Saturday, December 30, 2017

Ittle Dew 2+ (NSW) Review

Yesterday evening saw a look at a Legend of Zelda-like adventure with Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King. Moving from sprites to polygons, Ittle Dew 2+ is also a Nintendo Switch game, this time a retail release, that sports a similar overhead perspective while offering 3D models for characters and environments. Here's SuperPhillip Central's review.

"Dew" not miss out on this action-adventure delight.

I adored Ittle Dew 2 when it originally released on the PlayStation 4 in digital form. The game's developer had plans to see if it could work on the Wii U, where no doubt a Legend of Zelda-loving audience would eat such a game up, but alas, the hardware just couldn't muster it. However, a year and some change later, the developer has the game ported to the Nintendo Switch, and with their publishing partner Nicalis, an enhanced version of Ittle Dew 2 sees a retail release in addition to a digital Nintendo eShop one. It's time to depart on a new adventure, dear readers!

Adventurers Ittle and her winged dog Tippsie travel along the high seas on a raft, when all of a sudden it crashes upon an uncharted island. Meeting the island caretaker, the two are told to head back to wherever they came from, but before this is done, Ittle notices a map that falls out of the caretaker's pocket. It reveals the location of eight dungeons around the island where the raft pieces are located. Not heeding the caretaker's words, the pair of adventurers heads off to explore their temporary island residence, searching the countryside for secrets, treasure, caves, and dungeons to enjoy themselves in. Ittle Dew 2+'s story is quite meta in its dialog and story, oftentimes poking fun at concepts seen in games like The Legend of Zelda and the many other titles that have been inspired by Nintendo's historic gaming franchise. It makes for some hilarious, tongue-in-cheek dialog and a story that I truly appreciated. It's nice to not have a super serious story for once for a game like this.

Explore the island well, Ittle; there are secrets all over the place.
The first dungeon is marked on the map for players at a nearby location. However, there's no rule that says you have to go there right away or that you have to enter that dungeon first. Of the eight dungeons in Ittle Dew 2+, only the eighth requires you to reach it with all of the previous seven raft pieces. Every other dungeon is free to enter at your leisure. Creating your own order of dungeons has a positive and a negative. For a positive, when you acquire a later dungeon's item and go to an earlier dungeon, you have opportunities for shortcuts to make your trip through it much easier. However, entering dungeons out of order also means that you have a longer distance to travel with more difficult enemies inside and outside a dungeon meant for you to tackle later. The puzzles inside are more complicated as well.

Nonetheless, it's not just dungeons that are open for exploration. Littered and sprinkled around the island are caves, and many of these require a trick to open. Thankfully, they can all be opened with just Ittle's starting weapon, a stick. Some are right out in the open, while others may require a hint from one of the many NPCs occupying the island. With the Nintendo Switch's screenshot functionality, there's no more need to write down these hints or remember them for later. Just hit the screenshot button, and you've got a hint saved in your screenshot folder via the Switch home menu.

The caves all have some kind of treasure inside to make finding cave worthwhile. Some house crayons that add a quarter of health to Ittle's row of hearts, some have lockpicks to open locked dungeon doors without the need for a key, some have secret shards that unlock optional, demanding dungeons, while some special caves have magical doors that transport Ittle to a completely uncharted area of the island, usually requiring a lot of skill to complete them and acquire the special treasure inside at the end.

The stick was cute, but now we're getting somewhere with Ittle's sword!
Ittle comes across a great amount of items within her and Tippsie's adventure. Rather than just ape the items from Ittle Dew 2+'s inspiration, The Legend of Zelda, the game instead comes up with four original items that each have a number of uses. The most basic is Ittle's stick, used as a sword. While it's not much to look at at the beginning of the game, she can level it up (e.g. making the stick turn into a sword at level 2 and then a fireball-shooting mace at level 3) by acquiring the upgrades in treasure chests. Other items mapped to each face button of the Switch controller include a Magic Rod that can hit things from across the screen, Dynamite to blow certain objects up, and an Ice Ring that creates frozen blocks that slide along the ground when pushed. All of these items can work together to solve more particularly taxing puzzles within Ittle Dew 2+.

For instance, in a room where Ittle must activate a northeastern crystal to open a door, if the crystal is guarded by spikes with no means to hit it up close, perhaps spawning an ice block, cutting it in half so the lower right diagonal half of it is gone, and then pushing it diagonally northwest into a corner might start something good. Then, at the bottom left corner of the screen, Ittle can use her rod to shoot a blast of energy out that deflects off the diagonal ice block at an angle and hits the crystal, opening the door. The fun about Ittle Dew 2+ and its puzzles is that there are usually two or more methods of solving them through smart item utilization. Having the player limited to just four items like Ittle Dew 2+ has doesn't mean that there's a limited amount of actions you can do with them. This makes the design on display with Ittle Dew 2+ so brilliant in this regard.

Push blocks like this from afar with the help of the Magic Rod.
And it doesn't end there with the clever design of Ittle Dew 2+ either. Beyond the meta terminology and dialog of the game, beyond the abundance of compelling exploration to be found throughout the world map, beyond going to dungeons in any order you want, and beyond the smart puzzle design with multiple means to solve them, there is an item system in place that makes it so depending on what items you already have in your possession, the special treasures in dungeons and in the special secret caves change to make it so you're not acquiring them horribly out of order. That's to say that you'll never get a level 3 batch of Dynamite before you get a level 2 batch of Dynamite. Even things like chains that allow Ittle's stick and later mace to have an extended reach or bandannas that allow Ittle more split seconds of invincibility when rolling are acquired in a clear order. With a game with as much freedom as Ittle Dew 2+ from such a smaller developer than Nintendo, it's amazing what Ludosity accomplished here with this game.

Retreat won't look good on an adventurer's resume, but neither would dying to the first enemy in Pepperpain Prairie that Ittle encounters!
If there's anything I have to object to with Ittle Dew 2+ is that while playing it on the Nintendo Switch Joycon controller, I had to switch between using the analog stick and the D-Pad. I needed the analog stick for general movement, but the D-Pad offered better aiming with items and more precise walking, especially on tile-wide pathways over bottomless pits. The Switch Joycon analog stick just isn't precise enough for delicate movements. I fell off enough twisty, turn-filled, narrow platforms to last me a winged dog's lifetime.

New to Ittle Dew 2+ is a collection of five dungeons found in the Dream World, a place Ittle and Tippsie are taken to once they nap in a sleeping bag within the town. The Dream World can be entered at any time, no matter if you have all of the items in the game or not, as these Dream World dungeons supply you with all you need to complete a specific dungeon. These are primarily puzzle-driven dungeons that are the hardest within the game to wrap one's brain around and solve. The rewards for solving these dungeons aren't anything important to the main quest. Instead, they're merely collectible cards with information on the various foes Ittle encounters within the world of Ittle Dew 2+.

