Friday, February 3, 2017

Mario Sports Superstars (3DS) Going for Goal Trailer

It appears it's going to be a weekly occurrence until the European launch for Nintendo UK to unveil new trailers for each sport in the Mario Sports Superstars package, a guess I'm making based on last week's baseball trailer. The game comes out on March 10th for European territories, while North Americans will have to wait a couple more weeks. This new trailer shows off soccer, or football as the rest of the world knows it.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Bomberman Generation (GCN) Retro Review

With the news of Bomberman returning to gaming with a brand-new Nintendo Switch exclusive entry in the series, SuperPhillip Central decided to celebrate with a look back at one of the White Bomber's GameCube adventures. It's Bomberman Generation, and here's my retro review of the game!

Does whatever a Bomber can.

Bomberman Generation's story mode follows the destruction of a vessel that was transporting the six Bomb Elements through space. The HIGE HIGE Bandits are behind the destruction and subsequent theft, and it's up to Bomberman to track the Bomb Elements down, nab them from the HIGE HIGE Bandits, and save the universe once more. Dialogue in Bomberman Generation is fully voiced, and Bomberman will repeatedly get stopped mid-game by Professor Ein who generally has something obvious to say about what you need to do next in a given level. Thankfully, these interruptions only happen the first time through a level. Meanwhile, during boss stages you have to suffer through the introductions of each boss with no means to skip them, even if you've already taken them down before, which can become quite vexing.

Generation plays similarly to previous 3D entries in the Bomberman franchise, such as 64 and its now rare and valuable sequel, The Second Attack. It plays with an overhead, slightly isometric view, where you have full control of the camera, being able to turn it with the GameCube's shoulder buttons. Occasionally, however, especially in enclosed areas, it can be difficult to get the right angle on the action, though this problem doesn't occur often.

Bomberman begins with a limited amount of firepower and bombs available to him. Only through bombing specific objects do firepower power-ups that expand the range of his bombs' explosions, roller skate power-ups that speed Bomberman's movement, and bomb power-ups that add more bombs that Bomberman can summon on screen at the same time appear. Starting off, you're limited in how you can defeat enemies. You can kick a bomb into an enemy, but they'll recover faster than your bomb will explode. As you get more bombs and more firepower, it's much easier to take out enemies. Otherwise, hitting enemies is rather hard when starting the game, requiring an annoying sense of timing and strategy. Unfortunately, if Bomberman loses all of his health, when you begin the level again, all your firepower, movement, and bomb boosts are removed. This makes some boss battles near impossible due to how sluggish Bomberman moves, making it challenging to avoid their attacks.

Starting off, Bomberman is slow and makes it challenging to hit enemies.
There are five major areas in Bomberman Generation, and each possesses 4-6 levels each. Levels consist of using bombs to not only take out enemies, but also to interact with the environment to solve simple to complex puzzles. You start off in the first world doing easy things like bombing trees to have them fall over, creating bridges, as well as bombing boulders that block the passage of water in order to create flowing rivers. Later in the game you're shifting giant sheets of ice with big bombs to strategically pass around and even through them.

Water you thinking entering the ocean without some water bombs, Bomberman?!
Through Bomberman's adventure he'll come across various portals, some out in the open and some requiring some form of careful exploration to find them. Some of these portals have mini-games that when won give Bomberman a material that can be used to fuse new types of bombs, such as water bombs that are the only bombs that can explode underwater or ice bombs that freeze geysers that Bomberman can then cross. Other portals contain Charaboms, a series of creatures no doubt inspired by Nintendo's Pokemon.

Your first Charabom is given to you automatically. Every other one requires you to battle them. Battles are somewhat luck-based, requiring each side to choose from one of six orders of moves (attack, defense, and special attack) to take down their opponent. The early battles against Charaboms are the most challenging, as later in the game you get the ability to fuse Charaboms together. This makes them immensely strong and able to steamroll most Charabombs you battle regardless of your luck and what order of moves you choose.

