Thursday, October 16, 2014

Sunset Overdrive (XONE) TV Spot

One of my most anticipated Xbox One games is Insomniac Games' Sunset Overdrive. When a carbonated soft drink turns a plethora of citizens into monsters, there's just one person to call upon-- you! Check out Sunset Overdrive when it hits store shelves on October 28!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Fantasy Life (3DS) North American TV Commercial

Bayonetta 2 (posted yesterday) isn't the only game releasing on October 24 that is also getting publicity from Nintendo of America. No, Fantasy Life is also releasing that day and has a TV spot to call its own. This Level-5 made, Nintendo-published game with tons of customization, action, and charm has been out in Japan and Europe for a while now. Us small little North American 3DS owners will get to play it later this month. Ah, Bayonetta 2 and Fantasy Life... A month doesn't get any better!

Tappingo 2 (3DS eShop) Review

Our (I say our because you and I are on a journey together through the gaming industry) next review takes us to an inexpensive puzzle game for the Nintendo 3DS, available on the eShop. I enjoyed the previous Tappingo, and it seems that the sequel, bar some game-breaking bug, is something I will enjoy, too. Let's see if that is the case with my review of Tappingo 2.

It's Hip to Extend Squares.

Earlier this year Tappingo came out with an attractive price, an admirable amount of puzzles, and a concept that walked a fine line between something completely new and something quite familiar. Now, Goodbye Galaxy Games is back with 100 more puzzles with Tappingo 2, continuing its flair for Picross-style puzzling. Much like the original, it is a definite must-buy for puzzle fans, and it even throws in some improvements to boot.

Tappingo 2 plays on a grid that is sprinkled with multiple colored squares. When a square is tapped on, the player can draw a line from the square starting point. The line itself extends until it hits another solid square. The similarities to Picross are present due to each colored square having a number on them, dictating how far the line must go to satisfy the puzzle. The fun comes from determining the order of lines to be pulled and which directions they need to be extended. The end result of creating lines from squares and expanding them outward form a final object of some sort. This can be as simple as a food item, something game-related like a character or console, an animal, something environmental, etc.

Like Tappingo, Tappingo 2 features a timer for each puzzle. This is purely for your own use to set personal best scores. There's no leaderboards to speak of, which while not mandatory for a game like this, would have added some longevity to Tappingo 2. Otherwise once you're done with the 100 or so puzzles, there's really no going back to the game save for redoing past puzzles.

Really, if you've played the previous Tappingo game, consider its sequel an expansion pack with more puzzles to solve. Nonetheless, there have been some new tweaks to the formula to help Tappingo 2 have a slight edge over its predecessor.

In the original Tappingo, larger puzzles meant smaller squares to deal with. Selecting the desired square required great precision since it was so tiny. In Tappingo 2, there is much welcomed zoom function for these bigger puzzles. Furthermore, a border surrounds each line, making discerning which line came out of which square easy to distinguish. This is especially helpful for similarly colored lines that sit next to one another.

Regardless, a problem with the previous Tappingo still looms over its sequel. Since lines continue to extend until they hit another line or square, it can result in a chain reaction when a line is returned to the square it extended from. You get multiple lines that are no longer the necessary length and have to be shortened to fix your error. This can feel maddening at times when you have to shorten six, seven, eight lines because of an error on your part.

The gist of this review is basically that if you've played the original Tappingo and enjoyed it all, you should definitely download this easily affordable sequel for more puzzles and the improvements the game has over its predecessor. If you like games like Picross or have even a passing interest in that type of game, the idea of downloading both Tappingo games should linger in your mind. Unlike some of the larger, more involved puzzles in Tappingo 2, it's no challenge to wonder why you should look into this game.

[SPC Says: 8.0/10]

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Can You Help Me Understand This About Gamergate?

I have tried to distance myself from the very recent and very prevalent Gamergate Twitter and social media movement that has blown up in the past month. I try not to talk much about things that I don't fully understand, but after tonight's news of the creator of Tropes vs. Women, a popular series of videos on the web, Anita Sarkeesian's withdraw from speaking at Utah State University due to another of a list of long death threats thrown at her, I just couldn't stay silent anymore.

