Friday, March 20, 2015

Adventure Bar Story (3DS eShop) Review

To cap off your work week, I have two new reviews to share. The first is Adventure Bar Story, a digital delight for the Nintendo 3DS eShop. It surprised me how much I enjoyed it. See the extent of my satisfaction with the game with my review.

Where (Seemingly) Every NPC Knows Your Name

An amazing amount of variety is apparent on the Nintendo 3DS eShop. From platformers to shoot-em-ups to essentially any other genre you can think of, you have a nice selection to choose from. While there is an abundance of full priced retail RPGs to try out on the eShop in the form of games like Pokemon, Fire Emblem, Etrian Odyssey, and more, budget RPGs seem to get overlooked. Adventure Bar Story, published by CIRCLE Entertainment, takes the familiar attributes of the genre and toss in some cooking fun into the mix to create a very satisfying dish that unlike real cuisine, won't pack on the pounds!

The story part in Adventure Bar Story has your main character running a struggling bar that is in danger of being bought out by a snobby and elitist owner of a much more successful place. It's up to you to ward off this danger by helping your bar rank up through competing in monthly cooking competitions and selling dishes on a daily basis.

As you reach further into Adventure Bar Story, the
amount of locations available to you opens up extensively.
Adventure Bar Story is a kooky and atypical take on the JRPG genre. The game has a day and month system that changes days when you open your restaurant with the dishes you have made and selected for sale. You get Mats, short for Materials, from shops and in the game's dungeon areas where they lay on the ground to snatch up, or are earned by participating in battles that pop up in a random encounter fashion while exploring said dungeon areas.

Battles are interesting enough and don't take too long so getting into a random battle on a dungeon or field map isn't annoying like many games that contain them. You can have a party of up to three characters, many of which join your party when special conditions have been cleared. Battles occur on a grid. Characters on the front lines of battle do more damage and have a better possibility of hitting enemies, but they also take more damage. Whereas characters in the back row of battle have better defense but much more lower attack capabilities. It's the same with how enemies are situated on the grid battlefield as well.

Does Siela count as an Iron Chef if she
uses an iron axe in combat?
Instead of leveling up from fighting monsters, the primary goal of battles is to secure Mats from them. You gain experience, but it's in the form of five elemental categories. Earn enough experience in one of those categories, and a character learns a new special skill (taking up Mana, the MP of Adventure Bar Story) pertaining to that element. Characters' strength, HP, and other attributes are increased through eating created dishes. Each dish has a specific amount of EXP that is earned when it is consumed by a character, and a character's stomach can only hold so much food in a given day. It's a nice change of pace that gives Adventure Bar Story even more in innovation.

Outside of the main town in Adventure Bar Story has multiple areas to visit, but you can only enter one per day. That goes for dungeons and other towns, as well. New areas open slowly in Adventure Bar Story, meaning that you will definitely get to know the dungeons, field areas, and other towns in the game rather well. Since the areas of Adventure Bar Story aren't the most intricate-- dungeons like grassy plains, forests, and caverns are completely free to puzzles, only offering some secret areas to be found-- it can become a little tedious to constantly have to return to these places to grind for new Mats.

Siela just wants her corn and melons.
None of this monster stuff.
Not only can Mats be acquired from shops and dungeon areas, but so can recipes that allow you to see the ingredients/Mats required to make a dish at your restaurant's stove. As long as you have enough Mats, you can cook one of over 400 individual and unique dishes, from tempura to cakes, stews to drinks (e.g. juices and beer), to parfaits and pasta. Unfortunately, not all recipes give you the entire list of Mats required to create its dish. This means that you occasionally have to do some educated guesswork to fill in the blanks on what Mats are needed to make the dish. While this is some fun and really rewarding when you discover the correct ingredient(s), when you mess up fixing a dish by having the wrong mix of ingredients, the Mats used are wasted. This is problematic when some Mats are hard to acquire, meaning you're very cautious about potentially wasting them through a botched culinary creation (or is monstrosity a better word?).

The menus in Adventure Bar Story
could be designed a bit better.
Adventure Bar Story really thrusts you into its world and systems. You can even skip the opening scenes to get right to the action. It's only an issue here because the game does not do an adequate job of teaching you how to accrue Mats, find recipes, and make dishes. Seeing as the menus are a bit troublesome to navigate and a tad cumbersome, this issue is aggravated. That said, Adventure Bar Story might not have held my hand as much as would have liked, the accompanying digital manual included with the game on the Home Menu of the Nintendo 3DS was a much bigger help.

