Saturday, January 28, 2012

Mario Party 6 (GCN) Retro Review

Earlier in the week I posted new screens and a new trailer for the upcoming Mario Party 9. In anticipation for the game I have been playing installments that were fresh to me, and seeing how they shaped up. Let's see if Mario Party 6 is a party worth celebrating.

Day or Night, This Party is Just Right

Ever since its inception on the Nintendo 64, Mario Party has been Nintendo's cash cow. That isn't to say each installment is of poor quality. It is just that some of Mario's celebrations are better than others. Mario Party 6 brings with it a wide assortment of new mini-games, microphone support, a night and day mechanic, and six original boards to party until the sun goes down. Come see why this party is one you will want to attend. Don't forget to bring a gift!

Brighton and Twila are the sun and moon spirits of the Mario Party world. They generally get along quite well like two peas in a pod. However, when both ask one another which is more stupendous, a frenetic feud begins. Mario and the gang do their best to try to calm down the two intensely rivaling spirits, but it seems nothing they attempt helps. That is until Mario brings up the idea to collect Power Stars and place them into a Star Bank to appease both spirits. Will this be enough to satisfy the sun and moon spirits and make the world of Mario Party calm once more? And with an opening storybook cutscene, the festivities begin.

After creating a data from one of three save slots, you'll be whisked away to the realm of Mario Party 6. There's a plethora of things to do in the game. From Solo Mode to the traditional Party Mode, there is no shortage of content to be had and to partake in.

Solo Mode is one of the series's best yet. It does not require you to play it for if you don't want to, but the rewards for doing so are quite beneficial to the player. Solo Mode consists of three linear boards where the goal is to land on spaces and win mini-games against the computer. Any mini-game you win goes into your personal collection, and you win a fair amount of coins, too. However, the board is only so many spaces long, and if you roll too much, you'll fall off the end of the board, losing all of the mini-games and coins you earned. Though it's a risk, the final safe space on each Solo Mode board is a rare mini-game space. You don't even have to play it to win it. It just automatically goes into your collection, and the round ends. Your total mini-games and coins collected are tallied up, and you are awarded stars to place into your Star Bank. This mode is terrific for receiving new mini-games without having to rely on luck in Party Mode to get them.

Solo Mode boards are straight and linear excursions.

Speaking of which, Party Mode returns, and this is the meat and potatoes of the Mario Party series. If you have friends, the mode is a blast, but playing it alone sort of defeats the purpose and is less enjoyable. Regardless, the aim of the game is simple-- earn coins from landing on blue spaces and winning mini-games in order to purchase stars. The player with the most stars at the conclusion of the game is the overall winner and superstar. There's a wide range of spaces to land on that can be worthwhile or costly to the player such as blue spaces (gives the person who lands on it three coins), red spaces (takes away three coins to the player who lands on it), action spaces (can make something happen on the board such as sending the player to the start of the board or worse), Reversal of Fortune spaces (think Chance Time from Mario Party 1-3), Duel spaces (two players face off in a mini-game where the winner gets either their opponent's coins or one of their stars), DK spaces (land on this space for a special beneficial mini-game), or Bowser spaces (landing on this space starts a game where the loser(s) must give either all their coins, a star, or all of their orbs to Bowser).

Avoid these spiked balls in Pit Boss, or face Bowser's fury.

Orbs are invaluable devices that can give a player a welcomed assistance over the competition or they can cause headaches to other players. Some orbs can be used on yourself like Mushrooms that allow you to roll two or more dice blocks while others can be used on spaces to trip up opponents. The Whomp orb, when used, makes the unlucky victim that passes by stop dead in their tracks, no matter how big their roll. Other orbs can steal half of a player's coins, steal an orb, make a player lose five coins for every space they move, and so forth. Some orbs are exclusive to certain boards. Castaway Bay, for instance, has an orb that protects a player from having their coins or more importantly a star stolen by Boo, a greedy apparition who would then give his stolen bounty to the player who paid for his services.

While orbs aren't an original concept to the Mario Party series (they were in the previous installment), new and exclusive to this edition of Mario Party is the concept of a day and night cycle. After three turns, day turns to night and vice versa. DK spaces pop up during the day while Bowser spaces appear at night to replace Donkey Kong. Boards can entirely transform during night and present new hazards and dangers. For example, on Towering Treetop the tree that rests at the top of the board is friendly during the day, but if you land on his space at night he drops several thorny balls that not only hurt but they take away precious coins from all players. Even mini-games change depending on the time of day.

At night, Boo is drooling at the mouth,
ready to steal coins or stars from unfortunate souls.

