Friday, June 3, 2016

Top Ten Kirby Games

Kirby: Planet Robobot releases in the Americas exactly one week from today. SuperPhillip Central will no doubt be covering that, but until then, Kirby fans, why don't I satiate your appetite for Kirby with a list portraying the best to come out of HAL Laboratory and other developers? These ten Kirby titles are the best that feature Nintendo's determined and persevering pink puffball. After you've read my list and seen my arguments, feel free to let the community know your favorite Kirby games!

10) Kirby Mass Attack (DS)

Command up to ten Kirbys with the power of touch in Kirby Mass Attack! By tapping the Nintendo DS touch screen, you can create a star that your army of Kirbys will follow. Tap a foe or obstacle, and they'll charge at it like there's no tomorrow. Even with just using touch to control the Kirby squad instead of buttons and such, I never did feel out of control while maneuvering my pink puffball armada. This charmingly creative Kirby game may not be a typical platformer, but it's an amazing adventure that is full of incredibly clever ideas. This isn't the only touch-focused Kirby game on the list, so stay tuned!

9) Kirby's Dream Land 3 (SNES)

Borrowing the formula of Kirby's Dream Land 2, where Kirby joined up with three animal friends to help save the day, Kirby's Dream Land 3 introduces three more animal buddies into the fray, each with their own special abilities to assist Kirby on his adventure. Speaking of abilities, new copy abilities such as Kirby being able to launch himself into enemies as a fireball after eating a fire-based foe, open up the gameplay greatly and changes things up nicely. Then, there's the absolutely gorgeous and unique art style for the game to admire as well. Kirby's Dream Land 3 was the final published release from Nintendo for the Super Nintendo. PAL territories wouldn't see the game until over a decade later via Wii Virtual Console import.

8) Kirby Air Ride (GCN)

The sole non-platformer on this list of top Kirby games, Kirby Air Ride is a simplistic racer on the surface with surprising depth. The various racing machine Kirby and friends pilot accelerate on their own. The player just controls which direction they move, while using the A button to do tasks like braking, charging, boosting, and Kirby's signature inhaling ability to copy enemies' abilities. The multi-tiered tracks feature many shortcuts and ways to go, making each fun but difficult to master. Apart from the main racing mode, there are two others: a top down racer and City Trial. Each possess their own checklist of challenges, where completing a challenge unlocks a game bonus, whether it's a new racer, vehicle, or other goody. Not given much delight from critics at the time of release, the game has since seen a cult following.

7) Kirby's Epic Yarn (Wii)

Taking the trademark abilities of Kirby-- inhaling foes, copying their powers, and flying-- and removing them might seem like a poor idea for a Kirby game. Nonetheless, Kirby's Epic Yarn is a delightful 2D platformer that may err on the very easy side, but remains an adorable, charming, and wonderful game regardless. The game is rendered with a knitted style, and the world is made of fabrics and clothing. Kirby can transform into numerous forms, such as a car and a submarine, for example. The low difficulty of the game comes from the inability for Kirby to die. Instead, when Kirby takes damage or falls into a pit, the player loses a fair amount of beads, the currency of the game. A side goal of each level is to get a specific total of beads, so dying a lot is counter-intuitive to this objective. Additionally, a second player can join in for some co-op fun. While it won't make you sweat with is challenge, Kirby's Epic Yarn is one truly epic Kirby game.

6) Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards (N64)

Many franchises entered the third-dimension on the Nintendo 64, and Kirby did as well... well, sort of. Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards is a 2.5-D platformer where environments, levels, and characters are made up of 3D. The paths in levels themselves are 2D, sometimes circling around an object to impressive results. The biggest shift gameplay-wise in Kirby 64 is the ability to combine two Kirby powers together to create a multitude of powerful combinations. The titular crystal shards are optional collectibles to gather, though collecting them all reveals the true final boss and ending. Kirby 64 is just the right length. It doesn't overstay its welcome, nor does it feel like you got the raw end of the deal game size-wise. Like any good Kirby game worth its weight in Maxim Tomatoes, it encourages multiple play-throughs, each as enjoyable as the last.

