Saturday, January 7, 2012

SuperPhillip's Favorite VGMs - The Great Return Edition

They're baaaaaaack~ Long time SPC readers know well of my favorite VGMs. I had an entire YouTube channel dedicated to them. However, one copyright infringement too many suspended my account permanently, so we suffered long bouts without any music to speak of. I thought a new year would be the perfect opportunity for this well loved and popular segment to return. Instead of using my own channel, I'm just going to use videos from other users. I just hope their accounts don't have the same fate as my old one.

Generally, SuperPhillip's Favorite VGMs appeared on Mondays to kick off the work week in a splendid way. I intend to keep this tradition alive, but I couldn't wait to reveal the return of this beloved feature. The long time readers know how this works-- five songs, five descriptions, but instead of posting the videos directly on the site, I'm just going to link to them to save bandwidth and you from having to load them. There will be still photos or wallpapers of the games to take the videos' places. Just click on the song title to be instantly transported to the selected video. Now with all of that introduction out of the way, let's listen to some awesome video game music!

v1. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Wii) - Romance Theme

In the latest in my favorite franchise (no worries, I was impartial as usual in my reviews of all games in this series), Zelda is the type of person that you want to save. Other games it was more like, "yeah, I guess I'll do it while I increase the strength of the Master Sword." Moments with this poignant theme with a harmonious and lovely chorus made Skyward Sword special. The bond between this game's Link and Zelda were immediately apparent, and that was no doubt in part helped by NoA's excellent localization of the game. Take a listen to this theme and you, too, will be in wonder. There's a reason this game won SPC's Best Original Soundtrack award.

v2. Final Fantasy XIII (PS3, 360) - Saber's Edge

Usually when a song from a game I haven't played jumps out at me, grabs me, and doesn't let go, the song must be something special. This boss theme from Final Fantasy XIII, a game that it seems fans either love or hate (no wiggle room in the middle), is full of increasingly bombastic sounds. You have the tense sounds of the piano, the full blare of the brass, and the ascending and descending notes of the strings. I feared for the fate of the Final Fantasy series' music when Nobuo Uematsu left to pursue his own interests, but those fears were put to rest when I heard the soundtrack for this divisive game.

v3. Kirby's Return to Dreamland (Wii) - Aurora Area

Starting off with an otherworldly breeze sound whistling through the air, rising and falling, Aurora Area then kicks in with the main beat. This theme plays during a level in world four of Kirby's Return to Dreamland, my favorite console Kirby game. Yes, even beating fan favorite Kirby Super Star. The level the song plays in is divided up between several rooms in a labyrinth-like pattern. I wouldn't mind getting lost as long as this theme accompanied me along the way!

v4. Sonic Colors (Wii) - Asteroid Coaster Act 3

This variation of Act 1 is absolutely and positively rocking. The electric guitar guns for top position in this piece that moves and grooves as Sonic rides along Dr. Eggman's untested Asteroid Coaster. Could this wild ride be the blue blur's last? Of course not as there was Sonic Generations released a year later. Sonic couldn't have died if he was in a game that came after Sonic Colors, right? The manic pace of this piece makes going high speeds in this level all the more intense as you leap from coaster to coaster and defeat badniks of all sizes.

v5. Skies of Arcadia (DC) - Credits

If you recall, this ending credits theme was listed as one of my favorite ending themes a few months back. If you don't remember or weren't here, then you have a second chance to listen and feel the warmth. Beginning with a quaint and quiet piano phrase, the credits theme eventually builds up to feature the entire orchestra, ending with a crescendo of brass and strings playing the main melody in magnificent fashion. It is one for the ages, and a perfect send-off to this glorious RPG.


So what did you think? Were you surprised/excited to see my VGMs return? They'll be back in a week or so to start your work week off right, so look forward to that. If you have any suggestions for the VGMs, let me know in the comments section.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Announcing Our Newest Affiliates: Volatile Mode and DaisyFAIL

Another week, another affiliate or two added to SuperPhillip Central's ever-growing list of fun friends and affiliates! This time I am spotlighting two new affiliates, Volatile Mode and DaisyFAIL. Ladies first, so let's start with DaisyFAIL.

