Saturday, August 31, 2013

Review Round-Up - August 2013

Even Alph and Brittany enjoyed a day at
the beach for the last full month of summer.
It was hot and heavy month for SuperPhillip Central! We reviewed nine games total, and had two special review-specific segments. Let's run through the reviews, shall we? It's a monthly tradition, after all. We began with a mini-game compilation from Wario's wicked mind, Game & Wario (7.0). We then loaded up our Walther PPKs only to be disappointed by 007 Legends (4.25). Then we moved onto a pair of games that both got a score of 6.0, Project X Zone and Smash Bowling 3D. Just remember that even though they got the same score, they don't hold the same weight. You can't really fairly compare a crossover strategy game with a bowling title! Next up, Mega Man came charging in with the classic Mega Man 2 (9.5). The Year of Luigi continued with New Super Luigi U, which leaped its way into an 8.5. Mega Man wasn't done afterwards, as he returned for our review of Mega Man 3 (9.5). Our GotM, Pikmin 3, earned itself a tremendous 9.5. Earlier this evening we saw Luke fon Fabre and the gang's game, Tales of the Abyss, get a 7.0. Lastly, we had the return of both SPC Quickies and One-Sentence Reviews!

Next month is sure to continue our reviewing momentum, with reviews of games like BioShock Infinite, Rayman Legends, Mario & Luigi: Dream Team, and many more!

Game & Wario (Wii U) - 7.0
007 Legends (Wii U, PS3, 360, PC) - 4.25
Project X Zone (3DS) - 6.0
Smash Bowling 3D (3DSWare) - 6.0
Mega Man 2 (NES, Wii U VC, 3DS VC) - 9.5
New Super Luigi U (Wii U) - 8.5
Mega Man 3 (NES, Wii U VC, 3DS VC) - 9.5
Pikmin 3 (Wii U) - 9.5
Tales of the Abyss (3DS) - 7.0

SPC Quickies - Volume Twelve
One-Sentence Reviews - Volume Four

And since the weather was so hot,
Luigi and friends went for a swim.

BLTN Reviews: Tales of the Abyss (3DS) Review

BLTN? What does that stand for? Bulletin? No, it stands for Better Late Than Never, as in reviews of games too recent to be retro reviewed and too old to be all-new reviews. Today's subject is Tales of the Abyss for the Nintendo 3DS.

Not abyss-mal, but not great either.

The Tales franchise has mostly held up residence on PlayStation platforms. The latest in the series, Tales of Xillia, has found nice success overseas and a recent release on this side of the Pacific. Still, Nintendo platform owners haven't been completely starved of Tales content. The Wii saw a sequel to one of the most popular Tales entries, Tales of Symphonia, and even saw an exclusive entry in the series with Tales of Graces, though the Wii original never made it out of Japan, but saw a remake on the PlayStation 3 which did. Last year, Nintendo 3DS owners received a port of Tales of the Abyss, a 2005-2006 PlayStation 2 game. Does this port do the original justice? Is it worth a double dip?

Ever since he was kidnapped seven years ago and subsequently lost all of his memories, protagonist Luke fon Fabre, son of the king and queen of Kimlasca-Lanvaldear, is kept under close surveillance, confined to the castle. This isolation has made him a bit of a snotty brat-- okay, he idles on being a snotty brat. One day a mysterious woman breaks into the castle, starting a series of events that takes Luke into the center of a conflict between two kingdoms and ultimately the fate of the world. The story is a mess of gibberish terms that are repeated over and over again, the cast of characters are some of the most obnoxious I've ever had the displeasure of playing as, and starting out, Luke is insufferable with his selfishness.The writers attempt to use his naivete from being isolated and thrust into the world not knowing anything for humor, but these segments just fall flat and aren't funny. Everything else is your standard series of anime conventions wrapped up in a sheet of cliches, whether they be in the main story or through optional skits.

Mieu will test a lot of players' patience.
Speaking of conventions, Tales of the Abyss doesn't stray far from what is expected of a JRPG. You explore towns, dungeons, and the world map as you progress the story. Towns house multiple denizens that will speak their peace, shops are available to load up on gear and items, and inns allow Luke's party to get some much needed R&R. Dungeons possess puzzles to solve, either through normal means or interacting with the environment with the abilities of Mieu, a high-pitched mascot for the game. Enemy encounters in dungeons and the world map do not happen randomly. When a monster comes in contact with Luke, a battle commences. Depending on if Luke's party gets blindsided by having a monster run into Luke on the map from behind, the cast involved in the battle will be shaken up.

Luke at the old fishin' hole.
Every JRPG that is worthwhile possesses an entertaining battle system. After all, if the combat isn't up to par, what is normally the most exciting part of a JRPG, then what is the point of playing it? Thankfully, Tales of the Abyss satisfies with its combat system. Similar to what was seen in Tales of Symphonia, the combat in Tales of the Abyss takes place in real time, with the player taking control of one of the four active party members. One can attack, block, use skills (whether they be offensive or defensive), and utilize a number of commands via calling up a menu. Unlike Symphonia, however, Tales of the Abyss has a free run ability, letting a character run with absolute freedom around the battlefield. Also, Abyss has a much improved camera system that zooms out when party members are apart, showing all of them on screen at the same time.

