Friday, May 20, 2016

Return to PopoloCrois: A Story of Seasons Fairytale (3DS) Review

The second review of this series of three reviews in this Nintendo 3DS-focused month is Return to PopoloCrois: A Story of Seasons Fairytale. This is only the second PopoloCrois game in the series to reach the Americas and Europe. How is it? Let's start dungeon-crawling and farming to find out!

A bumper crop of variety

The PopoloCrois franchise has been around in Japan for some time now. The West saw its first run-in with the franchise, that spans much more than just games, starting with a manga series, on the PSP. Now, the PopoloCrois series gets entangled with the Story of Seasons series. Combining a fair bit of dungeon-crawling with the farming simulation fun of the Story of Seasons and Harvest Moon brands, Return to PopoloCrois: A Story of Seasons Fairytale delivers an engaging story with pleasing characters and dialogue and accessible gameplay to all.

You play as Prince Pietro, a son of the PopoloCrois royal family, who has multiple adventures and savings of the kingdom under his belt. The game begins with a prologue, taking place in PopoloCrois, having players become accustomed to controlling Pietro and meeting with the locals. After a birthday celebration for Pietro, an evil sorceress covers the kingdom into the blackness, sending Pietro away to a foreign land known as Galariland. In order to "return to PopoloCrois", Pietro must remove the dreaded Black Beasts from the land that are causing the once rich farming soil of the land to be as useful as a screen door on a submarine, and return to his homeland to rescue it from the darkness that has engulfed it.

Don't take too many of the sights in, Pietro and co. There are two lands to save!
Battles take place in flat areas with turn-based combat. Characters move along a grid, and as your heroes level up, not only do they grow in strength and learn new abilities, but they can also expand their movement reach in battle. Positioning your party members strategically is the best way to deal with battles. For instance, attacking upfront has a higher probability of missing said attack as well as doing less damage than performing an attack from the rear, which generally results in a critical hit. That said, strategy also comes from predicting the location enemies will move to, as it's quite easy to go too gung ho and end up surrounded, taking lots of HP loss in the process. With rocks and other obstacles in the way, moving your characters smartly can be the difference between total victory and utter defeat.

Attacking from a foe's front is brave, but it won't deal the most damage.
Depending on the makeup of your party, you can perform pair attacks. This has two party members combining their forces to unleash a mega move on the enemy. The party member that initiates the attack is the one whose MP is used. In addition to powerful pair attacks, characters have their own abilities and spells they can use which also cost MP. These can range from elemental spells that target a specific set of spaces on the battlefield to moves that restore HP to one or all party members.

Meanwhile, attacking from the side or from an enemy's flank will deal more damage.
The difficulty in Return to PopoloCrois is breezy at worst and a tad challenging at best. You have the option of changing the difficulty of the game in the options menu. On the normal difficulty I was able to just use the Auto battle command to have my party members be controlled by the AI for most of the game. This sped up the play time by not having to go through the slow and tedious process of maneuvering party members across the battlefield when the enemies I was facing were total scrubs. As the game neared the end, I found myself enjoying the battles more by the harder enemies and having to manually fight them myself. Thankfully, even with battles against weaker foes, the ability to lower or raise the amount of random encounters at any time was a blessing. Want to grind to level up your party? Then, raise the random encounters to High. Want to rush through an area with less of a threat of random encounters? Then, put the random encounters on Low.

In the beginning chapters of Return to PopoloCrois, you'll want to put the random encounters on low, as there is a good amount of backtracking and moving through areas full of weak enemies. It's not until a couple of chapters in that Pietro receives the ultra helpful ability of fast travel, allowing him and his party to move instantly to most notable locations such as towns and farms under Pietro's control. This fast travel ability allows for an easier time and go of it for visiting potential love interests, taking on NPC quests, and returning to the various unlocked farms to grow crops and raise cattle.

If you thought Story of Seasons's farming was a bit convoluted and time-consuming, full of micromanaging all aspects of the farm, then you'll find Return to PopoloCrois's farming a welcomed breath of fresh air. Farming is a simple as tending to the soil, putting a seed in the ground, watering it, and then returning to the scene to harvest it. Some seeds require a second round of watering, but you need not worry about forgetting, as the game smartly gives you notifications at the exact moment your crops are ready for the next step towards harvesting.