After all four players have rolled, landed on their spaces, and the round is over, a mini-game begins. This can be either every man (or woman) for themselves, 2vs2, 1vs3, or a Battle mini-game where all four players put a certain amount of coins into a pool. The winner wins the lion's share of the coins. One mini-game has players inputting the button or trigger shown by a Shy Guy in order to strike a golf ball. The first to ten correct inputs wins. Another has players teaming up in pairs to leap over a fiery turnstile. The team left standing (see: not burnt to ashes) is the victor. Other games have players breaking away boulders that are in the middle of a seaside road, ground-pounding the most flashing buttons in the allotted time, jumping from raft to raft before they drop over the waterfall, and stomping on moles that come out of pipes while avoiding dangerous Piranha Plants. Most games control excellently enough, but there's the occasion one that proves to be troublesome.

I thought I already did my 1080: Avalanche review...

Aside from the normal mini-games, sometimes a mic mini-game will be played. These games can be played with a controller if you so choose to, or they can be turned off altogether. The games work by having one player (the one with the microphone that comes bundled with the game) taking on three players. In Fruit Talktail (har-har), the player with the mic shouts out one of five fruits aloud. The other players must then swiftly move to the platforms that correspond to the fruit shouted as the other paltforms will fall into a bottomless pit. During Shoot Yer Mouth Off, the goal of the game is for the player holding the mic to call out numbers which correspond to an obstacle being unleashed into the arena such as Bob-Ombs and Bullet Bills to defeat the three players who must avoid each hazard until time runs out. The mic games are enjoyable enough, but some drag on for far too long. Plus the mic can confuse vocal signals. Saying "right" in one game might make the characters move to the left instead of the intended direction.

Call the right numbers out to trip up and defeat your rivals.

There are six boards total with one of them needing the player to purchase it for 100 stars. Thankfully, every player in a Party Mode game (yes, even the computer-controlled players) contributes to the Star Bank at the end of each game. This makes reaching high amounts of stars easy-peasy. Mario Party 6 introduced new rules to the boards. The first two boards, Towering Treetop and E. Gadd's Garage follow the basic template of the series. A star is semi-randomly placed on the board, and the opponents all vie to reach it to pay the twenty coins required to receive it. Then the star moves to a new location on the board. Regardless, other boards use different rules to acquire stars. For instance, on Faire Square either Brighton or Twila rest in the center of the board. During the day, stars from Brighton cost twenty coins. During the night, stars from Twila can cost anywhere from 5-40 coins. The catch is that you can buy up to five stars at once if you can afford it. On Snowflake Lake, everyone starts the game with five stars. By paying Chain-Chomps and getting lucky rolls, you can crush other players, stealing one of their stars.

Aside from Party Mode, there's the opportunity for you to play all of the mini-games you have unlocked either through Solo or Party modes. Mini-game Tour gives you the option to play any mini-game unlocked at your leisure while Battle Bridge is a race to cross a canyon through winning games. Treetop Bingo is all about being victorious in mini-games to be able to choose numbers and aim for a BINGO. Meanwhile, Decathlon Park pits four opponents in ten mini-games in a row. The player with the most points by the end of all ten games stands victorious. These modes add to the multiplayer madness of Mario Party 6, and they are great additions to an already meaty game.

Swim for your life to avoid a grim Blooper fate.

Mario Party 6 isn't the most marvelous piece of technological wonder on the GameCube. There are plenty of jaggies on characters to be found, but backgrounds and boards are full of life and the attention to detail is there. Musically, the tracks are decent enough, but they are highly forgettable apart from a theme here and there. This isn't Mario Party 1 where every track was essentially a winner. Those days are long gone.

Some mini-games have you pairing up with
what would otherwise be your rival.

If you're looking for an interesting diversion and a fun fiesta, Mario Party 6 is most definitely worth RSVPing to. The mini-games are 90% enjoyable with the other 10% being duds. That is pretty good for a Mario Party game. The boards offer new play styles and strategies to be had, and allowing the CPU's star totals to be added to your Star Bank makes you actually root for the computer to obtain stars-- even if they're your enemy! The amount of unlockables at said Star Bank will have you partying all day and even into the wee hours of the night. This is one of the better entries in the Mario Party franchise, and it is quite worthy of your hard-earned coins. Put on your party hat, bring your noisemakers, and get ready for one hearty party!

[SuperPhillip Says: 8.0/10]

Friday, January 27, 2012

More Pushmo (3DSWare) QR Codes - Final Fantasy-style!