The presentation of Adventure Bar Story isn't going to drop any jaws, but the visuals and accompanying sprites are pleasing to look at. Dungeon areas are a bit sparse in creativity, but they do their jobs as being functional, even if the form isn't the most attractive. Meanwhile, the music is serviceable enough, implementing tunes that feel like they've arrived from an early PlayStation game. Don't get me wrong-- that is not meant to be an insult. The tunes give a nice warm, nostalgic feeling of games of old.

I'd love to see Bobby Flay
or Rachel Ray do THAT!
Adventure Bar Story is a mighty fine digital download for the Nintendo 3DS, and it's an RPG with a sound structure and design. Getting your bar to higher ranks, stumbling upon new dishes and Mats, battling enemies, becoming stronger, acquiring new equipment and weapons, and exploring the albeit sparse dungeons are all enjoyable tasks in the game. While there is a medium-sized amount of grinding for Mats and especially money to be found, overall, if Adventure Bar Story were an actual bar, it'd be one that at least I would want to keep an open tab at. That's because I can find myself coming back to this game time and time again.

[SPC Says: B]

Review copy provided by CIRCLE Entertainment.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Elliot Quest (Wii U eShop) Review

One of my favorite franchises of all time is The Legend of Zelda. Few dare to attempt to make games like it, and the ones that do don't do the type of game justice. Ansimuz Games is the next to try to make a Zelda-like game, and the end result is Elliot Quest, releasing today on the Wii U eShop. Here's my verdict on the game.

So, Cave Story, Metroid, Kid Icarus, and Zelda II walk into a bar...

Despite the series being so popular, The Legend of Zelda series has seen few imitators. Perhaps that is a testament to just how hard it is to nail the concept and do it well. That notwithstanding, outside of major publishers, indies have decided to take on the style of game, such as Ansimuz Games. This developer worked on Elliot Quest, a game that owes a lot to the design philosophy and formula of Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, in present day, more of the black sheep of the Zelda series. It's incredibly difficult to properly design a Zelda-like experience for even an AAA developer, so it's definitely no small feat for an indie studio. Thankfully, Ansimuz Games's Elliot Quest is a rousing and entertaining success in this department.

Elliot Quest is pretty much a more beginner-friendly Zelda II. Deaths are punished nowhere near as severely as the game it is modeled after. Instead, you just lose a chunk of your gained experience, a modest price to pay, and return to the last save point you arrived at. Seeing as there is a fair abundance of save points in the game, this is also no harsh penalty.

Like Zelda II, though, Elliot Quest decidedly has old school sensibilities. This is most apparent in how the game directs the player to what he or she needs to do next. Well, actually, that is to say that Elliot Quest doesn't actually direct the player at all. It's up to the player to explore on their lonesome to decide where to go next. This can be seen as a positive or a negative thing. For one, there is a grand amount of freedom and no hand-holding to be found. On the other hand, it can be tedious to aimlessly wander from area to area hoping the place you're visiting is the next place you have to go to further the story.

The overworld map is packed with places to go.
The similarities to Zelda II do not end there. There is a smaller overworld map to explore, but it's so dense and packed with places to venture into. Each area is a 2D side-scrolling affair, where Elliot must use his powers and abilities to defeat enemies, solve puzzles, and remain healthy to survive the challenges and obstacles that wait him. Speaking of enemies, the influences are quite strong here, from snakes that speed up when they see Elliot (much like Ropes do in the Zelda series to Link), to enemies with an iron mask that can only be attacked from behind (much like Helmasaurs in A Link to the Past), to enemies that leap up and down (much like Zelda's Tektites). There's even magic and health upgrades to gather to make the adventure an easier one for those that do some rigorous searching.

Didn't I see you snakes in another game?
Perhaps one that inspired this game?
There are towns where Elliot can chat with locals to get advice and hints, shops selling goods like health potions and bombs, and yes, even houses to enter where Elliot can pilfer coins from treasure chests from. Although the latter isn't recommended by multiple NPCs, as karma has a way of getting to a person, no matter how young or old.

Outside of towns, the side-scrolling areas of Elliot Quest are where the action primarily takes place. There are forests, fjords, caves (even following Zelda II to a "T", requiring a Candle item to be able to see inside them), ruins, and more to venture through. The biggest challenges come from the temples. These are set up just like dungeons in The Legend of Zelda series, having Elliot acquire keys to open locked doors, finding maps to get a blueprint of the temple in question, acquiring the temple's special item, and challenging the temple's boss to complete the dungeon. These temples are the most engrossing and enjoyable part of Elliot Quest, but the rest of the gameplay is nothing to overlook, either.

