Friday, June 30, 2017

ARMS (NS) Review

Time for the fourth and final review of the week for this eighth and final review of June! It's ARMS, and SuperPhillip Central has an in-depth review on Nintendo's big new Switch IP! Let's take a look at it together with my review.

These ARMS get a little sore after awhile.

With the Nintendo Switch, the hype behind Nintendo's home console market is back with a vengeance after an ultra-embarrassing run with the Wii U. Outside of one of the best games of the year (and for some, of all time) with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Nintendo's focus early on with its new console is multiplayer. We've already seen Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Splatoon 2 is on the way later this summer in July, and now a new multiplayer fighting franchise is out under the name of ARMS. Is Nintendo's newest major IP a knockout blow? Well, not quite.

First and foremost, this isn't your typical fighting game here. Nintendo has once again taken a familiar concept and genre and turned it on its head to make a wholly experience experience. Rather than brawl with normal punches and kicks up close as well as attacks from faraway, the fighters in ARMS stretch and launch out their literal arms at opponents as their means of offense. The arms then swing back in place like elastic.

Not a typical way to attack in video games, but ARMS isn't your typical fighter.
Players choose from one of currently ten characters, select from a set of Arms with different abilities and elements -- one for each hand -- and get thrust into behind-the-back combat against their opponent or group of opponents. The goal in traditional battles is to whittle the enemy's health down before hitting that knockout blow, and you can do this in a variety of ways.

ARMS is a game of reflexes, strategy, and concentration. You can't just wildly swing punches and expect to win. When you launch an Arm, you're open to attack. Yes, you can still move around, but your options for evasion and defense are lessened. While one of your Arms is out, your opponent can take the opportunity to evade and counter with their own Arm attack, or worse yet, grab you by launching both of their Arms at the same time for a great deal of damage at your expense. Movement is key in ARMS, as you don't want to telegraph where you're going to your enemy, so a combination of dashing and jumping is required.

It's also fantastic to see that every move in ARMS has a counter to it. The game is properly balanced from the get-go. If you are one to hide behind a guard to block punches, you can easily get grabbed. However, if you're spam-happy with grabbing, all it takes is one punch to your oncoming grab to block it. 

While Twintelle's grab attempt has made her vulnerable, Spring Man can take advantage with an attack.
This goes with the titular Arms in ARMS as well. In the game, Arms have numerous abilities, advantages, and disadvantages to consider. For one, each Arm is grouped within three weight classes: light, medium, and heavy. While a heavy punch will easily deflect lighter weight Arms in a head-to-head match-up, they're slow to attack, meaning that a lighter, faster Arm can attack that opponent by doing an evade to the side and then attacking. Different Arms possess different elements to them. By charging them, you can activate an elemental power in to your next punch, whether a punch that engulfs your opponent in flames, freezes them to completely slow their movement, or even shock them into a brief stun.

Master Mummy's Arm attack is on fire thanks to him charging his Arm beforehand.
From arc-flying Thunderbirds that shock and attack a foe from their flanks to Homies that zone in on their opponents before exploding, the Arms in ARMS have so much variation to them in the 30 variants in the game. While all ten playable characters begin with a selection of three, you can use funds earned in-game from battles online and off to engage in a target practice mini-game that allows you to win new, randomly selected Arms. This can be a pain when you want a specific Arm for a specific character since no doubt you'll uncover your favorites, but for me, many times I'd find that I'd go from loving one to discovering another that I instantly became enraptured with. It really depended on my opponent as well. 

This avian Arm variety closes in from the side. Better dash away, Ribbon Girl!
Constantly I'd be up against opponents where I thought I had a solid strategy down in facing them, but then they'd unload on me with this crazy strategy that I had never thought of. The thing of it is, is that like there's no move that can't be countered, no strategy can't be countered either. You have to shift, you have to adapt, and you have to practice to improve.

No more did I learn this than in ARMS' Grand Prix mode, the most basic of basic arcade modes in a fighting game like this. As I played through the beginning Levels, I was winning each series of matches with some issues. As I kept playing more rounds in the same Levels, my skills and knowledge of the game improved, so I could move on to Level 3 and later Level 4 (there are seven ranks in all). A week from starting with ARMS, I could hardly muster beating Level 2 computer opponents, but now I've beaten the AI in Level 4 to see the game's credits. It's not so much getting used to the controls, it's more practicing new techniques like successfully steering your punches into different directions to trip up your foes, jumping while punching, dashing after blocking a punch to counter, and so much more. It definitely helped me beat the Grand Prix's Level 4 more consistently, as the AI in general is one tough customer, as many players will tell you -- even on the most basic of difficulties. 

