Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Wii U's Rotten Start & the Industry's Rotten Maturity

Phil here with an opinion piece that I'm passionate about. Now, don't get me wrong and think SPC's other works aren't passionate. This subject is simply one that really gets my proverbial goat. The Wii U has not had a good launch or even a good week. We've heard developers flat out laugh at the system, and we've heard big time publishers admit that they have no games in development for the system (EA). It seems the industry absolutely loves dirty laundry, as Don Henley once sang. They especially love it when it's against a system they don't care for, because let's face it-- it doesn't matter if you're a ten-year-old kid or a "professional games journalist" (oxymoron there), fanboys come in all shapes and sizes. This piece talks about a number of topics, including premature Wii U death calls, the idiocy of killing off the Wii U already, unprofessional Twitter tirades,  and the overall immaturity of the video game industry in general. Prepare to be holier-than-thou'd.

I've always hated it when consoles or platforms are derided and chastised because they are perceived as weak. That never bothered me, as what is most important is the games. We've seen this with the NES, the Game Boy, the Super Nintendo, the original PlayStation, the PlayStation 2, and recently the Wii and Nintendo DS. The Wii U is no doubt underpowered when compared to what Sony (and possibly Microsoft) are planning. However, as long as there are great games coming eventually, then while waiting sucks, they WILL finally arrive.

By far the most idiotic idea that I have seen in a long time comes from those who think Nintendo should just kill off the Wii U now and start fresh with a new console. We all know that this idea would work really well because it would give consumers, gamers, fans, and investors a lot more confidence in future Nintendo products if Nintendo pulled the plug on that current system. Oh, wait. It would actually do the exact opposite. We already have people who won't buy a Nintendo platform at launch because of the 3DS mess, which involved a quick price drop and Ambassador games for early adopters. Could you imagine the repercussions of Nintendo just stopping hardware and game production and starting fresh? You think people were mad when the 3DS went down in price, just think of how bad this would be.

I say this because Nintendo hasn't even put out their big hitters yet, but people (usually those invested in the demise of companies they hate, regardless of whether their games provide millions of others with fun and happiness) have already been calling for a time of death. Quite premature, no? There's been little in the way of big games for the Wii U, but they are finally coming. I'm referring to games like the first 3D Mario for the system, Mario Kart (which was a big system seller on the Wii), Super Smash Bros. 4, and even smaller titles like Pikmin 3 and the Platinum Games-developed The Wonderful 101.

Pikmin 3 screenshot
When I see people crying that the Wii U has no games, and then go right into whining when the system gets an exclusive that they want, I am dumbfounded. I know fanboys don't use proper logic, but damn if I'm lying when I say it's embarrassing behavior. Don't get me started on the Bayonetta 2 Wii U exclusive death threats. Exclusives are what makes a system worth owning, and suddenly it's a bad thing when a console gets them to improve its worth, value, and image that it has "no gaems" (as the kids spell it)?

Bayonetta 2 wouldn't have been possible with Nintendo
backing it, but who cares? Nintendo stole our game, and if we
can't have it, no one should!
Another thing that bothers me is when people ask Nintendo to go third-party. The fact of the matter is that Nintendo develops their hardware and controllers with their own games in mind first and foremost. This understandably ticks off a lot of third-parties, but it allows Nintendo to create the excellent games they do. It's my belief (and there's no way to prove this until Nintendo ever goes third-party) that Nintendo's software quality would diminish much like Sega's did. The reason for this is because Nintendo's games are so closely developed with their own hardware in mind. Having to learn something foreign would make for a difficult transition. For goodness sake, Nintendo is having trouble with HD development for their own console, and people think they could handle hardware not even made by them?

What I can imagine is how many people who have a beef with Nintendo must have suffered through the Wii and DS generations. This was when Nintendo was on top of sales charts and leading the industry. Heck, we heard so much from them: "The bubble is about to burst!", "It's a fad", and my personal favorite, "Attach rate sucks!" despite the Wii for the longest time having a similar attach rate to the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. It seems now that Nintendo is vulnerable and in a weak state, these same people are flocking in like vultures on a rotten corpse.

