Friday, June 9, 2017

Top Ten Most Anticipated Games of E3 2017

E3 begins very soon! Christmas for gamers, Dawn of the Final Day, and all that fun stuff! With it comes an enormous amount of details on games both new and already announced. Of course, the real fun generally comes from learning about new games that somehow didn't leak out in this digital age, but what about those that have already been officially announced and will most likely be at the show in some way? That's what this Friday night top ten is here for: SuperPhillip Central's Top Ten Most Anticipated Games of E3 2017!

Which already announced games that are most likely going to be shown at E3 2017 are YOU most excited for?

As for SuperPhillip Central? Let's start things off!

10) Everybody's Golf (PS4)

And by starting things off, we begin with a genre of game I'm a sucker for -- arcade golf. While not technically a sim, Everybody's Golf (formerly Hot Shots Golf in North America) is pretty darn challenging as a series and requires patience, determination, and the ability to let out a few (or several hundred) cuss words on missed shots. Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to be selected for the beta of the new PlayStation 4 entry a few weeks ago, as it was limited like entrance to an exclusive country club. Thankfully, unlike those hoity-toity clubs, Everybody's Golf will be accessible to -- well -- everybody, on the E3 show floor. I'm excited to see new gameplay!

9) Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom (PS4, PC)

I haven't done much research on this next game. Heck, I've yet to play the original Ni no Kuni on the PlayStation 3! (Please don't hurt me.) But the visual style, fairy tale like feel, and RPG combat all appeal to me greatly. Seriously, the game looks even more like a Studio Ghibli animated film than the first Ni no Kuni, which already looked like a Studio Ghibli animated movie to begin with. Being engrossed in such a world and being able to interact with it gets me jonesing to find out more about the game. Maybe even play the original, now that I'm thinking about it... Curse you, backlogs!

8) Uncharted: The Lost Legacy (PS4)

Announced late last year at the PlayStation Experience event, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy is a standalone expansion of last year's mega hit and critical darling Uncharted 4. It features two main characters: a person of extreme interest (wink, wink) in Nathan Drake's life, Chloe Frazer, and Nadine Ross, introduced in Uncharted 4. With its release set for August, it's going to be fantastic to have a full blowout of information for this continuation of the Uncharted series now that Nathan Drake's chapter has finally closed.

7) Splatoon 2 (NS)

For those who have already played Splatoon on the Wii U, you probably have an idea on how the sequel on the Nintendo Switch will play when it launches next month. After all, it's a known quality. However, Splatoon 2 has a good deal of new content and gameplay mechanics to make Nintendo's super fresh franchise even fresher, such as a new single player campaign, a new Horde-like multiplayer mode, and who knows what else! I'm eager to see what tricks are left in Splatoon 2's sleeves that haven't been revealed yet. Perhaps we'll see at either Nintendo's pre-recorded show or the Splatoon 2 tournament!

6) Star Wars Battlefront II (PS4, XB1, PC)

Releasing as a major holiday release in the middle of November, I'm hoping Star Wars Battlefront II will be the game that EA's original Star Wars Battlefront should have been -- fully featured, possessing enough solo content to engage players, while retaining the frantic and fun engagements and combat scenarios from the original classics on the PlayStation 2, PC, and Xbox. If there are bots in every mode, this will give DICE good marks in my book as well. While EA and DICE's first attempt at Star Wars Battlefront was indeed lacking, it did bring a steady and solid foundation that I'm really interested to see how it's built upon to make an improved, loved and much desirable sequel.

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

Despite rumors of a disappointing starting roster that have been building up across the net, I'm still quite excited to see the return of the Marvel vs. Capcom series with Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite. It's a game I'm sure competitive players will certainly get a lot of mileage out of with its fast-paced combat, gem system, and 2 vs. 2 battles. Heck, if competitive players could find a lot to love about Street Fighter V when it launched with limited modes and content, then anything's possible, right? As a casual player, I hope that I'm able to enjoy the game at my own pace with my own skill level. In fact, even the starting roster doesn't dissuade me much, as it has a character I've long wanted for the series, Mega Man X!

4) Xenoblade Chronicles 2 (NS)

A common debate (sometimes even an argument) among Nintendo fans on message boards and comment sections is when is Xenoblade Chronicles 2 going to release. The music has been confirmed to have been completed, which is one of the final things gone in production, and Nintendo itself has said 2017 for the release year. Others think it's going to get delayed, either early into next year or possibly later. What ever the case may be, developer Monolith Soft has yet to fail with the Xenoblade name. We've only seen one trailer of the game, and that was back in January at the Nintendo Switch unveiling press conference in Japan, so it's about time the curtain gets fully pulled back on Monolith Soft's latest.

