Friday, June 2, 2017

Elliot Quest (PS4, XB1, 3DS) Review

It's only June 2nd, but already SuperPhillip Central has its first review of the month, hot off our look at May's reviews. It's for an early release in May that originally appeared on the Wii U two years ago. It's Elliot Quest for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo 3DS with the PS4 version being what this review was based on.

An inspired take on an underrated Zelda game makes Elliot Quest a winner

There are a multitude of games that have gotten inspiration from the original Legend of Zelda on the Nintendo Entertainment System. However, it seems like its sequel, Zelda II: Adventure of Link doesn't receive half the love from fans as well as developers, but Ansimuz Games happily took direct inspiration from Link's second NES adventure with its take on the 2D action-adventure side-scroller formula. The end result is Elliot Quest, now available on PlayStation 4. Xbox One, and Nintendo 3DS.

Starting off in the game, Elliot is limited in his abilities. All he can do is jump and attack through the means of unleashing an unlimited supply of arrows from his bow. As Elliot defeats enemies, he's gains experience in an RPG-like leveling up system that grants him a skill point for each level he reaches. Skill points can then be used to upgrade one of five categories which affect everything from how fast Elliot can fire arrows, how much of a reach his arrows have, possibilities for critical hits, the chance to heal double the health from a single heart, and much more. Obnoxiously, death results in a loss of experience, and considering how easy it is to die in Elliot Quest, you might find Elliot stuck at a specific level for a slightly extended (and frustrating) period of time.

The first main area to play around in here in Elliot's journey.
The goal of Elliot Quest is to satisfy... Elliot's... quest... *clears throat* of defeating four guardians around the island he inhabits. There's certainly some mystery surrounding what accomplishing this will do, but that adds to the mystique of the story. Some characters encourage you throughout your mission while others ridicule you.

And all this lava serpent wanted was a vacation here in the Fire Temple.
Now he's about to be another number on Elliot's kill count.
The guardians are located in four temples spread around the island. These feature some really clever puzzles, fierce enemies of great varieties (part of the fun is figuring out how to best beat a particular foe), tricks and traps to worry about, and plenty of platforming opportunities to engage in. Like a typical Zelda game, these temples possess things like maps, keys to unlock doors, a Master Key which opens right up to the boss chamber, and a special item that allows full access to the entire dungeon. Guardian battles are enjoyable and tough bouts that really demand persistence, patience, and uncover just how to deal damage to the foe. After a guardian in Elliot Quest is defeated, a temple in the southernmost beach of the island has one of its pillars light up.

The Ice Temple's guardian looks rather heated for an ice-based boss!
The majority of gameplay and time spent in Elliot Quest isn't even in the guardian temples. The island is home to forests, deserts, caves, mountains, and plains that have an equal amount of platforming, exploration, and combat to them. There is no shortage of treasure chests to uncover, heart pieces to acquire, magic meter upgrades to nab, and goodies to discover.

The island itself is traveled around on a world map, not unlike Zelda II's. It even has enemy sprites that result in enemy ambushes in open field areas. Locations that Elliot can enter and discover are marked with an exclamation point once he reaches them, so thorough exploration is a must if you want to find everything in the game: all the items, all health upgrades, all of the destinations, all of the crystals, all of the optional (and quite difficult) bosses, and bonus dungeons.

Rock-spitting sand worms? Just another day in the desert for Elliot.
The world map is open and especially after the second half of the island is available to explore, there are a plethora of destinations that Elliot can visit. A problem with this is that it might be a bit too open, as many times I would enter a new area only to get halfway through with a door requiring a certain number of crystals that I didn't have or a platform that required a special item I was lacking. This resulted in a lot of backtracking, and of the most tedious kind, to be found in Elliot Quest. Fast travel is limited to a consumable feather that automatically transports you to a specific town. Otherwise, you have to move from one side of the island to the other on your own, with each major section divided up by an area you must play through. That said, shortcuts do open up from time to time as new special items and magical abilities are earned and learned respectively. Until they do open up, however, backtracking is a mandatory thing.

As stated, Elliot earns and learns a nice and varied amount of special items and magic. Each guardian defeated opens the way to a new magic ability, such as the power for Elliot to launch flames from his bow, incinerating wood with ease, or the ice magic, allowing Elliot the ability to freeze enemies and use them as blocks to reach higher places. On the special item side, things like double jumps, dashes, bounces off the heads of enemies, and more are gained for Elliot to more easily venture across the island and defeat foes.