Unfortunately, Grand Prix is a very limited mode. You play through ten matches against all of the characters in the ARMS lineup as well as the upcoming free DLC fighter, Max Brass. Each fight has you needing to win two matches to move on before your opponent does. Thankfully, rematches are available if you lose. Some rounds involve ARMS' three mini-games, which will be talked about in a little bit. Later difficulties present you with the true final boss to battle against, and like a lot of fighting games, he's no easy pickings. Despite the initial fun of playing the Grand Prix multiple times, it wears thin, and since it's the only major solo mode available, it makes a recommendation for ARMS players who don't care for local or online multiplayer impossible to do. 

Outside of traditional one-on-one, over-the-shoulder battles, there are modes like V-Ball, which is a take on volleyball where the goal is to hit the ball onto the opposing side's court in any way possible. If the ball is in play for too long, it flashes red before soon dropping whichever court it's currently hovering over, scoring a point for the other team. Meanwhile, Hoops replaces basketballs for opponents. By grabbing an opponent, you can either slam dunk them for two points or throw them from further away for two or three (three only if you're on the outside portion of the court). Finally, Skillshot requires smart timing, usage, and control of your Arms to destroy as many targets as possible while avoiding the Arms of your opponent who is on the other side of the location of the targets. Hitting more targets with one punch of your Arm wields higher points than just hitting one or two at a time.

While not from downtown, Mechanica here has shown an incredible display of basketball ability nonetheless.
A big feature with ARMS and a superb source of longevity for the game is its online offerings. Ranked Mode unlocks once you beat Grand Prix at Level 4 or above. If you've managed to take on the AI opponents of the Grand Prix's highest levels, then you're ready to challenge ARMS' best of the best in ranked matches. Meanwhile, Party Mode is a more casual experience, having 10-20 players in one lobby. Matches happen on the fly between opponents for up to four players in one single match. The game's lobbies have it so players are paired between different opponents and match types constantly (such as 1-on-1, 2-on-2, 1-on-1-on-1, and free-for-all; as well as V-Ball, Hoops, and Skillshot) This make it so you seldom have a wait time while you're online. Even if you do, you can practice playing while in the lobby or happily look on to see health bars dropping, rage modes occurring, and when matches end. ARMS plays fantastically online with limited lag, a much better online experience than another Nintendo Switch online game, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, which wasn't even that bad to begin with!

Finally, what makes ARMS so appealing to me is in the designs and abilities of the actual characters. Nintendo's designers have amassed a solid roster of fighter oozing with tons of style and even a little substance as each character's personality comes through in their designs. You have Spring Man, which is a bit of your Mario of ARMS, but his special ability is that his attacks are automatically charged up when his health drops to a dangerous amount. Then, one of my favorite characters, Ribbon Girl, can perform multiple jumps in midair to dodge attacks. Ninjara can vanish and reappear in between dashing to blindside opponents while the slow, tank-like Master Mummy can heal while he guards. 

Each character gets their own arena that is their home turf of sorts. Spring Man's Spring Stadium is surrounded by walls that can be leaped off of for getting a height advantage over opponents while Ribbon Girl's Ribbon Ring has collections of blocks that rise and fall, perfect for cover or also gaining height over an opponent. Mechanica's Scrapyard has destructible pillars as well as an elevated portion of the arena because as many Revenge of the Sith viewers know, it's important to have the high ground in battle. Likewise, some arenas aren't as fun to fight on such as Snake Park which revolves around hovering platforms that can move fast around the arena. It's too much of a gimmick that takes the fun away from and over-complicates ARMS' core fighting. 

Min Min better watch out as not only is this Mechanica's home turf, but she doesn't have the high ground!
For controls, ARMS offers pretty much every controller and control scheme to punch and pummel with. The only one not available is using analog controls with one Joycon in each hand. It needs the peripheral that connects them together for analog controls, meaning if you bought two sets of Joycons, you need another connector to both play locally split Joycon style. While the motion controls do their job (tilting left or right to move, punching in one hand to attack with that hand, punching with both to grab, and so forth), I find for higher level play the possibilities for mistaken maneuvers are much higher than if playing with analog controls. It's surely a load of fun to fly your fists forward to pummel a virtual opponent (and a pleasant workout), but for less casual battles, I preferred to use either the Switch Pro Controller, the Joycons attached to each other, or the Joycons attached to the Switch for handheld play. 

What's a better way to spend a summer's day than with a battle on the beach?
ARMS is a tough game to recommend to anyone wanting a substantial amount of content right from the start. While more features are coming in free content, much like Street Fighter V and Nintendo's own Splatoon worked it out, what we have now is severely limited. The online is solid, and the fighting system is immensely engaging and deep for those who want the most out of it, but if you're bored easily when there aren't enough modes to go back to or new things to unlock, you'll quickly get tired of ARMS. The game is certainly worth playing, but wait until more of the upcoming free DLC rolls out from Nintendo. Otherwise, ARMS has its upper extremities taken care of, but its legs could use some strengthening. 