3) Spider-Man (PS4)

Insomniac Games has a proven track record of excellent action games under its collective belt, so to me, trusting the developer behind games like Ratchet & Clank, Resistance, and Sunset Overdrive with Spider-Man was a phenomenal decision on the part of Sony. Not only will Insomniac most likely nail the action -- the unadulterated joy of swinging through Manhattan -- but the team will also nail the humor of the webhead. While I don't anticipate the game coming out soon, I'm just looking forward to seeing more of what Insomniac Games has done with the spectacular Spider-Man's PlayStation 4 exclusive.

2) God of War (PS4)

At long last, Kratos isn't obnoxiously angry all the time and a ridiculous version of an adolescent male's power fantasy! Don't get me wrong though, the previous God of War games were a great deal of fun, but the formula started to wear thin, as of course, did the character Kratos himself. With a new scope, a new story, and a new focus, the God of War series' debut on PlayStation 4 is without question my most anticipated game currently announced for Sony's system. I'm eager to view a new trailer, get fresh gameplay insights from players and journalists, and just see more of the game in general.

1) Super Mario Odyssey (NS)

Mario got me into gaming back on the original Nintendo, so when the first trailer for Super Mario Odyssey premiered this past January at Nintendo's Switch unveiling event, I couldn't contain myself and had to burst out a continuous smile throughout the whole video. Although Super Mario Galaxy and its sequel are two of my favorite games of all time, Odyssey is a grand return to the sandbox, platforming playground style of Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine that had been long since abandoned (for more than a decade to be exact). While I'm not foaming at the mouth literally to see new footage of the game, counting the days to finally see a gameplay and content blowout of Nintendo's big holiday game is driving me a bit batty. However, I know it will all be worth it on Tuesday. In my 30 years with Mario, the portly plumber seldom fails to deliver.

Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown (PS4, XB1, PC) E3 2017 Trailer

GameSpot got a nice exclusive for its site in the form of the E3 2017 trailer for Namco Bandai's Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown. Showing off both story elements with some of the most intense aerial combat the series has ever known, Ace Combat 7's trailer and showing for E3 2017 makes the wait until next year for its release much more harder!

Ever Oasis (3DS) Overview Trailer

Ever Oasis is Grezzo's first new IP with Nintendo. The developer previously made remakes of both Nintendo 64 Legend of Zelda games, Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask on Nintendo 3DS. With help of Koichi Ishii, creator of the Mana series of games, this town-building, dungeon-exploring, action-RPG battling Nintendo 3DS exclusive releases two weeks from today in North America. Sure, the attention of Nintendo fans might be on the Switch, E3 2017, and ARMS, but don't let Ever Oasis slip past you. I have a feeling it might be something truly special!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

The Girl and the Robot (Wii U) Review

From one indie game covered yesterday to another! Today we look at The Girl and the Robot from Flying Carpet Games. It originally released on the PC last year, but this review takes a look at the recently released Wii U port. Let's check it out, together!

This fairy tale doesn't quite have a happy ending.

The Wii U started out with some promise, but as we all know, the system fizzled out rather quickly. The big third-party developers quickly passed on the system, but indie devs who crowdfunded their projects on Kickstarter for Nintendo's platform didn't really get much of a choice to disappoint those who funded their works. Many indies who planned their games on the Wii U were fortunate to release their titles before the Nintendo Switch caught on with the public like Beanie Babies in the '90s, therefore having an audience still on the Wii U for them.

Other developers weren't so fortunate -- and through no fault of their own. The Girl and the Robot is one of these games, and this indie game just missed the Wii U audience that mostly has moved on to the Switch or left the Wii U in general. Should those that moved on take out their dusty Wii U GamePad or Pro Controller and play The Girl and the Robot?

Seeing the girl and the robot together is really heartwarming. 
The Girl and the Robot is a dual protagonist game, having players take the role of none other than the eponymous girl and robot. The girl can do things like climb up certain walls and crawl through tiny spaces, but she has no means to defend herself. If an enemy marches up to her, they will automatically capture her, resulting in an automatic game over. Meanwhile, the robot can attack enemies with his sword as well as fire arrows to attack both mechanical creature and switches alike. Thus, where the girl has the mobility, the robot has the offense, and the two need one another to progress through the castle in the sky where the girl was once imprisoned.

