Saturday, February 20, 2016

Let the Good Names Roll: Great Credits Sequences in Gaming - Part Four

The staff roll, otherwise known as the credits of video games. This is where not only do we see all the names of the folks who worked on the game you just beat, but perhaps something special to go along with it, whether it's an overview of your adventure, the cast of enemies in the game, or something else. This article delves into some of the very best and most memorable staff rolls/credits sequences in video game history. From old school classics to modern marvels, part four of this expanding list continues to bring the excellent staff rolls. Click on the game title to see the credits sequence described, and to click these links to see part onepart two, and part three.

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Wii)

The first game on this edition of Let the Good Names Roll takes us to a video game franchise that celebrates its 30th anniversary this Sunday, The Legend of Zelda. Its most recent all-new home console entry, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword brought a whole new gravitas to the series with a glorious orchestral soundtrack. The incredibly moving staff roll theme sends shivers down the spine, as the credits show what Zelda and her protector Impa were doing during Link's adventure. Followed by gorgeous views of Skyview, Faron Woods, and more, this epic credits sequence is my favorite of any Legend of Zelda game for good reason.

Vanquish (PS3, 360)

Throughout Vanquish's fast-paced shooter, you're in a third-person perspective. Vanquish's credits sequence turns into a first-person perspective, tasking you with shooting down oncoming asteroids. The asteroids shot down reveal names and pictures of those who worked on the game. Sure, you can just let the asteroids fly by, but not only should the development team get their due time in the spotlight, but you also get points just like you would in-game for participating in this fun staff roll sequence. Each asteroid takes a hit to explode, save for director Shinji Mikami's who takes a handful of shots to bring down its much larger asteroid.

MadWorld (Wii)

"How can you tell which one's the lead programmer? He's the one not getting laid more than the other programmers!" And so John DiMaggio and Greg Proops continue to take on the roles of MadWorld's commentators, Kreese Kreeley and Howard Holmes respectively, dishing out insults like Triumph the Insult Comic Dog on open mic night. The jokes are as off-the-wall and foul as the game itself, but so lovable due to how self-aware they are. MadWorld may not be Platinum Games' best work, but it indeed knows how to make the player laugh, that is if they don't mind some in-the-gutter-style humor.

Viewtiful Joe (PS2, GCN)

Viewtiful Joe was made by many members of who are now part of Platinum Games. It's one of my favorite games of the PlayStation 2 generation, and its creativity and freshness surge through it, from its gameplay to its style, to its humor, and yes, to its credits sequence. The main credits part has Viewtiful Joe performing various punches and kicks in the background while on the side, mock movie posters based off real life films show the various levels. What follows is a cast roll. When the bosses show up, various statistics, often goofy, are shown, such as height, weight, likes, dislikes, and hobbies. What I particularly like about each boss being shown is that the credits theme plays a quick taste of that boss's fight theme when they are on screen.

Double Dragon Neon (PSN, XBLA)

After getting uppercut into the abyss by the game's heroes, antagonist Skullmaggedon breaks out into song as he falls into the abyss. It's a sing-a-long, complete with bouncy ball on the lyrics in this rock opera ending. The jewel on this credits sequence's crown is when Skullmaggedon (voiced by director Sean Velasco (now of Yacht Club Games)) sings the lyric, "here's a medal for your victory." As soon as those words are uttered, an achievement/trophy notification pops up for the player. A well earned credits sequence and a well done song are what you've earned through getting through the competent Double Dragon Neon.

Transformers: Devastation (PS4, PS3, XONE, 360)

If you want even more '80s cheese, then you can sink your teeth into some Transformers: Devastation. In particular, I'm talking about its credits sequence. Complete with pure electric guitar-driven, high octave vocals, and music that feels like it belongs in the old school Transformers cartoon, Transformers: Devastation's credits add to the awesome with some really cool camera angles showing off still shots of battle. While the second part of the credits is average, only showing names on top of footage from in-game cutscenes, the first part is so bodacious that it puts the credits on a whole different level of excellence.

