Friday, August 23, 2013

SPC Quickies - Volume Twelve: Over Thirty Nintendo 3DS Games Swiftly Reviewed

Phil here. It has been over a year since the SPC Quickies have been seen. To say they have been on a long hiatus would be no lie. Well they are back, and to celebrate I'm doing something wild, something crazy, something insane. I will be doing quickie reviews (one paragraph maximum reviews) for over thirty unique Nintendo 3DS games. If you recall, I've done such antics with the PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, Nintendo DS and PSP in past Quickie segments.

Regardless, this time around we're focusing on the Nintendo 3DS. As always, a 1 is the worst a game can be scored, while a 5 is the best. Many of these games have been reviewed already, some have not, but will have full reviews in the coming months (i.e. eventually). All right. The basics have been covered, so let's begin!

Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Legacy - The Ace Combat series jetted onto the Nintendo 3DS, and despite its title, Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Legacy had nothing to do with its console big brothers, Ace Combat: Assault Horizon. The game featured fantastic aerial combat, breathtaking environments, and excellent 3D. This remake of Ace Combat 2 really did things right. Perhaps the things it didn't get so right were the brevity of the main campaign and the lack of multiplayer. Still, if you want to soar with the eagles, there are few Nintendo 3DS titles like Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Legacy. 4/5

Animal Crossing: New Leaf - After not doing much to change the series with Animal Crossing: City Folk, Nintendo's Animal Crossing team vowed to create enough changes to make for a stellar new entry in the franchise with Animal Crossing: New Leaf. Can a paragraph possibly cover all there was to this wonderful life simulator? There was the ability to be mayor and control where public works projects would be built, as well as creating ordinances to make stores stay open later or earlier. The customization was absolutely sensational, offering nearly every facet of the game to be tailored to the player's whim. After 250 hours total play time, it's only now that I am feeling a little burned out with the game. That is simply amazing. 5/5

Art Academy: Lessons for Everyone! - A budget priced Nintendo 3DS game (well, as budget a price as $29.99 is), Art Academy: Lessons for Everyone! taught players the ins and outs of creating works of art through multiple step lessons. The software was an excellent teaching tool, going over paint, colored pencils, normal pencils, and pastels in the various lessons. One could hang their completed work in the interactive gallery, as well as share their works via Swapnote. An entertaining piece of software to show one's creativity and hone one's skills, Art Academy: Lessons for Everyone! is a stellar learning tool. 4/5

Crosswords Plus - Before you go thinking that Crosswords Plus was merely a game full of crosswords, know that the game also featured word searches and anagram puzzles. There was even a word of the day and free downloadable puzzles. The handwriting recognition wasn't too bad, the presentation and music wasn't offensive, and the whole package worked well. It was just a shame that this title wasn't released as a merely a lower-priced digital-only game, as that would have been perfect for this type of game. 3/5

Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D - Nintendo's main monkey returned into the spotlight, coming back with a platforming adventure from the Wii with Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D. This Nintendo 3DS port came with eight all-new levels, a new easy mode that had Donkey and Diddy able to be hit an additional time each, and stereoscopic 3D. Monster Games did a fantastic job with this game, and the lack of motion controls for rolling and performing other feats made for a better game, despite the lack of 60 frames per second. 5/5

Fire Emblem: Awakening - The strategy RPG series got a new installment, and according to rumors, had Fire Emblem: Awakening not sold well, we wouldn't have seen the franchise anymore. Thankfully, the game did great numbers on both sides of the Pacific. Regardless, Awakening was the perfect entry to introduce a new face to, as it had a casual mode, where a unit's death in battle didn't mean they were gone for good. The original mode was still present, but the casual mode allowed for more players to enjoy the more accessible version of Fire Emblem. Add in an intriguing story, great characters, fun maps, and tremendous tactical gameplay, and you have one of the best games on the Nintendo 3DS. 5/5

Harvest Moon 3D: A New Beginning - The first brand-new Harvest Moon to set up shop on the Nintendo 3DS, Harvest Moon 3D: A New Beginning brought with it a lot of fresh content, including better character customization, village customization and house customization. Speaking of beginnings, this edition of Harvest Moon started out very slow, with a wide array of tutorials that hampered the experience. Fortunately, once you got over that initial hump, A New Beginning gave players a grand sense of freedom to play however they wanted. 4/5

Heroes of Ruin - Disappointing is a word that aptly described n-Space's Heroes of Ruin. An attempt to bring a loot-based action-RPG to the Nintendo 3DS, Heroes of Ruin was a game that had technically sound social features for four players to hack and slash foes together online, but the actual gameplay was mediocre at best. There wasn't too much that was wholly original with Heroes of Ruin, and the end game left much to be desired, with little to do after the game had been completed. 3/5

Kid Icarus: Uprising - Masahiro Sakurai, creator of Kirby and the Super Smash Bros. series, chose Pit's universe to focus a game around. The end result was Kid Icarus: Uprising, one of my favorite Nintendo 3DS title bar-none. The controls are decidedly not for everyone (particularly if you're left handed), but overcoming that hurdle, you will find a game that was rich with action, content, and hilarity. Kid Icarus: Uprising was full of things to do, chapters to complete, bosses to defeat, goals to tidy up, and a presentation that was simply astonishing. 5/5

Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance - The Kingdom Hearts returned to a Nintendo platform, but this time the final product was excellent. Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance served as a bridge to the upcoming Kingdom Hearts III with Sora and Riku participating in a Mark of Mastery exam to determine who will become a Keyblade Master. This led to some intense combat thanks to the all-new Flowmotion ability, multiple brand-new Disney worlds to explore, and run-ins with the cast of The World Ends With You. Though the worlds are disturbingly empty, Kingdom Hearts 3D still delivered on its promise of a good time. 4/5

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D - SuperPhillip Central listed The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time as our favorite game of all time. The Nintendo 3DS remake that contained upgraded visuals, easier item management, and a harder Master Quest made this version the definitive one. Even after all of these years, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is still a massive achievement in both game design and structure. Its influence is seen even to this day. If you've never played this amazing game, then the Nintendo 3DS version is a perfect pickup. 5/5

LEGO City Undercover: The Chase Begins - If you were like me and still weren't wanting to bid farewell to LEGO City after playing LEGO City Undercover on the Wii U, then you probably plopped down the cash for LEGO City Undercover: The Chase Begins. Despite all of the game's problems-- the loading times between areas, the poor draw distance, the pop in, the emptiness of the world, the less entertaining story, etc.-- the game was still a blast to play, finding collectibles, completing optional tasks, and exploring the world. It was just the LEGO City fix I needed. 3/5

Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon - As part of the Year of Luigi, the green clad plumber returned to his ghost-busting days with Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon, a notable improvement over the GameCube original. Not only was capturing ghosts made more accessible (and more fun), the mission-based structure was a more enjoyable alternative to simply exploring one grand mansion. Instead, Luigi trekked through multiple mansions, each with their own theme, creatures and puzzles. The online component, the Scarescraper, didn't feel like an afterthought either, making Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon a terrific title, despite some bad boss battles. 4/5

Mario Kart 7 - The seventh mainline installment of the Mario Kart series sped onto its third handheld system with Mario Kart 7, a game that featured a glorious collection of new and retro tracks. The addition of kart customization (though randomly unlocking parts was tedious), air and underwater segments, and online communities made for a kart racer that multifaceted and massively fun. Unfortunately, the nasty blue shell reared its ugly head once again into the Mario Kart series, bringing with it races where you'd be leading the pack the whole time only to be thwarted at the last turn. 4/5

Mario Tennis Open - While nowhere near the stellar level that the Nintendo 64 and Game Boy Color iterations of the series have reached, Mario Tennis Open gave Nintendo 3DS a Simon Says-like approach to tennis. Through running to colored spots on the court where your opponent hit the ball and using the appropriate shot, you could take your rival to the cleaners. Many did not like this mechanic, but I happened to enjoy it. It was different, yes, and I wouldn't rate the game higher than past installments, sure, but Mario Tennis Open gave me plenty of entertainment. 4/5

New Super Mario Bros. 2 - The aesthetics of the New Super Mario Bros. series may not deliver the most jaw-dropping visuals or eye-pleasing graphics, but that's purely a cosmetic detail. Digging deeper, one will find that New Super Mario Bros. 2 offered the tight mechanics and terrific level design that Mario platformers routinely possess. The fact that the game was made by a more inexperienced team, just learning the ins and outs of making 2D Mario, is all the more impressive and gives me great hope in the future of the franchise, long after the old guard is gone. 4/5

Paper Mario: Sticker Star - Compared to previous Paper Mario entries, it was very easy to see why people were not pleased with Sticker Star. The game completely removed many of the features fans liked of past games, including partners, badges, and the ability to gain experience and levels. Instead, Paper Mario: Sticker Star focused on earning coins from battles to buy new stickers, the tools to Mario's arsenal. For a game designed for everyone in mind, the puzzles in Sticker Star seemed rather obtuse and hard to figure out without a guide. This led to some frustration-inducing moments, especially in boss battles, where you might have lacked the right sticker to deal serious damage to the enemy. 3/5

Pilotwings Resort - My favorite launch game from the Nintendo 3DS lineup was Pilotwings Resort. While the game only featured one island, Wii Sports Resort's Wuhu Island, the myriad missions and the variety of them more than made up for the lack of scenery. One mission you'd be diving downward in a squirrel suit, the next you'd be shooting at targets in a plane. Even still, Wuhu Island had plenty to explore, particularly in the fun free flight mode. Pilotwings Resort might have felt watered down compared to its Nintendo 64 predecessor, but the game was still a lot of fun. 4/5

Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity - I don't have much experience with the Pokemon Mystery Dungeon games. In fact, Gates to Infinity was my first foray into this type of Pokemon spin-off. The game had the player transformed into a Pokemon of their choosing (well, out of a small selection) and a partner to join them through a story full of mystery and wonder. Think of Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity as a roguelike for beginners. Even then, there were plenty of difficult optional areas to keep players interested, invested and challenged despite the cheery presentation. 4/5