The execution of how the two play off of and require one another to progress through the sky prison is handled well. You can easily switch between the two characters with a press of a button, and the robot can even pick up the girl, having her riding on his shoulder to transport both around at once for convenience's sake. The puzzles that the game unleashes onto players aren't anything too wild or out of the ordinary. You have switch puzzles, box-pushing puzzles, pressure plate puzzles -- the list goes on. While those wouldn't normally turn heads or impress by themselves, how they're done by switching between the two playable characters effectively is what had me taken aback at times in wonder.

An example of one of many puzzles in the game where working together is the only way to move forward.
Where The Girl and the Robot succeeds in its puzzles and exploration, the game ultimately fails with its combat. What you're dealing with when playing as the robot is much like trying to play the game as The Wizard of Oz's Tin Man, who wasn't much of a flexible character at all, if you remember. Sword combat is unsatisfying at best, having the robot's weapon sloppily swing around at enemies with no hint of substantial impact with the foe it's fighting. Movement is also a problem, feeling supremely stiff and sluggish. Turning feels like our robot friend needs a severe oil change, as it's also quite slow. Bow aiming became my preferred method for engaging enemies, when possible. Some might have an issue with needing to stand still when aiming and shooting, but as a fierce fan of Resident Evil 4 (one of my favorite games of all time, as many longtime followers of me know) it didn't bother me in the slightest.

Please stay back! I prefer to use my bow because the sword combat and robot movement aren't very good!
The major problem with the combat is that it's something I struggled with even early on in the game, and as it progressed, the combat scenarios only got more challenging, and thus, more frustrating to contend with. In a game I'm otherwise enjoying, it certainly stunk to go through The Girl and the Robot playing a fun part of the game while constantly, absolutely dreading that the next section would be a combat-intensive one. Thankfully, after engagements where your robot WILL take lots of damage, the girl can always heal it to full health. Otherwise this game might have been wholly impossible for me.

The Girl and the Robot uses a fairy tale style with its art and presentation. What would be very unimpressive with just its basic textures, its visuals are made better with the game's use of water-color coated visuals. However, despite its empty and barren areas, the game still manages to suffer from frame-rate problems. Some more time in the oven to slick up the game with some more polish would have been greatly preferred. On the sound side, sound effects are lacking in either sounding poorly or just being missing altogether. That said, the music flourishes that come in every now and then and the soundtrack itself leaves less to be desired and is quite good.

While no doubt the developer wanted the Wii U port of The Girl and the Robot out as quickly as possible to not languish with limited sales on a system most have already moved on from (if they were ever there), some more polish would have been beneficial to the port. The lack of off-TV play (unless it's really hidden in there on how to activate it) was a severe bummer, and simply controlling the robot was a less thrilling prospect -- especially in combat -- than I would have liked. Overall, The Girl and the Robot is an interesting game with a heartfelt tale to tell, but it's tough to want to see it to the end when the obstacles are some gameplay and performance frustrations.

[SPC Says: C-]

Review copy provided by Flying Carpet Games.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Skylar & Plux: Adventure on Clover Island (PS4, XB1, PC) Review

Last Friday we took a look at one indie game that was a 2D platformer in the style of Zelda II, and that game was Elliot Quest. Today, we take a look at an indie game that's a 3D platformer in the style of many PS2 era games of that genre, Skylar & Plux: Adventure on Clover Island. Here's my review.

A game neither a cat-astrophe or owl-ful (but these puns sure were)

Many (or at least some) of SuperPhillip Central's readers most likely grew up playing games like Ratchet & Clank, Jak and Daxter, Sly Cooper, and the like. And that's what Skylar & Plux: Adventure on Clover Island most reminds me of: the gameplay and style of PlayStation 2 era 3D platformers. This is where going from one destination to another through an assortment of graphically detailed obstacle courses was preferred over moving around a platforming playground collecting things like the generation of 3D platformers before it. The game ends up being a fun one, but one with some cat-veats. (Sorry.)

And the PS2 era 3D platformer most similar to Skylar & Plux is none other than Ratchet & Clank, which as a big fan of Insomniac Games' series, made me quite pleased. The similarities aren't the largest, but things like the humorous writing, gadgets that can be picked up like the jet pack to help make higher jumps or hover to cover more distance, and a fusion of sci-fi technology and earthly worlds that is heavily pronounced.

