Wednesday, June 22, 2016

All-Star Franchises, Underrated Entries - Part Eight

If you've been around SuperPhillip Central for a little while (it's still okay if you haven't, so no harm done), then you know that I like talking about underrated and overlooked games. I've done various series on the subject. However, most of the time, the games mentioned in these articles are from wholly new or overlooked franchises themselves.

There are also a multitude of series that I can think of that have one, two, or a handful of games in it that aren't viewed as highly as the others, whether just or not.

These ideas are where the concept of All-Star Franchises, Underrated Entries comes from, and since part seven, I've come up with six more underrated entries to big-time franchises, some bigger than others. If you'd like to see past parts of this now long-running series, check them out here:

Star Fox - Star Fox Zero (Wii U)

The most recent game on this edition of All-Star Franchises, Underrated Entries, Star Fox Zero got mixed reviews and reception at best from both critics and players of the game. This was mostly to do with the atypical control and dual screen system the game used. However, with some practice, one could pull off maneuvers and high scores that would have otherwise been impossible with traditional controls. For instance, aiming with the GamePad screen while looking in a totally different direction of your Arwing meant you could take out foes that were to your side instead of always having to limit your aim to the front of your ship. Throw in some epic missions, and you have a Star Fox that feel doesn't get its rightful due as a great game. However, with that in mind, not everyone will be able to adjust to this non-traditional control scheme, and that is positively clear from the spread of reviews.

Mortal Kombat - Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks (PS2, XBX)

Despite having sold over one million copies across two platforms since its original release in 2005, Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks isn't the most talked about Mortal Kombat game in the series. This is because it is not a traditional fighting game like past and future entries. Instead, it's an action adventure game with a fighting system more comparable to a beat-em-up like Double Dragon or Streets of Rage. Nonetheless, even with a different gameplay shift, Shaolin Monks incorporates various mechanics from the Mortal Kombat series including finishers as well as combos. The story mode allows for up to two players to move through the game's various levels, dealing with numerous enemies in a variety of ways. There is also a versus mode that plays more similarly to the Mortal Kombat games fans are more used to. Regardless, a sequel to Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks doesn't seem to be in the cards despite the game's original success.

Paper Mario - Paper Mario: Sticker Star (3DS)

With last week's Nintendo Treehouse stream at E3 2016, the Treehouse crew showed off several games, including the newest in the Paper Mario franchise, once again stepping away from its RPG roots. Whether or not that's a good thing is subjective, but the game that introduced many of the gameplay mechanics of the new game Color Splash is none other than the Nintendo 3DS's Paper Mario: Sticker Star. Despite its obvious problems, the most egregious being the requirement to use a specific item sticker at a specific moment during a boss battle, usually not too obvious, Paper Mario: Sticker Star possesses a strong gameplay loop, creative environments and visuals, a fun battle system (although usually unnecessary to get involved with), and one of the franchise's best soundtracks. Sticker Star has received lots of hate from fans more in tune with the original two Paper Mario games that released on the Nintendo 64 and GameCube, but the overall game is quite good... especially if you play with a guide!

The Legend of Zelda - The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes (3DS)

It's the 30th anniversary of The Legend of Zelda series this year, and the next entry in the franchise will be making its release on both the Wii U and upcoming NX console sometime next year. The previous Zelda game that launched released on the Nintendo 3DS last fall with The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes. This multiplayer-centric Zelda game uses three Links to solve cooperative environmental puzzles and defeat myriad enemies in battle. Cooperation is key with Tri Force Heroes, and part of the fun of the game is coming up with ways to progress in levels as a team. There are also countless costumes to unlock, each crafted by bringing a specific character materials. Each costume has its own benefit, making for some strategic decision-making in what costume will work best in a given level. While the single player mode doesn't have the AI companions of Four Swords Adventures, it is a certain amount of fun nonetheless, though paling in comparison to the multiplayer, played online or locally with three friends.

