Friday, November 16, 2012

Attractive Attractions: My Most Anticipated Nintendo Land Mini-Games

The Wii U finally launches in North America on Sunday with the rest of the world following suit soon after. As someone who isn't able to get a Wii U until later on down the road, I am still enamored with the launch lineup. One of the games that excites me the most is none other than Nintendo Land. While not the real world Nintendo theme park that fans of the big N have wanted and wished for for years, Nintendo Land looks to be an extremely entertaining title.

I'm using this opportunity before the Wii U and Nintendo Land launches to write up a list of my most anticipated attractions from the compilation from least interested to most interested. Think of it as Rank Up! but without the official segment title.

12) Octopus Dance

The mini-game I am least excited for is based off of one of Nintendo's oldest properties, the Game & Watch. The Octopus Dance game has players essentially partaking in Simon Says as the AI does various poses which the player has to memorize, and then they have to repeat the computer's actions via the control sticks or gyro controls. This is all while doing it in rhythm. It seems like Octopus Dance is rather light on content and depth, so this game doesn't really appeal to me so much.

11) Yoshi's Fruit Cart

Don't let the simplistic presentation fool you-- there is a lot to like about Yoshi's Fruit Cart. By drawing a line on the GamePad's touch screen, players lead Yoshi through a level to gather all of the fruit and make it to the goal. The caveat here-- and the thing that makes the game something that could only be done on the Wii U-- is that players need to look at the TV screen to see where the location of the fruits are, as the GamePad screen does not show it to them. The dozens upon dozens of different levels interest me greatly.

10) Takamaru's Ninja Castle

The mini-game showcased in the North American general Wii U television advertisement, Takamaru's Ninja Castle is based off a Japanese-only Famicom Disk System game. By sliding his or her finger across the GamePad longways, players can launch shuriken at multiple waves of ninja. Alongside the normal ninja enemies, there are boss characters to battle. These sections has the player using a sword instead of shuriken. I enjoy shooting gallery-style games, and Takamaru's Ninja Castle looks to scratch that itch for me.

9) Donkey Kong's Crash Course

Get a crash course on using the GamePad to tilt a fragile vehicle through a hazard-laden, platform-filled obstacle course. Go too fast, and your vehicle might topple over. Go too slow, and time will expire. Ample checkpoints promise that repeated attempts don't get overly frustrating. The TV screen shows the entirety of a given level while the GamePad screen shows a zoomed in view of your vehicle. With multiple levels to ride through, Donkey Kong's Crash Course may seem intimidating to beginning players, but it appears to be a solid challenge regardless.

8) Captain Falcon's Twister Race

Not even using the F-Zero name in its title, Captain Falcon's Twister Race has the player's Mii riding in a windup Blue Falcon as they tilt the Wii U GamePad to steer through a windy track full of obstacles, boosts, and ramps. Perhaps my thirst for a new F-Zero is making me more enthused for this particular mini-game than I should be, but I could always use a good and not-so-complex racing game for the Wii U launch.

7) Balloon Trip Breeze

It's pertinent to note that only the single-player mini-games have been listed thus far. The final of these solo mini-games is Balloon Trip Breeze, based off of Balloon Fight. Creating wind gusts to blow the player's Mii around the auto-scrolling levels, the player collects balloons and dodges air mines that will pop one of their three balloons. Pop all three, and it's game over. Similar to Donkey Kong's Crash Course, the GamePad screen shows a zoomed in view while the TV screen displays a larger portion of the level. Each level ends with the player landing on an island.

6) Animal Crossing: Sweet Day

Animal Crossing: Sweet Day features the asymmetrical gameplay that Nintendo has been touting so much since the Wii U's initial unveiling two E3s ago. One player controls two guards with both analog sticks, one for the left stick and one for the right stick. That player's job is to capture all of the other players who are trying to collect candy and take it back to a drop off point. The more candy one has on them, the slower they move. The game ends in one of two ways: 1) The GamePad player captures every animal, or 2) The players collecting candy drop off enough.