Part of me is enraged, part of me is embarrassed, and part of me is just too darn confused. Gaming is a huge part of my life, and I'm currently in college to move onto a career in game design. Being so caught up in gaming, I very much care about how the hobby is perceived and how games are viewed as an art form, or at least a serious form of entertainment and not just for kids.

The early goings of SuperPhillip Central and even recently called out games journalism many times for being unprofessional and a blight against the industry in gaining importance in the mainstream. The quest for proper ethics in games journalism is a significant ideal for me, personally.

That's part of what Gamergate, then a movement with no name, was originally developed for. It was meant to call out corruption in the gaming media, but it was done in such a misguided way. Zoe Quinn's jilted ex-boyfriend posted a wide variety of now-known-to-be-unfounded allegations towards Ms. Quinn, such as her having an affair with a games journalist from a well-known site. This led to the idea from many that the positive coverage of her browser game, Depression Quest, was only based on Quinn's personal encounters with various members of the gaming media. What can one say when a movement is based off something false, even with the best intentions?

Well, you can apparently say a lot, as some pro-Gamergate movement members began harassing fellow women in the industry. Women in gaming have been "greeted" with death threats, rape threats, and this was after having their home addresses posted online in very public places. People have made very detailed explanations about how severe they would sexually violate these women. People have called in bomb scares to conventions where women in this industry were scheduled to speak.

This wouldn't be so bad if these were isolated events, but they're so commonplace and related to the Gamergate hashtag and movement. It continually becomes less understandable why people continue to want to stand by the Gamergate movement when reprehensible acts happen time and time again, much more when people continue to become apologists for it.

It's not that most people against use of the term are against the idea of "no corruption in games journalism." Most people who are against the use of the term, such as myself, don't care for it, find it abhorrent to use nowadays, is because of how toxic it is. Gamergate is no longer associated with the noble pursuit of ethics in games journalism. No, it's associated by many of us with acts of domestic terrorism, rape apologists, people who send bomb threats into conventions where women are set to speak at, and so much more repulsive acts.

My confusion comes in the form of a one-word question-- Why? Why are so many innocent people with noble ideas still attached to this movement, this term, Gamergate, that has been soiled by the acts of a very vocal and very harmful minority? Why even associate yourselves with it? You can do well and encourage ethics in this hobby without attaching your name to a term and movement that is synonymous with hatred, misogyny, and just the evilness that some of humanity can unleash on others.

The majority of folks who have harassed others in disgusting ways online has shown just how bad gaming culture can be. Is it possible that the majority of pro-Gamergate people are just attaching themselves to the cause as a detriment to others who seriously want change? The ones who want change want change in positive ways, ways they don't encourage threats, intimidation, and ruining lives in the process.

I am just taken aback by just how evil people in my own hobby can be. There's been so many false equivalencies displayed (e.g. "threatening one's life is OBVIOUSLY a proper response against someone who posted an article talking about positive roles women can have in gaming"), people saying so and so "deserved it", so and so is just getting herself open to threats for the "publicity", and so much more completely downright scummy things being said online. My meager little mind can only try to think that there's a way to end this hostility before the well has been so poisoned that gaming will never recover, much more someone innocent who just wanted to open minds to gender equality in the gaming industry winds up dead.

Bayonetta 2 (Wii U) North American TV Commercial

Bayonetta 2 is fast approaching. The game is receiving a plethora of great reviews leading up to its October 24 release date. In preparation for the launch is this commercial from Nintendo of America, already airing on TV.

Hyrule Warriors (Wii U) Review

We're nearly halfway through October already, and we've yet to see a review! That is until now. I have four reviews lined up for this week, actually, in order to make up for it. SuperPhillip Central's first review of October is an unlikely partnership, The Legend of Zelda and Dynasty Warriors. What you get from that is Hyrule Warriors, and here is my in-depth review!

The Legend of Dynasty Warriors

When it was revealed early last year that The Legend of Zelda was shifting genres and receiving a spin-off based on Dynasty Warriors, many gamers, notably fans of Zelda, didn't quite know what to expect, or even think for that matter. Was Nintendo selling out and cheapening the Zelda name in the process? Well, after having played the end result, Hyrule Warriors, quite extensively, I can happily say that not only is the Zelda brand not cheapened, but the actual game itself is a remarkable creation, worthy of both Zelda and Dynasty Warriors fans.

