Friday, April 21, 2017

Top Ten Original Game Boy Games

Today is the 28th birthday of Nintendo's handheld wonder, the Game Boy. This monochromatic marvel led the way to what we play currently, and many of its games still hold up. It's amazing to me the progression of tech in portables that has happened since the OG Game Boy. As a kid, I never could have guessed I'd be playing home console-quality games, 3D at that, on a portable device like I can now.

With the Game Boy's 28th anniversary, I wanted to do something special on SuperPhillip Central. Hence this top ten list counting down the best and boldest of original Game Boy software. That means no Game Boy Color titles like Pokemon Gold and Silver or Wario Land II.

10) Kirby's Dream Land 2 

We begin with a game from a series known to be very beginner-friendly in not just its accessibility but its difficulty. While the original Kirby's Dream Land was a game one could beat in a breezy afternoon, Kirby's Dream Land 2 posed a much stiffer challenge. Not only was the game longer than its predecessor, but it was also harder, especially if you wanted to reach the secret portions of levels. Many required you to hold onto a power for an extended period of time throughout a given level, and in Dream Land 2, one hit meant your power would be removed and bounce away, usually disappearing instantly. Then there were the animal buddies that Kirby could team up, each bestowing onto Kirby a helpful ability to get through the more savage portions of Kirby's second handheld adventure.

9) Metroid II: Return of Samus

The original Metroid premiered on the Nintendo Entertainment System and brought to the gaming world one of the first gaming heroines. It also brought a massive map to explore for powers and abilities to access more of the game's map and beat bosses. Metroid II, as the subtitle succinctly says, brought the return of bounty hunter Samus Aran. Her first handheld mission had her seek out and eliminate a deluge of Metroids, located in all extremities of the world map. The map was sectioned off in a way so that when one area was complete, the next would open. The all-monochrome color pallet meant areas were even harder to distinguish from one another, yet those who persevered would find a portable adventure worthy of a followup to the original Metroid.

8) Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins

While Super Mario Land was a sometimes challenging game, it could be beaten in one sitting rather quickly with another skill. On the other hand, its sequel, Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins, offered a much larger adventure with the ability to choose which of the six starting areas to tackle from its world map hub a la Super Mario World. Each area had its own theme, enemies, and obstacles to overcome, and all concluded with a boss battle for one of Castle Mario's titular six Golden Coins. The game, as many Mario maniacs know, saw the debut of the portly plumber's rival Wario. Super Mario Land 2 is a bit odd to play nowadays thanks to its off-kilter jumping physics, presenting a much floatier feel to Mario's jumps. It's inconsistent with how Mario plays in most of his other adventures, from Super Mario Bros. and even Super Mario Land directly before it, so there is a learning curve, albeit a slight one.

7) Mega Man V

Prior to Mega Man V, the previous Mega Man games on the Game Boy were retreads with regard to the Robot Masters the Blue (or in this case, Grey) Bomber faced. Mega Man V not only saw its own exclusive collection of Robot Masters, themed after the planets of the Solar System, but also a story that was brand-new too. While the established and classic Mega Man gameplay was present, the ambition and reach of Mega Man V felt considerably larger. This felt like a game made as a huge effort and not just a side game. It posed a solid challenge with some tight platforming and fun levels, and the bosses and new characters were enjoyable as well. If you want to check out any of the five classic Mega Man games on the original Game Boy, Mega Man V is the one to pick.

6) Mole Mania

Mole Mania starred Muddy, a mole who was the father to his missing, mole-napped wife and children. In the game, you control Muddy through various rooms with the goal of pushing a black iron ball to a gate to move forward. Being a mole, Muddy had the ability to dig underground where he could find alternate paths and means to travel around topside where the main gameplay festivities took place. Dig too much, and Muddy wouldn't have means to transport the black ball to its proper ending location. The eight worlds sported multiple interconnected room where hidden items could be found in addition to solving each room's puzzles. If the concept doesn't impress, then maybe the fact that it was designed in part by Shigeru Miyamoto might help. All in all, Mole Mania is an excellent puzzle-adventure game.

5) Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3

Wario wasn't happy enough to just steal Mario's castle in Super Mario Land 2. In Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3, he stole Mario's series from him! Wario Land played much like a traditional Super Mario Bros. platformer with different power-ups in the form of hats for Wario to nab and wear. Where Wario Land strayed a little away from Super Mario Land and its sequel was with a focus on collecting coins and treasure locked away in chests. Depending on how much treasure and coinage you collected during Wario's adventure, his castle would be anywhere between a minuscule hut to a luxurious castle mansion. Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3 offered much more longevity than past Mario Land games, not just through treasure and coin accumulation but in all of its secret exits to uncover. Exploration was encouraged and delightful in Wario's first starring platformer role.

4) Pokemon Blue. Red, and Yellow

The games that started a phenomenon and sent shockwaves through not only the gaming world but the world in general, Pokemon Red and Blue (followed by a Pikachu-focused Yellow Version later) brought many a detentions to primary school kids for playing the games during class, catching, battling, and trading Pokemon. I'm still waiting for this fad of 20 years to finally end. Who knows if someday it finally will! But seriously, the initial Pokemon games made even the most ignorant of people know the names "Pokemon" and "Pikachu." Few games can claim to be events or shake up popular culture so much, but Pokemon Red and Blue were and did. The only downside of the original Game Boy games? Many things feel way too slow and archaic compared to the quality of life and gameplay improvements the series has since seen over the years.

3) Tetris

Chances are if you had a Game Boy, then you had Tetris. Nintendo was smart as heck to acquire the rights to this Russian puzzle game as one of the premier titles for its Game Boy. Tetris was and still is the perfect pick-up-and-play game whether it's done in bite-sized gaming sessions or extended ones. There aren't many things as sweet in gaming as clearing four lines of Tetriminos to score big and see your point total skyrocket. Then again, there aren't many things that make you want to slap your forehead as badly as having as incorrectly executing a four line clear, instead placing your "I" Tetrimino on the space adjacent. Curse you, Tetris Gods!!!!

2) Donkey Kong ('94)

Starting up and playing Donkey Kong's Game Boy debut might have made players think they were just playing a monochrome port of the arcade and NES game. After all, the first four stages were the exact same. However, as soon as those are completed, the REAL game that asw Donkey Kong on Game Boy (lovingly known as Donkey Kong '94) reveals itself. Part platformer, part puzzle game, Donkey Kong sported eight worlds divided up between 97 levels, most of which requiring Mario to jump, climb, and maneuver his way through obstacle and enemy-infested playgrounds, all the while finding and carrying a key to a locked door (the exit of the level). Other times and at the end of each world, Mario faced off against Donkey Kong, needing to reach a platform where DK would nab Mario's girl and retreat. The Game Boy Donkey Kong retains its gaming value even 20+ years later because it's so smartly designed and fun to play.

1) The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening

The idea of having a Zelda game as packed with content and as a big a world to explore as the Super Nintendo's A Link to the Past was mind-blowing, but Nintendo did it with one of The Legend of Zelda series' most memorable and enjoyable entries, The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening. Taking place on Koholint Island, Link's objective was to find some means to get off the island, and to do that meant waking up the Wind Fish through playing eight magical instruments found in eight different dungeons. The dungeons are usually the most engaging parts of the Zelda series, and they definitely did not disappoint in Link's Awakening, especially Eagle's Tower, one of my personal favorites due to its overarching puzzle. The world was massive for a child like myself and remains wondrous to explore to this day. Perhaps the only flaw to the masterpiece that is Link's Awakening is the limit on how many items you can equip at once, resulting in lots of time bringing up the menu. Regardless, with how well Link's Awakening plays otherwise and how it ends on its melancholy but magical note, the game stands on top of the original Game Boy's software heap.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Localizations, Please! Spring 2017 Edition

Localizations, Please is a series of articles that practically begs publishers to get their games that are trapped in one section of the world (usually Japan) and get them localized for Western gamers. Many games that have been listed on prior editions of Localizations, Please have actually gotten releases in the West, though I'm not so naive to think it was these articles that did that. Still, maybe featuring such desired games on this segment will continue the good fortune!

After you've read the five latest games that I'd like to see localized, mention which you want to reach the West or your portion of the world!