Charaboms aren't just for battling and collecting. When equipped to Bomberman, each gives him a special ability. Some give Bomberman maximum firepower from his bombs regardless of how many firepower pick-ups he's collected. Others give him the ability to detonate his bombs at will with the press of a button, allow him the ability to bounce off bombs to cross certain chasms (a great thing to have as Bomberman can't jump), or give him the ability to set a bomb and control its movement until it explodes. Fused Charaboms give a combination of abilities depending on Charaboms fused.

Possessing elemental bombs and different Charaboms is important to fully explore every level in Generation. Bomberman can discover a whole slew of interesting things in the game such as heart containers that add a heart to his health as well as Lightning Cards that unlock a special bonus when all of them have been collected. Both of these not only require careful exploration of levels, but they're a lot of fun to find and figure out how to collect.

The halfway point and last level of each world of Bomberman Generation pits Bomberman against a boss of some type. The halfway point boss is part of a special force of bombers associated with the HIGE HIGE Bandits known as the Crush Bombers, who each have their own distinct powers and personalities. The final level boss is a more difficult opponent if only because some of these encounters make it difficult to know when that boss is vulnerable to a bomb attack. I spent several minutes and lives on some bosses just due to the fact that I didn't know when the boss could be damaged. Despite the initial frustration, I eventually figured it out and went on my merry way in Bomberman's adventure.

This mammoth boss concludes the first world in Bomberman Generation.
Bomberman Generation's story mode is enjoyable, and it doesn't outwear its welcome either. It's a breeze to play as it's not too terribly challenging, but going for all the Lightning Cards, especially from the Crush Bombers where you need to perform specific tasks during the battle to earn their five cards, makes for a greater challenge. And even if you don't find yourself enjoying the story mode (which would blow my mind as it's quite good), then there is the tried and true multiplayer modes to sink your teeth into.

Multiplayer offers a variety of modes, maps, and options to make for many sleepless nights of local partying fun. Whether it's traditional deathmatches, a mode where you use bomb explosions to flip tiles in order to have your color appear most on the map before time runs out, a mode where you avoid falling bombs, and much more, there is a lot of entertainment to be found here.

If you're looking for traditional Bomberman multiplayer action, you've got it in Bomberman Generation.
Bomberman Generation sports a lovely cel-shaded art style, though to be fair, I am sucker for this visual style. Characters look great in their cel-shaded glory, though the environments could be a bit more detailed. That said, there are no frame-rate issues to speak of, perhaps because of the aforementioned lesser detail of the environments. The voice work stretches from decent like Professor Ein to comically bad. Meanwhile the music delivers catchy melodies fitting for each level and boss it plays during.

Overall, Bomberman Generation is a blast. (Hey, I could have gone with "it's the bomb" so go easy on me.) With a highly engaging single player component and the tried and true multiplayer mode that offers some of the most fun in the series this way of the Sega Saturn's Bomberman, Generation delivers an explosive package worthy of playing. The inability to skip cutscenes and Bomberman's sluggishness at the beginning of each life make for some slight annoyances, but all in all, this version of Bomberman blows the competition away.

[SPC Says: B]

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Review Round-Up - January 2017

Dragon Ball Fusions proved that the series didn't just need to stick to the fighter genre to have a great game.
 The first month of 2017 didn't see a lot of brand-new games being reviewed, but it did see a good share of reviews in general-- seven in total. What better way to begin a new year than with a game that received the best grade possible on SuperPhillip Central with The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D! Following that were two games that got the same grade of C+, MediEvil: Resurrection and Pac-Man World Rally.

A historical moment, though not a positive one, came next with Mini Golf Resort for the Nintendo 3DS receiving SuperPhillip Central's first "F" grade. We moved on from that blemish to brighter pastures with the excellent and overlooked Need for Speed: Nitro on Wii (B), the fun arcade kart racer Skylanders SuperChargers Racing (B-), and finally explored the Dragon Ball universe with Dragon Ball Fusions, which earned its B grade. Overall, a fun month of reviews here at SuperPhillip Central!

