Friday, June 20, 2014

Tomodachi Life (3DS) Review

We cap off the week with a review of Tomodachi Life, a game once riddled with controversy. Now that the game is actually out, we can see how the game's quality is. Here is my review of Tomodachi Life.

Life's What You Make It.

If you asked someone about Tomodachi Life several months ago, you would have been met with a bunch of answers regarding the entire same-sex marriage controversy. Now that the game has released, the discussion has since shifted to the actual quality of the game. Tomodachi Life presents an incredibly quirky life simulator where your Miis can mingle with one another, marry, and even start a family. Its amount of content is only met by its amount of weirdness, but don't be put off-- this is a great kind of weird.

Welcome to your island getaway! 
Tomodachi Life has you having your Mii take up residency within your island's apartment complex. If you want a more involved experience, then inserting as many Miis from your 3DS or 3DS XL system into the game or via reading QR codes is recommended. You can set their speech pattern, tonality, quality, and speed; how Mii nicknames and real names are pronounced (you can even bypass the nickname by inputting a custom pronunciation); and set up a personality profile to get a feel of what personality type that given Mii is categorized in. You can have over fifty unique Miis in the apartment building, each having desires and needs.

Wouldn't that be an improvement?
Thankfully you need not babysit and tend to every Mii if you don't want to. Tomodachi Life isn't really an experience similar to Animal Crossing: New Leaf, where an absence from the game will have a negative affect on what happens. No Mii will move out, no weeds will need to be plucked from the ground, and so forth. In this regard, it's quite refreshing and much more relaxing. I never felt like I had to play Tomodachi Life when I didn't want to just to make sure my virtual friends were happy.

Captain Falcon exclaimed, "I didn't
mean for it to kill her. I swear!"
When a Mii has a desire for your attention, the window of the apartment they are in will present itself with an icon. The most common icon has a Mii that wants you to do them a favor. Again, this isn't like Animal Crossing where you have to trek across town searching for another villager who has that other villager's box of crayons. No, these favors are much more basic in nature. It can be something as simple as feeding them some food, giving them a change of scenery with an apartment makeover, or dolling them up with a new hat or outfit.

Introduce your Miis to other island
residents to create friendships.
An orange icon in the shape of a Mii's head means that apartment resident wants to interact with another Mii in some way. These events are how friendships and relationships flounder or flourish between fellow apartment complex inhabitants. When wanting to be friends with a new Mii, the apartment resident will first ask you if you think the pair is a suitable personality match. If so, then they'll ask your advice on what to talk about or how to present their greeting to their potential friend. There's other times where Miis just won't get along, and a third party will want to jump in to weather the storm and fallout if the intervention does not work.

Oh, no you didn't, Bea Arthur!
The final kind of icon notes when a Mii wants to play a game of some type with you. From memory matching games to quizzes that test your knowledge on Mii residents, food dishes, and other items, each win grants you a pick of one of three prizes, some more expensive and rarer in value than others.

Short little games like this reward you
with trinkets that can be sold for cold-hard cash.
Each Mii has a list of things they like and dislike, whether it be food, clothing and apartment styles, and personality types. When entering a Mii's apartment, you can see their current hunger level (based off of how empty or full their stomach is), who their best friend and sweetheart are, if applicable, and list of fed foods they really love, like, and detest. It's very common to see Miis in one another's apartments, just hanging out, or even at various locations around the island.

Ah... A nice sunny day to sit out and
watch the old carousel...
If two Miis are really close and of the opposite sex to one another, the possibility of a romantic relationship arises. This can end up in marriage, and not only that but they can produce their own baby, an entirely new addition to your personal island of Mii madness.

Oh, God. My mom and David Letterman
are bonding! 
You earn money and Miis gain experience points of sorts through positive interactions with you, the player. Doing tasks and helping them out by fulfilling their various desires fills a meter up. Each time it reaches its full capacity, that Mii levels up, allowing you to grant them a gift of sorts, whether that be an actual gift to tinker with like video game systems and exercise equipment, giving a Mii the power of song, refurnishing their apartment with a new room model, or creating a phrase for a Mii to say pending on their mood.