5) Kirby: Canvas Curse (DS)

I told you guys and gals that there would be another touch-centric Kirby game, and here it is. Kirby: Canvas Curse was the game for me that gave the Nintendo DS touch screen value to me early on in the system's life. The game involves players drawing lines to guide Kirby and the other three unlockable playable characters through levels filled with enemies, obstacles, and challenges. Kirby's trademark copy ability is here and shines, allowing Kirby to smack into a foe, take its power, and use it to solve puzzles within levels and take it to enemies. The rainbow lines that players draw can also be used as a shield to block projectiles and other dangers that would otherwise harm Kirby. Packed with content, Kirby: Canvas Curse was the Nintendo DS game that made the summer after the system's launch much easier to cope with until the deluge of great software hit the system that fall.

4) Kirby's Adventure (NES)

Players around the globe got to finally see Kirby in full, glorious color in a video game with Kirby's Adventure, the sole NES title in the Kirby franchise. It also marks the first appearance of fan favorite character Meta Knight, and gave players the ability to finally save their progress mid-game. Let me tell you-- that save feature is a godsend, as Kirby's Adventure isn't your typical short Kirby game that fans at the time had come to expect from the pink puffball. Featuring seven wonderful worlds, hidden secrets, entertaining boss battles, and the charm that Kirby games exude, Kirby's Adventure delivers on almost every aspect. A Game Boy Advance remake, Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land, released in 2002, while a 3D Classics Nintendo 3DS eShop version launched in 2011. While the remake is a very good game, I would have felt remiss if I didn't include the original, genuine article, the OG NES game, on this list instead.

3) Kirby's Return to Dream Land (Wii) 

Using the tried and true formula of past Kirby games, Kirby's Return to Dream Land (known as Kirby's Adventure Wii in other parts of the world) marked the first Kirby platformer to hit a home console since Kirby 64. The wait was definitely worth it. All the enjoyable and endearing gameplay goodness the Kirby series is known for is present and accounted for in Return to Dream Land. However, this time Kirby doesn't have to go it alone. Return to Dream Land offers cooperative multiplayer for up to four players to engage on an epic adventure, even allowing them to stand on top of one another's heads like a totem to move through levels as a synchronized team. The gameplay element of copying abilities from enemies is here, as are numerous Energy Spheres that give extra incentive to explore the creative and cleverly designed levels of the game. It might not have revolutionized the Kirby series as we know it, but Kirby's Return to Dream Land is almost as good a Kirby game as you'll ever play. Almost.

2) Kirby: Triple Deluxe (3DS)

While we wait patiently for Kirby: Triple Deluxe's successor, Kirby: Planet Robobot, to release in North America next week, allow me to talk about what I consider to be the second best Kirby game ever created. Kirby: Triple Deluxe might not push the envelope for Kirby platformers, but it executes the formula so incredibly well. The levels are masterful in their designs, using the Nintendo 3DS's stereoscopic 3D to have them sprawled in both the foreground and the background. Some really nifty visual trickery is on display here. The new powers such as Archer, Bell, and Circus, bring some new tricks to Kirby's ever-growing arsenal, and the visuals are as stellar as ever. Bonus modes such as one where you play the entire adventure as King Dedede, and the mighty challenging True Arena, bring even more gameplay greatness to players. For a handheld Kirby game, Kirby: Triple Deluxe can't be beat.

1) Kirby Super Star (SNES, DS)

What's better than one Kirby game? Well, let me answer that for you-- how about seven Kirby games and some bonus goodies! That's exactly what you get with Kirby Super Star (known as Kirby's Fun Pak in PAL territories). This compilation has several exciting mini-adventures in it, such as a re-imagining of the original Kirby's Dream Land with Spring Breeze, a four level journey to stop a crop-bothering bird in Dyna Blade, a gourmand's dream in the form of a food-chomping race against King Dedede in Gourmet Race, a massive system of rooms filled with 60 treasures in The Great Cave Offensive, a mission to take down Meta Knight's ship in Revenge of Meta Knight, the biggest adventure in the game known as Milky Way Wishes, and a coliseum series of battles in The Arena. A myriad of sub games are included as well. If that isn't enough, then you must be as insatiable as Kirby's appetite! It's this huge stream of good games and sub games that makes Kirby Super Star my pick for best Kirby title.