EvilRedEye from the NeoGAF (you don't know how bad I wanted to call them NeoFAQs just now) forums posted a whole slew of Final Fantasy-related QR codes for the highly popular Pushmo, available on the 3DS eShop. Just right click each and open them in a new tab or window to see a full-sized version of each set of codes. EvilRedEye says that these codes should work, so I'm putting my trust into a total stranger. I am constantly amazed by the wonderful puzzles made by the Pushmo community.

SuperPhillip's Top Ten Games of All Time - 2012 Edition

As promised I have battled in my brain the ten titles out of hundreds I have played that I deem to be the top ten of all time. My focus is on Nintendo platforms as my first gaming systems were mainly Nintendo. I did get to play Sega's Genesis off and on, but nothing really gelled with me. I was always on the Nintendo side of things in the nineties. Then when Sony came out with their PlayStation, my brother and I became two console gamers with the PS1 and the Nintendo 64.

This generation we had all three main consoles before the Xbox 360 died three months out of the warranty. Now we have our 60 gig PlayStation 3 and our Nintendo Wii which needed to be repaired once already. Consoles just aren't made like they used to be which makes me wary on going headfirst into the next generation of systems. Nonetheless, I think I have set up the following list just splendidly. Before we begin, why not take a look at my list from way back in 2008? Enough rambling from me-- let's get to the games!


10) Super Smash Bros. Brawl (Wii)

The all-star brawl is on! I was devastated when I found out that all of my data from my old Wii could not be restored. That meant all the work in my village in Animal Crossing: City Folk was gone, all my perfect swings in We Love Golf! were for naught, and the killer, my unlocks in Super Smash Bros. Brawl went kaput. Today I'm slowly slogging through the game. I have opened up all of the stages, I am one character away from having them all, and I am slowly building my collection of trophies. Replaying the game isn't all too bad surprisingly. I am enjoying my time once more. It is like the return of an old friend who was long gone. I love the stages, the characters, combing through my army of trophies, squealing with delight when I pick up a new trophy, sticker, or CD, and battling with the beautiful graphics. The addition of Final Smashes added a new dimension to the game. It's a mad scramble when a Smash Ball appears in thin air. Who will break it open and unleash its power on their opponents? Even with having to recollect everything all over again, I cannot help but be in a state of delight with this love letter to fans of anything Nintendo. Note: The following shots were taken by me.

9) Perfect Dark (N64, XBLA)

Unfortunately my 360 died before Perfect Dark went old school on Xbox Live with online play, a new and super impressive graphical engine, and nothing in the way of slowdown, unlike the N64 original. Regardless, I cannot count how many hours I played multiplayer in Perfect Dark, unlocking awesome new arenas with perfect vantage points, hideouts, and shortcuts. I loved the Villa, Area 56, Skedar, and the 15+ large-scaled arenas that were the locations of many a fierce and intense shootout. Who didn't love having matches with proximity mines only or rockets only? Playing with bots that could be given different personalities like a pugilist, a simulant that always goes after the person in last place, or a bot that stocked up heavily on ammo so no one else could take it. The Combat Simulator portion of the game was meaty and could have been its own title, but no, Rare was ambitious and included an excellent single-player campaign with many missions and objectives to tackle. The objectives changed or more were added pending on your chosen difficulty level. I will always remember the day I beat the game on Perfect Agent, one of my favorite feats in my 20+ year gaming history. Perfect Dark took the formula GoldenEye 007 laid down and-- forgive me-- "perfected" it to make the best FPS in the history of the genre... at least of what I've played. The shots below come from the XBLA version that I did not get to try out.

8) Banjo-Kazooie (N64, XBLA)

With a preorder of Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts, a fine game in its own right (many fans would disagree), I received a download code for the Xbox Live Arcade version of one of my favorite 3D platformers of all time, the original Banjo-Kazooie. Yes, it even beats Super Mario 64. How's that for a controversial opinion? The game was divided up between nine unique and diverse worlds such as Mumbo's Mountain (introductory level), Treasure Trove Cove (pirate's realm with sandy beaches and one ornery shark), Mad Monster Mansion (your worst fears come alive), and Click Clock Wood (made up of the four seasons). Speaking of Mumbo, this shaman could transform Banjo and Kazooie into one of many transformations that were pertinent to not only survival but to acquiring Jiggies, the power stars of the game, used to open new worlds. You could become a termite, a crocodile, a walrus, and even a flying bee. Each world had Bottles placed in various locations to slowly teach the bear and bird duo new moves like the Talon Trot, made for walking up steep slopes that Banjo would otherwise slide right down. I vastly prefer the XBLA version as it not only clears up and makes the Stop 'N Swap mystery useful, but it also allows you to collect musical notes (100 in each world) and not have to gather them all in one go. This means dying at 99 notes won't make you have to collect them all over again. Add in HD visuals, and you have the Xbox 360's best platformer.

