Saturday, May 25, 2013

Announcing a Super Special SuperPhillip Central Event!

In a mere ten days, SuperPhillip Central will be celebrating its five-year anniversary. Starting June 5, SuperPhillip Central will be doing something very special to celebrate. You've taken a look at my personal top ten games of all time, but now the SuperPhillip Central staff is collaborating for a ten-week event where we list our top 100 games ever released. These don't necessarily have to be the best or genre-defining, but they're ones that we here have enjoyed playing through the most. We hope you're excited for our fifth anniversary June 5 and the beginning of our Top 100 Games list!

Mario and Donkey Kong: Minis on the Move (3DSWare) Review

It's not so common for SuperPhillip Central to be working on the weekend, but that's our privilege when we have such great readers and commenters to push us onward. Today we have a new review to share with you for a Nintendo 3DS eShop game, Mario and Donkey Kong: Minis on the Move.

Toy Story

For the longest time, Mario and Donkey Kong have been rivals, ever since Mario was known as Jumpman and was a carpenter instead of a plumber. Since then, the two have faced off in a variety of games, especially those with the moniker of Mario vs. Donkey Kong, the first of which releasing on the Game Boy Advance. While that game was more akin to the gameplay of the original Donkey Kong, the DS iterations have been Lemmings-style games, 2D and all. It seems now the portly plumber and the big ape have set aside their differences to make the first 3D entry in their series of games, Mario and Donkey Kong: Minis on the Move, a 3DS eShop exclusive. Should you move on over to the Nintendo 3DS eShop post-haste to pick this game up?

In Mario and Donkey Kong: Minis on the Move, there are an abundance of modes and mini-games to play, but at first you are limited to Mario's Main Event. However, once you've completed the first ten tutorial levels, new options open up. As more levels are completed, even more content is unlocked.

Mario's Main Event has the main objective of using the falling tiles (coming in straight and curved varieties) that drop into the green pipe on the touch screen to create a path for your Mini Mario to reach the goal. You have to work quickly as up until it exits from its starting position, a green pipe, Mini Mario is constantly moving forward, and if there is no path for it to follow, it will teeter over the edge. You also have to work quickly because the pipe that holds all of the falling tiles can only hold so many before it overfills, also resulting in a level failure.

For such a simple premise, there is a
lot of complexity to this game.
Meanwhile, Puzzle Palace follows the same concept of Mario's Main Event, but instead of using falling tiles to create a path for your miniature toy to follow, you use a preset amount of provided titles to accomplish this task. This is probably my favorite of the four main modes of Mario and Donkey Kong: Minis on the Move. It flexes your mental muscle, especially in later levels as you try to ponder and surmise where to place the invaluable and limited supply of tiles.

Getting to the goal is easy enough, but 
can you collect all of the M-tokens too?
The third mode in the game is Many Mini Mayhem, where you need not worry about placing new tiles in a level, you simply slide around tiles and rotate special pivot tiles to create a path so that all Mini toys make it the goal. You get bonus points for having the Minis reach the goal together. It's quite chaotic as you frantically slide tiles to make a safe journey for the Minis.

Moving two Minis around a given level can
feel like rubbing your head and patting your stomach.
The final mode that unlocks is called Giant Jungle. This is different from the other modes as there are but three levels to play. Don't think this is some quick play, however, as each level demands you play it over and over again. You see, each level contains ten stars that need to be collected, though you need not gather them all in one go. There is a maze of obstacles, enemies, and tiles to deal with, and placing tiles to move your Mini and make a path that gets it through as many stars as possible (as well as timer icons to give you more seconds to work with). Just remember that you don't earn any stars unless your Mini makes it to the goal. Easier said than done, as you not only have to be fast with tile placement, but you need to plan your moves accordingly and think ahead.

Feeling overwhelmed? It's common
with the Giant Jungle mode.
Stars are what unlocks new toys in the Mini Toy Collection. In the first three modes, stars are earned by collecting all three M-tokens in a given level. Generally just beating a level is pretty easy to do, but when you try to gather all three M-tokens, that is where the true challenge rears its head.