Word Puzzles by POWGI (Wii U eShop, 3DS eShop) Review

We continue this month with a new word game collection by the letter-loving folks at Lightwood Games. This time, we look at Word Puzzles by POWGI with this in-depth review.

Puzzle Power

I really enjoy flexing my mental muscles with some word games occasionally. My iPhone is home to games like Just Jumble, where you unscramble letters to create words, an anagram game where you try to form as many words out of a set of letters as possible, and the basic word search, which needs no introduction. Sure. these games don't always give me the same sense of accomplishment as an epic adventure, but they do help kill time now and then.

Word Puzzles by POWGI seems more well suited for mobile devices that you can turn on and off in an instant, and easily come back to between surfing the net and texting your friends instead of a device that is more towards more in-depth, dedicated gaming experiences. Still, this complementary title to Word Search by POWGI offers a vast array of word puzzles to sharpen your mind and pass the time, and it does a good job at both of those objectives.

There are six word puzzle types that the folks at Lightwood Games have created, and there are four that contain 60 puzzles while the latter two hold 120 different puzzles to solve. Regardless of the puzzle type, you can press the L and R shoulder buttons in tandem to reveal hints for the current puzzle you're on. For instance, asking for a hint in the first type of puzzle, the Word Maze, will reveal the list of words you need to seek out in the puzzle. Additionally, each puzzle has its own theme and topic, such as animal noises, types of cakes, and movie genres.

Speaking of Word Maze, this is the first puzzle type to choose from in Word Puzzles by POWGI. With Word Maze, the goal is to draw a continuous line starting from the last letter of the first word solved, and spell words that have to do with the topic of the puzzle so that each letter is used only once.

Meanwhile, Mixups has you with a scrambled and strewn amount of letters that need to be reordered into three different words that have to do with the theme of the puzzle. Sometimes it's as simple as shapes, states of the United States, or musical instruments, but things grow tougher with girls names, Greek letters, and opera composers.

One Word is a traditional seek and find / word search-type puzzle, but instead of a great variety words to find, you're instead going from puzzle to puzzle to find the titular "one word" within the puzzle. This gets mighty tricky when you're trying to find the word "ROAD" and the only letters in the puzzle are a multitude of R's, O's, A's, and D's. Each completed puzzle in One Word assists in spelling out a famous quote from a celebrity, author, political person, historic figure, etc. Personally, One Word drove me crazy when the larger puzzles came into play, making for some quite difficult adventures in seeking and finding!

Moving on, Flowers has you focused on a literal flower where two letters are in the center. You place a pair of two letters on each petal to spell out words. For instance, if the center of the flower has the letters "N" and "C", you then put the letter pair "OU" and "ES" on opposite petals to spell the word "OUNCES". You continue doing this for all of the petals to spell out multiple words. This is one of the two word puzzle types that sports 120 puzzles total.

Circles has three eponymous shapes crossing over one another. Each has a multitude of letters to unscramble, but each set of letters to unscramble is incomplete. A missing letter that needs to be figured out by your undoubtedly bright mind rests in the area where the three circles intersect. Further assisting in helping you figure out what letter goes in that position is the notion that each of three circles' words all relate to one another. For example, one puzzle has the letters F-A-M in one circle, A-S-H-O-M-P in another, and S-A-P in the last circle. Having the letter "O" be the one where the circles cross over makes sense, so each word can be unscrambled to "FOAM", "SHAMPOO", and "SOAP", items relating to showering or bathing. Circles is the other puzzle type with 120 puzzles total.

Finally, my favorite of the six puzzle types in Word Puzzles by POWGI is Crossovers. This game gives you a choice of four letters to place in a crossword-style puzzle to spell out two different words. If you have a blank space where the letters W_LL and B_ING intersect, and a choice between the letters "E", "A", "R", and "I", the answer would be the letter "E" to spell the words "WELL" and "BEING". You solve a series of these types of puzzles, where the blank letter is used to solve a riddle at the conclusion of all the smaller crossword puzzles by unscrambling the letters to form the answer to the riddle.