7) Mega Man X (SNES)

Classic Mega Man is my brother's favorite, and seeing Capcom's treatment of him by putting the North America Mega Man from the original game's cover in Street Fighter X Tekken, it's a shame how blatant they are trolling Mega Man's fanbase. Regardless, Mega Man X was a more serious storyline and setting for the blue bomber, placing him in a faraway future where the Sigma virus has infected reploids, turning them into Mavericks. It's up to X and his partner (no, not that kind of partner, sickos) to lead the charge against them. With twelve or so levels, eight of which are able to be played in any order, new bosses that instead of being men or women (Top Man, Star Man, Gravity Man, etc.) were animals like Launch Octopus, Chill Penguin, and Storm Eagle, and hidden secrets in the form of armor upgrades from Dr. Light, heart tanks which boosted X's health, and sub tanks used to give X extra help in case his health goes dangerously low in battle, Mega Man X meant business. There was just more to do in Mega Man X, and now you don't even need sixteen digit passwords to save your progress. You can pick up either the PS2 or GameCube version of the Mega Man X Collection, and save right to a memory card! Now that's progress!

6) Super Mario Galaxy (Wii)

I was originally blown away by this game, but the more I played one of the next titles on this list, the less impressive this one was. It was very easy in difficulty save for some daredevil and timed runs. Regardless of this, Super Mario Galaxy is still one of the premier games of the generation as well as one of the best games of the generation. The presentation alone is unlike any Mario game before it. It is one of the Wii's greatest looking games and has a stellar soundtrack to boot, composed mostly by Mahito Yokota. There's plenty of great moments in Super Mario Galaxy such as spinning rocks into the face of Bouldergeist, ground pounding stumps to make gigantic worms pop out of planetoids made out of apples in Gusty Garden Galaxy, carefully balancing the Wii remote so you can guide a ball Mario is running on safely to the goal, and launching from a star pad and having a volcano erupt in all of its fiery glory behind Mario in Melty Molten Galaxy. Then there's the glorious galaxies Mario explores such as Good Egg, Freezeflame, Buoy Base, Beach Bowl, Dusty Dune, and so many more. Make no mistake about it, Super Mario Galaxy is living, albeit virtual proof that Nintendo knows how to make genre-defining games. Forgive me if you think that this is hyperbole, but I stand by it.

5) Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition (Wii)

I have played Resident Evil 4 on so many platforms now, I think there's more varieties of the game than there are Starbucks Coffee shops in the world. Nonetheless, I first encountered Resident Evil 4 in the pages of Nintendo Power. The game was touted as a big exclusive for the GameCube, one of the Capcom Five. Most of know how that turned out... Anyway, I opted to get my grandma (bless her heart) to purchase the game for me at the Galleria's GameStop location for my birthday back in 2005 or whenever the game came out. I wasn't expecting much as I had never played the series until then. When I finally placed that small DVD into the GameCube, shut the lid, and powered that tiny box on, my jaw hit the floor. Not only were the ambient environments breathtaking (the European woods with its fog, many dead leaves on the ground, and dilapidated houses), but the action was intense as well (the first villager encounter with the tense music made me almost wet myself. Thankfully I had my diaper on just in case). Then came the PlayStation 2 port with prerendered cutscenes instead of using the game's engine like the GameCube version. This port added an Assignment Ada mode. Fast-forward a few years later and the Wii gets its own installment, the one I consider to be the definitive version (and also one of the first games on SPC to be given a perfect 10/10). Not only did it have all of the bonus content such as Assignment Ada and the unlockable weapons and costumes for Leon and Ashley, but it had precise pointer controls for easy sniping, shooting, and slaying. Don't like it? Then use a traditional controller. That option alone makes Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition to best version of the bunch, SD or HD.