Guy carves up some enemy fodder.
AD Skills are skills that be equipped and removed at the player's beck and call. These skills are learned as items called Capacity Cores are used. These give Luke and his party statistical upgrades when they gain experience levels. As specific statistics reach high levels, new AD Skills are learned.

In battle, these skills and magic have certain elemental effects that can be used to players' advantage. Using multiple skills and magic of the same element will build power in a circle on the battlefield, known as the Field of Fonons. When charged up, a party member can use a skill that is the exact element of the circle to unleash a powerful attack. Enemies can also use this tactic to their advantage. Powerful attacks don't end there either, as party members and enemies can use Over Limit, nerfing damage and increasing their attack capabilities to surprising and devastating levels. A Mystic Arte, a character's most damaging skill, to turn the tide of battle. Nonetheless, a lot of battles still end up to mindless button-mashing, a common problem for the Tales series that is unresolved with Tales of the Abyss.

Turn the tides of battle with
a well timed attack.
While this game offers many new concepts, a good deal of familiar elements of the Tales series live on in Tales of the Abyss. For instance, after each battle you are given a grade, points that are used during New Game+ to purchase helpful bonuses like double experience and having a party's stats carry over. Characters can also earn titles from engaging in specific events (usually optional) throughout the game. Lastly, players can come across unique recipes through doing some exploring, which allows them to cook food for the party, creating helpful healing items for in and out of battle.

Say "Cheese!"
Tales of the Abyss on the Nintendo 3DS looks about the same as the PlayStation 2 original, and that's not a bad thing at all. Sure, the graphics are a little long in the tooth in some parts, but overall the game looks and runs great. The frame-rate is solid, which couldn't be said of the PS2 game. However, the advertised 3D effect is poorly executed and will can make for some literal headaches. Objects that should be popped out fall to the back, and there's a hefty case of ghosting involved. The voice acting is the same as the PS2 version, which is unfortunate, as the skits (which there are numerous) are still completely lacking voicework. The fact that you can't hit a button to speed them along made me just not engage in them altogether. Meanwhile, the music is actually largely forgettable. Only the battle themes and some of the town themes remain in my memory. It's one of Motoi Sakuraba's weaker, more phoned-in soundtracks.

Some areas are still breathtaking.
As it stands, Tales of the Abyss on the Nintendo 3DS is a tough recommendation to make for those who have already played the PlayStation 2 original. The biggest inclusion and selling point, the stereoscopic 3D, actually makes the game look worse. Still, if you can tolerate the abhorrent cast, anime cliches, and mediocre story, there is a fun RPG with a terrific battle system to be had on a handheld that doesn't have a large number of them yet.

[SPC Says: 7.0/10]

Friday, August 30, 2013

Pikmin 3 (Wii U) Review

As promised, here is the second review of this lovely (but hot) Friday. It's Pikmin 3 for the Wii U, and it's as great to play as it to look at. Plus, this review isn't some out-of-place commentary on Wii U sales, so that's a plus, too.

Fun is in Bloom

Pikmin fans have been patiently waiting for the third installment of the series to arrive for a long time now. It's almost been a decade since Pikmin 2 came out on the Nintendo GameCube. As Shigeru Miyamoto once said, "A delayed game is eventually good, but a bad game is bad forever." That philosophy went into the development of Pikmin 3, having the game delayed multiple times throughout its creation. The final product is at last here and on the Wii U. It is with pleasure I say that Pikmin 3 was well worth the wait.

The planet Koppai is in desperate need of food, so they send off three different inhabitants of the planet, the Captain Charlie, his faithful partner Alph, and a botanist named Brittany to explore a mysterious planet they call PNF-404. However, the landing doesn't go as smoothly as they expected, and their ship crash lands, separating the three from one another. Eventually coming across a helpful group of plant-like creatures known as Pikmin, Alph and Brittany (who meet up early in the game) decide to use their new friendly army to carry the life-saving fruit that PNF-404 possesses while searching for Captain Charlie.

Let's vogue, Pikmin pals!
There are five unique Pikmin types in Pikmin 3, and they join Alph, Brittany, and Charlie's side as the game progresses. Red Pikmin are resistant to fire and are excellent fighters, taking off the most damage when working together on a creature. Yellow Pikmin are immune to electricity, can be thrown higher than other Pikmin, and can be used as a conduit to turn on the lights in dark caverns. The group of Pikmin that joins the three PNF-404 explorers are the Blue Pikmin. These Pikmin can move underwater and need not fear drowning. There are two new types of Pikmin that join the ensemble, Rock and Flying Pikmin. While Rock Pikmin are great at taking down crystallized objects and enemies, Flying Pikmin are great at taking down airborne enemies and can fly over bodies of water.

Yellow Pikmin are also the fastest diggers.
They could be great archaeologists!
You'll need those different types of Pikmin, too. The bountiful amounts of fruit that lay about in the various areas of Pikmin 3 cannot be carried by Alph, Brittany or Charlie. Instead, they need to be carried back to the ship by Pikmin. At the end of each day, the fruit that is picked up is juiced and is turned into rations for the Koppai crew. If there is no juice left at the end of a day, it is game over. However, it's very easy to find fruit-- especially when an upgrade is given, allowing players to see where hidden fruit is located on each map-- so this danger doesn't really show itself as a serious threat that often. Besides fruit, Pikmin can carry back pellets and enemy carcasses to spawn more Pikmin to command!