[SPC Says: B-]

Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas (NS) Review

This is a familiar game on this last day of June. It's been reviewed twice across three different platforms so far. This Nintendo Switch review of Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas is now SuperPhillip Central's third look at the game. What can I say -- I'm a sucker for Legend of Zelda-like adventures! Here's my review of Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas for the Nintendo Switch, recently released on the Nintendo eShop for $14.99.

Doesn't out Zelda Zelda, of course, but Oceanhorn is a competent Zelda-like all the same.

Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas has seen a release on multiple platforms in the past (I even reviewed it once on iOS and then a second time on the PlayStation 4), and now this Zelda-inspired game is on the Nintendo Switch. Finally, a game modeled after Zelda releases for a platform made by the company behind the storied franchise.

You might wonder why you would want to even bother with a secondhand Zelda-like when there is the real deal already on the system and in a big way with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. For one, Oceanhorn doesn't have full 3D movement or even an open world. It's an isometric action-adventure game whose areas span multiple elevations and the like, and exploration is occasionally based off of mastering how to cross the undulating areas for treasure and special points of events. The second reason that Oceanhorn might be of interest to not just Zelda fans but those who crave an actual-adventure game on a budget is that the game is overall rather good. It doesn't make huge strides towards shaking things up or pushing innovation, but Oceanhorn is a consistent and enjoyable gaming experience regardless.

The isometric camera angle and focus on elevation gives Oceanhorn a unique hook despite being a Zelda clone.
Oceanhorn starts off relatively slowly, introducing the basics of the game to players on the Hermit's Island. Your nameless hero wakes up and talks to the titular hermit living on the island, and is tasked with reclaiming his father's sword and shield in a nearby cave. The game doesn't hold your hand like many modern Zelda games had done so before Breath of the Wild, so all you really get for help are optional-to-read signposts along the way. The cave itself introduces simplistic puzzles to solve, but really, most, if not all of Oceanhorn's puzzles throughout the entire experience don't revolve around too much critical thinking. You won't really be perplexed all too long at all by any stretch of the imagination. Other than puzzles, mostly block-pushing fare, there's the typical need to find keys to unlock doors to progress. After you've acquired your dad's sword and shield, the true adventure begins.

It's then that you can go to new islands on the uncharted seas. However, there is a severely limited amount of freedom to do so than say another Legend of Zelda game, the GameCube's Wind Waker. Islands aren't automatically available to you on the ocean map. You have to talk to specific characters and examine certain objects to get keywords that will then open up those places for travel on the ocean. Not every island in the game is mandatory, but the story-related ones are usually quite easy to find their keyword to progress. The optional ones take a modest amount of exploring to uncover through the game.

Don't expect to sail with complete freedom in Oceanhorn. It's much more restricted here.
When you do actually set sail, you merely select an island to move across the ocean towards. Thankfully, if you change your mind on your destination, you can alter your course by selecting a new island mid-trip. At the start of the game, there is little interaction while sailing. You just sit and wait until you arrive at your intended island of choice and that's it. Thankfully, your small boat sails at a speedy enough clip that makes each trip serviceable instead of completely tedious. Once you reach a certain point in the game, you get a seed cannon added to the boat, allowing you to shoot at boxes, mines, and enemies in the water for coins, ammo, and other goodies.

Playing Oceanhorn features controls that are responsive but sluggish combat. Sword swipes don't always hit their targets, so you can sometimes be swinging wildly to no effect, only hitting rocks and walls instead of enemies. That said, movement with the Switch's analog stick is great. Much better than what was offered on mobile, and equal in feel to the PlayStation 4 and I imagine any other dedicated gaming system controls. Only one sub-item and one magic spell can be equipped at once, but they can be cycled through with the up and down directions of the left Joycon's d-pad. Sub-items include Zelda mainstays like bombs and a bow and arrow, but also a boot that allows you to jump over square-long chasms with ease.

Combat is sufficient enough, but does have its slight issues.
Oceanhorn has an upgrade system for your character that rewards you with experience for defeating enemies, uncovering experience shards within treasure chests, and completing certain island goals. These are as simple as reading 10 signs, pushing blocks 100 times, mandatory story-related objectives, and more. When you reach enough experience, your level increases, rewarding you with a new bonus such as the ability to carry more bombs and arrows, an increase to your energy meter, and so forth.

Like any dungeon of value, this forest dungeon has its fair share of puzzles and exploration.
Outside of the isometric view and the experience system, Oceanhorn strays a little too closely to The Legend of Zelda series' formula and structure. For instance, the item set is traditional Zelda, dungeons house small keys, puzzles, and most obviously the Master Key that unlocks the dungeon's main treasure and boss door (very Zelda, that one), and you need to acquire four heart containers to increase your health. But some of the influences of Zelda just aren't executed as well, such as many of the boss battles that feel low in polish.