For those who have never played a Dynasty Warriors or Musou-style game before, which is quite possible considering how niche of a series/genre it is, Hyrule Warriors basically follows the same approach. Thus, once you've played through Hyrule Warriors, you can most likely ease into any other Musou-style game without much problem.

Feel free to attack me, Ghirahim,
just don't do that creepy tongue thing!
In Hyrule Warriors, you control one character in a relatively expansive battlefield, being a one-man or woman army, effortlessly slashing and striking down an abundance of enemies. Most missions require the capturing and holding of specific rooms called keeps. As enemies are defeated inside an opposing force's keep, the keep strength gauge decreases. Once it has emptied, the keep boss, usually a slightly stronger mook enemy, makes an appearance. Defeating this foe will allow your side to take over control of said keep.

Target practice for Link.
It helps he's aiming for the big one!
Beyond weak enemies that seldom fight back, there are more powerful enemies known as captains that not only strike back often, but they also possess a larger amount of health. In Hyrule Warriors there are even more formidable and larger boss characters in the form of Legend of Zelda creatures like King Dodongo, Manhandla, Gohma, and more. Through acquiring the proper item from a treasure chest (even awesomely including the traditional "Zelda opening treasure chest" animation and jingle), such as series' staples bombs, a bow and arrow, and a hookshot, your character is able to exploit boss creature weak points to slowly hack away at their health.

Open wide and say "ah", King Dodongo!
Captains and boss characters have points where they are the most vulnerable to attack. This usually happens after they have used a forceful move. It's here where a silver circular gauge will appear over their head. Through attacking them until this gauge is emptied, your warrior will be able to unleash a mighty blow to their overall health.

Lana is a wholly original character
for Hyrule Warriors.
Combat is relatively simple, sometimes heading in a direction of overly repetitive, in Hyrule Warriors, requiring you to simply hit two buttons for attacks, one light attack button and one heavy attack button, with the latter taking your warrior more time to use. Using these buttons in specific combinations lets loose different combos, allowing a whole slew of creative and awesome-looking combat maneuvers onto foes. As enemies are defeated, a yellow gauge slowly fills. Once filled to the max, you can unleash a powerful move that can easily wipe out a wide area of weaker enemies, resulting in a high total of K.O.s. While it can seem tedious to only use two buttons to take out enemies that are for the most part pushovers (save for captains and boss characters), the combat remains engaging. It's a wonderful and empowering feeling to be able to take down legions and rooms full of enemies by your sole lonesome.

Link occasionally uses this sword at home
when he misplaces his flashlight.
Of course, there can also be some annoyances, such as dealing with AI partners who are pretty much brain dead. Don't be surprised when you're the only person on your force doing your fair share (generally and then some) of the work, taking keeps, beating down captains, protecting members of your force, and all that jazz. Furthermore, Hyrule Warriors features a lock-on system that is similar to what debuted in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. This is terrific for keeping focus on one stronger foe, but I noticed that when there were two or more captains and/or bosses present, it was sometimes harder to change focus to my intended target than I would have liked.

Regardless, there are approximately a dozen characters to use and level up with experience points within Hyrule Warriors. Each possesses their own personalities and combat styles to fit said personalities, making so that each character feels unique from the others. In addition to that, each character eventually unlocks multiple types of weapons. For instance, Link starts out with a basic sword, but he can go on to unlock an arsonist's dream, a Fire Rod, and a mighty ball and chain as seen in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess.

Burn, baby, burn.
Defeated captains, bosses, or otherwise stronger-than-normal enemies can drop new weapons for players to pick up. Each weapon has its own attack strength, potential element (fire, water, light, etc.) as well as possibly slots to equip beneficial bonuses like increased hearts from fallen enemies, stronger attacks, and much more. Weapons can be merged together to form new creations in the Smithy portion of the Bazaar in order to make weapons that fit a particular need in battle.

