Friday, April 1, 2016

Review Round-Up - March 2016

Raise that sword even higher, Link. You've earned it with Twilight Princess's return to relevance this month.
Today's April Fools, but SuperPhillip Central is very much completely serious right now. Why? Because I have to share with you the Review Round-Up, all of the reviews from this past March right in convenient place. This is always fun to see the reviews I managed to eek out for the preceding month.

SPC had a total of eight new reviews for the month, starting with two mobile games, Swordigo (B) and Mega Man X for iOS (C). The Mega Man fun didn't end there, as I took on all of Dr. Wily's mad robotic creations in the Mega Man: Legacy Collection for the Nintendo 3DS, equipping itself with a B+. Then came SuperPhillip Central's Game of the Month, a revisit to the twilight realm with The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD, which opened up a treasure chest that contained an A score. Next up, I took everyone to an early trip to the Rio Olympic Games with Mario & Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games for the Nintendo 3DS, getting a place on the podium with a B-. Dragon Land (B) and a retro review for Star Fox Command (C+) came after, and finally I wrapped up the month with my review of Pokken Tournament, fighting its way to a B+.

This upcoming month I will have reviews for all the new games releasing this month: Ratchet & Clank: Junk in Your Trunk, Uncharted 4: Uncanny Valley, and even some Quantum Physics Breakdown for the Xbox One for you guys. Okay, okay. I might have entered April Fools mode with this part of the Review Round-Up. Still, there's going to be some nice games reviewed for April 2016. Honest.

Swordigo (iOS, Android) - B
Mega Man X (iOS) - C
Mega Man: Legacy Collection (3DS) - B+
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD (Wii U) - A
Mario & Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (3DS) - B-
Dragon Land (iOS, Android) - B
Star Fox Command (DS) - C+
Pokken Tournament (Wii U) - B+

The Pokken Tournament has begun. Don't get stuck watching from the bleachers.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Pokkén Tournament (Wii U) Review

Our last review that we will share together this fun-filled March is for a Pokemon fighter for the Wii U called Pokken Tournament. Is this a game just for fans of the Pokemon series, or can fighting game fans find something to love here, too?

You gotta fight for your right to Poké

Pokemon has built itself up to be quite the brand. Gamers know well of the monster-battling, collecting, and trading of the series's mainline games. However, that's always been turn-based. We haven't had a full-fledged fighter that pits Pokemon against Pokemon unless you have a Pokemon-themed match in Super Smash Bros. Regardless, the development body behind the immensely popular Tekken series and The Pokemon Company have teamed up together to present Pokken Tournament, a 3D fighter with plenty of depth to bring to fans of both Pokemon and fighting games. Though lacking in combatants and slightly less in overall content, this fighter is definitely worth checking out.

Right away, the biggest complaint I have towards Pokken Tournament is that with over 700 Pokemon to choose from, really only a few dozen are truly spotlighted, whether they be playable combatants or utilized in a support fashion. Obviously asking for all 700 or so Pokemon to be featured in the game would be a herculean and quite impossible task, but still, when you have 700 Pokemon to choose from, and your roster has two Pikachus and two Mewtwos (though with different costumes and move sets), you're not really using the amount of available Pokemon to the best of your ability. Still, each Pokemon that is playable in the game has their own feel to them in both controls and the types of moves they can unleash on opponents. This is terrific, as you definitely need to get used to and learn each character if you want to succeed in battle.

Ka-me-ha-me-- wait. Wrong source material.
At the start of each battle, you choose from a duo of support Pokemon to help you out. As you fight, a support gauge fills, and depending on the Pokemon you choose to, well, support you, the gauge fills up a different speed. Pressing the L button brings in your support Pokemon to do anything from attack your opponent with a leveled, airborne, or anti-air attack, heals you for a small or large amount, gives a negative status effect to your opponent, or boosts your own stats temporarily. Smart and strategic support Pokemon usage can be a defining characteristic between a surprising victory and a melancholy defeat.