Honorable Mentions: 

Kirby and the Rainbow Curse (Wii U)
Kirby's Block Ball (GB)
Kirby's Dream Land 2 (GB)
Kirby's Dream Course (SNES)
Kirby and the Amazing Mirror (GBA)

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Top Ten Arcade Golf Games

It's golf season, ladies and gentlemen. Grab your 7-irons, pick a wedge, and let's get to the links! While playing a realistic golf game or, dare I say, the real thing can be a lot of fun, for me, there's no better good time on the links than with wildly fantastical elements involved. Part of the fun of arcade golf games is when they forgo realism to allow for accessible and much more fast-paced gameplay. That's how most of the games on this list are. After you've read my picks for the best in arcade golfing, please post your own favorites in the comments below! Let's tee off, eh?

10) Super Swing Golf: Season 2 (Wii)

We tee off with this list of ten terrific arcade golf games with the PANGYA series. This Korean online golf series is quite popular overseas. While it originated on PCs, Super Swing Golf saw two releases on Nintendo's highly popular Wii console. The second released game, Super Swing Golf: Season 2 included a greater story mode where players could explore an overworld map similar to New Super Mario Bros. Wii at the time, selecting challenges to play and unlocking content in the process. Offering two control schemes: a Wii Sports golf-esque swing system with the Wii Remote or a button-controlled setup, Super Swing Golf: Season 2 delivered charming and enjoyable golf with plenty of refinements both in gameplay and in content compared to its predecessor.

9) Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational (PS3, Vita)

A PlayStation Vita launch title later released digitally on the PlayStation 3, Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational was the sixth installment in the long-running Hot Shots Golf series. The entry's biggest innovation and heralded feature was that of online golf clubs and tournaments, allowing players the world over to engage socially and competitively in various golfing competitions. The six courses of World Invitational were superbly designed, making the multiple play-throughs of them seldom get tiring. Hot Shots Golf has never looked as good as it does on the PlayStation Vita and PlayStation 3.

8) Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour (GCN)

While not revolutionizing the arcade golf genre in any way (and if you have a good thing going, why risk ruining it anyway?), Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour on the GameCube featured a total of 16 playable characters, some that would debut as a playable character in the Mario sports series. The seven courses in Toadstool Tour ranged from basic, realistic affairs like Lakitu Valley and Cheep Cheep Falls to more fantastical designs featuring many Mario enemies and challenges such as Thwomps, Chain Chomps, and lava hazards, to name a few. The gameplay of Toadstool Tour remained relatively unchanged from its Nintendo 64 predecessor, once again invoking the tried and true saying, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." However, what Toadstool Tour lacked in gameplay advancement, the game more than made up for in personality and fun.

7) PANGYA: Fantasy Golf (PSP)

PANGYA is back on this list, baby, and there is even more fantasy golf to love. This PSP installment follows the PC PANGYA titles closely, offering a similar story mode structure full of different characters on the roster to play as, from young children to a giant bipedal polar bear. The nearly ten courses taking place from pleasantly tropical wonderlands to a volcanic environment demand practice and persistence to get top marks and low numbers on one's scorecard. Earning new gear and apparel for the numerous characters of PANGYA: Fantasy Golf is addicting much like the three-click system gameplay this game and many others like it on this list has. The golf may be fantasy-like, but the quality of PANGYA on PSP certainly isn't.