Skylar pounces and bounces on these green mushrooms.
The majority of Skylar & Plux occurs on Clover Island, as the subtitle of the game would lead you to believe. The first area of the game sees Skylar by herself, having broken free from her captivity thanks to a sentient arm that was forcibly attached to her. Skylar then goes off to find a way off the ship of the villainous and mysterious CRT. This section of the game is, of course, the tutorial, offering tips on the simplest of maneuvers, such as jumping, double jumping, attacking, and tethering to objects a la Ratchet & Clank's Swingshot (there's the mention of that game again!).

Tether to objects like hanging claws to swing from one side of a gap to the other with style.
When Skylar arrives on Clover Island, she meets a peppy owl named Plux who has been on Clover Island for a while, feverishly anticipating the return of his father for what seems like an eternity. The two pair up as CRT has turned his attention to taking over Clover Island and squeezing out every last resource of it before destroying the island and its inhabitants, the Lo'a. After a brief platforming sequence leading to the hub of Clover Island, the Lo'a village, Skylar meets the village elder and the real fun begins.

Remember, Skylar: It's sand at this beach, not kitty litter.
The three main areas of Clover Island are brilliantly varied, ranging from a bright and colorful beach leading to a frigid and high-up mountain pass to a derelict desert with quicksand and a temple with some puzzles to solve to get a giant tree to grow larger and larger, each growth allowing Skylar to access higher points of the temple by climbing up the tree's leaves. The areas of the game aren't just for getting through them and solving puzzles either. There is some collecting to be done in the form of orange crystals that not only serve as a smart means of waypoint-like devices to give players an idea of main paths to follow in areas, but also to heal lost hearts and spend money to unlock the cages that trapped Lo'a are locked inside of. When enough Lo'a have been freed from their imprisonments, the village elder will bestow unto Skylar an extra piece of health to work with.

Impressive lighting effects and expansive areas make for plenty of eye candy in Skylar & Plux.
Areas in Skylar & Plux are absolutely massive, but this unfortunately leads to some performance problems. An area can load, most notably during overviews of entered new locales, and show textures that don't appear quickly enough in sight of the camera. The frame-rate can also suffer and quite heavily so, particularly in encounters with an abundance of foes. Still, these performance problems only mildly affected my enjoyment of the game.

Well, if we have to reach the top of this mountain, we better start hiking!
While Skylar & Plux has a great amount of variety in its areas, platforming segments, uses of acquired gadgets (like using the magnetic glove to carry an iron ball to its necessary location or slowing down blazing fast flipping platforms to safely cross them), and puzzles, it lacks something key: longevity. Skylar & Plux can be fully completed in less than five hours. This includes getting all of the achievements as well. While it lasts, the ride is quite appealing, but seeing how fast you're making progress and then the game ending just feels disappointing. You're left with a desire to have more content, and even looking for and discovering the cleverly hidden caged Lo'a villagers in all parts of the game doesn't present as much content as I would have liked. Additionally, there are only three enemy types throughout the whole experience, though this isn't too bad. Unfortunately, the reason, however, is because the game's so short that it doesn't really matter.

Skylar & Plux: Adventure on Clover Island is pleasant and lovely a platformer. It gives me the feel of playing a PS2-era 3D platformer with even more graphical pizzazz (though regrettably, less polish). If more time could have been taken to beef up the amount of content in the game while keeping the gameplay, platforming, and level design quality as high as the game already is now, then both the publisher and developer would have a real gem on their collective hands. As it is, Skylar & Plux is enjoyable but could have been so much more, and this limits its appeal greatly. As a 3D platformer lover, however, the time I spent with Skylar & Plux was worthwhile.

[SPC Says: C+]

Review copy provided by Grip Digital.

Dissidia Final Fantasy NT (PS4) Announcement Trailer

After being in Japanese arcades for a while and ideas of the game appearing on the PlayStation 4, Dissidia Final Fantasy is now officially coming to Sony's system with Dissidia Final Fantasy NT. This new fighting game in the series boasts an all-star cast of Final Fantasy heroes and villains, a new story, and new experience systems to boost character customization! Planned for an early 2018 release, we're sure to see and hear more about Dissidia Final Fantasy NT at E3 next week!

Monday, June 5, 2017

SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs - "Anniversary Antics" Edition

As stated in an earlier post today, June 5, 2017 is SuperPhillip Central's nine-year anniversary! Let's continue the celebration with the Favorite VGMs! Every week around this day I post five new video game themes, sometimes themed, most of the time not so much.