DaisyFAIL is a video game centric blog with a female perspective. I didn't think there were any women on the internet. I thought it was a genuine sausage-fest. Regardless, Daisy who runs the site is ultra perky and polite, and she knows her stuff. For instance, what other girl do you know that can ramble on about Mario Kart 7 and know all of the memes regarding Skyrim? That's what I thought. Just don't embarrass yourself because she's a girl and you have zero social etiquette skills, gentlemen.

Volatile Mode

Meanwhile, Volatile Mode is ran by Jeff who occasionally posts in SPC's comment section, but NOT ENOUGH! Ahem. My caps lock key got stuck for a moment there. He doesn't bother with news as that's what IGN, GameSpot, and all of those games journalists who are PR for game companies are there for. He posts thoughtful articles about anything and everything game-related such as the missing element of surprise in gaming and thought-provoking reviews. Go check it out, and if you like it enough, subscribe.

The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap (GBA) Retro Review

3DS Ambassadors are able to download the following game for free via the eShop. It was listed in my Rank Up! segment in the top half of Zelda titles, so you can be rest assured that this game is good. But wait! Don't skip this review and go to the score! Read the entire thing and relive this Game Boy Advance classic as this is the first review of 2012! It's The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap, the only original Zelda game on Nintendo's final entry in the Game Boy line.

Big Things Come in Minish Packages

Capcom is no stranger to the Zelda franchise. Their first effort was the terrific pair of Game Boy Color titles in The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons and The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages. Then they helped to co-develop the Game Boy Advance port of my favorite 2D Zelda, A Link to the Past. Flagship, the main company within Capcom that assisted in the creation of the above mentioned games, might now be defunct, but their memory lives on and continues to do so. Their final game is perhaps their most fantastic masterpiece-- forgive any hints of hyperbole-- The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap. This big adventure performs well on the small screen.

It is the day of the Picori Festival in Hyrule, and Princess Zelda meets with our hero Link at his home. Link's grandfather asks him to deliver a sword to the king as the prize for the festival's swordsman tournament. After seeing the sights and sounds of the festival, Link and Zelda meet up with the king and Link delivers the specially honed blade. The winner of the tournament, Vaati, arrives and uses the sword to open a box that unleashes monsters all over Hyrule. Vaati is power-hungry and turns Zelda to stone. Leaving the scene in ruins, Vaati vanishes in search of a fabled light power. Meanwhile, the clad in green boy Link agrees to search in the Minish Woods for the Picori people, small denizens of Hyrule that can only be seen by children, who can help him figure out how to restore Zelda to her natural stoneless state. It is there he meets a talking cap named Ezlo, one of the most entertaining and humorous companions Link has ever had. Ezlo was transformed into a cap by Vaati, and wants nothing more to right all of the wrongs of his former apprentice. The story is unobtrusive, charming, and delightful overall.

With evil intentions in mind, Vaati strikes while the iron's hot.

The Minish Cap follows the standard Zelda formula, so those wanting a fresh experience should look into Majora's Mask or Skyward Sword as they mix things up better. However, for a tried and true structure, you cannot go wrong with Minish Cap. The formula goes like this: you venture through an overworld finding clues on where to go next, you talk to NPCs, you do quests both optional and mandatory, and you enter treacherous dungeons full of monsters, puzzles, and traps to receive elemental pieces to power up your sword.

The main mechanic introduced to The Minish Cap is only possible thanks to the titular headgear and your faithful and ever-complaining partner Ezlo. Certain objects like tree trunks, vases, and rocks can be stood upon. A crack in the center (and the power of the Minish Cap) can shrink Link to Minish size. Formerly inaccessible areas can be reached in small form, and plenty of puzzles require you to switch between both sizes to clear obstacles and areas. You can explore the rafters of houses, pass through paths infested with Minish-sized monsters, and enter rooms too tiny for regular-sized Link. However, it is important to note that even the most normal-sized nonthreatening enemy can be dangerous in Minish form. Also, household cats don't take too kindly to the Minish people. Such prejudice!

See the world through Minish eyes.