Yearning for more air? Get the double jump ability for Elliot to reach higher areas.
Elliot Quest is quite a lengthy journey, and especially so if you're playing blind (i.e. without a guide or help of any type). There's a significant amount of things to find, places to uncover, and bosses to take out. There are also three different endings, depending on how you play, though beating the game three times with slight changes in what you do to get the good, neutral, and evil endings might be a bit much, even for achievement and trophy hunters out there. Speaking of which, I know at least one achievement/trophy is impossible to get currently, one which requires you to get the Forest Maze map. Without fail, the game crashes every time you enter the room where the map is supposed to be.

While we're talking about performance, Elliot Quest sports some pleasant retro art. The sprites themselves don't do much to impress for me, but they are all serviceable. What truly amazed me were the backgrounds and color palettes on display. Having Elliot and enemies show up in silhouette form with a beige desert background in the distance was one of the highlights for me visually. Then, there is just the immaculate amount of details in the environments and architecture that I really enjoyed seeing. The music of Elliot Quest is more A Link to the Past-inspired rather than Zelda II. Hey, if the gameplay is pretty much Zelda II-based that doesn't mean the entire game has to be!

The environments of Elliot Quest are the most appealing to me in this presentation package.
Elliot Quest is a really rewarding and quite challenging game. It's mostly rewarding after getting through a particularly challenging section of the game, or finding a super secret item or passage on your own without any help. It certainly takes a page out of Zelda II: Adventure of Link, but it also writes its own unique and original chapters to form a book that doesn't feel like some lame "wannabe" of Nintendo's game. Instead, it feels like a remarkably crafted game that has its own personality, original mechanics, and engrossing island to explore.

[SPC Says: B]

Review copy provided by PlayEveryWare.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Review Round-Up - May 2017

New features like an updated and upgraded Battle Mode made this version
of Mario Kart one of the series' absolute best.
The Review Round-Up here at SuperPhillip Central began back in 2009 as a way to showcase and highlight all past reviews for a given month. Sometimes it spans multiple months, but that surely isn't the case for this Review Round-Up!

We began big for the month of May with Guerrilla Games' Horizon: Zero Dawn, which scored a fantastic A-. With the NHL Stanley Cup Finals underway, Old Time Hockey on PlayStation 4 and Steam might be a nice alternate take on the game on the ice. It was given a C-. The wacky but insanely fun multiplayer delight, Snipperclips - Cut it out, Together!, got itself a wonderful B grade. Following that was Inti Creates' Blaster Master Zero, which definitely impressed with its old school, Metroid-style goodness, getting a B+ overall.

All of those game reviews (and all the ones in previous Review Round-Ups) led the way to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, SuperPhillip Central's 750th published review. The game was even better than its Wii U original, racing across the finish line to an A grade. Finally, for SPC's Local Game Dev Day, Happy Badger Studio's SmuggleCraft (C) and Well Bred Rhino's Last Stitch Goodnight (B) both got the SPC review treatment by yours truly.

SuperPhillip Central heats up in a big way even before summer officially begins with a special treat on Monday: the site's nine-year anniversary! Including that, there are some interesting reviews that will be posted that I hope you enjoy. Let's make the march towards 800 reviews, together!

Horizon: Zero Dawn (PS4) - A-
Old Time Hockey (PS4, Steam) - C-
Snipperclips - Cut it out, together! (NS) - B
Blaster Master Zero (NS, 3DS) - B+
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (NS) - A
SmuggleCraft (PS4, Steam) - C
Last Stitch Goodnight (PS4, Steam) - B

Let's not forget about the first review of May, though. Horizon: Zero Dawn brought a touching story, pristine presentation, and strong gameplay to back it all up.

Central City Census - June 2017

It's a new month, and it's a special one for SuperPhillip Central as well. More on that in the Review Round-Up! For now, let's take a look at the voting results for the Central City Census for May 2017.

The Central City Census asked which of the big three's E3 presentations--Microsoft, Nintendo, or Sony's-- is the one you're most looking forward to. Despite not being a traditional stage presentation, Nintendo won out big this poll. Of course, a new console which has everyone wondering what other games are on the way will do that! Sony excites me as well, as PlayStation does with many of our voters here. Microsoft didn't get as much excitement, even with Scorpio being unveiled in an extravaganza-like capacity. I personally hope for some fresh new IP or returning favorites that aren't Xbox's usual trio of Halo, Gears, and Forza.