There's a large amount of room interiors
that you can give your island inhabitants.
Outside of the apartment complex where Miis reside is a whole slew of different locales on the island. Most of these open up as simple conditions are met within the game, such as solving a certain number of problems that Miis present to you. This equals even more things to do and a greater variety too. There's a restaurant where food is purchased, a clothing shop where different outfits are sold, a hat shop that specializes in headgear, a pawn shop that buys back won treasures from games, and a room showcase that offers up a selection of room types for apartments. The shops which sell different items regularly change their selection on a daily basis.

Sure, a veggie burger is a healthier
alternative, but give me meat any day!
Other than stores that buy and sell goods, you can visit various locations around the island that have timed events that only happen during special hours of the day. There's rap battles, barbecues, 8-bit RPGs starring your Miis on a quest, nighttime markets, and trips to the cafe to see Miis mingle at different tables. It's hilarious to see David Letterman ask Jay Leno if he's in or out on eating a boatload of soda crackers at the cafe.

Truer words have never been spoken.
In essence, that's the true fun of Tomodachi Life-- seeing your Miis, whether they be folks you know in real life, caricatures, or famous people, interacting with one another or just set loose to do as they please. There's something sensationally satisfying about seeing Bea Arthur, Betty White, Batman, and Conan O'Brien on stage singing a custom-lyric heavy metal theme together, or looking at two of your closest friends who don't even know each other in real life perform yoga together and eventually become romantic sweethearts.

I couldn't do this in real life
due to stage fright.
Tomodachi Life has a very simplistic graphical style to it, no doubt to fit the basic designs of the Miis that the game stars. You won't be seeing complex geometry and massive amounts of polygons in the world of the game, so don't expect to be wowed by the visuals. That said, there's an immense charm that Tomodachi Life gives players with its visuals, and the fact that it all runs so smoothly with incredibly minimal loading times helps things exquisitely.

This scenario would NEVER happen.
Me not playing with the GamePad!? Please!
For those looking for an absolutely mad game from our friends on the other side of the Pacific, Tomodachi Life is a great pickup. The amount of content featured is amazing, seeing how your Miis interact with the island's various locales, eccentricities, and other Miis is infinitely entertaining, and the flexibility in what you can do is astonishing. While you most likely won't log in anywhere near the amount of hours as you would with Animal Crossing: New Leaf, Tomodachi Life is a fantastic and quirky game that acts as a great diversion for 3DS owners looking for something atypical on the system and in gaming in general.

[SPC Says: 8.5/10]

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Klonoa: Empire of Dreams (GBA, Wii U VC) Retro Review

I like Klonoa. Here's a review of Klonoa: Empire of Dreams. Sometimes less is more with these pre-review spiels, no?

The big-eared feline double jumps onto the small screen

Although it wasn't Klonoa's first foray onto a handheld (the WonderSwan game predates it), Klonoa debuted on the Game Boy Advance with Klonoa: Empire of Dreams, a puzzle platformer with some ingenious design and plenty of brain-busting challenges. It's quite unlike its big brother console iterations, as those games have a higher focus on action rather than puzzles in their platforming. Not only was it a pleasure to see the series reach the Game Boy Advance back in the day, it's a pleasure for gamers and Wii U owners particularly to be able to get to play the series on the Virtual Console in digital form.

Anyone have some Pepto Bismol?
My friend's bloating up in here!
Klonoa: Empire of Dreams is somewhat of a side-story for the Klonoa series. Waking up with no knowledge of how he got there, Klonoa finds himself in the Kingdom of Jillius. Without much in the way of probable cause (unless he went robbing a batch of convenience stores in his sleep), Klonoa is taken into the kingdom castle's throne room by a duo of royal guards. It turns out the Klonoa was dreaming during his sleep, which violated one of King Emperor Jillus's kingdom's laws, and hits him home personally as the Emperor suffers from insomnia.

Instead of locking Klonoa away and tossing the key, the Emperor gives him a task: defeat four turmoil-inducing monsters within the kingdom and his freedom will be honored. Given no real choice, Klonoa and his helpful bud Huepow head off to the first land posthaste.

Empire of Dreams tells its playful tale through still-frame scenes, brightly colored and full of character and charm. The brunt of the story bookends the meat of the game, its platforming and puzzling fun.

