal of Marathon is to clear as many lines as possible. After ten lines are completed each time, the speed of the falling Tetriminos goes faster and faster. The game is over once the Tetriminos stack up to the top of the screen or when the player clears 150 lines.

Computer Battle

Face off against ten AI-controlled battlers in a Tetris fight to the finish. As the player clears lines, the lines cleared move over to the computer's side and vice versa. The goal is to make the other player's board get filled with so many Tetriminos that they stack up to the top of their screen, making them lose. Items can be used (which I'll broach about later) to accomplish this task even more easily.

Battle the AI in one fierce fight for the ages!


The board in Fever mode is narrower than in a normal Tetris game. The premise here is to clear as many lines as possible within a sixty second time frame. Coins can be collected and exchanged for beneficial items.


Survival has players fending off lines coming up slowly but steadily from below while playing in a narrow board (or Matrix as the game calls it). The goal here is to clear as many lines as the player can while staying alive so to speak.


To complete the many levels of Jigsaw mode (there's approximately twenty different puzzles here) a player must look at the bottom screen at the picture shown as a reference. On the top screen they'll receive different parts of said picture and must recreate the portrait shown before time runs out. An incorrect placement of a block will take away time from the clock. The first few puzzles are simple to complete, but they quickly become more challenging with differently shaped blocks, more complex and complicated pictures, and stricter time limits.

Shadow Wide

Fit Tetriminos against the shadow in the background to clear this mode (usually an object like a house or animal like a baby chick). Players can pass on a given Tetrimino only so many times, so it takes planning and strategy to get a 100% completion rating and a respectable time. Any piece placed outside the shadow will take off a percent point from the completion rating.

Shadow Wide is a fun, if not challenging, mode.


Place Tetriminos into gaps. As players reach higher levels, more blocks must be fitted inside the board, and the time becomes stricter.

Tower Climber

Place Tetriminos as stepping stones for the climber to reach the top of the cylindrical Matrix. Along the way he'll need to pick up heart icons to boost his stamina. Blocks must be placed in a fashion so that they act like a natural staircase for the climber. The climber can walk left or right and can change direction through the player's placement of their Tetriminos. Go for the best time.

Bombliss Plus

On certain parts of the Tetriminos are little bombs that will go off and create a chain reaction when more than one line is cleared at the same time. Clear as many lines as possible until the final block that flashes is cleared. Then the game will be won.

Stage Racer Plus

Rotate and guide a falling Tetrimino through a maze of blocks. Move too slowly and the block will touch the top of the screen, meaning the player loses. Players can collect jump tokens to allow their Tetrimino to hop over obstacles on their way to the goal. There's over nine different difficulties and labyrinths to play through. This mode is one of my favorite additions to Tetris: Axis.


The goal here is to cover both the front and back of stars on the Tetris Matrix to collect them. A player's high score is based on the speed in which this task is accomplished. To complete this, the board must be flipped occasionally.

Master Mode

The ultimate challenge recommended for expert players only. Tetriminos fall at the speed of light-- in the blink of an eye-- and it's the player's goal to survive as long as possible and clear as many lines as they can. Easier said than done with the swiftness that these blocks fall!


The job here is as simple as clearing forty lines as quickly as possible. Going for the best time is the aim of this game.

AR Marathon

An augmented reality mode, place the AR card packaged with the player's 3DS to set up a digital board on a real time environment. Then they clear as many lines as they possibly can as they go for the top time and clear fifty lines.

The AR modes add a whole new
dimension to Tetris: Axis' gameplay.

AR Climber

Here the player moves around in a circle with their 3DS in tow to guide the climber in this augmented reality version of Tower Climber. The pair of AR modes are impressive to play, but I've had it where the 3DS is finicky about reading the card placed down on the screen. It's challenging to keep the camera locked on the card.

Players' high scores can be uploaded to the internet, and they can view their top times and high scores in comparison to the world or their group of friends. They can also hop online and do battle against seven other competitors, using items to trip up their opponents. Items include the Cascade which fills spaces that are open on the Matrix, the Color Change item that transforms every block into the same color, Color Bonus which puts check marks on individual boxes-- the lines cleared with check marks give the player a higher score than those without-- there's the ultra-powerful Switch item that exchanges a player's Matrix with another's, the UFO that deletes blocks from a player's board, and Fog which for a limited time obscures every enemy's Matrix-- to name several. When a player has lost, they can send out a message to everyone in the room.

Play locally with one game card or against the entire world!

Compared to Tetris DS, Tetris: Axis might be considered a bland alternative. Sure, one can assign their Mii to the bottom screen to boogie and cheer the player on as they stack Tetriminos in the various game modes, but that can't hold a candle to the Nintendo-themed modes of the DS iteration. The backgrounds of Axis are especially trippy from Town Lights to Black Hole to Layered Planet. The 3D effects are particularly impressive though they aren't used in some modes for obvious reasons like Jigsaw where the picture show is just a 2D image. The soundtrack while playing is made up of remixed classical tunes such as Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, Waltz of the Flowers, Korobeiniki & Trepek (the main theme of the Tetris series), Flight of the Bumblebee, and Swan Lake.