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D (3DS) Review Redux - A+
MediEvil: Resurrection (PSP) - C+
Pac-Man World Rally (PS2, GCN, PSP, PC) - C+
Mini Golf Resort (3DS) - F
Need for Speed: Nitro (Wii) - B
Skylanders SuperChargers Racing (3DS) - B-
Dragon Ball Fusions (3DS) - B

Meanwhile, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D got the
review treatment yet again with the site's best grade possible.

Central City Census - February 2017

A new month brings a new Central City Census and a new Review Round-Up. First, let's look at the results to January's poll.

The first Central City Census of 2017 asked if you guys and gals got any new gaming hardware over the holiday season. The majority of you did not, while the most popular hardware received or purchased was the PlayStation 4, though not surprisingly with the PS4 Pro and Slim having just released! Meanwhile, the Wii U did surprise with three people getting one over the holidays despite a new Nintendo console incoming in March.

Speaking of which, this month's Central City Census has similarities to last months in that it also asks about gaming hardware. Instead of multiple hardware, however, this month's poll asks specifically about the Nintendo Switch. Simply put, are you going to buy Nintendo's new system?

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Dragon Ball Fusions (3DS) Review

SuperPhillip Central's final review of January is for a game that released late last year. It's Dragon Ball Fusions, and if you're looking for a different kind of Dragon Ball game that is quite good, then Fusions will deliver for you! Here's my review.

Fusion... HA!

Dragon Ball Z is one of the most popular anime in the West for a good reason. It's very easy to get into, the characters are likable and have grown over the years, and the action is amazing. Meanwhile, the games over the years haven't been the most consistent. Compared to the early years of Dragon Ball video games, we're in a special time thanks to Namco Bandai's efforts, such as its most recent Dragon Ball Xenoverse duo of fighters. Now, the company has delivered a unique title to the Nintendo 3DS in Dragon Ball Fusions. While more of a fast-paced RPG than a fighter, Fusions offers plenty of playtime and strategy for those Nintendo 3DS owners who crave it.

Dragon Ball Fusions begins with you creating a custom avatar based on five races; Earthling, Saiyan, Namekian, Offworlder, or Alien. Each race possesses its own strengths and weaknesses, but most will probably just choose the race that appeals to them best aesthetically. From there, the choice of facial features, hairstyle, and voice are available to tinkered with, though each feature is modeled after a particular character in the game.

Dragon Ball games usually have told the tale of the series and its various sagas ad infinitum by this point, so it's quite refreshing that Dragon Ball Fusions goes a different road. It starts off with you and your friendly rival Pinich having all seven Dragon Balls in your collection. Your joint wish is to hold a special fighting tournament to determine the ultimate warrior. This pulls both you and Pinich into an alternate world where the tournament is set to take place.

Story progression is made by flying around the open world maps of Fusions, talking to NPCs and performing various tasks and objectives for them. As you complete these tasks, new events are available and new combatants join your ranks. Characters in Fusions are from the entirety of the Dragon Ball mythos, including the original Dragon Ball, Dragon Ball Z, Dragon Ball GT, Dragon Ball Super, and many of the movies in between.

The Great Saiyaman is one of countless Dragon Ball heroes available to recruit.
However, the usual means to have new combatants to join your side is to recruit them in battle, which can be quite the annoyance for more notable and rarer characters. The majority of recruit-able characters in Dragon Ball Fusions are generic fighters based on the various races in the game and not big names like Goku or Frieza. Regardless of who the character is, through, to recruit them in battle, that character must not only have a star next to its name on the bottom screen, but you must take them out with a Zenkai Attack, a special attack in Fusions that uses energy in a meter that grows from performing and taking damage from Ki-based attacks. Even then, it's not always 100% that a defeated enemy will automatically be recruited, especially for the stronger fighters in the game. There's quite a bit of luck involved.