The world of Ittle Dew 2+ is quite beautiful to look at. The 3D character models and environments are colorful and hold a lovely cel-shaded style, making everything pop out like a fairy tale world. The character designs are creative, but I really want to get into the environmental design for a second. It's bursting with creativity, especially the dungeons. From pillow forts, to submerged basements filled with underwater foes, to mines that grow and produce potassium, these places are mighty creative and far more innovative than "Oh, the fire dungeon. Oh, the water dungeon." Each dungeon has a take on a modern-day concept like a basement or house that makes for some clever dungeon concoctions.

Don't worry -- like these fire-spewing enemies, Ittle has brought the heat to this dungeon, too.
Last but not least, the music of Ittle Dew 2+ is fantastic. It offers live instruments in a wide variety of genres, moods, themes, and more. There aren't too many indie games that I absolutely love listening to outside of my actual play-through, but Ittle Dew 2+ was definitely one of them. High praise coming from a picky person like myself.

Ittle Dew 2+ takes a familiar formula with The Legend of Zelda and goes wild with it, offering an abundance of humor, meta commentary, and just phenomenal gameplay and design to back it all up. This isn't a Yooka-Laylee situation where the developers made fun of games they were inspired by, yet committed some of the same sins they poked fun at. (That said, I adored Yooka-Laylee, but that was an obvious issue with the game.) While some movement issues and repeated boss battles bring the overall experience down, the 12 original, well-designed dungeons included within the game, over 50 individual caves to find and plunder, and five all-new, particularly challenging dungeons set in the Dream World for this special bonus edition of Ittle Dew 2, makes for a game that is highly recommended for any action-adventure fan. You should definitely do the Dew.

[SPC Says: B+]

Friday, December 29, 2017

Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King (NSW, PC) Review

We're approaching the end of the year, and there are but three reviews of 2017 left. Let's crank the first one out immediately, as there's no time to waste! Here's SuperPhillip Central's review of The Legend of Zelda-inspired Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King.

The Legend of Blossom: A Tale to the Past

It's an often-used phrase that "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery." No doubt that The Legend of Zelda series is a historic and revolutionary one that many developers AAA, indie, and in between have been inspired by the games, oftentimes coming up with their own -- for a lack of a better term -- "interpretations" of the formula. That's what seems to be the case with the recently released Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King from publisher FDG Entertainment. Nevertheless, is there more to this take on 2D Zelda than meets the eye?

Well, yes, in many regards. Right away, the implementation of the story is done cleverly, seeing two young, restless kids pestering their grandpa for a bedtime story. He happily obliges and tells the tale of a girl named Lily who wakes up from her bed within the kingdom and hightails it to a castle ceremony where she becomes a knight. Soon, the king's nefarious, wizard brother uses a spell to put him to sleep while preparing an assault on the castle, yearning to take the kingdom of Blossom over for himself and his own greedy, selfish ambitions. Only through acquiring three unique ingredients can the king wake up from his comatose state. 

His Majesty is quite the prognosticator! Especially with his brother Crocus by his side!
While the plot is nothing magical or even noteworthy as it's rather standard fare, what makes the story of Blossom Tales so interesting and entertaining is the interactions between the grandpa and his two grandchildren. The grandpa generally sets up each new location Lily reaches, while the grandchildren usually interrupt with their own thoughts on how things are progressing. Sure, this can sometimes effect the pacing of the game negatively, but it seldom becomes too big of a deal. The most creative way the grandpa and grandkids' dialog is inserted into the game occurs at a specific points within Lily's adventure. There are times where the grandchildren will get bored of a given result or challenge, and they plead to their grandpa to spruce things up. These points in the story allow the player to choose from a duo of offerings, such as whether Lily goes up against a group of bandits or an army of archers. Other instances within the story are affected as well, some not even part of the standard plot, in out-of-the-way locations like caverns.

Whether holding one sword or two, these bandits will be sorry to have messed with Lily.
Lily herself controls as well as any fan of Zelda games would expect. She comes equipped with a sword, and holding the A button (where the sword is always equipped) for a short length of time will result in a roundhouse blade attack, similar to Link's spinning slash in the Zelda series. Upon her adventure, Lily comes across a wide array of inventory items, such as a bow and arrow, bombs, a boomerang, and more. These can be equipped to two other face buttons, though it's disappointing that the developer didn't bother to use more of the buttons that were available to them on the Switch controller or PC keyboard. 

Having only two item slots means you're constantly changing them within the item menu Link's Awakening-style. The only difference here is that by virtue of being on a button-limited system like Link's Awakening was, that game had to make do with only two buttons for inventory spaces while Blossom Tales does not. Instead, the developers chose to only include two inventory spaces at one time, resulting in a lot of micro-management of items. This is obnoxious in later dungeons where a wide variety of items are needed to progress, meaning lots of item-switching via the inventory menu.

Like many games inspired by the most popular 2D Legend of Zelda titles, Blossom Tales apes a lot from its inspiration. Maybe too much so. From aforementioned mainstay items from Zelda like bows, bombs, and boomerangs, enemy and obstacle-laden dungeons filled with familiar puzzles from 2D Zeldas such as an Oracle of Ages-styled "move across all tiles without touching previously walked upon tiles" (these appear way too much, by the way), the requirement to find four pieces of heart to add a new heart to your life (or more magic to your magic meter in the case of mana boosts), and so forth, I think you can get the idea that Blossom Tales strays closely in its interpretation of The Legend of Zelda series.

Some puzzles are simple, while others can perplex.
That said, while Blossom Tales is a love letter to old school Zelda games, it does take some ideas from more modern games. For instance, a meter is used that empties some each time a consumable item such as a bomb or arrow is used instead of having a limited number of an item, resulting in having to scrounge through slicing up bushes and grass for extra bombs and arrows. This meter replenishes a bit after a short time, much like the recent 3DS Zelda game, A Link Between Worlds. Again, if you're going to gather and grow inspiration from some game, why not one of the best?

Each time Lily uses her bow, bombs, or boomerang, her magic meter empties some.
Don't worry, though -- it replenishes over time!
Blossom Tales uses a blocky graphical style featuring aspects of its presentation not possible at the time its inspirations were made, such as having an enemy horde of dozens pop up in a room without a sign of slow-down in the frame-rate. Yes, these ambush rooms are obnoxious, but it's still cool to see. The environments are richly detailed and feature some really cool weather effects, and the sound package is serviceable, if not that memorable from my own experience playing the game.

Any good dungeon is filled with danger, and Blossom Tales doesn't disappoint in this department.
Those looking for a new 2D Zelda game while they wait for an official new 2D Zelda game can easily check out and be satisfied by FDG Entertainment's Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King. It may not do too much to push the creative envelope all that much, but it does supply the player with a thoughtfully designed adventure with plenty of enemies to encounter, areas to explore, and treasure to plunder, all while on you and Lily's way of saving the king and the kingdom itself.