Pokemon Rumble Blast - Repetition is sometimes a really bad thing, but in Pokemon Rumble Blast, the first Pokemon game to hit the Nintendo 3DS, it can sometimes be relaxing. Fighting through wave after wave of Pokemon through ultra-linear dungeons was something that I enjoyed greatly. There was always the hope that you'd defeat a powerful Pokemon and have them join your team. This made returning to past dungeons a must for a completionist like myself. Regardless, there wasn't much to the gameplay, which meant for most players, Pokemon Rumble Blast would wear out its welcome fast. 3/5

Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask - Professor Layton and the gang were brought back on the case with Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask. The shift from the Nintendo DS to the 3DS brought with it 3D character models instead of 2D art, more complex puzzles, and a story that was a thrilling ride from start to finish. The addition of free downloadable puzzles meant the length of gameplay would last long after the main story and mystery was solved. 4/5

Project X Zone - I was absolutely bouncing off the walls (not literally, of course, as I can't legally do that anymore) when it was announced that Namco Bandai was bringing this crossover game to the West. Unfortunately, the final product was less than spectacular. Project X Zone contained battles that went on far too long-- a true test of endurance rather than fun. The repetitive nature of the game only accentuated this problem. While it was cool to see some of familiar video game faces, the gameplay just didn't gel with me. Project X Zone isn't a horrible game by any means; it's just a disappointment. 3/5

Rayman 3D - Rayman 2 has practically been ported to every platform under the sun. It is the game that Ubisoft just cannot seem to let go. I would have preferred that they did, because Rayman 3D was all kinds of mediocre. The game had already been previously released on the DS in the form of Rayman DS, and like that game, Rayman 3D did little to distinguish itself from the Nintendo 64 version of the game. The titular 3D wasn't worth its weight in lums, and actually detracted from the experience. What I'm trying to say is, if you have an option to play Rayman 3D, just check out one of the original versions of Rayman 2 instead. 2/5

Resident Evil: Revelations - Recently released on HD platforms, Resident Evil: Revelations first debuted on the Nintendo 3DS. It featured a more prominent focus on survival-horror, as well as a nice mix of action. It was a superb blend of classic Resident Evil and modern Resident Evil. Raid Mode was a loot whore's dream, giving two players either locally or online the ability to mow down waves of enemy fodder in hopes of acquiring powerful weapons. Forget Resident Evil 6-- Resident Evil: Revelations is where it's at. 5/5

Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D - Taking a mode that many fans loved from Resident Evil 4 and 5 and making an entire arcade experience out of it seemed like a crazy idea, but there was enough content in Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D to justify it. Each mission gave new challenges, settings and hazards to overcome, and teaming up with a friend or total stranger online was a grand old time. The caveat of the game is that once you start a data, you cannot delete it. A backhanded way to prevent used games sales, for sure. 4/5

Rhythm Thief & the Emperor's Treasure - This was the type of game that made me remember why I loved SEGA. It was the type of game that the old SEGA would have made, yet the modern SEGA did instead. Rhythm Thief & the Emperor's Treasure had a Professor Layton-like story with multiple rhythm-based mini-games sprinkled throughout the story. My main issue with the game is the rating system. You can do well through the entire mini-game, but if you make one mistake, your ranking goes down immediately. Shouldn't the game grade you on an average of how well you did? Still, Rhythm Thief was an original and entertaining experience. 3/5

Ridge Racer 3D - On your mark, get set, go. Ridge Racer roared onto the Nintendo 3DS with Ridge Racer 3D. While the game did not bring much of anything new to the long-running arcade racing franchise, it did deliver plenty of fast and frenetic races. The courses were fun to drive on, the sense of speed was there, and the amount of cars was a bit diverse. Perhaps the one complaint I could bring to Ridge Racer 3D was the lack of any kind of online multiplayer. 4/5

Samurai Warriors: Chronicles - I don't know much about Japanese history, so playing through Samurai Warriors: Chronicles, another launch game for the Nintendo 3DS, had me scratching my head in befuddlement quite a few times. It got to the point where I simply skipped scenes, as I didn't feel that I was missing much. Thankfully, I didn't miss the gameplay, which will turn off a lot of players due to its repetitiveness. However, being able to switch between multiple characters on the fly meant you didn't have to be everywhere at the same time. You could have your comrades in arms deal with problems. Samurai Warriors: Chronicles isn't the best in its genre, but it is serviceable. 3/5

Sonic Generations - I want to know what happened to Dimps. They made some relatively good 2D Sonic games with the Sonic Advance series and Sonic Rush series. Their Nintendo 3DS offering with Sonic Generations was just woefully bad. Level design was sloppy, poorly conceived and more horribly executed. Bottomless pits were the main annoying worry to deal with, and the mission mode did not offer much reason to return to it. Sonic Generations was not a good game, but at least the pain of playing it didn't last long. 2/5