It seems the farming life has been very good to Pietro. May I taste a strawberry?
Alongside traditional farming, at your main base of operations, you can use the synthesizer to fuse together materials to make new items. While you're adventuring through Galariland, you can also mine for crystals and other materials, catch bugs, and gather even more resources for your farming and synthesizing needs. These materials and farmed goodies can then be sold or even given as gifts to Pietro's potential suitors, of which there are five throughout Galariland.

Though billed as a major part of Return to PopoloCrois, this being a Story of Seasons-related game and all, farmwork is all but necessary to enjoy the game. If you don't want to farm or harvest crops at all, you don't have to. While this is nice for those who have no interest in a farmer's life, knowing that such a heavily featured part of the game is pretty much just fluff is a bit disappointing.

When you're not completing side quests or living life on one of the game's many farms, you'll be exploring dungeons. There are two types: field dungeons and regular dungeons. Field dungeons feature labyrinths full of narrow paths that are easy to get lost in. The problem here is that you have to go through so many field dungeons that have one of three different location themes that this process becomes tedious. The story-related dungeons don't fare much better, also filled with maze-like narrow pathways. The main temples of the game have the same background only with a different color, and also suffer from having the same boss each time. Fortunately, the areas and paths that connect the land of Galariland are much more interesting to explore.

Journey to places both fantastical and more grounded in reality in Galariland. 
Return to PopoloCrois isn't a long game by RPG standards by any means. I beat it within 15-20 hours. However, after the final boss has been defeated, you enter an epilogue and the post-game content that features more farming gameplay, the ability to take on even more side quests, and a lot more. That said, Return to PopoloCrois doesn't overstay its welcome, and feels like the perfect length, at least to me.

The dialogue is extremely well written throughout Return to PopoloCrois.
The visuals of Return to PopoloCrois offer colorful worlds and detailed characters. You can opt to turn on or turn off a black border around each character. I chose to leave it on to give a more cartoony, extravagant look to the cast of characters. The game runs at a relatively steady frame-rate, and offers terrific stereoscopic 3D. The rare cutscene looks particularly great with the 3D effect of the Nintendo 3DS on. Voice work is done for most of the dialogue, though it's erratic what is and isn't fully voiced. There is a lot of cheesiness with the vocals, but it perfectly fits the game. I am particularly fond of Lord GamiGami, who has a hilarious chapter late in the game where he revisits a town he helped build under his image. Meanwhile, the music isn't standard RPG fare, having some atypical battle music for the most part. The music overall is pretty good, but it's nothing that extraordinary.

Lily, it'd be great if you quit "bugging" ME.
If you're looking for an endearing RPG with a low level of entry but enough gameplay goodness and charm to keep you hanging around long after the credits, Return to PopoloCrois: A Story of Seasons Fairytale is indeed a great game to grab. The story can be poignant and touching at times, a riot at others, and the customization options offer the ability to fine tune the game to your liking. Though the dungeon-crawling aspect of the game is a tad disappointing, overall, Return to PopoloCrois should have players harvesting a great deal of fun.

[SPC Says: C+]

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Hyrule Warriors Legends (3DS) Review

It's a Nintendo 3DS centric month here on SuperPhillip Central, but if you're like me, you were a bit uneasy that we were more than halfway through the month of May without a review! That ends now, as I have in store two more Nintendo 3DS game reviews planned for this week. The first of the three is for Hyrule Warriors Legends, a watered down port of the Wii U original Hyrule Warriors. Though watered down, as you'll see with my in-depth review, that doesn't mean it still isn't fun!

Hyrule Warriors, come out and pla-a-ay~~!

When Hyrule Warriors hit the Wii U several years back, the draw of beating down armies of enemies across sizable maps as one's favorite Legend of Zelda characters was highly appealing. Taking such a large game and sizing it down on the Nintendo 3DS was no doubt a herculean task. Somehow, someway, the developers at Omega Force managed to successfully do this, though not without some hurdles. Overall, though, the final product in Hyrule Warriors Legends successfully brings the Wii U game to a bite-sized format, and also brings with it a slew of new content to make an already massive game even bigger.