Place your Mii into the game to
boogie as you stack Tetriminos.

Overall, Tetris: Axis is an admirable entry to the long-running franchise. If you don't mind the Nintendo aesthetics being replaced with Bomberman, Miis, and flashy generic backgrounds, then you'll find a lot to love about this 3DS version. This is the perfect "pick up and play" game. The online is smooth and enjoyable even if one particular item is overpowered, the twenty modes offer longevity, and the presentation is pretty nice. For thirty dollars you could do a lot worse than this installment of Tetris.

[SuperPhillip Says: 8.0/10]

Monday, October 24, 2011

Batman: Arkham City (PS3, 360) Review

For months I've been showing videos and footage from the game our next review is all about. Remember that I do not cover PC gaming on SuperPhillip Central, so that's why it is not listed with the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Nonetheless, PC gamers will have to wait an extra few weeks to get their paws on the game. Here is my review of Batman: Arkham City.

I am vengeance... I am the night... I am... BATMAN!

Before Arkham Asylum, many developers attempted their best to create the ultimate Batman experience. Many of these companies missed the mark completely and didn't come close to show what makes the dark knight who he is. Then in 2009, Rocksteady Studios came out with the Metroid-like game that was Batman: Arkham Asylum. It still stands as one of the bat's best entries and one of the better licensed superhero video games of all time. Now the crew and Batman is back with a larger, more open world feel with Batman: Arkham City. Should you don the familiar cape and cowl once more?

Arkham City begins with playboy millionaire (or is it billionaire?) Bruce Wayne holding a press conference in front of the gates of Arkham City. He calls for the crime-filled territory to be shut down immediately. Suddenly a group of TYGER soldiers ambush him, knock him out, and capture him, putting Wayne inside the hollowed walls of Arkham City. There he is once again introduced to Doctor Hugo Strange who warns Wayne that if he so much bats an eye (no pun intended), Strange will reveal Batman's secret identity to the entire world. The mad doctor also mentions something about Protocol 10. Bruce breaks free of his shackles, calls upon the Batwing to drop his suit atop a building, and gets ready to rock and roll. The story is essentially a greatest hits of Batman's Rogue's Gallery. He will meet a myriad of memorable villains along his quest to discover the secret of Protocol 10. The game's story will keep players enthused throughout its twenty hour duration, and as new characters are met, biographies including their attributes and first comic appearance are listed for fans of Batman lore to dive into. This may be one of the bat's best stories told in any medium.

Batman won't let Doctor Strange, the Joker,
or anyone else get the best of him.

After Batman gets suited up, he'll have the coordinates of where he needs to go next labeled succinctly on his map. Arkham City isn't too terribly large-- it's split up between districts such as Park Row, Amusement Mile, the Industrial portion, and much more. However, there's lots of locations to visit including the museum, the courthouse, the steel mill, the old subway station, the sewer, and the old Gotham City Police Department. Despite not being super sizable in scope (it takes about 3-5 minutes to travel from one side of the city to the other), there's plenty to see and do in Arkham City. For one, there's a plethora of Riddler challenges to complete. These can be as simple as finding Riddler trophies cleverly placed around the city, on roofs, in alleys, hidden out of sight, and sometimes requiring Batman to solve a puzzle to open the lock containing a trophy, but they can also be more taxing such as popping Joker balloons, knocking out security cameras,and scanning certain objects as answers to riddles. There's over 400 Riddler challenges to finish off, and by completing a set amount, the enigmatic Riddler reveals the location of one of his hostages. To rescue all hostages, Batman must solve nearly all of the Riddler's challenges. To help, however, there are specially marked enemies (they will be surrounded by a green aura) that can be interrogated who divulge the locations of trophies and answers to riddles on the player's map. Who doesn't love the gosh darn Batman pumping information by holding his foot over a goon's ugly face?

Can your feeble mind solve all of the Riddler's puzzles?

Aside from Riddler challenges, there's also side missions to take part in. One has Batman answering the phone and tracking down the whereabouts of a serial killer who will slay his next victim if the dark knight fails to arrive at a set location before time runs out while another has the bat investigating crime scenes to determine where the shooter is situated. Players will rescue political prisoners from a gang of goons, reunite a long, lost couple, and participate in some augmented reality training where Batman must fly through a series of green holographic rings without once setting foot on the ground. These side missions add even more longevity to the game and add more towards the story. It's definitely worth one's while to take on all of these missions.

"Skull bash, party of two."

Traveling through the streets of Arkham and along the rooftops is painfully easy, and that's a good thing. Just point the camera up at a building with the right analog stick and press the right shoulder button to fire Batman's batclaw to have him propel himself up to the point of impact. Old Batsy can glide from rooftop to rooftop, dive bomb while in the air to gain more speed, and make up lots of ground this way.

