Friday, August 8, 2014

Wii Sports Club (Wii U) Review

Capping off this week is a new review for a game that released late last month, Wii Sports Club. It's five sports in one, don't you know! Here's our review.

Can't get enough Wii Sports? Then join the club!

When the Wii originally launched in 2005, many Nintendo fans latched onto the system for the promise of playing The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. However, it would actually be Wii Sports that would become a killer app for the mainstream, as well as for folks who had never picked up a gaming controller in their lives. Since the Wii bubble has burst, Nintendo has tried (and unsuccessfully so) to regain the magic and enthusiasm of the world with the Wii U through release sequels to various Wii series games on the system. Previously released digitally on a per-sport basis, Wii Sports Club finally has been given a retail release with all five of the original Wii Sports in one physical package. Should you join the club?

Wii Sports Club features the same five sports featured in the original Wii Sports, only this time they've been given added options and features. The most notable two of which are full Wii MotionPlus support and online play for each sport. The visuals have been drizzled with a high-definition coating, but try as Nintendo might, no one is really going to believe for a second Wii Sports Club is wonderful or impressive to look at. In fact, they might just believe the opposite.

Upon the get-go of starting up Wii Sports Club, you're able to join a regional club for your territory, state, area of the world, etc., where you earn points for each win you record, as well as have the ability to post Miiverse words of encouragement that show up within crucial moments of the various sports (e.g. when you achieve a home run in baseball or reach match point in tennis). You are not stuck with the initial club of your choosing. You can switch clubs as you wish, but there is a 24 hour waiting period you must sit through if you wish to change again. A lesson in not being wishy-washy perhaps.

As for the actual sports, tennis has you playing doubles either with an AI or human partner or with you controlling both partners at once. Player movement is done automatically, so what you're required to do is swing at the ball with a forehand or backhand swing in order to make sure the ball stays within bounds and that your opponents can't hit it back to you. Not only is the type of swing important, but so is the timing of your swing. It can become frustrating when you constantly and confusingly hit the ball out of bounds, and yes, that WILL happen a lot at first. However, like most of the sports in this Wii U compilation, practice makes perfect. Well, not perfect, but it will make you better!

Bowling allows you to choose between doing ten frames of traditional 10-pin bowling or the popular version around the SuperPhillip house, ten frames of the 100-pin bowling. It's pretty much all in the wrist with bowling. Curving your throws to get the perfect trajectory to make consistent strikes and spares is what it's all about. Of course when you have one pin standing up, throwing it straight also is of the utmost importance. You can move along the starting line with the d-pad of the Wii Remote, hold a button down, wind back and then toss the bowling ball down the lane, hoping for the best.

What I consider the most difficult of the sports to learn and ordinarily do well in is golf, which offers three unique courses to play through. This is one of the two sports in Wii Sports Club that utilizes the GamePad in some way, but here it's pretty gimmicky. The GamePad is to be set under the Wii Remote and serves as your power gauge and tee. For me, this was a literal pain in the neck (and back). Those who love to just grip it and rip it need not apply. Wii Sports Club golf requires multiple practice swings to get a "swing" of things, and even then you can still mess up your swing rather easily, totally ruining your chance for even par.

Perhaps my favorite of the sports in this collection is baseball. Not only does it play well with the Wii Remote, the Wii U GamePad use is rather novel, all things considering. Baseball consists of a three inning game where teams take turns pitching and batting. The pitching team uses the GamePad's built-in gyroscope to aim at the plate somewhere, while one of four face buttons determines the type of pitch and speed. When a ball is hit towards an infielder or outfielder (both automatically move towards the ball), a red circle appears on the GamePad screen, indicating where the ball is. If the GamePad player lines up the circle of the player with the circle of the ball for a long enough duration, then they'll successfully catch it.

Meanwhile, the batter doesn't have to worry so much about strength in their swings with the Wii Remote, but instead they need to focus on their timing. Hit too soon, the ball will be hit right, while hitting too late will make the ball fly to the left. Maybe I got that backwards, but you get the point hopefully. There's no sudden death or extra innings to speak of. All there is is a five run mercy rule for those teams who just can't catch a break from the baseball gods.