Dungeons are set up in a similar fashion
to The Legend of Zelda series's.
There are also Metroid influences to Elliot Quest's design. As new items are acquired, such as a bomb bag, a whirlwind item, a flame item, and a wing that bestows the ability to double jump, Elliot can return to past areas of the game to reach new previously inaccessible spots and places, finding treasure chests holding coins and presenting Elliot with new paths to take. Like with the open ended progression of Elliot Quest, it can be rather difficult remembering where these sections are, since there are so many areas on the overworld map to explore, and there is no documenting feature to make note on an area's map where points of interest are located. Here, much like old school games of yore, it's recommended to keep tabs on where you find locations you can't currently reach. In that regard, if this game has an instruction manual, the usually unused "Notes" section at the back of the manual would actually show some usefulness this time around!

These abilities and items have multiple uses outside of their intended ones. For instance, it was quite rewarding to learn on my own that blue goo-like enemies can be set on fire to easily dispose of them rather than unleashing over a dozen on them to defeat them. Little discoveries like this made Elliot Quest all the more engaging for me on a player level. It's discovering these things on your own where Elliot Quest becomes all the more rewarding to play, a spot in the game where it being vague is a good thing.

Sometimes Elliot needs to get on
a wing and a prayer to survive.
As Elliot starts his titular quest, he has as unassuming level of power. For instance, his arrows that he fires at foes don't fly that far. However, as enemies are defeated, Elliot gains experience which allows him to power up and reach new experience levels. This grants the player the opportunity to select an attribute to level up, such as Wisdom and Vitality. Elliot's arrows can not only fire farther, but they can fire faster if that attribute is chosen to be leveled up by the player. Hearts that restore health can doubly do so occasionally, or damage dealt to Elliot can even be halved, depending on the attribute the player levels up.

The Wii U version of Elliot Quest offers play on both the Wii U GamePad in off-TV mode and regular play on the big screen. With the latter, players can use the GamePad as a helpful map, as a means to equip and unequip abilities to the Y button, and see their leveling up progress. It's essentially all the functions of the pause menu done in real time.

This menu is helpful to have on the Wii U GamePad.
At the same time, off-TV play is mighty nice.
Elliot Quest's old school flavor permeates in its presentation as well, offering an old school art direction that is heavily reminiscent of Cave Story. It's not perfect, as there are some noticeable artifacts in the form of vertical lines that occasionally pop up on walls, ceilings, and floors. It can be a little jarring, and once I noticed them, it was hard to try to ignore them. I've also experience split seconds of slowdown when performing certain actions like attacking and jumping. These are so quick, however, that they aren't a detriment to the gameplay. The soundtrack of Elliot Quest is one that has solid influences from Super Nintendo soundtracks, such as The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. It's a strong soundtrack that keeps the player entranced in Elliot Quest's world.

Sometimes there are games that come out of nowhere that you aren't expecting to be as good as they are. Elliot Quest is one of these games. It follows the Zelda II school of design closely, but feels and plays differently enough that it's an entirely new beast of its own, and is a better game for it, too. If the idea of exploring a myriad of area types, defeating enemies both small and large, obtaining new items to access once unreachable areas, and doing all of this with an incredibly limited amount of hand-holding appeals to you, then Elliot Quest is without question a download for the Wii U that you need to head to the eShop to obtain... Now.

[SPC Says: A-]

Review copy provided by PlayEveryWare.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Top Ten Arranged Video Game Albums

Video game music is a big passion of mine, as SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs would probably tell you. It doesn't just end with the original music in video games, either. I often find myself attracted to arranged works from outside forces or the same composer(s)/musician(s). This is what tonight's top ten list is all about-- special arranged video game albums that just so happen to be my personal favorites. Obviously, my list is the definitive one (wink, wink), but if you feel so inclined to add your own faves to this list, well, I won't dissuade you! For now, let's get to the list!

10) Rockman ZX Soundtrack: "ZX Tunes"

Mega Man ZX isn't a highly celebrated installment of the Mega Man series of games. It was a Metroid-style romp that featured two playable characters, each with different modeled suits that they could equip for a myriad of situations. ZX Tunes greatly sharpens the quality of the game's music, offering better samples and higher fidelity. It's hard to go back to Mega Man ZX knowing I'd have to go back to the original soundtrack and not the updated ZX Tunes tracks.

9) Distant Worlds II: More Music from Final Fantasy

Although several themes of Distant Worlds II: More Music from Final Fantasy have seen orchestrated or otherwise arranged versions before, the ones that are repeated sound as great as ever before. However, the real winners on this orchestrated album of classic Final Fantasy tunes are brand-new arrangements like the fabulously chilling melodic adventure of Dancing Mad, a beautiful and intricate version of Suteki da ne, and the Prima Vista Orchestra, the third-to-last theme on this sensational soundtrack.

8) F-Zero X: Guitar Arrange Edition

We're definitely changing dynamics with this arrange album. F-Zero X's music was composed by Taro Bando, and while the soundtrack were rocking enough with the Nintendo 64's synths, THIS is the real deal. Mad metal, heavy rock, and some incredible percussion add up to make an already excellent soundtrack rip and roar with the best of them. F-Zero X: Guitar Arrange Edition takes the in-your-face songs of the F-Zero soundtrack and makes for an adrenaline-pumping, masterful collection of tunes.