I'm not saying the criticism isn't well deserved, but when you have an EA employee flat out say the system is crap and other incredibly bitter, juvenile, GameFAQs, NeoGAF or N4G troll-worthy, unprofessional nonsense and have a bunch of gamers applaud him instead of saying, "Hey. Maybe THIS is why our industry isn't taken seriously", then you can see why it gets obnoxious (and why the industry isn't taken seriously by anyone with a brain). On a side note, publishers, you might want to teach your employees how they should behave on social media. Having an "all views are my own" disclaimer in your Twitter profile is not a get-out-of-jail-free card or free rein to act like a total douche.

How inappropriate. Everyone knows 
the name "Wii U" has a space in it.
The Wii U has a lot to dislike about it-- the empty and broken promises of Nintendo president Satoru Iwata (e.g. "We won't make the same mistakes as the 3DS"), the launch window games being delayed beyond their original intended release time periods, the laughable third-party support that is somehow worse than the freaking Wii, the anemic Virtual Console lineup, and the general "rushed" feeling the system has overall. However, there's some good things too, such as the comfortable and innovative Wii U GamePad, Miiverse, the improved online, the better relations Nintendo has with indie developers, among others.

Look at those huge hands. They must be 
where Iwata holds all of his broken promises.
I don't have any emotional involvement to corporations. I do, however, have an emotional attachment to the games industry, and hope that one day a lot of us stuck in the childish male adolescent mindset will finally grow up or at least shut up. That will finally make our industry one that the average person won't mock and laugh at. Currently, we deserve all of the laughter and ridicule we get. Just look at any message board (especially one that declares itself as the prominent gaming discussion community, yet it acts just as horribly as everywhere else) or comment section for evidence. We behave like children arguing on a playground, frat boys who never grew up, and people so attached to pieces of plastic and game companies that it blinds them completely.

A typical example of a typical fanboy, made
possible by the preeminent community for video game
news and discussion. The sad part is not this post,
but that posts like these are way too easy to find.

We need to grow up as an industry together, and Twitter tirades, message board arguments, and wishing death to systems and publishers you don't like even when they make millions of others really happy are getting in the way of doing just that.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Top Ten PlayStation 3 Exclusives

This past Sunday SuperPhillip Central listed our favorite ten Xbox 360 exclusives. (Yes, yes. Get your "The Xbox 360 HAS ten worthwhile exclusives?!" comments out of the way here and now.) To cap off the work week we are now going to list what we consider the ten best PlayStation 3 exclusives, whether first or third party. The PS3 is without a doubt our favorite HD system of this past generation. It was actually quite difficult to come up with an order and list of games that we could agree on. Nonetheless, we have arrived at a finalized list of terrific PlayStation 3 exclusives so far. Obviously the PS3 isn't leaving the marketplace any time soon and it will get future classics like new titles such as Gran Turismo 6, The Last of Us, and Puppeteer, to name a few. Regardless, here's what we like most of the PS3's wide range of exclusive games that are currently out.

10) God of War III

God of War III launched in 2010 with lots of fanfare. It was the final game in the original story of the God of War trilogy with Kratos and the Titans climbing up Mount Olympus to finally take down Zeus once and for all. The game contained the same combo-based combat that fans of the series have grown accustomed to, and while some might yearn for something different, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. The added power of the PlayStation 3 made for some incredibly awesome action scenes, such as the battle with Poseidon early in the game (expect a detailed description of this fight in a later edition of Best Boss Battles in Gaming History) or pursuing the swift Hermes in an elaborate platforming chase segment. God of War III might not be the best in the trilogy (we rank God of War I and II higher), but it certainly is an epic conclusion to Kratos' saga.

9) inFAMOUS 2

inFAMOUS 2 took Cole MacGrath to a higher level with even more electrifying open world sandbox gameplay, parkour-like platforming, and high-powered superhero (or villain) antics. Everything was bigger and arguably better than the game's predecessor. The addition of user-generated content made for some strong replay-ability within Sucker Punch's open world setting. Perhaps our only gripes with the game comes from the weaker pacing inFAMOUS 2 struggles with as well as a less-than-optimal camera for melee combat. Nonetheless, these problems don't ruin the game. It's with inFAMOUS 2 that our expectations for the PlayStation 4's inFAMOUS: Second Son are so high. Whether or not Sucker Punch can live up to them is an answer we won't get for another six months or so.

8) PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale

When this next game was first announced, many dismissed it as simply another Super Smash Bros. clone. SuperPhillip Central leaned towards that line of thinking, but actually trying out PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale for ourselves, the two series are different enough to both have a place in the marketplace. Rather than knocking opponents out of the arena or making them lose their health to score K.O.s, Battle Royale had  Supers that were earned through connecting attacks on opponents. Unleashing a Super and making contact with it meant you scored a point. The roster was full of both familiar first and third party characters such as Uncharted's Nathan Drake, God of War's Kratos, Ratchet and Clank, Sly Cooper, and even Ape Escape's Spike. Earning points to gain levels for each character meant you were always unlocking something new, whether it be victory themes, backgrounds, poses, and alternate costumes. PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale may be a Smash Bros. clone, but it's a really good one. Note: We know that this game is also on Vita, but console-wise it's exclusive to the PS3.

7) Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time

Much like God of War III was the end of a trilogy, Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time marked the end of the Future trilogy, containing Tools of Destruction, Quest for Booty, and this game. A Crack in Time began with Ratchet and Clank being separated from one another. However, Clank wasn't totally defenseless as he had a special time scepter that could not only attack foes, but it could be used on time pads to create holograms of Clank's past maneuvers. This cool trick was used to solve many of the game's brain busters. A Crack in Time also featured space exploration, albeit on a level plane, where Ratchet could explore optional moons and compete in combat. We look fondly back at Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time as it really was the last honestly excellent Ratchet & Clank game.

6) Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots

Once again enter the shoes of Solid Snake-- well, an older version at least-- as he once again goes on a mission to save the world as we know it. Well, as we WILL know it, as this game takes place in a not-so-distant future. Anyway, the traditional stealth-action gameplay consisting of moving around enemy-infested areas without being spotted and utilizing close quarters combat to take out those who wish to intercept you was all present and accounted for with this much anticipated sequel. New features included the Psyche Meter, which could make it quite difficult to aim if Snake was seriously stressed out, as well as the CamoSuit that allowed Snake to blend in with his surroundings a la the camouflage in Snake Eater. Metal Gear Solid veterans would even get to revisit an old haunt in fantastic fashion with Guns of the Patriots. While we'll always have a soft spot for the original MGS and MGS3 as our favorites, Metal Gear Solid 4 is still a worthy installment in the popular stealth-action series.

5) Killzone 2 

We are all familiar with the rather infamous tech demo that was shown to onlookers at E3 2005. While the final game did not look as lovely or as graphically intense, what PlayStation 3 owners got to enjoy was still an incredibly fast and fluid first-person shooter with tons of fierce weaponry and vehicles to mow down the Helghast forces with sensational efficiency. Many members of the press and gamers too seem to always be fascinated with first-person shooters. Not just this, but they're always looking for that so-called "Halo-killer." Killzone 2 was not that, but the game did make it known that it was the premier first-person shooter on the PlayStation 3. We eagerly anticipate more news on the PlayStation 4's Killzone: Shadow Fall, even though we definitely show symptoms of FPS fatigue. That just shows how remarkable a franchise Killzone is.

4) Journey

We hate to speak in overly emotional terms, as we're freaking talking about video games here and not the Mona Lisa. However, Journey evoked such interesting feelings from us, such as wonder and awe. Exploring a giant sandy wonderland made us feel so minuscule in comparison. The game allowed for multiplayer, but the catch was that you could not voice chat or communicate greatly with your online partner. Despite not knowing the anonymous helpers that were assisting us in our adventure across the desert, we found ourselves getting a bit of an attachment to each and every one and a sense of companionship. Journey would later come in retail form alongside thatgamecompany's other PlayStation Store projects, Fl0w and Flower in a $29.99 collection. There's a reason we picked Journey as the PS3 Game of 2012 at our end of year awards show, and these are but some of the reasons why.

3) Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch

Level-5 and famed animation studio Studio Ghibli (Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle, Princess Mononoke) teamed up to create one of the most beautiful games we've ever witnessed. We don't say this with a lot of hyperbole either. Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is a glorious-looking game. It not only looks nice but it absolutely plays like a dream. Players took the role of Oliver, a peppy 13 year-old boy who recently lost his mother. No sooner than it seemed that this incident occurred that a stuffed animal came to life and transported the two to another world. There the true fun began with traditional RPG activities such as exploring monster-filled dungeons, initiating battles with Oliver or one of his many Familiars, and visiting towns to converse with the locals. When one says that the JRPG is in a state of decline, we confidently scoff and point them to such games like Ni no Kuni and Xenoblade Chronicles.

2) LittleBigPlanet 2

Listed as our favorite new I.P. of the past generation, LittleBigPlanet didn't really come into its own until the superior sequel, LittleBigPlanet 2. Not only did the sequel have much more in the way of creator options (you didn't even need to make platforming levels if you didn't want to), but it allowed players to take their progress and levels from the original LittleBigPlanet and import them into the sequel. The levels already pre-made by Media Molecule were insanely clever and inspired us to try to do even better. We've lost so many hundreds of hours concocting our own creations-- more than we care to admit, really, but when you have a game that is as compelling as LittleBigPlanet 2, you learn to live wit hit.

1) Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

Metacritic's most critically acclaimed game of 2009, the year of its release, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is the pinnacle of the PlayStation 3 platform. While the original Uncharted was an intense thrill ride, Uncharted 2 came along and made everything more astounding and amazing. From taking cover while a tank bombards you with shelling to running atop a speeding train while a helicopter targets you, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is certainly not lacking in the thrills department. The game didn't stop with the single-player campaign. Naughty Dog implemented two multiplayer functions: one for up to three players to play cooperatively and one for competitive play, so long after you completed the campaign you could log even more hours into Uncharted 2. "Masterpiece" is a word that is thrown around so casually these days, but we think we're safe in giving that title to Uncharted 2: Among Thieves.


Did we leave out one of your favorite exclusives for the PlayStation 3? Set us straight in the comments section below.

The Wonderful 101 (Wii U) Box Art

September 15-- that is the announced release date for Platinum Games' next release, The Wonderful 101. The Nintendo Direct this morning shared that information. Now, you can get excited by looking at this absolutely awesome box art for the game. Looks snazzy, no?

New Super Luigi U (Wii U) Box Art and Screens

New Super Luigi U had its release date announced today. On June 20 those with New Super Mario Bros. U can download the game for $19.99. Those without NSMBU or wish to have a boxed copy of the game for their collection will have to wait for late August. They will also need to pay $29.99 for the game. For now, look at the official box art and some new screens for the game.

Mario & Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games: (Wii U) First Screens

A lot of people dismiss the Mario & Sonic series as shovelware. Not only are they using that term incorrectly, but the games are actually a good deal of fun. The latest in the series and the first to hit the Wii U is Mario & Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games, and it looks beautiful.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Rank Up! - 2D Mario (2013 Edition)

Last year Nintendo released two brand-new 2D Mario games. Now, we at SuperPhillip Central love 2D Mario, but at that same token, too much of a good thing can be bad. We're just thankful that 2D Mario is taking a hiatus as the New Super Mario Bros. series is said to be a once-every-platform type deal.