Dead or Alive - Dead or Alive: Dimensions (3DS)

Another fighting game franchise that sees an arrival on All-Star Franchises, Underrated Entries, Dead or Alive saw its first entry on a Nintendo platform with Dead or Alive: Dimensions on the Nintendo 3DS. Rather than being a wholly new game in the series, Dimensions was more of compilation of past Dead or Alive games, possessing over 25 playable characters from the franchise's history and a story that summarized the plots of Dead or Alive 1-4. Speaking of Dead or Alive 4, this was the engine used for Dimensions, albeit in slightly modified form to work with the Nintendo 3DS. Other modes included in Dimensions are Arcade, Survival, Free Play, Training, and a special photo mode allowing for players to take pictures of the game's various 3D models in custom-made positions. Releasing early in the Nintendo 3DS's life, Dead or Alive: Dimensions didn't get too much attention compared to Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition, which unlike Dead or Alive, arrived at the system's launch.

LittleBigPlanet - LittleBigPlanet Karting (PS3)

The last game on this installment of All-Star Franchises, Underrated Entries is LittleBigPlanet Karting, Sony's attempt to bring its LittleBigPlanet franchise into a new genre, the kart racer. The biggest claim to fame of LittleBigPlanet Karting aside from its very capable traditional kart racing is its creation mode, similar in some ways to Sony's own ModNation Racers, allowing happy gadders to customize their racer, their vehicle, and build their own race tracks, whether in circuit form or battle arena form. The amount of possibilities with the creation tools in LittleBigPlanet Karting was staggering, though it's recommended heavily that users watch the massive amount of in-depth tutorials to get the most out of the tools. The racing itself was quite competent, though the AI could very much annoy with its rubber-band AI. Still, despite having all of the creation tools and competent kart racing gameplay available, LittleBigPlanet Karting is grossly overlooked and underrated by PlayStation 3 gamers.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Kirby: Planet Robobot (3DS) Review

The next review of June, and the first of summer is Kirby: Planet Robobot, the latest in HAL Laboratory's fantastic platforming franchise. How does this newest Nintendo 3DS entry hold up? Let's find out with SuperPhillip Central's official review!

Kick some bot with Kirby

Just a little over two years ago, Kirby arrived on the Nintendo 3DS with his first platforming adventure on the system, Kirby: Triple Deluxe. That game brought the typical Kirby action the series is known for, while adding in gameplay that had Kirby switching between the foreground and background of levels to great and impressive effect. Now, it's 2016, and with the Nintendo 3DS sort of wrapping things up, Kirby is back with a new platforming title, Kirby: Planet Robobot. Late to the 3DS party, but fashionably so, Planet Robobot certainly kicks bot.

The Haltmann Works Company arrives from space with a giant robot spaceship, and uses its mechanical power to infuse itself with Kirby's home planet. In doing so, the pure spaces of Dream Land become mixed with mechanized gears and other unnatural features. Kirby sets out to restore the natural beauty of his home world through doing what he knows best, platforming and inhaling foes to copy their abilities to save the day!

Kirby: Planet Robobot is very much structured and designed like its 3DS predecessor, Triple Deluxe. Each level has a certain amount of hidden collectibles, this time called Code Cubes, that when enough have been gathered in a world, unlocks the door to the boss. In addition to Code Cubes to collect, Kirby can gather stickers that serve as the key chains of Planet Robobot. Not only are these based off of past Kirby characters like Triple Deluxe's key chains were, but this time around they can be used to plaster on the arms of Kirby's mech that he uses in certain levels in-game.

Yes, the Kirby mech is the new gameplay enhancement in Planet Robobot, and it feels like a much better extension to the gameplay than Kirby: Triple Deluxe's decidedly throwaway Hypernova ability. It's used better, and it's much more fun to use. Like being an extension to the gameplay of Planet Robobot, Kirby's mech is an extension of the pink puffball's abilities, allowing him to scan and copy the abilities of a given enemy. It absolutely sent me laughing into stitches seeing Kirby's old school abilities get an upgrade by using them with the mech.