Star Fox 64 3D - Fox McCloud might not have been given a brand-new adventure to star in, but at least Star Fox 64 3D proved that Nintendo hadn't completely forgotten about the Star Fox crew. Those who expected something entirely different from this upgraded version of Star Fox 64 were sorely unhappy. Star Fox 64 3D featured pretty much the majority of content from the Nintendo 64 original. The only additions were optional gyro controls, three difficulty settings, and an updated multiplayer component. While it was nice seeing the Nintendo 64 classic with enhanced visuals, there wasn't too much that was different with the Nintendo 3DS remake. 4/5

Super Mario 3D Land - Many are very disappointed that Nintendo EAD is working on a sequel to Super Mario 3D Land rather than a Super Mario Galaxy-like title. After playing through Super Mario 3D Land multiple times, I certainly have no problems. Super Mario 3D Land was a sublime mixing of 2D and 3D Mario sensibilities. It had the 2D linearity and obstacle courses of games like Super Mario Bros. 3 and the 3D movement of Super Mario 64. The game could be as hard or as easy as you'd want, pending you used the Tanooki Suit religiously or not. Perhaps the greatest part of Super Mario 3D Land was just after you initially beat Bowser. You think the game is over, but then 3D Land surprises you with eight more difficult worlds. Truly an outstanding game, and a great reason why I'm so happy to see Super Mario 3D World on Wii U. 5/5

Super Monkey Ball 3D - It pains me to see how far the Super Monkey Ball series has fallen after the marvelous GameCube entries. Super Monkey Ball 3D walked a tightrope between insultingly easy and frustrating. Like Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D, there was no way to delete a saved data. Furthermore, the added modes did little to bring enjoyment. One was a haphazard Mario Kart-wannabe that was somehow more frustrating than Mario Kart Wii, and the Monkey Fight game was like a one foot deep swimming pool in how much there was to it. 2/5

Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition - The best selling fighter on the Nintendo 3DS launched with the system. It brought with it optional touch-based controls for performing moves, a multitude of characters to fight with and against, and online play. Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition did a lot right, and it was a technical showcase on the Nintendo 3DS when it launched. It still looks impressive two years later. The only technical issue with the game was the static backgrounds, no doubt due to the 3DS's humble power. 4/5

Theatrhythm Final Fantasy - One of my favorite rhythm games period, Theatrhythm Final Fantasy merged rhythm-based gameplay with RPG-style leveling up. The soundtrack was a Final Fantasy fanatic's dream, featuring music from all thirteen mainline installments of the Final Fantasy franchise. Many popular songs were included, such as One-Winged Angel, Dancing Mad, Blinded by Light, Aerith's Theme, Eyes on You, and many more. Leveling up series all-stars, earning new items and skills, acquiring crystals to unlock more new characters, and enjoying this celebration of Final Fantasy was something that I immensely enjoyed. 5/5

Thursday, August 22, 2013

2013: The Return of the Year of the Platformer?

We don't follow the Chinese New Year at all, so we're not certain of what year it is for that country. Year of the Snake? Year of the Dragon? Year of the Dolphin? Who knows. What we do know is that for the gaming industry, we're seeing a large number of platforming titles, both 2D and 3D, that make us extremely happy. Platformers are what we grew up on as 8-bit and then 16-bit era kids. It's our fondest genre to play. Perhaps we could call 2013 the Year of the Platformer instead of whatever animal China has. Here are nine of the biggest retail platformers that are coming out from now until the end of the year!

Super Mario 3D World (Wii U)

We are of the mind that Super Mario 3D World is the type of game that players won't know they wanted until they get to experience the final version. No doubt many have already made up their minds about the game because it's not Super Mario Galaxy 3, or a reasonable substitute. Instead, the game is akin to one of the greatest Nintendo 3DS games, Super Mario 3D Land. That excites us already, as that game was a perfect mix of 2D and 3D Mario gameplay. The addition of true multiplayer, a first for the 3D line of Mario games, is something we know will make us play through Super Mario 3D World a plethora of times. Knowing that each of the four playable characters control differently is exciting as well. We were hesitant at first to hype Super Mario 3D World, but then we remembered that one of the greatest and most heralded studios in Nintendo EAD is working on the game. Based on their output, we can feel at ease in giving them the benefit of the doubt.

New Super Luigi U (Wii U)

Speaking of years, it's the Year of Luigi, as well. This game has already been available via downloadable content to New Super Mario Bros. U. However, a separate (and $10 more expensive) retail release is coming to North America this Sunday. New Super Luigi U consists of drastically shorter and much more challenging levels than what players experienced in New Super Mario Bros. U. Even the first world consists of difficulty that wasn't present in Mario's adventure until much later in the game. The ability to play as the untouchable Nabbit will allow even beginning players to enjoy Luigi's platforming journey. We wanted more challenge from New Super Mario Bros. U, and now with New Super Luigi U, we've got it!