Use a support Pokemon like Snivy to possibly turn a losing battle into a winning one.
As for Pokken Tournament itself, the game is a one-on-one fighter utilizing six unique inputs to carry out functions. There's buttons for close-range and long-range attacks, special moves, jumps, calling in supports, and blocking. There is a rock-paper-scissors metagame involved where counterattacks defeat normal attacks, normal attacks defeat grabs, and grabs defeat counterattacks. You press the Y and B buttons to attempt to grab a nearby opponent while pressing the X and A buttons performs a counterattack.

Pokken Tournament features a two phase battle system that frequently changes when you or your opponent connect with a devastating attack or combo. At the start of battle, the perspective is in a full view, allowing 360 degree movement. When a certain attack is made, that view changes to a side one, essentially emulating a 2D fighter, putting you and your opponent on the same plane. For this reason, two players battles locally are done with one player using one of the compatible controllers for the game (the specifically-made-for-Pokken Horii controller, the Wii U Pro Controller, the Wii Classic Controller, the Wii Remote by its lonesome, and the Wii Remote + Nunchuk) and using the TV screen for their perspective on the battle while the other uses the Wii U GamePad and its screen to see their side of the combat zone.

As the best two-out-of-three battles rage on, your Pokemon's Synergy Gauge gathers power. When full, you can press both shoulder buttons in to become considerably faster and more powerful for a limited amount of time. While in this souped up form, you can perform a Synergy Burst that is a move that if it connects, it unleashes a massive blow or series of blows to your opponent's HP.

Blaziken's exerting so much heat with his Synergy Burst that I'm surprised the snow hasn't completely evaporated.
After each match, your Pokemon earns experience points that can be used to boost one of four stats with each level reached. The stats include maximum attack, defense, how long the Synergy Gauge boost stays in effect, and how quickly the support gauge fills up. In addition to experience points, you earn money in battles, used for outfitting your custom trainer with all sorts of unlockable items, from clothing to hats, scarves to hairstyles, and avatar backgrounds to custom titles like "Blaixen's Buddy" or "Narcissist".

Meet my Pokemon trainer, Phil Gotem. Ash Ketchum, eat your heart out.
The single player mode of Pokken Tournament has you being an up and comer going through the Ferrum League ranks. You select a partner Pokemon and three possible support Pokemon pairs, and participate in various leagues, each with a different number of combatants. For instance, the Red League, the first of a series of leagues to play through, has you starting at rank 30, and you take on opponents in bursts of five. Winning matches increases your rank while losing matches slows down your rise in the ranks. After arriving in the top eight, you enter a three round tournament to become that league's champion. After this, you take on the league's master for the right to move onto the next league, earning new support Pokemon and arenas for free battles in the process.

The combat in Pokken Tournament is highly satisfying and full of depth.
Along the way of (hopefully) succeeding in tournaments, you have various encounters with Shadow Mewtwo, a rogue Pokemon that is causing all sorts of havoc in the Ferrum Region. While the story is nowhere near complex or even that riveting, it's nice to have little story events intertwined with what can be seen as repetitive run and rise through the various leagues.

When the single player content isn't enough for you (I didn't even mention the super helpful training dojo, which teaches you the ins and outs of battle and helps you piece together destructive combos), there's always the online that allows you to partake in either friendly or ranked matches against players across the globe. While there's a total lack of a party system, ability to chat, or spectator mode, the actual netcode is nearly flawless, offering a smooth experience in nearly every match I played. Only on one occasion did the frame-rate stutter, which is mighty impressive.

My Gengar doesn't seem to stand a ghost of a chance against the AI's Chandelure. 
Pokken Tournament is a delightful looking game. This is the first time Pokemon have been represented in high def, and this is one stupendous coming out party for Pokemon. The Pokemon models show off immaculate detail, from Blaziken's detailed fur to Garchomp's rough shark-like skin and fins. The backgrounds are full of impressive little details like in the Mystery Carnival stage, where a Pikachu in the background playfully chases a Pichu around in a circle while jack-o-lanterns in the distance bob up and down in midair. The amount of characters, both Pokemon and human, the environments and scenery are all mighty interesting to look at. It all runs at 60 frames per second unless you're playing local multiplayer, which cuts the frame-rate in half.