Outside of the direction tiles that serve as your Minis' path to the goal, there are a myriad of other objects that appear in the game such as pivot tiles; trash cans that allow you to throw away up to three falling tiles to create one new special tile; hazardous spikes; enemies like Shy Guys; miniature Donkey Kongs that toss your Mini three tiles ahead; keys that unlock special goals; conveyor belts; warp pipes; roadblocks; and so many more. Levels constantly introduce new concepts to the player so you're seldom bored.

To also help players not get bored are a collection of entertaining mini-games. These come in four varieties, having you shoot Mini Marios on a slingshot into targets, where the furthest away targets net the most points. There's Fly Guy Grab, where you nab Fly Guys and reel them in for points. There's my favorite of the bunch, Cube Crash, where you unload a mess of Mini Marios at a shape made up of cubes. If you destroy the object by using only one Mini Mario, you get double the points. The final mini-game has you spinning a lever to raise and lower a Mini Mario standing on a platform to dodge Bullet Bills and to collect coins. These mini-games are fun diversions, but the majority of them won't keep players coming back for more.

You, Mini Mario, and the cubes--
a time to remember!
If you have a passion for designing your own levels, Mario and Donkey Kong: Minis on the Move also has that option available. In the game you can not only build your own levels using all of the tiles and object types the game throws at you in the regular game, but you can also put your designs on Nintendo's servers, allowing friends and total strangers to enjoy your creative concoctions. The only drawback here is that it can be rather difficult becoming one of the most played levels, given how the system is set up.

Mario and Donkey Kong: Minis on the Move features a colorful art style, though I do notice that it has a bit of a washed-out look to the game at some parts. The 3D that the game uses is really impressive and makes everything look all the more better. The music is a mix of new tracks and various remixed Mario songs, such as the castle theme from Super Mario 64 and the jazzy jungle track of the original Donkey Kong Country.

Keep your nerves about you as you
move Mini Mario in Elevation Station.
Overall, Mario and Donkey Kong: Minis on the Move offers a myriad of modes, options, and variety that makes it one of the top titles on the Nintendo 3DS's eShop. There's a fine mix of puzzles that make you work fast while needing to carefully plot your moves, ones that force you to think outside the box, and ones that will inspire you to create your own level designs and share them with the world. Mario and Donkey Kong is a welcome addition to the 3DS eShop, and it's a game that I hope gets the recognition and sales it so very much deserves.

[SPC Says: 9.0/10]

Friday, May 24, 2013

Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time (PS3, PSV) Review

We might be closing out the work week with a new review, but that doesn't mean we're closing out the regular old week in general. No, tomorrow SuperPhillip Central will also have a new review to share with you. For now, take this glimpse at our thoughts of Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time for the PlayStation 3 and PS Vita.

Thieves in Time Save Nine... 
and the Cooper Legacy!

The PlayStation 2 was an embarrassment of riches for 3D platforming fans. Sony debuted and published not one, not two, but three unique platforming franchises on the system. The first was Naughty Dog's Jak & Daxter, then there was Insomniac Games' Ratchet & Clank, and the final in this all-star trio was Sucker Punch's Sly Cooper. Each series possessed its own strengths and charms, and while Ratchet has appeared in multiple games on the PlayStation 3, Sly Cooper has been waiting in the wings for his own brand-new title. That day has finally come, but this time around, Sanzaru Games (the folks who developed The Sly Collection) are the folks behind Sly's latest caper, Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time, available on PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita. Does Sanzaru Games do Sucker Punch's series justice, or does the latest Sly Cooper need a time out?

The Thievius Raccoonus is a book containing all of the family secrets of the Cooper clan. One day, however, while perusing the book, Bentley the Turtle notices that right before his eyes the words on the pages seem to be vanishing. It turns out someone is trying to erase the Cooper legacy by going back in time, causing trouble, and doing his or her best to stamp out the Sly Cooper and his ancestors for good. Packed with a new time machine, the Cooper gang and their van hightail it into the past to attempt to right the wrongs of this vicious villain. Thieves in Time tells its tale through a number of means: traditional in-game cutscenes as well as marvelously done hand-drawn cartoon animations. Perhaps the only quip one could make about the story is that most scenes can be skipped through the pause menu, but it isn't consistent. Not every scene can be skipped, meaning that replaying jobs can be quite annoying when you have to sit through a 45 second scene.

Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time consists of five episodes taking place from Feudal Japan to the sunset-soaked Arabia, sandwiched between a prologue and an epilogue. Like past games in the Sly Cooper series, each episode is a fairly contained but fully explore-able area where Sly and one of many other playable characters can venture around, smashing 30 clue bottles strewn across each episode, collecting treasure, and just having the pure, unadulterated freedom to explore.

The hub worlds offer a grand 
opportunity for exploration.
Jobs are the missions that move the story of Thieves in Time forward. Each one begins by selecting the appropriate character sitting in the Cooper hideout. There is generally 5-7 jobs per episode, and each must be played in order. The first is usually a reconnaissance mission, requiring Sly to take photos of the new area for Bentley to devise a plan of attack, and the last is where everything comes together to take down the villain leading the crime spree of that place and time period.

So this is what thieves do on their downtime...
The platforming in Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time is remarkably pleasant. You seldom, if ever, feel like you're not in control of whichever character you're using. Sly Cooper has the most moves and mobility to work with, allowing him to climb on pipes and trees, tiptoe along high wires, and sidestep across narrow ledges. When you see a blue sparkle above an object, that is your indication that it is something that Sly Cooper can cling to. This is performed by tapping the Circle button near such an object. Thieves in Time will certainly put your platforming prowess into action with ingenious obstacle course-like design. Even if you fail in a job, there are plenty of continue points so you are never having to redo large portions of a level.

If platforming is your passion, Thieves
in Time definitely has you covered.
Variety is the spice of life, and in the job market that is exactly what you get with Thieves in Time. The developers have gone a long way in ensuring that players don't get bored doing the same tasks over and over again. While there are job archetypes that do repeat themselves (if I don't have to stealthily follow someone again, it will be too soon), most jobs differ from one another.

Outside of the traditional platforming that makes a platformer a platformer, there are parts of jobs where you participate in mini-games. One you'll be serving sarsaparilla to some very thirsty saloon patrons, another you'll be shaking Carmelita's booty, timing your button presses in beat with the music to distract the guards. There's multiple hacking mini-games like Alter Ego, a side-scrolling 2D shooter; a tank game using both sticks, one to move and one to aim; and Spark Runner, where you tilt the Sixaxis controller to move a spark through a maze. The latter type of hacking mini-game can be frustrating, as the tilt controls are not the best.

During Sly Cooper and the gang's trip through the past, they will comes across Sly's ancestors, of which there is one in each episode to rescue and have join your merry crew of thieving animals. Each ancestor has abilities that make them indisposable, as they can reach areas that other characters simply cannot. For one, Tennessee Kid Cooper can fire his guns at both faraway foes and faraway targets to activate nearby contraptions. Meanwhile, the oldest Cooper ancestor, known lovingly as Bob, has the ability to scale icy walls to reach higher areas.

Riochi can use his Focus Jump to cross 
over larger-than-normal distances.
In addition to the ancestors and their powers, there are costumes that Sly Cooper collects throughout his adventure that grants him new abilities, exclusive to each costume. For instance, the Jailbird costume comes with a huge ball and chain, great for smashing breakable walls and to walk on to cross over hazardous and deadly floors. Meanwhile, the Archer costume grants the ability to fire arrows at targets. These arrows have ropes attached to them so when they hit their target, Sly can walk on them like a tightrope. The costumes are a welcome feature that only adds to the variety filled package that Thieves in Time is.

Ready... aim... fire!
There is a LOT to do in Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time, so even after you complete the 10-15 hour campaign, there's plenty still to do. Collecting all of the clue bottles in a given episode's hub world will open a safe, giving Sly and the gang a useful treasure to work with. Such a treasure includes one that makes falling into the water something that no longer causes damage while another increases the chance of pick-pocketing loot from an unaware enemy. Then there are 60 masks that are hidden through the hub worlds and jobs of the game. Collecting them gives you options in the extras menu, including replacing Sly Cooper's cane with a certain other PlayStation platforming all-star's wrench.

"The Murray" can handle any physical job.
Thieves in Time is not without its issues, however. We already went over Spark Runner being a bit unwieldy, but the in-game camera can also be a bit unwieldy as well. It can occasionally get caught on walls, make it so its impossible to turn, and other annoyances that can frustrate. These aren't common, though.