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (Wii U)

When Retro Studios was asked which project they wanted to do next, they jumped on the chance to create a new entry in the Donkey Kong Country series. After seeing how well Donkey Kong Country Returns turned out, we're feverishly anticipating Tropical Freeze, set to release some time in November. Levels are much more dynamic this time around, with barrels that blast players around giant trees with a camera that follows. Dixie Kong has returned from her long hiatus from the series, and speaking of hiatuses, Dave Wise, the original composer of the SNES trilogy is on board to create the music for this Wii U exclusive. Did we mention that swimming has returned as well? Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is shaping up to eclipse Retro's initial DKC offering, and that will be one amazing achievement.

Sonic Lost World (Wii U, 3DS)

People often bring up the "Sonic Cycle" for new Sonic the Hedgehog games, but if Sonic Colors and Sonic Generations are anything to go by, that so-called cycle has been broken for a while now. Sonic Lost World hopes to continue that streak, and thus far the circular worlds of the game and parkour-like platforming make us cautiously optimistic. Controlling Sonic is much easier, utilizing the shoulder buttons to set Sonic's speed. This is contrary to past games, where you didn't have as much control over how fast Sonic ran. Without a shoulder button held, Sonic simply saunters. It's only when a shoulder button is pressed down does he speed through levels. Sonic Lost World came as a surprise, and we hope that it succeeds in giving Nintendo another excellent platformer and game on their system.

Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus (PS3)

The past two Ratchet & Clank games were respectable in the regard that they tried something new with the series. That said, they were lesser experiences compared to past installments. All 4 One tried four player co-op both online and off, and Full Frontal Assault attempted an action-based tower defense game. Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus is a budget title ($29.99 MSRP) that returns the lovable lombax and robot pair to the origins of the series: action platforming with a focus on leveling up weapons through repeated use and using gadgets to explore the colorful worlds of the game. Ratchet & Clank is one of our favorite PlayStation franchises, and we cannot express how happy we are to see the series return to what made it so popular in the first place.

Puppeteer (PS3)

Sony's Japan Studio has not been very pronounced this past generation. They seem to be coming back with a vengeance, however, with the upcoming early September release, Puppeteer. The game is a 2D side-scroller which has players controlling Kutaro, a boy who has been transformed into a puppet and has had his head stolen. Using a magical pair of scissors, Kutaro goes on a platforming journey to retrieve his pilfered head and return to his own world. Sony has no doubt impressed us with the amazing amount of new franchises they have created in the PlayStation 3 era. Not only are they new franchises, but they're new experiences. So many times new IPs are made that simply feel like games we've already played. Puppeteer is thankfully not one of those, and that's why we're so hyped for it, regardless of how well (or bad) it will do commercially.

Rayman Legends (Wii U, PS3, 360, PC, Vita)

Let's get this out of the way. We've tried the PlayStation 3 demo of Rayman Legends, and the Murray parts just don't work as well as the Wii U version. That shouldn't be any surprise, as the Wii U was the system Rayman Legends was built for. Nonetheless, we're bound to have a good time regardless of the platform we get the game on. Ubisoft's delay of Rayman Legends has given the game a multitude of new levels, boss battles, and even Rayman Origins levels made using Legends's sophisticated graphics engine. We cannot wait to finally be able to insert the Rayman Legends disc into our hungry Wii Us. Multiplayer is going to be an absolute blast, if Rayman Origins is anything to go by. We'll most likely be the first ones at our local game store to pick up Legends when it releases early next month. Lucky European gamers can grab the game next week.

Skylanders: Swap Force (PS4, XONE, Wii U, PS3, 360, Wii, 3DS)

Disney Infinity released this past week and has given this next game series some stiff competition. The third game in the Skylanders series is set to release in North America first (unlike past games that Australia received first) this November. It's called Skylanders: Swap Force, and the swapping in the title refers to how each figure has a top half and a bottom half. These can be swapped with other figures to create entirely different creatures. While past console installments have been brawlers with some exploration, Swap Force allows each character to jump, expanding the level design possibilities greatly. Seeing as Skylanders: Swap Force is releasing on practically every platform under the sun, it will be hard to miss when it releases in a few months.

Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures (Wii U, PS3, 360, 3DS)

Okay, we might be stretching it with this one, as Pac-Man as of late hasn't had the greatest success game-wise. Furthermore, a game based off a television show isn't the most promising proposition either. Regardless, we're listing Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures here anyway. If Namco Bandai can fix some of the issues of the Pac-Man World games, such as the camera, for one, Ghostly Adventures will be a much better game for it. While the console versions are 3D platformers, the 3DS version has us most interested, as it is entirely 2 1/2-D. We'll see if our skepticism of Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures is justified when the game releases towards the end of November.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Nintendo Dropping the Wii U GamePad Is One of the Craziest "Solutions" We've Ever Heard

Recently, GameTrailers had a discussion and released a video dealing with the possibility of Nintendo removing the Wii U GamePad from the Wii U package. As current Wii U owners and just people in general with some sense, we argue against the side that thinks that Nintendo should take such a drastic measure. There are various points for our reasoning, so see if you agree or disagree with us.