The mech takes Kirby's traditional copy abilities and amplifies them exponentially.
With Kirby's mech, you can grab giant blocks, putting them down to create a makeshift stepping stone to reach higher platforms. You can latch onto screws and loosen or tighten them to lower or raise specific platforms. Stage hazards like oncoming Waddle Dee-driven cars that move from the background into the foreground (a mechanic that greatly shows off the 3D effect of Planet Robobot) that would crash into ordinary Kirby, sending him flying face-first into the screen, can now be defeated easily with Kirby's mech with a well placed punch.

Traffic accident on Wilmore Street. Please avoid the area until congestion has been cleared.
There are also certain sections of specific levels that have Kirby's mech scanning and copying the Jet and Wheel abilities, turning the mech into a flying spaceship in special shoot-em-up sections and turning the mech into a speeding vehicle for road sections of level respectively. These point is that all of these mechanics change up the gameplay quite nicely and are fantastic additions to the traditional Kirby formula.

Take flight in Kirby's mech in these fun and engaging shmup sections.
Even in the sections without Kirby piloting a mech, the gameplay in Kirby: Planet Robobot is packed with variety and fun. Of course, the basic Kirby gameplay is present and accounted for here in Planet Robobot. Kirby can inhale and swallow certain enemies in order to copy their abilities. There are the mainstay abilities of the Kirby games, such as Sword, Fire, Cutter, Ice, Hammer, and more, but there are also new ones such as Mirror, Poison, and Doctor. Each ability has its own set of moves to it that allow Kirby to perform different actions when the time and opportunity call for them. You can press the pause button when equipped with a given copy ability to quickly scope out the simple button inputs to know what each action does.

Poison is one of the new copy abilities in Planet Robobot.
Completing the standard story mode as Kirby will last most players somewhere between 5-6 hours, but then there's finding all of the Code Cubes, which if all of them have been collected before a boss in a given world, they open up an extra level in that world. There's also rare stickers to find, one in each level.

After beating the story mode, in true blue (or I guess true pink in this case) Kirby fashion, new bonus modes open up, such as being able to play through the game as Meta Knight. He doesn't have the copy abilities of Kirby, but he does have a powerful sword to slash and smash through foes and obstacles. There's less health in this mode, but by collecting and storing enough energy, he can use a variety of moves, some that take off half the health of powerful enemies, while another can partially heal Meta Knight.

There are two side modes in Kirby: Planet Robobot, and these themselves could be stretched out more to be their own games! The first is Kirby 3D Rumble, which you can infer based on its name, is a 3D romp where the goal is to defeat all enemies in a 3D environment while racking up points with combos and multipliers. The other is Team Kirby Clash, where you can choose between four roles: powerful but slow attacker with the Hammer, fast and nimble attacker with the Sword, healer, or magic user with the Beam. You then fight a boss character, whittling their HP down until they are defeated. This mode allows you to play with up to three friends locally or three AI-controlled Kirbys.

Kirby 3D Rumble is a short but sweet side mode in Planet Robobot's repertoire of modes.
Planet Robobot remains as a colorful and charming as you'd expect from a Kirby game. The 3D models and environments are quite endearing to look at, full of vibrancy and things to engage the eyes with. The impressive mix of a nature and machinery in the levels makes for one of the most interesting batch of level visuals in the Kirby series's long history. It's helped because everything runs at a relatively smooth frame-rate as well, which is great. Meanwhile, the music featured supplies listeners with catchy and jaunty themes, some returning from past Kirby games and games featuring the pink puffball.

The bosses in Kirby: Planet Robobot are a real pleasure to fight.
Overall, Kirby: Planet Robobot is a seriously wonderful entry in the Kirby series, and one of my favorite titles in the franchise yet. Its platforming and level design is absolutely sensational, packed with lots of secrets to scope out. The added (and more challenging) bonus modes bring even more longevity to the game, meaning despite the story's 5-6 hour runtime and its generally low difficulty, you'll be engaged in Planet Robobot for many more hours to come. Kirby doesn't just kick bot with this game. He definitely kicks butt, too.