Recruiting opponents isn't just used to gain a strong stable of fighters. Each race has a particular type of energy assigned to it, and many story barriers in the game require you to have a specific amount of energy available to open them. Recruiting fighters of different races increases the amount of that energy you can collect, and fighting and beating opponents of a certain race earns energy. This energy requirement to open barriers to new areas of Dragon Ball Fusions can be an annoying roadblock for many players.

Power pole... Extend!
Battles in general take place in an arena setting and play like a turn-based RPG of sorts. Each fighter's icon is shown on a timeline, slowly inching their way to the right side, giving them a turn once it reaches that destination. During their turn, they can perform one of a myriad of actions, performing a melee attack that can be blocked by the opponent, a Ki attack that can't be dodged but does less damage, or a special attack that are energy-based like Kamehameha or melee-based like the Power Pole Extension if they have enough Ki orbs to use them. Depending on the turn timeline, if the next fighter or even fighters in the turn order are on the same team as the attacker, they will get some early attacks in one the unfortunate target.

Arenas such as this one are where battles in Dragon Ball Fusions happen.
Like I said, melee-based attacks can be guarded against, and this is possible through a mini-game of sorts where the attacker selects a direction to hit the opponent in and the defender selecting a direction as well in hopes of correctly guessing the attacker's intended direction. If they are correct, then the damage is minimized and the knock-back isn't as severe. When I say knock-back, I mean that several types of attacks can launch an opponent backwards, either into their own teammates to deal damage to them or into your teammates who will attack them for some extra damage.

C'mon now, where's your sense of sportsmanship?
The length of a given battle can greatly vary depending on the strength of your foes. Some battles can last as quickly as one minute against a group of throwaway foes while a battle against a powerful group of enemies can take upwards of ten minutes. A big part of this is being forced to watch the attack animations of every move, with no option to skip these. Repeatedly seeing the same animations can grow old, but thankfully, the majority of them are less than ten seconds. Winning these battles earns each active teammate experience points as well as the occasional new move for defeating an opponent through simultaneously K.O.-ing them and hitting them out of the ring. Each fighter can only hold three moves at a time with an option to hold 30 moves as a backup for all fighters.

The "Fusions" part of Dragon Ball Fusions is a major mechanic of the game. Literally every character, even the generic ones, can fuse with one or several specific characters, pending they have met the requirements to do so. There are standard ones like Gohan and Trunks turning into Gotenks, but there are more humorous ones like Tien and Yamcha combining into one to form a being that is more powerful than Yamcha will ever be. There is also the ability to perform a five-way fusion in battle through the same means as doing a Zenkai attack (i.e. having enough energy in your team's special gauge). This temporary form allows you to enter a real time battle where you attempt to attack the enemy as much as possible while they try to attack you to lessen the amount of time you have in the fusion. Once time is up, a big blast occurs, dealing significant damage on top of the hurt you've already laid into your target(s).

Perform a five way fusion to turn the tide of battle... or put victory out of reach for the other team.
Visually, Dragon Ball Fusions shows that the aging Nintendo 3DS still can produce some very impressive graphics. The chibi models are the standouts in the visual department, as are the detailed backgrounds, all adding up to limited slowdown. It's a demanding game on the 3DS, as evident by the total lack of stereoscopic 3D. All of the voice work is left in Japanese, but most of the dialogue isn't voice anyway, just "Hai"-s and short voice clips of that sort. The music is typical of the Dragon Ball series with lots of rock and uptempo tunes.

Dragon Ball Fusions continues Namco Bandai's successes with the Dragon Ball license that it recently started with the Xenoverse line of games. Battles are strategic and engaging, collecting an assortment of fighters of all types is enjoyable (though the luck required to recruit some of them is ridiculous), and the original story is a good one for fans of the series to once again revisit their favorite characters. The repeated need to see battle animations and the requirement to collect enough energy to progress in the story can both be obnoxious things to contend with, but overall, Dragon Ball Fusions nails its fusion of turn-based RPG gameplay and high octane action.