This month's Central City Census is for June, and for many, that's the start of summer, a perfect time to game outside or stay inside with a handheld gaming device. The question the CCC poses this month is how much handheld gaming you like to do.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

First Things First: Best Openings in Gaming - Part Four

Last week we took a look at some of the best gaming title screens in gaming's history. Today, we're gazing our eyeballs at the thing that usually come at the start of the game, those wondrous game openings! If a title screen is a like a book's cover, then would that make an interesting opening its prologue chapter? Ooh, the analogies go deep here! This edition of Best Openings in Gaming features Persona 5 (we can't seem to get away from that game!), Final Fantasy Tactics (a series in general we can't seem to get away from), and Super Street Fighter IV, to start things off!

Check out the three previous parts of Best Openings in Gaming with these links:

(And just click on each game name to watch its opening!)

Let's begin with a recent release that oozes style, from its title screen, to its characters, to its menus, and yes, to its opening. Persona 5's opening shows off the main cast involved in dancing and other shenanigans throughout a red, black, and white color schemed city. The characters are introduced one by one as they paint, dance, move mysteriously, type furiously, and grind through Tokyo. All the while an insanely catchy vocal theme plays. Despite its relatively brief 1 minute and 35 second running time, Persona 5 packs a lot of vivid imagery and magic into its opening.

Starting off with a sensational confrontation between Ryu and Ken in a heavily artistic clash along the coast, waves pounding, Hadokens launching, Super Street Fighter IV's opening mixes with pure fist and foot fighting with some moments of levity. Showcasing countless characters in engaging scenes like Chun-Li and Cammy taking on Juri, the aforementioned Ryu and Ken battle, and Cody breaking out of jail to be part of the festivities, this opening is one that has stayed with me and many Street Fighter IV fans long after the game came out and will continue doing so even with Street Fighter V being the newest flavor.

Searching for a cure to his deathly-ill daughter, our main character in Nier isn't the typical protagonist for a Japanese game. He's quite old, and Nier's opening isn't your typical opening either. It shows off both story elements (though without context) and gameplay sequences, including lots and lots of action. The haunting choir theme that plays during everything makes the scenes even more striking and strong to witness. It gets one pumped to play Nier, and as its successor Nier: Automata recently shipped 1.5 million copies across retail and digital, what better time than the present to jump into the rousing and riveting adventure that was the original Nier?

Of all of the openings on this edition's list, Final Fantasy Tactics' opening is probably my favorite of the bunch. I'll never forget the chills down my spine as the music went into a crescendo, the Final Fantasy Tactics name appeared letter by letter, and the main theme blared as the full name appeared. The opening itself is a means to show off the main staff of the game while showing a squad of Chocobo-riding soldiers on their way to a destination. Through forests, rock beds, plains, and more, the squad closes in on their desired location which ends up being a monastery. This will be the beginning to the flashback chapters of Final Fantasy Tactics, one of my favorite openings and one of my favorite games in the franchise.

Shifting from fantasy to phantasy, Phantasy Star Online: Episode I & II released on the Nintendo GameCube and Xbox with a totally different opening compared to the Dreamcast original. While the Dreamcast opening focused a lot on the events leading up to the story in the game, Episode I & II puts its focus on the world of the game and its characters, particularly its classes. The different classes are highlighted, showcasing their abilities and all the various combinations of costumes and weaponry players can outfit their custom character with. This is accented by a slightly altered but still powerful rendition of The Whole New World (No, not the Aladdin one). 

While the North American version of Gran Turismo 4's opening enters into its own jam (specifically Van Halen's Panama) after the introduction of series theme Moon Over the Castle plays, the Japanese version of the game plays the entire piece. Gran Turismo 4 starts out like an indie art film, with a director who really, REALLY loves race cars. The pans and rotations around the various cars in landmarks locations and seeing a white majestic car pull out of the garage while the chorus sings is a glorious start to the opening. Then the rocking part of Moon Over the Castle jams in as fast-paced imagery flies by, views of tracks, cars effortlessly taking corners and turns, and races of unimaginable excitement. An opening as solid as the driving simulator the game markets itself as, Gran Turismo 4 has got the goods and wraps up this edition of Best Openings in Gaming. 

