Friday, May 9, 2014

Mario Golf: World Tour (3DS) Review

We start our month of Nintendo 3DS-related reviews with Mario Golf: World Tour. It's a game that released exactly one week ago. Does Mario's latest golf outing score above or below par?

Camelot and Nintendo Get the Swing of Things Splendidly

Camelot Software Planning has made numerous tennis and golf games featuring Mario and the gang for Nintendo's platforms. It's been ever since the Nintendo 64 era. That's a long partnership! After a less than remarkable first go on the Nintendo 3DS with Mario Tennis Open, the developer Camelot didn't make it very easy to be optimistic about their second offering and the subject of this review, Mario Golf: World Tour. However, Camelot sinks their shot for an eagle, as Mario Golf: World Tour is not just the best in the Mario Golf series, but it's one of the best arcade golf games around.

Mario Tennis Open disappointed with its content, or lack thereof. The fine folks at Camelot must have heard the feedback surrounding their freshman 3DS offering, because Mario Golf: World Tour is rich with features. The Mario Golf mode is where you can participate in stroke play, match play, and attempt challenges in order to earn star coins. Each of the game's courses is represented by ten challenges apiece. These challenges range from passing the ball through all of the rings and scoring par or better, racing to complete three holes while a clock counts down, match play events against AI opponents (these unlock more powerful versions of the different roster members), collecting a certain number of coins within three holes, and trying to reach the target score within a nine-hole round.

For a princess, there's no such
thing as having too many rings.
As stated, for each challenge that is completed, a star coin is earned. As more and more star coins are gathered, new courses open up with ten more challenges and the ability to play the courses at your leisure.

In addition to the single player challenges, there's an entire mode dedicated to your Mii, Castle Club. In Castle Club, you start as a rookie golfer and progress through three 18-hole courses in order tpicking o earn the triple crown. The beginner-friendly Forest course presents players with small slopes and weak winds. Meanwhile, the intermediate course located in a tropical seaside setting introduces sand traps into the mix as well as more prevalent wind gusts. Finally, the last 18-hole course set in the mountains, where the risk of falling off is something to take note of, as are the gusty winds.

Castle Club may not be the RPG mode
fans were wanting, but it's still a fine addition.
World Tour successfully eases you into swing of things. As you play through the progressively more difficult courses, you're picking up on the little nuances the game contains and learning the basics of golf. The ability to leap into practice rounds in Castle Club allows your Mii to be designated with a handicap. At the start, you have a high handicap, removing plenty of strokes to your overall score. As you perform better, your handicap shrinks until you're actually getting strokes added to your score since you're such a pro!

For every round you complete (it's my estimation that all you need to do is complete three holes in succession), new gear is available for purchase in the Castle Club shop. There's various Mario series themed clubs, golf balls, visors, caps, shirts, pants, shorts, gloves, shoes, and more. Depending on what combination of gear you equip to your Mii, his or her stats will change. Of course, many pieces of gear share the same stats, so a lot of the time you choose gear based on looks in addition to function.

Clubs can affect if your shot draws, fades,
or is straight, how far you can drive, and more.
Additionally, Mario Golf: World Tour contains a rich array of multiplayer options. You can play locally with up to three other players, pending you all have a 3DS and a copy of the game. You can also hop online and play a round simultaneously with one another or through taking turns.

Though you may dress in Yoshi-themed attire,
there's no substitute for the real thing.
Tournaments are by far the coolest aspect of World Tour's online options. You can create and enter custom-made tournaments by players just like you. Set the rules (Mario only, stroke play, items on, etc.), set the course, and set how long the tournament goes on for. Nintendo also has tournaments going, and you can even earn otherwise inaccessible gear just for participating.

After you have unlocked some of the Mario-centric courses via the aforementioned challenges, you receive regular costume challenges. These give you nine holes to either beat a set time, collect a certain number of coins, or get a point total while using a slot machine to determine which clubs you are provided with. If a costume challenge is successfully completed, you earn a costume as a reward. Additionally, through accomplishing specific in-game goals, you earn costumes as well. All of these are designed after a Mario character or enemy.