[SPC Says: B]

Monday, January 30, 2017

Skylanders SuperChargers Racing (3DS) Review

With Skylanders Imaginators noted as a launch title for the Nintendo Switch, I felt the need to look at the game's predecessor. However, SuperPhillip Central already covered the HD versions of Skylanders SuperChargers, so why not look at the Nintendo 3DS spin-off instead? That's exactly what we're going to do with Skylanders SuperChargers Racing!

The Skylanders race on land, across sea, and through sky.

Up until Skylanders SuperChargers, the Wii and Nintendo 3DS versions of the Skylanders games were at parity content-wise with the other versions of the game. Now, with SuperChargers, this parity is gone, turning the Wii and 3DS games into a spin-off series based off the HD versions of SuperChargers' racing part of the game. This spin-off series is Skylanders SuperChargers Racing, all arcade-style racing with none of the platforming, punching, or exploration the Skylanders series is generally known for. Although not equal in content to the HD versions, Skylanders SuperChargers Racing is a worthwhile entry in the series regardless.

The Adventure mode is the main meat of Skylanders SuperChargers Racing. It shares many similarities to the mode found in Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, where you follow along a map of sorts to complete events. With each event completed, more of the map is available to you until you reach the far right side where the final event to complete that current cup is located. A difference here is that there is a story that loosely ties everything together. It stars Pandergast who hosts a Racelandia wrap-up show that ends every cup, promoting the idea that the winner of the Racelandia series of cups will earn an all-powerful MacGuffin that can be used for one wish. These story segments don't run too long and are just a neat bonus for completed cups.

You might be in 7th place, but this race has just begun!
There are a wide variety of events to be found in SuperChargers Racing, from the most basic three lap races against other opponents to more creative racing escapades like running over Chompy enemies to score points, events where bombs litter the track that you must avoid to drive far enough to reach the goal distance, events where your vehicle is poisoned which requires you to continuously collect food along the track, and one event where you're against three racers to see who can grab and deposit the most sheep before time runs out.

Every event has an easy, normal, and hard difficulty and up to three stars to obtain. Getting 1st in a race event or just completing the event's goal in any other kind of event awards three stars to the player in hard difficulty, while in easy and normal difficulties, the player can only earn up to one or two stars. Depending on the difficulty, during races the AI can be more of a pain and despite all your racing skill, they will usually stay close behind you whereas in other events the required score to complete them changes.

The Temple of Boom is a desert track with patches of chocolate to slow unsuspecting racers down.
An unfortunate part of the Adventure mode is that there is a lot of content locked behind having additional figures, mostly vehicle and vehicle and trophy ones. Many gates are locked, requiring you to have a certain element of vehicle to get passed. In addition to that, a third of the Adventure mode is locked behind having specific trophy figures, meaning that six races are inaccessible unless you have the three trophy figures required to access them.

Skylanders SuperChargers Racing's Starter Pack comes with two characters and one vehicle, an air one. While land and sea vehicles are required to play the game, Pandergast gives those lacking land sea vehicle figures to use what he calls "loaners", borrowed vehicles that don't have the greatest stats (they can't be leveled up either) but are serviceable for the various races in the game.

It may be a loaner from Pandergast, but it still gets the job done.
Unlike other versions of Skylanders SuperChargers, with the Nintendo 3DS version you only need to scan a given figure once to have it permanently saved to the game's memory. This means when you want to change your character, you don't need to have all of your figures by your side to scan and input them into the game over and over again. When starting a race or event, both your character and vehicle materialize via a loading screen, which can get grating after seeing it multiple times before each challenge.

Weave through canyons, caverns, cacti, and buildings in this Mexican-themed track.
As you complete races and events in SuperChargers Racing, both your character and vehicle figures gain experience points. Each time each earns a level, they gain a special boost in stats, whether with handling, acceleration, top speed, armor, and so forth. However, these stat boosts only apply to character figures from SuperChargers and not previous entries in the series. Characters from those entries will still gain experience and levels but no stat boosts will be given to those figures.