[SPC Says: B-]

Review copy provided by FDG Entertainment.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

RIVE: Ultimate Edition (NSW) Review

Time to bring the heat at the start of winter with a RIVE: Ultimate Edition review for the Nintendo Switch. Blast off and blast those robotic pests to smithereens!

Arrive, survive -- Do it all with RIVE.

It's always fascinating when a developer shakes up a popular or classic genre of video game and adds its own spin to it. That's what Two Tribes gives players with RIVE: Ultimate Edition. However, the way the developer innovates is by shaking up two individual game genres, both classics: the platformer and the shoot-em-up. The end result is a 12 mission game that is just as hard to beat as it is to resist.

RIVE has you playing as a rough and gruff pilot of a ship (with the same name as the title of the game -- just without "Ultimate Edition" included, for you cheeky jokers out there) investigating a derelict space station at the edge of the galaxy. All of the dialog within RIVE is voiced, and the pilot and the robotic A.I. that routinely follows him throughout the facility both deliver fine performances with some witty and humorous lines.

As I said in the introduction, RIVE is part platformer and part shoot-em-up. Platforming segments occur in gravity-centric areas of the game, deep inside the station with several examples (such as no-gravity zones). Platforming is performed with the left shoulder button, allowing for a double jump as well. Meanwhile, you're required to do some swift dodging and evading as enemies oftentimes swarm on top of you. Thankfully, you have firepower yourself in the form of a cannon that shoots out lasers and sub-weapons that require ammo to use.

A different kind of space odyssey.
The fluidity of changing play styles is incredible in RIVE: Ultimate Edition. At one moment you'll be using one stick to move and the other to aim at targets, all the while leaping from platform to platform and avoiding enemy fire, while the next you'll seamlessly switch to flying in a zero-gravity sector, such as space, in auto-scrolling segments reminiscent of the 8-bit, and 16-bit arcade classics. Occasionally you'll even be forced to face in one direction in true classic shoot-em-up style while others have a more modern approach with 360 degree aiming and movement.

Rather than use a typical shoot-em-up sub-weapon system of collecting items to equip a power-up and then losing it when you die, you instead purchase sub-weapons (along with added armor and the ability to attract goodies like loot and ammo from afar) from a post-mission shop that uses space junk collected from fallen foes as its currency.

The sub-weapons come in four varieties, can be switched between with a press of the correct direction on the face buttons, and each has its own intended place to be utilized. For instance, the Shotgun is perfect for lining up an antagonizing group of enemies in a narrow, enclosed hallway and blowing them all to smithereens with one powerful blast. Whereas if you're in a less claustrophobic locale, such as a wide open area with plenty of room to it, Homing Missiles may be just what the doctor of destruction ordered. Again, sub-weapons require ammo, so you can't just mash on the sub-weapon button to continually use it over and over again. Each sub-weapon has a charge time before it can be used again, so it's imperative to use them in high stakes conflicts with enemies.

So much for "335 days since our last workplace accident", huh?
Outside of traditional weapons and sub-weapons, later in the game, your ship acquires the ability to hack into other drones. This grants you a teammate, so to speak, albeit a bit of a fragile one, to battle alongside you. It can take to your defense while dishing out damage to other enemies. A lot of the time it's merely great as a distraction for other enemies while you take the opportunity to go to town on them. Never take your eyes off the opponent, grasshoppers!

One of the biggest downsides with RIVE: Ultimate Edition comes from something to do with my own (and most likely many other players') skill level and not really the fault of the game itself. For me, RIVE was brutally difficult. One's health and armor gets taken out rather fast in even the easiest of difficulties (Normal, whereas Hard mode is far more challenging but boosts your score for the game's online leaderboards). I wish there was a slightly easier difficulty that would deliver less damage to my ship whenever I got hit. In exchange for that, this easier difficulty would disqualify you from being on the leaderboards. It'd be a nice trade-off this way so lesser skilled players would be able to practice particularly unforgiving missions.

Blades, lasers, and foes are all ready to kill you. Can you survive?
What further annoys with RIVE is that upon taking damage, the screen gets a red gradient around the edges of the screen. As more and more damage is taken and one's health is lowered to critical levels, it makes things hard to see. Simply put, when you're close to death, countless enemies are swarming to your location, and you can't make them out or know where to aim, it gets a bit frustrating to die because the developers didn't come up with a better way of displaying critical health without partially obstructing your view. It merely makes a hard game even harder.

These grievances said, the checkpoint system is mostly well thought out, so repeating significantly sizable segments of missions seldom ever occurs. This smart placement of the majority of checkpoints ensures that players won't get overly irritated over constant deaths (and you will die constantly at first). Furthermore, the brisk loading times between your vehicle exploding and placing you back to your last checkpoint, make retries of mission segments nowhere near as agonizing as they could have been.

That may look like a disco ball, but it's actually a zero-gravity zone.
...It also sparkles when disco music plays.
While RIVE: Ultimate Edition isn't recommended for players who don't like games with high difficulties, for veteran fans of either platformers or shoot-em-ups, the Nintendo Switch iteration of RIVE offers some truly tricky, action-packed missions that most will want to play through on Normal difficulty (which is already a massive challenge) and on Hard, which is perfect for high-score types. Competing on a global online leaderboard, comparing scores with folks on your Switch friends list, and even partaking in the one-credit-only run-through of all 12 missions (the latter being the most daring) add even more replay value to this capable dual genre package. All this and the ability to come up with combinations of cuss words you've never heard of can be yours with RIVE: Ultimate Edition.

[SPC Says: B-] 

Review copy provided by Two Tribes.

Monday, December 25, 2017

SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs - "Merry Christmas 2017" Edition

Merry Christmas from the SuperPhillip Central family to each and every one of you! I hope it was a wonderful holiday spent with friends, family, or even just a relaxing day work-free day by yourself. For everyone else who doesn't celebrate, I hope it was simply a happy Monday.

This week on the final 2017 edition of SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs, we begin with a recent release in the form of Xenoblade Chronicles 2. Then, we get nice and Christmas-y with some winter-themed tunes from I am Setsuna and Yooka-Laylee. Get ready to dress up to your best ability with our next game, Style Savvy: Trendsetters, and then if the cold weather is already getting to you, let's fly away to Isle Delfino in Super Mario Sunshine!