Lastly, boxing is the final sport in Wii Sports Club. This can be played either with one or two Wii Remotes at the same time. The Wii Remotes are used to lean left and right to dodge and to get openings, as well as to make offensive assaults onto opponents. It's not just about wailing on your opposition, however. You need to also be holding your gloves (the Wii Remotes) to block punches by your opponent, too! While many matches can devolve into tiring waggle fests, I actually found myself enjoying what boxing had to offer.

Each of the five sports come with various practice mini-games to focus on particular aspect about the sport. For instance, your baseball bat timing is tested by how well you can aim for colored panels of varying points. Time your swings right to earn the most points. Then there's a bowling mini-game that gives you three tries apiece to knock down all of the pins that form a particular shape. The mini-games allow you to get a groove going before you try to tackle opponents both in AI and human form.

The latter is easily available no matter if you have friends and family near home or not. That's because Wii Sports Club offers online play. Each of the five sports can be played online either with a fellow Wii U buddy on your friends list or a total stranger. Wins and losses are recorded, and you earn points for being victorious. Depending on you and your opponent's connection, lag can either be small or very noticeable. It's usually the former, but when it does get bothersome, it can be especially aggravating. Another knock on the online play is that voice chat is totally unavailable. In its stead, you can map three custom phrases to the up, left, and right directions on the d-pad. Of course, these must be given the okay by Miiverse mods before you can use them.

Overall, Wii Sports Club is a recommended purchase for those who have the time to learn each sports' eccentricities and controls. If you're looking to waggle like in Wii Sports, you're not going to have much fun, unless losing all the time is something that excites you. Wii Sports Club has a lot of idiosyncrasies to its controls, and if you have the patience to practice and learn them, you'll find yourself having a better time than someone who does not. Online play may not be perfect, but it is serviceable, and the extra modes and achievement-like stamps gives you something to shoot for when you're not owning others or getting owned yourself online. There's plenty of worse clubs out there to join, so you should at least give Wii Sports Club an honest try.

[SPC Says: 7.0/10]

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Siesta Fiesta (3DS eShop) Review

From Mojo Bones comes Siesta Fiesta, a Breakout-style game with a twist for the Nintendo 3DS eShop. Is the game fun like a fiesta or so boring that you'll want to take a siesta instead?

We're Gonna Fiesta Like It's Cinco de Mayo!

The concept of Breakout is nothing new. You move a paddle around, you break blocks for points, rinse, and repeat. There's so many Breakout clones and games inspired by it that one can easily grow fatigued of the formula or at the very least be weary of checking new games of the style out. However, Mojo Bones's Siesta Fiesta takes the Breakout concept and throws in some remarkable alterations to the structure that make it a worthy addition to anyone's 3DS digital library.

Siesta Fiesta tasks you with moving through eight unique worlds of a half-dozen or so levels apiece and has you moving a bed, Siesta Fiesta's equivalent to a paddle, to bounce ball and break blocks. The levels are mostly side-scrolling affairs that move a slow enough speed so you have a fair opportunity to break the majority of the blocks, and possibly even all of them if your trajectory is super sharp. When the ball hits the middle of the bed, it bounces straight up, while the sides of the bed make the ball move diagonally left and right respectively.

The LocoRoco / Rayman Origins-like singing
was quite adorable to me.
Siesta Fiesta is a game of skill and keeping your Siesta character (i.e. the ball) from falling to the ground. Each time you let it hit the ground, one of your "lives" is removed. You get five different Siesta to use, if need be. It would have been nice to have gotten a point bonus for using the same Siesta from the beginning of a level to its end, because as it stands now, getting gold medals and even sometimes silver medals through reaching a high score can be maddeningly challenging! That said, the levels are so short, taking about two or three minutes to complete, that there's encouragement to keep playing and try again. Replaying past levels is as simple as choosing them from a list on the bottom screen when in that area's map.