Hyrule Warriors Legends continues the Musou-styled gameplay that other Koei Tecmo-developed Dynasty Warriors games follow. As a character in The Legend of Zelda mythos, you basically serve as a one person army, slaying upwards of thousands of enemies in a single mission. You run around an expansive battlefield capturing keeps to weaken the enemy forces. This is done by defeating multiple foes inside an enemy keep to lower a given keep's gauge. Once it is empty, the keep boss will appear. Defeating it will allow you to instantly claim that keep. Of course, the enemy wishes to do the same thing, so you have to be vigilant and as defensive as your are offensive.

The fun of the Dynasty Warriors series is wiping out armies of enemies quite effortlessly as Link is about to do.
While keep bosses are just slightly more powerful than the random enemies you can effortless slash and strike through, captains are much stronger foes, possessing their own health bars. Enemy commanders, usually taking the form of a Legend of Zelda character, have even more health than normal, and are the most difficult of ordinary foes to take down. It's usually smart to wait for them to make a special attack that leaves them temporarily vulnerable. It's then where a weak point gauge will appear over their head. When it's emptied through attacks, you can perform a powerful strike that can clear out a good portion of their health bar.

Then there are even bigger adversaries that can appear in certain missions in Hyrule Warriors Legends. These take the form of boss characters such as the fire-breathing dinosaur King Dodongo, the laser-shooting arachnid Gohma, or the flying dragon Argorok, to name a few. In true Zelda fashion, each boss has a weakness to a specific item. For instance, when King Dodongo opens its huge gaping maw of a mouth, ready to spew its flame breath, that is the opportunity to toss some bombs into its mouth. This dazes it, revealing a weak point gauge.

One of the two new bosses in Hyrule Warriors Legends, Phantom Ganon.
Like many Dynasty Warriors-themed games, the combat in Hyrule Warriors Legends doesn't stray too far from its accessible roots. There are but two main buttons for attacks, one weak and one strong, and pressing the buttons in different combinations offers different combos of varying strength to wipe out large swaths of enemy forces. Furthermore, the ability to lock onto stronger foes (though a bit more difficult in this version because it requires the use of the up direction on the D-Pad), helps in keeping your eye on a particular foe.

As you acquire Triforce gauge pieces and attack foes, your character's special gauge fills. When it's full, you can unleash a powerful strike that can take out a group of foes or even take out a good portion of a captain, commander, or boss's health bar. Through grabbing magic bottles, you can fill a focus gauge that when let loose, you can take out enemies with ease, even causing commander and boss weak points to automatically appear at the conclusion of your character's focus attack. Despite only having a handful of buttons for offense, the combat doesn't get too repetitive. It's quite enjoyable actually. That in addition to using the A button to roll out of the way of enemy attacks and to get around to the backside of an otherwise well-defended foe, and you have a lot of variety in Hyrule Warriors Legends's combat.

Unleash a special attack to clear the surrounding area of enemies.
There are some added benefits of convenience with Hyrule Warriors Legends. For one, many stages contain Owl Statues, that when activated, you can use an all-new item, the Ocarina, to warp to them. There's no more needing to trek all the way across a given stage just to perform a quick task. Additionally, many missions allow you to switch between characters. Not only does this mean you don't have to babysit the AI, as when a certain character is low in health, you can control them and move out of the way, but you can also use the touch screen to order the AI to a specific location or near a specific character. In stages where there are treasures that can only be opened with a certain character, you no longer have to play a mission twice or more just to open all of the treasures. You can simply switch to a playable character mid-battle.

The first mode players will jump into is the story-based Legend Mode. The story tells the tale of an unassuming Hyrule army soldier named Link that helps save Hyrule Castle from an attack from monsters. This piques the interest of Princess Zelda and her trusty guardian Impa, who both ask that Link join them on their quest to put an end to the evil that is threatening the land of Hyrule. Legend Mode spans 32 stages, having you control multiple characters as you defeat certain enemy commanders, complete objectives, and capture enemy keeps, all the while protecting your own keeps, particularly your base, and rescuing companions when necessary.