Go get 'em, Phil Gotem! Make that Machamp eat wall!
Meanwhile, the sound part of Pokken Tournament ranges from great to very poor. While the music is captivating enough, the very poor part comes from the voice acting, mainly your "helpful" adviser Nia, who talks over every match unless you lower how much advice she gives. However, you can't totally turn her off, so you'll have to stomach her sometimes unintentionally sarcastic "looks like my advice paid off" when you just lost the match.

As someone who is a casual fighting game fan, I found a lot to enjoy with Pokken Tournament, even long after I had completed the single player. With so many titles to unlock, Pokemon to learn the intricacies of and level up, and online battles to partake in, I see myself playing Pokken Tournament for a long time. It definitely feels like the type of fighter that a professional team who knows the genre well would make, and the lovely attention to detail shows that this same team is enamored by the source material and respects it. Pokken Tournament gets a hearty recommendation from yours truly. It's a game that despite lacking in overall combatants, offers something for the professional fighting game fan to the novice, and everyone in between.

[SPC Says: B+]

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Final Fantasy XV (PS4, XONE) Reclaim Your Throne Trailer

A game ten years in the making, Final Fantasy XV finally has a release date, and that release date is September 30th of this year. Watch this breathtaking trailer released for the Uncovered Final Fantasy XV press event, and try out the new demo, now available to all.

Star Fox Zero (Wii U) Game Trailer

Star Fox reads you loud and clear, General Pepper, and so will an onslaught of Wii U owners when Star Fox Zero releases April 22nd. Nintendo is calling this thirty second spot a game trailer, but it looks more like a commercial to me. Regardless, here's hoping Star Fox Zero is everything fans like myself have been clamoring for for a long time now.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Star Fox Command (DS) Retro Review

With Star Fox Zero releasing on the Wii U in less than a month, I figured I'd look back at some past Star Fox games. I've already looked back at Star Fox: Assault several years ago so now why don't I turn my attention to the black sheep of the series, Star Fox Command. Well, it's the black sheep for a good reason. Find out why with my review.

Somebody put some "strategery" in my Star Fox

Star Fox as a series hasn't really gotten much of a chance to shine. Fans are familiar with the original Super Nintendo Star Fox and what many see as the greatest entry in the series, Star Fox 64 on the Nintendo 64. However, since then, the developers have focused on things that are entirely unlike the franchise fans love. With Adventures it was taking Fox McCloud out of the cockpit and into a Legend of Zelda-like adventure. With the more traditional Assault, it was only having three typical on-rail levels and a plethora of on-foot missions. Here with Star Fox Command, the formula is once again messed with, making for a lesser game because of it.

The story of Star Fox Command reads like inane fan fiction, which is pretty insulting to a fan of Star Fox like myself. I don't mean "insulting" in the "how dare they!! I will never forgive the scenario writers" sort of way, but more of the "undermining my intelligence as a lover of fiction and Star Fox" sort of way. Regardless, the initial run-through of Command will have you playing along a forced narrative path. It's only until you beat the game once that you're given a key that allows you to select from different story options such as meeting up with Star Wolf instead of searching for Krystal. The dialogue ranges from good to embarrassing, focusing more on the latter.

A screenshot like this shows all you need to know about how bad Star Fox Command's writing and script are.
Because you can choose your own adventure essentially through Star Fox Command, there are nine different endings to discover by selecting various choices throughout the game. This means you have to play the game at least nine times from the beginning to see each ending, but whether you'll want to is entirely dependent on how much you enjoy Command's atypical Star Fox gameplay.