The 3D effect isn't that pronounced,
so it's best to save battery life and play in 2D.
Typical levels introduce new gameplay mechanics at a fairly brisk pace. This adds great variety in obstacles and objects to look out for. There's your standard small blocks that break with one hit, larger blocks that take two hits but offer more points when broken, and gold blocks that can withstand three hits before breaking apart. Then there's cannons that shoot your Siesta across the screen, pinball-like bumpers, party gates that award points when your Siesta passes through all of them within a limited amount of time, and exploding crates that take away points for smashing into them. There's even more that I haven't listed, so you can be sure there's plenty of new challenges and objects you need to learn how to deal with.

Surf, sun, and Siestas!
Other levels are not side-scrolling affairs at all. Time trial levels present multiple waves of boxes, whether moving or stationary, that require you to destroy all of them within a set amount of time. The faster you destroy all of the boxes, the better medal you are awarded. These levels are similar to the end-of-area boss encounters that have you smashing your Siesta into the boss's weak point in order to defeat them in a fast enough fashion. Variety is the spice of life, and Siesta Fiesta has got it in spades.

Rollin' down the river, Siesta Fiesta style!
Siesta Fiesta isn't a game for everyone. It can be unrelenting in its challenge, especially if you're unable to control the ball the way you might like. There's nothing worse than trying to direct your Siesta ball toward a gold block for big points only to have it bounce around on the top of the screen, costing you time and being able to hit the block, in addition to making you feel quite helpless in the process. That said, those who wish to share scores to Miiverse, set high scores, get all gold medals, and have a seriously good time will enjoy Siesta Fiesta with much amor.

[SPC Says: 8.25/10]

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The LEGO Movie Videogame (Multi) Review

The first review of August for SuperPhillip Central is the video game tie-in to one of the most entertaining family films I've seen in a good while. It's The LEGO Movie Videogame, and here's our verdict on it.

Is Everything Awesome? No. Not Quite.

The LEGO Movie was a highly humorous and charming romp featuring a world made up entirely of LEGO and an all-star cast. The movie recently released for home consumption, so it seemed like a sweet opportunity to check out the game based off of it. A great criticism regarding the LEGO series of video games is how stagnant with little in the way of big changes the games have become. While The LEGO Movie Videogame does try some new things, it is overall a very similar experience to what we've seen in the past. Does that make the game worth your LEGO studs (i.e. money)?

The LEGO Movie Videogame closely follows the plot of the movie, even showcasing a wide breadth of footage from the actual movie. It follows Emmet, a dimwitted construction worker who is selected as the special, tasked with saving the world from the sinister Lord Business. It's a task he is woefully and quite frankly hilariously inept and unprepared for. Along the way he meets up with a colorful cast of characters, both heroes and villains, all voiced by their movie counterparts.

Just like in real life, Emmet's cup of coffee
cost him a stud equivalent of $450.
Like a typical LEGO game, The LEGO Movie Videogame consists of fifteen main levels, where the goal is to smash objects to reveal spots where you can build helpful mechanisms like switches, bridges, and pretty much everything under the LEGO sun in order to progress through levels. This is all the while fending off the occasional group of enemies. As there is no major punishment for dying in a level, you are merely revived after literally falling apart, allowing you to continue as you were, the challenge of the game is quite low. The real challenge in the LEGO games is coming up with a means to move on in a given level. Again, this basically boils down to smashing everything in your path with your fists and feet, revealing objects that can be utilized.

All in a day's job for Emmet.
Each of the fifteen levels has you switching between multiple characters, each with their own specialties. For example, Emmet is terrific for fixing broken down mechanisms, female characters are great jumpers and can perform acrobatics maneuvers, and Vitruvius, thanks to his "blindness", can move across dangerous areas that other characters would be paralyzed with fear to attempt to venture into or onto. The switching of characters can be done with a press of a button, or if you'd like to avoid cycling between each character until you get to who you want to control, a helpful character wheel allows you to directly choose your desired LEGO character.

It's not like there's anything to be afraid
of by falling off this very narrow bridge!
The LEGO Movie Videogame like other games in the LEGO line has a wonderful amount of extra content, although nowhere near more recent games. That's a really positive thing that it has extra content that is worthwhile, as otherwise the short six hour campaign would make for a game that could easily be a rental only.