While this one ups the ante puzzle and challenge-wise.
Despite these moments of error, Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas on the Nintendo Switch is an engaging adventure from beginning to end. Obviously it's been good enough and enjoyable enough that I've managed to play through it on three separate occasions on three different platforms. Each time, of course, I see more and more minor flaws that change my overall thoughts of the game. One part that remains great to me is the presentation with a lovely soundtrack mostly by Kalle Ylitalo with some additions by famous Japanese composers Nobuo Uematsu of Final Fantasy fame and Kenji Ito of Mana and SaGa series fame. The world is colorful and delightful to look at, though with the block-based world design, you can see small holes occasionally between adjacent corners of blocks. It's definitely dated graphically, especially since it was originally a lower budget mobile game from years ago, but I overall like the look of Oceanhorn.

If you want a different kind of Zelda-like gameplay romp on your Nintendo Switch with a campaign that will last you at least 7-10 hours if you're not rushing through just to finish the game but actually exploring the world, then Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas isn't a game you should sleep on. You may have on another platform already, so if that's the case, there really is no benefit of getting the Switch version again unless you really want to have the privilege of switching between docked play and portable play at any time. Oceanhorn is indeed a Zelda clone, but it being isometric and overall competently designed makes it a winner and a fun game to replay in my books -- or, in this case, adventure log.

[SPC Says: B]

Review copy provided by FDG Entertainment.

Splatoon 2 (NS) Answer the Call to Battle Trailer

With Splatoon 2 releasing on July 21, it's just a few weeks now until the game hits the Nintendo Switch. Thus, Nintendo's marketing push has officially begun with this commercial for the funky fresh third-person multiplayer shooter. Nintendo Switch owners, will you be picking up Splatoon 2?

Hey! Pikmin (3DS) Lift-Off Trailer

Nintendo has posted an overview trailer for the end-of-July release, Hey! Pikmin. Showcasing all of the different types of gameplay and features within this Nintendo 3DS game, Hey! Pikmin looks like a nice and fresh take on the Pikmin franchise in a familiar 2D form.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

One & Done: Games Without Sequels - Part Two

Welcome to part two of One & Done, a series of articles on SuperPhillip Central that talks about games that never received sequels. Perhaps they sold badly, were eviscerated by critics and/or fans, just faded away into obscurity, or is a title that now no longer seems marketable or worth the cost to make a sequel for the current market. Sometimes there is simply no rational or logical explanation why we haven't seen a sequel to a game on this list.

After checking out SuperPhillip Central's second batch of six picks, which games that never got a sequel are your favorites? Before that, however, see the very first One & Done to see the origins of this hopefully long-running series.

The World Ends With You (DS, iOS)

We begin this second part of One & Done with an innovative and modern JRPG for the Nintendo DS that really used the hardware's features well in a non-gimmick-like manner. It's The World Ends With You, and the game utilized the dual screens of the Nintendo DS in combat to show two different battles at once: one for the main character and one for his sidekick. The bottom screen required touch inputs of various types (swipes, spins, and the like) to attack while the top screen needed button presses. The two worked mutually to create a intuitive and fresh combat system full of fun. A port of the game was made on iOS-enabled devices which had an exclusive ending teasing a sequel with a girl and the words "Another 7 Days." However, it's been more than half a decade since then, and sadly, nothing has transpired as of yet.

Eternal Sonata (PS3, 360)

This next game is also a JRPG, this time on home consoles, particularly the HD twins of the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Eternal Sonata's premise was promising: Frederic Chopin is on his deathbed, and has a fever dream consisting of a cast of characters on an adventure. Nevertheless, while the world and premise showed great promise as well as the game possessing a glorious presentation, the execution of Eternal Sonata left much to be desired. With hopeless linear area designs that didn't encourage that much exploration and a weak story, there was wasn't much in Eternal Sonata to keep the attention of players for the long haul. It's unfortunate, as mixed reviews and a low marketing budget really ended Eternal Sonata's chances success on a sour note rather than something that could be improved upon with a sequel. As of now, Eternal Sonata is just yet another HD JRPG without a scent of an upcoming sequel.

Vagrant Story (PS1)

Let's do one more JRPG for this edition of One & Done before we move on to some different genres. One of the most visually pleasing three-dimensional games on the original PlayStation -- a system which has 3D graphics that are mostly hard to look with glee nowadays to many, even those like me who was old enough to be nostalgic for them -- is Vagrant Story. The actual story itself was a sophisticated and deep, following a man accused of murdering a duke, but instead of pursuing what follows, the game rewinds back to a week before the incident. Vagrant Story was part exploration, part platformer, part dungeon crawler, part battling, and more, all resulting in a game that was critically acclaimed across the board. It is a darn shame that after Squaresoft (now Square Enix, of course) released Vagrant Story that the game hasn't even received a port much more a sequel despite the immense, overwhelming love of it. It'd be a treasure to see Ashley Riot or just the Vagrant Story IP return in some regard since it is so beloved.