As stated, there are three types of vehicles in SuperChargers Racing, and each has five unique races specifically built for them. (And again, there are two extra races for each vehicle type gained from trophy figures that are contained in the more expensive racing packs.) The lack of tutorial, especially for a kids' game, is baffling, as each vehicle has its own series of button puts specially used for them.

For instance, a land vehicle can not only drift, gaining a boost once the shoulder button is released, but it can also jump over certain hazards and chasms. Meanwhile, a sea vehicle can temporarily dive underwater, which slows down the vehicle, but also allows access to hidden shortcuts. It can additionally perform flips in the air with the press of the R button to gain a boost upon each successful flip. Finally, air vehicles can have the player press the B button to perform a spin, allowing them to break through cobwebs without slowing down. Holding the R button will cause an air vehicle to unleash its afterburner, giving a continuous boost of speed in expense for control.

Sea vehicles can perform tricks while in midair to gain a boost upon landing.
All vehicles can shoot out ammo with the L button, having the game automatically target opponents in front of you. Each vehicle has a health bar that goes down when attacked by another racer or from a specific item. When it is fully depleted, the vehicle spins out before starting up again, refilling the health bar in the process. Food placed on the track can help restore lost health, as well as special items found from item boxes strewn along each race. Items are automatically used when a vehicle smashes through an item box. These range from offensive items like a Tiki mask that blasts all vehicles ahead of the user with three damaging lightning bolts to defensive items like a potion that slowly regenerates the user's health as well as a shield that blocks all enemy attacks.

Apart from the Adventure mode, there is a Cup mode that sees you taking on each of the five races for each vehicle type against seven AI opponents. Placement in these races award points with the racer with the most points at the end of the five races being the overall winner. There are three difficulties for each, though winning all of these don't appear to have any effects such as new unlockables. There isn't even an awards ceremony to congratulate you on your victory, so the mode overall seems rather undeveloped.

Does a Skylander want to wear shorts or pants in such a hot and cold setting?
Multiplayer is also available in SuperChargers Racing, offering local multiplayer where all parties need a 3DS and a copy of the game, as well as a completely barren online multiplayer option. However, if you have distant friends with the game, you might have better success finding someone to play with over the Internet.

Skylanders SuperChargers Racing is a bit more than a Mario Kart clone. It offers some new ideas to the familiar formula while also delivering solid racing action. That notwithstanding, there is still the same cost barrier of entry to get everything out of the game in the form of purchasing every element of vehicle as well as racing pack to get the full SuperChargers Racing experience. Still, I enjoyed my 10 hours with the game from the limited amount of figures I had, so if you're yearning for a new arcade racer for the Nintendo 3DS and have exhausted your fun from Mario Kart 7, then Skylanders SuperChargers Racing is a nice alternative.

[SPC Says: B-]

SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs - "Ace in the Whole Sky" Edition

SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs provides a weekly dose of great video game music goodness, and this week is no different. This week's edition is named after the Ace Combat series, which saw a new trailer for its upcoming seventh entry release last week. However, there's more than just that series featured this week.

Starting off, of course, with Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War, we go even more retro with a character theme from Battle Arena Toshinden 2. Then, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles changes things up with a more subdued tone before things pick up again in rockin' fashion with a tune from F-Zero X. Finally, No More Heroes delivers a delightful theme for one of its more popular bosses.