[SPC Says: A-]

Monday, June 20, 2016

SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs - Summer Solstice 2016 Edition

Wasn't it just two days ago that we dipped into an edition of SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs together? Why, yes, it was, but now the old VGMs are back on a Monday where they belong! Today is the first day of summer, and boy, the temps out there make me believe it!

This week's summer solstice edition of SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs starts off with a blazing hot orchestral rendition of Star Fox 64's Katina theme as heard in Star Fox Assault. Then we go to the forest in two games, Donkey Kong and The Magical Quest Starring Mickey Mouse. We then sneak into Blackwell Mansion in LEGO City Undercover, and end this edition with a battle theme from The Legend of Legacy.

Just click on the VGM title to hear a given song. And if you want even more VGM goodness, then check out the VGM Database! And now, on to the music!

v1166. Star Fox Assault (GCN) - Katina (Frontier Serenade)

Listed last week as my third favorite Star Fox game in SPC's Rank Up segment, Star Fox Assault sports my favorite soundtrack from the Star Fox series, sporting delightfully orchestrated tunes. Many of its tunes are taken from Star Fox 64, such as this one for Katina. The opening fanfare rouses much excitement inside my body. It's just a phenomenal song in a phenomenal soundtrack.

v1167. Donkey Kong (GB) - Forest

Originally coming into Donkey Kong's Game Boy romp, I, like many players at the time, were lulled into a false sense of security, expecting and receiving traditionally Donkey Kong "reach the top of the level" gameplay much like the arcade game. What I got after the initial four levels was an amazing puzzle platformer, and one of the original Game Boy's greatest games.

v1168. The Magical Quest Starring Mickey Mouse (SNES, GBA) - Treetops

The Treetops is the first of six worlds in the highly enjoyable The Magical Quest Starring Mickey Mouse, released originally in 1993 on the Super Nintendo and then later ported to the Game Boy Advance almost a decade later. The soundtrack is pure '90s Capcom goodness with instrumentation as heard in a game quite unlike this one, Capcom's own Breath of Fire.

v1169. LEGO City Undercover (Wii U) - Blackwell Mansion

LEGO City Undercover's soundtrack is home to various '70s cop show and spy themes. Blackwell Mansion, one of the 15 missions in the game, has a theme that's the latter. The smooth sax and accompanying brass sends shivers down my spine, especially when I'm infiltrating said mansion.

v1170. The Legend of Legacy (3DS) - Twin-Dimensional Battle

Masashi Hamauzu is the composer behind the music for The Legend of Legacy, a critically panned Nintendo 3DS RPG which very much has old school sensibilities to it. The highlight of the game is the score, done beautifully by Hamauzu, who's most known work is the Final Fantasy XIII soundtrack, another panned game by RPG enthusiasts.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Olympia Rising (Wii U eShop) Review

An early Sunday morning review is here for you, SPC faithful! It's for a game that released in Europe last month on the Wii U eShop, but now it's available for gamers in North America. It's Olympia Rising, published by PlayEveryWare and developed by Paleozoic.

Rise Up

The old school pixel visuals of Olympia Rising fit right in with a lot of other indie games. To say that there are a lot of indie games gunning for memories and nostalgia of playing 8-bit games would be an understatement. Nonetheless, Paleozoic's Olympia Rising stands out enough by not only having an original concept to it, despite it being a 2D platformer, but by being an affordable and fun purchase for Wii U gamers.

You play as Iola, a warrior who has met her a terrible fate by being slaughtered in battle by a monstrous beast. Cast to the Underworld, Iola wants nothing more than her soul to be revived through reaching Mount Olympus. Not the easiest quest, however, as not only are there dozens of chambers full of death and danger, but a gatekeeper named Charon wants payment in the form of coins to let her pass each gate she comes across.