Hyrule is divided up between many sections. There's Hyrule Town in the center of the overworld which you will be continually returning to for new items to buy, mini-games to play, and NPCs to help, the Minish Woods to the southeast, Lon Lon Ranch and Lake Hylia to the east, Castor Wilds to the southwest, Mt. Crenel to the west and northwest, Veil Falls to the northeast, and a myriad of other unique areas. Monsters such as Octoroks, Moblins, and Chu Chu call Hyrule their home, too, so take them out when necessary.

Mt. Crenel is a rugged and rocky area.

There are six dungeons total in Minish Cap, a meager amount compared to other 2D Zeldas like Link's Awakening, A Link to the Past, and the Oracle games. However, in this instance it is quality over quantity. Forgive the cliched phrase. You will be trekking inside the deepest of dungeons, searching for keys, looting treasure chests, fending off monsters, solving puzzles-- some of which are spread out among more than one room, and battling bosses to the death. As is customary for every Zelda, there are small keys that unlock doors, big keys that open the doors leading to the boss, treasure maps that show the layout of the dungeon, compasses that reveal the locations of treasure chests and where the boss resides, and treasures, from rupees to important items. These items include things like the Cave of Pacci that flips certain enemies and objects over on their back, the Flame Lantern that sets flammable objects on fire and lights torches, the Gust Jar that blows away dust on floors and spider webs as well as sucks up enemies and objects (one puzzle has you sucking up a grounded mushroom to fling you to the other side of a chasm), and Roc's Cape that is similar to Link's Awakening's Roc's Feather, but it allows you to glide after leaping into the air. Meanwhile, puzzles consist of small things like clearing out a room full of enemies to larger challenges like hitting every switch with one well-timed swing of your sword.

At the conclusion of every dungeon comes a boss encounter. These are the meanest of the mean and the deadliest of the deadly when it comes to enemies. Some fights are large versions of normal enemies, but to a Minish-sized hero, they're gigantic. As is tradition, the item you acquire in the boss's dungeon is generally needed to fight the crooked creature you are facing off against. For instance, the first battle has Link taking on a giant Chu Chu. With the Gust Jar found in the dungeon, you can suck up the slime at the base of the boss. This causes the green Chu Chu to lose its balance and topple over, setting you up to slash it repeatedly with your sword before it stands back up and the process starts all over again.

From abnormally large Chu Chus to
shelled monstrosities, Link has got it rough.

Most dungeons award you with an elemental fragment (Earth, Wind, Fire, and Water). When returned to the Elemental Sanctuary in Hyrule Castle, your sword gets upgraded. You can then stand on specially marked panels, charge up your blade, and produce copies of Link. These copies are paramount for pushing large blocks out of the way that a lone Link couldn't do by himself. Additionally, you earn a full Heart Container for beating the dungeon's boss. This ups your health by one heart.

Speaking of which, there are an abundance of Heart Container pieces hidden throughout Hyrule. Collecting four gives you an increase to your heatlh. Some are found sitting in caves and dungeons, some are handed out by NPCs for helping them out, and some are unlocked by performing a Kinstone Fusion. Kinstone Fusions are the main side quest of The Minish Cap. Throughout Link's journey you'll no doubt come across Kinstone pieces (either blue, red, or most commonly and found dropped by monsters, in blades of grass, or in bushes, green). When you come across an NPC with a bubble over their head, you can press the L button to start a fusion. You must piece together two Kinstone fragments that fit together to complete a fusion. The effects are immediate. Sometimes a cave or a passageway will open, leading to a Heart Container or other treasure, sometimes a certain NPC will react differently, sometimes a golden enemy (a faster, harder version of a normal enemy) will spawn in a select location, while other times a treasure chest will pop up in the overworld for you to find and open. It's an enjoyable side quest, and there are nearly 200 different fusions to complete.

Another side quest consists of collecting Mysterious Shells, found in treasure chests, purchased in Hyrule Town's shop, and discovered in the wild through cutting down grass and bushes. These can be traded in the figurine shop. Each time you get a new figurine (these are dioramas, characters, monsters, bosses, etc.), the probability of you earning a new figurine the next time to pull the switch to receive one goes down unless you pay more Mysterious Shells. Perhaps a certain goodie will occur if you collect all 130+ figurines...

