Friday, December 11, 2015

The Unpopular Opinion 4: Games We Liked That Many Did Not

The staff at SuperPhillip Central loves games. We live them, we breathe them, we bathe with them, etc. However, we sometimes go outside the norm with our reviews, bashing titles that many others enjoyed, and heralding other games that have received poor scores or negative feedback within the gaming community. This article focuses on the latter type of games. As the title suggests, this is our second go at representing the games that a sizable chunk of gamers and critics lambasted yet we still enjoy. To check out the first, second, and third articles, click this link, this link and this link. After you're done reading our choices, why not list some of your own?

Dragon Ball: Xenoverse (PS4, XONE, PS3, 360)

Docked points by many critics for having shallow gameplay, repetitive battles, and a clunky camera, we still ended up enjoying Dragon Ball: Xenoverse for what it was. It was a Dragon Ball Z fan's dream come true, allowing deep character customization, a story that didn't mind moving away from the typical scenarios of past Dragon Ball Z games, and had a rich variety of characters, character archetypes, and mind-blowing anime graphics. If you're a lover of games with a multitude of customization options, RPG style gameplay, and intense aerial and ground battles, Dragon Ball: Xenoverse is the game for you.

The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes (3DS)

While we're not head over heels in love with the latest Legend of Zelda release from Nintendo, the game is a far cry from a disappointment. With The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes, Nintendo took a different approach to the series, offering multiplayer for up to three friends or total strangers to go through the game's 32 levels, solving puzzles as a team, defeating foes as a team, and collecting loot to create new, advantageous costumes. While the lack of voice chat hurts the online experience when more complicated puzzles poke their head into the player's way, and the online setup in general isn't the most optimal, The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes, an enjoyable and well designed level-wise multiplayer experience unlike any other was crafted by the fine folks at Nintendo.

Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. (3DS)

The majority of reviews slammed this next game from Intelligent Systems and Nintendo for the slow pace of enemy movement. Thankfully, Nintendo quickly patched in the ability to speed up enemy turns dramatically (either 2X on regular 3DS and 3DS XL models, or 3X on New 3DS models). This made for an experience that was much more tolerable and enjoyable than what was previously available to players. Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. remains a challenging turn-based strategy game that requires patience and great strategy to complete. Since you're limited in your view to what your characters can see in their third-person views, smart tactical decisions must be made to stay alive and in one piece. It may not have sold anywhere near expectations (it actually bombed quite magnificently), but Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. is far from a bad game.

Chibi-Robo!: Zip Lash (3DS)

Many critics of this next 3DS game and fans of the Chibi-Robo! series in general came off disappointed by Zip Lash's 2D platformer direction, which went against everything the series had been up to this point, save for the 3DS photo game. That is a shame, as Chibi-Robo!: Zip Lash is a well put together game, only marred by a bewildering addition of a level wheel that selects which level you'll play next in a given world. Fortunately, it's quite easy to get around the seemingly random picks of levels and get the levels you want, so this is not as big of an issue as many players and critics led us to believe. While the vehicles levels are the weakest part level-wise, Chibi-Robo!: Zip Lash is all around an entertaining platformer with a lot of heart.

Kirby and the Rainbow Curse (Wii U)

The main complaint of many behind Kirby and the Rainbow Curse was that it was unfortunate that players had to focus on the Wii U GamePad's screen when the game was so beautiful that it was a shame that they couldn't keep their attention on their television screen for the HD visuals. The lack of copying powers and repetitive boss encounters also saw points deducted by various sources. Still, the claymation art style delights, the stylus-driven gameplay is as innovative as it was when the Nintendo DS original Kirby Canvas Curse released, and the level design, though somewhat linear, houses  a profusion of captivating secrets and hidden treasures. Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is by no means the best the Wii U had to offer this year for system owners, but it was also by no means the worst.

Legend of Kay Anniversary (PS4, Wii U, PS3, 360)

An imperfect 3D action/adventure game in every sense of the word, Legend of Kay Anniversary is a remastered version of the PlayStation 2 release Legend of Kay. Of all the games from the PS2 generation that could have been remastered or even remade, Legend of Kay was certainly an odd choice. Regardless, while the game suffers from plenty of problems such as the inability to return to past areas, grating voice work, and some repetitive combat and scenarios, Legend of Kay Anniversary is a very capable game whose budget price made it much easier to overlook the game's issues and become fun enough by SuperPhillip Central's standards.

