Thursday, September 4, 2014

Bayonetta 2 (Wii U) "The Time Has Come" Trailer

A Bayonetta 2-centric Nintendo Direct just wrapped up, and at the tale end of it was a brand-new trailer, clocking in at just over four minutes. Does this trailer bring the hype? Oh, yes. Yes, it does.

Remember When We Used to Play and Talk About Games? Yeah...

CAUTION: This "editorial" is a stream of consciousness more than something thoughtful, so feel free to rip this apart after you've finished reading it!

What happened to that? Allow me to wax poetic for a moment. I remember the biggest worries I had growing up wasn't whether my favorite studio was going to be closed down or whether my favorite developer or writer was going to be involved in a controversy that spanned the entire industry. I worried about whether or not I should fill all of my sub-tanks to tackle the final form of Sigma in Mega Man X, or figure out how to progress in the Flooded Palace in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. All I had to freaking do was walk through the waterfall!!! Walk through the waterfall! Aggggh!

However, thanks to the wonders of the Internet, which has done so much to bring like-minded people together (no sarcasm yet), it has made it so easy to have a say in just about everything, whether that's a good thing or a bad thing. It's made it so it's alarmingly simple to cause trouble, be anonymous, and even ruin lives. That's damn scary, Skippy!

If you haven't been following the events and the controversy about GamerGate-- actually, first we should discuss how our community needs to come up with better names for controversies rather than lazily adding "gate" to the end of everything. We need to be more creative, people!

Anyway, back to what I was talking about. If you haven't been following GamerGate, and why would you? It's Internet drama, and I grew tired of caring a long time ago. Does that make me a better person than someone who does care? No. We just have different interests and priorities is all.

To my understanding, GamerGate started when a female writer offered to play Trivial Pursuit with game journalists in exchange for coverage from their specific media outlets. This angered gamers who found it unfair and pretty much all kinds of wrong. The first thing that was wrong was that game journalists were blatantly being biased and covering this female person's stuff. The second thing was that plenty of gamers were pissed that it was Trivial Pursuit being played. They were like "Scrabble, all day, er'y day, bitches!" Oh, and there's some kind of media corruption, misogyny in the industry, and hacking thrown somewhere in there as well. I didn't think that was worth talking about.

I do have to credit various game journalists out there for responding to the situation in a very helpful and mature matter... by escalating it into an "us versus them" affair. An avalanche of "gamers are over" esque editorials were posted on numerous sites, and this was the mature way of handling the situation that I expected from some (notice the word "some") of the same group of journalists who happily accept free gifts from developers, defend their anti-consumer policies, and essentially bite the hands that feed them by trash-talking gamers, even going as far to generalize all gamers in patronizing ways. This must be where the "notallgamers" hash tag comes from. Well, it being a play on the actual "notallcops" hash tag regarding the circumstances occurring in Ferguson, y'know, something that is actually important to more than just our little hobby.

I don't actually have anything intelligent to say about the so-called GamerGate. It's a lot to take in, it's a lot of unwanted drama, and it takes away from what's good about our hobby. All I'm reminded of is the idea that in some aspects, the Internet has been more of a curse than a blessing to this industry. Before, we got all of our news from magazines and we hyped games up and talked about them on playgrounds and in offices. Now, we march to message boards, saying how our opinion is the right one and anyone who disagrees is objectively wrong. We have it where it's so easy to post our dissatisfaction with games, how we want the designers and developers who put something we don't like into a game to go kill themselves and other hurtful things, and we have constant wars with each other and the journalists who are supposed to be covering for us and not just for themselves.

What we have are some people who in the past would be emotionally and socially stunted people, but they would be constrained to their rooms all day. Nowadays, we still have emotionally and socially stunted people who are constrained to their rooms all day, but now they have the Internet to lob insults, make threats, and turn their frustrations with the world onto real life people from the safety of behind their computer screens.

I miss when our hobby was about "ooh, you gonna get a Dreamcast when it comes out?" and not "ooh, you think all gamers and developers hate women like I think?" When reviews were about "I think the graphics need to be tightened on level three," and not "I give this game a bad score, and anyone who plays it is a sexist piece of crap who needs to get out of their mother's basement!"

GamerGate is less about the fight between gamers and the game journalists who write content for them to read and more about "damn, the Internet has made this hobby overly dramatic shit sometimes." So while countless folks on both sides who paint things in black and white argue and raise commotion, I'm going to just write about how video games are awesome and how I'd love to make friends with more people who share my passion and love this hobby.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Super Mario Kart (SNES, Wii U VC) Retro Review

While many of us are back at school, it seems perfect right now to review something old school. See what we did there!? 