While we're talking about certain goodies, The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap is certainly a nice looking game. The 2D art style looks well, the environments are detailed and pleasing to glance at, and the characters mesh well with the world. Everything runs at a steady framerate as well. The music of Minish Cap is full of memorable melodies, remixed classic tunes, and a mass amount of original works. It may sound tinny to some, but I found it to be quite spectacular all-in-all. Patches of voice work in the form of grunts, yells, and gibberish are natural parts of Zelda games, and that tradition continues with this title, too.

Unfortunately for Link there is no booze in that barrel.

The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap is a tremendous portable entry in this illustrious franchise. There is little in the way of filler, the dungeons are remarkably designed, there is an extensive amount of side content in the form of Kinstone Fusions, figurine collecting, Heart Container finding, and sword ability upgrades, the characters (especially Ezlo) are charming, and the world is a joy to explore. If you own a Game Boy Advance, The Minish Cap is a must-have game for your collection. If for some reason this game is to ever be for sale on the eShop's Virtual Console service, this should be one of your definite downloads. Just like viewing Hyrule between regular-sized and small Link, your enjoyment of this hand-held Zelda will all be a matter of perspective.

[SuperPhillip Says: 9.5/10]

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Rank Up! - Kirby (Hand-helds)

Kirby is an ever-versatile character full of cute cuddliness and ever-present charm. This past Tuesday I ranked his top mainline console entries, so today we're going to be checking out his best mainline portable installments. Rank Up! is where I take a series or set of games and rank them from worst (or not the greatest) to best. What games will I be ranking on this Thursday evening? Let's find out:

Kirby's Dream Land (GB)
Kirby's Dream Land 2 (GB)
Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land (GBA)
Kirby & the Amazing Mirror (GBA)
Kirby: Canvas Curse (DS)
Kirby: Squeak Squad (DS)
Kirby: Super Star Ultra (DS)
Kirby Mass Attack (DS)

We're celebrating twenty years of all things Kirby in style with this second edition of Rank Up! Kirby is more known for his hand-held roots than anything, and have the years been kind to Kirby! Every new adventure seems like it brings something new to the proverbial table from splitting Kirby into ten to using lines to guide the pink blob around. Here's to twenty more, Kirby!

8) Kirby's Dream Land (GB)

Kirby's very first game, Kirby's Dream Land was before the pink puffball actually became pink. Originally he was a white ghostly blob venturing in Dream Land to save the day as well as gobble up enemies in the process. The reason it is ranked so low on this list is because the game is incredibly short with little in the way of replay value. A second mode opens up once the game is completed which is most likely the hardest challenge a Kirby player will ever face. Still, you can't go wrong with downloading this game off of the Nintendo 3DS's Virtual Console.

7) Kirby's Dream Land 2 (GB)

Face off against the sinister Dark Matter and rebuild the broken Rainbow Bridges. But this time Kirby won't have to do it alone-- he has a trio of animal friends to assist him in his journey including Rick the Hamster, Coo the Owl, and Kine the Fish. These animals would return in the much better Super Nintendo sequel of Kirby's Dream Land 3. Regardless, the second installment isn't half bad by any stretch of the imagination, and it features seven worlds unlike the ultra-short original game.

6) Kirby: Squeak Squad (DS)

All Kirby wants is cake, and when the Squeak Squad gets in his way of his goal, Kirby gets pumped and primed to once again save the day-- and his cake! The main gameplay mechanic of Squeak Squad is the ability to use the touch screen to store five individual items such as new powers, treasures, and food for restoring health. While on the easy side and quite forgettable as a whole, Kirby: Squeak Squad is still worth tracking down if you're an avid collector of Kirby games or ecstatic fan of all things pink puffball.

5) Kirby & the Amazing Mirror (GBA)

Metroid in design, but that is where the similarities end, Kirby & the Amazing Mirror for the Game Boy Advance takes players on an adventure across nine lands to restore the broken, titular mirror. Call in four friends (hope you have link cables!) or use the computer to assist you in getting past obstacles one lone Kirby couldn't dare get past. Search through labyrinthine levels for treasure, food, and bosses patrolling various shards of the mirror. Getting lost is commonplace in Amazing Mirror as is frustration as this is one difficult game.

4) Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land (GBA)

Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land, the other Game Boy Advance Kirby title, is a remake of the NES classic Kirby's Adventure. It follows the tale of King Dedede stealing the fabled Star Rod and using it for dastardly deeds. Like Amazing Mirror, you can link up with up to three other friends to play cooperatively together or go it alone against bleak odds. The updated visuals are incredibly gorgeous and eye-catching, showcasing that art not high polygon counts matters the most. For a remade masterpiece with bonus content, Nightmare in Dream Land is one dream you won't want to wake up from.

3) Kirby: Super Star Ultra (DS)

A port of Kirby Super Star from the Super Nintendo's heyday, Super Star Ultra on the Nintendo DS takes all of the beloved games of the original collection and adds bonus content to it. There's still all of a Kirby fan's favorite games including Spring Breeze, Dyna Blade, Revenge of Metaknight, Gourmet Race, and of course, the Great Cave Offensive, something that Kirby & the Amazing Mirror reminds me heavily of. In addition to the old, new touch-screen exclusive modes have been included as well. This is the ultimate version of Kirby Super Star without a doubt.

2) Kirby Mass Attack (DS)

One Kirby is great, but ten Kirbys? Yes, please. Control an armada of pink puffballs in Kirby Mass Attack. The game is controlled solely with the stylus, having you flick Kirbys at enemies, on switches, and poking the screen to have them move to that location. The main adventure mode of five worlds is only the beginning, There's medals to obtain, challenges to complete, and mini-games to play. These are so astonishing that they could fit into their own game, and no one would be any the wiser! Runner-up for DS GotY for 2011, Kirby Mass Attack is gaming gold.

1) Kirby: Canvas Curse (DS)

The most nontraditional Kirby game on the list, like Kirby Mass Attack, Kirby: Canvas Curse is also controlled by stylus only. You draw lines to guide the Kirby ball through treacherous obstacle courses, stealing enemy powers, collection three medals in each level, and doing everything in your ability to become a whole Kirby (see: not a circular blob with no hands or feet) once again. The art style is impressive as it usual is for a Kirby game while the difficulty is just right. This was one of the first games on the Nintendo DS to start the bumper crop of excellent DS games that we saw in the system's first year on the market.


With this edition of Rank Up! over, I ask you what would your order of mainline portable Kirby game be? Feel free to go into as much or as little detail as you desire. I appreciate any and all comments. Tomorrow we will have our first review of 2012. Hope you will look forward to that.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Most Overlooked PlayStation 3 Games - Part Six

With a new year comes a new segment of Most Overlooked and five new games that were under-appreciated. The console this time? The PlayStation 3. Instead of asking what five titles will be mentioned on this fine Wednesday, why not just take a look for yourself with the following article?

Disgaea 4: A Promise Unforgotten

The Disgaea series returns, and as tradition it is on a PlayStation platform. This time around it has an entirely all-new graphic engine that pushes the anime aesthetic straight up to the front of players' attentions. In the fully 3D battles, character unit movement as well as attack range depends upon their level as well as what weapons that have equipped. If you are a PlayStation 3 owner looking for a strategy RPG that will fulfill your niche requirement, you cannot go wrong with Disgaea 4: A Promise Unforgotten, a title destined to be rare with a limited production run.

El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron

Sawaki Takeyasu (Devil May Cry) and Masato Kimura (Okami, Viewtiful Joe) team up to bring PlayStation 3 owners El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron where players assume the role of Enoch, mastering his combat and taking hold of out of worldly weapons and abilities. The storyline itself is inspired by the Old Testament "Book of Enoch", and it chronicles the hero's pursuit to save the world from a flood ordered by Heaven itself. If the premise isn't weird enough for you (there's no doubt that it turned more than a few potential buyers off), then there is something to like about this celestial game.

GoldenEye 007: Reloaded

The excellent Wii shooter stealth-releases its way onto the PlayStation 3 with Move support or traditional Dualshock controls and upgraded high definition visuals. Reloaded has all of the missions of the well-selling Wii game plus its multiplayer component, terrific for four player split-screen action or hopping online and shooting it out with up to fifteen other players in one of many maps such as the Jungle and Facility. Daniel Craig and Dame Judi Dench lend their voice talents to this excellent re-imagining of Rare's original GoldenEye.

