Saturday, July 25, 2015

Bayonetta (Wii U) Review

As I stated on my Twitter, I have a second review for this fine Saturday. Quite out of the ordinary to have one review on a Saturday, much more two! Regardless, this second review is for a game I finally got the chance to play through on the Wii U after getting it late last year. It's Bayonetta. Is the Wii U version definitely definitive?

Fun in almost every witch way.

Reviewing a game that didn't release that long ago is always a bit challenging, as the experience is somewhat fresh in your mind so you somewhat know what to expect. However, the Wii U version of Bayonetta takes what players know of the original game and adds some stuff in both presentation and content to make for a game that is truly worthy of replaying.

An Umbran witch, Bayonetta awakens from a 500-year rest inside a coffin. Her memory is a bit fuzzy as to the events leading up to being placed inside her home of 500 years, and she's understandably wanting to make some sense of what happened. Along the way she heads to the European town of Vigrid, where her role in the future of the world will take shape.

Bayonetta isn't the clearest story out there. There are many times where I scratched my head at what discussions taking place were even about, and what a particular scene's relevance even was, other than identifying Bayonetta as someone who appears to be along for the ride. However, while the plot isn't crystal clear, the general idea of what was going on was in the back of mind as I played through the game. Even then, the story is just an excuse to pull off kickass battle maneuvers in some intense combat scenarios.

Our fair witch Bayonetta has a wide repertoire of killer moves to take down the angelic horde that is after her. The combat system is simple enough to learn, owing a lot to the already accessible Devil May Cry, another of director Hideki Kamiya's projects, but tough to master. Pardon that cliche there. With a combination of timed presses of the X and A buttons Bayonetta can cycle through punches and kicks. To maintain combos and attack foes from far away, she can let loose with her various guns, and with every attack, she's stylish as can be.

"Don't mind me, boys. I'm just getting some exercise in."
Loving to dish out pain, Bayonetta has some finishing moves that take the form of torture-style attacks. From putting a foe inside a giant guillotine to a massive vice, Bayonetta seems to have taken some pointers from the Saw series of movies. While those are always hard to watch in their cruel brutality, the finishing moves in Bayonetta take the shape of almost comical violence instead, easier on the eyes. Your mind, body, and soul will most definitely not need a shower after playing Bayonetta.

Ooh. This one is definitely going to hurt!
Of course, a witch's offense is only as good as her defense. This is where the mechanic of Witch Time comes in, initiated upon a last-second dodge from an enemy attack. When done correctly, the action will slow to a crawl, save for Bayonetta, who can unleash a flurry of attacks to deal massive amounts of damage to enemies during this time.

Bayonetta likes to fight for kicks.
Bayonetta is divided between chapters, and these are divided up more so between verses. Each verse grades your performance a la Viewtiful Joe (surprise, surprise, another Kamiya work) on how much of a combo you obtained, whether or not you took damage, and how much time the verse took you to complete. You are judged with a medal based on your efforts and ability, with a dull metal being the worst you can do, and a pure platinum being the absolute best.

This panther transformation allows Bayonetta
to dart fast through levels.
Going for pure platinum on every verse in the game, some are hidden from the normal path, by the way, is one of the most challenging things a gamer can try to accomplish. It may even be a fool's errand, but it no doubt makes the already lengthy game of about 10-12 hours (playing on Normal, of course) all the more replay-able. There are also five difficulties in all with the first two, Very Easy and Easy, basically putting training wheels on the action. You can also utilize the Wii U Gamepad's touch screen more, swiping on the screen to unleash attacks and dodges if you so choose. The higher difficulties introduce different, usually harder enemy combinations earlier in the game than you'd otherwise see on easier difficulties, and obviously our favorite whimsical witch takes more damage from enemy attacks.

While the combat feels fast and fluid, making you feel like a total bad-ass ripping and roaring through the angelic and demonic masses, there can be some kinks in how Bayonetta presents itself as a game. There are multiple times where a pure platinum run can be lost because of a stray quick time event that comes out of nowhere. These are definitely unwelcome as they're rather rare, but they happen enough that you basically always have to keep on your guard when the huge spectacle of battle and of the cutscenes take place.