6) We Love Golf! (Wii)

While not resembling the controls of Wii Sports golf to the number, Capcom's and Camelot Software's We Love Golf is a game that used the Wii Remote to enhance the traditional three-click swing system. Holding the button down initiate the gauge while swinging back and forward with a specific rhythm enabled the player's shot. Despite not being a typical golf swing, We Love Golf's controls felt nice. The game had eight beautiful courses to play on, a cast of characters that could wear unlockable costumes from Capcom's past (such as Street Fighter's Ryu, Chun-Li, and Ken; Phoenix Wright's Apollo Justice; and Ghost 'n Goblins' Arthur), and a wide variety of modes to keep players engaged. While online is no longer available, We Love Golf remains an affordable arcade golf game worth experiencing for those wanting a Mario Golf-like experience on their Nintendo Wiis.

5) Golden Tee Golf (ARC, Mobile)

What a strange list we have where there is actually only one arcade golf game that can be played in an actual arcade! Golden Tee Golf debuted in 1989, and it's a golf game that is perfect for grabbing a pint, taking a drink, and putting and driving a golf ball with friends. The giant track ball serves as the main control for the Golden Tee Golf series, allowing for great accessibility and precision putting and driving. The ridiculous courses and golfers add to the fun, as does the alcohol you can get if you play this game in a bar, a popular attraction at such locales.

4) Hot Shots Golf: Open Tee 2 (PSP)

The Hot Shots Golf game that still possesses the most content out of any past or future Hot Shots Golf entry, Hot Shots Golf: Open Tee 2 sports an impressive twelve courses: six completely new courses and six taken from its predecessor, also on the PSP. You also get a wide assortment of goofy golfers (unlike the more proportionate characters seen nowadays in the series) to take to the links with, each allowing you to customize their appearance, mixing and matching different costume pieces won and earned in the solo campaign. Hot Shots Golf: Open Tee 2 is a fantastic golf game that doesn't take its appearance too seriously, but it does take its excellent golf gameplay seriously enough to make a great title.

3) Mario Golf (N64)

For me, the Nintendo 64 Mario Golf was what introduced me to the world of arcade golf games. Perhaps that's true for many gamers around my age (30 years-old). Regardless, Mario Golf on the Nintendo 64 brought with it six courses, some of which leaned more towards the fantastical, taking place in the sky or having its bunkers, fairways, and water hazards all carefully positioned together to resemble characters from the Super Mario franchise. If you're looking for a specific type of golf in Mario Golf 64, then you'll probably find it with the game's match play, skins play, speed golf, mini golf, ring shot golf, and so much more. The ability to play as both familiar Mushroom Kingdom characters and all-new human characters, well designed courses, and well executed golf that's inviting to both beginners and experts make for an arcade golf game that is still worthwhile nearly 20 years later.

2) Hot Shots Golf Fore! (PS2)

The Hot Shots Golf series is currently at its sixth installment, which was covered earlier on this arcade golf-centric list. There is also an intriguing seventh entry on the way for the PlayStation 4, looking like a more open world golfing experience. Regardless, the series hasn't reached the same heights on consoles since Hot Shots Golf Fore!, the second and last entry on the PlayStation 2. Complete with 12 remarkable courses, tons of unlockable characters earned through taking them on in Match Play, multiple items, caddies, and other goodies to buy in the shop, and at one time online play, Hot Shots Golf Fore! drives the ball far and creates an amazing arcade golf experience.

1) Mario Golf: World Tour (3DS)

Like I said in the introduction of this list, the fun of arcade golf games is when they forgo realism for fast-paced gameplay and accessibility. It's no different with Mario Golf: World Tour, the Nintendo 3DS entry in the Mario Golf franchise. Not only does the latest Mario Golf offer a staggering amount of courses both realistic and fantasy-based, but it also is overloading with content. Mario Golf has never felt more complete or more fun with a mode dedicated to Miis, online tournaments and multiplayer, rewards and gear to unlock for your Mii, challenges to complete in an entirely separate mode, and far and away some of the best golfing controls and feeling of playing the real deal in an arcade golf game. Mario Golf: World Tour is a tremendously successful game at teaching you how to play, being accessible for all who can pick up a 3DS, and just being an all-around joy to play.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Review Round-Up - May 2016