A very cool sequence within the game,
some highway hijinks!
As you earn studs, the currency of the LEGO series, you can purchase new characters, over 100 in total to choose from. These can be used to your liking if you decide to return to beaten levels. This is a must for 100% completion, as the first time around in each level you don't have all of the character types and their special abilities required to discover and nab all of the collectibles and secrets.

Some people will do anything for attention.
Seriously, pull-ups from that height?
Compared to recent LEGO games like LEGO City Undercover and LEGO Marvel Super Heroes, The LEGO Movie Videogame feels like a much smaller adventure not just in length but in scope, and that's because it really is. Instead of being able to explore an expansive city in between levels, you are confined to one of four tiny, self-contained areas. While there's things to collect in these hub worlds, the areas are so minuscule in size that it's quite easy and quick to uncover everything.

There's a snake in my boots!
Wait a minute. Wrong movie!
On every console version, two players are able to enjoy The LEGO Movie Videogame together. The Wii U version is of particular note in this arena due to the ability to either have split-screen play or one player using the TV screen while the other uses the Wii U GamePad screen to allow both to enjoy a full-screened co-op experience. Other than a throwaway ability to switch characters with the Wii U GamePad screen while playing solo and off-TV play, the GamePad isn't used to its full potential, story of the controller's life.

Emmet gets in touch with his inner cowboy.
The LEGO Movie Videogame is graphically stellar to look at. There's some especially nice lighting effects seen, and the ability to turn on and off the motion blur makes for a welcome touch. The game isn't without its share of frame-rate or glitch issues, but overall it is a serviceable experience. Sound and music design is well done, again, offering all of the original movie voice actors. The music is suitable enough with a good variety of themes that can make you end up humming to each (or at least nodding your head with the rhythm of the music).

Don't worry about careful jumps here, Batman.
It's just a fiery, painful death below.
As it stands as a LEGO game, The LEGO Movie Videogame is but a chip off the old block of iterative LEGO games. It doesn't necessarily innovative in any huge way, but it's also an entertaining game from beginning to end, and a long ways after the credits roll, just like almost every other TT Games LEGO title in existence. While everything isn't quite awesome, The LEGO Movie Videogame is worth at least a rental if you're looking for an inoffensive family game.

[SPC Says: 7.75/10]

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

SPC Interviews: Sean Velasco (Yacht Club Games)

EDIT: Forgive my dyslexia for having Sean's name as Valesco instead of how it should be "Velasco."

Hey guys. Phil here for a special treat to kick off the day for everyone. Shovel Knight recently released on the Wii U and Nintendo 3DS eShop marketplaces as well as on Steam. Not only did I give the game a glowing review, but it was also SuperPhillip Central's Game of the Month for July.

Anyhow, I had the opportunity to run some questions by the team at Yacht Club Games, makers of Shovel Knight. Director Sean Velasco, a name that might be familiar with many of you (if that name escapes you, this interview will help with that), put aside some of his time to answer my questions. Such subjects include how Yacht Club Games came to be, Shovel Knight's origins, what the team is most proud of concerning the game, favorite bosses from the game, and future prospects. Let's get started, shall we?

Phil Stortzum (PS): First of all, would you please introduce yourself and your position with Yacht Club Games?

Sean Velasco (SV): I'm Sean Velasco, one of the developers at Yacht Club Games. I am the designer and director of Shovel Knight, but we all do a lot of jobs here.

PS: How did Yacht Club Games come into fruition?

SV: We all used to work at WayForward, a company that makes mostly licensed games and is known for making great 2D sidescrollers. Our team wanted to stick together and make original games in a collaborative way. So, we decided to break off and form Yacht Club Games!

PS: What have the various team members worked on and worked with prior to Shovel Knight?

SV: We worked on games like Contra 4, A Boy and His blob, Batman: The Brave and the Bold, BloodRayne: Betrayal, Double Dragon Neon, and a lot more. We got to work on reboots of classic game franchises, which was really fun and also really applicable to making a game like Shovel Knight!

PS: What led to the development of Shovel Knight? Why go with retro-style game in the first place?