Medieval Moves: Deadmund's Quest

Battle against the undead in Medieval Moves: Deadmund's Quest. The game has you switching between throwing items, shooting arrows, and slashing with your sword to take out enemies both big and small, and the three multiplayer modes offer split-screen action for two players to sit on a couch or stand next to one another and unleash heck on either each other or their opponents. Created by the same team that made one of the better selling Move titles, Sports Champions, Medieval Moves: Deadmund's Quest oozes charm from every orifice.

Dragon Ball Z: Burst Limit

While not as jam-packed with content as last generation's offerings, Dragon Ball Z: Burst Limit is an admirable start to the DBZ mythos on a current generation console. Offering destructible environments, a robust lineup of everyone's favorite Dragon Ball Z all-stars, numerous modes, and powerful, earth-shattering moves at players' disposal, Dragon Ball Z: Burst Limit takes the series to new heights. The declining popularity of not only the series but anime as a whole in the states might have had something to do with this title not selling to its full potential. Add in low marketing and you have a game that didn't meet its desired sales.


Part Six of Most Overlooked PS3 Games-- six, can you believe it?-- has ended here on SuperPhillip Central. Tomorrow we will be examining Kirby's portable entries in Rank Up! See you then, friends!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Rank Up! - Kirby (Consoles)

Last week I reviewed Kirby's Return to Dreamland on Wii, so it seems like a perfect time to take a look at Kirby's mainline console efforts. It is also the twentieth anniversary of the pink puffball. But first, what is Rank Up!? Rank Up! is where I take a handful of games and rank them from least great to greatest in one nice, concise blog entry. Before we begin, it is tradition to take a glance at what games I'll be ranking:

Kirby's Adventure (NES)
Kirby Super Star (SNES)
Kirby's Dream Land 3 (SNES)
Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards (N64)
Kirby's Epic Yarn (Wii)
Kirby's Return to Dream Land (Wii)

Kirby celebrates his 20th birthday later this year, and boy, what a life it has been for the cute and cuddly character from the mind of Mr. Sakurai and HAL Laboratories. His ability to suck up enemies and copy their powers was unheard of and is a terrific gameplay mechanic to this day. Kirby is generally Nintendo's go-to character for unique gameplay styles such as a racing game that only uses one button to accelerate, brake, and handle, a game where you draw lines to guide Kirby around, and a game where you tilt the Game Boy Color to move the pink blob around labyrinthine-like levels. Happy 20th, Kirby, you're nearly old enough to drink legally!

6) Kirby's Adventure (NES)

The first Kirby game where it was revealed that that everyone's favorite powder puff was actually pink, Kirby's Adventure brought Nintendo's blob mascot to consoles. For a Kirby game that difficulty was pretty high as the player only had a handful of hits to work with before they lost a life. Bosses like Kracko and Whispy Woods proved challenging while familiar to this day landscapes and levels like Butter Building and Ice Cream Island made for an edible vacation unlike any other.

5) Kirby's Dream Land 3 (SNES)

Kirby's Dream Land 3 came out a year after Super Star and unlike KSS was a full-fledged adventure as opposed to multiple bite-sized ones. Players could team up together in Kirby's first cooperative journey, playing together to help one another out. Several animal friends assisted players along the way such as a fish, a bird, and a gopher, for starters. Each level had its own optional side challenge to accomplish such as rescuing Metroids for Samus Aran or not stomping on any flowers in a given level. Plus, the soft painted look of the game is highly pleasing to the eye.

4) Kirby Super Star (SNES)

Kirby Super Star was a collection of games both mini and mega that varied in greatness. The eight games had Kirby exploring a series of levels in search of treasure in the Great Cave Offensive, had Kirby swift-stepping it with King Dedede in Gourmet Race, playing through a remake of Kirby's Dream Land in Spring Breeze, battling a winged warrior in Dyna Blade, and carousing through Revenge of Meta Knight as well as Milky Way Wishes. If you can't get enough Kirby, then Kirby Super Star is an admirable effort to expand the pink puffball's horizons.

3) Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards (N64)

One of the more overlooked of Kirby's adventures, Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards introduced our round hero to three-dimensions... well, technically 2-1/2D, but everything was 3D visually. The main draw to the game was combining two abilities to form a new one. This made for a lot of experimentation as some portions of levels couldn't be accessed unless you had the correct combination of abilities. Three crystal shards were hidden in each level, and you had to gather them all in order to reach the true final boss of the game. One of my favorite Kirbys, The Crystal Shards is definitely worth a look.

2) Kirby's Epic Yarn (Wii)

Originally planned to be a new IP entirely, Kirby was shoe-horned in and thus Kirby's Epic Yarn was born. Two players could delve into co-op mode together, collecting beads, lassoing foes, and transforming into multiple different forms like fire engines, cars, and UFOs. While the game itself is one the easy side, the presentation alone makes this game worth playing. Everything in Epic Yarn is-- unsurprisingly-- made out of yarn from bad guys to environments. And that music... So phenomenal. Kirby's Epic Yarn is indeed one special little package.

1) Kirby's Return to Dream Land (Wii)

The latest and in my mind greatest Kirby adventure yet, Kirby's Return to Dreamland (or Kirby's Adventure Wii for PAL people) pits players through countless vibrant and lush worlds such as Cookie Country and Onion Ocean in search of Megalor's missing spaceship parts and Energy Spheres used to unlock bonus content such as Challenge Rooms, Copy Ability Rooms, and sub-games. The addition of four-player co-op creates a zany dynamic with all players working together and sharing a life counter with player one. Multiplayer alone makes this game the best console Kirby yet, but all the unlockable modes post-game makes for a game that definitely does not suck, even if Kirby literally does.


This edition of Rank Up! is over, but stay tuned later in the week as we'll be examining Kirby's mainline hand-held escapades in a bite-sized version of Rank Up! See you tomorrow, all.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Top Ten Hand-held Games of 2011

The year 2011 is all but a memory now as we look forward to the great games coming down the pipeline for 2012. However, before we completely turn out back to the year that was, let us take a quick look at the best portable titles for such platforms as the Nintendo 3DS, the Nintendo DS, and darn it, if it isn't trying, the Sony PlayStation Portable. These are the ultimate retail games when it comes to portable platform gaming in the year that was 2011.

10) Dissidia 012: Duodecim Final Fantasy (PSP)

Duke it out with the heroes and villains of the Final Fantasy series such as Cloud (FFVII), Squall (FFVIII), Terra (FFVI), Cecil (FFIV), Tidus (FFX), Kefka (FFVI), Sephiroth (FFVII), Ultamecia (FFVIII), Kuja (FFIX), Jecht (FFX), Golbez (FFIV), and newcomers like Lightning (FFXIII), Tifa (FFVII), Kain (FFIV), and Laguna (FFVIII). Battle in fully three-dimensional arenas, participate in the many characters' chapters in story mode, customize your equipment, level up your strengths and abilities, and listen to one of many remixed and remastered tracks from Final Fantasy past in Dissidia 012: Duodecim Final Fantasy.

9) Dead or Alive: Dimensions (3DS)

Celebrating fifteen years, the Dead or Alive franchise appears on a Nintendo system for the first time with this compilation of the greatest in Dead of Alive history. With a huge cast of characters, battle arenas, downloadable costumes (they're free, by the way), and many modes to plow through, Dead or Alive: Dimensions is the ultimate fighting game on the 3DS. The online play showcases the hardware's strengths with trifle amounts of lag or slow-down, the photo mode allows you to take 3D shots of your favorite fighters, and collecting and trading figurines via StreetPass seldom gets old.

8) Star Fox 64 3D (3DS)

Take flight with Fox McCloud and the gang in Star Fox 64 3D, a remake of the 1997 Nintendo 64 original. The game sports updated graphics that look incredible on the 3DS screen, optional gyro controls, three difficulties (Easy, N64, and Expert), remastered voice acting that sounds better than ever before, and an all-new multiplayer mode that can be played with or without bots across four maps. Gearing for high scores, earning medals, and taking down Andross' many enemy fighters is all in a day's work for Team Star Fox.