Charon is full of funny quips throughout the game.
Thus, this is the main structure of Olympia Rising: you play through various levels of varying linearity, collecting enough coins from defeated foes and those laying about to pay Charon to allow Iola to progress. Reach a gate without enough coins, and you are sent back to the start of the level.

Most levels are there for you to explore. Many of the harder-to-reach or more dangerous locations of levels house the greatest bounty of coins. Thankfully, Iola has a fair amount of abilities to her for both combat and for mobility. Iola's regular attack is done with a short sword. The range could be better, sometimes giving certain enemies an unfair advantage because their attack reach is farther while Iola has to move up close to them. Our heroine can also acquire magic abilities to give herself a better edge in combat, such as a burst of fire great for long-range attacks, a water shield for added defense, and a lightning magic that bestows higher power for sword strikes.

As for mobility, Iola can perform a double jump, but if she defeats a foe, not only can she jump once more, but if she keeps defeating enemies without touching the ground, then she gets a combo boost. This gives Iola more coins than she would otherwise get, so it's usually a good idea to defeat a bunch of enemies via combos to boost her coin total. Alongside jumping, Iola has the ability to hold onto walls, almost doing her best Mega Man X impression with repeated wall scaling.

The environments are just gorgeously done. Just don't let yourself get distracted.
The other type of level has Iola racing upwards to avoid a pursuing lake of lava that slowly fills a level. These levels require less coins to open the gate due to their linearity and lack of time to explore. However, these levels also sport an abysmal frame-rate, which many times resulted in me missing jumps or attacks, sometimes resulting in Iola's death.

No time to dawdle, Iola-- you have a flow of lava at your feet!
That isn't the end of Olympia Rising's technical problems, either. I ran into a glitch where Iola had one heart left, and I accidentally hit a tutorial scroll while in the middle of dealing with an enemy. This caused Iola to stand still while I had to read the message, but the enemy still was able to attack my extremely vulnerable character. This resulted in death, of course, but the strange occurrence wasn't until I was revived back at the start of the level. I still couldn't move, nor pause the game to back out of the level, and had to reset the game.

After three main levels, Iola encounters a boss. These battles are a good amount of fun and require you to memorize a foe's pattern. However, once a boss's pattern has been learned, it's pretty easy to defeat them, as they don't stray from their pattern or become more difficult as they approach death.

Once a boss's pattern has been learned, the battle becomes much easier.
When a boss has been defeated, they leave a heart behind to add to Iola's maximum health, and brings her to a different themed set of levels. Olympia Rising's difficulty curve is done so well that you may think the game would get easier with more health. However, the added enemies placed in later levels become more challenging as you play along, so you're not really getting an overwhelming advantage.

The visual style of Olympia Rising is full of glorious pixel goodness. Characters are designed well and animate beautifully. Environments are detailed, but there is a problem occasionally with being able to distinguish between platforms and what is actually just the background. Thus, it can be a bit of trial and error to determine what you can jump on and what you cannot. Meanwhile, the music is full of old school boops and beeps, wonderfully harking back to the sounds of the NES.

Olympia Rising isn't an overly long game, but at the same time, its price tag of around five dollars makes it a worthwhile purchase, pending you are patient enough to experience death over and over again. And you definitely will, as the game is rather challenging in an old school way. That said, there really is no replay value to be found with Olympia Rising, other than replaying through the game. Perhaps using coins for something other than passing through gates would have extended the length of the game some. Still, what Olympia Rising offers is an affordable adventure that will test your action-platforming mettle flaws and all.

[SPC Says: C+]

Review copy provided by PlayEveryWare.

Three new banners added to the rotation!

With a new season comes new banners! Three new banners have been added to the banner rotation here at SuperPhillip Central! To look at the original banners already in rotation in all their glory, check out this post. Now, without further ado, here are your new banners: collect 'em all!

The Zelda: Breath of the Wild banner
The JRPG Heavy Hitters banner
The Cute 'n Cuddly banner
What do you think, gang?