Link makes this look easy. Well, when you're facing ordinary foes like this, it actually is easy.
Hyrule Warriors Legends currently has 24 characters you can play as with more coming as DLC. You start out with just Link, but as you play through the game's various modes, you unlock new characters. Each character plays differently, some easier to use as others, and display personalities in both their victory celebrations as well as their attack styles. All characters earn experience points through defeating enemies, and through gaining levels, they grow stronger. Found Heart Containers and Pieces of Heart in stages and missions add to a given warrior's overall health.

Captains, commanders, and bosses drop materials as well as weapons when defeated. The materials are used to create badges that give characters abilities like more buttons combinations to use to make more powerful attacks, a second special gauge, the ability to use potions, quicker weak point deterioration, and a lot more. Many times you'll have to grind for a certain material if you want to get a specific bonus for a particular character, which can be very time-consuming on top of a bit aggravating. Each character has their own specific weapon type, and dropped weapons each have their own attack strength, potential element, as well as slots that add benefits in battle, such as increased Rupee, heart, material, and weapon drops.

Newcomer Linkle may not know east from west, but she can clear a room of baddies quite easily.
Compared to the Wii U original, the Nintendo 3DS's Hyrule Warriors Legends contains extra stages. There are three alternate tales in Legend Mode that feature a brand-new character named Linkle, who believes she's the legendary hero, several stages that show how the evil Cia built up her evil army, and an all-new Wind Waker-themed series of stages featuring newcomers to the Hyrule Warriors series, Tetra and King Daphnes (AKA The King of Red Lions).

The other new boss, the Helmaroc King, returns from The Wind Waker.
As stages in Legend Mode are completed, new levels open up in Adventure Mode, a mode that takes place on several grid-like maps, the first based on the original Legend of Zelda's map. Starting from the beginning position, you complete missions in order to open up adjacent missions. Some require you to earn a certain ranking through defeating a set number of enemies, completing the mission under a specific amount of time, and taking little damage. Completed missions unlock goodies like new weapons, Heart Containers and Pieces of Heart for specific characters, new costumes, and even new characters. You also earn item cards to be used on maps like Bombs, Candles, and Digging Mitts which are used on grid locations at specific spots to reveal hidden goodies to earn in a mission. Some goodies can only be earned through uncovering them on the map and by satisfying conditions such as getting an A-Rank.

Like grinding for materials, there is a certain amount of grinding to be found in Adventure Mode as well. Certain missions unlock new item cards once you complete them, and this means that many times you'll find yourself lacking a needed item card to unlock a hidden prize. This results in having to replay certain missions just to get the item card that you require. This gets a bit annoying especially as you progress across the Adventure Mode map.

To say that Hyrule Warriors Legends is packed with content is truth, but even then, that might be an understatement. Between defeating all 180 Gold Skulltula in missions that appear after finishing off a certain in-mission task, leveling up characters, earning each character's several weapons, unlocking new costumes, collecting all of the Pieces of Heart and Heart Containers in the game from completing Adventure Mode map missions and finding them in treasure chests in missions, beating each Adventure Mode map after the initial NES Legend of Zelda map, and collecting enough materials to max out each character's abilities in the Bazaar section of the game, Hyrule Warriors Legends will keep players hacking and slashing for hundreds of hours. If you can deal with the occasional repetitive gameplay, then you'll have more than enough motivation to keep playing.

The skies might be clear outside, but it's still raining arrows on these unsuspecting foes nonetheless.
Outside of being packed with content, Hyrule Warriors Legends is packed with frame-rate issues on OG Nintendo 3DS hardware, whether the vanilla 3DS model or the 3DS XL model. The New 3DS allows the game to run much better with a much stronger frame-rate. Still, I played Hyrule Warriors Legends on a vanilla, non-New 3DS, 3DS. My experience was not ruined by this at all. In any case, you'll find enemies appearing in front of you out of nowhere (though the amount of foes on screen at one time is quite impressive), a relatively weak draw distance in levels, and some slow-down, Regardless, having a Wii U game paired down onto the Nintendo 3DS hardware was no small feat, but it is highly stunning what the developers were able to accomplish all the same, even with the game's performance issues.

Hyrule Warriors Legends takes the brilliant hacking and slashing fun of the Wii U's Hyrule Warriors, places all the DLC from the game into this 3DS version, adds a ton of new content, and makes for a game that fans will be playing for months if not years. While the performance issues do detract slightly from the experience, and some control issues do rear their ugly head into things, overall, Hyrule Warriors Legends is very much a love letter to Zelda fans and a great game on top of that.