Star Fox Adventures (GCN)

Shigeru Miyamoto suggested to Rare that instead of using an all-new protagonist and using the Dinosaur Planet new IP, Rare should bring in Fox McCloud and the Star Fox moniker to the game instead. Whether this was because Miyamoto figured the Star Fox license would work better for the game or because he knew that Microsoft would be soon buying Rare, and thus, taking the Dinosaur Planet IP with them is unknown. Regardless, this Zelda-like game was a far cry from what fans of the Star Fox franchise were expecting. However, the actual game, though not without its own problems, wound up as a captivating action/adventure title released in the first two years of the Nintendo GameCube's life. While not the desired finale to Rare's partnership with Nintendo's home consoles, Star Fox Adventures remains a compelling and enjoyable game.

Jet Force Gemini (N64)

Speaking of Rare-developed games, Jet Force Gemini's biggest annoyance to many fans is how in order to reach the final level, the final boss, and see the credits of the game, players need to rescue every Tribal in the game. This requires plenty of returning to past planets and areas to reach new locales within said planets and areas. While many saw this as pure filler, we at SuperPhillip Central found a new appreciation for the levels and planets we previously had explored. The collection and usage of new items opened up grand new areas that were a blast to journey through, mowing down Mizar's insect horde while rescuing innocent Tribals. Of course, it was a pain when we got a little trigger happy and blew the head off a Tribal and had to restart an area...

Banjo Pilot (GBA)

We just can't quit you, Rare! At least when it comes to The Unpopular Opinion 4. Rare has had many divisive games through its impressive lifespan, and one of the final games released on the Game Boy Advance by Rare was Banjo Pilot, a kart racer that originally starred the cast of the Donkey Kong Country series. There are still remnants of that game in the final product, such as the music, for instance. Banjo Pilot isn't a perfect arcade racing game, as the rubber-band AI is indeed an annoyance, but for all of its quirks, the game is in general fun to play. The colorful cast and areas of the Banjo-Kazooie franchise were well-represented in Banjo Pilot, and the actual flight mechanic felt great too. Sure, the game wasn't worth the five year wait for it, but the end product of Banjo Pilot isn't awful by any stretch of the imagination.

Monday, December 7, 2015

SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs - Chaka Khan Edition

It's Chanukah for our Jewish readers, so Happy Chanukah, everybody! As part of the festivities, SuperPhillip Central's gift to you is the gift of song with five special VGMs! Just click the song titles to be whisked away to the song listed!

This week we have music to share from God of War III, a sequel to Golden Sun with Golden Sun: The Lost Age, fantastic music from Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest, a catchy tune from The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, and finally, we wrap up with some Banjo-Kazooie.

If you'd like to take a look and listen to past VGM volumes, take a gander at the VGM Database. With that out of the way, let's get to the music!

v1021. God of War III (PS4, PS3) - Boss - Poseidon

The beginning of God of War III pulls no punches. It's an absolutely chaotic and epic battle with Poseidon set against the backdrop of all hell breaking loose near Mount Olympus and the titans. This intense orchestral theme plays during the madness, setting up a brilliant battle with Poseidon who winds up on the losing end of Kratos's wrath.

v1022. Golden Sun: The Lost Age (GBA) - Battle - Felix

Whereas Golden Sun was seen in the point of view of Isaac's party, its sequel, Golden Sun: The Lost Age, is seen in the point of view of Felix's party. His battle theme is just as peppy and energized as Isaac's, and it's once again all thanks to the magnificent talent of Motoi Sakuraba, a name that is quite well known to frequenters of SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs!

v1023. Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest (SNES) - Lockjaw's Saga

The underwater levels of the original Donkey Kong Country took place in lakeside, riverside, and ocean side waters. Meanwhile, the underwater levels of Donkey Kong Country 2 take place in the depths of a sunken pirate ship. Some levels feature the piranha Lockjaw while others require the cooling down of the water before it gets to dangerously hot levels. No matter the level, this excellent theme from David Wise plays to keep you enthralled in these particularly waterlogged levels.

v1024. The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask (N64) - Astral Observatory

A place that Link goes to to view the telescope and look into the moon to get its tear, the Astral Observatory is equipped with a lovely theme, as you can obviously here with this link (no pun intended). The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask saw a Nintendo 3DS remake early this year, and it made a great game even greater. Perhaps it'll wind up on SuperPhillip Central's Best of 2015 list?

v1025. Banjo-Kazooie (N64, XBLA) - Mr. Vile's Game

Mr. Vile is a crocodile that lives in a crocodile shaped dome in the middle of Banjo-Kazooie's Bubble Gloop Swamp. To get his Jiggy you need to participate and win against him in a three part mini-game where the goal is to eat the right colored fruit. This catchy mini-game theme plays during all three variants of the mini-game, requiring speed and precision as you gobble up fruit as Banjo and Kazooie's alligator form.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Banjo Pilot (GBA) Retro Review

Banjo Pilot has a storied history to it, but is all that work that Rare put into the game make for one worth playing? That's what I intend to find out with my Banjo Pilot retro review. 