The spoils of war.
Time management is key in Pikmin 3, as each day is timed and only allows for around fifteen minutes of exploration. When it turns dark, and if there are Pikmin that are idle (i.e. not near the starting point of an area or with one of the three Koppai denizens), they will be eaten as night falls. It's all about maximizing your days to be as efficient as possible to get the most done. Part of the fun of Pikmin 3 is seeing how much work you can get done in a single day, and to see how many days it takes you to beat the game. Pikmin 3 is the type of title that you want to play through more than once, just to see how much faster you can complete the game, and with as few Pikmin deaths as possible.

Split up your duties for maximum efficiency.
To help with efficiency, Alph, Brittany and Charlie can be separated at any time. With a press of a button, characters can be switched between, each containing their own horde of Pikmin. Of course, the same rule of past Pikmin games that only 100 Pikmin total can be on a map at the same time still exists with this third iteration. Using the map and assigning Alph, Brittany or Charlie to destinations with the "go here" command, allows the characters to move automatically to a given location without input from the player. Just be sure there's no hazards or creatures in their planned path. Thankfully, a character in trouble will announce his or her danger to the player so they can quickly switch to that character's Pikmin party.

And the wall comes tumbling down.
At first, I wasn't very effective with my Pikmin army. I generally kept them all together in one group for fear of losing wayward Pikmin. However, as the game continued and I picked up new strategies, I was more comfortable multitasking. For instance, while Alph's Pikmin posse worked on destroying a dirt wall to the north, I had Brittany's Pikmin party taking out enemies to clear the way for Charlie's Pikmin group to carry a fruit back to the ship. By that time, Alph's group had finished off working on the dirt wall for us to make progress with all three Pikmin parties. Learning how to maximize the efforts between all three characters is really rewarding. While one group uses fragments to build a bridge, another can be working on destroying an electrical wall on the opposite side of the map. The three Koppai companions can toss one another across gaps and to higher land to venture through otherwise inaccessible areas. This adds even more to the immense exploration in the game.

Chuck Pikmin to Brittany's side
of the map to help her out.
There are plenty of dangerous creatures that would love nothing more than to gobble down the delicious-looking Pikmin they spot. Thankfully, Alph, Brittany and Charlie have strength in numbers. Taking on a bulborb creature with one Pikmin is pretty much suicide for that unfortunate Pikmin. Instead, you can move behind the enemy, and either toss multiple Pikmin on its back or lock on to the target and have all of your Pikmin charge the foe, making short work of it. With some enemies it's wise to take them out with one specific Pikmin type, such as an electrified enemy, while some just require some brute force. Learning the best way to take down a creature is paramount in the world of Pikmin 3.

Lock on and beat down.
Along the Pokkai inhabitants' journey, they will come across several bosses that must be dealt with. These encounters are some of the most fun in series history. Each demands the player to experiment with using their different Pikmin types to come up with the best strategy to take down the creature in question. For instance, the first boss, an armored centipede of sorts is invulnerable while it has its shell on. Thankfully, that shell is made of crystal, perfect for Rock Pikmin to smash. Once its flesh has been exposed, the player can toss Red Pikmin on the boss to wither its health down. A defeated boss usually opens the way to an entirely new area. One benefit of Pikmin 3 is that if you run out of daylight during a boss encounter, when you return to the fight the next day, the boss will still be at the same amount of health it was at the day before. This is a wonderful addition to the series that makes for less headaches.

Open wide! ...Actually, wait.
Don't do that!
Speaking of areas, Pikmin 3 possesses five to fully explore. While that number might not seem like a lot, these different areas of the game are much larger than what was seen in past Pikmin titles. They contain multiple secrets, pathways, challenges, puzzles, and fruit to obtain. Alph, Brittany and Charlie will visit tropical jungles, icy tundras, autumn woods, and grassy plains in their search for fruit. There are even areas that can't be reached through normal means.

Twilight River is a gorgeous location.
As for the controls of Pikmin 3, there are multiple options to play, such as solely with the Wii U GamePad, one has you using the Pro Controller, or you can use the combination of the Wii Remote and Nunchuk, a style that should be familiar to those who played the New Play Control versions of Pikmin 1 and 2 on the Wii. This latter control setup was the one I used. In conjunction with the Wii Remote and Nunchuk, I used the Wii U GamePad's screen as my map. This combination made assigning orders, seeing where straggling Pikmin were, and knowing where to go all the easier and more convenient. With the Wii Remote, you can point to where you wish to throw Pikmin for a much more precise experience.

Meanwhile, the Wii U GamePad and Pro Controller controls aren't exactly like the GameCube versions. The second stick actually does camera movement this time around instead of circling your Pikmin around your current character. Instead, you have to hold a shoulder button while using the left analog stick to aim where to throw your Pikmin. This is confusing at first, but once you're accustomed to this new control setup, it will become second nature. It just won't replace the near perfection and ease of use of using the Wii Remote and Nunchuk. Still, there's a problem with needing to babysit straggling Pikmin regardless of which control setup you use. Get too far ahead of Pikmin, and they will walk into walls, becoming idle. This can get annoying tracking down stragglers only because it takes time away from doing other, more important tasks.