7) MYTH ~ The Xenogears Orchestral Album

One of my favorite soundtracks of all time is from a game I haven't even played the majority of, Xenogears. MYTH is an orchestral album of a handful of select Xenogears tracks. Some are performed by an entire orchestra while others are soloed by a pianist. The version on this album of Small of Two Pieces is breathtaking, and the original vocalist, Joanne Hogg, has returned for it as well, adding even more to the song. Then you have a battle theme that sounds empowering with the help of brass and strings, a town theme that is as catchy as it is warm, and two piano solo pieces that can seriously move the listener. The entire album is a work of musical art and shows the mastery of Yasunori Mitsuda's original compositions from over 15 years ago.

6) Final Fantasy: Love Will Grow

One of a pair of vocal albums of Final Fantasy music (the other being Pray), Love Will Grow was the second release featuring an album full of lyric-filled versions of memorable Final Fantasy themes both popular and underrated. The vocal performances and accompanying orchestra are just phenomenal to listen to, and even if the lyrics are mostly in Japanese save for some English tracks, the music is a language all can understand and appreciate. From the a capella harmonies of Relm's Theme to the title track, Love Will Grow, the whole album is a pleasant one for the ears to enjoy.

5) Fithos Lusec Wecos Vinosec: Final Fantasy VIII

While it's not the most popular Final Fantasy game, and definitely the least liked of the PlayStation One trilogy, Final Fantasy VIII has unmistakably magnificent music. The game might not be to everyone's liking, but Nobuo Uematsu brought the proverbial heat. Fithos Lusec Wecos Vinosec is an orchestral album of Final Fantasy VIII themes. There's the songs that come directly from the game, Liberi Fatali and the rather long Ending Theme, but the rest of the album is of orchestrated versions of signature FF8 songs. It's a masterful album that is consistently fantastic, even if the game it's made for isn't beloved by all.

4) The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time - Hyrule Symphony

Take the already stupendous musical styling of Koji Kondo's The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time score, recreate it with the backing of a strings section, and you have my the arranged album that sits at the number four spot on my countdown. The harmonies are simply delightful, the tones are soothing, and the entire arranged album is just a marvelous journey for the listener. From the highs and lows of Kokiri Forest to the adventure of Hyrule Field, this Hyrule Symphony is one that beckons the listener to sit back, relax, and unwind to its heavenly harmony.

3) Smashing... Live!

I was a Sound Test junkie back in the day. This was before I had easy access to video game soundtracks. For instance, I'd sit in the Sound Test of Super Smash Bros. Melee for ages, listening to each theme. It never dawned on me to think on how awesome these themes would be orchestrated. That was until an unassuming issue of Nintendo Power came in the mail with a special gift attached to it, Smashing... Live!, a special performance of Super Smash Bros. Melee's music by a full fledged orchestra. Pretty much every character received representation, and quite so! It's an impressive collection and a celebration of Nintendo's illustrious history in music form. My kind of album!

2) The Black Mages II: The Skies Above

Nobuo Uematsu was the lead composer of the Final Fantasy series, and he formed a band with fellow musicians called The Black Mages. Their debut album was all things battle music of Final Fantasy. Their second album is my personal favorite. While it has a handful of battle themes from the Final Fantasy series, the meat and potatoes, so to speak, of the album was new rocking arrangements of field and dungeon pieces, such as Matoya's Cave. The entire album is without any negative aspect. At least that's how it goes in my book!

1) Mario & Zelda: Big Band Live

Take music from the Super Mario series, The Legend of Zelda series, and Yoshi series, have the primary instruments be those of a jazzy big band and a country jamboree, and you have my pick for greatest arranged video game album. This was a concert performance with a carefree atmosphere done on September 14, 2003. There is a wide range of Mario, Zelda, and Yoshi tunes from Super Mario Bros., Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, the original Legend of Zelda, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Majora's Mask, and the then-new Wind Waker. It's an album that gives me a pep in my step if I'm walking, and my butt to bouncing if I'm sitting in a chair while listening to it. ...Sorry for any mental picture I just gave you.


Which arranged albums of video game tunes, whether official or not, do you enjoy most? List your faves and perhaps some tracks in the comments below!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Nintendo Celebrates Women's History Month

Nintendo of America contacted me with an email regarding various leading ladies and sensational female supporting characters in Nintendo's grand history. Why? Because it's Women's History Month for the month of March. To put it more succinctly, I'll let Nintendo do it themselves!
In Honor of Women’s History Month, Nintendo is highlighting some of everyone’s favorite female characters such as Samus Aran, Rosalina and Toadette. Paving the way for diverse and interesting female protagonists in video games, Nintendo has picked a few of their popular leading ladies that merit this recognition for the month that honors outstanding women.
Here is but a sampling of the all-stars of the female persuasion that Nintendo has to celebrate Women's History Month.