The Mario-themed courses in general are the stars of Mario Golf: World Tour. They exude creativity, plus they're a blast to play. These courses are nine holes each, and possess some kind of course gimmick or gimmicks to them. For instance, DK Jungle has barrel cannons that will blast your ball across wide distances, making those par 5 holes easy to reach the green in two shots. Wiggler Park pits your pint-sized golfer against humongous Mario series enemies like Goombas, Koopa Troopas, Buzzy Beetles, and Piranha Plants. Meanwhile, in what must be a first for the sport, Cheep Cheep Lagoon is a course totally set underwater, containing its own special ball physics in the process.

Wiggler Park is without a doubt
one of my favorite courses.
To throw even more craziness into World Tour, items make their debut to the Mario Golf series with this installment. While the rules of a given round must allow items in order to have and use them, the rounds that do include items make World Tour a deliciously zany experience. The Fire Flower allows your ball to burn through heavy rough and vegetation as if they weren't even there. The Bullet Bill shoots the ball in a straight trajectory, whereas the Bob-Omb blasts the ball high into the air, perfect for collecting sky-high goodies.

Item boxes and coins litter the otherwise
spotless Peach Garden fairways.
It's true that there's plenty of wackiness to be found in Mario Golf: World Tour, but it's important to note that there's a really fine golf game lying underneath it all. Mario Golf: World Tour allows you to choose between two shot types. If you simply wish to set the power of your shots, you can choose Easy mode. Otherwise, you can set both the power and the spin of your shots with Manual mode. Both of these can be switched between on the fly mid-round. Regardless of which is selected, you're using the standard two or three click gauge system to determine power and precision.

Don't worry. This isn't like Super Mario 64
where Mario needs to come up for air!
When wanting to show some skill, added topspin or backspin allows your ball to either gain more yardage or stop much more quickly when it makes contact with the ground. Having a ball hit the green behind the pin, engage in backspin, making it roll backwards and arrive close to the hole is such an awesome feeling.

Ordinary characters with modest strength may not be able to land on a par 5 green in two most of the time, but their shots are much steadier. On the other hand, with more powerful characters and clubs, there's a higher level of risk and reward. It's much easier to miss the sweet spot and send your ball careening into a bunker or other undesirable location, so it's of the utmost importance to time your shot perfectly.

In this jungle, DK is truly
the king of swing.
There's also various factors to ponder about before simply gripping it and ripping it. Wind speed, wind direction, slope of the fairway, slope of the green, and so on are kind of necessary to consider (read: they are!).

When it comes to putting, you can be the greatest driver of the ball in the world, making Happy Gilmore look like one of the Gilmore Girls, but if you can't strut your stuff and putt well, then you're not going to get far in World Tour. Thankfully, putting is nowhere near as challenging as say, another arcade golf series that is a PlayStation exclusive. That's not to say you won't have your problem spots, but reading the green and successfully sinking putts (without needing to two or even three putt the darned ball) is a more reachable goal.

Uh. You guys are going to catch me, right?
There really is little to dislike about Mario Golf: World Tour. However, I feel the need to bring up some gripes I do have with the game. For one, some of the menus are rather confusing in how they are designed. There's no explanation as to how to unlock the Mario-themed courses, and if you're spending all your time in Castle Club mode, you're never going to find them. Furthermore, what I find a glaring omission in World Tour is the complete lack of being able to record and watch whenever you want your best shots. Got that impossible hole-in-one you really enjoyed getting? Well tough. You can't see it ever again.

A castle course fit for a king.
Besides those, in the grand scheme of things, minor beefs with the game, Mario Golf: World Tour nails the fundamentals of the sport, throws in enough Mario charm and eccentricities to distinguish it from the pack, and provides a copious amount of content for solo players. WARNING! Golf speak ahead! While Mario Golf: World Tour is not a hole-in-one, Camelot has designed a remarkable arcade golf game that should please fans of the Mario series and those who want a different kind of golfing experience. If you like golf and you like Mario, what are you waiting fore? Get Mario Golf: World Tour.