Depending on how fast you are and how efficient your day-planning is in Pikmin 3, the total time it will take to beat the game will vary. For me, it took 42 game days and around 17 hours of gameplay time. The nice thing about days is that you can restart them mid-day, and you can even choose to go back to previous days. Of course, if you save, the events that occurred during the subsequent days will be like they never happened, so do be careful.

Alongside the single player story mode, there are two other modes to enjoy. The first is Challenge mode, where one or two players can try out different missions on five specially-made maps. The goals are either to collect as much treasure as possible, defeat as many enemies as possible, or to defeat a boss as quickly as possible. Best scores are shared via the internet so players can see where they stack up against the world.

The other mode is for two players and is a competitive one, Bingo Battle. Available in twelve unique maps (each needing to be unlocked by playing the previous one), Bingo Battle tasks each player with defeating enemies or taking treasure to fill squares on their bingo sheet. Get four filled-in squares in any direction and you are the winner. The only unfortunate part about Bingo Battle is that there is no online multiplayer, something that would have been perfect and not system-demanding for players around the world to enjoy this mode. As it stands, you can only enjoy Bingo Battle locally, which a darn shame.

Pikmin and Bingo? A match made in heaven.
Pikmin 3 uses a lot of visual effects to make an overall excellent looking game. The shimmer of water is very impressive, the lighting effects and reflections off objects and characters is tremendous, and the ability to have 100 different Pikmin moving on screen at the same time without any slowdown is nothing short of incredible. Using the KopPad, picked up early within the game, players can even take first-person shots in-game. This is a sensationally addicting feature, allowing players to post their pics on Miiverse. Of course, being in first-person it's easy to notice that the ground textures aren't that hot. Still, when you're normally playing the game with a zoomed out camera angle, they aren't an issue visually at all. Meanwhile, the music is suitably ambient and works well, featuring subdued instrumentation and melodies. Ultimately, Pikmin 3 is a fantastic title to look at, and it shows that the Wii U can indeed push some impressive graphics.

Use the KopPad to create some lovely shots.
It's safe to say, to me, Pikmin 3 is the best entry in the series yet. The original Pikmin was too short, while Pikmin 2 was too overwhelming at times. Pikmin 3 strikes a nice balance between the two extremes, making for a game that many will probably want to play through more than once. The addition of three team members to split up responsibilities means that players can experiment and use different strategies to get the most out of each day. Losing Pikmin is just an inconvenience, but somehow you truly feel bad when you lose even one, much more half your army to one enemy attack. Pikmin 3 is another Miyamoto masterpiece that's not quite perfect, but it certainly comes close.

[SPC Says: 9.5/10]

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

There's actually going to be two more reviews for the month of August. The second will be here this evening. For now, the first is a retro review of Mega Man 3. I previously tackled Mega Man 2 and gave it a 9.5. Will Mega Man 3 surpass that score? Find out with this review.

Refined Mega Man Refined

The battle that has raged on for decades... No, I'm not talking about Mega Man versus Dr. Wily, I'm referring to which Mega Man is the best-- Mega Man 2 or Mega Man 3. No doubt Mega Man 2 refined the formula and set the foundation for future games, introducing many concepts that successors of the series would implement. However, I'm of the opinion that Mega Man 3 just edges past Mega Man 2 and is the truly excellent Mega Man game.

This is no shot of The Brady Bunch,
that's certainly for sure!
If you're familiar with Mega Man, then you know the score. Dr. Wily's doing something sinister, and it's up to Mega Man to stop him. The beauty of the Mega Man series is that you start off on a menu of eight Robot Masters, and you get total freedom of choice on which one's level you want to play first. The Robot Master stages are generally longer excursions than what was found in Mega Man 2, but the amount of checkpoints makes it so death doesn't mean repeating a long stretch of level all over again. Most levels rarely follow a trope. There is seldom the token water level, forest level, and so forth. Instead, you get levels like Snake Man's that is some atypical area full of platforms, walls, ceilings and floors that have the texture of snakeskin.

In a moment, this mechanical
menace will be hiss-tory.
When you do reach the Robot Master's quarters, things work just like every other Mega Man game. For the easiest time against the boss (and since their patterns are more complicated, these battles are anything but "easy"), Mega Man needs to use the special weapon that that Robot Master is weak against. As a Robot Master is defeated, Mega Man absorbs their signature weapon, able to use it freely in levels and in boss battles, as long as he has the available energy. If you want a real challenge, you can perform tasks like facing each Robot Master out of their intended order, or battle them with only Mega Man's arm cannon.

Mega Man goes all ninja on Spark Man.
After the initial eight Robot Master stages are completed, one would think that the way to Dr. Wily's castle would be open. That isn't the case. Instead, you get a choice of four levels based off four of the previously defeated Robot Masters in remodeled levels based off of them. Each level has two boss encounters, both being old haunts from Mega Man 2 in a new body. This plus the original eight Robot Master levels and Wily's castle levels make for a lengthy adventure that doesn't outwear its welcome.