  • In The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD, Princess Zelda was actually a tough and spunky captain of a ragtag group of pirates. Tetra saves Link from Ganondorf’s clutches, and later helps Link defeat Ganondorf for good to save the world.
  • Toadette is a recurring Toad character in the Mario series. These days, she’s a plucky treasure-hunter in Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, who puts on a brave face to find rare goodies and save Captain Toad from the monstrous and greedy bird, Wingo.
  • Bayonetta is a sassy and incredibly stylish witch with pistol-stilettos and a vendetta against the armies of angels and demons that hunt her. She’s a force to be reckoned with, an ally to her best friend and fellow witch Jeanne and doesn’t take flak from anybody.
  • Rosalina is an interstellar observer, protector of the Lumas and friend to Mario in Super Mario Galaxy. She is mother to the Lumas, who are little star-like creatures capable of becoming new galaxies!
  • Lucina is an unwavering warrior with a strong sense of justice and commitment to her family. Her power, determination and wisdom gained from watching the destruction of her world are priceless strengths as one of Fire Emblem Awakening’s many playable female protagonists.
  • Samus Aran shocked the video game world at the end of the original Metroid game by revealing her gender and changing the way we think about video game characters in the process. Video game protagonists need not be male in order to be strong. Samus is a space bounty hunter in an armored suit, outfitted with a powerful blaster on the arm and extreme heat resistance. 
  • Bombette is a Bob-omb who joins Mario on his quest in the original Paper Mario for the Nintendo 64. As a member of Mario’s diverse team of fighters, she has an explosive fighting style and isn’t afraid to get physical with her body slam and powerful bomb attacks.

Try Out SuperPhillip Central's Custom User Levels in Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars!

Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars has been out in North America since early this month, and it releases very soon for my European and Oceania pals. I rendered my verdict on the game, and during my time with Tipping Stars I accrued multiple custom created levels to tickle one's brain and reflexes. This is a sampling of the user levels I have made, and I'm quite proud of them. For all of these levels, search for Phil32 as the creator. Each level name links to its own Miiverse page.

Block Bridge
Difficulty: 3/5 

My first level is a total test of reflexes. Guide two Mini Marios from the start of the level across a dangerous and unfinished bridge of pink blocks. You have three blocks to work with and six spots where the Minis can fall, so keep the pace to help them survive. 'Else they'll receive quite the spike-filled fate!

Difficulty: 4/5

This jungle is full of hijinks. Press colored buttons to make their blocks disappear, creating paths for the Mini Marios to reach the goal with all of the coins collected. The main gimmick of this level is the amount of bounce pads that can send the Minis to new heights... and unexpected dangers! 

Difficulty: 3/5

Are you good with girders? You better be if you want to challenge Pipe Problem, a level where creating girders and pipes in the proper positions will be the difference between victory and a shameful defeat. Remember that a Mini Mario that enters a pipe will also exit a pipe in the same direction. Get all of the coins, nab that hammer, and take out that Donkey Kong wannabe to reach the locked door!

Difficulty: 4/5

My only level that is one screen only with zero scrolling, Gravel Plain's name has less to do with the blocks buried inside the rightmost platform and more to do with the nasty Thwomp that will crush whomever is foolish enough to linger underneath it. It takes careful placement of both girders and pink blocks to keep the Thwomp from smashing the Mini Marios. Use the cannons to accumulate coins as well as to reach the exit.

Difficulty: 4/5

This level is mostly all about pressing the buttons to change the directions of the conveyor belts at the correct times. Otherwise the Mini Marios will become impaled on the spikes that line the sides of the level. Simply beating the level doesn't pose too much of a challenge, but attempting to nab all of the coins requires some daredevil precision and timing!

Ladder Lane
Difficulty: 5/5

This level is a pure endurance run of multiple parts. Thankfully there's but one Mini Mario to work with here, but even with that bit of knowledge, the level is still rather tricky. There's dodging the fireballs of the starting column of Piranha Plants, hitting the colored switches in the proper order, situating girders correctly, cannon chaos, and an ending that requires one long girder to protect Mini Mario from a fiery fate. It's a level that is split up between sections to feel like an amazing journey that feels fantastic to conquer.

Crazy Castle
Difficulty: 5/5

There is no sign of Bugs Bunny at this crazy castle! Instead there are traps, tricks, and troves of treasure in the form of coins. Blast through the castle walls, saving each Mini along the way, starting with Mini Toad and then Mini Peach. As a hint, the last Mini that needs saving is the one you start with, Mini Mario. Can you collect yourself to conquer this castle?