First, cost is a topic that is brought up a lot, but we don't really know how much the GamePad factors into the overall cost of production for the Wii U system. People spout out numbers randomly, but Nintendo has never and probably never will revealed the price of making the GamePad for every system, so it's difficult to ascertain just how much (or at all) removing the Wii U GamePad would affect Nintendo's bottom line.

Secondly and a more important point, dropping the Wii U GamePad from the equation would take away what actually separates the Wii U from the competition. You take away the GamePad, and what you are left with is an underpowered (compared to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One) console with no hook to it. Nintendo has made it clear that they cannot compete in an arms race with Sony and Microsoft.

We've seen Microsoft this past generation throw as much money as possible to get to where they are today in the gaming industry. Part of the reason why the Xbox brand is so popular now is all of the exclusive deals that money gave Microsoft and their Xbox 360. Nintendo doesn't have that benefit. They don't have multiple other departments like computers, televisions, movies, an online browser, MP3 players, etc. that Sony and Microsoft have. Despite how influential Nintendo has been to the industry, money-wise they are a small fish in a big pond. They only deal in gaming, unlike the others.

The point of all this is that Nintendo uses what critics like to call "gimmicks" (despite the d-pad, analog stick, rumble, and more-- all made popular by Nintendo, all called "gimmicks" in their time) to set their consoles apart and make their financially sound humble in power consoles from the competition. Nintendo has even tried to compete tech-wise with the competition before with the Nintendo 64 and GameCube, and all that did was make them lose a massive amount of market share through the years. So when someone wishes that Nintendo would have just made a "normal" console instead of what they've done, we sort of shake our heads and say they've tried just that in the past and have failed. Dropping the Wii U GamePad means dropping one of the only things the Wii U currently has going for it, as people are not going to just be happy with a souped up Xbox 360 by Nintendo.

Rumble was once considered a gimmick, too. In
 fact, that was once Sony's argument this past gen.
Moving onto another point, when something is made optional, it's usually not used much, then. Even Nintendo's own Wii MotionPlus peripheral, which was packaged with the highly successful Wii Sports Resort, did not receive much in the way of support from third-parties. This is despite the accessory and the included game (or is it the other way around?) selling in the multi-millions. Why, you ask? Because optional peripherals do not garner high support. All the proof you need is history. The Wii Fit Balance Board has its place in many homes across the globe, yet the support for the device was minimal at best. Case in point, if it doesn't launch with the console, it probably won't be used by many developers and by many games.

When someone says that Nintendo should drop the GamePad and make it optional, not only would it tick off buyers who already have the Wii U, but it'd make it so the GamePad would be much less used than it is already and things like the absolutely awesome Miiverse would be less popular and less used as well.

For us, the Wii U GamePad has already given us more than enough entertainment. We enjoyed the launch title Nintendo Land and its use of asymmetrical multiplayer. We loved its usage in Ubisoft's ZombiU, as we cautiously looked back and forth between both the television screen and the GamePad screen to check for zombies as we managed our inventory. We especially dug the GamePad's use as a scanner in the fantastic must-play LEGO City Undercover, one of our favorite Wii U games yet. (Scoff if you must, but it's really a terrific title, LEGO game or not.)

By far the greatest experiences we've had with the Wii U GamePad is its off-TV play. It's nowhere near as advanced as what Sony has come up with concerning their upcoming PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita Remote Play, but the Wii U solution is also not nearly as expensive either. Regardless, being able to watch the baseball game while running through the Mushroom Kingdom in New Super Mario Bros. U or while taking down behemoth creatures in Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate are experiences we absolutely cherish.

The Wii U GamePad is still struggling to gain traction. People argue that nobody wants it and cite current abysmal sales as the reason why, but we argue that the Wii U is not selling because the games haven't been there, nor have they been there in a consistent manner. We also argue that there's still plenty of brand confusion regarding the Wii and Wii U. It's easy to say Nintendo "should have done this" or "should have done that", and it's easy to say that someone's solution would have worked better, especially when there's no real way to prove a hypothetical solution wrong. That said, removing the Wii U GamePad from the equation is yet another short-sighted solution that would do more harm to Nintendo's brand than good.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Best Levels in Gaming History - Volume Eight


Welcome to volume eight of one of our favorite segments here at SuperPhillip Central, Best Levels in Gaming History. No, your eyes do not deceive you. We're retroactively changed the name of our segment from Great Levels in Gaming History to Best Levels in Gaming History. Oh, the nerve of us. Regardless, we continue our look at levels that we deem the greatest in design, most fun to play and most memorable of all. Today we have some of the most entertaining games of all time to share with you-- many of which were listed on SuperPhillip Central's Top 100 Games of All Time ten week event.

If you've missed a previous volume of Best Levels in Gaming History, check out the links below:

Volume One
Volume Two
Volume Three
Volume Four
Volume Five
Volume Six
Volume Seven

Phazon Mines - Metroid Prime (GCN)

Things get much hairier for Samus Aran when she enters the Phazon Mines, the center of all Space Pirate activity on the wondrous planet of Tallon IV. With the heavy pollution, massive amounts of machinery, and radioactive Phazon that will damage Samus upon contact unless she is wearing the ultimate suit in the game, the conveniently called Phazon Suit.