You can also pick up weapons like this to temporarily use during combat.
Furthermore, there are occasions in Bayonetta where the game takes you of the pure character action-driven gameplay into completely different scenarios that take a bit of learning to play well. I'm referring to sections like the motorcycle riding chapter of Highway 666, as well as a late-game ode to games like Space Harrier. These are also moments that can mess up a good ranking run due to not being overly familiar with the brand-new gameplay style implemented and then never used again.

Between chapters and at particular moments in levels, Bayonetta can enter into a bar known simply as The Gates of Hell. Here, with the halos, the currency of the game, dropped from enemies and earned through getting high ranks in battle, you can purchase everything from helpful items (though using them in battle will lower your overall grade) to new moves, to special costumes and weaponry. It makes playing through Bayonetta more than once a must (it's already a fun idea to begin with) to purchase everything the shopkeeper offers.

Alongside the pretty much throwaway optional touch controls to perform attacks and movement, Bayonetta on Wii U features a lovely exclusive to it in the form of Nintendo-themed outfits. In addition to unlockable costumes like dressing up like a nun or cheerleader, Bayonetta can cosplay as Princess Peach, Daisy, Metroid's Samus Aran or The Legend of Zelda's Link, each offering a special set of moves and visual variety to said moves. You get these Nintendo costumes right from get-go, making it so even if you've played Bayonetta to death on the PlayStation 3 (so sorry for your suffering) or the Xbox 360, there is something new to make your latest play-through well worth it.

There's no worries of any babies marring the
 experience with the Samus Aran costume.
Bayonetta runs on Wii U rather well. It's no surprise that it beats out the abomination that was the PlayStation 3 version, but it also beats out the Xbox 360 in some aspects and others not. The frame-rate can vary oftentimes, but it never truly harmed my experience with the game. Textures also aren't the greatest, offering plenty of fuzzy-looking environments. Overall though, Bayonetta shines in its presentation, delivering well crafted visuals with absolutely stunning animation. Sound-wise, Bayonetta has terrific music, such as a pop-like version of "Fly Me to the Moon" as well as jazz, classical, choir music, and much more. The voice acting is suitably well acted, especially Bayonetta's voice actress who I believe steals the show... er... game.

Is Bayonetta on Wii U the definitive version of Platinum Games' classic character action game? I argue that yes, it is. Very much so. It offers a host of control and controller options, off-TV play is a godsend, and the extras included more than make the game worth playing, even if you've exhausted yourself on the original release five years ago. Bayonetta is an engaging thrill ride that once it sinks its teeth into you, it doesn't let go until long after the credits have ended.

[SPC Says: B]

Canvaleon (Wii U eShop) Review

Welcome to the weekend at SuperPhillip Central! It's time for a new review for a Wii U eShop game that released this past Thursday for a good number of Wii U owners, Canvaleon. Is this stealth platformer a good one, or is it something I'd rather stick my long, thin tongue out at?

Color Me Frustrated

The Wii U eShop might not be the most bustling marketplace for a home console. However, the quality and variety of many of the games are quite amazing. While there are definitely games to stay away from like any marketplace, there are some bright shiny gems in the Wii U's digital library. Canvaleon is a 2D platformer, which admittedly the Wii U has enough of, but it's one that tries something different, using a wide array of camouflages to blend the protagonist into the background, narrowly avoiding the advance of enemies. Is the mechanic executed brilliantly, or does Canvaleon "blend in" too much with the other less than desirable Wii U eShop games?

Canvaleon starts out with an adorable hand drawn scene that tells the story of a newborn chameleon who is ousted by his family and fellow villagers due to lacking the ability to change colors like any ordinary part of his species. Rejected, the chameleon grows up and meets an artist named Doodle has the ability to paint the pure white chameleon with his special paintbrush. Thus, Doodle gives the chameleon a name, Canvas!

This is where the main gameplay mechanic of Canvaleon comes in. Levels don't require you to speed through them as if you were playing Super Mario Bros. or something like that. Well, you CAN take levels that way, but you'll very much find yourself dying constantly. No, Canvaleon is more of a cerebral 2D platformer that requires stealth, patience, and strategy.

I quickly found out that simply trying to rush
through levels like my tail was on fire was a bad plan.
It just takes one hit to have to redo a stage, and because there are no checkpoints to be found (unfortunately-- having checkpoints would make Canvaleon more enjoyable and less frustrating to play), it makes it so you have to play smart. Levels are also fairly long, so one death near the end means you have to restart the whole blasted thing.