[SPC Says: B+]

Gran Turismo Sport (PS4) Gameplay Trailer

The debut trailer for the newest installment in the incredibly popular Gran Turismo series is now available for view. Gran Turismo Sport is set to continue the series's marvelous attention to detail with fast paced racing and fully articulated tracks based on real world locations. A new super photo mode allows those who love cars to get the most out of it. Gran Turismo Sport is set to speed onto the PlayStation 4 on November 15th.

Kirby: Planet Robobot (3DS) Overview Trailer

Nintendo UK posted a new overview trailer detailing everything special about the newest Kirby, Kirby: Planet Robobot, earlier today. The game is set to release June 10th in North America, and has already delighted Japanese Nintendo 3DS owners.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Final Fantasy XV (PS4, XB1) World of Wonder Environment Footage

Gorgeous environmental footage plus gorgeous music in the form of Final Fantasy XV's version of the Prelude theme all adds up to an astonishing and powerful trailer. Scope the beautiful vistas and towns that Final Fantasy XV offers players. September 30th can't come fast enough.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 (PS4, XB1, PC) Announcement Trailer

Protect the history of Dragon Ball in Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2, just announced this morning for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. Namco Bandai is set to publish this game while Dimps develops. This marks the first new gen-only Dragon Ball game, and it looks quite the contender!

Monday, May 16, 2016

SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs - Fortune Favors the Bold Edition

Another new work week means another edition of SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs. Like always, by clicking on each VGM title, you will be transported to the YouTube video featuring the piece of video game music mentioned.

This week we have some big franchises included. We start with the recently released Uncharted 4: A Thief's End, and then move on to Halo 4. Following that is a brief trip to the skies with LAIR and a reconnaissance mission in Syphon Filter: Logan's Shadow. Finally, Armored Core 4 wraps up the edition with big mechs and even bigger explosions.

Make sure to check out the VGM Database after you've listened to these five fantastic video game themes.

v1141. Uncharted 4: A Thief's End (PS4) - Nate's Theme 4.0

Uncharted 4: A Thief's End released last week, and already in the UK it has the best-selling sales start in the series by a wide margin. While the soundtrack for the game, not by the traditional series composer, is a tad disappointing compared to past installments, Nate's Theme is still as prolific and riveting as ever in this finale to Nathan Drake's adventures.

v1142. Halo 4 (360) - Awakening

We move from a major PlayStation series to a major Xbox one with Halo. Halo 4 was the first original entry that wasn't created by series creator Bungie. Nor did it have the usual composer behind it. It was new territory in more ways than one for the Halo series, but speaking of the soundtrack, while different from past efforts, it still was a wonderful score to back Master Chief's then-latest.

v1143. LAIR (PS3) - Main Theme

A majestic, heroic theme at its beginning, LAIR's main theme gives players a grand feeling. It's just a shame that the actual game was one that killed off a fine developer, Factor 5, the folks best known for their work on the Star Wars: Rogue Squadron series of games. Regardless, the soundtrack is a bright spot in this otherwise okay (well, okay once traditional controls were patched in) flight-based game.

v1144. Syphon Filter: Logan's Shadow (PSP) - Earn Your Pay

Two Syphon Filter games appeared on the PlayStation Portable, a system that possesses one of the greatest and most diverse handheld libraries. The two games were Dark Mirror and Logan's Shadow. Since then, we've not seen hide nor hair of the franchise. Still, these two games were a wonderful way to go to the franchise's hopefully temporary hiatus.

v1145. Armored Core 4 (PS3, 360) - Spirit of Motherwill

Before they became well known and famous for the Souls line of games, From Software had another long-running series, the Armored Core series. This fourth installment for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 served as a reboot for the franchise after the eleven games before it. The soundtrack is a symphonic gold mine of cool tunes, such as this one, a choir-backed Spirit of Motherwill.