The Space Pirates are certainly up to no good in the Phazon Mines, mining Phazon, pollution the sky into a pink haze, and keeping multiple Metroids locked up (but not for long) under quarantine.

Phazon Mines is so awesome because you feel like the Space Pirates are putting everything they have in stopping Samus from venturing into the depths of the mines. There's automatic turrets, cloaked drones, different elemental varieties of Space Pirates, Elite Pirates, and the most menacing creature of them all, the Omega Pirate, delivering one heck of a boss battle for players. Then there's how vertical the area is, offering plenty of fantastic first-person platforming action and adventuring. The Phazon Mines are indeed a very cool sight in a game that is full of magnificent areas.

Click Clock Wood - Banjo-Kazooie (N64, XBLA)

The final world of the Nintendo 64's greatest 3D platformer (in SuperPhillip Central's opinion at least), Banjo-Kazooie, is one that requires players to visit each of its seasons. It is none other than Click Clock Wood. You start off in a wooded area with four doors, only one which is accessible to Banjo and Kazooie, Spring. Through finding the switch to open the next door containing the next season, you can venture from Spring to Summer, and then Fall and Winter.

The fun of Click Clock Wood is how doing something in Spring will affect the next season, and so on. One Jiggy objective requires you to perform actions across all four seasons to obtain it. There's a squirrel to gather its acorns in the fall so he can hibernate for the winter, a beaver whose home is blocked by a giant rock that Banjo can destroy during the summer (when the moat surrounding the central tree structure is barren), and the ability to freely fly around the spring version of Click Clock Wood thanks to Mumbo Jumbo's bee transformation. Click Clock Wood is a terrific way to cap off Banjo-Kazooie, and it's a highly creative world, too.

Cronos - God of War III (PS3)

What's great about this level is that it works as a level AND a boss fight. We're choosing the former to represent Cronos from God of War III. After Kratos got Pandora's Box, Zeus banished the titan Cronos to the Pits of Tartarus, and this earth-based colossus is pretty pissed about it.

The sheer size of Cronos makes the bosses in Shadow of the Colossus even envious of him! Kratos is but a bug to him, as seen in the screenshot above, nestled between the titan's two fingers. Kratos, however, gets the upper hand... and arrives on Cronos' upper hand, where he does battle with summoned enemy fodder. He battles these foes while dodging the humongous hand and fingers of the boss.

This level, this boss encounter, is one that is truly unforgettable, as it has Kratos scaling up the behemoth body of Cronos, as if he were climbing a wall, slamming his chained blades into the titan's flesh, swinging around, dodging Cronos' advances. Perhaps Cronos' undoing is when he swallows Kratos. Unfortunately for him, Kratos uses his blade to carve a path out of the titan's chest. After impaling Cronos with his own crest, Kratos leaps up to the titan's forehead, slams his sword straight into his skull and wins another battle. Absolute coolness... and icky, too.

Tower of Babel - Final Fantasy IV (Multi)

One of the most memorable dungeons for us in the earlier Final Fantasy titles is Final Fantasy IV's Tower of Babel (or as it is called in the Game Boy Advance version, Babel Tower). It's a hulking structure that stretches from the inside the earth all the way up higher than airships can fly. The tower features multiple hidden pathways and rooms that lead to some terrific treasure. Unfortunately, a lot of these treasures hide monsters inside, and deadly ones at that. Regardless, when the encounters are as challenging and as fun as the ones in this towering dungeon, we really can't complain. It's a dungeon so nice that Cecil and his party just so happened to visit it twice.

Katina - Star Fox 64 (N64, 3DS)

Unlike the other levels previously mentioned in Best Levels in Gaming History, Katina from the brilliant Star Fox 64 does not have our heroes on rails. Instead, Katina is a 360 free-flight mission, and the immense number of enemies and friendlies that soar in the sky around the center base is a pure adrenaline rush.

Taking a page straight of Independence Day with Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum, an enemy mothership enters into the fray about a minute into the mission and hovers over the resistance base of Katina's forces. The goal is simple, destroy the four hatches on the underside of the mothership when they show themselves. Then the core will appear, requiring Fox and the team to destroy it before it can obliterate the base with a massive energy beam.

Whether you succeed and go to Solar or fail and go to Sector X (I usually succeed and opt to go to Sector X anyway, as I like that level more), Katina is a mission that is just spectacular, flying with your buds, engaging in intense dogfights with enemy ships, and "accidentally" shooting down friendlies. "Wait! That's one of ours!" You said it, Peppy. You said it.


Which levels have you played in the past that you think should hold a spot on a future volume of Best Levels in Gaming History? Think about it for a little bit, and then return here with your thoughts.

Sonic Lost World (Wii U, 3DS) Gamescom Trailer

Following the footsteps of Batman is Sonic the Hedgehog. He has a new trailer for the Gamescom event for Sonic Lost World, a Wii U and Nintendo 3DS exclusive. A new level is revealed, several Wisp powers are shown, trading items through Miiverse is here and the two-player competitive and cooperative modes are present and accounted for. We at SuperPhillip Central are really looking forward to Sonic's latest game.