5) Luigi's Ghost Mansion

Dressing one's Mii up as Mario, Luigi, Wario, or Waluigi?! Where do I sign up for that? Luigi's Ghost Mansion has a promising premise. Like Animal Crossing: Sweet Day, this game also uses asymmetric gameplay. The four players dressed up as the four plumbers attempt to find the location of a ghost controlled by the player with the Wii U GamePad. The ghost is completely invisible, but can be seen occasionally when a player's flashlight gleams on it or when lightning brightens the room. The players searching for the ghost have their controllers rumble when they are nearby the ghost. If the ghost player grabs and sucks the life force out of all players, that person wins. If the ghost gets sucked up by the other players, they win. I think Luigi's Ghost Mansion is a remarkably clever little game, and I am excited to try it out for myself.

4) Pikmin Adventure

Since Pikmin 3 isn't getting a release until next year, Nintendo Land's Pikmin Adventure mini-game will have to do for now. This is a cooperative-based game. The GamePad player controls Olimar. Meanwhile, up to four players with Wii Remotes control little Pikmin. Working together to bash baddies and break through obstacles, the players pass through colorful levels as they head to the end where Olimar's ship awaits. Before they can reach the Dolphin, however, they must deal with a powerful boss. The cooperative aspects of Pikmin Adventure seem enjoyable enough to me, making this mini-game my four most anticipated.

3) Mario Chase

We first saw this game under a different guise as Chase Mii at E3 2011. Now it has been given a Mario aesthetic as up to four Miis dressed as Toads try to capture the Mii dressed as Mario. The Mario Mii player can see where the Toads are on the Wii U GamePad screen. The fun comes from the players chasing after the Mii in the Mario costume communicating with one another. "No, over there!" "Not here! THERE!" If time runs out, the Mario player wins. If he or she is tagged by a Toad, then obviously the Toad brigade wins. It's an intriguing and seemingly entertaining take on tag, for sure.

2) The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest

Set in a patchwork Hyrule, The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest can be played alone or with some buds. It's an on-rails game where the GamePad player shoots bows and arrows at foes from afar while the other players utilize Wii MotionPlus to attack nearby baddies. The whole team shares a handful of hearts, so it is pertinent to play nicely and work together. With a fair amount of levels included, The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest excites me as someone who 1) Loves The Legend of Zelda, 2) Enjoys teamwork, and 3) Likes on-rails experiences.

1) Metroid Blast

Unquestionably the Nintendo Land mini-game that I want to play the most (like right NOW), Metroid Blast takes third-person shooting to the Wii U. The game was originally known as Battle Mii, an E3 2011 tech demo. There are three modes in Metroid Blast. One has the GamePad player utilizing Samus's Gunship to destroy the opposing ground force Mii players and vice versa. Another has players scrambling to collect credits while the last is akin to the Gears of War series's Horde mode, where players work together to defeat wave after wave of enemies. Hearing reviews that the third-person controls are some of the most fun to use definitely has me excited. Another reviewer stated that Metroid Blast was one of the few Nintendo games in a long while to have him "feel like a bad ass." Mighty strong words, and ones that cannot stop me from feeling hype.


I have ranked the Nintendo Land attractions from least hyped to most anticipated. Which attractions excite you the most, or do you not even plan on playing Nintendo Land at all? Why or why not? Spark up the conversation in the comments section below.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Rank Up! - Professor Layton series

Last Friday I reviewed the latest in the Professor Layton franchise, Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask. It was the first installment on the Nintendo 3DS. With five games under his top hat now, it seems appropriate that we more closely examine the Professor Layton franchise as a whole. That's where Rank Up! comes in. I'm sure the SPC faithful already knows how this works, but for the rest of you, this segment is where I take a series of games, series, or systems and rank them from least favorite to most favorite. So get your spot of tea, and start acting more gentlemanly as we see what games I'll be ranking:

Professor Layton and the Curious Village (DS)
Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box (DS)
Professor Layton and the Unwound Future (DS)
Professor Layton and the Last Specter (DS)
Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask (3DS)

The Professor Layton series started on the Nintendo DS in 2007. The games are developed by Level-5 with Nintendo publishing them in North America. A puzzle adventure franchise, Professor Layton definitely tests the mental mettle of its players while engaging them in thought-provoking stories full of charming and endearing characters.