Anyhow, Super Mario Kart released last month in North America on the Wii U Virtual Console service. We took that opportunity to let Phil out of his cage temporarily to write a review for it! All right. Back in the cage, you!

An Italian plumber and friends in go-karts? Yeah... that'll never work.

Such a statement could be said without anyone questioning you. Nowadays, kart racers starring mascots aren't bizarre at all. In fact, many have gone on to be commercial and critic darlings. The one game that can definitely take credit for that is Super Mario Kart. Beforehand we had never seen the likes of a game that put mascots behind the wheels of small go-karts. Now, it's commonplace with titles like Diddy Kong Racing, Crash Team Racing, and Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, for starters. Does Super Mario Kart still play well enough to ride with the big boys, or does the game now suffer from a flat tire?

In single-player, a map is shown at the
bottom half of the screen. Big help! ...No, really!
Super Mario Kart consists of four cups of five circuits each. The first three cups are available in all three speed classes (i.e. difficulties) of the game, the Mushroom Cup, the Flower Cup, and the Star Cup. The fourth, the Special Cup, is only available in the 100cc and 150cc speed classes, and it unlocks when the previous three cups have been completed successfully.

The races are five laps each, and some laps can be as quick as 15 seconds, so the length of races is pretty much perfect. Races don't drag on too long, and you feel like you've gotten a fair share of a given track once you've completed it. A given cup can last upwards of 15-20 minutes, maybe even less if you're really smoking. 

Races span across several locales like the beginner-friendly courses of Mario Circuit, the sharp corners that line the curves of the lava-filled Bowser's Castle, and the sunshiny beach and sea driving of Koopa Beach. Nearly every locale has multiple races on it, such as Donut Plains, which has Donut Plains 1, Donut Plains 2, and Donut Plains 3, for instance.

This race is just a day at the
beach for Koopa Troopa.
Mario's first racing outing in Super Mario Kart sports extensive use of Mode 7, a graphical trick creating an brilliant illusion of 3D. Just don't expect any rolling hills or height changes on the courses-- these tracks are as flat as Channing Tatum's rock hard abs. (Someone reading this review just started to sweat, I can bet you that.) That's not to say they're lacking personality either. The Ghost Valley tracks have deteriorating railing that falls apart when a racer bumps into it, while tracks like Choco Island contains chocolate goo that results in your kart sliding across its surface, making precision-based turning next to impossible.

A track made out of chocolate...
Darn, and I was on a diet, too!
Super Mario Kart allows for one to two players to race in the Grand Prix mode, the main mode of the game. In the solo Grand Prix, you need to at least come in fourth place to move onto the next race. Doing any worse not only means you must redo the race, but you lose what I will call for a lack of a better term, a life. Lose all your lives and it's game over. In two player Grand Prix cups, all that is necessary is for one player to do at least as well as fourth place. Just realize that you only get one point for fourth place while first nets you nine. As expected, the racer with the most points at the end of a cup wins first place overall, and this is what you definitely want to achieve.

When two players engage in Super Mario
Kart, the real fun truly begins!
Racing in Grand Prix cups is overall a good time. The AI isn't overly smart, but at the same time they use some cheap tricks to artificially make the Grand Prix harder than it needs to be. Each character possesses their own trademark item which they use routinely in races, especially if they're riding close to your tail. Mario and Luigi turn on some superstar power, becoming completely invincible, Peach and Toad toss little mushrooms that temporarily shrink those who are foolhardy enough to run into them, and Donkey Kong Jr. chucks banana peels onto the track to slip up unknowing racers. The AI also constantly leaps over items you place on the track unless they are put around corners and turns, so good luck ever getting a computer player to run over one of your banana peels. 

Outside of Grand Prix, there are two other modes to tackle in Super Mario Kart, ones that have become mainstays for the series. Time Trial puts you against one opponent and only one opponent, the clock, as you race five laps on a chosen course to try to set a new time record on it. The other is the incredible Battle Mode, which puts two human players in one of four arenas, shooting off items, playing offensively and defensively, to see who can eliminate all three balloons from the other player first.

A lot of items used in future installments of Mario Kart as well as those inspired by the series find that roots in Super Mario Kart. From green shells that ricochet off walls to lightning bolts that shrink and slow down all players in a race, the items are well balanced for human consumption. More defensive items like the Feather and Mushroom offer the ability for players to take advantage of them, opening up shortcuts that would otherwise be inaccessible and/or worthless without them. 

The Bowser Castle tracks will make those
without proper cornering skills feel the burn!
Super Mario Kart is still a great deal of fun today, and one of the main reasons for that is just how tight the controls feel. Turning isn't too loose or too stiff, the sense of speed is there, and making either close or wide turns is very easy to do. One can even hop with the shoulder button to pass over small chasms and make strategic hops for their betterment. All in all, Super Mario Kart retains its relevance as an enjoyable kart racer even now because of how well Mario, Luigi, Peach, and the gang control.