Hyrule's best and brightest warriors once again came out to play with Hyrule Warriors Legends.
Welcome to the Review Round-Up for May 2016. It was a month dedicated to the Nintendo 3DS last month, and five reviews were posted in total. We kicked things off with a Nintendo 3DS downgrade port of a Wii U game. Hyrule Warriors Legends turned out quite well, earning a B+, acting as SuperPhillip Central's Game of the Month for May 2016. Then, we took a trip to PopoloCrois with Return to PopoloCrois: A Story of Seasons Fairtyale, getting a C+. Next, we went retro with the excellent compendium of classic Sega games with Sega 3D Classics Collection (B). Finally, we checked out the retail version of Pokemon Rumble World and dug deep with the 3DS eShop game Digger Dan DX, both getting a B-. A fun month overall here at SuperPhillip Central!

Hyrule Warriors Legends (3DS) - B+
Return to PopoloCrois: A Story of Seasons Fairytale (3DS) - C+
Sega 3D Classics Collection (3DS) - B
Pokemon Rumble World (3DS) - B-
Digger Dan DX (3DS eShop) - B-

The free-to-start version of Pokemon Rumble World was reviewed last May.
This May, it was the physical retail version that got reviewed.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs - "Is It Still Memorial Day?" Edition

No. No, apparently it's not still Memorial Day. Curses! That means I'm late with this edition of SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs, then! Well, fear not. I have some great video game tunes to share to more than make up for my tardiness!

This week we start off with Pokemon fighting one another in epic brawls in Pokken Tournament. Then we head to the Far East with Brave Fencer Musashi, making its first SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs appearance. Following that is music from Tales of Legendia and One Piece Pirate Warriors 3. We wrap up this edition in a rocket barrel with a song from Donkey Kong Country Returns.

Just click on the VGM title to be transported to the YouTube link. Also, if you are interested in listening to past VGM volumes featured on this weekly segment, check out the VGM Database.

v1151. Pokken Tournament (Wii U) - Ferrum Stadium

Every rank final takes place in Pokken Tournament's Ferrum Stadium, whether it's the tournament or the battle again the leader of a given rank. This catchy and uptempo tune plays as your Pokemon does battle with the opponent's-- a battle that will shake the very foundations of the stadium!

v1152. Brave Fencer Musashi (PS1) - The White Cloud in the Sky

One of the early games that Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts series character artist Tetsuya Nomura worked on, Brave Fencer Musashi's art style is quite engaging to the eye. However, since art style isn't the focus of SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs, let's focus on the music. This particular song is a peaceful and mellow one, great for the setting it plays in.

v1153. Tales of Legendia (PS2) - Ancient Ship

An epic choir-featured theme by Go Shiina, Ancient Ship is a highly dramatic track from one of the better Tales of soundtracks available. Tales of Legendia was a PlayStation 2 exclusive entry in the massive Tales of franchise, offering three-dimensional characters, an engaging battle system, and plenty of familiar anime tropes, something the Tales of series loves to offer.

v1154. One Piece Pirate Warriors 3 (Multi) - Let's Put This Matter Under

Released on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, and Windows PCs, One Piece Pirate Warriors 3 plays like many of Omega Force's Musou-styled titles, only this game features all the cosmetic trappings of the One Piece anime and manga. Also like many of Omega Force's Musou-styled titles, the soundtrack is absolutely, positively stellar, such as this funky track, Let's Put This Matter Under.

v1155. Donkey Kong Country Returns (Wii, 3DS) - Gear Getaway

Gear Getaway is one of the few wholly original songs in Retro Studios' Donkey Kong Country Returns for the Wii and later on the Nintendo 3DS. It plays during the rocket barrel levels of the game, having players carefully pressing the A button to propel their rocket through an obstacle course of deadly dangers. Who could tell that DK's and Diddy's lives were on the line with this lively song?

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Digger Dan DX (3DS eShop) Review

For the third May in a row, SuperPhillip Central celebrates the Nintendo 3DS with a 3DS-centric review month. While May's end is quickly approaching, I have several more reviews before we say goodbye to this special month. This next review covers a game that will mostly be overlooked on the Nintendo 3DS eShop despite its most welcoming price of 99 cents. It's Digger Dan DX!