5) Professor Layton and the Curious Village (DS)

The very first Layton game is also the very first game on my list. Professor Layton and the Curious Village is by no means a weak game, so perish the thought of the title being my least favorite meaning that is not enjoyable. The "Curious Village" aspect of the game regards St. Mystere, a "mystere-ious" town where all of the denizens have an intriguingly strong fascination for puzzles. The true revelations of the town, the treasure of the Golden Apple, and much more are positively fun. In addition to the plot, the game's puzzles like figuring out which hat height and brim width out of four examples are the same, or which house the puzzle teller's vague clues point to are a joy to muddle through and solve. The Curious Village is only my least favorite as it has the least amount of enjoyable bonus content of any Layton game. That's still 10-20 hours of story and puzzles, however.

4) Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box (DS)

The second game in the Professor Layton series, Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box takes players on a cross-country train ride and into two uniquely different cities. The title's "Diabolical Box" refers to the Elysian Box, said to kill anyone who opens it. What is the true secret of the box? There has to be a rational explanation as there is for every Layton game mystery. The Diabolical Box introduced three new mini-games in addition to following along with the story and solving the many puzzles the game throws at you. There's giving a hefty hamster a workout, fixing a camera, and brewing several varieties of tea to a... well, T. Level-5 had said in the past that they listened to feedback from fans and critics on how puzzles relate to the story. In Diabolical Box, they were more pertinent to the plot and had some more value.

3) Professor Layton and the Last Specter (DS)

The final of the four Nintendo DS Layton games, and the first of the prequel Layton trilogy, Professor Layton and the Last Specter brought with it loads of new puzzles and a sensationally done story. The mini-games, like Luke's toy train and pet fish activities, added to the entertainment factor of the game, and added some replay value aside from the puzzles on the game card and via download. The North American and Japanese versions of the game (sorry, European pals...) possessed an entirely different activity for players, separate from the Last Specter part of the game. It was called Professor Layton's London Life, a life-simulation essentially, somewhat similar to that found in Animal Crossing. The fun came from dressing up your avatar character, performing tasks for NPCs (the exact same ones found in past and present Layton games), gaining money to purchase new clothes and furniture for your home, and gaining wealth and happiness. If you're European, you might not rate Last Specter so highly, as the omission of London Life takes away a myriad of gameplay hours. For everyone else, Last Specter is without a doubt the game with the greatest longevity in the Layton franchise.

2) Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask (3DS)

The first 3DS Layton and the latest game in the franchise, Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask was a splendid first offering for Nintendo 3DS owners. Rather than have the characters in 2D, everyone was in a full 3D polygonal being. Another addition to the series was the exclusion of being forced to tap obsessive compulsively at every pixel of every new screen for puzzles and hint coins. Instead, you could drag a magnifying glass around the screen, and when it turned orange, that's when you could tap the screen to uncover something notable. The puzzles made full use of the 3DS system's features, from the stereoscopic 3D to the Circle Pad, to the gyro functions. Outside of the approximately 150 puzzles already on the game card, Nintendo and Level-5 promise one downloadable puzzle for an entire year. That would get any puzzle-solving aficionado breathing heavily at the thought of all those puzzles! Throw in some enjoyable mini-games like teaching an old rabbit new tricks, getting a toy robot through a maze unscathed, and ordering objects on store shelves, and you have one of the most packed Layton games yet.

1) Professor Layton and the Unwound Future (DS)

The third Layton game that released and the most recent game in the Layton chronology, Professor Layton and the Unwound Future (aka The Last Time Travel) takes Layton and Luke to seemingly London in the future. Impossible, you say? Perhaps, but the mystery of time travel is fully explored and an entertaining ride from title sequence to ending credits. The ending is one of the most touching I as a 20+ year gamer have ever experienced, and it nearly moved me to tears. Alongside the 150+ puzzles already in the game there are plenty of downloadable puzzles to discover the tricky answers to, as well as three new mini-games to add to the longevity of this Layton. One had you playing with Luke's toy car, another had you situating a specific amount of ropes to help a parrot reach the goal, and finally a picture book relied heavily on context clues to figure out the proper solution. From its endearing and unforgettable story (again, the conclusion is just impeccably done) to its numerable amounts of puzzles to solve, Professor Layton and the Unwound Future is my choice for best Layton game.