Click on the VGM Database to get a look (and listen) at every song ever featured on the weekly recurring article series. Now, let's get on to the music!

v1531. Xenoblade Chronicles 2 (NSW) - Gormott Province (Day)

We begin this Christmas edition of SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs with the most recent release included today. It's Xenoblade Chronicles 2 for the Nintendo Switch, and it's a glorious return to the classical music style of the original instead of the electronica heavy sound of X. (Though that soundtrack had a lot of winners too.) Gormott Province is essentially the Gaur Plains of Xenoblade Chronicles 2, the piece for the first major exploratory area in the game. It takes a bit to get to my favorite part of this theme, but once it gets there, the wait is most certainly worth it.

v1532. I am Setsuna (PS4, NSW, Vita) - A Fantastic Encounter

Square Enix's Tokyo RPG Factory, the developer behind I am Setsuna, is preparing to release its next title in the new year with Lost Sphear. While I am Setsuna nailed the ambiance, environments, and especially the music, what it failed to do was to create a game that truly enamors players with its gameplay mechanics. It's a shame since these themes, such as this battle one, are composed so wonderfully. It's like newly fallen snowfall in the woods, idyllic and beautiful.

v1533. Yooka-Laylee (Multi) - Glitterglaze Glacier

When I read that several ex-Rare employees (and ex-staff on one of my favorite 3D platformers ever, Banjo-Kazooie) were getting together to form their own company to create a spiritual successor to same game, I was excited beyond measure. The end result, Yooka-Laylee, strays a bit too closely to Banjo-Kazooie in some really obvious and almost downright blatant ways, but overall, I did enjoy the game. One reason for that was Grant Kirkhope's (Banjo-Kazooie's original composer) spectacular score, such as this piece for the second major world in Yooka-Laylee, Glitterglaze Glacier. Yes, this and the battle theme of I am Setsuna really evoke some warm holiday feelings!

v1534. Style Savvy: Trendsetters (3DS) - Opening

Today sees the North American digital-only release of Style Savvy: Styling Star on the Nintendo 3DS. Seems like a perfect opportunity than any other to wrap ourselves in our favorite stylistic sweaters and listen to some pop sound from the second game in the series, Style Savvy: Trendsetters. This entry introduced the series to the Nintendo 3DS in a big way, such as adding men clients to take on styling challenges for. As for this opening theme, it's positively perky and keeps me bouncing and bumping around this Christmas evening.

v1535. Super Mario Sunshine (GCN) - Sky & Sea

And what Christmas celebration would be complete without Mario? Rather than doing a cliche snow level pick, I chose the complete opposite: Super Mario Sunshine, a game located completely on a tropical isle! With how cold it is outside here at SuperPhillip Central HQ, I'd prefer to lounging on the warm beach sands of Isle Delfino right about now -- even if Bowser and his son decide to make a return trip! Sky & Sea plays during special bonus stages like the dreaded pachinko machine and poison river! But don't think ill of this song; it just goes to show how a catchy number can soften the blows of frustration one can get tackling these sometimes seemingly impossible challenges.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Top Ten Christmas-Themed Video Game Levels

It's Christmas Eve and in but an hour's time it will be Christmas here at SuperPhillip Central HQ. This brings up a nice opportunity to go into one of my favorite topics of discussion: video game levels. But not just any video game levels, Christmas-themed video game levels! I won't go in as in-depth on the design principles on display like I do with my Best Levels in Video Game History series of articles, as I prefer to keep it light for Christmas Eve. A whole slew of games from past and present are featured in this top ten list, including Super Mario Odyssey, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered, and some goodness from Diddy Kong Racing as well. SuperPhillip Central will see you tomorrow for even more holiday cheer, but for now, read this list and add in some of your personal faves in the comments.

10) Winter Crash - Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered (PS4, XB1, PC)

Originally only available to PC and Mac players when the map released with the original Call of Duty 4, Winter Crash is the bash that is back, Jack, and it's the perfect map to play during this festive season. Sure, some might prefer to lounge around with family singing Sleigh Ride (the one with the sleigh bells jingling, ring-ting-tingling too), while others just want to slay in general. Preferably with an automatic weapon on the battlefield. Winter Crash is structurally the same as the Crash map, also included in the original Call of Duty 4, but Winter Crash alters the mood a bit with a nighttime sky, snow to slosh around on instead of sand to seep into your soldier's combat boots, and a whole array of Christmas lights and the piece de resistance, a glowing Christmas tree in the center ground of the map with nicely wrapped presents underneath.

9) American Consumption - Splinter Cell: Blacklist (PS3, 360, Wii U, PC)

As a kid and in my teens, I found Christmas to be a magical time of year. Toys, games, teddy bears, presents under the tree, stockings hung by the fireplace, and so forth. Now that I'm much more cynical, I see it as consumers doing their best to make themselves happy with materialistic items, going into debt in the process. Me included, as I especially still love presents under the tree, so that makes me a hypocrite.

Regardless, it's the perfect segue to Splinter Cell: Blacklist's American Consumption is a brilliant level with some of the best controlling third-person stealth gameplay this side of Metal Gear Solid, just without the ridiculous story. It sees Sam Fisher (probably a clone because I know the REAL Sam Fisher has the voice of Michael Ironside) sneaking his way through a proliferation of Christmas decorations and theme park attractions, as he slices through the necks of enemies like a knife through a Christmas fruitcake. It's one of my favorite levels in Blacklist, as I originally played it around Christmas time a year or so ago.

8) A Little Light Snowfall - Yoshi's Woolly World (Wii U, 3DS)

We begin our look at a staple of snow levels, being in a platformer of some type, with a 2D platforming journey through a winter wonderland obstacle course in Yoshi's Woolly World. The light snowfall in the level's title comes from the frozen over precipitation that has left traces on the ground, and made the level's platforms especially slippery. There are some more hefty piles to be found from mounds of snow that fall upon either Yoshi stepping foot on them or hits them with an ball of yarn. There are opportunities for flight as well with the help of Lakitu's cloud, a chance to become large and smash through enormous ice cubes and enemies alike effortlessly, and traverse through this chilly but colorful winter landscape. What I like about this level in Yoshi's Woolly World is how elements of the environment can be interacted with to provide a robust lineup of challenges for Yoshi to endure.

7) Snow Kingdom - Shiveria - Super Mario Odyssey (NSW)

Mario games generally give off a sense of warmth, and it's no truer than in his latest 3D platforming adventure which spans the globe, Super Mario Odyssey. His entry into the frozen lands of Shiveria is met by a massive blizzard, frigid temperatures, cold water (dangerously so), and not a friendly face to be found. Upon entering into a hole, Mario uncovers a town full of adorable seal creatures wearing Eskimo outfits. Times aren't happy at the beginning, but by the end, Bowser's forces have retreated and normal life can resume. What was once a snowstorm so massive that you couldn't see well, you can now see across the distance of several football fields. The blue sky greets Mario hello and the Shiverians can go on with their lives in their cozy, rosy, and warm town with holiday decorations. Maybe some special racing can be done, too!