Our hero chameleon is a literal blank Canvas. Through collecting multicolored butterflies throughout stages, you can buy and create different camouflages for Canvas to equip. You can have up to four different camouflage patterns equipped at once, having you cycle through them with the shoulder buttons. Buying pre-made camouflages seems pretty useless, as they rarely seem applicable to the levels in the game. Thus, the option to create your own camouflage is highly important.

Depending on the enemy, your camouflage may
work better or worse.
Unfortunately, the game doesn't really explain well what goes into making a proper camouflage that will actually work. Furthermore, you pretty much have to remember the level's backgrounds to make the right colored camouflage, so if the level has a brick pattern, you best do your darndest to draw a pattern that is close to it from memory. Then there's the issue of not having enough butterflies to create said camo. You better not mind having to replay levels over and over to get the required amount of butterflies for the type of camouflage you desire.

Levels also suffer from the inability to fully gauge what is an actual platform and what isn't. Many times I'd leap to something that looked like a solid platform, only to discover it was just background scenery that couldn't be interacted with. Not the best if you're discovered by the enemy and have to make a mad dash to get to a safe platform away from the dangerous foe.

Thankfully, if one level is giving your problems, the world map of Canvaleon allows you to go to a different one to try out. There are a myriad of levels in the game taking place in various different locales requiring various different camouflages. There are forests, mountains, deserts, cities, and so many more interesting areas to explore.

Hmm. Something tells me this enemy is aware of my location.
They are so interesting because of how well the art design holds up. Canvaleon is a beautifully devised game artistically, offering detailed backgrounds and environments, nice enemy design, and nice visual effects. The music is pretty much background noise, but it's by no means grating, unlike the sound that plays when an enemy has been alerted of your presence.

Even still with its many issues, Canvaleon is by no means an awful game. It's just definitely one that requires patience and a bit of stubbornness to complete. Some better explanation towards designing your own camouflages would have been greatly appreciated, and a checkpoint or two in the longer levels would make for a far less frustrating and "nope. I'm done" moments. Still, if you have the resolve and perseverance to take on the challenge that Canvaleon holds, then by all means, check this innovative title out.

[SPC Says: C-]

Review copy provided by OXiAB Game Studio.

Super Mario Maker (Wii U) Coming Soon Trailer

Super Mario Maker has received what could conceivably be its North American commercial for the game. Even if it's not, this is a wonderful 30 second trailer to get Wii U owners and those without to get hyped for the opportunity to create and play levels of their dreams or just play around with the creator. Super Mario Maker releases September 11th, just in time for the series's 30th anniversary on the 13th.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Rare Replay (XONE) Pre-Order Trailer

A trailer for the upcoming Rare Replay, a collection of 30 classic Rare games for $30, is here for fans and viewers alike. It's so Rare in quality and charm, don't you think? Regardless, Rare Replay will without question be considered one of the greatest deals in gaming history when it releases August 4th.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Bad Boss Battles in Gaming History - Part Five


  • Batman: Arkham Knight
  • Batman: Arkham Origins - Blackgate
  • Castlevania: Lords of Shadow
  • Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando
  • Various Super Mario games

Welcome to some more boss bashing! It's part five of Bad Boss Battles in Gaming History, where we take a look together at some of the poorer fights, confrontations, and encounters within video games. These fights can be boring, annoying, anticlimactic, or just plain not fun. Since there are spoilers in these articles, you can check out part five after the break.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Top Five Ball-Rolling Games

Let's get the ball rolling (har-har) on a new top five list for SuperPhillip Central. The ball-rolling game generally consists of guiding some form a ball to a goal. There have been many iterations of this type of game, so it's been a bit of a trial to formulate a list of the five best. However, a list has been made!

5) Mercury series

Archer Maclean is a British programmer with an illustrious history of games under his belt, such as the Atari's International Karate, as well as various pool and snooker games. His Mercury series takes the ball-rolling game into a form, literally, as the gelatinous mercury ball that players in the game controlled could split in half, transform into new shapes, alter its color, and morph. The Mercury series has appeared on the PlayStation Portable, where it debuted, the PlayStation 2, and Nintendo's Wii, where the Wii Remote's motion control functionality was put to great use, having players tilt it to move the blob of mercury around.