A Game That's Just Digger Dandy

With mobile gaming taking lots of consumers by storm, it always confused me why some developers on dedicated handheld storefronts didn't aim to make bite-sized games for as low of a price as what the App Store and Google Play Store offer. Now, I'm not saying something like Shovel Knight or SteamWorld Dig should be $1, but for smaller games with less going on, this pricing structure can result in more impulse purchases. I know that's exactly the reason I purchased Digger Dan DX, other than looking at the intriguing trailer. For $0.99, you get a game that for all intents and purposes is a heck of steal for what you're getting.

Digger Dan DX is a 2D spelunking game that has the titular Digger Dan move through the dirt, whether up, down, left, or right, collecting jewels and gems. Collect all of the shiny goodies in a level, and you unlock the exit door. Of course, there's more than just dirt to get in our main man Dan's way.

A variety of obstacles and level gimmicks come into play to bring some nice variety to the gameplay. Many levels have rocks and blocks that fall when the dirt underneath them is dug up by Dan. This results in them quickly falling down thanks to the law of gravity. It's paramount to carefully dig so you don't get crushed by a falling rock or block. The difference between rocks and blocks is that rocks can be pushed aside while blocks cannot be moved manually at all.

Quick, Dan! Move out of the way before you get crushed!
The biggest puzzles in Digger Dan DX revolve around cautiously maneuvering Dan so he doesn't get crushed, nor do you want him to accidentally cause a rock or block to impede his progress. Getting blocked, whether through putting a rock or block in his way so he can't escape, or dropping a rock or block on top of a jewel so Dan can't reach it means you'll have to restart the level. Rocks and blocks can also be pushed from high places to destroy weakened, cracked sections of floor, allowing Dan to enter new areas of levels.

There are other level gimmicks thrown in for good measure as well, such as TNT barrels that explode upon impact with the ground from being dropped from a high place, underwater sections that Dan can drown in if his air supply gauge empties all the way, enemies that can be defeated through a myriad of ways, buttons that open doors temporarily or permanently through pushing a rock on top of them, and floors that slow Dan's movement down by half.

This unsuspecting enemy is in for an explosive afternoon.
A clever mechanic has Dan utilizing the help of a small digging animal, able to fit through small gaps in walls that Dan's normal human size just can't fit through. Plenty of levels cleverly have you switching between the two characters to assist one another in getting through the levels. One instance had me controlling the miniature little helper through a tiny gap and standing on a red button that in turn opened a door for Dan to slip past. The only thing that this perfect helping pal can't do is push rocks. Hey, we can't all be perfect!

Slip through miniature gaps with Digger Dan's trusty companion.
There are 100 levels total in Digger Dan DX, and they are split up between four types of levels ranging in different difficulties. Once you finish one batch of 25 levels, the next 25 unlocks. You have to play the levels in order, so if you're wanting to jump around, this is not possible unfortunately. Each level has replay value from trying to not only get a high score (though, sadly, there are no online leaderboards to be found), but also in getting a gold star on each level. Getting a gold star is performed by beating a level before the timer hits zero for a time bonus, and by collecting a special gem found by digging up a specific piece of dirt, revealing the gem. Though some of the locations of these hidden special gems seem more random than well thought out.

This shield not only allows for invincibility but also fast footwork for Digger Dan.
Digger Dan DX has a nice stereoscopic 3D effect. It's nothing that will absolutely astound, but it is more than serviceable. The visuals have a charming 3D rendered look to the characters, and the environments are detailed just enough, though be prepared to see lots of gray and brown. The music on the other hand is pretty grating as there but a small handful of tunes heard throughout the game.

For the price, Digger Dan DX is an easy recommendation for those looking for a great time-waster to play on-the-go, beating a level or two as you go. The 100 levels and getting gold stars on each means you'll have incentive to keep playing. While the game can get really perplexing in later levels due to having to think before you dig (or else you'll find our pal Dan crushed to death), Digger Dan DX is quite dandy as a download on the Nintendo 3DS eShop.

[SPC Says: B-]