6) Halloween Town - Kingdom Hearts II (PS2)

In the land of The Nightmare Before Christmas' Halloween Town, you can bet your bag of bones that Jack Skellington is preparing a bold plan to bring the cheer of the holiday season to the otherwise Halloween 24/7 town. While Sora, Donald, and Goofy don Halloween costumes for the level, fitting right in with the city folk, Mr. Skellington wears a full-on Santa suit. Perhaps Jack's wearing a Halloween costume, too, while I'm thinking of it... Many locales from the film are included in this Kingdom Hearts II re-imaging, including a colorful display inside of Santa's Workshop. It's a perfect mixture of two of the most popular holidays around.

5) Frosty Village - Diddy Kong Racing (N64, DS)

We reach the second half of this Christmas-themed video game level list with one of two racing games occupying spots on the countdown: Diddy Kong Racing. Frosty Village is as close to Christmas as you're going to get playing a kart racer on the Nintendo 64. The trees shine brightly with multi-color Christmas lights, and the cabins at the bottom of the hill after the overpass (which I would imagine is a super sweet sledding spot) make you want to enter inside, put on your slippers, rest by the fireplace, and drink some hot cocoa. But alas -- you can't! You have a race to win in this Christmas racing paradise! Whether in kart or in hovercraft, Frosty Village is an entertaining track that hits me right in the nostalgic feels.

4) Gotham - Batman: Arkham Origins (PS3, 360, Wii U, PC)

Batman: Arkham Origins has a location that is another star of the game alongside Batman and The Joker. I'm talking about Gotham City. In Arkham Origins, all of the happenings of the game occur on Christmas Eve, and it makes for an engrossing city to explore. Snow falls from the night sky, holiday decorations are sprinkled across the blocks, corners, and streets, and the level of discomfort around the city during what should be a festive time is rather daunting. But now for Batman, of course. Batman: Arkham Origins' Gotham has so many meticulous details and areas to explore. It makes me a bit disappointed that more people didn't find WB Games Montreal's take on the Arkham series to be as utterly enjoyable as I did. Then again, I always get disappointed when someone gifts me chocolate for Christmas, as I can't stand the taste, so I know; I'm weird.

3) Christmas Is Here - Bully (360, Wii, PS2)

The town of Bullworth is the locale where Rockstar's Bully takes place with Bullworth Academy positioned right in the middle with an amusement park on one side of town and the downtown districts being on the other. Throughout the course of Bully's calendar year, the town takes on and celebrates various holidays. For instance, when Halloween rolls around, all of the kids around town and students at the academy are sporting costumes. When Christmas comes a knocking, the town is painted with snow, with holiday lights shining brightly, and protagonist Jimmy having some hijinks afoot, such as making an arsenal of snowballs and chucking them for one snowball fight to end them all. Rather than devote a huge budget to a large playground, instead Rockstar used that budget to create a robust, detailed, content-rich, dense, and welcoming town that felt like home for fans of the game.

2) Animal Crossing (Winter) - Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (NSW)

If I was writing a list about Christmas-themed events in video games rather than levels, Animal Crossing and its sequels would find a place on this list. However, since that isn't the case, I can do the next best thing. Mario Kart 8 and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe's Animal Crossing track models itself after the game series it's inspired by, complete with the changing of seasons. However, instead of waiting three months for the next season to come by, one is chosen randomly (or at will if you know the right button to press before the race loads). Each season offers the same track but changes some aesthetic elements. For instance, in Animal Crossing's winter form, the track is raced on under a starry nighttime sky complete with an aurora in the sky. Trees are bare from losing their leaves, snow has accumulated on their limbs, and many sport Christmas lights. The ground is covered in snow, and what makes this version of the track especially Christmas-y is how well the town celebrates it, enveloping itself in holiday cheer from all of the colorful holiday lights. It's a delightful race with a sense of home to it. How did you do that, Nintendo, in a racing game of all things!?

1) Freezeey Peak - Banjo-Kazooie (N64, XBLA)

In their top form, the developers at Rare were geniuses when it came to making fun games. The ideas and creativity blasting out of each and every seam is just marvelous to look back on and think about. Most developers would love to have just one memorable level in a game, but with Rare it continued to release games with some of the most bizarre yet fantastic worlds around. Many platformers have a snow or ice level within them. In fact, I think it's a law that can send you to prison if you don't follow it when making a platformer of any kind. While games like Super Mario 64 had winter wonderlands of its own, Rare released a game a year and some change later featuring a highly creative take on the winter world with Freezeey Peak.

Making the first left turn at the very beginning of the level sees you facing a humongous snowman monument -- fully able to be scaled, mind you. In the main part of the level, snowmen enemies chuckle as they toss painful snowballs at the bear and bird duo. A Christmas tree rests in a corner, waiting to be lit. A bear-hating walrus doesn't want Banjo inside his cave (but won't mind with shaman Mumbo Jumbo's help). Plus, you can't ignore the pleas of the trio of polar bear children who want their Daddy to come home with their lost presents. It's Christmas, for goodness sake!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Mantis Burn Racing (NSW, PS4, XB1, PC) Review

From a racing game on water from yesterday to a racing game planted firmly on the ground (with the occasional hang time from hills), SuperPhillip Central centers its focus on VooFoo Studios' Mantis Burn Racing. This game saw a release on PS4, Xbox One, and Steam already, and now it has arrived on the Nintendo Switch. That is the version of the game I'll be covering with this review. Let's mind the corners and navigate those twisty turns together at once!

I'm burning, I'm burning, I'm burning for you.

I started playing games in the NES era, and with those games came one I went crazy over. It was a top-down racer called Super Off Road, where drivers raced along undulated dirt tracks in single screen arenas. My, how have times changed. VooFoo's Mantis Burn Racing has been on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Steam storefronts a little bit now, and recently it was added to the Nintendo Switch eShop. With beautiful HD environments with tricky tracks and circuits to compete in, Mantis Burn Racing delivers a fast and insane top-down racing experience that shows how far the genre has come since my days as a kid playing Super Off Road.

Mantis Burn Racing is easy to learn with its minimal required button inputs. You have a trigger for acceleration, a trigger to brake, and a boost button that can be used when you've produced enough boost energy done by earning XP mid-race. XP is handed out liberally with 20 points here for a good drift around a turn and 20 point there for overtaking an opponent. It's best to learn how to take turns well and use boost energy adequately, or else you'll find opponents easily overtaking you.

You can even earn XP from getting big air like these racers are about to do.
As you progress through the main mode for solo players in Mantis Burn Racing, the career, you earn gears, XP, and currency to progress through the ranks along a map of sorts. All of the paths converge at the end where a lock rests. By fulfilling the gear requirement of that lock, it opens, allowing progress to the next series of challenges. XP is used to gain levels, filling up a linear line that occasionally unlocks new vehicles, modifications for your vehicles, and cold, hard currency, which you can use to purchase vehicles, upgrade old ones, and the like. Modifications comes in several forms, such as for tires, the engine, the suspension, and more to work on each vehicle's handling, acceleration, top speed, etc. 