War of the Monsters (PS2)

Moving from something medieval to something monstrous, we're talking about War of the Monsters now, a multiplayer fighting game featuring a whole host of gigantic monsters rampaging through 3D environments. No doubt the developers found a lot of inspiration from Japanese monster movies like Godzilla and the like as well as mid-20th century sci-fi films to create a roster of appealing combatants. It wasn't just battling either, as players could climb buildings and structures, make a total mess of the city environments where these altercations took place, and carve a path of utter destruction all over. Whether with fists or throw-able objects like vehicles and steel girders. No one really envied who would have to clean this mess up, that's for sure. Though the game has since seen re-releases in digital form on the PlayStation 3 and most recently the PlayStation 4, there has been nothing regarding a sequel to the series. Sony does indeed have a lot of franchises in retirement and new ones that it currently cultivates with the publisher's attention, but a lot of those have seen sequels. War of the Monsters only has one entry, and hopefully that won't be the case forever.

Jet Force Gemini (N64)

Rare was on fire with Nintendo, especially in the Nintendo 64 era. Of course, it's important to note how much more time-consuming and costly it is to develop games today compared to back then. Regardless, Rare kept releasing high quality games at a rather rapid pace, and one of these was in 2000 with a sci-fi third-person shooter brimming with action and variety in Jet Force Gemini. Starring three playable characters that start out on different ends of the solar system, they blast their way through levels, spray the walls and floors of areas with the gunk of their insectoid enemies, explore, collect new weapons, save the local Tribals, and contend with fierce bosses in this engaging and enthralling 3D action-platformer third-person shooter. While many of Rare's homemade franchises have since seen sequels like Banjo-Kazooie, Killer Instinct, and Viva Pinata, Jet Force Gemini is on the list of Rare games that has yet to see a sequel despite a fair amount of fans. With Microsoft seemingly and bizarrely intent on sitting on a valuable collection of characters and IP with Rare, it doesn't seem like Juno, Vela, and Lupus will be getting a second mission any time soon.

Beetle Adventure Racing (N64)

It was a simpler time back in late '90s. Beanie Babies were in style much like Funko Pops are now, the Macarena was more tolerable than Gangnam Style, and lots and lots of people drove Volkswagen Beetles. So much so that a game featuring the rounded cars was created, published by EA. That game was Beetle Adventure Racing, and it wasn't your typical arcade racer. Yes, the controls were easy to get down, but you weren't racing on linear tracks to get the best time or to simply beat all other opponents. And while you didn't have 16+ racetracks to burn rubber on, you did have six or seven that took minutes to complete one lap, with so many sprawling paths, secrets, and shortcuts that you'd need to race on them dozens of time (at least) to learn them all and find everything on them. The racing was responsive, the tracks were indeed adventures in themselves with plenty of points of interests and areas, and the stuff on and off the beaten path was a blast to discover. No doubt a more modern and not-so-dated model of car would be needed for a sequel (Beetle Adventure Racing 2 was rumored to be in development before it was cancelled), but it'd be fantastic to see this type of racing experience return to gaming.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Mighty Gunvolt Burst (NS, 3DS) Review

A second review will be posted later in the evening, but for now let's put our collective focus at Mighty Gunvolt Burst, the latest from developer Inti Creates, known for the Mega Man Zero series of games. Mighty No. 9 was a mess, but can Beck ride of Gunvolt's coattails to salvage his own gaming career?

Action-packed gameplay is bursting at the seams

The whole sordid saga with Mighty No. 9 and its Kickstarter really soured and disappointed a huge legion of fans who were promised something great from Keiji Inafune, a designer partly behind the creation of Mega Man. Instead, Mighty No. 9 ended up being delayed multiple times, the marketing was out of touch at best, the campaign was poorly managed, and the end game was average at best.

However, the development team at Inti Creates worked on a smaller game in preparation for the release of Mighty No. 9 in the meantime, a Nintendo 3DS eShop and Steam release known as Mighty Gunvolt. This game combined the styles of Inti Creates' own IP, Azure Striker Gunvolt, with Mighty No. 9, creating its own unique Mega Man-styled mashup. Now, we see a sequel, exclusive to Nintendo Switch and soon Nintendo 3DS with Mighty Gunvolt Burst. The irony here is that for all the millions of dollars backed into Mighty No. 9, this budget project in Mighty Gunvolt Burst is clearly the superior product in this reviewer's eyes.

Mighty Gunvolt Burst allows you the choice between playing as Mighty No. 9's Beck or Azure Striker Gunvolt's Gunvolt, each with slight gameplay differences that grow as you acquire new customization parts. More on those later. The game is set up like a traditional Mega Man game complete with a tutorial intro stage, eight "Robot Master" stages that can be chosen from in any order, and a trio of final levels that ramp up the difficulty and feature some cool level gimmicks.