Word Puzzles by POWGI's UI is clean and attractive, sporting a simple look that neither impresses or detracts from the experience. Upon loading up the game, you are taken to a basic title screen with the puzzle types listed in a zigzag pattern with each puzzle name a different color in the 3DS version while offering off-TV play and a higher resolution with the Wii U version. Entering deeper into the menus reveals a whole set of puzzles that can be viewed, laid out in fours in the puzzle types with 60 puzzles each or in multiple rows and columns of paw prints for the puzzle types with 120 puzzles each. Meanwhile, the music is a bit grating for extended playing, so I opted to play the game with the volume turned down. Otherwise, it was too distracting for me, and frustratingly so.

The price of Word Puzzles by POWGI is a bit on the high side, costing approximately ten dollars. Compared to games of the same type on iOS or Android, this price seems a bit steep, However, if you're looking for a collection of 480 puzzles that will last you a good while, the price doesn't seem so bad. However, there are many other games on the eShop that aren't nearly as repetitive as Word Puzzles by POWGI to be found. Whether you should check out this capable pallet of word puzzles depends on your enjoyment of word games. For me, I can see myself playing Lightwood Games' and POWGI's latest for a good while. It's a perfect game for killing time while you wait for the bus, or while you sit in the doctor's office. Whether that's worth the entry price is up to you.

[SPC Says: C+]

Review copy provided by Lightwood Games.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Shutshimi (Wii U eShop) Review

This Tuesday morning sees a brand new Wii U eShop game getting the SuperPhillip Central review treatment. It's Shutshimi, a game that released in the fall of last year on the PlayStation 4 and the Vita. Now, the Wii U gets the game, and here's my review of this absolute blast.

Seriously sweet.

There's something in the water supply of the development team of Neon Deity, and whatever it is made them make this awesome and brilliantly insane game. I mean, what else can you call a shmup where fish have muscly humanoid arms; wield machine guns, mucus spewing weapons, and cannonballs; and don an assortment of fashionable hats? Well, Neon Deity calls it Shutshimi, and this ADHD sufferer's shoot 'em up is seriously awesome.

Shutshimi is no typical shmup. You don't play through long levels, blasting wave after wave after wave of enemies. Instead, each round last ten seconds exactly, and pits your fabulously fit fish against multiple enemy types-- sharks that shoot lasers from their tops and bottoms, kitties in little space ships, bears that somersault, squids that have their own flight patterns, and more kooky foes to blast to smithereens.

Kittens, and sharks, and bears, oh my!
In between each ten second round is an intermission of sorts, the same amount of time. Here, you have to quickly select between one of three power-ups to be used in the next round. It's a shame you're rushed if only because the item descriptions are so darned funny. Regardless, power-ups can give you positive bonuses like wearing a protective fishbowl shield, having an array of smaller fishies surround you and shoot a steady stream of bullets, or becoming equipped with one of many hats that have different abilities to them. Then, there are bonuses that may hinder the experience, such as slower movement, inverted controls, or no friction when moving, resulting in sliding around with every push of the d-pad.

Adding to the craziness are power-ups that turn the entire round into a rave party with flashing strobe lights and colorful spotlights moving all about. There's even a power-up that turns the whole round into a truce, having your fish bobble about in a bouncy castle, ricocheting off enemies as if they were pinball bumpers. Of course, not one to keep Shutshimi from being too uninteresting (I am being facetious here), there's also a power-up that turns the background and all enemies into moving butts of various sizes. I felt bad about shooting the poor defenseless butts while they were down on their luck and handicapped. After all, they already had cracks in them. (Insert Ed McMahon from his Tonight Show days' "Hi-ohhhhhh" voice clip here.)