You spin me right 'round!
Mega Man 3 included some new additions to the franchise that lived on through subsequent sequels. The most prominent are two new characters, Mega Man's canine counterpart Rush and Mega Man's brother Proto Man. Rush can help Mega Man with three transformations: the Rush Coil, the Rush Jet, and the Rush Marine. The latter is only used one time or so for underwater exploration. Meanwhile, the Rush Coil propels Mega Man into the air, allowing him to reach higher platforms and locations. Lastly, the Rush Jet grants Mega the ability to ride on Rush, safely letting him cross large expanses. However, just like the special weapons, each Rush ability will only work as long as Mega Man has weapon energy.

Thanks for the lift, Rush!
Speaking of weapons, in Mega Man 2 the Metal Blades were seriously overpowered. You could march through the game, taking out enemies with them without breaking much of a sweat. In Mega Man 3 the weapon balance is much improved. No one weapon really is superior than the next. They all serve their purpose for each situation that Mega Man finds himself involved in. That level of balancing continues with the difficult of the game. In Mega Man 2 (are you sick of me comparing that game to this one yet?) there were two choices of difficulty. One was too easy and the other was too hard. There was no middle ground. Mega Man 3 fixes that with one difficulty that has just the right amount of challenge to it to make it a fun, tough, and engaging play.

Mega Man doesn't hate to burst
anyone's bubbles.
There are some quips I have with Mega Man 3, though. Much like with the original NES version of Mega Man 2, in Mega Man 3 there are points in the game where more action than the game can handle happens. In these cases, not only does the Mega Man sprite flicker, but the game can even slow down quite noticeably. This can make the time to dodge a foe's attack all the more aggravating.

So much for showing some brotherly love.
Mega Man 3 is a tremendous entry in the Mega Man franchise. It might not have had the same level of impact that Mega Man 2 had, but as a game it definitely rivals its predecessor in many aspects and comes up short in others. Mega Man 3 possesses better weapon balancing, great additions like the slide ability, Rush and Proto Man, and it has a difficulty that is more even. Despite the technical issues that bring the game down a little bit, Mega Man 3 is still a title that should be recommended playing for any gamer serious about their hobby.

[SPC Says: 9.5/10]

Thursday, August 29, 2013

New Super Luigi U (Wii U) Review

Available in both downloadable form (as of June) and now retail form (as of late this month), New Super Luigi U gives everyone's favorite green-clothed plumber some more time in the spotlight. What's that, Mario? You getting jealous? Why, you're turning so green with envy, you're starting to look like your brother! Anyway, here's SuperPhillip Central's review of New Super Luigi U.

It Ain't Easy Being Green,
But It Sure Is Fun.

When the Wii U was released back in November of last year, New Super Mario Bros. U was a heavily popular launch title among purchases. Nintendo had promised some form of downloadable content in the near future. Well, the near future is upon us, and instead of creating packs of three levels like New Super Mario Bros. 2 on the Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo has created what is essentially a brand-new game. With Mario out of the picture, Luigi is the star of his own platforming adventure, New Super Luigi U. (It is the Year of Luigi, after all!) While folks with a copy of New Super Mario Bros. U could download the game for twenty dollars in June, the retail version of the game was released this past week-- one that could be purchased for New Super Mario Bros. U-less Wii U owners or collectors like myself. Does New Super Luigi U add enough content to justify its price tag?

In a word, yes. New Super Luigi U has the exact same plot of New Super Mario Bros. U, and a similar opening cinematic. The only difference is that Mario is nowhere in sight, so it's Luigi's turn to save the princess from the fearsome Bowser, who has taken over Peach's castle. There's one more similarity, and that's the world map. Everything remains unchanged on that front.

A thorn in my side since the original
Super Mario Bros.-- the Hammer Brother.
New Super Luigi U isn't downloadable content that simply rearranges levels. No, the developers have crafted incredibly made new levels to test players' skills. If you thought New Super Mario Bros. U was too easy of a game, New Super Luigi U's first world is about as challenging as New Super Mario Bros. U's fourth world, and it only gets crazier from there. By the ninth world, you will be running through 1-ups like toilet paper to a man with diarrhea. Sorry for the mental picture.

Why the long faces?
Every level in the game gives you only 100 seconds to work with, meaning you don't have much time to dilly-dally around. That said, the levels are much briefer affairs than New Super Mario Bros. U's. That's a good thing, too. Levels in New Super Luigi U have zero checkpoints, much more fiendish star coin locations, hard secret exit spots (all secret exits are located in the same levels as in NSMBU) and a level of challenge that 2D Mario fans haven't seen since the Japanese version of Super Mario Bros. 2. The risk of death is much greater, and the fast levels make having to replay them much less of a hassle. It's also terrific for playing in short bursts.

Give those Piranha Plants a
taste of their own medicine.
A part of the challenge is how Luigi, his two Toad counterparts and the all-new playable character Nabbit (more on him later) control compared to their New Super Mario Bros. U counterparts. They can jump much higher and get extra hang time in the air. However, each character's momentum will have them putting on the brakes noticeably slower than NSMBU's physics. This can make those death-defying leaps all the more intense.

Luigi's just showing off now.
Another aspect of challenge concerns multiplayer. New Super Luigi U wasn't really built for four players. There's far too many thin platforms and jumps that require pixel perfect (or is it polygon perfect?) precision. This can be hard (and quite frustrating) to have a group try to make jumps only to have someone jump off another player's head and bounce into the abyss, or push another player into the lava. Even with two players the game can have some truly tricky spots. Still, players are able to freely enter a bubble at any time to stay out of the way of harm, but this can be abused to make New Super Luigi U easier than intended. Don't disgrace yourself and your friends by doing this. If there is no dignity, then there is no honor-- or something like that.