The career mode features an abundance of event types, such as standard races, Elimination events where the racer in last gets eliminated one-by-one until there's no other racers left but first place, time trials, Overtake events that have you rushing to race past other cars to overtake five other vehicles before your opponents do. The variety with events on display here is nice, especially since the track variety suffers a bit.

There are 12 tracks total in Mantis Burn Racing, and while that number would be adequate in any other racer, in Mantis Burn Racing the tracks are spread out across only three environments. You never race in familiar territory structure and turn-wise in the different races, but you do speed through similar-looking environments like a dusty canyon, a corner-intensive city, and on a snowy and treacherous mountainside. The track designers did their best to add some variety to the tracks despite being in only three environment types such as New Shangra-la's tracks taking place in nighttime on a track with a green glow to it, a harbor course that is drenched in light from a setting sun, and a trip through a monument-filled scenic route of the city.

One New Shangra-la race goes from overpasses to sewer channels.
The DLC from the PS4, Xbox One, and Steam versions of Mantis Burn Racing come already pre-installed with the Nintendo Switch version, but to play those seasons within the career mode, you need to reach a certain point in the career. There are so many events throughout the career mode (and so many roadblocks like needed the right vehicle weight class that requires the player to spend currency they might have to grind for just for the necessary ride) that reaching the end or even less making substantial progress in the career turns out to highly tedious and repetitive. 

While another race occurs at night alongside some scenic sights. 
This is especially so if you're trying to gain all six gears per event through completing achievement-like challenges, such as winning the race, drifting for a set number of seconds, crashing through a certain amount of breakable objects, beating specific lap times, and more. Though you have to admire the huge volume of events available throughout the career mode and the carrot on the stick supplied for players to engage and engross themselves with unlocking content. You can't say the quantity is not there, even if the quality gets a bit repetitive along the way. Not a bad problem to have, however, if you're enjoying what's here.

And what's here in Mantis Burn Racing is quite good. The racing is superb, and customizing your vehicles is a must unless you want to bounce around the tracks like a hovercraft. You can alter the camera angle with the press of a button to support your preferred view. I went with a direct view over my vehicle, so all controls were traditionally handled (i.e. turning left on the analog stick turned my vehicle left instead of whichever way it was facing compared to an alternate camera angle). Sometimes, though, with such a camera angle, I found it hard to discern where turns were, as parts of the environment would obscure my view, leading to frustrating and time-consuming crashes straight into barriers, slowing my vehicle down immensely. 

I'm dreaming of a white and explosive Christmas with Mantis Burn Racing's Battle DLC.
Multiplayer offers plenty of content for players both online and locally. Cross play with PC players on the Nintendo Switch brings enough players to the fold where waiting around for races is seldom a lengthy process. All options are available to you when participating in multiplayer, such as the 12 tracks in both normal and reverse designs, all the modes including the Battle DLC, and more. As someone who doesn't really partake in online that much, everything seemed to run well enough and I enjoyed myself with the limited system-wide options available to me on the Nintendo Switch.

Mantis Burn Racing brings back good memories of my times playing Super Off-Road back in my youth, and it is of course a marked and sophisticated improvement over those memories in control, design, and everything else. The career mode could have used some shortening or a better variety of environments, but overall, Mantis Burn Racing captured the same spirit of mine as a game I really adored as a child, and made new memories that I will hopefully look back on in another 25 years.

[SPC Says: B]

Review copy provided by VooFoo Studios.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Riptide GP: Renegade (NSW) Review

And here we go! A barrage of end of the year reviews are coming to SuperPhillip Central. Our first game of the month and of this barrage is Riptide GP: Renegade for the Nintendo Switch. Released earlier this month, I found myself enjoying splashing across the water, the waves, and finding the greatest racing line to outwit my opponents. Here's the SuperPhillip Central review.

Blazing an aquatic trail

From the makers of Hydro Thunder Hurricane comes what can be considered a spiritual successor in Riptide GP: Renegade. This futuristic aquatic jet ski racer set in a world flooded by water has seen releases on multiple platforms already, including on mobile (which SuperPhillip Central gave a B- to in my original review of the game). Now, Riptide GP: Renegade splashes onto the Nintendo Switch's eShop for a relative low cost of entry, and it's very much worth riding these waves.

Riptide GP: Renegade plops you right in to the excitement with a race to quickly learn the controls. However, upon reaching a certain point in the race, a squad of police cruisers arrest you on the spot for illegal racing. A costly setup by a character named Krex that ends up with your character in prison for two years. In that time, your crew has come up with a multi-stage plan to get even with Krex, including getting new members to join you, and earning some race cred to get back into the official racing league.

Revenge is a dish best served wet.
All of this plays out in Riptide's career mode. Here, you compete in different event types across nine race tracks to put your crew's plan in action. There are standard races, as well as Elimination style, where after every 30 or so seconds the player in last place is eliminated until there is no one left but the race leader. There are also slalom events where you slosh along the water to situate yourself on the left and right side of slalom cones as you attempt to clear the track as fast as possible. Finally, Freestyle brings the trick system of Riptide GP into full display where pulling off the sickest tricks (while keeping mind that repeated tricks award less points) within the time limit is the way to go.

The career mode follows a linear path of events split in sections. These sections each have you and your crew trying to impress a certain character enough that they'll decide to race against you in a one-on-one contest. Win the race, and you'll not only be able to race as that character, but you'll also earn a more powerful ride with better stats and more upgrade potential.

Each event in the career mode awards you with up to three stars, depending on what place you get in on the podium. The events also provide cash and experience rewards. The former is used to upgrade your current jet ski in one of four categories such as top speed, acceleration, boost, and handling. Experience is used to level your rider up, netting you skill points that can be utilized to purchase new, more complicated tricks, as well as race bonuses like better drafting of other racers, a better boost at the start of races, and more boost energy upon successfully nailing tricks.

Helpful green signs like this one just ahead show when upcoming ramps are near.
Throughout the 4-6 hour career, you'll be spending a lot of time across the same nine tracks of the game, especially due to repeating certain events due to odd difficulty jumps along the way. This can be a bit repetitive to see the same nine tracks and having to compete on them repeatedly, but the tracks are designed so well that none of them stand out as anything close to bad. Many courses provide ample shortcut opportunities. Whether it's riding up a series of geysers to reach a giant half pipe for a perfect tricking spot or navigating the wild waves of The Ruins to pass under an overpass to discover an alternate path, these shortcuts are placed cleverly throughout each track, as are the decal-unlocking Easter Eggs to collect. Both shortcuts and Easter Eggs demand the player to be observant of their surroundings and to explore them, all the while gunning for first place.

You can customize your racer somewhat by not only changing which character you play as but also their vehicle. You can also alter both the color schemes of the racer and the jet ski with three different color categories to make colorful and artistic statements (or just go all Johnny Cash with a pure black outfit and bike if you like). Finally, decals and racing numbers can be applied to your racer/vehicle combination, and more and more decals are earned by competing events in career mode.