Batman: Arkham Origins (Wii U, PS3, 360, PC) Firefly Trailer

A new assassin has been revealed, just in time for Gamescom. It's none other than Firefly. Batman will no doubt have his work cut out for him when Batman: Arkham Origins releases October 25 worldwide.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Mega Man 2 (NES, Wii U VC, 3DS VC) Retro Review

We've already looked at the 16-bit era of gaming earlier today, so why not take a glance at the 8-bit era as well. Here is a review of the retro variety, celebrating all things awesome with Mega Man 2. Here is our review.

Mega Man Refined

Mega Man is a franchise that Capcom would rather forget, it seems. To put it in perspective, Nintendo appears to be doing more with the series by including Mega Man in the next Super Smash Bros. games than Capcom is currently doing. Fortunately, Capcom isn't entirely turning its collective back on the Blue Bomber, as they are releasing his classic games on the Wii U's Virtual Console service. One of the most celebrated titles of all Mega Man's multiple series and spin-offs is Mega Man 2. Come see why it certainly deserves its due credit.

It takes some fancy footwork
to stay on that rotating gear!
For those who have no idea what the Mega Man series is all about (have you been living under a rock[man] for the past two decades?), each classic Mega Man game (save for the first) pits the Blue Bomber against eight Robot Masters. You, the player, are allowed to choose which order you wish to take their levels and concluding boss fights on. This was a huge innovation way back when, but the innovation actually doesn't end there either.

Defeat Metal Man...
Each Robot Master (boss of each level) has a weakness to another Robot Master's special primary weapon. As Mega Man defeats a given Robot Master, he copies their ability, allowing him to use that weapon in and out of boss battles, including the severely overpowered Metal Blade. For instance, Heat Man is weak to Bubble Man's special weapon, and if Mega Man uses it on him, Heat Man will go down in a handful of hits. While there is a recommended order of levels for beginning players to follow (the best order starts off with the Robot Master that is the easiest to eliminate with Mega Man's default weapon), expert players can make the game harder by going out of order, or even taking on every Robot Master with only Mega Man's default weapon. use his Metal Blade
as Mega Man.
Each Robot Master stage has its own obstacles, enemies, hazards, setting and theme. Air Man's stage is completely above the clouds and in the sky. You must jump from cloud to cloud, mechanical monster head to mechanical monster head, all the while always being threatened with a bottomless pit under you for careless players to fall into. Meanwhile, Crash Man's level has you riding on platforms that ride along an lined path. You need to stay on it while shooting down enemies, which wish to knock you back to the ground below. Lastly, Quick Man's stage is a nightmare without Flash Man's time-stopping ability. You have to think quick (pun intended) on your two blue feet as you try to evade giant killer laser beams otherwise.  

Whatever you do--
Don't look down!
There are generally a few checkpoints per level, so death doesn't mean you have to replay the entire level over again like many games of the 8-bit era would punish you with. Don't get me wrong-- Mega Man 2 is still challenging, even with the comfort of checkpoints. Still, even if you do lose of all your lives, you can continue your game from the stage select screen. Previous Robot Masters defeated will still be gone. If the normal difficulty isn't doing it for you, you can always play on Difficult mode. Enemies deal out more damage, and the game is just even harder than usual. 

These foes will put the screws into Mega Man.
Mega Man 2 is a much improved game over its predecessor. For one, it's a longer game, featuring eight Robot Masters to defeat instead of just the six from the original Mega Man. This is a feature that future Mega Man games would have. Another aspect of Mega Man 2 that would live on are Energy Tanks. Mega Man can collect and hold onto up to four at a time. These restore his health completely when used, so they're without a doubt usually hidden well. 

Wood Man's stage occurs in this
unfriendly forest setting.
Perhaps my only beefs with Mega Man 2-- something that I know might disturb some fans of the game, as many find the game to be perfect-- are very small ones. For one, after you have finished a level and beaten the Robot Master, you can't return to that stage. I'd love to be able to replay levels without having to start the game over again. One annoyance occurs with a boss in Wily's Castle stages. It requires you to use the Crash Bomb to defeat several targets. If you mess up and run out of weapon energy, you have to grind outside the boss door for energy. Very vexing. Lastly, and this deals with the performance of the game, there is a lot of sprite flickering when there's more than a few sprites on screen at the same time. Thankfully, this is but an aesthetic issue, however, and has nothing to do with the gameplay.

Surrounded but not surrendering!
Mega Man 2 is a short experience, giving players a brief experience around 2-3 hours total. However, it's a game that you'll want to play through again and again. It's that good. My minor beefs aside with the game, Mega Man 2 delivers a challenging platforming with enough action that has kept players coming back for over two decades now. The addition of restore points in the Wii U Virtual Console version means even the worst player can get through the game with some patience and determination. Mega Man, you rock.

[SPC Says: 9.5/10]