There's not much real estate to
work with here for four players.
New Super Luigi U is a devious game in difficulty, so some might be curious as to whether or not the game would be suitable for younger children and family members to play. This is where the fourth playable character comes in, Nabbit. Nabbit is unlike Luigi, Yellow Toad and Blue Toad. He can only lose a life by being crushed, falling down a pit, or touching lava or poisoned water. He can run through enemies without taking damage. Nabbit cannot pick up objects or use items. He simply grabs them and puts them in his burlap sack. How ever many he nabs will grant him several 1-ups at the end of a given level.

I'm guessing someone doesn't
want us in this tower.
New Super Luigi U delivers something that a lot of Mario fans have been desiring for a long time-- a 2D Mario platformer that is tough to beat. Technically, this isn't a 2D Mario game, but a 2D Luigi game, so theoretically Mario fans are still waiting. In all seriousness, New Super Luigi U is a great game to play in small sessions, but also nice for long playing periods. You can make a hefty amount of progress in a few short hours. The levels are magnificently designed, the level of challenge is high but fair, and the option to play as Nabbit allows a type of accessibility so all can enjoy this downloadable content turned retail package. As the tagline of this review reads, "It ain't easy being green, but it sure is fun."

[SPC Says: 8.5/10]

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

One-Sentence Reviews - Volume Four

We have gotten a lot of good feedback regarding this segment. You'd wonder why it's been over a year since we've last done it, then, wouldn't you! It's One-Sentence Reviews, where we take thirty games and try to summarize our thoughts about them and criticize them in one sentence. Sure, we occasionally do a run-on sentence here and there, but that's all right. Some of these games listed have already had in-depth reviews, and many of the games will be reviewed with more detail later. Regardless, let's jump right into this and enjoy ourselves, shall we?

"While nowhere near the game of the generation, The Last of Us is an epic thrill ride from beginning to end." The Last of Us (PS3)

"Columbia is such an awesome place to explore, and the gameplay of BioShock Infinite is a step up from so many others of the competition." BioShock Infinite (PS3, 360, PC)

"Featuring some pretty sensational set pieces, puzzles, and action, this prequel to the God of War trilogy is an adrenaline rush most of the time." God of War: Ascension (PS3)

"Questionable Dante design change aside, DmC: Devil May Cry is an uptempo action game that will get the player's palms sweaty for sure." DmC: Devil May Cry (PS3, 360, PC)

"Forget Resident Evil 6, Revelations is the game that deserves that name and the accolades." Resident Evil: Revelations (Wii U, PS3, 360, PC)

"The inclusion of a casual mode allows the latest Fire Emblem to be accessible to all player skill levels, making it one of our favorite installments." Fire Emblem: Awakening (3DS)

"Most mini-game collections lack depth, but Nintendo Land not has depth, but it is an excellent showcase of both the Wii U GamePad and the asymmetrical gameplay of the system." Nintendo Land (Wii U)

"Our favorite Wii U game, LEGO City Undercover is packed with content, things to do on every street corner, and a story with humor that branches all ages." LEGO City Undercover (Wii U)

"We hesitate to say how incredibly great Xenoblade Chronicles is because it will just make those without the game feel bad (and have to pay through the nose to get a copy)." Xenoblade Chronicles (Wii)

"Featuring some great track design, terrific retro track choices, kart customization, and all-new gliding and underwater sections, the latest Mario Kart is a tour de force for kart racers." Mario Kart 7 (3DS)

"Containing ultra-repetitive gameplay and missions that really outwear their welcome, Project X Zone isn't the dream crossover game we were hoping for." Project X Zone (3DS)

"Shooting and loot makes for a marvelously addicting time, and Borderlands 2 is just that." Borderlands 2 (PS3, 360, PC)

"While Grand Theft Auto IV moved more towards realism to a detriment of that game, Saints Row: The Third simply got even more off the wall and crazy, and that was a truly good thing." Saints Row: The Third (PS3, 360, PC)

"Platinum Games makes dicing and slicing through enemies (and watermelons) an absolute blast in this high octane action game." Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance (PS3, 360, PC)

"Perhaps the only strong points of Final Fantasy XIII are the excellent soundtrack and graphics." Final Fantasy XIII (PS3, 360)

"Taking the franchise from Bungie and making it their own was no easy task, but 343 Industries managed to create a stellar entry in the Halo franchise." Halo 4 (360)

"A great kart racer that is only marred by technical issues and certain tracks being difficult to ascertain where you need to go." Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed (Wii U, PS3, 360, PC, 3DS, PSV)

"It took 300 hours of gameplay before we got a little burned out on this game, so that should tell you exactly how great and addicting Animal Crossing: New Leaf really is." Animal Crossing: New Leaf (3DS)

"Possessing RPG elements, a wonderful selection of some of the greatest video game music ever, and addicting gameplay, Theatrhythm Final Fantasy is one of our favorite rhythm games of all time." Theatrhythm Final Fantasy (3DS)