SV: We've wanted to make an NES game for a long time; a game based around one mechanic! Shovel Knight grew out of a desire to build a character-based action game centered around a downthrust mechanic, similar to the down thrust in Zelda II: The Adventure of Link or even a Mario jump. We wanted a game that was fun to play, easy to get into, and had a little levity and heart, so we decided our hero would be able to use his implement to fight foes, stab dirt, and dig! The rest of the game grew from these general concepts.

PS: What retro games inspired the development of Shovel Knight?

SV: Mega Man, Zelda II, Castlevania, and a bunch more. We pretty much tried to use what worked from all our favorite NES games, but try to use that gameplay as a starting point and iterate on it.

PS: How did you approach Mega Man composer Manami Matsumae to contribute to the soundtrack of Shovel Knight?

SV: She approached us! Or should I say her business partner, Mohammed Taher. They're part of an outfit called Brave Wave (formerly Koopa Soundworks) that is all about great chiptune composers and music. They both thought it would be a great opportunity to collaborate, and we delightedly agreed! It's been a dream come true to work with Manami, and we also feel like it gives us some street cred too.

PS: What was/were the most difficult problem(s) that occurred during development of Shovel Knight?

SV: Our dedication to quality meant that we took longer to develop the game, which blew out our schedule and budget. We went without pay for a quite some time, and the schedule was grueling. But it's been worth it!

PS: Were there any features or anything of that sort that you guys wish you could have included in Shovel Knight that you were unable due to time, budget, resources, etc?

SV: We wish we could have had the European localization and ratings finished at the same time as the US version. In the future, this will be something we really try and align more.

PS: What do you think helped the Shovel Knight project get off the ground? Why do you think your project was backed so heavily compared to other Kickstarter projects?

SV: I think people have been wanting a game like this for a long time; I know I have! We tried really hard to focus on being as authentic as possible, and not pandering to nostalgia for nostalgia alone. We tried to make a game like our NES favorites; something fun to play, that is based on solid mechanics, and that doesn't take itself too seriously. Being a retro NES style game helped bring the nostalgia, but I think that people saw our commitment to quality, even from the early trailers.

We also put a lot of effort into marketing our game and building hype. By going to PAX and giving a demo to YouTubers, we stoked the fires early, which definitely helped the campaign.

PS: What advice do you have for fellow indie developers about getting a Kickstarter project successfully backed and/or funded?

SV: Make sure to market yourself properly, and have a great demo and video! This means that it's probably best to build out your game as a proof of concept before you take it to Kickstarter.

PS: What was the feeling inside Yacht Club Games prior to Shovel Knight releasing to the public? What are you guys feeling like now that the game has been released and sites have begun reviewing it?

SV: Before the launch, we were very nervous. Our livelihoods were depending on the success of the game. Our beta tester friends had really liked it, but we couldn't be sure about reviews or sales. Now that the game is out, everything is crazy. The reviews have been almost unanimously glowing, people are loving the game, and it's selling well too. That means we can keep our studio going and making more games!

PS: Which bosses in Shovel Knight are the team’s absolute favorites? (Editor's note: Not all team members were able to share their picks.)

SV: Plague Knight because he's a weirdo like me and I love his boss music and background art. I'd also love to see Baz and Reize team up!

Nick Wozniak, Pixel Art: Specter Knight, because his animations were a lot of fun to do! Lots of cloth + bad ass poses + giant flying weapon = good times.

David D'Angelo, Programming: Polar Knight cause of how impossible it was to get a fat slow guy to not be instantly killable haha!

Ian Flood, Programming: Normal Black Knight. While all the other bosses may have tricks, advanced states, and fancy attacks, squaring off against regular Black Knight keeps it simple. If you had two human players dueling with the same characters, the battle would turn out much the same. Lots of running, juking, and random shovel drops!

Morgan Guyer, Pixel Art: As far as design goes, I'm fond of Plague Knight. He has a simplistic, yet chic/ornate look to him. I also adore old world medicine stuff. As for an actual boss fight? It would have to go to Tinker Knight. He's pathetic and cute, and you can kill him in one shot with the Mobile Gear. His final form also reminds me of the final boss battle from Mega Man 9.