A life lesson to behold: sometimes all you need for peace in this world is a bouncy castle.
Every five rounds you are pitted against one of six bosses. Well, technically it's just three with two versions each. Regardless, here the ten second rule is still in effect, so if you don't manage to take down the boss in one round, you'll have to survive around five rounds to continue where you left off. Once all six bosses have been defeated, you have essentially "beaten" what could be considered Shutshimi's campaign.

We all shoot at a yellow submarine. Yellow submarine, yellow submarine.
To add to the replay value when high scores aren't enough, you can play Shutshimi with up to four friends. That's four times the fish with muscly arms! Additionally, there is a hat encyclopedia that makes a note of each and every hat you've worn in-game. These range from Viking helmets and cop hats to more spirited and creative hats like sparkling gold hair that makes your fish reminiscent of certain Dragon Ball Z race, a yellow flattop haircut and American flag tattoo that according to the hat's description "goes with everything", and even some indie all-stars like Commander Video and Shovel Knight. Alongside trying to collect every hat in the game, you can also shoot to complete Shutshimi's list of achievements, which are a lot of fun to go after. Some can even make you change the way you play the game.

When one fish with extremely large human arms isn't enough, call in for re-fin-forcements!
While Shutshimi's arcade shmup sensibilities won't have you playing dozens of hours with it, it is a blast for the several hours you'll be playing it. The ten second rounds are perfect bite-sized chunks to keep you feeling like you're making progress, and the power-ups are constantly changing how you're playing each round. The gameplay is as great as the humor, and seeing that I cracked a smile and even chuckled on multiple occasions (and that's no easy task), that is a high honor indeed.

[SPC Says: B+]

Review copy provided by Choice Provisions.

Monday, February 15, 2016

FreezeME (Wii U eShop, Steam) Review

We cap off the first night of the work week with a new review. FreezeMe is a Steam game that saw a recent port on the Wii U eShop. How does the game fare? Let's find out with my review.

Unpolished Platformer 64

The original PlayStation and Nintendo 64 era of gaming was well known for its collect-a-thon based 3D platformers. Last generation we saw indies take on the 2D platformer, and do some really awesome things with it. I guess that it only makes sense that this generation we start to see some attempts at a very difficult genre to get right, the 3D platformer. While Poi and A Hat in Time are on the horizon, we have one of the first of many indie attempts, FreezeME, for both Wii U and Steam. 

What's there for the excuse of running through colorful 3D worlds isn't that fresh of an idea by any stretch of the imagination, but it has a character named "R" chasing after a villain named "Fat the Cat" who wishes to purge the world of dogs, including R's canine companion. 

In order to rescue R's dog, R will have to enter three expansive and lush worlds to collect Super Mario 64 Power Star equivalent "Golden Cubes" in each level. This is performed by completing various platforming, combat, and/or puzzle-solving tasks throughout FreezeME. When you enter a world, you get a quick flyover of the level, showing where the Golden Cube for the task you currently have selected is located, and a means to go about finding it. However, you don't get much help other than that. Forget the general area where the flyover view showed the Golden Cube? Then you'll have to either restart the level or push through and find it yourself with some heavy exploration. Some will find an issue with this, but I think it merely encourages exploration, and feels nice compared to some mainstream games that consistently want to hold your hand the entire way.

All that glitters is probably one of these Golden Cubes.
Speaking of which, exploration was key in 3D platformers of the N64 era, and it's key here in FreezeME as well. The large and luxurious levels are 3D platforming playgrounds for the player, full of platforms and obstacles to leap off, leap over, and leap through. It's easy to get lost in some of these levels, being so large. That said, the slow, methodical pace of exploring is broken up by many quicker platforming challenges, puzzles, and combat situations.

The tasks in FreezeME run the gamut from mixtures of platforming and puzzle trials, to races through levels, to collecting 150 red Pig Coins. Furthermore, there are some clever ones that utilize the game's central innovation, the ability to freeze objects momentarily with R's camera. (This feels great to do by tapping on the object or enemy you want to get frozen with the Wii U GamePad's screen.) Some missions you'll need to collect a specific amount of blue Pig Coins, but you definitely don't have enough time to do so. Instead, what the developer intends for you to do is to freeze the clock, which will in turn freeze the timer, allowing you to pick up all of the coins with plenty of time. 