The Bazaar is where the customization of characters takes place. Dropped materials from captains and bosses can be used to create badges for characters. Badges basically instill effects on characters, such as giving them new combos, better defense, better restoration upon collecting a heart, decreased time to capture keeps, and so much more. As the better badges require rarer materials from foes, there can be A LOT of grinding in hopes that that one enemy will finally drop that rare material you've been looking for, which can be frustrating and no doubt annoying to some players.

Badges are a warrior's best friend.
Outside of badges and creating new weapons, new potions with varying temporary effects can be conjured up at the Bazaar too. In addition to those helpful things, characters can be leveled up as far as the highest leveled character, pending you possess enough rupees to do so.

As for modes within Hyrule Warriors, Legend Mode is the story mode of the game. It puts you in the role of various characters through multiple chapters, following a story involving a wicked witch who wishes nothing more than the destruction of Hyrule. Thus, Princess Zelda and her faithful assistant Impa look to an ordinary soldier (save for his blatant disregard for safety, as he is the only soldier without a helmet) named Link to help save the kingdom. The story is told through cinematics and has bookends featuring a fully voiced narrator.

It's a who's who of Zelda characters
in Hyrule Warriors.
The second mode that most players will delve into is the more challenging Adventure Mode. Here, the map from the original Legend of Zelda on the NES/Famicom is shown, divided up by squares, and through completing missions, you open adjacent squares with newer challenges to take on. Each mission has its own set of rewards for not only beating the mission, but also for getting a great "A" rank on them, performed by satisfying a number of requirements like taking a minimal amount of damage, defeating a number of enemies, and clearing the mission under a set time. Sometimes adjacent squares will only unlock if you've beaten the mission above a certain rank.

Aren't they the same per--
Oh, wait. "Spoilers" and such!
Taking the idea of items from The Legend of Zelda, many squares require searching in them to unlock bonus rewards that can be earned for completing them. This is done through using item cards, acquired through completing specific mission squares, on the correct part of a square's map. For instance, using a compass on a part of the map will show where a hidden bonus reward is located. Then, by using the appropriate item on that spot will unlock the ability to play for that bonus, such as using a bomb on a specific wall will reveal a secret cave, unlocking a new reward to play for in that square's mission.

Adventure Mode contains the 
hardest challenges within Hyrule Warriors. 
Like getting materials, there is some grinding to do with Adventure Mode as well. Many squares require the use of an item card to find that square's bonus. This means you'll eventually have to redo already completed missions just to earn the requisite item card needed for another square's bonus. While farming for rare materials wasn't annoying to me-- nay, it was perhaps even fun-- playing the same missions over and over just to get enough bomb item cards, for instance, was less than enjoyable.

The further out you are from the starting Adventure Mode square, the harder the missions become. However, the better the potential bonuses become for completing said missions are, as well. Some missions are as simple as defeating a set number of enemies, while others implement parameters such as all attacks being devastating (i.e. a given hit takes out nearly all of your warrior's health and the same goes for attacking enemies). Adventure Mode is necessary if one wishes to strengthen their stable of warriors, unlock exclusive weapons for them, and increase their health through finding heart containers and pieces of heart.

Stop, Darunia says, because it's hammer time!
Both Legend Mode and Adventure Mode contain hidden heart containers, heart pieces, and gold skulltula (a la Ocarina of Time) to collect. These are not at all mandatory to proceed in Hyrule Warriors, but they're nice for completionists to collect and those who'd like an easier time at the game. In Legend Mode, heart pieces are generally found hidden in chests that are revealed by bombing unsuspecting rocks on each map. Whereas in Adventure Mode they're generally found by capturing certain keeps for your own benefit. Gold skulltulas happen to appear once certain in-mission objectives are complete, such as defeating 1,000 enemies, for example. They appear at a general marked location on the game map. You have to find and defeat the gold skulltula before it disappears from the battlefield. Many of these collectibles only pop up if a specific character is used, so don't be surprised if you must play through given levels and missions multiple times just for a chance to collect everything.