"Showcasing the greatness of the Wii MotionPlus, Wii Sports Resort features excellent motion controls and fun for the whole family." Wii Sports Resort (Wii)

"A game that starts out really slowly, Harvest Moon 3D eventually peps up and creates for the player one of the grandest Harvest Moon experiences to date on any platform." Harvest Moon 3D: A New Beginning (3DS)

"A great collector's item and a fun interpretation of the classic Cave Story, Cave Story 3D is not a necessity to play, as the cheaper versions are just as fun." Cave Story 3D (3DS)

"The Wii U version of the game is the definitive version, due to it being the one that was cancelled." Aliens: Colonial Marines (PS3, 360, PC)

"The mission to create a competent Call of Duty game on the PlayStation Vita is an utter failure." Call of Duty: Black Ops - Declassified (PSV)

"This enhanced version of the overlooked Wii game, Muramasa: The Demon Blade, plays great, looks sensational, and has a good amount of content for solo players." Muramasa Rebirth (PSV)

"While this game started Dimps' fetish with throwing as many bottomless pits as possible into levels, Sonic Rush is a fast-paced platformer with great music." Sonic Rush (DS)

"A bigger and better game than its predecessor, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 introduced more zones, more challenge, and the addition of Tails." Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (GEN)

"It is nice seeing Mega Man in the 32-bit era, and he looks absolutely sensational (plays well, too)." Mega Man 8 (PS1, SAT)

"See the origins of the Metroid series in this game where the hallways are so similar it makes exploration incredibly challenging, and not in the good way." Metroid (NES)

"While no one can replace Mike Tyson, Mr. Dream's iteration of Punch-Out!! is just as difficult, engaging, and entertaining to play." Punch-Out!! Featuring Mr. Dream (NES)


If you'd like to take a look at past installments of One-Sentence Reviews, look no further than the following links:

Rayman Legends (Multi) Launch Trailer

After a year of waiting and a last-moment delay, Rayman Legends will finally be available to all major dedicated gaming platforms (save for the Nintendo 3DS). This trailer is one that pats the game's back with accolades, review scores and comments from the gaming press. Rayman Legends releases in North America this Tuesday for Wii U, PS3, 360, PC, and Vita.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Top Ten Open World Settings

We're fresh off the heels of the release of Saints Row IV, and many have fallen in love with the game. Of course, the big open world game is releasing in just a handful of weeks, Grand Theft Auto V. While we have a breather between those two games SuperPhillip Central has come up with a list of our favorite open world settings. These are ones that were a ton of fun to explore, ones we got absolute lost in (the good kind of lost), and ones that took our breaths away. Now, make note that these aren't necessarily the best-- they're simply our personal favorites. We hope this list is satisfactory, but if not, please set us straight in the comments section once you've read the rationale for our selections.

10) Willamette Mall - Dead Rising (360)

Many of the open worlds on this list will feature expansive areas. However, we're picking quality over quantity with this first pick, Willamette Mall from Dead Rising, one of the best Xbox 360 exclusives. What does one do in a town situated in Colorado that doesn't have much going for it? Why, you head to the mall for entertainment, and what a mall the quaint little town of Willamette has! If you can ignore the thousands of zombies eagerly awaiting to get a taste of your flesh, you can visit one of six unique areas (the North Plaza is under construction, so pardon the mess!), close to eighty incredible stores, a food court to give you that beer belly you've always been wanting, a movie theater (a great place for human sacrifices), and even a supermarket. Using every tool at Frank West's disposal, you could cut a swath through the zombie masses as you fought for your life to stay alive for that next news tip from Otis, to defeat that one nasty psychopath, or rescue that unlucky survivor. Willamette Mall has an immense amount of variety for such a [relatively] small space to work with. Who knew malls could be so much fun?

9) Stilwater - Saints Row 2 (PS3, 360, PC)

This pick might be favoritism, as it comes from one of our most loved GTA-inspired titles of the past two generations. It's Stilwater (that's with one "L") from Saints Row 2, offering a city of vices, gang activity, and crime. Fun for the whole family! Stilwater is divided up into two main islands, split up by a large river. The bottom half is where the player starts, and it is home to the titular Saints Row, contains decidedly lower-class buildings and communities, the airport, the stadium, and a refinery. Meanwhile, the top half of Stilwater encompasses a higher lifestyle with an urban skyscraper jungle in the central and eastern portions and suburban life in the western segments. Perhaps why we love Stilwater so much is because of the times we played online with friends and just screwed around, running into traffic, getting the po-po after us, and just going hog wild. Stilwater is truly a fun place.

8) Skyrim - The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (PS3, 360, PC)

Are you like us and have a strong resistance to frost? Then you will get along well with the Nords, the race of people that make up the majority of the population in the massive land of Skyrim. Skyrim is a region at the northmost point of the continent of Tamriel. It features a wide array of terrain, including frosty fjords, tundras, plains (mostly to the west), forests, and highlands. However, it's important to note that the majority of Skyrim is highly mountainous, featuring plenty of caverns, cliffs and other forms of verticality. Skyrim is full of interesting kingdoms, cities, and lesser towns to journey through, making coming across a new area all the more exciting. While Skyrim is, indeed, large, it can sometimes be a negative, as there is a lot of filler between points of interest. Still, the fine folks at Bethesda managed to create yet another engrossing world to explore.