Explore worlds both colorful and full of eye candy.
Levels in FreezeME range from good to bad. Let's get the bad out of the way. The hub world lacks character, is not overly enjoyable, can really feel like a chore to continually run up to level entrances when spit back into the hub after completing a task and collecting a Golden Cube, and the whole area just doesn't feel necessary. I really wouldn't have minded FreezeME going for a hub-less, level menu approach like the one found in Super Mario Galaxy 2. Either that or make the hub world more fun to leap around in.

As for the actual levels outside of the hub, the first, Sunshine Valley, seems like a random assortment of colorful platforms (whether by land or in midair), obstacles, and scenery across a hilly expanse. It all seems man-made instead of something more cut from nature, something that someone would come up to show off platforming game ideas rather than an actual level. Additionally, some pieces of the levels even jut out, are uneven, and look awfully amateur and incredibly incomplete because of this. However, despite all this, it's still very fun through move about in and explore. 

The first level or a platforming playground? ...Why not both?
Further, the clearly Super Mario Galaxy-themed planetoids and sections with their own rules of gravity don't fare as well as their inspiration, as the camera can really spaz out, especially in a specific challenge level where you must collect 20 blue Pig Coins across a myriad of similarly sized planets. Every time I'd move between planets, the camera would move every which way, completely disorienting me, a common problem with these types of in-game sections.

Some sections of FreezeME make up their own rules when it comes to gravity.
Yes, set to automatic, FreezeME's camera will thrust you into some awful predicaments where you will be forcefully fighting with it to keep it in the place you want it to be. This is apparent in one of FreezeME's early missions, where you must navigate an aerial bit of platforms, spinning rows of spikes, and lava jets. However, set to manual, you won't find yourself forced into fixed camera sections anywhere near as much. Sure, you still get stupid scenarios where the camera can get locked on scenery and stuck in a faraway view, such as trying to enter the second world's ice labyrinth, but overall, it isn't overly horrid.

However, where FreezeME heavily disappoints is in its controls. It's paramount for a platformer to nail its controls. If you aren't feeling a nice, tight responsiveness, then you're going to have a difficult time of the game you're trying to play. It's especially important to nail the controls in a 3D platformer, where there's things like full 360 degree rotation and depth to consider.\

"Clunky" is what I would best describe FreezeME's controls as. No matter how much the game apes Super Mario 64, in the place it should have aped the most, the controls, FreezeME falters. Moving R around feels slow and not as responsive as I would like for this kind of game. There is a total lack of being able to fine tune a jump while in midair, making for a lot of frustrating deaths to be found. 

"Feets, don't fail me now. (You will, but at least a girl can dream.)"
Like a certain Italian plumber in Super Mario 64, R can run, jump, and leap into the air and slide around on her belly to cover great distances at a faster pace. She also takes a page out of Mario's playbook by being able to attack with a jumping kick. The problem between Mario's jumping kick and R's is that Mario has a longer pair of legs on him than R. This means he gets more leg in his kicks. R has short, stubby legs that don't reach out that far, resulting in trying to make contact with an enemy very challenging. It became a guessing game to me whether R would successfully kick a baddie or if she'd just fling herself into a foe. That's not the kind of metagame I want to playing during a 3D platformer that demands precision. A game should not require you to feel like controlling it is a chore, and FreezeME violates this golden rule of mine.

The second world of FreezeME is suitably chill.
FreezeME contains ten Golden Cubes to obtain in each level. Like Super Mario 64, when one is collected, you're put back into the hub world, forced to reenter the level. As I mentioned earlier, though, you're put in the middle of the hub with a bit of a journey to reach each level in the hub. With Mario 64, it was as simple as doing a back flip or 180 back into a level painting. However, unlike Mario's first 3D outing, you can choose which Golden Cube you want to go after in the preview menu. What this means is that if a particular Golden Cube mission is causing you excess amounts of grief, you can merely skip over it. 