While I was playing the game, I had a coworker ask me which game of the PlayStation 2 trilogy I was playing. He honestly couldn't tell that I was playing a PlayStation 3 game. That said, Thieves in Time is a gorgeous game, using a timeless art style with its cel-shaded. It gives its areas more pizzazz, and it makes the characters come to life wonderfully. The voice acting is also well done with clever dialogue thrown in to keep even the oldest of players entertained. Lastly, the music is a dynamic mix of styles that accentuate the platforming action well.

Forsooth, my fine ring-tailed friend!
Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time is one of the better platformers to have come out this generation. While it stays true to the formula to a degree that some might consider too "safe", it certainly relieved my itch for a new 3D platformer beautifully. It is a humorous and entertaining game, through and through, contains plenty of content outside of the main campaign, and the platforming itself is nothing short of pure fun. The addition of buying the PlayStation 3 version and getting a digital version of the Vita game only increases the value of Thieves in Time. If you're a PlayStation 3 owner who is looking for a platformer with a lot of heart and clever design, take up a job with Sly Cooper and the gang.

[SPC Says: 9.0/10]

Animal Crossing: New Leaf (3DS) TV Spot

For the longest time, the 3DS iteration of Animal Crossing has topped many a 3DS owners' most wanted list. On June 9 the game, Animal Crossing: New Leaf, finally comes out after years of waiting. While the game is still a couple of weeks off, those anticipating the game like us can watch this colorful commercial for the game.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Best Boss Battles in Gaming History - Part Eight


Welcome to a new edition of Best Boss Battles in Gaming History, SuperPhillip Central's long-running series celebrating the greatest encounters against some of the coolest baddies in gaming's illustrious history. With Part Eight, we have bosses from God of War III, Kingdom Hearts II, and Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, for starters. If you missed a past part of Best Boss Battles in Gaming History, no worries. We have all previous installments nicely arranged below for you.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

What’s It Like Inside a Pokémon’s Poké Ball?

What do you think is inside a  Poké Ball? What doodads and knickknacks are there? Do they have air conditioning during the summer and a heater for the winter? You know you've been dying to know, and we at SuperPhillip Central thought this was cute from our friends at Movoto.

Exploring Some of the Worst Console Reveals in Recent Memory

It's always important to make a great first impression. It's especially difficult to maintain or even gain momentum when your first impression on people is a negative one. After viewing the Xbox One console reveal, we at SuperPhillip Central thought we'd list some of the worst console reveals that we can remember. Don't worry, Microsoft fans, we have a special place for the Xbox One reveal right on this very list. From five-hundred and ninety-nine U.S. dollars to The Killers, these are what we consider some (note the word some) of the worst console reveals in recent memory. After you're done reading our thoughts, write up your own and share your picks for the worst console reveal in the comments section below.

PlayStation 3

The true coming out party for the PlayStation 3 happened at E3 2006, and the infamous memes that came from it did damage that Sony is still recovering from to this day. "Five-hundred and ninety-nine dollars." "Massive damage." "RIIIIIIIDGE RACER!" All three of these are used on message boards and comment sections to this day, even by the greatest Sony zealot. The reveal and subsequent launch made it so a once dominant brand in the PlayStation struggled hard to become second place in the console wars, and that only happened recently. The millions upon millions lost by Sony and the PlayStation brand can all be traced to this one reveal and launch, and the majority of Sony's failures with the PS3 can be said to have been caused by the company's arrogance after riding off the successes of the original PlayStation and PlayStation 2.

Wii U

While the Wii U was shown with tech demos two E3s ago, the real reveal of the system was last E3. Everyone was counting on Nintendo to blow the doors off the place after many concluded that Sony and Microsoft's E3 presentations were less than incredible. It was Nintendo's time to shine and impress. Perhaps this is why the press conference is thought so badly of. Nintendo totally struck out. It started well with Shigeru Miyamoto and his translator and NoA Treehouse member Bill Trinen talking about Pikmin 3. However, the rest of the presentation quickly turned sour with showcases of Batman: Arkham City - Armored Edition (it's not the same game, it's not the same content, as famously stated by Reggie Fils-Aime) and Just Dance 4. The final insult was Nintendo Land, which to be fair, the final product is immensely fun and great, but 20 minutes showcasing it turned a lot of gamers off. Couple that will fireworks that didn't work, and you have a poor reveal. Maybe it would have been easy to predict the Wii U's current struggles just by seeing how telling the reaction (or lack thereof) of the system's E3 2012 coming out party was. Essentially no one was hyped, and that has gone on to pretty much damn the system lately.