The "Robot Masters" of Mega Man in Mighty Gunvolt Burst come in the form of the "Mighty Numbers." They are all the same eight bosses from Mighty No. 9 but with new attack patterns that change as their health edges closer to being fully depleted. Bosses are generally tough to crack at first because they possess so much health, which is a bit draining, but being able to acquire fruit that serves as health refills makes fights easier to adjust to. You can learn their moves, when to dodge, when to attack, and even if you die after using all of your collection of fruit, they return to you based on the fruit you had at gate before the boss.

Beck shows Seismic here that size doesn't really matter.
Stages are themed similar to those in Mighty No. 9, save for the final levels which go in a totally different direction. Places like Countershade's museum stage has a familiar museum with equally familiar enemy types to Mighty No. 9 vets, but the layout, obstacles, and setup are all different. No need to annoyingly chase Countershade through multiple looping hallways where one death means you have to begin the pursuit all over again. Instead, you just have to follow one of three paths to unlock security panels leading to the encounter with Countershade. The level design in Mighty Gunvolt Burst is more like a standard Mega Man game rather than the obnoxious designs of Mighty No. 9. There are quite a few Azure Striker Gunvolt elements in the level design as well, which makes total sense, of course, due to the material, after all.

The levels in Mighty Gunvolt Burst are a blast to play through, and that's exceptional due to the optional ability to replay them. If you're a completionist or just want to get the most out of your purchase, then you'll most likely want to do so, as the rewards are beneficial. Each stage houses multiple secret chips that unlock abilities for either Beck or Gunvolt. Some are out in plain sight, but in difficult to access locations, while others are housed behind destructible walls that have no clear appearance that they can be destroyed. Thankfully, one of the abilities available to Beck and Gunvolt is one called "dowsing", which causes a rumble in the Nintendo Switch controller that gets more forceful as you near the wall in question. Outside of chips to collect (some are only available through multiple completions of a stage), there are 20+ challenges to complete, offering rewards for finishing them off.

The gift of HD rumble brings the gift of finding a secret area.
It's great you can get chips, but what do you do with them exactly, you ask? You can create load-outs for Beck or Gunvolt that alters an exhaustive and ever-growing list of abilities. By consuming CP (which I assume means Command Points), you can equip better variations to your base weaponry, defense, and abilities. At the beginning of a play-through, your character shoots pea-sized bullets without much strength. As you find and acquire new chips, you can shoot larger bullets, raise their attack power, raise your defense, make it so you don't get knocked back by attacks, learn to jump multiple times in the air as Gunvolt or dash several times in midair as Beck, and so much more. Each ability altered or equipped takes up CP, and there's a limit of what you can hold at once -- though this is helped through collecting CP chips that add to your maximum amount available. Thus, there is a good deal of strategy involved, lots of room for experimenting, and a tremendous level of customization on offer here, which can be a bit overwhelming at times.

With Mighty No. 9, Beck could shoot a bunch of bullets to bring a foe's guard down before dashing into them to take them down and score points. In Mighty Gunvolt Burst, the mechanic to stylishly defeat enemies is different. Instead, you need to be in close proximity to a foe when defeating them to earn a Burst bonus that awards extra points and improves your score. Through earning a continued combo of Bursts by defeating enemies without being too far away from them, your score increases to high amounts. Unfortunately, this mechanic is at direct odds with Beck and Gunvolt's method of long-range attacks and shots. It makes the whole Burst mechanic seem like a last minute addition or at least one that wasn't put under rigorous testing enough to make sure it fit the game.

A combo of 26!? You're just showing off now, Beck.
The story of Mighty Gunvolt Burst sees both Beck and Gunvolt trapped within a virtual reality world. While it may be a false reality, so to speak, the danger to them is very real. At first the two are completely apart from one another, and eventually they meet up in unfriendly terms. You can probably guess what happens by the end of the game (spoiler: they decide to be friends and team up against the big bad), but it's sufficient enough of a story all the same. Mighty No. 9 suffered from too much story bloat when I just wanted to get into the game. Mighty Gunvolt Burst alleviates that problem while still presenting a capable story reason to battle through the game's stages.

Mighty Gunvolt Burst is modern retro with hints of NES styling but more leaning towards SNES goodness regarding what the game actually does with its visuals. They're vibrant, colorful, seldom dull, and feature a notable amount of environmental detail for a game modeled after the classics. The music features chiptune variations of themes from Mighty No. 9, though that game wasn't well known by me for its musical qualities outside of the boss theme, which is represented in Mighty Gunvolt Burst. Overall, I was pleased with what I saw and heard out of Mighty Gunvolt Burst, and was also ecstatic not to encounter significant episodes of waning frame-rate.

Add some glasses to these hazards and they're see-saws! 
If anything, all of the trifles, troubles, and disappointment resulting from Mighty No. 9 had one positive come from it, and that's the birth of this game. Sure, Mighty Gunvolt Burst might have existed in an alternate timeline where Mighty No. 9 didn't exist, just under a different skin and franchise, but overall, Mighty Gunvolt Burst is a challenging and satisfying game to play. Just goes to show that out of a negative can indeed come something positive. Though, that three million dollars backed by fans wanting Mighty No. 9 shouldn't have been the price, now that I think about it...