7) Professor Layton and the Last Specter (DS)

This start to a new trilogy in the Professor Layton franchise is actually a prequel to Curious Village. It shows the beginnings of the relationship between Layton and Luke and how the two became teacher and apprentice. There are more puzzles to solve than ever before ranging from block sliding quandaries to arithmetic problems. The story contains some truly touching moments, insane production values with stellar voice acting to boot, and characters that you can't help but love. After you've solved the mystery of the Last Specter, download new and free puzzles as well as take a journey to Little London in the cute, quaint, and charming London Life bonus mode-- exclusive to North American copies.

6) Kirby Mass Attack (DS)

What's better than one Kirby? How about an army of ten Kirbys? That is exactly what you get in Kirby Mass Attack. The game is controlled solely with the stylus, tapping the screen to command your Kirbys, flicking them at switches and enemies, battling bosses, finding gold medals, and furiously touching the screen to lift huge objects. The bonus content in the form of mini-games like a Whack-a-mole mini-game, a shmup, an RPG, and a pinball game all add to the value of this amazing adventure. Suck up a copy today-- you won't regret it.

5) Mario Kart 7 (3DS)

Mario Kart roars onto the Nintendo 3DS with sixteen all-new tracks, sixteen retro tracks like Luigi's Mansion, Coconut Mall, Dino Dino Jungle, and Koopa Beach from past Mario Kart games, the usual ragtag team of racers plus new ones such as Metal Mario (in his second spin-off game), Lakitu, Honey Queen, and Wiggler, and a robust online mode that is decidedly quite unlike Nintendo. The addition of Communities means those with the same play styles can race one another without the need to exchange friend codes. It just goes to show that Nintendo might not be entirely clueless when it comes to online after all. This might not be the ultimate Mario Kart experience, but it is certainly pretty close.

4) Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together (PSP)

A remake of the 1998 cult classic, Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together brings forth a story of power, war, and attrition in this excellent tactical RPG. Put your brain through the wringer with dozens upon dozens of unique maps and battles that demand your total and unequivocal concentration. The new Wheel of Fortune option adds even more to consider when entering battle as if the battles weren't already exciting enough! With a story from the great mind of Mr. Matsuno (Final Fantasy Tactics, Vagrant Story), there is no shortage of tremendous plot twists and epic moments in this modern take on a classic.

3) Pokemon Black and White

A new generation of Pokemon has been unleashed onto the masses, and it introduces over 150 individual Pokemon, new evolutions, a new region to explore, new towns, new rivals, new triple battles, and so much more. Moreover, trading and battling Pokemon online has never been simpler. There is a lot to like about the newest pair of Pokemon games, and it wouldn't be surprising to me if young and old trainers were still playing these games long after they've caught them all.

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

The legend returns with a vengeance with The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D. More of a remake than a port, Ocarina of Time 3D showcases the brilliance of the 3DS hardware with impressive stereoscopic 3D visuals that have been enhanced from the Nintendo 64 original, a much more difficult Master Quest that unlocks after the main game has been completed, and a Boss Rush mode to pit Link against his toughest foes. Indeed, one of the greatest games of all time just got a little bit better.

1) Super Mario 3D Land (3DS)

If only because it is an original title unlike Ocarina of Time 3D, everyone's favorite overall-ed hero returns to a hand-held and earns top honors. Mario hops and skips his way onto the Nintendo 3DS with a brand-new platforming adventure. Run and jump through eight worlds with levels that take the portly plumber through grasslands, deserts, frozen fjords, sunset skies, airships, and Bowser's many castles. The 3D effect is the best the 3DS has seen yet with either the choice for pop-out or pop-in 3D. Even after the first eight worlds have been beaten, you aren't finished yet. There's a whole lot more to trek though if you want to get those highly lusted for five golden stars next to your profile! Giving Mario to the masses has always been Nintendo's mantra, and they definitely succeeded with Super Mario 3D Land!


Those were but a sampling of the terrific titles that first and third-parties dished out for portables this past year. We saw the arrival of the 3DS in all territories which started out slow at the gate but ended strong while in Japan the PlayStation Vita launched with huge fanfare and one of best launch lineups in recent memory. Meanwhile, the DS had its last full year of support from its parent developer and third-parties as they all move onto its successor, the 3DS. All-in-all, it was a bang up year for dedicated portables in 2011.