Xbox 360

Now, we realize that a lot of people enjoyed the Xbox 360 reveal, but we take a different stance. The Xbox 360 reveal took place at a special TV event on MTV of all places. What we didn't like about the reveal was how forced and fake it felt. First off you had Elijah Wood, who is terrific guy and a terrific actor, as the host of the festivities, but even he couldn't really give a performance that excited us. Then you had the band The Killers who were there simply to promote their new album Hot Fuss. (By the way, we really like their song "Somebody Told Me.") Finally, you had a decidedly overly enthusiastic group of plants that made up the audience. O.J. Simpson was more convincing than the folks Microsoft had picked out. We have to give some credit to the Xbox 360 show as it actually showed a good amount of games-- it's just a shame that it was sandwiched between a lot of eye roll-worthy crap.

Xbox One

Let's end with the one that's fresh on gamers' minds, shall we? Gamers around the world waited with bated breath for the reveal of the new Xbox. What they got during the showing was disappointing to say the least. It was clear that Microsoft wanted to shy away from being all about games, as if they were ashamed of the industry they were supposed to be courting to. Instead, Microsoft dealt heavily on TV, a word that most likely was spoken more times than the word "games." Very telling. Throw in little gameplay footage of the actual games shown, a myriad of confusion regarding used games, always online, and Kinect, and you have an absolute mess of a console reveal. Factor all that with cheers and applause that didn't come from the members of the press but actually Microsoft employees in the back of the room, and there is our negative first impression of the Xbox One. While many gamers think the showing will put the Xbox One in a bad place sales-wise, the system could very well sell excellently, despite the awful showing, much to their chagrin.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

SPC Soapbox - 5/21/13 Xbox Don't One-t & the Wii U Virtual Console

Welcome to a special edition of the SPC Soapbox, hot off the trail of the big Xbox Next coming out party. On this edition I express my disappointment with the unveiling of the officially named Xbox One, and to cap things off I talk about Nintendo's apparent strategy with the slow releases of their Virtual Console games, particularly on Wii U.

Xbox One = Don't One-t

I should have been smart enough to know that the Xbox One-- that's the name of Microsoft's third home console, don't you know-- wasn't for me when the first half of the entire presentation was mostly dedicated to the entertainment features of the system instead of what a game console is meant to primarily be for-- y'know, the games. Every time the one presenter said, "Xbox, show movies." "Xbox, show TV." "Xbox, power on." I wanted someone to yell, "Xbox, show games" or "Xbox, power off." Just to make the presentation at least a bit better.

I honestly believe that the word "television" (EDIT: Or "TV) was used just as much, or maybe more so, than the word "games" throughout the presentation. Is there a good reason for this? I think Emily Rogers put it wonderfully on Twitter:

For what little games that were actually shown for the Xbox One, the only one that was intriguing to me was Quantum Break, and even then, I can't say there was gameplay footage in that. The EA Sports trailer showed off impressive models, but so did that Madden trailer some years back, and we all know that that footage was representative of the final product. Ending the conference with the new Call of Duty only further isolated me from the conference. To me so far, and pretty much everyone at SuperPhillip Central, the Xbox One is basically the Xbox 360's lineup with prettier graphics, and the Xbox 360's lineup of exclusives is the worst we've seen for a popular mainstream console-- no hyperbole intended. It's just the same games from the same genres with only new coats of paint. I like the idea of all of Microsoft's new franchises, but if they're just the same genres and games we've played last generation only with new assets, then I'm not interested. 

On the positive side, according to Jason Schreier of Kotaku, the Xbox One will not force users to always be online. Instead, developers can decide whether their games will be always online or not. That's reassuring, but what isn't is the idea that the Xbox One might require installation of games to be played, meaning the system might actually block used games. As someone who frequently trades games that he doesn't care for to get games that are out-of-print or hard-to-find, this idea pisses me off severely.