[SPC Says: B]

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Puyo Puyo Tetris (NS, PS4) Review

We're traveling towards the end of June with four upcoming reviews. Here's the first, a Nintendo Switch (the version this review is based on) and PlayStation 4 game. It combines two terrific puzzle games into one sensational package. It's Puyo Puyo Tetris, and here is the SuperPhillip Central review.

Someone got some Puyo Puyo in my Tetris! 

And it's dee~licious! Like interesting combinations and inventions over man's time on this great green earth, there have been fantastic ones like peanut butter and chocolate, Oreos and ice cream, and so forth. Likewise, there are also less enticing ones (a popular pick in the current culinary climate is pineapples and pizza). In any case, Puyo Puyo Tetris fits in the former category, a tremendous combination of two puzzle game titans (well, Puyo Puyo less so, of course) that brings a lot of fun and content to both the Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4.

Addictive is an apt adjective to describe the gameplay of both Puyo Puyo and Tetris. With Puyo Puyo, you have colored blobs (the Puyo) that fall from the top of the screen to the bottom in pairs. To score points, you need to have four of the same colored, adjacent Puyo match to clear them from the board. This is the most simplest form of Puyo Puyo, however, as the strategy, complexity, and depth of the game changes by needing to create chains, where popped Puyo clear the way for already laid Puyo to fall down like a waterfall, scoring more points once they fall onto resting matching Puyo.

Meanwhile, Tetris is more well known as a puzzle series, where the goal is to take the falling Tetriminos (again, falling from the top of the screen to the bottom), move them around, and place them at the bottom of the screen. Your score points by clearing lines -- having one or more horizontal lines completely full of Tetrimino blocks. High points come from clearing more lines at once (achieving that awesome Tetris of five lines at once) and scoring combos.

If you grow weary of one mode in Puyo Puyo Tetris, there are plenty more where that one came from.
Puyo Puyo Tetris will certainly put your skills of both game modes to the test, and if you are a complete beginner (to the point where I was pretty much), there are many beneficial in-game lessons and beginner modes to get a taste of both Puyo Puyo and Tetris. The myriad of modes shows a game seriously loaded with content, whether it's alone, with friends locally, or against players worldwide. Between the half-dozen unique Challenge modes, quick-to-play / tough-to-master Arcade modes, and Adventure Mode, you will be getting a massive amount of value with your gaming dollars.

For any puzzle party game worth its weight in falling garbage blocks, a competent Versus mode is a must, and thankfully, Puyo Puyo Tetris has it, and in spades. When playing casually or competitively with friends and family and in many modes against the computer, a player can choose what ever puzzle mode they prefer, whether Puyo Puyo or Tetris. Thus, two players can be engaged in totally different puzzle modes while competing against one another. For Puyo Puyo players, a simple two-chain combo will send a slew of garbage blocks that get in the way of their progress. Meanwhile, Tetris players need to organize a multi-line clear or set of combos to drop garbage on their opponent. As you can probably guess, one is definitely easier to do than the other, and much quicker. And I'm not feeling any sympathy for the Puyo Puyo player, if that helps you guess any.

The Adventure mode in Puyo Puyo Tetris was my go-to mode for single player action. The story revolves around the universes of Puyo Puyo, featuring a wacky cast of high school anime characters, and Tetris, made up of a starship crew that is on the more serious side (though about as serious as a game with a cute sense of humor allows). Puyo Puyo blobs and Tetriminos are appearing in both universes with no apparent cause, so the two groups form a unity to get to the root of the problem. A whole slew of colorful characters appear in the Adventure mode of the game, 24 in all (which all become playable in every mode), and through the mode's ten or chapters (two of which were DLC in the original Japanese release), the story is presented through full body character stills in all their cartoony glory with fully English voiced dialogue.

Zany, insane, and brilliant, this is Puyo Puyo Tetris' Adventure mode.
Each of the Adventure mode's chapters consists of ten levels, and they vary things up nicely so you're not doing the same types of modes or going for the same goals over and over again. It's true that you'll be doing a ton of Versus matches, yes, but sometimes you and your opponent are playing Puyo Puyo, or one is playing Tetris while the other plays Puyo Puyo. Outside of Versus content in Adventure mode, there are trials like trying to reach a certain number of points or reach a line clear threshold before time runs out. In addition to just completing the levels, you can earn up to three stars on each, with goals ranging from beating your opponent in a number of minutes to reaching a specific number of points.

But did I complete the stage quickly enough?!
One thing I especially liked about Adventure is how that if you find yourself reaching a dead end -- that is, a level that you just can't seem to complete no matter how many times you try -- there is an option to skip that level and move on to the next. As someone whose puzzle game skills of Puyo Puyo and Tetris' type leaves a lot more to be welcomed than anything else, this optional choice was a gift from the puzzle game gods. ...Or Sega. Which ever you prefer. Of course, it was totally a last resort and used sparingly. Totally.