[SPC Says: 9.25/10]

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Miiquality and Tomodachi Life: Admirable Cause or Awful Controversy?

Nintendo seems to attract negativity to itself a lot these days. Whether it's the Wii U's abysmal sales, orders for the company's president to step down, have their games put on mobile devices, or go third-party, Nintendo really has the ire of a lot of people. That's not to say some of it is unwarranted.

The latest negativity comes from a Nintendo 3DS game that is releasing next month called Tomodachi Life. This is the first time the series is leaving Japan, so it should be a cause for celebration. However, there's a bit of controversy surrounding the game due to a Nintendo representative's comments on a certain modern-day issue-- same-sex marriage. This is not allowed in Tomodachi Life, and this has angered many.

Unfortunately, the gaming community in general seems to get outraged by pretty much everything these days. It gets to the point where it simply becomes noise in the background. It makes otherwise admirable causes become much weaker due to the constant amount of folks crying foul for anything and everything. This somewhat diminishes the impact when we have various members of the gaming community and press playing the role of "the gamers who cried wolf... over and over again."

This Miiquality controversy regarding Tomodachi Life seems like yet another manufactured issue by those who must always be politically correct. While it's incredibly awesome to see this group champion sexual equality and want Nintendo to not be so firmly set in its ways, the leaps of logic and jumps to various conclusions don't do this group's arguments any favors.

In a perfect world, same-sex marriage would not be controversial issue at all. We wouldn't even need to be up in arms over Tomodachi Life because Nintendo would have same-sex marriage in it without any problems at all. There would be no outrage from either side of the aisle.

However, I don't think Nintendo deliberately gave a judgment either way whether same-sex marriage was a good thing or not. No, instead the company dodged the question with some mental acrobatics as a means to not create any kind of perception at all. When you're dealing with a hot button issue such as gay marriage, particularly here in the United States where we still get all-too-common backwards thinking that homosexuality is a sin, it's best to tread carefully. How does not wanting "to provide social commentary" mean that Nintendo doesn't care for same-sex marriage?

If Nintendo doesn't allow same-sex marriage, it is viewed as anti-gay. If it does allow same-sex marriage, then reports of Nintendo defiling the minds of our youth will be plastered all over the news. It's a no-win situation for Nintendo.

There was an incident on the Disney Channel here in the States with a show called "Good Luck Charlie." There was an episode that portrayed two women in a union with their own child. This caused an immense amount of controversy from various parents, religious groups, etc.

It's my belief that if that all happened with a Disney Channel show, which pretty much has the same demographic Tomodachi Life is going for, then if same-sex marriage was implemented into the game by a company known for being family-friendly like Nintendo is, all heck would ensue. It would be damaging for Nintendo, much like it's damaging for it by not including same-sex marriage at all. It's being misconstrued that the absence of two male Miis or two female Miis getting married must mean that Nintendo looks down on the act.

Does that mean homosexuality or same-sex marriage are bad things? Hell no. It just annoys the crap out of me to see so many people intentionally twisting the words of Nintendo to fit their own agendas, to get traffic, and to generate even more unneeded controversy. Thus, those who find that Nintendo is somehow delivering a message and presenting its moral values on the culture through a carefully worded statement just come across as the same type of people who throw up their arms whenever there's any kind of chance to be pissed off about something in the gaming industry. We as an industry need to fight for good causes, and this one really is, but when we do so, we can't create leaps in logic and expect to be taken seriously.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Play It Again, Sam! - Remarkable Remakes - Part One

Fresh off the news of Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire remakes for the Nintendo 3DS, we thought we'd take the opportunity to dust off our brains and come up with some of our favorite video game remakes ever devised. These are the ones that made the originals look like student projects in comparison. Whether they updated the visuals, added cool new modes, or threw in extra playable characters, these are the remakes that get our hearts racing with excitement. Now, we don't want to overwhelm you with entries, so we're splitting up this feature into three parts. The other two will arrive on SuperPhillip Central in the following weeks.