Past installments:

Localizations, Please!
Localizations, Please! Cinco de Mayo Edition
Localizations, Please! Coming in Like a Beggar, Coming Out Like a Lamb Edition
Localizations, Please! Midsummer Day's Dreams Edition
Localizations, Please! New Year, New Begging Edition
Localizations, Please! Nintendo 3DS Edition
Localizations, Please! Nintendo 3DS Edition Part 2
Localizations, Please! Nintendo 3DS Edition Part 3
Localizations, Please! Pre-E3DS 2015 Edition
Localizations, Please! Tokyo Game Show 2014 Edition

Gundam Versus (PS4)

Since Gundam Versus: Full Boost, the Gundam Versus series of games have been developed by Namco-Bandai itself instead of being farmed out to another developer, in this case, Byking. While a great deal of Gundam Versus games have been either stuck in arcades or never localized at all, the newest PlayStation 4 iteration of Gundam Versus looks to be dynamite in every sense of the word. It offers an immensely stable frame-rate, lovely brand-new user interface, solid visuals, and arena-style battles that are explosive, featuring Gundams and mobile suits taking each other on from a variety of series and films. Here's hoping Namco-Bandai brings Gundam Versus' latest offering to the West as this game looks fantastic not just for Gundam fans but for those searching for a fast-paced action fighter.

Seiken Densetsu Collection (NS)

The Seiken Densetsu Collection features three games in one Nintendo Switch cartridge: Final Fantasy Adventure or as it's known in Japan as Seiken Densetsu: Final Fantasy Gaiden (as seen on the Game Boy), the Super Nintendo classic Secret of Mana (Seiken Densetsu 2 in Japan), and the Japanese exclusive Seiken Densetsu 3. The games come with the convenient feature of being able to save anywhere in the games instead of at predetermined points, and there is even a music player to hear the trio of titles' music from the Nintendo Switch's home screen. The developer currently asks that if want this collection to reach the Western world that we should ask Square Enix. Let's show the publisher that we're very interested, gang!

Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology (3DS)

The original Radiant Historia released on the Nintendo DS in Japan in 2010 and later in North America the following year. Europe never got a localized version, which is already reason enough to see the Nintendo 3DS re-release, Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology get localized not just for North America but for Europe this time around. The original game had players moving through time, from the past to the present and back again, as well as through parallel universes to change the course of events throughout the game. All the while combat featured grid and turn-based battles. The cherry on top was a Yoko Shimomura-scored soundtrack that was divine in every sense of the word. Here's hoping that Perfect Chronology doesn't stay in Japan and gets localized for both those of us who have already had the pleasure of playing the Nintendo DS original and those who haven't.

The Alliance Alive (3DS)

The Alliance Alive is from the team behind The Legend of Legacy which was a polarizing game to say the least. With The Alliance Alive, the developers are set out to create a game with the following features: a good balance of story and gameplay, a world where even something as basic as walking around is enjoyable, nine protagonists so players will find at least one that they really resonate with, and a game that goes against genre trends and hearkens back to old school RPG sensibilities, such as a world map. Currently, no localization announcement for The Alliance Alive has been made as the game has a Japanese release in late June.

Minna de Wai Wai! Spelunker (NS)

Minna de Wai Wai! Spelunker is based off of 2015's Spelunker World, a PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita title. The new Nintendo Switch iteration of the series removes the free-to-play elements of that release and focuses primarily on local and online multiplayer with up to four friends/family members/total strangers diving into 2D caverns, performing various platforming feats while trying to overcome the numerous enemies that await inside. It would make sense for Minna de Wai Wai! Spelunker to get localized even if just in digital form because the original Spelunker World already is in English. The accessible and fun-looking gameplay for multiple players seems like it would be a real hit at parties or even if you're just playing alone. I'll keep everyone up to date on whether this colorful spelunking adventure gets announced for release on our side of the world.

Everybody's Golf (PS4) Announcement Trailer

Hot Shots Golf is dead. Long live Everybody's Golf, the name that has been used in Japan (its localized name) and Europe since the beginning! With more customization than ever before and events beyond golfing (but golf is still at the forefront of course). Everybody's Golf reaches North America on August 29 and a day later in Europe.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Micro Machines World Series (PS4, XB1, PC) "Battle Mode Mayhem!" Trailer

As a kid I loved collecting Micro Machines toys, displaying them, building cities with them as the vehicles, and so forth. The games I didn't get a chance to play, but I want to change that with Micro Machines World Series, as it looks like a great place to start. With local couch play that is sorely missing in a lot of retail releases on the PS4, Xbox One, and less on Steam, I look forward to checking the game out when it hits store shelves in June.