4) The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES)

I had dabbled a bit as a naive young child with the original Legend of Zelda only to always get my butt kicked by those lion enemies and Darknuts. It was either that or I'd get routinely lost with no assistance but the map inside the instruction booklet. Seriously, how obtuse is using a flute to empty a lake or burning a seemingly random bush to enter a dungeon? I'm getting off track. The first Zelda that I truly enjoyed was on the Super Nintendo. It was the third Zelda, and it was much more newbie friendly indeed-- The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. The game started off on the right foot with an... I hate to say this word as it's overused everywhere now... epic start. Link wakes up to find his uncle gone to Hyrule Castle as flashes of lightning goes off, rain pours to the ground, and darkness fills the air. The game had incredibly designed dungeons and two terrific overworlds which made you think in multiple dimensions. Couldn't reach an area of a dungeon? Perhaps you had to fall from a higher floor to reach it! And just when you thought the game was over after battling the sorcerer Agahnim, a whole new dark world opened up to explore! There was a myriad of items to help Link on his quest like the hookshot, multiple canes, the Pegasus Boots, the ice and fire rods, and multiple medallions. Heart Containers could be found high and low for the adventurer who pursued them, and maybe even other secrets, too. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is without a doubt my favorite 2D Zelda, but is it my favorite of the franchise?

3) Super Mario World (SNES)

Welcome to Dinosaur Land! Mario, Luigi, and newcomer Yoshi team up to tackle Bowser's ill-conceived children in Super Mario World. I loved the map of this game, being able to choose my own path to Bowser through discovering hidden exits in levels. This kind of freedom was uncommon in a platformer at this point in time, and Super Mario World definitely delivered in that regard. Moreover, World controlled sensationally and was truly challenging in every sense of the world. The difficulty curve is almost unmatched to this day. From battling Super Koopas on Butter Bridge to going inside a Koopa Kid's castle and taking on Magikoopas, there was a wide variety of locales and places to visit and venture to in Super Mario World. The benefit of playing with two players added to the fun. If one player couldn't complete a level, maybe the second player could. The addition of having the ability to store an item and have it given to either Mario or Luigi at any point in time allowed even the worst SMB player a chance to triumph over Bowser and his Koopa offspring. Many love Super Mario Bros. 3 the most, but I'm in the camp of cool kids that dig Super Mario World the best.

2) Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii)

It's an adventure that's out of this world. The game that somehow eclipsed Nintendo EAD's already impressive and outstanding work in Super Mario Galaxy, Super Mario Galaxy 2 took everything to an entirely new level. It hit the ball not just out of the park but out of the atmosphere (space joke #2). The galaxies were more plentiful, the boss battles were more entertaining, and the challenge was more difficult. It was the game that fans of the original like myself were clamoring for. Another thing players were wanting was the return of Yoshi, and Mario's faithful dino returned in a big way, helping Mario or Luigi traverse large gaps as well as gobble up annoying enemies. The gravity element from the original continued to make the series look and feel unlike any other on the market. Mahito Yokota came back to compose the music for the game, and he somehow created an even better score than the original with bombastic boss themes, catchy galaxy themes, and other fun melodies that feel like they came from a space opera and not a Mario game. Even after the original 120 stars have been collected, the game isn't over just yet. 120 more green stars appear in hard-to-reach locations for the completionist to gather. The greatest game of this generation (why it didn't win many Game of the Year awards besides from SuperPhillip Central and a few other places is criminal and proves this industry has a short attention span), Super Mario Galaxy 2 is nothing if not phenomenal, and that might even be short-selling it.

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

What do you get when you take my favorite game of all time, update the graphics, add a new boss rush mode, throw in a completely different quest after the original game has been beaten, and remove all of the framerate issues and slowdown from the Nintendo 64 classic? You get The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D for the Nintendo 3DS. It was the first 3DS game in my collection, and it was the main reason I wanted the system to begin with. A game has to be powerful and desirable enough to make someone purchase a system for one game. Well, Ocarina of Time 3D managed to do just that for me. Sure, it was a gift, but still. Having the option to assign items and equipment like the Iron Boots to one of four buttons (two face buttons and two touch screen buttons) made shuffling through said items and equipment a breeze and no longer a hassle. It made trekking through an already difficult dungeon in the Water Temple less taxing on the player. Remember the original and always having to pause the game to equip and take off your Iron Boots? No longer a problem with Ocarina of Time 3D. Chuck in (but ever so carefully) some fabulous stereoscopic 3D visuals, tried and true gameplay from 1997 that has withstood the test of time, and all of the aforementioned fresh content, and you have a game that I will perpetually be returning to and consider my favorite game of all time.... of all time!

Honorable Mentions:

LittleBigPlanet 2 (PS3)
Mega Man X4 (PS1)
Mega Man X2 (SNES)
Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest (SNES)
The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap (GBA)
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Wii)
New Super Mario Bros. Wii (Wii)
Metroid Prime (GCN)*

*was number ten on my 2008 list


Now that you have perused my list of favorite games, what are your top ten games of all time? Don't be shy now. Share your list with your fellow SPC readers in the comments section as well as your thoughts on the games in my list. Too Nintendo-heavy for your tastes?