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D (3DS)

Our first remake is one that many have called one of the greatest games of all time. We're inclined to agree, but this 3DS remake took several annoyances we had with the N64 original and overall made a much better game. Ocarina of Time 3D totally rebuilt the land of Hyrule with completely different assets, textures, and colors to create a more enthralling gaming world. The addition of optional gyro sensor controls for aiming made sniping foes with Link's bow and arrow combo not only easier but more fun too. The touch screen always displayed items, so players could swap items on the fly rather than continually pause and unpause the game, breaking the flow. Yes, equipping those Iron Boots in the Water Temple was no longer a tedious task like in the N64 original.

An unlockable Master Quest, that upped the challenge of Ocarina of Time 3D significantly, as well as introduced elements and puzzles that went against what the original quest had taught players, was a bonus for more skilled adventurers. All of this with a steady frame-rate makes The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D the best 3D Zelda experience to date.

Super Mario All-Stars (SNES, Wii)

Nintendo could have simply taken all four NES Mario games (we're including the Japanese version of Super Mario Bros. 2, aka The Lost Levels, in this group) and ported them exactly to the Super Nintendo hardware. Instead, the development team decided to completely update the games visually and aurally. To this day, Super Mario All-Stars is one of the most impressive remakes ever created. If you somehow missed out on this too-good-to-be-true package when it originally released on the Super Nintendo, perhaps you can track down a copy of the ported Wii version, which was made for the Super Mario Bros. series' 25th anniversary. Regardless of which version you acquire, you will possess one of the grandest collections, featuring some of the very best games of all time.

Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary (360)

Halo: Combat Evolved was a surprise hit when it arrived alongside the Xbox at the system's launch, and the Xbox brand's early success can single-handily be traced to this popular first-person shooter starring a helmeted hero named Master Chief. What the original Halo lacked was online play, so exactly a decade after the original Xbox release, developer 343 Industries brought this long desired feature into Combat Evolved's 2011 Xbox 360 remake. Alongside the addition of online play was greatly enhanced visuals, achievements, terminals, and skulls. It was a long wait for Xbox owners to be able to play the original Halo with players across the globe, but the wait was certainly worth it.

Perfect Dark (XBLA)

This 2000 N64 original by Rare was a first-person shooter way ahead of its time, presenting players with an abundant array of multiplayer options and different AI personalities. The Xbox Live Arcade remake by 4J Studios implemented the ability to play matches online with up to twelve players, or if there were any empty slots, spare AI simulants. Unlike the N64 game, all multiplayer options were available right from the get-go rather than needing to be unlocked through combat challenges. In addition to these multiplayer improvements, the visuals received a magnificent upgrade as well. For those longing for the days of console FPS games that don't follow the corridor shooter path that is so prevalent and popular now, one would do themselves well to check out this XBLA update of the sublime Perfect Dark.

DuckTales: Remastered (Multi)

Taking a NES classic from Capcom, developer WayForward created a retro revival and did the original source material supreme justice. Expanding upon the NES original, WayForward added in objectives in the game's levels, remodeled some areas, threw in a script that explained various story elements that the NES original made nebulous, implemented full voice acting with many of the surviving members of the old TV show cast, created a beautiful cartoon world come to life, added two new levels, and tossed in a Jake Kaufman-arranged soundtrack to put the proverbial cherry on top of this delicious and enticing sundae. While some can criticize the heavy focus on story elements, which do break the flow of the game, the overall package of DuckTales: Remastered makes us giddy with delight. We can only hope Capcom and Disney will allow WayForward more opportunities to recreate other classic games. Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers, perhaps? Aladdin? Darkwing Duck?