Kitty can't swim, so hit the button on the left
to raise and lower this body of water. 
As mentioned in the intro, Klonoa: Empire of Dreams is a mixture of platforming and puzzling. One might call it an adventure rather than a pure platformer, and that would be a fair conclusion to arrive at. Klonoa's trademark Wind Bullet allows him to grab an enemy and either chuck it forward or use it as a clever means to double jump. This gives Klonoa access to higher up areas that he otherwise couldn't reach. With his floppy ears, Klonoa is able to flutter them to hover shortly in the air.

Thanks for the lift, pal!
The goal of each level, or as the series calls them "visions", has Klonoa going through multiple rooms, using enemies and objects in the environment to progress. He's required to collect three star-like medallions in each level, which will then open the door to the level's exit. As an optional side quest, Klonoa can collect all of the gems in a level.

There's a multitude of different objects and obstacles in the various levels that Klonoa comes across. For instance, there's wind channels that will blow Klonoa high up into the air. However, he is unable to cross through them. Instead, he needs to grab a large block that will weigh him down, enabling Klonoa to either stop the flow of air completely or pass through.

I wasn''t going to play this level,
but then I "caved." Phil: master of bad puns.
There's also platforms that act like a balance beam, albeit seemingly unconnected to the eye. When pressure is put on one, the other rises. There's enemies that serve as time bombs, counting down as soon as Klonoa picks one up. Numerous puzzles and the progress that comes from solving them revolve around carefully situating various objects to allow a path for Klonoa to get the ticking time bomb enemy to its destination. In this case, a destructible block that is otherwise impenetrable.

Five lands make up Empire of Dreams, and each possesses around eight levels each, not including the ending boss fight that caps off each land. Not all stages are pure puzzle platforming. Two bonus levels appear in each land, one of which being a fast-paced hoverboard level and the other being an auto-scrolling pure-platforming affair. Both of these bonus levels are not needed to complete to beat the game, but they do offer a heavy twitch-based type of platforming that one doesn't get through the typical puzzle-based levels. Also, they are great to boost the longevity of the game!

This hoverboard would make
Marty McFly proud!
Klonoa: Empire of Dreams is the type of game that experts in the genre might not find much trouble with (though later levels do pose quite the challenge truth be told), but it's one that everyone else can not only engage their minds with but also their thumbs. As someone who would label himself as the type of gamer that's been around the block a few dozen times, Empire of Dreams was an engaging romp that plays like a dream and is designed well. It might not be as ambitious as the console entries due to obvious technical limitations, but that doesn't stop Klonoa's debut on the Game Boy Advance from being one worth one's time.

[SPC Says: 8.0/10]

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Ittle Dew (Wii U eShop) Review

It's Hump Day, everybody! Start your Wednesday morning off the right way with a brand-new SuperPhillip Central review! ...Okay, there's better ways to kick off a work day morning, but go with us here! Here's our review of Ittle Dew, a Nintendo eShop title from Ludosity for the Wii U. (Note: Screens are not all entirely from the Wii U version of the game.)

Do the Dew

While the third-party support on the Wii U is without question anemic, besides Nintendo providing content itself, indie developers have picked up the slack. In a certain sense, it's somewhat of a blessing that the larger third-party studios have decided to stay away from the Wii U. Indie developers and their games don't get as easily overlooked or upstaged due to the fact that there's little else on the system besides what Nintendo and competing indies have to offer. I know for certain that I probably wouldn't have been able to take a look at so many indie games on the Wii U had my time and money went towards larger, more expensive third-party efforts. That isn't to say I don't miss third-party support or the absence of it is great for the Wii U or the indies developing for it.

Still, I love highlighting indie developers when I can, and when one of the studios churns out a game, I'm happy to cover it-- more so if it's of actual quality. Ludosity's Ittle Dew, a Zelda-like game that released on other platforms in digital form last year, is one of those games. Take a gander at what Ittle Dew does right, and you'll see that you'll want to do the dew, too.