I have solved the puzzle as to which Professor Layton games are my favorite. Now it's your turn. What Layton titles are your most loved? And if you haven't touched the series of yet, what is stopping you? Let your opinion be known in the comments section!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

SPC Soapbox - 11/13/12 Grand Theft Auto V, Wii U's Price, and the Irrelevant Press

There have been some interesting pieces of news that I could not talk about in full length. That is where the SPC Soapbox comes in. Once more I have three topics I'd like to broach about, including my main desire and what I like so far of Grand Theft Auto V, whether Ubisoft's CEO's comment about the Wii U's price is founded in reality or not, and why I think that when it comes to Nintendo, the majority of the gaming press is no longer really as relevant as they think they are.

Grand Theft Auto V hopes and wishes

Grand Theft Auto IV was one of the most undeserving games to give high praise to. It was also very controversial how day-one reviewers had to play the game with Rockstar employees watching them at some sort of special press event, and they could only play the game for a relatively brief period of time. It doesn't help that reviewers in retrospect started mentioning why the game wasn't so great afterwards.

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas was my first and my favorite Grand Theft Auto game. The world of San Andreas was remarkably ambitious. It was incredibly massive for a PlayStation 2 and then Xbox game. I loved the settings, from Grove Street to the Strip at Las Venturas. The fact that Grand Theft Auto V will be returning to San Andreas in some regard has me totally stoked. Hearing that the world is larger than that of Red Dead Redemption has me positively enthralled. It's going to be amazing, especially since instead of large rocky deserts to traverse, we'll have metropolises, which interest me much more in exploring. Additionally, the thought of having three main characters to play as intrigues me greatly. The possibilities are infinite for how the story and gameplay will work out, but the potential for failure is also there.

One of my main problems with GTA IV was the replacement of realism over the wacky fun of past games. The title grew to be a chore as well, and compared to the Saints Row trilogy, it was just neutered in the entertainment department to me. So my paramount wish for the fifth mainline game in the Grand Theft Auto franchise is for the return to some oddball fun and zaniness. However, at the same time, the more missions like Four Leaf Clover, the better too. There needs to be a balance between realism and crazy.

I am without a doubt excited to enter the sunny shores of Los Santos once more. I can imagine riding down the streets of Vinewood with the top down in my shiny red convertible, passing by pedestrians and accidentally running over several hundred of them. Grand Theft Auto V is yet another blockbuster planned for the absolutely packed 2013 gaming year. Here's hoping it satisfies rather than disappoints!

Is the Wii U's price too high? Ubisoft's CEO says so.

Ubisoft's CEO, Yves Guillemot, recently made it known to the press that he is unhappy with the price of the Wii U. Of course, that is the typical take from a third-party on any platformer that many message board users will use as a talking point on how the Wii U is objectively overpriced. Nonetheless, you see, the higher the price of a console, it seems likely that the less games will be bought by consumers. In a perfect world, the Wii U would be free, so Ubisoft could sell the most games at launch. However, the world obviously does not work that way. Nintendo has already made mention that they are losing money on every Wii U sold, so Ubisoft and its CEO will sort of have to deal with the price right now.

For all Mr. Guillemot cares, Nintendo could take even larger losses on the console just as long as his company's games sell well. It's not really that selfish of a position if that were his stance, as it makes sense in Ubisoft's perspective, but considering Nintendo's stock price and fortunes have fallen within the past couple of years due to the dying off of the Wii, the slow start to the 3DS (which Nintendo also sold at a loss initially), and the exchange rates of the yen, making the Wii U cheaper would have sent Nintendo down an even more dangerous road.