Difficulty: 3/5

Don't you know? Coins are a girl's best friend. As its name would suggest, Gold Rush has players rushing to get both Mini Paulines to the same exit. This is all the while stepping on buttons to assist one another through their separate paths, only meeting twice in the level. Along the way, both figures can collect a cavalcade of coins to get a nice rewarding haul in. Of course, destruction may be the price to pay for greediness, if these two dames don't watch out.

If you have your own level creations you'd like to share, feel free to post Miiverse links to them in the comments below!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Zombie Incident (3DS eShop) Review

SuperPhillip Central continues its look at digital delights with a new Nintendo 3DS eShop game. This title released early this month, Zombie Incident. It is a game with roots to the MSX, but it's not as old as you may think. See what I mean with my review.

Zombie Accident

It's amazing what a person can do with old hardware. No, I'm not talking about the Nintendo 3DS-- I am talking about the MSX, which you may know one of its popular titles under the name of "Metal Gear." Even to this day hobbyists who have chosen their trade as coders are building brand-new games with the limited capabilities of older hardware. One such example is Nenefranz, a Spanish developer who created Zombie Incident. Now, Nintendo 3DS owners get the chance to try out this game thanks to the porting duties of CoderChild. Is the end result one that successfully reaches for the stars?

In Zombie Incident, your goal as Nana, the player character, is to seek through 64 rooms of a citadel in search for eight special stars. Once these have been collected, the goal then is to return to the beginning area of the game. Of course, nothing can be simple when your game's name is Zombie Incident. No, infesting the corridors and rooms of the citadel are undead creatures, such as bats, birds, spiders, caterpillars, and yes, zombies.

Zombie Incident is a bit like a Metroid game just without gaining new abilities. You run and jump around the citadel's 64 rooms with limited power, but as you defeat enemies you earn experience that allows you to grow stronger. However, at the beginning of the game, most monsters will be invincible to Nana's attacks. Depending on a creature's color, it is determined whether Nana can take that foe out or not. As Nana acquires experience and gains levels, she can take out foes that were previously too strong for her offensive advances.

Under a crescent moon, who knows
what horrors await Nana?
Thankfully the map on the bottom screen is a massive help to the player. Just like the amount of rooms in the citadel, there are 64 quadrants on the map. Each is a different color, representing if Nana can clear the room or not. For instance, a red room indicates that there is at least one enemy in that room that Nana is too weak to defeat; whereas a green room shows that while the room hasn't been removed of enemies, it's quite possible to do so as the enemies inside are now vulnerable. Blue rooms have been expunged of enemies completely.

In Zombie Incident, there are eight rooms that have gated doors in them, and the primary objective is for Nana to defeat all of the enemies inside these rooms for the doors to open. Inside these doors are one of eight stars that are required to beat the game. These rooms also serve as save points, though there's the caveat that when you save, your exact health is saved, too. What this amounts to is that if you have low health when you reach one of these rooms, you can essentially screw yourself over on beating the game. Running around with one or two slivers of health is basically suicide in Zombie Incident. Not fair and not fun.

One of the eight stars that Nana must acquire.
Unfortunately, even the actual fun of Zombie Incident is short lived. The game has competent replay value, allowing for repeated attempts to score big points and land on a much welcomed online leaderboard, but the actual gameplay grows tedious quite quickly. Nana's only means of attack is to jump on enemies. Many times enemies require multiple jumps, some over a half-dozen. When attacked, enemies have invincibility frames that render them impossible to hit for a second or two. This means jumping on the noggin of a foe once, having to wait a second or two for them to be able to get hit again, jumping on the foe, waiting, jumping, waiting, etc. until the enemy is defeated. Not that much fun.

For flying foes, this is especially annoying because they will often move while invincible to a location in the room where the ceiling is too low, making trying to attack them a fool's errand. Worse yet, they'll stay in an area where you can only damage them if you take a hit yourself in the process. Seeing as many enemies can rejuvenate health, this can become mighty annoying.

Get away from me, you bag of bones!
Being an MSX game ported to the Nintendo 3DS, the citadel of Zombie Incident is split up between 64 individual screens rather than being one continuous scrolling area. This means that when you jump to a new screen, you're very likely to be hit by an enemy because you weren't psychic and didn't know where the enemy would be located.

The transition between rooms is instantaneous. There's no time to get your bearings, so in the case of jumping up from the top of one screen to the bottom of another can easily result in falling back to the screen below because you couldn't correctly guess where a platform was. It's a limitation of the MSX hardware perhaps, but that doesn't make it forgivable nonetheless.