All I know personally is that all Microsoft's event did for me was to help me decide that unless E3 is kind to Microsoft, I'm definitely going where the games are, and that seems to be the PlayStation 4, and less so the Wii U.

Wii U Virtual Console

There was rightfully a huge amount of disappointment when the North American Wii U Virtual Console lineup was revealed. The best game on the list was Super Mario World, and the rest were NES games that most people have downloaded from past Virtual Console platforms. 

Some argue that the drip-feeding that Nintendo is doing by releasing a small amount of titles each week is because that emulation is so difficult. I don't believe this for a second. I'm not going to pretend, though, that I know the work involved with emulating old games so they will work on the Wii U hardware and the GamePad controller. Instead, I'm going to theorize why Nintendo constantly releases their Virtual Console titles at a slow clip instead of all at once.

This has to do primarily with sales. If Nintendo released every Virtual Console game they had on the Wii to the Wii U, you can bet that only the most popular titles would sell, most likely Nintendo's own titles. This would result in less sales for third-parties and less sales for the "bad" games. You see, by having a drip-feed release schedule, Nintendo can entice buyers to spend money on Virtual Console games they otherwise wouldn't give a second look to, especially for when there's a drought in software for the Wii U. It's ingenious, and it seems to work for Nintendo or else they wouldn't be using this business strategy for the third time in a row. It sucks for gamers and consumers, but it's definitely working for Nintendo.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Batman: Arkham Origins (Multi) Trailer

Despite possessing nothing in the way of gameplay, this trailer for Batman: Arkham Origins has us extremely hyped for the game. We'll no doubt see more gameplay footage, especially at E3, so we're not worried. Batman: Arkham Origins has a worldwide release date of October 25.

SPC's Favorite VGMs - 64-Bit Edition

Welcome to a new week here at SuperPhillip Central. As we always do on Mondays, we have five new tracks to share with you that will be added to our catalog of great game music. (You can also view all past entries in our VGM Database.) On today's edition of SPC's Favorite VGMs, we have music from Star Fox 64, Wave Race 64, and Mario Kart 64. We have but two hands to carry all of the 64-bit games!

v376. Star Fox 64 (N64) - Sector X

The mysterious secret weapon of Sector X... What is it? Where is it? These questions plague the Star Fox team as they move through the space junk and walls of Sector X. Turns out the secret weapon is a very easy machine named Spyborg, not to be confused with the Capcom Wii game of the same name.

v377. Wave Race 64 (N64) - Port Pirates

We move from one Nintendo 64 classic to another. Kazumi Totaka delivers his personal style of composition with this rocking tune for the Port Blue level of Wave Race 64. The choppy waves of this military port hides a very tricky shortcut for those brave enough to take it on.

v378. Sonic Heroes (PS2, GCN, XBX) - Follow Me

A song that one could be classified a bubblegum pop song if there were any in a Sonic game, Follow Me is a perky and peppy theme with a great groove, brilliant beat, and marvelous melody. This song is the theme of Team Rose, featuring Amy Rose, Cream the Rabbit, and Big the Cat. Team Rose's levels were meant to be the easiest of the four teams, and they, in fact, were just that.

v379. Mario Kart 64 (N64) - Highway

We just can't get away from the Nintendo 64 with this edition of SPC's Favorite VGMs, now can we? Perhaps that's a good thing as we get a lot of lovely nostalgia. Highway comes to us from the second in the Mario Kart series, Mario Kart 64, as heard in the Toad's Turnpike track. The melody would be heard again in Mario Kart 7's Neo Bowser City track.

v380. Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour (GCN) - Peach's Castle Grounds

From one Mario game to another, Mario Golf: World Tour has a tentative release period of summer. Why not look back at the GameCube version of Mario Golf with Peach's Castle Grounds, a lively tune that blends in new with the familiar sounds of Peach's Castle from Super Mario 64. We really can't get away from the Nintendo 64, can we?

Tearaway (PSV) New Screens

Tearaway is Media Molecule's upcoming PlayStation Vita release that sports a vivid art style and quirky gameplay. I must say that if there were more exclusives as creative as Tearaway, the system would be more appealing to more people.