Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Best Levels in Gaming History - Volume Seventeen

One of the longest running segments in SuperPhillip Central's nearly eight-year history returns with five more fabulous levels that feature memorable settings, impressive set pieces, and just plain creative design. From a journey to one of Ratchet & Clank's latest game's early planets to a galactic dogfight between Corneria's and Andross's forces in Star Fox Zero, this seventeenth edition of Best Levels in Gaming History has got the goods.

Check out past volumes of this popular SPC segment with the following links!

Volume One
Volume Two
Volume Three
Volume Four
Volume Five
Volume Six
Volume Seven
Volume Eight
Volume Nine
Volume Ten
Volume Eleven
Volume Twelve
Volume Thirteen
Volume Fourteen
Volume Fifteen
Volume Sixteen

Planet Kerwan - Ratchet & Clank (PS4)

Let's start off this seventeenth edition of Best Levels in Gaming History with a popular place in the Ratchet & Clank series, Planet Kerwan. This planet's levels in the series generally take place in a sprawling metropolis, and this hasn't changed with the latest entry in the franchise on the PlayStation 4.

Planet Kerwan is a marvelous level that in this reboot of the Ratchet & Clank franchise features gun-toting action and platforming goodness atop crowded and busy city rooftops. From dropships raining in foes from above to robotic dogs that wish nothing but to chew into Ratchet, the amount of targets ready to be destroyed is quite high.

However, before you can get to the traditional ground combat the Ratchet & Clank series does so well, Planet Kerwan in this new Ratchet & Clank gives the lombax/robot duo the opportunity to take to the skies in a ship to shoot down crucial enemy targets. It's a lot of fun riding through the busy city skies, trailing enemies and then blasting them out of the sky.

Being a retelling of the original Ratchet & Clank, this PS4 entry possesses some familiar set pieces to the original, such as taking a ride on a Gravtrain, blasting away at foes in a much more impressive display than what was seen in the original. The train's destination is the Hall of Heroes, having Ratchet dodge enemy shots while unleashing shots of his own. It's a wild ride from beginning to end.

The amount of gameplay variety in Planet Kerwan treats players to a copious offering of fun and lightning fast action, as well as a taste of what to expect from this fantastic re-imagining. From flying the unfriendly Kerwan skies to hitching a ride on the dangerous Gravtrain, Planet Kerwan is a great level near the start of Ratchet and Clank's amazing adventure.

Mount Must Dash - Super Mario 3D World (Wii U)

An optional level in Super Mario 3D World, Mount Must Dash (get it? Mustache?) is an ode to very first Super Mario Kart on the Super Nintendo, using a remixed theme of Mario Circuit from that game, as well as a visual style reminiscent of Mario's first raceway. It even has a starting line with a banner to kick things off.

The level itself constantly encourages you to be on the run, whether it's through its many boost pads and bounce pads that shoot Mario and friends up over chasms and gaps, or its slide that occurs in the second area of the level. The third portion of the level houses a mystery box that leads to the level's second Green Star, pending you can capture a runaway rabbit in time. Then, there are a series of huge chasms that can only be crossed by jumping with the momentum of several boost pads.

Mount Must Dash is just one of a multitude of creative levels within Super Mario 3D World. It's an example that hits on one's nostalgia while creating an immensely original level. You can bet we'll be seeing more levels from Super Mario 3D World and other Mario platformers in future installments of Best Levels in Gaming History.

Sector Beta - Star Fox Zero (Wii U)

While reviews haven't been too kind to Star Fox Zero thanks to a hard to learn control scheme, once you've gotten it down (which isn't too terribly tough in all honesty), then you'll get to enjoy feeling like you're piloting a massive airborne craft like the Arwing.

Sector Beta is one of my favorite missions in Star Fox Zero due to the gravitas of the entire situation. Team Star Fox teams up with Bill, a good friend of Fox that was seen in the Katina mission in Star Fox 64, as well as a major part of the Corneria army. The goal is to defend the airspace of Sector Beta through any means necessary, as this is the last line of defense against Andross's forces.

The mission begins with Team Star Fox going after four enemy cruisers that are firing at Corneria's fleet. While Bill, Peppy, Falco, and Slippy can take down the cruisers themselves after a while, it's to your benefit to shoot them down yourself to earn as many points as possible.