As always, just click on the VGM volume name to hear its song, and be sure to check out the VGM Database for all past VGM volumes represented on this long-running series of articles. Now, let's get on to the music!

v1321. Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War (PS2) - The Unsung War

We begin this edition of SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs with a majestic and sometimes forceful choir and orchestral piece from Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War. This PlayStation 2 exclusive remains the top seller in the Ace Combat franchise, sporting over one million sales in North America alone. I figured we'd take a listen to a song from the series with the latest trailer from Ace Combat 7 popping up last week.

v1322. Battle Arena Toshinden 2 (ARC, PS1, PC) - Theme of Tracy

Time for something completely different. Between your Street Fighters and Tekkens, there have been a great deal of fighting game franchises that didn't last as long as the more popular Japanese fighters. Battle Arena Toshinden is one of those. This weapon-based fighter packed a serious punch in arcades and then later on the PlayStation One and PC. Let's pour one out (a bottle of Dr. Pepper, so no one below drinking age gets any ideas) for this franchise with a rockin' '90s character theme from the second game in the franchise.

v1323. Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles (GCN) - Eternal Oath

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles's story has various caravans from each village in the game going out to dangerous dungeons to get crystal energy to protect their homelands from the deadly miasma mist in the air. A lot of villages and their caravans are success stories, but some, like the village turned dungeon where this somber and sullen theme is heard, fail. Composer Kumi Tanioka brought a rustic, earthen sound to the Crystal Chronicles soundtrack's marvelous melodies, something that makes it one of my favorite Final Fantasy soundtracks to date.

v1324. F-Zero X (N64) - Drivin' Through on Max

Both F-Zero X and F-Zero GX fight in many F-Zero fans' minds for best game in the franchise. Where do you stand? Musically, while I do like the techno and electronica music heard in GX, the hard rock and heavy metal of F-Zero X beats GX for me. It's amazing that such sound was possible from the Nintendo 64's hardware, and composers Taro Bando and Hajime Wakai delivered a delightfully peppy and energizing soundtrack.

v1325. No More Heroes (Wii) - Season of the Samurai

A chill start breaking into a guitar-driven romp caps off this edition of SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs, Season of the Samurai from No More Heroes is the theme song to female samurai Shinobu. Her battle is one of the first true challenges of No More Heroes where the difficulty most certainly picks up. Be careful and watchful for her one-hit kill attack which will cut Travis Touchdown down to size in a jiffy.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Need for Speed: Nitro (Wii) Retro Review

Sunday is this week's kickoff of SuperPhillip Central content, and with it we see a retro review. The announcement of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe to the Nintendo Switch saw the site developing a vested interest in arcade racing games. Last week, we took a look at Pac-Man World Rally, a kart racer. Now, we look at a different kind of racer with this retro review of the Wii version of Need for Speed: Nitro.

Stylistic street racing meets the Wii with great results.

With its lack of power compared to the HD twins, the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, third party developers were tasked with creating different versions of their popular franchises for Nintendo's Wii hardware. Some of these experiments turned out horribly, but others turned out quite well. Such was the case with the Need for Speed franchise. Instead of focusing on realism, Need for Speed: Nitro focused on stylistic arcade action, making for a racing game that burned some serious rubber.

Career mode offers the most satisfying experience for solo players, delivering three classes of cars, each with their own challenges, around five world cities like Rio, Dubai, and Singapore. Each city possesses a selection of challenges in them ranging from traditional circuit races against the AI, elimination racers where after every 30 seconds the racer in last gets eliminated until there is one car left, time trials, drift challenges, and special traffic camera challenges where the goal is to drive as fast as possible through speed traps. All races have stars to earn, and these unlock even more Career mode events as well as new customization parts for your rides. The circuit and elimination races have up to five stars to earn (three for placement in races, one for beating a race's best lap time, and one for earning enough style points through drifting, drafting other racers, boosting, and "owning it" or remaining in first place). 

Races in Need for Speed: Nitro are adrenaline-inducing experiences.
"Owning It" not only gives you a good amount of style points, but it paints the track and environments in your car's color as well as emblem for an amazing and astoundingly cool effect. It gives incentive to stay in first place as well as allowing you to brag to your friends when competing in multiplayer, which unfortunately never received online play of any kind. Though, a silver lining is that you can play the Career mode with up to three other friends, which makes it a lot more exciting than it already is.