Use a color scheme and decal fit for jolly, good, old
racing representing Britannia or any country you like.
All of the events and tracks in the world don't mean a thing if Riptide GP: Renegade's gameplay isn't up to snuff. Thankfully, the handling of each vehicle, the physics of different wave types regarding how they bounce your vehicle around, and the collision detection regarding track geometry are all fantastic in design and execution. Skirting about the water's surface feels excellent, and leaping off waves and ramps to perform tricks (accomplished by tilting both analog sticks in specific directions) is always an exhilarating action.

Make sure you have plenty of room to perform your trick, or else you'll bail and lose valuable time!
Riptide GP: Renegade sports multiplayer options for local competition as well as online. The online portion isn't that active at all, unfortunately, but at the same time, with limited interaction between competitors in races, there isn't much to be found in variety. This makes the multiplayer experience a bit shallow when all it takes is one crash to be completely out of the race against more skilled players.

By virtue of being on a platform with better, more comfortable control options for a game of this type, Riptide GP: Renegade on the Nintendo Switch is a step up from its mobile offering, even though the price is more substantial on Switch. Excellent controls, handling, physics, track design, shortcuts, and a worthwhile career mode will present a lot of enjoyment for players while lackluster multiplayer options are hollow. Still, Riptide GP: Renegade manages to fly off the ramp, pulling off some incredible tricks midair while making a successful landing in the process. Forced metaphors aside, Riptide GP: Renegade is recommended by SuperPhillip Central.

[SPC Says: B]

Review copy provided by Vector Unit.

Monday, December 18, 2017

SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs - "Twas the Week Before Christmas" Edition

'Twas the week before Christmas, and all through SuperPhillip Central's site
Phil was preparing game reviews to end the month for your delight

That... That's all I have for my Christmas poem so far. Instead, I bring you a special pre-Christmas edition of SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs! Next week, presents will be opened, gifts will be given, and the fireplace will be lit up to make everyone warm and toasty. (Unless you're like me and don't have a fireplace in your household.)

This week's lineup of games features music from Star Wars Battlefront II, the recently released version, that is. Then, SoulCalibur V delivers an impressive orchestra and choir piece to bring even more emotion to this edition. Following that, we go a bit chill with music from Sonic Free Riders and Super Princess Peach. Things wrap up with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project.

Before I conclude my weekly introduction to SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs, remember to check out the VGM Database for all past games and songs ever featured on this long-running segment. Now, let's get onto the music!

v1526. Star Wars Battlefront II (PS4, XB1, PC) - Falcon Flight

Beginning with a bang, Star Wars: The Last Jedi released in theaters this past Friday, so what better excuse to post a theme from a Star Wars game? While EA's Star Wars Battlefront II has been raked over the coals with its microtransactions, so much so that the company is temporarily removing them until it gets a better idea on how it wants to implement them, the presentation is absolutely breathtaking in both gorgeous visuals and magnificent sound. The latter part of the presentation is our focus with this theme that plays during the Millennium Falcon's flight.

v1527. SoulCalibur V (PS3, 360) - Daybreaker

Announced at The Game Awards 2017, SoulCalibur VI is set to launch on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One sometime next year. Thus, let's take a look -- or in this case, listen -- back to the game that proceeded it, SoulCalibur V on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Much like Star Wars Battlefront II's score, we're greeted with an epic symphonic performance, but this time we have the powerful force of a backing chorus joining in.

v1528. Sonic Free Riders (360) - Metropolis Speedway

"Hey, hey, hey!" Groove with this track from the otherwise reprehensible attempt at bringing the Sonic Riders series to the Xbox 360's Kinect. It was a recipe for disaster, as well as a move that has pretty much killed the otherwise enjoyable Sonic Riders series. Thanks, Kinect! Having gotten my bitterness out, we can turn towards this infectious theme for the Metropolis Speedway circuit in Sonic Free Riders, one of the high points of the soundtrack as a whole.

v1529. Super Princess Peach (DS) - Tag the Flowers!

While those of us deep in the Midwest of the United States don't have much in the way of flowers to actually tag, much less pick, there's nothing saying we can't enjoy this delightful loop from the Nintendo DS' Super Princess Peach, the very first platformer where she's the star and not kidnapped. Instead, the roles are completely reversed with Mario being the one who is kidnapped by the ghastly Bowser. The Super Princess Peach soundtrack has a lot of cute and bouncy themes throughout its lineup of tunes, such as this one that only appears in a specific series of puzzle rooms in the first world of the game.

v1530. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project (NES) - Ending Part 3

I would consider Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project the most overlooked of Konami's early era TMNT games. The first TMNT is well known for being ridiculously hard, TMNT II is a home port of the famous arcade game, and Turtles in Time (TMNT IV) saw the series leap to the Super Nintendo. Meanwhile, The Manhattan Project released after the launch of the SNES and didn't get too much hype otherwise. It's still a rather fun game, especially if you like beat-em-ups and/or the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Most Disappointing Video Game Sequels - Part Four

Getting one of these games in your stocking might make most of you wish you would have gotten coal instead! Games disappoint for all sorts of reasons, whether they're low quality, broken either mechanically or technically -- whatever you can think of, but the ones that follow up games that you really enjoyed might be the toughest to swallow. Imagine loving a game so much that you yearn for a sequel, and the sequel given to you is... less than spectacular -- and that's putting it mildly. That's what The Most Disappointing Video Game Sequels is all about, and we've reached Part Four of our tour of mediocre sequels. This edition we delve in to three 2017 releases as well as some ghosts of game sequels past.

Once you check out the latest entries on this list, explore the past three parts of this ongoing series, and sound off on which games you'd like to see added to future installments.

Part One
Part Two
Part Three

Star Wars Battlefront II (PS4, XB1, PC)

One's hype can be vanquished in an instant due to someone or somebody's greed. I was seriously hyped for Star Wars Battlefront II from EA and DICE due to the original PS2 Star Wars Battlefront games being my favorite Star Wars-related games of all time, next to Rogue Squadron. But like I said, hype can come crashing down to the ground in an instant like an AT-AT tied up by a snowspeeder's cable.

I have a select few multiplayer games I enjoy playing online. Star Wars Battlefront II looked to be one of them, but EA wanted players like me to fork out not just $60 to own the game, but even more money just to stand a fighting chance online. With pay-to-win loot boxes, that is exactly what EA had in store for players. It's a case of greed at its most distilled in gaming -- putting spending money over the actual balance of gameplay.

It was a decision that made me completely forgo looking into getting Star Wars Battlefront II, and I certainly wasn't alone in that decision either. The situation got so bad for EA that it decided to take loot boxes out of the game temporarily. To my cynical mind, it's merely to buy time for EA to decide a "better" solution that doesn't draw the publisher as much ire and bad publicity. Despite knowing that the actual gameplay of the newest Star Wars Battlefront is of good quality, I also know that I can't trust EA with its handling of this game.