One thing you'll notice right away when playing Ittle Dew is its great similarities to The Legend of Zelda games A Link to the Past gameplay-wise, and The Wind Waker, art style-wise. Ittle Dew constantly plays out like an amusing parody of the series that doesn't take itself seriously in the slightest. From making morbid jokes about eating the hearts of enemies to regain health to why the island exists in the first place, Ittle Dew puts a lampshade on many Zelda conventions, but it does so in all good fun.

I think we can all be thankful that isn't the case!
Ittle Dew has you returning to the island's main castle on multiple occasions. It's pretty much the game's Temple of the Ocean King a la The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass. However, unlike said temple, progress through the castle is made easy with various portals that can be traveled through to make reaching past destinations inside the huge area a breeze.

The purpose of trekking through the castle is to obtain gold from treasure chests. Once enough gold has been acquired through venturing within the areas available to you with your current set of items, you can return to the island's shopkeeper to purchase a new item. Well, that's not entirely true. You see, simply purchasing the item you need wouldn't be much of an adventure! Instead, you get transported to the dungeon where the desired item is located. Not only do you have to find your way to the chest containing the item, but you have to get out of the dungeon using the newly attained doodad.

"Is that swordfish fair game to purchase?"
There are three main items within Ittle Dew, and they each take up a face button on the Wii U GamePad. The portal wand takes up two spaces: one to summon a green block, and one to shoot a wave of magic that will teleport whatever or whomever it touches to the location of the summoned green block. The latter two items include the fire sword, which is great for lighting up torches, and the ice wand, great for freezing foes. The combination of items allows you to reach further inside the island's castle, eventually letting you face off against the game's final boss.

Thank goodness there's no
overhead fire sprinklers in this castle!
The majority of puzzles in Ittle Dew revolve around manipulating blocks, defeating all of the enemies in a room, and using the trio of items in the game either separately or in combination with one another. Such a puzzle can have you summoning a green block with the portal wand, freezing the block with the ice wand so when you push the block it slides across the ground (notably over the otherwise impassable spikes) until it hits something solid, and then you using the ice wand on a wall so when you fire the portal wand's magical beam at it, it reflects off the frozen part of the wall, hits you, and you transport to where the frozen block rests. This effectively allows you past the spikes that were halting your progress. No worries-- it's a much easier process to see than it is to write out!

Ooh, baby, baby.
Baby, baby. (Push it!)
Ittle Dew seems like a short game for those who simply plow through it. However, there's a wide amount of collectible cards which feature information about various enemies in the game, as well as bits of scrap paper that when four are collected, an extra heart is added to your total health. The latter sort of sounds familiar, does it not? The inclusion of various optional caverns and puzzles make for a game that can be played long after the credits have rolled.

For those who have waited for the Wii U version or simply had no other alternative, there's really nothing special that distinguishes this Wii U iteration of Ittle Dew over already released versions. For one, the GamePad's sole use is as a map for players. Now, that's helpful and all, but it's not like Ittle Dew is an open world game where the player needs to constantly look at a map to see where he or she is going. Secondly, off-TV play is supported, but in a baffling omission, there's no sound from the GamePad when this option is selected. Hopefully this can be patched in in the future, and it won' take long like a certain game called Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams, which, by the way, we've still yet to see a patch for for the same problem here in North America!

There's far more to this castle
than meets the eye!
The visuals of Ittle Dew are really lovely and beautifully done. Characters and objects have lines that sort of wiggle and vibrate as if they were in a Dr. Katz cartoon, but it's an endearing artistic touch. The game runs relatively well, but the constant auto-saving and loading in between rooms or areas makes for some noticeable slowdown. Regarding Ittle Dew's sound, the music is passable, but I wouldn't be able to hum you anything from the game. That's just how forgettable it is, albeit thankfully not grating.

Ittle Dew is an inexpensive ($10 USD) take on The Legend of Zelda formula that isn't afraid of poking of itself and series conventions. What might at first seem to be a short and rote take on the series's gameplay is actually something worth playing due to some clever, usually brain-scratchingly good puzzles, humorous writing, and large list of collectible goodness. For a game that is essentially a Zelda-lite from an indie developer, Ittle Dew is not a title you will have to settle with by simply saying, "Eh, it'll do."

...I'll excuse myself now, as even I felt how forced that wordplay was.