Erin Pellon (Concept / Illustration): Mole Knight, because he wears rings on all his fingers and tries really hard to be better.

PS: What is the team most proud of regarding Shovel Knight?

SV: We are most happy with how much gameplay we managed to pack into the game; our 'gameplay per square inch'. We still enjoy watching and playing the game! We didn't bite off too much more than we could chew, and we iterated on the design until we were happy with it.

PS: If you could give players one message or word of advice before starting Shovel Knight, what would it be?

SV: Make sure to buy health upgrades and also to buy relics and use them! The Phase Locket and Flare Wand are particularly good for beginners. Don't give up!

PS: What kind of game ideas do you have for the future now that Shovel Knight is finished and released? Will you be continuing the retro theme?

SV: I would love to make a 3D Shovel Knight platformer, a direct NES sequel, and any number of other Shovel Knight things. We have a lot of weird ideas all the time, like making a pinball game where you use beetles as pinballs. Beetle Pinball - that's currently what I'm most excited for- unless we could get the Bubsy license! Seriously though Shovel Knight 3D. Or maybe a multiplayer game with lots of yelling. Or maybe a card game like Triple Triad!

PS: Is there anything else that you'd like to tell our readers?

SV: Thank you so much for all the love and support! Shovel Knight fans are the best fans ever!


I'd like to personally thank the team at Yacht Club Games, particularly Sean Velasco and Ian Flood, for their taking the time out of their hectic schedules to provide me with answers to my questions. Here's hoping everyone who comes upon this interview enjoys it, and be sure to pick up Shovel Knight, if you're able to! You'll "dig" it!

Monday, August 4, 2014

SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs - Break Out the Suntan Lotion Edition

It's the first SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs edition of August! We're surviving the warm temps outside while producing heat of our own indoors! This week we have another collection of five tracks to add to our ever-expanding list of video game music faves. Titles spotlighted this week include Animal Crossing: New Leaf, Katamari Damacy, and Final Fantasy X-2. Make sure your SPF is high enough on your suntan lotion, start rubbing it all over your skin, and get ready to listen, as these VGMs are HOT!

v676. Animal Crossing: New Leaf (3DS) - 7 PM

This low key piece of music evokes memories of casually strolling through your village at twilight, walking past trees, villagers, and their homes as you survey the surroundings. 7 PM is a mystical piece that has a bit of mystique behind it, making it one of the more enchanting of the hourly songs heard in Animal Crossing: New Leaf. Speaking of which, who still regularly plays the game?

v677. Katamari Damacy (PS2) - Lonely Rolling Star

We roll up a song from Katamari Damacy for volume 677 of our Favorite VGMs segment, Lonely Rolling Star. Like any good song, you need not know the lyrics to appreciate it. All you need is an open mind, a desire to listen to lovely melodies and choruses, and an open heart.

v678. Mario Party (N64) - Eternal Star

The final board in the original Mario Party, Eternal Star had players shuffling around a broken star, searching frantically for Power Stars. However, instead of Toad giving out stars, a Bowser Kid did. Even more troublesome, there were multiple Bowser Kids, and only one of them had a real Power Star. Yasunori Mitsuda composed the music to the original Mario Party, the only entry he was involved with. It still remains the best soundtrack of the series, in our collective opinion.

v679. Final Fantasy X-2 (PS2) - Besaid Island

It's August, so let's get tropical with a nice summer vacation video game destination, Besaid Island. It's a returning locale from the original Final Fantasy X, and in Final Fantasy X-2, it still shines brightly. We have nostalgia for this era of Final Fantasy, the PS2 era, as it was the last before the Final Fantasy name sadly seriously weakened.

v680. Elebits (Wii) - To the Amusement Park!

A near-launch title for the Wii, Elebits (or as it's known over the Atlantic as Eledees) was a creative game that used the Wii Remote to search, find, and collect the little eponymous electrical creatures of the game. Its soundtrack featured whimsical and catchy tracks, with To the Amusement Park! being one of the better ones in an already solid soundtrack.