Mass Effect: Andromeda (PS4, XB1, PC)

Together, EA and BioWare have seen a lot of success with the Mass Effect franchise. The trilogy sold remarkably well and was a critical darling. Until Mass Effect: Andromeda, the last Mass Effect game released was Mass Effect 3 in 2012. All the waiting, all the excitement, and all of the hype around the newest game in the Mass Effect franchise led to...

A dud. Mass Effect: Andromeda has become one of the big jokes of 2017, unfortunately, and primarily so due to being mired with a look of inconsistency. The game isn't broken from a gameplay metric, thankfully, but it can definitely be argued that it was initially from a technical one. From its one-week-early release to EA Origin members, myriad clips, videos, and GIFs poked fun at a plethora of creepy and bizarre facial animations that brought up some serious uncanny valley imagery. Bugs, glitches, and freezes plagued Andromeda from its release as well, making the massively budgeted Mass Effect: Andromeda another tale of an AAA game that was too big of a production for its own good.

As a series now, Mass Effect is in a state of limbo as a result of the negative commercial and critical reception to Andromeda. It would be quite a shame to see a franchise that seemed to always be of high quality get put on a long hiatus because of just one game. Then again, as we've seen with studios closing and franchises ending, all it takes is one game in this era of the video games industry.

Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite (PS4, XB1, PC)

With this next game on the edition of Most Disappointing Video Game Sequels, we finally leave EA alone and focus on Capcom. Well, Marvel and Capcom, to be exact. The latest game in the fabled fighting game crossover, Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite released this past fall, and it has a lot of good parts to it. The new improvements to the core mechanics of the series, such as the updated means to tag in allies, meant new means in increasing combos and damage output. The addition of the Infinity Stones added some new ways of interacting with opposing fighters and incorporating differing strategies as well.

However, not all was well with the new Marvel vs. Capcom, as evident by Infinite being on a list of most disappointing video game sequels. The most obvious of issues plagued every trailer and screenshot of the game. It was its presentation, offering drab visuals, "off" character designs, and just a flat look to it -- completely spitting in the face of what past Marvel vs. Capcom games possessed, whether the sharp 2D visuals and animations in Marvel vs. Capcom 2, or even the most release, the gorgeous cel-shaded comic book graphics of Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3.

Then, there was the starting roster that was just begging to be ripped to shreds by critics and fans alike. Notable omissions like the 20th Century Fox-owned characters and even those Marvel vs. Capcom characters that were present in Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 but mysteriously absent from Infinite's roster also disappointed. Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite made for a package that was not hard to take a pass on at launch with its full MSRP, and it seems that many did just that according to Capcom's missed projected sales target for the game.

Star Fox Zero (Wii U)

Now this one hurts for me to add to this list. While I personally enjoyed Star Fox Zero on the Wii U, it's no question that many people couldn't get their heads around using both a TV screen and the Wii U GamePad for different viewing angles. With the TV, Fox McCloud's vehicle such as the flight-based Arwing was shown, and with the GamePad, the vehicle's line of sight could be altered in a way otherwise impossible with a standard control setup. You could physically (and slightly) move the Wii U GamePad to alter the aim of your Arwing, Landmaster, or what have you. No longer did you have to point the tip of your ship towards enemies. You could unleash missiles and laser fire on them even if they were off the TV screen, a difficult proposition in Star Fox 64.

However, in using such a complex control, movement, and aiming scheme, Nintendo and Platinum Games really isolated many players from having full enjoyment with Star Fox Zero. This led to not only poor critical and fan feedback but also less than stellar sales, and we're already talking about a game that released on the already struggling Wii U that was furthermore on its way out.

Thus, not only may the Star Fox series not get a new sequel in the near future due to low sales, but what we even got out of Star Fox Zero was yet another retelling of the original Star Fox's story. It was hardly uncharted territory for the series, and going through the same story meant that no major new plot threads were expanded on. Now, we'll have to hope Shigeru Miyamoto and whomever else at Nintendo have a will to continue on with the series. So while I might have enjoyed Star Fox Zero personally, it wasn't worth taking on a brand-new, highly controversial control scheme to put the series' future in possible jeopardy.

Mega Man X7 (PS2)

One thing you can count on with the classic Mega Man series is that each entry is of assured quality. Sure, I might have my reservations with Mega Man 9's penchant for throwing spikes and pits everywhere as a means to make the game more difficult in a cheaper way, but all in all, the series is consistent in quality. I wish I could say the same about Mega Man X. That's a sub-series of games that I prefer over classic Mega Man, but it also has two stinkers in the bunch. I'm going to focus on X's jump into the third dimension and the PlayStation 2 generation with Mega Man X7.

X7 is a project of poor design and even worse execution. It attempted to bring the Mega Man X series from 2D to 3D, and in using both as the design foundation, it failed at doing either competently. In 2D sections, the gameplay and level design are substandard compared to the fluidity and placement of objects, enemies, and obstacles in the traditional sprite-based Mega Man X games. Meanwhile, the 3D portions are harmed by a wonky camera, the same camera that isn't serviceable enough to make the transition between 2D and 3D segments of levels without some hangups.

Then, there's the fact that the titular character isn't even available right from the start. You actually have to unlock X as a playable character, instead using a duo of Zero and newcomer Axl, who got bombarded with hate for taking X's place early on in the game, as well as being associated with the "Mega Man X7" name in the first place. It's commendable that Capcom tried to do something new with the Mega Man X sub-series, but the company wouldn't find a better solution until the game installment after.

Bomberman: Act Zero (360)

Sometimes trying new things with old franchises is good. Sometimes it's not. Definitely not. When you try to take a colorful cartoon mascot like Bomberman and turn him into a mature character meant to excite edgy teens or whoever, the end result is Bomberman: Act Zero, rated "T" for "Totally idiotic." Retro gaming fans know all about the world and characters of the Bomberman series: cute animals, explosive gameplay, terrific multiplayer, tight controls, dystopian future, dark hero with realistic proportions... Wait. What the heck did you folks do to Bomberman!?

"Negative" is almost too kind to describe what people who played Bomberman: Act Zero actually thought of the game. With load times long enough to write a comprehensive list of better Bomberman games you could playing at the moment instead of Act Zero, solid characters and objects that can pass through one another with no regard for collision detection, repetitive textures that make being stuck in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean looking at vast amounts of water seem more exciting, AI that is too good in one moment and just plain awful the next, and the inability to save your progress -- as if Konami was laughing at you for wasting your time on its game -- and you have a Bomberman game that was a total misfire. It was on a console where Konami perhaps thought maybe a Bomberman title could work if the game completely stripped itself of its own identity and followed the dark, gritty nonsense of the time. Thank goodness that Xbox 360 owners still had Bomberman Live!