[SPC Says: 8.0/10]

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Most Anticipated Games of E3 2014

Another E3 is in the books, and it was quite a bittersweet event. The big three had their moments, but one of them did far more to impress me than the other two. Here is my own personal list of games that were shown during E3 2014 that I am most excited about. One thing you will notice right away is the abundance of Nintendo titles or games on Nintendo platforms. Perhaps it's my disinterest and dissatisfaction with the typical Western AAA mindset, the over-reliance on guns, violence, and gore, and the lack of genuine creativity from that aforementioned mindset, but what the big Western publishers lack in exciting content for me personally, indies more than pick up their humongous slack. Regardless, this list of highlights from this past E3 are for games of the retail nature.

The Legend of Zelda (Wii U)

Many fans of The Legend of Zelda series like myself had great excitement for the new Wii U Zelda game. What would it be like? Would it follow the remarkable formula of the 3DS entry, A Link Between Worlds? When the teaser trailer for the Wii U debut of The Legend of Zelda series was shown, revealing an open world for Link and Epona to explore, all expectations were shattered. Few could say that they were going to be as floored as they were with the introductory trailer for the game. Unlike a certain Western open world series, exploring the countryside of what could be assumed is Hyrule probably won't have nearly as many unintended game-breaking bugs and glitches.

Hyrule Warriors (Wii U)

Since I'm on the subject of The Legend of Zelda, let's focus on this really interesting title, Hyrule Warriors, which turned out to not just be a tentative title for the game after all. It was, in fact, its final name. I am not a huge fan of the Dynasty Warriors series, but that has nothing to do with the gameplay, albeit it is decidedly repetitive in nature. No, I usually am not a fan of the source material. Japanese warlords and ancient battles spread across the Land of the Rising Sun and such don't really appeal to me. However, when the gameplay is thrown in with a property I enjoy, such as Mobile Suit Gundam, then I get very giddy and enjoy myself more. Becoming one of Hyrule's all-stars and slaying slews of enemies sounds and looks absolutely awesome, and I'm loving what Tecmo-Koei is doing with the Zelda license for this one-of-a-kind Dynasty Warriors experience.

Super Smash Bros. for Wii U/3DS (Wii U, 3DS)

While Nintendo's definition of summer is questionable at best (October is not summer), the release of the Nintendo 3DS version of Super Smash Bros. is shaping up to be smash-a-riffic. (...That was horrible.) Regardless, both versions of the game will feature the same rosters of characters, but each will receive their own set of stages, modes, and trophies. With the announcement of rumored roster additions such as Mii, Pac-man, and Palutena at this past E3, the lineup of characters continues to amaze. As with all Masahiro Sakurai-directed games, expect to be playing these new Smash games long into this console generation!

Xenoblade Chronicles X (Wii U)

The Wii did not have a wide assortment of RPG's available to it, but the ones that it did have were rather impressive. The most impressive of which came from Monolith Soft, now owned by Nintendo. The game was none other than Xenoblade Chronicles, a game that Nintendo of America had to have its arm bent just to have it sold over on this side of the pond. Now its sequel is arriving for the Wii U come sometime next year, and fans of mech combat and JRPGs couldn't be any happier. Xenoblade Chronicles X is the type of game that makes even those who never thought they'd ever want a Nintendo console think abo

Batman: Arkham Knight (PS4, XONE)

There are really just a handful of titles that make me want to purchase a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One. Despite the systems' sales, I just don't see much to look forward to. Perhaps I've become jaded in this perpetual arms race-- this continually more expensive hobby of mine. Regardless, one game that intrigues me and that will no doubt be of high quality is Batman's debut on the PS4 and Xbox One, Batman: Arkham Knight. Developer Rocksteady has a knack for creating exceptionally tried and true gameplay that feels like you're the dark knight instead of other games in the past by other developers where you just feel like you're the dork knight. Here's hoping Batman: Arkham Knight captivates audiences come next year.

Uncharted 4: A Thief's End (PS4)

A common occurrence at E3 this year was the massive amount of game trailers that did not show a speck of gameplay in them. Uncharted 4 is one of those, but to be fair, that was to be expected, as the game has a long ways to go in development. Still, Hollywood wannabe studi-- I mean, game developer Naughty Dog has created just enough of a teaser trailer to pique my interest for the PlayStation 4's first foray in the Uncharted series.