4) Marble Madness 

One of the originators of the ball-rolling genre, Marble Madness is as classic of a title as you can get. Although there weren't a wide array of levels (approximately six, if I recall correctly), the challenge was guiding your marble around an isometric world, avoiding hazards, trying not to fall from a great height, which would shatter the marble into pieces, and rolling through the finish line before time runs out. Perhaps it's a bit blasphemous that Marble Madness is only number four on this list, but I argue that the genre only got better as time marched (or should I say, rolled?) on.

3) Marble Blast series

Marble Blast is a series by GarageGames, although the rights to the series have since been lost by the studio. Both Marble Blast Gold and Marble Blast Ultra are no longer available for purchase in an official capacity, and that's a shame, as the games are some of the best in the ball-rolling genre. Ultra consists of 60 levels, spread across three difficulties of 20 levels apiece. Each introduces new gameplay mechanics into the mix, such as gravity, the need to plan careful jumps across dangerous gaps, and special items. I can only hope that the duo of Marble Blast games somehow gets another chance to shine.

2) Kororinpa series

Kororinpa: Marble Mania, and to a lesser extent, its sequel, Marble Saga: Kororinpa, are Nintendo Wii games that put all of the courses of the game into your hands. You see, the Wii Remote is used to tilt the levels to move around your marble through, requiring not only speed to beat the times, but also precision and accuracy, especially for the harder levels with more places to fall off. The sequel offers the ability to create your own levels, which adds great replay value and longevity to the game. Unlockable levels and marbles also increases this. What you are left with is a pair of ball-rollers that are absolutely charming and fun to play.

1) Super Monkey Ball series

Now, is it really fair to call the Super Monkey Ball series number one when most of its games aren't very good? I believe that the original Super Monkey Ball and its sequel (perhaps even the Game Boy Advance game, too) are so fun and well done that they more than enough make the Super Monkey Ball series worthy of being number one on this list. Controlling Aiai and his monkey cohorts through colorful and increasingly more challenging and creative levels is a blast, and the arcade nature of the game makes it so you're always trying to make a little more progress in the game with each attempt. I say "attempt" because these games are mighty difficult, even for a seasoned player of the genre. Throw in some excellent mini-games, and the choice of Super Monkey Ball as my number one pick is just the way the ball bounces.

Monday, July 20, 2015

SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs - Platformers Aplenty Edition

This week's edition of SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs is a special one. This week we're going to run and jump with five platforming games! We start off with Super Mario Sunshine-- perfect for summer, enter a village with Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time, get dirty with Conker's Bad Fur Day, do that voodoo that I do so well with Voodoo Vince, and we use our heads with Bonk's Adventure.

Before we jump into this edition of the 'ol VGMs, take a listen to some past VGM volumes with SPC's VGM Database. All 920 prior VGM volumes are located right there!

v921. Super Mario Sunshine (GCN) - Bianco Hills

While we're in midst of summer in the States, why don't we take a trip to Bianco Hills, the very first world within Super Mario Sunshine. Up until this year's Super Mario Maker, Super Mario Sunshine was one of the last Mario games that Koji Kondo composed most of the music for. Bianco Hills' theme is a peppy piece that makes running up and down through the village, up the path to the windmill, and through the lakeside forest a lot more fun.

v922. Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time (PS3) - Zanifar - A Peaceful Village

One of my favorite Ratchet & Clank games comes from the series' second PlayStation 3 outing, A Crack in Time. It's a great platformer that had brilliant platforming, awesome running and gunning, and clever Clank puzzle segments. Since this IS SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs, perhaps I should say something about the music, hmm? Well, the soundtrack is one of the series's best, using a lot more melodic cues than past soundtracks.

v923. Conker's Bad Fur Day (N64) - Barn Boss

Even in a game that is bad, you know that Rare will create a sensational soundtrack to go with it. Luckily with Conker's Bad Fur Day, we don't have to worry about the game being bad. Actually, the only thing that was bad about the game were the pathetic sales for it on the Nintendo 64. It was a late release on the system, plus Nintendo had no desire to market it due to its questionable humor and (im)mature content.

v924. Voodoo Vince (XBX) - Main Street

We go from the N64 to Microsoft's first Xbox with Voodoo Vince. It's an absolute shame that the only real way to play this game is with the original Xbox release, as the game is not backwards compatible with the Xbox 360. Still, it's rather worth tracking down an Xbox to play it, as the game does a lot right and has a unique gameplay hook to it.

v925. Bonk's Adventure (TG16) - Swamp

Finishing up this platformer-centric edition of SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs, we have Bonk's Adventure, a TurboGraphix-16 game. Whereas the NES had Super Mario Bros and the Genesis / Mega Drive had Sonic the Hedgehog, the TG16 had Bonk's Adventure. You smashed into enemies with Bonk's enormous noggin, running through platforming vistas in this enjoyable classic.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Tiny Galaxy (Wii U eShop) Review

A new week begins with a new review for a new Wii U eShop game that released last week, Tiny Galaxy. In the dog days of summer, is it a title worth downloading? The answer is in my review.