You might be wondering what Rank Up! is. For today, for instance, we're listing the 2D Mario games from least favorite to most favorite. That's basically all Rank Up! is. We're doing 2D Mario because today on the Wii U Virtual Console, Super Mario Bros. 2 was released. If you have already purchased or do purchase Super Mario World, you can get SMB2 for half price. Not bad of a deal at all! With that out of the way, let's take a gander at what games we'll be ranking today:

Super Mario Bros. (NES)
Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels (NES, SNES)
Super Mario Bros. 2 (NES)
Super Mario Land (GB)
Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES)
Super Mario World (SNES)
Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins
New Super Mario Bros. (DS)
New Super Mario Bros. Wii (Wii)
New Super Mario Bros. 2 (3DS)
New Super Mario Bros. U (Wii U)

11) Super Mario Land (GB)

Don't get us wrong-- there is no such thing as a bad 2D Mario game. However, one game had to be our least favorite, and Super Mario Land is that game. Super Mario Land was produced by Gunpei Yokoi, father of the Game Boy and Game & Watch and an early mentor of Shigeru Miyamoto. The game featured four worlds made up of three levels each. Super Mario Land is quite unlike any other Mario game. Perhaps if there weren't Goombas or coins, one could replace Mario from the game and you wouldn't know it was a Mario title to begin with! Regardless, the game marked the debut of Mario on the Game Boy and launched with the system. The sales of the game have approached 18 million units since its launch, making it a great success.

10) Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels (NES, SNES)

We at SuperPhillip Central love a challenge, but this next game on the countdown is one that kicked our butts every which way but Sunday (what the hell does that turn of phrase even mean?). Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels debuted in the United States on the Super Nintendo's Super Mario All-Stars cartridge. It featured levels that were exponentially more difficult than its predecessor, including Poison Mushrooms that would shrink or kill Mario and warp pipes that would make the player go back several worlds. Just pure evil! For those who own a Nintendo 3DS, you can purchase the original NES version of the game on the Virtual Console service. The luxury of that is that you get restore points. Don't worry-- we won't tell anybody if you use them.

9) Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins (GB)

Another bizarre game in Mario's 2D escapades, Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins saw the debut of the greedy, garlic-eating Wario, who takes up residence in Mario's castle while the portly plumber is away. In order to get back into the castle and kick Wario out, Mario must collect the eponymous six golden coins from six different themed lands. Players could go to any land they desired, and each land ended with a boss battle, from three little pigs to a wicked witch. Super Mario Land 2 introduced plenty of one-off enemies and power-ups that have never been implemented in a future Mario game. Combine this with the fact that the game was super-easy (save for the final level which gave the game a huge difficulty spike) and it could be completed in less than two hours, and you have Super Mario Land 2 as the ninth game on this edition of Rank Up!

8) New Super Mario Bros. (DS)

After a decade's long hiatus, the 2D Mario series returned to gaming with the Nintendo DS system's New Super Mario Bros. Taking elements of many of the past Mario games, New Super Mario Bros. offered plenty of secrets and replay value in the form of secret exits, hidden Star Coins (three per level), and two optional worlds. We are suckers for 2D Mario, and New Super Mario Bros. finally scratched that itch we had for a new 2D Mario that had lasted for over a decade. Something that we really liked about the game was that the bosses weren't your typical Koopalings. Instead, the original New Super Mario Bros. mixed things up by sporting larger versions of classic enemies. Some might look back at New Super Mario Bros. not as fondly as us, but with its creative and clever level design, host of secrets, and fun new power-ups, we can't recommend New Super Mario Bros. more.

7) Super Mario Bros. (NES)

The game that catapulted Nintendo to the top of the gaming industry after the infamous crash, Super Mario Bros. was designed concurrently with The Legend of Zelda. One might wonder what a game that could be said to have saved the gaming industry is doing so low on this list. It is not because Super Mario Bros. is a bad game. It is simply our thought that the game has been outshone by many of its successors. Still, Super Mario Bros. is classic Mario at its finest, with little in the way of frills. It's just simple platforming fun that poses a good challenge without being unfair. Sorry, Mario, but your princess is in another castle!

6) Super Mario Bros. 2 (NES)

The original Super Mario Bros. 2 (known in the U.S.A. as Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels) was deemed too difficult for U.S. audiences by Nintendo of America. Instead, they used a game called Doki Doki Panic and added in Mario-related assets. The end result is one of the more eccentric Mario titles on the market. Instead of jumping on enemies to squash them, Mario and the three other playable characters could pick up enemies and pull up vegetables to defeat opponents. Super Mario Bros. 2 introduced Birdo and Shy Guys into the Mario canon. Japan would later receive a Famicom release of the U.S. version of Super Mario Bros. 2 in the form of Super Mario USA.