One thing not mentioned in the review body is the wide array of backgrounds
 and appearances of Puyo and Tetriminos in this game.
Regarding other modes, I feel Swap is one that works well. It has two different boards, each with one puzzle style on it, that opponents play on. After time ticks down enough, the boards switch, so if you were playing on a Puyo Puyo board, now you're playing on a Tetris one. The strategy here is when to time clearing lines or chains to drop garbage blocks on your opponent. Not just when it's most opportune like an ordinary Versus match, but on which board of theirs?

Meanwhile, Fusion is true to its name, but a mixed bag. It certainly is a mode that has the highest learning curve to me, and for that reason, it might not be everyone's cup of Puyo Puyo tea. Here, falling pieces alternate from Puyos to Tetriminos and back again, Tetrimino pieces that no more than touch anything stay in place, and it makes for a tough time when a board is stacked high with little room to work with. Though garbage blocks are crushed underneath the weight of any falling Tetrimino, crushed Puyo Puyo fall from the top of the screen. If you've the rules of Tetris and Puyo Puyo hardwired in your brain, you're going to need to do some reconnecting to get a grasp on Fusion mode.

Fusion mode might go over your head the first few matches, but eventually it may click.
Puyo Puyo Tetris is a robust, mode-rich puzzle game perfect for quick burst plays or extended sessions in the single player modes, specifically the wacky, endearing, and delightful Adventure mode. Whether you're a Puyo Puyo fan, Tetris lover, beginner, veteran, never played a Tetris or Puyo Puyo game in your life, or played at tournaments, Puyo Puyo Tetris has something for everyone. Puyo Puyo and Tetris are a winning combination.

[SPC Says: B+]

Monday, June 26, 2017

SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs - "64 Reasons to Celebrate" Edition

Here at SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs I like to occasionally spice things up with themed weeks, and that's exactly what we've all found ourselves in this week. It's all Nintendo 64 and all the time. Let's go back to the era of 64 bits and getting 'N or getting out.

We'll do this by first exploring Bob-Omb Battlefield in Super Mario 64 before returning triumphantly from Venom with the ending credits of Star Fox 64. Continuing the theme of credits, we'll hear the staff roll theme of Super Smash Bros.. Finally, two third-party titles appear on the VGMs, Bomberman 64: The Second Attack and Star Wars: Rogue Squadron.

Click on the giant VGM volume names to hear the song linked, and as always, the VGM Database houses every VGM volume ever featured on this weekly series of articles. Now, let's get on to the music!

v1426. Super Mario 64 (N64) - Bob-Omb Battlefield

With Super Mario Odyssey hyping much of the gaming world like crazy with its return to a sandbox style, open world adventure, let's take a look and more importantly, listen to the original Super Mario 64 that put Mario in that type of game in the first place! Bob-Omb Battlefield is the main theme of Super Mario 64, and it's heard in various worlds and levels outside of the grounds of the Bob-Ombs but Bob-Omb Battlefield is the first time a player hears it in-game.

v1427. Star Fox 64 (N64) - Staff Credits

With news of the Super NES Classic officially releasing with Star Fox 2 on it at the end of September, it's another chance to bring up a related game like I did with Super Mario Odyssey and Super Mario 64. This time we're listening to the cinematic wonder that is the Star Fox 64 soundtrack. After a job well done (and depending on which path you took, a mission complete or a mission accomplished), Team Star Fox returns to Corneria to accept their congratulations and reward from General Pepper and the Cornerian Army. It's a really well done piece that gets me excited to this day.

v1428. Super Smash Bros. (N64) - Credits

We move from one Nintendo 64 game's credits theme to another with the triumph end credits theme of the very first Super Smash Bros. The Super Smash Bros. series is known for stellar music atop its amazing, addicting gameplay. That was true with its original entry, a game that almost didn't exist and was released in relative obscurity. It obviously wasn't until Super Smash Bros. Melee's release on GameCube that the series really went into hyper drive. And, as they say, the rest is history.

v1429. Bomberman 64: The Second Attack (N64) - Battle Royal

Let's move on to some third-party offerings on the Nintendo 64. One of my favorite unsung games on the system is Bomberman 64: The Second Attack, a game with much greater rarity than its predecessor. It comes complete with a more traditional battle mode, where this song comes from, a greater story mode experience, and awesome customization. It's my favorite Bomberman game by far.

v1430. Star Wars: Rogue Squadron (N64, PC) - Rogue Theme: Reprise

Let's conclude with the only non-Nintendo 64 exclusive game on this list, Star Wars: Rogue Squadron. What I wouldn't do for a remastered (better yet, remade) trilogy of the Rogue Squadron games. Regardless, the Rogues are indeed the fleet taking it to the Empire in missions both well known in the Star Wars mythos and not so much so.