Of course, his aerial acrobatics are just a part of what makes Batman Batman. He is an accomplished inventor, and he has the tools of the trade to assist him in his objectives. All of the gadgets from Arkham Asylum return, and are available for immediate use as soon as Bruce Wayne puts on his suit. There's the exploding gel which is used to blow up specific walls (which can be scanned in Detective Mode), the batarang that comes in standard and remote-controlled varieties, the batclaw which is used to pull things towards Batman, and new inventions such as freeze grenades that can clog up harmful steam-producing pipes so the dark knight can pass by them unhurt as well as freeze patches of water and enemies, there's also an item that detonates mines, disables a foe's gun, and makes otherwise dangerous and deadly gun turrets harmless, and there's the line launcher which acts as a zipline of sorts for Batman to cross chasms and gaps. He can shoot another mid-flight to change direction effortlessly.

This gadget is used to open electronically sealed doors,
gates, and locks. It also makes for a tool to listen to Gotham FM.

Sometimes all of the tools and gadgets in the world aren't helpful. Sometimes Batman needs to let his fists do the talking. When this is the only course for action, players can rest assure that they'll be prepared for anything be it a thug with a shield, armed guards, or TITAN-exposed psychopaths. The battles in Batman: Arkham City are usually the bat versus more than one enemy-- oftentimes a roomful of foes. In these situations, players can attack one baddie, focus on another, counter when prompted with a press of a button, and clear a room of thugs all the while maintaining a combo. The combat in Arkham City is essentially the same as in Arkham Asylum. It's fluid, fast, and frenetic. One can't just mash buttons and expect to win. Batman has to focus, maintain composure, and dodge when needed. It's astonishingly rewarding taking out a multitude of maniacs and landing the final slow-motion blow to the last thug standing.

The enemies of Arkham City certainly have a
gang mentality to them.

Likewise when there's a series of armed guards in a room, Batman should pull a Solid Snake and take a stealthy approach to the situation. Gunfire can take even the most brooding of superheroes down in an instant. It's only by taking out each guard one at a time that victory is achieved. Each time a guard is taken out, the rest of the bunch will run to the fallen guard's location. If Batman is spotted, he'll have to swiftly travel across the gargoyle statues in the room via his batclaw until the guards no longer see him. It's this cat and mouse game that players must participate in if they want to survive. It does get annoying about halfway through the game when normal enemies around Arkham City carry guns. It makes traveling all of a sudden much more dangerous and aggravating to accomplish.

When all else fails, flee!

As Batman takes out goons, completes missions, and progresses through the story, he gains valuable experience. As he gains levels, players can purchase upgrades with the points accumulated. There's boosts to the bat's armor to fend off better against melee attacks as well as gunfire, armor that doesn't send off heat signatures for better stealth action, upgrades to Batman's gadgets, and upgrades to his combo skills. One such upgrade gives Batman the ability, with correctly timed button presses, to fight foes and multiply his combo bonus much more easily. Leveling up everything will take some time to do, potentially multiple play-throughs, and with the New Game+ option that unlocks after the story is completed (this mode features harder enemies, but the player gets to keep all of his or her upgrades), this task isn't so difficult to perform.

Aside from the main game, much like Arkham Asylum there's multiple unlockable Riddler challenge maps to try out. Each one puts Batman in either a combat challenge or predator challenge. Combat challenges are divided up between numerous rounds. It's the player's goal to go for the highest score possible through continuing and keeping combos going as well as not getting hit. In predator challenges, the player must complete three objectives to earn medals. These can be anything from defeating a foe while they're panicking after Batman drops a smoke pellet to using an inverted takedown on a goon to knock them out. There's a total of ninety-six medals for each type of challenge, so that adds even more longevity to Arkham City as a whole.

Batman: Arkham City is a pretty game, running on Epic Games' Unreal engine. Sure, Batman looks like he's been on steroids for years, and some characters are designed objectionably, but overall the game looks and run smoothly. Little touches like newspapers and debris rolling in the wind across the derelict and dilapidated streets are wonderfully pleasing. The texture work is absolutely fascinating and fabulous, too. Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill reprise their roles as Batman/Bruce Wayne and the Joker respectively, and it's sort of weird hearing them in a game so dark in tone after watching and hearing them in a child's cartoon in Batman: The Animated Series for the longest time. Regardless, both talents have never sounded better, and truly all of the voice actors sounds terrific. The voice work is incredibly impressive as is the game's orchestral score which features a choir for the main theme.

Batman: Arkham City is an excellent sequel to the already amazing Arkham Asylum. It just feels like a natural progression for the Batman brand. Decidedly dark in tone, full of secrets and side missions (the hunt for the Riddler's 400+ challenges and completing all of the challenge maps will take dozens upon dozens of hours), New Game+ adds even more time to an already meaty and beefy experience, top-notch presentation, a skill-based combat system, and rewarding stealth gameplay all make Arkham City one of the best licensed games period and a definite contender for Game of the Year. Beware the bat as you'll lose sleep exploring the crime-infested streets of Arkham City.

[SuperPhillip Says: 9.5/10]

Want more Batman? Then check out my Batman: Arkham Asylum review!