Alongside the three main levels containing ten Golden Cubes each and one final level containing three, challenge levels open up that reward green Pig Coins for completing them. These challenges all have a particular platforming obstacle or game mechanic to perfect. Green Pig Coins are also found in the three levels of FreezeME. These are hidden in clever locations and awarded to you for completing challenges posed by NPPs (non-playable pigs). 

There's no time for a vacation. There's a dog to save!
FreezeME is a wonderful sight for the eyes. Worlds of colorful and bright, and suitably so. There are some obnoxious clipping issues that are heavily prevalent to be conscious of, however. Plenty of bugs and glitches also plague the game, so be sure to have an extra dose of patience on you when you decide to play this game. 

Musically, the game's soundtrack complements the game's worlds marvelously. The greatest praise I could utter regarding it is that it sounds like music that a Nintendo composer would deliver. High praise indeed!

Taking into consideration that this game was designed mostly by one person, it's hard to want to be cruel to FreezeME, especially when it's in a genre from an era of gaming I hold so dear. Perhaps the game is then a disappointment because I was wanting another excellent 3D collect-a-thon platformer like Super Mario 64. Then again, perhaps FreezeME is just a disappointment because it's a profusion of good ideas marred by some truly glaring flaws, specifically the controls and tremendous lack of polish.

[SPC Says: C-]

SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs - Them's Fightin' Words Edition

With Street Fighter V releasing this week (tomorrow to be exact), it only makes sense to commemorate the occasion with an all fighting game edition of SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs. The best of the best when it comes to fighting game franchises (and a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle fighting game) are a part of this pugilistic paradise of an edition.

We kick (literally) things off with Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting, which totally makes sense considering the game we're celebrating that's seeing release tomorrow. Then, we head to SEGA's Virtua Fighter 4 for some fisticuffs. Next up, Dead or Alive 3 makes a showy appearance. TMNT: Tournament Fighters shows up just to show off an awesome theme from its incredible soundtrack, and Mortal Kombat X ends this edition with a fatality of epic proportions.

After your fists and feet are all punched and kicked out, take a listen to the songs featured on the VGM Database for more VGM goodness.

v1076. Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting (SNES) - Ryu Stage

Starting off with one of the most prolific fighting game franchises known to man (and woman), Street Fighter II Turbo released less than a year after its predecessor, adding various refinements and character balance to Street Fighter II. A young Yoko Shimomura provided many of the songs to the soundtrack. Ryu's stage recently received a Smash Bros. inclusion through DLC.

v1077. Virtua Fighter 4 (ARC, PS2) - Watch Out

Did you know that this next game led the charge in Japan for having online functionality in arcades? True story. Don't believe me? Look up the Wikipedia article I found that information in. Watch Out gets you pumped and primed for a fight with its electronic groove. On a side note, it's also a great driving song.

v1078. Dead or Alive 3 (XBX) - Eternity (Theme of Kasumi)

Kasumi is one of the more memorable faces in the Dead or Alive franchise. It helps that she's the primary protagonist throughout the five entry-long franchise. Dead or Alive 3 was a launch title for the OG Xbox back in 2001, a big get by Microsoft early on in the Xbox's life.

v1079. TMNT: Tournament Fighters (SNES) - Bonus Round

If you've ever wondered what it would be like to hear some synth rock guitar shredding on the Super Nintendo sound chip, here you go, with this excellent and hardcore bonus game theme that plays in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters. Three versions of the game released, the Genesis version, the Super NES version (which this song comes from), and an NES version. Between the three, the Super NES version is superior.

v1080. Mortal Kombat X (PS4, XONE, PC) - Main Menu

The most recent release on this week's edition of SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs, Mortal Kombat X entered an already macabre, violent, and satisfyingly morbid franchise into even more ultraviolent territory. The soundtrack features various foreboding themes, such as this one chosen by yours truly, heard as you select which of the game's numerous modes and options you'd like to partake in.