5) New Super Mario Bros. 2 (3DS)

We had our reservations about New Super Mario Bros. 2. While "rehash" is a word that's thrown around like pocket change these days, the only rehash we saw outside of the music in the game was the arguments calling New Super Mario Bros. 2 lazy and uninspired. The level design was anything but, showcasing tricks that had never been seen in a 2D Mario game before. This is doubly impressive when one considers that New Super Mario Bros. 2 was made by an entirely young group of beginner developers who went through a crash course of sorts of 2D Mario level design. New Super Mario Bros. 2 makes us incredibly optimistic towards the future of the series if these fine folks who designed the game keep on keepin' on.

4) New Super Mario Bros. U (Wii U)

While it was not Nintendo's smartest move in releasing two 2D Mario games with the same branding within six months of each other, New Super Mario Bros. U was still an incredibly competent entry in the series. Taking a cue from Super Mario World, New Super Mario Bros. U's worlds were completely interconnected by one overarching map. Each level had its own distinct challenge to it that made each different from the last. Not only were their Star Coins to obtain but secret exits to find. The Squirrel Suit that New Super Mario Bros. U introduced is one of our personal favorites Mario suits of all time. New Super Mario Bros. U was also one of the more challenging 2D Marios in existence, especially the secret world that unlocks after the game is first beaten. Throw in Boost Mode, which allows one player to place platforms for other players, and Challenge Mode, and you have one packed Mario game.

3) Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES)

The best of the original Super Mario Bros. trilogy, Super Mario Bros. 3 basically had its own advertisement in the form of a feature length movie, The Wizard. That's how important and awesome Super Mario Bros. 3 was. The game was the first in the series to feature world maps, of which there were eight. New power-ups like Raccoon Mario, Tanooki Mario, the Hammer Bros. suit, and the Frog Suit made for a game that didn't falter on the frills. Each level presented a new challenge to the player, and the airship levels that concluded every world were excellent have been made a hallmark of the franchise ever since. Super Mario Bros. 3 is a timeless game and one that future generations will no doubt enjoy.

2) New Super Mario Bros. Wii (Wii)

This might be considered blasphemy, ranking New Super Mario Bros. Wii over Super Mario Bros. 3, but hear us out. New Super Mario Bros. Wii featured some of the most ingenious level design in the entire Super Mario series. Each level brought forth some new gameplay concept, whether it was swimming in bubbles that were suspended in the air, riding one hell of a roller coaster, or running from a black cloud of death. In past Mario games, multiplayer was relegated to taking turns playing as Mario and Luigi. That wasn't the case with New Super Mario Bros. Wii. The Wii iteration made it so up to four players could team up together for some wacky and wild shenanigans, making reaching certain Star Coins all the easier than when doing it alone. It was all of these things that made for an unforgettable Mario experience, and one that we can play through time and time again-- a great feature of truly great Mario games.

1) Super Mario World (SNES)

The ultimate in 2D Mario, Super Mario World brought Mario into the 16-bit era in style. Everything about this game is polished-- from the super-tight platforming to the colorful graphics. Super Mario World was the first 2D Mario game to feature secret exits in levels that opened up paths to hidden areas, such as Star Road and the Top Secret Area. Speaking of levels, Super Mario World constantly introduced new platforming challenges, enemies, and obstacles to create some of the best designed levels in any Mario title. The addition of Yoshi, who would become a mainstay in the Mario series ever since, made Mario and Luigi have even more mobility. No matter how you slice it, Super Mario World is the best, not only in 2D Mario, but 2D platforming in general. More so than the games that released before and after it, Super Mario World is one of those defining games in the industry. If you somehow don't enjoy the game, we think it's safe to assume that you have no soul.


That's our list of 2D Mario favorites. What is yours? Do you agree/disagree with our order of games? Do you count Super Mario World 2 as a 2D Mario game and not a Yoshi series game, despite it starring Yoshi? Discuss this subject within the comments section below.