You can knock Zombie Incident for a lot of
things, but don't talk bad about its presentation.
Zombie Incident looks and runs fantastically. The stereoscopic 3D is used to great effect, though Nana and enemy sprites don't pop out at you. Instead, only the walls, ceilings, floors and other platforms do. It doesn't ruin the 3D effect, but to save my eyesight, I had to keep the 3D slider down midway. The music of Zombie Incident is suitably catchy and delivers remarkable retro goodness, which is greatly appreciated.

Even with all of its problems and all of my gripes with the game, Zombie Incident can't be blasted totally. It's mighty impressive how one person coded and developed the MSX original and now being able to play it on the Nintendo 3DS.  The game is only $1.99, and it can be viewed as a small price to pay for the annoyances that come into play. Still, they add up, and leaping on enemies over and over again and backtracking through rooms repeatedly can grate on the average player. It just depends on whether you have more patience than I apparently did.

[SPC Says: C-] 

Review copy provided by CoderChild.

SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs - Zelda... in 3D! Edition

The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D was announced by Nintendo of America in their press release last Thursday that the game is the fastest-selling handheld Zelda title ever in the U.S.! Why not celebrate this with a focused edition of SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs regarding all five 3D Zelda games! We'll start with the OG and my MVP Ocarina of Time, and we'll conclude with Skyward Sword! Equip your Master Sword, raise it in the air, and let's get to the music!

v831. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (N64) - Gerudo Valley (Orchestrated)

Let's kick things off with this 3D Zelda centric edition of SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs with a special orchestrated version of Gerudo Valley, one of the most popular themes from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. This was performed for the 25th anniversary concert of The Legend of Zelda series several years ago, and it's without question my favorite version of the well loved song.

v832. The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask (N64) - Clock Town (All Days)

Not just the song for Day One of Link's journey. Not just the song for Day Two of Link's journey. No, not just the song for Day THREE of Link's journey. No, this is a compilation of all four Clock Town themes for your listening pleasure (the latter being the one when the moon is set to crash into the clock tower). It's a perfect representation of the slow descent of dread and panic the townspeople of Clock Town dive into as the moon draws closer and closer to striking their beloved world.

v833. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (GCN) - Outset Island

Every adventure starts somewhere, and with The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, that adventure started at Outset Island, the hometown of our hero Link. Outset Island rests to the south of the Great Sea, and it is also home to this quaint and warm theme as Link walks about the wooden docks, sandy beaches, and grassy knolls of the village.

v834. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (Wii, GCN) - Midna's Lament

Only played once in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Midna's Lament plays when Wolf Link needs to rush Midna to Princess Zelda. This lament is a slowed down piano version of the main theme of Twilight Princess, played in a minor key. It's quite heartfelt and evokes a strong emotion in the hearts of its listeners.

v835. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Wii) - Earth Temple

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword possesses one of my favorite soundtracks in series history. The second dungeon in Skyward Sword is the Earth Temple, a place full of lava and wicked creatures that Link must combat against. The boss of the temple is a gigantic spider known as Scaldera, just as mean and nasty as the enemies leading up to the fearsome foe.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Trine: Enchanted Edition (Wii U eShop) Review

Trine: Enchanted Edition released this past Thursday in North America on the Wii U eShop. If you enjoyed the launch title of Trine 2: Director's Cut, then it's an easy choice to pick up this enhanced version of the original Trine. If you aren't familiar with either game, then hopefully my review can assist you!

Of Might and Magic...

Frozenbyte has seen fabulous success with their Trine series of games. The series has sold millions of digital copies across a wide variety of platforms, include the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, PC, and Wii U, the location of Trine: Enchanted Edition, Frozenbyte's latest release. Wii U owners are not strangers to the Trine series. At the system's launch, Trine 2: Director's Cut released on the system to critical success. Now, the game's predecessor is available for the Wii U. It is just as required playing as Trine 2 was, and that is to say a "must play."

Trine is a 2D puzzle platformer which has players assuming the roles of three different characters that can be cycled between with the tap of a button. With each of their own exclusive skills, they enable the player to progress through the game's abundance of physics-based puzzle and platforming challenges.

The Wizard can summon a metallic box as
a platform, a weapon, or a shield against enemies.
Each of the three heroes has their own uses in and out of battle. The Wizard can conjure up metal boxes for use not only to help reach higher platforms, but also to summon them over enemies so they land on top of them, crushing foes in a comedic display. Meanwhile, the Knight focuses on savage brawn and brute strength, taking out enemies with his sword and reflecting enemy attacks with his supremely helpful shield. Finally, the Thief uses her bow and arrows to deliver damage to enemies from afar, as well as being able to hook onto wooden ceilings and platforms to hang from and swing across chasms. Frozenbyte is to be commended for achieving a character balance so great that each hero is as important and useful as the others throughout the game's approximately 15 chapters.