Not only does making different decisions affect the story, but it also affects where you fly in the Lylat System and what kinds of mission scenarios you take on. Each mission of Star Fox Command has you looking at a radar of the area. You then draw a line from your various characters to where you want them to be situated, as long as they have enough fuel to reach their destinations. The goal is to intercept all enemies and missiles before they can reach the Great Fox. If even one enemy reaches the Great Fox, the carrier will be instantly destroyed, resulting in a game over.

Outnumbered, but you can get by with some smart flight path-drawing!
Thus, you need to use some strategy when you're drawing flight paths for your characters. Generally drawing a line close to an enemy's flight path will have them follow you. When you intercept a foe, you enter into something similar to longtime Star Fox players as all-range mode from Star Fox 64. The objective is to destroy a specific enemy or series of enemies in a 360 degree arena, collecting the stars that the obliterated foes drop. Once all of the stars have been collected, it's a job well done and that enemy on the map is removed from play.

You have a limited amount of turns and time on the clock to complete each mission. Fail to complete a mission before your turns or time run out, and again, it's a game over. Thankfully, you can collect time bonuses that appear regularly in all-range mode as well as destroy enemy motherships at bases to earn more turns. Sometimes the radar map will have fog of war enabled, making it so you must brush away a cloud from the touch screen in order to see portions of the map where enemies hide.

Hurry up and take out those final foes, Fox!
As you progress through Star Fox Command, Fox will meet many new characters to join his cause. Each character, unlike in past Star Fox games, pilots a different flight-based vehicle rather than everyone using an Arwing. Each vehicle has its own advantages and weaknesses, whether it's Fox's totally balanced Arwing, or Falco's ability to lock onto multiple targets at once, but his vehicle suffers from lower health. It's really cool to be able to fly the unfriendly skies as someone other than Fox McCloud for once, and this is one of the greater qualities of Command.

Another greater quality is surprisingly the touch controls of Command. Being the first Nintendo system that focused heavily on touch, the company wanted to put the new touch screen of the DS hardware to great use. We saw this with various games like Kirby: Canvas Curse, WarioWare: Touched!, and even both Legend of Zelda Nintendo DS entries. Well, it's the same with Star Fox Command. Rather than using traditional analog inputs, Command is almost completely played with the touch screen, but while many might see this is a negative, the developers managed to make for a control system that works and works well.

Different pilots control different crafts with different strengths and weaknesses.
Each character's ship is controlled with the stylus, moving it around to move a fighter in the proper direction. Double tapping the top half of the screen enables a boost while doing the same to the bottom half brakes. To take a chapter out of Peppy Hare's textbook on flight, you scribble back and forth on the touch screen to unleash a barrel roll, perfect for deflecting enemy shots whether they're from the front, rear, or sides. The only caveat to these moves is that they take up energy on a gauge. Through a quick cool-down period, this gauge fills back up, allowing you to resume boosting, braking, and barrel rolling.

Meanwhile, well known defensive maneuvers like the U-turn and somersault are performed by touching two buttons on the touch screen. For offensive attacks, any button on the DS, from the d-pad to the face buttons, is how you shoot. You can also drag a smart bomb from its resting place on the touch screen and move it over a place on the radar screen to bomb a specific area of foes. Regardless, whether you're left handed or right, Star Fox Command's controls work superbly, though not the most optimal way to play any Star Fox game.

Online multiplayer is no longer available, but at the time there was a lot to like about it. Up to six players could participate in online dog fights. However, like local multiplayer (which IS still available), there are some problems to be found. For one, you don't get points for kills. Instead, you get points for collecting stars that downed pilots give. This means that even if you shoot someone down, someone else can come in and steal the star that should have automatically been yours. Furthermore, if one person left the room, the entire match ended instead of just going on with that person removed from it. Still, with local multiplayer and Download Play, at least you can chat with your fellow dog fighters.

Steal MY well-earned star, will ya, you jerk!?
The Nintendo DS isn't known for running the sharpest 3D visuals around, even back when it was at its zenith. Still, the visuals of Star Fox Command are rather fine considering the hardware. Ship models look detailed and the environments have some life to them. The only major issue is with draw distance, making it so you have to be close enough to your target in order to deal damage to them. If you're locked on, fire a shot, and the foe moves out of your line of sight into the distance, then your shot won't connect with them.