This week we have a varied selection of games, as we usually are wont to have. Beginning with Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 (and I'd be lying if I said it wasn't due to hype of Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite), we hear an electric character selection theme. Moving on from there is a tense flight track from the Wii U game Star Fox Zero. Two PlayStation 2 classics then follow: Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King and Gran Turismo 4. Finally, we round this celebratory edition of the Favorite VGMs out with another racing game, Mario Kart DS.

Just click on the VGM volume name to hear that song in YouTube form. Finally, click on the VGM Database link here to see all past VGMs featured on this weekly segment of SuperPhillip Central. Now, let's get on to the music!

v1411. Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 (Multi) - Character Select

Using the main theme of Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 as the base for the character select theme, this is certainly much different and, at least for me, more exciting than hearing "Gonna Take You for A Ride" for the umpteenth time in a Marvel vs. Capcom game. The composer behind Ultimate and the base Marvel vs. Capcom 3 game before it, Hideyuki Fukasawa, also did the music for Street Fighter IV, its many bonus versions, and Street Fighter V.

v1412. Star Fox Zero (Wii U) - Sector Omega

Sector Omega is the penultimate mission in the quite polarizing Star Fox Zero. Its blistering fast speeds through space debris and enemy ships is an exhilarating ride all to itself. Coupled with the exciting theme, Sector Omega is one wild trip through the stars. It all concludes with an updated take on Star Fox 64's alternate Corneria path boss, this time in full 3D.

v1413. Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King (PS2) - Majestic Castle ~ Gavotte de Chateau

Unfortunately, with all of its improvements and upgrades from the original PlayStation 2 version, the Nintendo 3DS port of Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King lacks the orchestrated goodness found in the PS2 game. Regardless, we've previously come across two great VGM volumes based on the PS2 base game, and that continues with this third for Gavotte de Chateau, a majestic theme for a majestic castle.

v1414. Gran Turismo 4 (PS2) - Green Monster

The Bad performed this track, an updated version of a theme from the very first Gran Turismo. It feels much more fitting for our current millennium. Green Monster is one of just a small fraction of wholly original themes that can be played while racing in the ultimate driving simulator. Everything else is mostly commercial music. Still, tracks like Green Monster certainly hold their own compared to all else on the Gran Turismo 4 soundtrack.

v1415. Mario Kart DS (DS) - Circuit

For our last VGM volume of our edition of SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs, celebrating nine years of SPC, we move from a realistic driving and racing game to a completely arcade and cartoon one with Mario Kart DS. This entry remains one of my favorites with its fun tracks and most of all, its Mission Mode. I could very much do without pulling off continuous mini-turbos to perform a "snaking" mechanic, but overall, I really enjoyed Mario Kart DS.

A Special Word from SuperPhillip Central's Owner and Operator

Welcome to a rather special occasion here at SuperPhillip Central. Nine years ago on June 5, 2008, I began SuperPhillip Central. It wasn't much to talk about: a banner, a template, some reviews, and sharing news and posts from all corners of the Internet. However, over the years things improved. I got my footing on how to write reviews in a more in-depth and professional way (no more listing what EVERY button and motion on Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition does or speaking like a forum console warrior) and learned how to write fun, more positive articles rather than find myself stuck focusing heavily on what's wrong in the industry (though I do sometimes still do that).

It's now nine years later. SuperPhillip Central has nearly 2.5 million page views, more than 3,000 unique blog posts, over 750 reviews  and interviews with talent in the industry, from Shovel Knight's creators to now-defunct studios like the folks at n-Space, makers of Nintendo's Geist and Square Enix's Heroes of Ruin.

In this time I have finally graduated from college, a process that took 12 years of on and off work. I have matured and am greatly improved mentally to ward off episodes of bipolar depression thanks to a combination of a close support system (family and friends) and helpful medication. Now, I am seeking long term employment to assist in writing the next chapter of my life.

I hope SuperPhillip Central will continue to be a part of that next chapter and then some. It's been a constant source of allowing to be creative, play games, have contacts in the industry, and make some fantastic new friends. When I'm feeling down, writing content for SPC seems to help.

And I hope you will continue to be a part of SuperPhillip Central's future as well. Your readership, your responses to stories, just your presence on the site has made me want to keep at this, now 9 years later. None of my work is done in a bubble or just for me. It's because of you. Please keep supporting SuperPhillip Central, and I promise to keep supporting you, my readers, with the type of content you like and expect from me-- the type of contact that keeps you coming back, whether daily, weekly, monthly, or just every so often. Thank you!

Best wishes for a bright future,
Phil "SuperPhillip" Stortzum