Once the cruisers have been obliterated, the enemy warship Granby teleports into the fray. A massive laser beam is shot at the warship, but the Granby's seemingly impenetrable shield protects it completely from the laser onslaught. It's up to you to find a way through the shield before the Granby destroys the Cornerian army's fleet with its own assault.

This is done by waiting until the Granby shoots out a laser of its own, which in turn opens up a hole for your Arwing to slip through, right inside the enemy shield. Then, you turn into the Walker form of the Arwing to hack into a terminal on the back deck of the Granby. This clears a shield that leads directly inside the Granby, leading you to eliminate the Granby's shield by destroying three power cores.

Now, it's a quick escape from the Granby before the Cornerian fleet fires a gigantic laser at the Granby. You definitely don't want to be inside the vessel as it's getting obliterated. Thus, if you escape in time, you can see the Granby get blown to bits.

However, that's not the end of the mission. Star Wolf enters into the picture, ready to shoot down Team Star Fox. Thus, an incredibly fun showdown and dogfight against Star Wolf begins, really showing how the dual screened approach of the game is put to good use. There's nothing like being able to look one way in the Arwing while using the GamePad to aim to the Arwing's side to blast away at a target that you otherwise wouldn't be able to fire at.

Pending on if you can shoot down Wolf before he takes down Peppy, the branching path either takes you to Fortuna to resume your mission, or it takes you to Titania to rescue the eldest member of the Star Fox team.

Sector Beta incorporates a grand battle in outer space that is an absolute blast to play through, initiating incredible dogfights against enemy craft. I enjoy it so much that I've been going back to it long after I completed everything in the mission. I've been playing it a bunch just for the fun of it.

Wheel Gator's Stage - Mega Man X2 (SNES)

Mega Man X2's Wheel Gator possesses a stage that takes place on a giant dinosaur tank, moving through a crowded city space, bulldozing a path directly through its heart. The level has a lovely progression from day at its beginning to leaving the innards of the tank to be greeted by a dusk sky. Throw in the ability to enter some Ride Armor at the bottom of the tank to crush enemies in X's way, hovering platforms that take X across the insides of the tank as well as over precarious pits of spikes, and you have a level that is pumps adrenaline through players' bodies.

Wheel Gator's stage also houses an upgrade to X's X-Buster, granting him a much more powerful shot to tear into foes. This is acquired through a Dr. Light capsule near the beginning of the stage where X first enters into the inside of Wheel Gator's massive machine of destruction.

Wheel Gator himself tends to hide inside what appears to be flowing oil (at least I hope that's what it is), jumping out to put the bite into X. With Wire Sponge's special weapon, Wheel Gator can be made to think twice about ever trying to have a taste of Mega Man X.

Final Stages - Gunstar Heroes (GEN)

Treasure's Gunstar Heroes is considered, well, a treasure in the action genre. It's a high octane roller coaster with exhilarating boss battles and intense gameplay. Everything players have done has led up to the final levels, one of the most impressive and creative in the Genesis lineup of games.

The final levels start with a shoot-em-up segment, having players pilot a spaceship that in comparison to the big bad's space base looks like a speck of dust. Through careful piloting of the spaceship, blasting away foes and dodging asteroids, eventually players wind up at an intergalactic rematch with Seven Force, a boss from a previous stage. However, this time it's a shoot-em-up boss battle, having Seven Force do its trademark shifting between its seven forms such as gun to try to take players out before they can touch down on the enemy base.

Once players have arrived at the base, what follows is a boss rush. However, this is a bit clever as you can see the bad guys watching you on a massive monitor. Essentially, you're watching yourself on the bad guys' screen on your TV screen. It's very meta, as the kids say. Each time a boss has been defeated, you can see one of the bad guys watching on the monitor prepare themselves for the next encounter, exiting the room to get ready to take players on.

Soon, after defeating every other enemy besides the commander of the bad guys, players exit the view of the monitor and enter the actual room where the bad guys had been watching the action. This is where the penultimate showdown happens before the final battle occurs.

The final duo of levels are highly enjoyable and entertaining, showing impressive creativity. lots of intense action, and massive amounts of fun. Now, I have the urge to replay Gunstar Heroes for the umpteenth time! Thanks, Best Levels in Gaming History!

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