Some people say the Wii U is just souped up Xbox 360, or an Xbox 360 and a Wii duct-taped together as it were. However, I don't know of any Xbox with a more advanced controller than the Wii U GamePad. Well, unless you make the argument that the human body is the controller for Kinect. Sure, that's plenty more complicated than any piece of tech! Regardless, having a bright screen, being able to play games on the GamePad itself, using near-field communication, using gyro for movement, and having what basically amounts to a Swiss army knife in the form of an essentially traditional controller makes for a higher price tag. I can't make any statements on the power of the actual system because 1) We don't really know the details until someone opens one up, and 2) My knowledge of tech is limited as it is. However, I feel the GamePad and the boost in visuals that I've seen compared to what the Wii could produce, the amount of storage, and for the Deluxe package, the bonus Nintendo Land game, make for a system that is worth the price.

How the Western gaming press is irrelevant when it comes to Nintendo

I mentioned this somewhat in my piece last week on the immaturity of the gaming industry, particularly the West. However, let me go into greater detail. It is my opinion that a lot of the Western gaming press is ambivalent towards Nintendo (when I say "gaming press" from now on, it will be meant as the majority and not all). The company doesn't play by the Western gaming press's rules, they march to the beat of a different drummer. The press seems to show contempt, especially after being made fools of when the console that they deemed dead on arrival outsold its competitors in a grand fashion. This failed analysis by the press made them look quite incompetent.

Nintendo has sort of wised up to the perception they have from the Western mainstream gaming press and have started creating avenues to completely bypass them. Enter Nintendo Directs and Iwata Asks segments. No longer does Nintendo have to give information to the press that will just be editorialized and communicated incorrectly by the press. Nintendo can simply give information straight to their fans without a third-party interfering. So it's no wonder why the gaming press has what I perceive to be contempt for Nintendo. The company plays by its own rules, it gives out necessary info on their schedule, and they directly give fans news now, making the mainstream press almost, if not completely, irrelevant for Nintendo coverage.

At that same token, it's important for Nintendo to hold a strong relationship with the press, and I feel that they do that. If going over the heads of the press to give information directly to the company's fans makes journalists bitter, these journalists will just have to deal with it, or maybe, just maybe, improve how they cover the company.

Monday, November 12, 2012

SuperPhillip's Favorite VGMs - Shake It Up Edition

Wario and his garlic-breath self are entering SuperPhillip's Favorite VGMs this week. Today I am highlighting a severely underrated and overlooked Wii game, Wario Land: Shake It! aka Wario Land: The Shake Dimension. We're gonna shake what our mamas gave us, so if all of your preparations have been completed, let's begin!

v236. Wario Land: Shake It! (Wii) - Launchpad Labyrinth 

Let's kick things off with a Latin flair. The main melody consists of the Wario theme, also used in Stonecarving City. Stonecarving City just so happens to be the main theme for the level while Launchpad Labyrinth is used for Wario's escape. It's a piece that makes you wanna make a pit stop for nachos and guacamole on your way to the goal.

v237. Wario Land: Shake It! (Wii) - Gurgle Gulch

We have an upbeat piano-filled piece for the escape theme of Foulwater Falls, the third level in Wario Land: Shake It! Not only is the piano the main melody, but it is also the bass line. This is one of my favorite songs from the game.

v238. Wario Land: Shake It! (Wii) - Run-Down Pyramid

The piano returns for a lighthearted and jaunty theme that takes you through a pyramid at nightfall. The level the song is featured in has vehicles that roll along tracks. You control them by tilting the Wii remote ever so carefully as not to make them derail and crash to the ground below.

v239. Wario Land: Shake It! (Wii) - Savannah Valley

The orange sky is home to a glistening yellow sun in Savannah Valley, a level of the second world in Wario Land: Shake It! This track is rather calming, relaxing, and mellow. My favorite part comes in right around 1:42. It seems a fellow YouTube commenter agrees!

v240. Wario Land: Shake It! (Wii) - Windbreak Bay

We go from relaxing to uptempo with this theme for the final submarine level in Wario Land: Shake It!, Windbreak Bay. Each submarine level is auto-scrolling and features at most three paths to travel down. They all lead to the same place, but some house more treasure and riches.


That concludes this spotlight on Wario's Wii platforming adventure. Next week we will feature another game for one edition. Until then and as always, take a gander at my VGM database for all of my favorite VGMs.