Metroid: Zero Mission (GBA)

Not just a remake! No, no! It's an enhanced remake. All turning up our noses at semantics aside, Metroid: Zero Mission remade the highly antiquated original Metroid released on the NES and made one of the best Metroid games released. The development team successfully brought enough new content to make Samus Aran's debut adventure feel fresh while not completely forgoing the feeling of the original Metroid. With the inclusion of better graphics and a helpful map, no longer did players have to experience Metroid by exploring multiple similarly designed rooms, getting lost and frustrated in the process. The addition of story elements were unobtrusive and brought added dimension to Samus Aran's character. (No, not in a Metroid: Other M way either!) The biggest bonus was being able to play as Zero Suit Samus in an extra chapter that players could enjoy after Mother Brain was defeated.

Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection (PSP) 

Whether you're a newcomer to Final Fantasy IV (formerly known in the West as Final Fantasy II) or have played through the game more times than you can remember, this PSP remake of Final Fantasy IV featured high resolution sprite work that was absolutely gorgeous on the PSP's screen. In addition to the original game, Square Enix included the WiiWare-exclusive The After Years, as well as a brand-new game in the form of Final Fantasy IV Interlude. Throw in a new arrangement for the classic Nobuo Uematsu-composed soundtrack, new CG scenes, and gallery mode, and you have the definitive version of Final Fantasy IV. (And boy, there have been many!)

Bully: Scholarship Edition (Wii, 360)

The PS2's Bully from Rockstar Games was a fantastic title that was a reprieve from the Grand Theft Auto series. In fact, we'd love to see Rockstar return to Bully sometime soon. The remake of the game, Bully: Scholarship Edition, hit the Nintendo Wii and Xbox 360 on the same day. Both versions feature multiple new inclusions, such as eight exclusive missions, new characters, four new classes, more clothing options, and minor additions to improve the experience. We preferred the Wii version for its engaging and enjoyable pointer controls, particularly in the various classes protagonist Jimmy Hopkins participated in. As for the PC version, we didn't list it as if that port was in school, it would have received a note from the teacher reading "See me after class."

Monday, May 5, 2014

SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs - Mother May I Edition

Mother's Day is this Sunday, so what does SuperPhillip Central have to share to our readers? Well, music that has nothing to do with the holiday! On this week's installment of SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs we have music from Pokemon X and Y, Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII, and Okami to name a few! After you've given your mother a kiss on the cheek, strap yourselves in and start listening to these five video game music faves of ours!

v616. Pokemon X and Y (3DS) - Gym Leader Battle

The excitement of taking on a new gym leader in order to acquire one of the eight gym badges required to face off against the Elite Four ranks high up there with activities in Pokemon X and Y. Of course, there's no better rush of adrenaline than taking down a rare Pokemon you've been struggling with for ages and finally capturing it. And then there's the aforementioned Elite Four, obviously!

v617. Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII (PSP) - A Flower Blooming in the Slums

The PSP's hardware allowed for realistic instruments to be heard from its small speakers, bringing numerous synth-only Final Fantasy VII themes into the 21st century. A Flower Blooming in the Slums is still a theme related to Aeris/Aerith (whichever you prefer) that has a beautiful yet melancholy feel to it.

v618. Okami (PS2, Wii) - Rising Sun

Okami's soundtrack is suitably Far Eastern in its influence, and that only makes sense since the game is set in fictional version of Feudal Japan. Out of all of the excellent titles to come out of the now-defunct Clover Studios, Okami is seen as one of the best and brightest games the studio delivered onto gamers.

v619. The Bouncer (PS2) - Sion Barzhad's Theme

We can't get enough of the PlayStation 2 apparently. We move onto a game that Squaresoft released close to the PlayStation 2's launch. Who knew a system that would explode in popularity and be remembered for having a brilliant library would start off so modestly? The Bouncer was a brief 3D brawler that doesn't hold up all that well today, but it still shows off some of the early power of the PlayStation 2.

v620. Sonic Riders (PS2, GCN, XBX) - Sand Ruins

Before Sonic the Hedgehog hopped into a kart and raced with the best of SEGA's all-stars, he hopped on a board and flew through the air with the Sonic Riders series. While many find a dislike for this series, we did enjoy the first two games in the series, Riders and Zero Gravity. We won't talk about the Kinect-only third installment, okay?