The levels in Trine: Enchanted Edition house more than obstacles and platforming challenges for our trio of heroes to overcome. Green bottles of experience hide and are located in precarious positions, requiring smart exploration to find them. This experience can be used to unlock new skills and abilities for the Wizard, Knight, and Thief. Such abilities include the Knight's ability to dish out more damage with his attacks, the Wizard's ability to conjure more than one metal box to be on screen at the same time, or the Thief's ability to fire two arrows in one shot.

Ah, the wooden box: The only way to travel!
Alongside experience found sprinkled through Trine's levels, there's also experience to be gained from fallen enemies. While the enemy variety sticks with walking hunks of bone in the form of skeleton soldiers, swordsmen with shields, archers, and fire-breathers, some defeated foes leave behind experience.

May thine arrow's aim be true...
In addition to finding experience in levels, almost every chapter in the game houses two treasure chests that when opened reveal a special treasure that can be equipped to one of our three heroes. Some of these include health upgrades that adds a small percentage increase to their overall health, added defense to portions of a character's body, and so forth.

There are also treasure chests that appear in plain sight that unlock new abilities for the Wizard, Thief, and Knight when they are opened. The Wizard can learn an ability that allows him to summon planks, perfect for bridging gaps, while the Thief can acquire Fire Arrows, great for lighting unlit torches. Meanwhile, the Knight is able to equip a powerful hammer capable of smashing through weakened walls to access hidden areas of levels.

The Knight brings death from above
to this unassuming bag of bones.
Playing Trine: Enchanted Edition on the Wii U GamePad feels fantastic. While it means that you generally have to focus on the less impressive screen of the GamePad, it also means you get a volume of control that feels fantastic. Drawing shapes and lines to summon boxes and planks as the Wizard, and tapping areas of the screen as the Thief to shoot arrows, gives a sense of exactitude that isn't as present when using the right analog stick to do the same tasks.

The key differences between the original Trine and this enhanced version is twofold. For one, the visuals pack the same punch as the Trine 2, as the game uses the same, upgraded engine. Secondly, Trine: Enchanted Edition offers multiplayer for up to three players (either online or off). This makes some of the trials of the original Trine dispensable due to being able to create a platform as the Wizard, having other players stand on said platform, and having the Wizard rise the platform to a higher location, allowing the players to skip the intended platforming and puzzle-based challenge presented to them. Other times players need to be on the same page and work together to overcome obstacles thrown in their path. It's a nice balance, and it makes for a totally different climate for the game. So much so that I wanted to play Trine alone and in multiplayer to get both types of experiences, which both ended up being a lot of fun for varying reasons.

Three adventurers are sometimes better than one.
...I think that's how the saying goes, at least.
At the same time, Trine ends up being a little frustrating for the same reasons, whether you're dealing with multiple people playing with you or yourself by your lonesome. The jumping in Trine, much like its sequel, is a tad floaty, not offering the amount of precision needed to nail precarious jumps and leaps with a level of consistency. Throw in some times when the camera moves while you're in the middle of trying to conjure up an object as the Wizard, completely messing up what you were attempting to summon, and you have some flies in the proverbial ointment of Trine. These aren't impossible to overcome, but they're things that take some getting used to.

Trine: Enchanted Edition is a marvel to look at. Your eyes will thank you for bestowing onto them the visual delights this updated version of the original Trine possesses. While most of the time one can clearly see everything a level has to offer, on some occasions Trine can be a little too dark, too bright, or using too many special effects to make seeing where you have to go next a bit of a challenge. This is no further apparent than in the penultimate level, a journey through a tower's fiery foundry. That said, the game is otherwise an aesthetic masterpiece (though some might consider it to be too busy, which I agree at times), and I don't think I'm being too hyperbolic in my statement there.

The Foundry level, I found, was one of the
hardest to see where to go.
On the sound side of Trine: Enchanted Edition comes perfectly delivered dialogue that sports accents of Ye Olde English descent, perfect for the Medieval fantasy setting the game takes place in. It assists in presenting a fairy tale-like appearance that is of the utmost quality.

Frozenbyte has once again graced Wii U owners with another satisfying and captivating game with Trine: Enchanted Edition. It offers an amazing amount of value, clever puzzle design, great gameplay for solo and multiplayer fans, and a presentation that will certainly drop the jaws of most players who take on its challenge. While the platforming isn't perfect in execution, and the final level is a bit tricky for mostly the wrong reasons, the experience of playing Trine: Enchanted Edition is not spoiled by these issues. Trine ends up being a highly engaging game that is pleasing whether you're playing it alone or with others.

[SPC Says: B+]

Review copy provided by Frozenbyte.