The five cities in Need for Speed: Nitro each feature two tracks apiece. These have you drifting through long turns, speeding through the city streets, and many have notable standout moments such as riding along the tops of shipping yard containers for a shortcut, launching from a ramp into a construction site, and passing through parking garages. Each track usually sports up to two shortcuts, and these are marked on the map on the side of the screen, and each lap generally takes about a minute to complete. Despite the decent track variety, you might grow sick of racing on the same ten tracks since the Career mode's plentiful challenges make you race on them ad nauseum. 

The various locales and tracks to race on are highly varied.
It wouldn't be a Need for Speed game without some police chasing down your naughty street racing self, and the boys in blue are certainly up to the challenge in Need for Speed: Nitro. Many races have police cruisers that chase after racers disobeying the rules of the road. A new twist here is the ability to drive through badge pickups which allow you to stick the cops on an opposing racer, or if you're in first place, it allows you to draw less heat to yourself. With a five star warning on you, cops can become insanely aggressive, running directly into you, plowing you into a wall, and can stall your progress immediately due to their large Hummer-like cruisers. This can be very frustrating during certain races. 

In addition to badge pickups, there are also wrench ones that automatically repair your vehicle. As your vehicle takes damage from other racers, the police, or through mistakenly running into traffic or crashing into walls, the available space in your nitro boost bar will lessen. At maximum damage, not only will you not be able to pull off a nitro boost, but your car's max speed will be limited, so always being on the look out for repair pickups is paramount to winning later, more difficult races.

There's no such thing as sunshine slowdown in this rush hour.
Need for Speed: Nitro sports an impressive array of customizable vehicles, over 30 licensed vehicles in all, from Ford to Chevy. The amount of customization is appreciated, allowing you to alter the color of your car through one of dozens of different color combinations as well as spraying the car with various pre-made emblems or your own custom one. It adds a degree of creativity and a personal touch to your vehicle, which is really cool. Each vehicle has its own set of stats in categories like speed, acceleration, drifting, handling, and defense, and in Career mode, you earn money to buy new vehicles to add to your garage.

Nitro also sports a wide amount of available control options, such as the Wii Remote and Nunchuk, the Wii Wheel or Wii Remote by itself for motion-controlled driving (fun for easier races, but not as precise as necessary for harder ones), and the GameCube controller. Perhaps the most novel one is the ability to play with the Wii Remote in one hand, twisting the remote to make turns. 

Of course, all the control options in the world don't matter if Need for Speed: Nitro's cars all handled poorly. Thankfully, this is far from the case. Nitro's cars feel sensational to control, offering precise turning, cornering, and handling. Drifting is next to effortless, just require the player to hold down a button while turning the car. The only real problem with drifting is that the button to do so is the same as braking. If you're going below a certain speed, your car will brake instead of entering into a drift, which can quite the frustration in a heated race. 

Drifting feels smooth, though if you're not driving fast enough, you can enter into a brake instead.
As stated, the Wii is obviously much weaker hardware when compared to both its competitors at the time, the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Because of this, instead of going for a realistic approach to the visuals, EA went for a stylized one. Cars and characters have a fantastical degree to them, sporting a cartoon-like art style that isn't nearly as serious as the HD twins' version of Need for Speed. This is actually pretty pleasant to the eye, mixing realism and highly stylized art to tremendous effect. The game also runs at a steady clip, so feel free to feel your need for speed to the fullest. On the sound side, you get a funky and rock-filled soundtrack of licensed music. There are about ten songs total, and they cycle through enough so you don't get bored of them too quickly.

Feeling the need for speed along the Dubai coast.
Need for Speed: Nitro is an underrated arcade racer to add to the lineup of wonderful Wii games. It might not have had the online of Mario Kart Wii or ExciteBots: Trick Racing, but it does still have superb arcade handling and gameplay, stellar stylized visuals, and enough content to keep those with a need for speed coming back for more.

[SPC Says: B]