(The attached images provided come from Nintendo World Report.)

Banjo and friends take flight in what was a long-awaited Game Boy Advance racer.

More than a decade ago, UK based developer Rare was working on multiple projects for a little handheld from Nintendo known as the Game Boy Advance. When Nintendo decided not to buy the founders of Rare, the Stamper brothers' shares of Rare, Microsoft purchased the company. Rare still had several unreleased projects for the GBA, including games like Banjo-Kazooie: Grunty's Revenge and a racing game featuring Diddy Kong and his friends, Diddy Kong Pilot. 

Because Rare no longer had the rights to the Donkey Kong characters or franchise, and because Microsoft had no competition with Nintendo's handhelds, Diddy Kong Pilot was retooled for several years as Banjo Pilot. The game finally came out in 2005, many years after it was originally announced, and the end result is something that is content-rich but suffers from a few tailspins. 

Banjo and Klungo jockey for first place in Spiral Mountain,
the first track of the very first Grand Prix.
Banjo Pilot forgoes the typical karts that are so popular in games of the arcade racing style, and instead it takes to the sky with every character racing in miniature airplanes. Starting off, Banjo, Kazooie, Mumbo Jumbo, and Jinjo are unlocked to race as. Through completing cups, new racers are available to purchase with pages delivered back to Cheato, earned through finishing races. 

The starting roster is a bit bare, but unlocking characters
is a fast and fun process.
As a racing game of this type usually has, there are sixteen tracks total in Banjo Pilot. These range from trips to worlds from Banjo-Kazooie, Banjo-Tooie, and even Banjo-Kazooie: Grunty's Revenge, the bear and bird's first arrival on the Game Boy Advance. Tracks range from familiar locales like Spiral Mountain, Treasure Trove Cove, Freezeey Peak, Gobi's Valley, Witchyworld, and more. However, despite the different venues of the tracks, all of them pretty much sport the same obstacles, such as trees on the track (or a rare camel instead) and boost rings that give a jolt of speed to whoever flies through them.

I remember traversing that pillar in the background
in Banjo-Kazooie's Treasure Trove Cove!
Flight really doesn't change too much in the way races play out. There is the occasional aforementioned boost ring that is at a different height than the last, requiring moving upward, but for the most part, it's a basic novelty and nothing more. Since you can fly, you might wonder how you're forced to stay on the track since this is a Mode 7 game, there are no walls on the tracks to prevent going off course. That said, merely flying over a section of ground that isn't the track will slow you down immensely, eventually causing you to crash. 

Freezeey Peak looks as frigid as ever in Banjo Pilot.
Items are a traditional part of kart racers and games of that genre's ilk, and Banjo Pilot really does nothing to separate itself from the pack here. There are a pair of shoes that give a temporary speed boost when used, a golden feather that serves as invincibility for a limited time, fire red homing eggs, ice eggs that leave a frozen ice cube in the air that will significantly slow down anyone that collides into it, among other items. For items on your trail, you can utilize an ice egg to block the attack, or you can opt to make like Peppy Hare and do a barrel roll. Though this takes a proper amount of timing to get down. Doing it correctly will result in a boost.

While the tracks, flight gimmick, and items are not much to get excited about, Banjo Pilot houses a large amount of modes to keep players soaring the (un)friendly skies. There are four different Grand Prix modes that can be unlocked. Generally, each one consists of four races with the winning racer being the one who earns the most points by the end. After a set of four races and a successful win, you are engaged in an aerial dogfight along a linear path with a boss character. The first combatant to empty the other's health gauge is the winner. 

Alongside the Grand Prix mode is a mode called Jiggy Challenge, where you're tasked with collecting six golden jigsaw pieces sprinkled along each track as well as needing to beat an AI racer at the same time. With 32 tracks to do so, 16 standard tracks and 16 reversed, this is a mode that will take some time to complete, but the reward (the best character in the game) is well worth it.

The skies are quite crowded in Jolly Roger's Bay.
Banjo Pilot looks wonderfully colorful and has impressive Mode 7 graphics. The backgrounds are the true highlight of the game, offering such a diverse amount of eye candy in such brilliant detail. The music is no doubt a byproduct of the game when it was known as Diddy Kong Pilot, most notably so when you hear the character select music. It has plenty of chimp oohs and eeks to it. 

Thus, you have a game that might not be the most innovative or one with physics that are the greatest on the platform, but you have a content-rich racer that will last solo gamers a good while, at least more than similar games on the Game Boy Advance. While there are some frustrations like annoying rubber-band AI and repetitive track design, Banjo Pilot can be considered a good prospect for fans of arcade racing. It may not have been worth the five year wait, but at least Banjo and friends didn't receive a crash landing.

[SPC Says: C+]