Top Ten 3D Platformers

The crowd-funded Yooka-Laylee released last week, and it hopes to bring back the same feelings of fun and excitement that players had with old school 3D platformers of the collect-a-thon style. While SuperPhillip Central will be covering Yooka-Laylee at a later date to determine if that hope springs something true, for now we're going to take a look at the top ten best 3D platformers ever made. The only rule here outside of the obvious "they have to be 3D platformers" is that only one entry per series is allowed. Once you've checked out my picks, debate which ones you think deserved the top spot or if one of your favorites missed the list.

Want more 3D platformer goodness? Check out the Top Ten Underrated 3D Platformers!

10) Ape Escape 3 (PS2)

In Ape Escape 3, your goal was simple: capture all of the loose monkeys in each level. Starting levels were quite small in scope, but by the end of the game you were searching through massive expanses on your search for those dastardly unruly simians! The game used the right analog stick as your means to control the net. Careful precision and timing enabled you to nab a monkey, instantly capturing it. Some apes were in plain sight while others required a good deal of exploring, some platforming to do, and searching. Ape Escape 3 didn't have as many gadgets to assist on the journey, but instead there were abilities to morph instantly into different forms. Each form offered advantages and disadvantages in how to capture the various monkeys seen in the levels. It was an atypical 3D platformer for sure, but Ape Escape brought me lots of joy from not only finding and capturing apes, but also with its Metal Gear Solid tie-in mini-game.

9) Spyro the Dragon (PS1)

It's amazing how much Insomniac Games has moved up in the gaming ranks since Spyro the Dragon. From creating a wonderful duo with Ratchet and Clank to now creating the first great-looking Spider-Man game in ages, Insomniac is a giant. That's not to say that Spyro the Dragon is beneath the developer now, as the original PS1 games are tremendous to play. I have nostalgia and lots of fun to this day playing the very first Spyro the Dragon, whether it's entering the worlds to find gems from treasure chests, saving Spyro's crystallized dragon elders, or taking time to take to the skies in the numerous flight segments. Spyro had but two means to attack, but they were good enough to get the job done-- a charge attack that rams his horns into enemies and the ability to char foes with his fire breath. I prefer Spyro the Dragon compared to the still-amazing sequels due to how much simpler the adventure is in scope.

8) Sonic Generations (PS3, 360, PC)

After getting half of the game right with Sonic Unleashed and an entire game done right with the Wii's Sonic Colors, it seemed that Sonic Team had a good handle on what fans wanted out of 3D Sonic the Hedgehog games. For the 20th anniversary, the developer wanted to set out to make the ultimate Sonic the Hedgehog game, and that game was none other than Sonic Generations. The HD versions sported magnificent levels based on every major Sonic the Hedgehog, such as Sonic 1's Green Hill Zone, Sonic 2's Chemical Plant Zone, Sonic Adventure's Radical Highway, and even making a level from the worst 3D Sonic (Sonic 2006), Crisis City, actually playable AND enjoyable. Combining two play styles, Classic Sonic's 2.5D levels with Modern Sonic's mostly 3D levels, Sonic Generations turned out to be a stellar entry in the series even with a poor final boss battle and some annoying in-game missions.

7) Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back (PS1)

Crash returned from his original 1996 platforming adventure with Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back. While the gameplay of the original didn't see much in the way of tweaking (after all, if it ain't broke, don't fix it), something that did receive tinkering with, the awful save system from the original Crash Bandicoot, was. This offered a much more enjoyable experience without the headaches and annoyance the original save system caused. The corridor-like levels returned with Crash Bandicoot 2, giving players challenging obstacle course-styled levels that demanded precision and carefully timed jumping. Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back remains my favorite of the Crash Bandicoot trilogy for the original PlayStation.

6) Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus (PS2)

Before Sucker Punch showed us an open world setting with explosive powers from the main character in the Infamous series, they made a trilogy of 3D platformers incorporating careful stealth and action gameplay with the Sly Cooper series. The team of Sly Cooper the Raccoon, Bentley the Turtle, and Murray the Hippo joined forces to commit several capers throughout the series, but the game that stands out for me is the original, Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus. Featuring less open world shenanigans and more straightforward level design, Sly Cooper's first platforming/stealth offering delivered amazing level design, a cast of fun characters, and a great dynamic between the Sly Cooper squad. From avoiding deadly laser grids to hiding from colossal enemies, Sly Cooper's premiere outing was a fantastic adventure.

5) Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy (PS2)

After parting ways with Crash Bandicoot, Naughty Dog designed a new duo of platforming icons in the form of the silent Jak and his comic relief, Daxter. Built as a game modeled after 3D platformers like Super Mario 64 and Banjo-Kazooie where the goal was to collect special objects from doing specific platforming tasks and other challenges, Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy delivered a copious amount of difficult but always fair platforming, expansive interconnected worlds (with seldom a loading screen), and intense boss battles. It's just a shame that Naughty Dog lost the plot for the series by turning it in a cringe-inducing, tryhard, edgy take on the 3D platformer inspired by Grand Theft Auto III with the following sequels.

4) Rayman 2: The Great Escape (Multi)

A game so nice that Ubisoft ported it not just twice, but a massive amount of times to a great deal of platforms. The first releases came to the Nintendo 64 and PC. Then it launched on a varied amount of systems for over a decade. We're talking the Dreamcast, PlayStation 2, Nintendo DS, Nintendo 3DS, iOS devices, and more. There was a good reason for this, though, as Rayman 2 is one of the better 3D platformers around, giving players linear 3D obstacle courses to run and jump through as they search for Lums and Teensies-- the latter of which are captured in cages. The worlds' colors were vibrant and popped out, being immensely pleasing to the eye, and the soundtrack was stellar too. Whether rushing down a series of slides in one level or being bombarded with bombs from an attacking airship as you run away, Rayman 2 delivered delightful platforming challenges and tight gameplay.

3) Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando (PS2)

I hold a special spot in my gaming heart for Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando. With so many terrific games in the series to choose from (Up Your Arsenal, A Crack in Time, the 2016 reboot) I finally decided on my first foray with the series, Going Commando. It greatly improved on the original Ratchet & Clank by giving players lots of updates such as the ability to strafe enemy fire, level up weapons and guns through repeated use, and had much more interesting worlds to explore with much more intriguing gadgets. Going Commando combined traditional platforming with a wide repertoire of weaponry to give a pleasant 3D platforming/third-person shooter hybrid. The charm and wit of the series continued from the original Ratchet & Clank, and the adventure in Going Commando remains one of my favorites not just in the Ratchet & Clank series itself but in any 3D platformer to date.

2) Banjo-Kazooie (N64, XBLA)

My personal favorite collect-a-thon-style 3D platformer, I actually prefer Banjo-Kazooie to Super Mario 64. While there is no question that Rare's first 3D platformer would not exist without Mario's first foray into 3D, Rare managed to take the lessons learned from Super Mario 64 and create a wonderful game. Perhaps I like Banjo-Kazooie more than Mario's premier 3D outing because it was not just platforming-centric but it also featured a ton of exploration through its expansive worlds. Collecting the Jiggies to open up new worlds, gathering Musical Notes to open doors in Gruntilda's Lair-- the hub world of the game, finding Jinjos that had five each in every world, and transforming into a wide array of objects and animals thanks to local voodoo magician Mumbo Jumbo were all enjoyable things to do in Banjo-Kazooie. Banjo-Tooie would release several years later, but it proved that bigger doesn't necessarily mean better. Instead, it can show that a game too big can overwhelm the player.

1) Super Mario Galaxy (Wii)

Despite Super Mario 64 being a much greater revolution to gaming than Super Mario Galaxy, I hold the Wii's first 3D Mario with higher esteem due to how much it absolutely blew me away with both its astonishing, masterful level design and the gravity mechanic the game displayed. Each planetoid no matter how big or how small incorporated some kind of gravity to it. This meant Mario could leap from planetoid to planetoid or even make a huge long jump that saw him fly around the planetoid in midair for several seconds without ever touching its surface. The various platforming challenges that the gravity mechanic gave players were tremendous in design and execution, constantly showcasing new obstacles and tests for players' skills. The inventiveness of the level design was something that never failed surprise, while the controls were as top notch and as great-feeling as ever. Super Mario Galaxy may not have revolutionized the 3D platformer or gaming as much as Super Mario 64, but I find the game to a much better, more imaginative outing for Mario and the genre than ever before or after.