Playing missions multiple times is sometimes a requirement just because some missions can be quite challenging! However, Hyrule Warriors does allow for an easier time if you have friend to help you with its local cooperative play, which can be played in any mode of Hyrule Warriors. One player uses the Wii U GamePad and plays on its screen while the other player uses a Wii U Pro Controller or other controller and the TV screen. This is a very cool way of doing things, as it gives both players an entire screen of real estate to work with. However, there's two negatives here: 1) The frame-rate takes a noticeable hit during co-op play, and 2) While it's nice to see local co-op represented, online co-op play, something that most Dynasty Warriors games have featured in the past, is questionably absent from Hyrule Warriors. This is a big oversight, especially for those without a local buddy to play the game with.

Two warriors are better than one!
That IS the saying, right?
Outside of the frame-rate during cooperative play, Hyrule Warriors sports a pretty well put-together presentation package. While ground textures and environments aren't the most impressive to look at, the characters and their animations lead the charge to amaze. They're really well done, and the combat's fastness and fluidity is shown well via a smooth frame-rate. There's no voice acting aside from the aforementioned narration of Legend Mode, so it can be a tad hard to pay attention to the text dialogue while in the middle of battle. Meanwhile, the soundtrack is typical Dynasty Warriors fare with multiple remixed Zelda themes as well as a healthy helping of new stuff thrown in. That is to say that it is incredibly awesome.

Hyrule Warriors is without question my favorite of the Dynasty Warriors/Musou style games. That is most likely due to the amount of Legend of Zelda fan service, but it's also because of how complete, engaging, and enjoyable the entire package is. The lack of online play and some minor gameplay annoyances do detract from the overall experience, but all in all, Hyrule Warriors successfully gives Dynasty Warriors and Zelda fans the best of both worlds.

[SPC Says: 9.0/10]

Monday, October 13, 2014

SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs - Indigenous Peoples' Day 2014 Edition

I took an unplanned week off of SuperPhillip Central, but now I'm back with a new installment of SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs. This week's edition doesn't have a theme. It's just solid music all around. We're going to look into music from Vagrant Story (making its first appearance on the ol' VGMs), Guilty Gear 2: Overture, and Bravely Default. It's going to be a good edition, so I hope you guys enjoy it!

v716. Vagrant Story (PS1) - Staff Roll

Hitoshi Sakimoto is a fantastic video game music composer, known for his work on such games as Valkyria Chronicles, Final Fantasy XII, and my personal favorite, Final Fantasy Tactics. He also composed the music for Vagrant Story, a PS1-era cult classic RPG. Not only is it a wonderful game, but it possesses a grand soundtrack, an expected but still appreciated achievement of then-Squaresoft's games.

v717. Guilty Gear 2: Overture (360) - Curtain Call

Want a beautiful violin and piano? How about a driving rock beat? Or maybe even some gnarly guitar thrashing? You get all of those and more with Guilty Gear 2: Overture's sensational ending credits theme Curtain Call. What better way to cap off an exciting play-through of Guilty Gear 2 than this bittersweet theme.

v718. Bravely Default (3DS) - Serpent Eating the Ground

Serpent Eating the Ground is the final boss theme of Bravely Default, an unexpected (to me, at least) hit on this side of the Pacific. The theme takes you on a grand adventure, parroting motifs heard throughout the game, such as the main theme and special character move themes. It all leads up to a satisfying conclusion that certainly rocks.

v719. Tatsunoko VS. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars (Wii) - Character Select

Choose your fighters! For a game that many believed would never get a chance of localization, Tatsunoko VS. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars' character select theme is perfect to get your adrenaline pumping as you pick your duo of Tatsunoko, Capcom, or a combination of the two's all-stars. Tatsunoko VS. Capcom remains one of my favorite arcade fighters, and even just mentioning the game on SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs makes me want to return to it and replay it!

v720. Viewtiful Joe: Red Hot Rumble (GCN, PSP) - Super Brothers: Fire Leo and Frost Tiger

Taking the boss themes of both Viewtiful Joe's Fire Leo and Viewtiful Joe 2's Frost Tiger (both share the same melody), Viewtiful Joe: Red Hot Rumble pits players against the pair with this track. Red Hot Rumble was a party fighter with various mini-games that occurred mid-battle. It's certainly not up to the impeccable level of quality that the main Viewtiful Joe games have, but for a spin-off the game certainly isn't horrible.