The real entertaining factor of Super Mario Kart goes away if you're lacking someone nearby to play it with. Sure, you can always tackle your best records in the Time Trial portion of the game, but there's nothing like competing against a friend for some competitive play on the couch. Playing the game alone takes away a third of the modes available to you, and replaying the Grand Prix even after it has been completed gets rather old unless you have a friend or family member there to mix things up. Still, Super Mario Kart remains a terrific choice for those wanting a whimsical kart racer and don't mind not having the upgrades and complexity of more modern games in both the Mario Kart series and kart racers in general. 

[SPC Says: 9.0/10]

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs - The 700 Club Edition

We took Labor Day off, but we're back and we're going to have some interesting articles for you this week. We kick it all off with SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs, which this edition is celebrating its 700th VGM selection! This week has games like Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, Sonic Rush Adventure, and Baten Kaitos! Since we're hitting 700, why don't we share with you our VGM Database? It has every song and piece of music we've ever spotlighted on this site!

v696. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (Wii U) - Trunk Twister

We kick off this special Tuesday and even-more-special 700 VGM edition of SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs with a catchy theme for the first mine cart level of Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze. It's a perfect tribal beat to it, as you roll down and around the trunk of a gigantic tree, ducking under plane chopper blades and jumping over gaps.

v697. Sonic Rush Adventure (DS) - Waterbike

It's the unofficial end of summer, being the day after Labor Day here in the United States, but the official end isn't until later this month! Let's take this opportunity to soak some last sun rays with the Waterbike theme as heard in the second 2D Sonic the Hedgehog title for the Nintendo DS, Sonic Rush Adventure. It was set to a tropical theme, including these waterbike, jetski, and boat side segments of the game between each zone.

v698. Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean (GCN) - The True Mirror

Motoi Sakuraba certainly gets around with his soundtracks, doesn't he? He's the man behind the music for the majority of the Tales of series, Golden Sun, Star Ocean, among many others. He did the music for Baten Kaitos on the Nintendo GameCube as well, and the song we are highlighting today from the soundtrack is The True Mirror, the basic battle theme of the game.

v699. Perfect Dark Zero (360) - Combat Arena

Perfect Dark Zero received positive reviews when it released. Some say that's due to the fact that it was a launch title for the Xbox 360 and was given the benefit of the doubt. We here at SuperPhillip Central enjoyed it, as it's one of the few objective-based shooters (i.e. not a corridor shooter) from the seventh generation of game consoles. The multiplayer, where Combat Arena plays, is still one of our favorites that ever existed on the Xbox 360. Killegal!

v700. Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles (Wii) - The Theme of Alexia Type I

Our glorious, monumental 700th VGM comes from Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles, a game that was a rail shooter for the Wii that was based off Resident Evil 2, 3 and Code Veronica, as well as having a brand-new chapter called Operation: Javier. This piece, The Theme of Alexia Type I, is a remade version of the original Code Veronica final boss theme, or at least part one of it. If you're in the mood for a sensational orchestral piece with some lovely Opera vocals attached to it, look no further than The Theme of Alexia's two parts!

Review Round-Up - August 2014

Explosions are awesome. LEGOs are awesome.
Video games are awesome, too. So was our review!
August at SuperPhillip Central brought the heat, or maybe that was just the summer temperatures! Regardless, things kicked off well in the realm of reviews at SPC with our review of The LEGO Movie Videogame, which wasn't entirely awesome, but it did earn a 7.75. We then went all Breakout with Siesta Fiesta for the 3DS eShop. This game recently received a much welcomed patch to improve the game's stability. Even without it, it earned an 8.25. Wii Sports Club allowed those who wanted to play sports without the need of exiting their living room to do so, getting a 7.0 in the process.

Next up, we turned our attention to the Vita with three games: Metrico (7.0), Ragnarok Odyssey ACE (7.5), a game also on the PS3, and Table Top Racing (7.0). We round-up this review round-up with Mega Man IV for the Game Boy, our sole retro review of the month. Mega Man got himself a 7.5, in addition to several Robot Master special weapons!

The LEGO Movie Videogame (Multi) - 7.75
Siesta Fiesta (3DS eShop) - 8.25
Wii Sports Club (Wii U) - 7.0
Metrico (Vita) - 7.0
Ragnarok Odyssey ACE (PS3, Vita) - 7.5
Table Top Racing (Vita) - 7.0
Mega Man IV (GB, 3DS VC) - 7.5

Outside's overrated! Stay indoors and
play some Wii Sports Club!