7) Paradise City - Burnout Paradise (PS3, 360, PC)

Paradise City may be the site of Burnout Paradise, where the goal is to rev one's engine and race, but don't forget to take in the sites. Paradise City is split in two parts, the rural sections make up mountainous terrain in the west, and the urban sections make up the eastside of the city. These two sections are comprised of multiple districts, each with their own set of buildings and landmarks to separate themselves from the next. Those that might think that being a fast car will allow you to speed through all Paradise City has to offer in a few hours will be let known that their assumption is wrong. Paradise City spans approximately twenty-five square miles and over 200 miles of road. It's a playground for racing fans, Burnout Paradise's Paradise City is number seven on our list.

6) Bullworth - Bully (360, Wii, PC, PS2, XBX)

Bullworth is just your above average Northeastern coastal town, nestled in New Hampshire. There's of course Bullworth Academy, where Bully's protagonist Jimmy Hopkins struggles to get along with the faculty. There's the commercial district, full of sites to see, stores to shop, a fire station, a bank, a run-down movie theater, an off-limits porno shop, a comic book nook, a motel that the older set can stay for the night... or for an hour to do... grown-up things, and much more. Don't forget the prestigious Old Bullworth Vale, where the Preppies call their home. While Bullworth isn't the largest open world setting, it was absolutely enjoyable to ride around on Jimmy's bike, find rubber band collectibles, and just take in how perfectly Rockstar managed to convey a New England town.

5) Panau - Just Cause 2 (PS3, 360, PC)

The game world of the fictional island of Panau is a terrific open world sandbox setting, allowing players to tackle it any way they see fit. Some would make the option of doing anything impossible. While saying Just Cause 2's open world island allows literally anything possible is a faux pas, a lot can be done. The island has so many components to it: deserts, forests, a colorful city, arctic mountains, beaches, and if you get a bit dry parachuting off a skyscraper, oceans. Panau is a virtual playground where the goal is to create as much chaos as possible. You play Just Cause 2 your way on your terms, and exploring the massive isle of Panau will greatly give you that opportunity.

4) LEGO City - LEGO City Undercover (Wii U)

This selection will probably not be understood, as a lot of the gaming community does not have a Wii U. That's okay. Just let us explain. LEGO City is split up between two halves, much like Saints Row 2's Stilwater. However, instead of being split up horizontally, LEGO City is split up vertically in half. Regardless, there are a myriad amount of districts, each based off different cities around the globe. The first area of the game, Cherry Tree Hills, is heavily reminiscent of San Francisco, what, with its hills and cable car. There's the Times Square-esque Bright Lights Plaza, where we're sure they drop a LEGO stud on New Year's Eve rather than a ball. Then there's Fresco, a dead ringer for Venice, Italy. Nonetheless, that's not what makes LEGO City so great. What makes LEGO City so great is that there is literally something to do on every street corner, every block, every building, every rooftop. Secrets are everywhere, and while players just trying to beat the game and get LEGO City Undercover over with will overlook this, completionists will find an open world that is packed with content and a secret hidden behind every corner.

3) Liberty City - Grand Theft Auto IV (PS3, 360, PC)

There were many versions of Liberty City to sort through and figure out which we, as a group, figured would be the best representation of the New York City-inspired metropolis. We finally all agreed on Grand Theft Auto IV's interpretation, featuring the most elements from the Big Apple. This includes its four boroughs, its overreaching into a New Jersey-like area, a Statue of Liberty replacement, and so much more. While Grand Theft Auto IV felt like realism took over the steering wheel and shoved the former driver, fun, in a trunk, there is no denying just how fantastic and real the world of Grand Theft Auto IV feels. It's something few developers have been able to routinely do, and Rockstar North is one of those elite few.

2) Vice City - Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (PS2, PC, MAC, IOS)

We love the 80's. It's when Mario was born. It's when some of the greatest sitcoms of all time debuted. It's when some of the worst sitcoms of all time debuted. It's when some interesting music was created. Having an open world setting that took all the majesty and magic of the 80's and made it into a virtual city was no easy task, but if anyone was up to it, it was Rockstar North. They ultimately succeeded in a big way, delivering a Miami-like setting with cool cars, neon lights, and lots of frizzy hair. It was fun driving down the strip in a sports car with Hall and Oates blaring from the speakers. Vice City may be incredibly small in comparison to the other Grand Theft Auto worlds represented on this list, but it is certainly one of the most memorable ones.

1) San Andreas - Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (PS2, XBX, PC)

Here it is, our choice for our favorite open world setting. It's San Andreas from none other than Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Somehow Rockstar North managed to not make just one, not two, but three separate cities that were fully-realized. Creating just one city that is fun to explore and seems realistic enough to feel lived in is a monumental task, yet somehow, on PS2-level hardware, they managed three. If having a miniature Los Angeles, San Francisco and Las Vegas isn't enough, the expanses in between the grand metropolises have their own interesting topography, including mountains, forests, plains and deserts. While our Dead Rising pick had to do with quality over quantity, San Andreas delivers on both ends of the spectrum, showcasing a world that is an absolute blast to mess around in, take in the sites, and hunt after that ever-elusive Bigfoot. Is it any wonder why the upcoming and much hyped Grand Theft Auto V will be taking us back to part of San Andreas?