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Lost Sphear (NS, PS4, PC) Reveal Trailer

Lost Sphear was announced in the wee hours of the morning, the next project by Tokyo RPG Factory, the makers of I Am Setsuna. This planned early 2018 release has a lot of environmental variety already compared to Setsuna, and here's hoping the overall game is as enjoyable if not more so. Lost Sphear will release on the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and PC.

Sonic Mania (NS, PS4, XB1, PC) Pre-Order Trailer

Sonic Mania has an official release date now, and this new (and adorable) trailer showcases that date as well as shows off gameplay footage. This includes a look at a new zone, Stardust Speedway's past version. Sonic Mania releases digitally on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on August 15.

SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs - "Tuesdays with Philly" Edition

In honor of Memorial Day in the United States, a day where we honor fallen soldiers (though we should try to do that every day, of course), I wanted to take the Monday off from doing an edition of SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs.

Now, it's Tuesday morning, and the Favorite VGMs are here to start a new week of new content for the site. I hope to have a followup to my Best Title Screens article with a Best Intros article, as well as some reviews for everyone before the month closes out.

Before that, however, let's get to the games that will have songs featured from them for this edition of SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs. We begin with a wonderful version of the Final Fantasy Prelude theme with Final Fantasy XV. Then we shift from a highly epic game to a highly adorable one with Animal Crossing: New Leaf. Following that is one of the best 2D platformers of all time (subjectively speaking, of course), Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze. Finally, Kirby's Dream Land 2 and Dynasty Warriors Gundam (an unlikely duo if there ever was one) wrap things up both game-wise and musically.

Just click on each VGM volume to hear the song it features, and use the VGM Database to listen to all 1400+ past VGM volumes ever spotlighted on this weekly-occurring segment. Now, let's get on to the music!

v1406. Final Fantasy XV (PS4, XB1) - Prelude (for World of Wonder)

Many would remark that Hellfire is one of Final Fantasy XV's soundtrack, but it really doesn't do much for me. But hey, that's why musical tastes are subjective, after all. One track that was showcased in a pre-release trailer for FFXV that absolutely wowed me and cemented my purchase in the game, showing off wildlife and nature within the world, was Yoko Shimomura's absolutely phenomenal version of Nobuo Uematsu's Prelude composition. It's the ultimate Prelude theme in a Final Fantasy game for me.

v1407. Animal Crossing: New Leaf (3DS) - 12PM

It's noon, so that usually meant in the world of Animal Crossing: New Leaf that my character just woke up and totally missed the morning. Oh well! I was always more of a nighttime party-er anyway! And by "nighttime party-er" I mean "playing New Leaf late into the night and into the wee hours of the morning." Each of the 24 real-time hours of Animal Crossing: New Leaf has a unique tune that plays during it, always welcoming players to their little digital bastion away from the worries of the real world.

v1408. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (Wii U) - Amiss Abyss

A level that takes place underwater, Amiss Abyss comes complete with a remarkably chill theme with soft piano melody and pan flute accompaniment. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze doesn't just sport this exquisite Dave Wise-composed soundtrack. It also sports one of the best 2D platforming experiences this side of Mario, Mega Man, and other elites in the genre. Some might even call it the best. Here's hoping like I said a couple of months ago that Tropical Freeze isn't left stuck on the Wii U and will come to the Switch.

v1409. Kirby's Dream Land 2 (GB) - Big Forest

One of the early levels of Kirby's Dream Land 2 takes place in Big Forest. The game introduced multiple animal buddies for Kirby to team up with. This peppy tune for the Big Forest world is a delight to listen to, and it even received an awesome update in the Wii U's Kirby and the Rainbow Curse. Listen to that remix here.

v1410. Dynasty Warriors Gundam (PS3, 360) - The Other Side of the Planet

Let's finish off this edition of SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs with a song from the very first Dynasty Warriors crossover with the long-running Gundam anime series, Dynasty Warriors Gundam. The Other Side of the Planet played a lot in space missions within the game. Not just limited by the ground anymore in certain areas of maps like you were on planet-based missions, your Gundam or mobile suit could soar through the stars, all the while unleashing heck all over your enemies.

Monday, May 29, 2017

ARMS (NS) Answer the Call to ARMS Trailer

ARMS just finished up its initial Global Testpunch demo to let Nintendo Switch owners try out the game and for Nintendo to perform various stress tests on its online servers ahead of the game's mid-June release. While Switch owners wait next weekend for the second Global Testpunch, Nintendo has released a commercial for the game to air on TV in the coming weeks.