Tiny Galaxy, Big Problems

Super Mario Galaxy is one of my favorite games of all time. Now, that was a 3D platformer obviously, but it seems like the idea to make a game that was similar, moving from planet to planet in a 2D plane, should have been made already. Well, now it has with Tiny Galaxy, developed by just one guy! Is the game one that will pull you in or one that will send you off course?

Tiny Galaxy has a simple premise. You trot around miniature planets, (hopefully) avoiding obstacles, and collecting three stars to open the exit portal to complete the level. Levels are made up of multiple miniature planets that require you to jump from one planet to another when you're in their gravitational pull. This boils down to jumping when you're on one planet with the intended planet you want to land on being directly above you.

The goal of each level is to collect three stars
and reach the end portal while surviving.
One thing I noticed immediately with Tiny Galaxy is how difficult the game is. Even in the first world I died a seemingly endless amount of times, and on many occasions I found myself not enjoying myself due to how blisteringly challenging the game is. The main hazard in the first world is moving and stationary saws. The movement patterns require near perfect movement to survive, and even then it's all too easy to die. This is a game purely of pattern memorization and millisecond timing to survive. As Tiny Galaxy progresses, the patterns become harder to memorize and make note of and the timing for jumps become obnoxiously tighter.

I came, I saw, I came and got killed by a saw.
Now, that wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for Tiny Galaxy's not-so-tiny physics issues. Many times I tried to jump to a planet from directly below it, only for the game to not register that I wanted to change planets. Then there were the times when I moved to a new planet when I didn't wish to do so whatsoever. Considering there are hazards in between planets that you must time your jump between planets carefully, this makes for an even greater irritation concerning the gameplay.

Furthermore, the camera isn't the greatest. Now, while a fixed camera might have been better for Tiny Galaxy to null any players who might become nauseous with the camera moving around a planet as Orion walks around it, what is an obvious problem is how the camera transitions between when you move from one planet to another. When protagonist Orion jumps to a new planet, he's at the bottom of it, so the camera needs to spin around to situate itself right for the player. The main issue here is that this camera transition takes a couple of sometimes crucial seconds to occur. Some hazards can kill you while this process takes places, and while you can move Orion during this transition, moving in the proper and necessary direction when the camera is upside-down is a bit confusing and challenging.

There's no time to chill out, Orion! Get moving!
The issues go into the menus as well. While the game is played with buttons, the level select is purely controlled via touch, which is a bit confusing and annoying. Furthermore, there is no visual cue to determine which levels you've completed and which you have not. This means that if you skip around, you have to make mental notes or literal notes on which levels you've actually finished and which have yet to be completed. Very baffling oversight. Among another bewildering oversight is how even if you're in a world beyond the first one, if you complete a level, Tiny Galaxy takes you back to the first world's level select instead of the world you were actually in.

On the presentation side of things, Tiny Galaxy shines. Each world has its own sense of ambiance with planets that fit the theme of the world. Even though the worlds borrow from the traditional, perhaps cliche, tropes of games, such as the ice world and the tropical world, the levels are visually attractive and well themed. The music is passable. It doesn't hurt or accentuate the action that happens on screen. It's merely there. Meanwhile, the opening still frame cutscene is pleasantly done and enjoyable to watch. It's low tech, but it gets the job done.

The environmental design is rather nice in Tiny Galaxy.
Being a fan of games that try new things and have a unique hook, I really wanted to love Tiny Galaxy. Unfortunately, countless gameplay gripes that negatively affect the overall experience and some questionable design decisions wholly detract from the game. Most will not be able to tolerate the high difficulty of the game, but if you're one of the few that can, you'll still suffer from several issues with the game. This seems like a good first try for the developer, and it shows promise for the future. Hopefully future games from the developer will take the lessons learned from Tiny Galaxy to make a game that's a lot better.

[SPC Says: D]

Review copy provided by Taylor Hajash.