Top Ten Legend of Zelda Series Themes

The Legend of Zelda series celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. While the major game in the series for Wii U (and now NX) has been delayed to 2017, that doesn't mean we still can't enjoy the anniversary. SuperPhillip Central has been doing just that with some special lists and features based off Nintendo's illustrious franchise. Today, we'll be diving into The Legend of Zelda franchise's most notable and enjoyable musical themes. For a look (or rather, is it a listen?) at some of the more underrated themes that I love in The Legend of Zelda series, stay tuned for a special top ten list later in the week! After you've seen and heard my picks, what are your favorite Zelda themes?

For other top tens regarding The Legend of Zelda series, look no further than these "Links" from posts earlier in the year:

Legend of Zelda Dungeons
Legend of Zelda Games

And check out the article after the break, since there's a lot of YouTube videos to load.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

The Petition to Remove An Unfavorable Uncharted 4 Score from Metacritic: Another Embarrassing Chapter for Gamers

Normally I ignore stupidity in the gaming industry and stuff from gamers. However, something has happened over the weekend that is so egregious that I couldn't stop from wanting to write about it.

In the latest chapter of the massive book known as "Us, Gamers: The State of Gamers AKA Laughter Turned Into Uncontrollable Sobbing", there is honest to goodness a real petition to remove a Washington Post review score from Metacritic. While it's easily arguable that the wrong score and review from the Post were contributed to Metacritic, that's not the problem here. The reaction, response, immaturity, and intent of this petition have to be satire, right? I mean, just take a look at some of the choice words in the petition text itself:

"[I'm] sorry but when having too much detail became a bad thing , this reviewer is out of his mind. I believe [Uncharted 4] is one of the greatest games ever created and it is my personal favorite for sure, although [I] can justify some reviewers giving it a 9 or an 8. But this is a utter disgrace. Gene, because you were the only respectable staff that responded to this nonsense, you should remove this review fro the [Metacritic], and post a new, sensible one that can justify its existence. Your Washington post for Christ's Sake, not a 12-year-old's diary. Treat the game with professionalism and respect."
Let's focus on this first. While it's hilarious that someone alluding the writer of the review is 12 years-old while lacking the total self-awareness to realize that they're behaving like someone of the same age with this immature position, it's really disconcerting that this isn't satire. Someone is actually upset that Metacritic has allowed a less-than-stellar review score, whether it's a horrible review (which is definitely arguable that it is) is just embarrassing. More embarrassing than how astronomically small-minded it is for famous voice actor Troy Baker to retweet said petition. Why does he even care?!

It's incredibly disappointing that a great talent like Troy Baker would lower himself like this.
Or how about this quote at the very end of the position text?
"A review is not about what you think a game is , its about what a game is. Objective measures are applied."
I... What? A review is a subjective opinion, and I seriously hope to God that this petition starter is part of some elaborate prank taking advantage of the most zealous of Uncharted 4 fans. What a game is varies from player to player. It's not something that is measured as objective fact. If that were true, every review would be the same score, since obviously reviews and their scores are objective, after all. But this is reality, and that's not how reviews work.

Let's get to my main point here, though: Why do a good segment of gamers get so worked up over Metacritic? The site has so many gamers by the balls. Does a lower review score or a lower Metacritic average literally ruin their enjoyment of a game like Uncharted 4? It shouldn't, but some gamers are so emotionally invested in games they like that they feel that the game they adore deserves a certain score. Why?

If you enjoy Uncharted 4, fantastic! Sing its praises, love it, enjoy it, tell other people it's awesome, but don't act like any game deserves a certain Metacritic average. One: who cares? A Metacritic average that goes from an impressive 95 to an impressive 94 shouldn't matter. The score itself shouldn't make you feel the game wasn't owed the score it "deserves". It's simply incredibly petty and pathetic, and it continues to show that gamers in a negative light-- unable to handle one low score in a sea of 9's and 10's.

Uncharted 4 is just the most popular and relevant game with a review controversy to talk about. It's essentially any big game, especially an exclusive, that gets this kind of ire from gamers. The fact that so many gamers let reviews, not really the opinions but the actual scores, paint how they perceive what a game should get is amazing and not in a good way. In any case, the point of reviews is to let reviewers give their own opinions about what games they cover. It isn't to give validity to your own opinions, which so many gamers want. Until this popular point of view is removed and we gamers learn to grow up, the industry will continue to be worse off because of this.