LittleBigPlanet 3 (PS4, PS3)

I had said in the past that if a new Ratchet & Clank or LittleBigPlanet was announced for the PlayStation 4, I would seriously be more open to purchasing the platform. However, the latter is a cross-gen title, and Ratchet & Clank is purely a remake so I lucked out! Featuring various new Sack-characters to play as, more dynamic levels, and a new developer (the great Sumo Digital), LittleBigPlanet 3 seems to be three times the charm of the original, and it should open up an entirely new avenue of creation for aspiring level and game makers.

Mario Maker (Wii U)

Ever since the original Super Mario Bros., players have been yearning to create their own levels. "I could make a level better than that!" How many times have you heard that line before? Now those who utter those words can put their proverbial money where their mouths are with Mario Maker. What was shown at E3 was rather bare-bones, offering a very brief amount of content, a short level length, and few customization options. However, Nintendo has revealed that the game is in early development, so more Mario enemy and obstacle types, graphical styles, and perhaps even an accompanying music composition software may be included in the finished product.

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker (Wii U)

When playing the five or so Captain Toad levels within Super Mario 3D World, I, like many of you playing the same levels, thought of how cool it would be if Nintendo expanded upon the concept and created a wholly original game from it. Apparently, all of us who thought this telepathically communicated with Nintendo developers, as Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, the final product, is coming this holiday season to a Wii U near you. With much more complex levels and even boss battles, a representative of the Toad family finally gets a starring role!

Splatoon (Wii U)

Nintendo often gets criticized for not having many new franchises. Of course, this is ignoring all of the new franchises it has launched within the past generation. Those don't count because of... well, reasons. Now, an incredibly charming and inventive take on the third-person shooter genre gets the Nintendo treatment with Splatoon. Two teams of four spray paint across a 3D battlefield. The team with the most paint of their color on the map at time's end is deemed the winning team. While only multiplayer was shown at E3, I'm hoping more modes and even some single-player content will be in the retail release coming in 2015.

Yoshi's Woolly World (Wii U)

Tentatively titled Yarn Yoshi was shown off early last year. Since then, there was virtually nothing spoken about the title. That was until last week, where the first game featured in Nintendo's successful Digital Event was the rebirth of this long-awaited game, Yoshi's Woolly World. It's a game that takes the concept of the Wii's Kirby's Epic Yarn and expands upon it greatly. Comparing the early visuals of Yarn Yoshi to what we see now in Yoshi's Woolly World, and there's a huge and markedly noticeable difference. Yoshi's latest 2D platformer looks like it is going to be a winner... or sew it seams sew far.

Kirby and the Rainbow Curse (Wii U)

One of my favorite Nintendo DS games came out within the first year of the system, Kirby: Canvas Curse. Not only did it show me that touch controls could work for games, but it was also an exceptional platformer in its own right with a lot of love and a lot of fun put into it. Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is set to debut on the Wii U next year, and it brings all the similar "draw lines to guide Kirby" gameplay to the system. Its clay motif is sensationally charming, and it looks like claymation come to life.

Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call (3DS)

Even as someone who hasn't beaten the majority of mainline Final Fantasy games for different reasons (e.g. got bored, lost interest, characters were annoying, battle system sucked, etc.), one constant that has been with the series and all of its various spin-offs since the beginning is that the music is always phenomenal. Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call, the sequel to the 2012 game, is a celebration of all things Final Fantasy, whether it's the music, the characters, the games, and so on and so forth. With over 200 songs to tap, touch, and slide to (and that's not counting the DLC), multiple Final Fantasy sub-series included, and various unlockables to attain, Curtain Call is one meaty sequel to one of my favorite rhythm games of all time.

Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate (3DS)

While I am a bit bummed that I currently won't be able to play Monster Hunter 4 on the big screen with a Wii U version, I'm pleased that I'll be able to play it at all with the 3DS release of Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate. With new gameplay enhancements and online play, this edition of Monster Hunter is looking to be the best and most improved one yet!


What games from this past E3 interested you the most? Hop on over to the comments section (it's a short hop-- promise!) to let everyone know!