Rather than sport traditional voice work, Star Fox Command utilizes gibberish for its voices, similar to the original Star Fox. This makes the experience more authentic to the Super NES original, though I would have preferred the real thing, as trying to read dialogue in the midst of a massive firefight isn't the easiest task to accomplish. The music, composed by Hajime Wakai, delivers themes from his past work with Koji Kondo, Star Fox 64, as well as new compositions. Due to the hardware, these themes aren't the most appealing to the ears, but they're far from grating.

While the traditional on-rails goodness of Star Fox is nowhere to be found with Star Fox Command, this DS iteration of the franchise still shows some competence. Still, it's easily my least favorite Star Fox game, even being less enjoyable than Adventures, an action-adventure game in Star Fox clothing. Those with little Star Fox experience would do better to play Star Fox on the SNES, Star Fox 64 on the Nintendo 64 or 3DS, or even Star Fox Assault on the GameCube than play this minor misstep in the Star Fox franchise.

[SPC Says: C+]

Monday, March 28, 2016

SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs - After Egg Day Edition

It's the day after Easter, and I still haven't found the rest of those hidden eggs. Though they are starting to smell a bit, so it should become easier to find them as time passes on. Regardless, SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs is here as it usually is on Mondays to deliver a healthy dose of VGM goodness to you.

This week we feature a song from Mario Kart 8 that actually comes from another Nintendo property. Then, we take on Spark Mandrill's stage with Mega Man X. Following that is some boss battle theme greatness from Final Fantasy VII. Finally, we hit the road at supersonic speeds with F-Zero: GP Legend and Sonic Colors.

As is customary at the end of the introduction here, here's a reminder to check out the VGM Database for all VGM volumes of the past.

v1106. Mario Kart 8 (Wii U) - Big Blue

Coming from the second batch of DLC tracks from Mario Kart 8, one of the greatest handling of DLC I've had the pleasure to enjoy, F-Zero's Big Blue fits perfectly with Mario Kart 8's anti-gravity. It's a course that has three different phases as opposed to having three laps. This version of Big Blue's traditional theme is my favorite of any variation, offering organ, sexy sax, and hardcore guitar.

v1107. Mega Man X (SNES) - Spark Mandrill

One of the original eight Mavericks that Mega Man X had to take down, Spark Mandrill is weak against Chill Penguin's special weapon, Shotgun Ice. It freezes the foe in place, and with the right timing, X can take the Maverick down before he can even reach our hero with his fist. I've always enjoyed the capabilities of the Super NES sound card more than what the Genesis delivered. Are you in the same camp or a different one on this?

v1108. Final Fantasy VII (PS1) - Still More Fighting

The standard boss theme of Final Fantasy VII, Still More Fighting is a rock 'n roll lover's dream. The soundtrack, along with the graphics, higher focus on story elements, and new technology all signaled a new shift and generation of Final Fantasy. While it's not even my favorite Final Fantasy game on the PlayStation, it's one heck of a milestone for the series. Here's hoping Final Fantasy XV gives the series some increased relevance and importance in the gaming world.

v1109. F-Zero: GP Legend (GBA) - Lightning

We have a double dose of F-Zero for this edition of SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs, though this VGM volume comes directly from an F-Zero game instead of having a cameo appearance. F-Zero: GP Legend is based off the anime of the same name, thus having a heavier focus on story. I plan to do a retro review of this game, as my thirst for F-Zero is pretty high as of late!

v1110. Sonic Colors (Wii) - Terminal Velocity Act 1

The final level in the fantastic (and not just for a 3D Sonic game either) Sonic Colors, Terminal Velocity has Sonic running down the side of a space elevator towards Earth. This is all the while dodging enemy attacks and jumping over holes in the platforms. The song is a guitar-driven track with some great brass backing.