Saturday, July 29, 2017

Team Kirby Clash Deluxe (3DS) Review

Yesterday we looked at Kirby's Blowout Blast, one of two Kirby games Nintendo released for this 25th anniversary year of the pink puffball. Now, we turn our attention to this year's first Kirby offering, Team Kirby Clash Deluxe, a freemium model boss rush for all intents and purposes. Here's the SuperPhillip Central review.

There's no "I" in "team", but there is in "freemium".

Like the previously reviewed Kirby's Blowout Blast, Team Kirby Clash Deluxe is an expanded version of a side game originally seen in 2016's Kirby: Planet Robobot. However, unlike Blowout Blast, Team Kirby Clash Deluxe requires no cost for the price of entry. While this may sound like a great thing, Nintendo's desire to bring a freemium mobile model to the world of Kirby of all franchises makes for a dissatisfying end result.

Team Kirby Clash Deluxe's gameplay is comprised of various boss fights. It's a boss rush game essentially that, as you beat bosses with up to three other Kirbys, unlocks new, more progressively challenging bosses to take on. The assortment of boss characters seen in Team Kirby Clash Deluxe should entice all Kirby fans no matter their history with the series, as bosses ranging from classics like Whispy Woods and Kracko to more modern bosses from recent releases like Kirby's Return to Dream Land and Kirby: Triple Deluxe are represented.

The apples fall far from this tree, as they're one of the means bad ol' Whispy Woods attacks.
Battles have you choose between one of four Kirby types: the standard and equal in power Sword Hero, the strong but slow Hammer Lord, the magic caster Beam Mage, and the healer of the group Doctor Healmore, outfitting them with the necessary equipment. You bring four characters into fights, including yourself, and you choose which roles your AI allies are tasked with.

Fighting in Team Kirby Clash Deluxe is quite simple with no fancy-schmancy inputs to remember, just the attack button in different directions launch different attacks. The more powerful the attack, the longer it takes to charge up for it and the more vulnerable it makes your Kirby to use. Fallen Kirbys in battle can be revived, though the process takes a little bit of time, and Kirbys can be healed in battle by passing along food that appears on the battlefield. A super attack can be unleashed through all four Kirbys collecting a stone shard and timing their button press correctly to deal heavy damage to a boss.

As for the bosses, they can range from relatively easy to ridiculously frustrating, but it all depends on your Kirby's level. As you fight and complete battles, you earn experience points which your Kirby uses to gain stat increases. This allows you to be better prepared to take on higher ranked foes without as much of a problem. One might think that all one has to do is battle the same bosses over and over again to possess enough power and defense to engage higher difficulty bosses, but this is where the freemium model Team Kirby Clash Deluxe has rears its nasty head in.

Unfortunately for Kracko, those aren't tears of joy.
With the model the game uses--and is traditional for this type of model--there is a lot of waiting involved. You can't continuously play and engage in boss battles because you consume Vigor for each battle you wage. This takes a sizable amount of time for your Vigor meter to replenish, but being a freemium model, of course, there are ways to get around that, such as using Gem Apples. Now, these can be received for free from a 12-hour drop, earned in a limited and finite fashion from completing in-battle goals, or they can be purchased with real world money. The problem here is that Team Kirby Clash Deluxe would be an immensely better experience for players and a greater experience for consumers if the game was just a one-time buy where the requirement of waiting to continue wasn't there. As it is now, I can't really get into the game for an extended period of time or for a fulfilling session because as soon as things heat up-- OOPS! I've run out of Vigor and can't play anymore.

The waiting continues with Gem Apples, which open up new bosses to face. When you run out of Gem Apples, you can't progress in Team Kirby Clash Deluxe. The need to either wait a half-day, hope you can go back to a previous battle to earn some Gem Apples in them (but pray you have enough Vigor to do so), or just pony up and pay the real world money required to get some more. (If you haven't guessed it by now, I'm not all that appreciative of the freemium model.)

Now that the negatives have been fanned out towards Team Kirby Clash Deluxe's freemium model usage, let's go to one positive for me. The game supports local play for up to four players, so since the game is free to download, you can easily have four friends and/or family members team up together to take on bosses. This is a solid plus of the game's model used.

Shellacking a mallet-using monkey with friends is always a good time. 
Between battles, you lounge around a hub area where you're able to buy new equipment and items, acquire the game's currency through a daily drop, scan amiibo to receive extra materials that would otherwise take longer for you to make new equipment, and input what limited passwords there are in the North American region for bonus goodies. If you're a sucker for outfitting your custom Kirby with the coolest, strongest gear, then you might get hooked to the equipment aspect found in Team Kirby Clash Deluxe.

If you have the patience or want to invest the money into Team Kirby Clash Deluxe, there is plenty of content to be found once it finally opens up. You can aim to get every goal completed in every boss battle, in addition to earning up to a platinum on every battle. I just wish I could have all of the content up front, but perhaps that would make the game a breeze to speed through. As it is, though, the route Nintendo took with Team Kirby Clash Deluxe is one that I begrudgingly went along with. For the appealing boss rush gameplay, the game is at least worth a try. That try IS free, after all. It's just the waiting game or unlimited money you can invest in the game aren't.

[SPC Says: C+]

Friday, July 28, 2017

Kirby's Blowout Blast (3DS) Review

It's Kirby's 25th anniversary this year, and Nintendo has been celebrating with a duo of Nintendo 3DS eShop releases. The first that we'll cover is Kirby's Blowout Blast, a score attack game featuring everyone's favorite pink puffball. How did it shape up overall? Here's SuperPhillip Central's review to find out!

Move, jump, suck, shoot, repeat.

Packaged with last year's Kirby: Planet Robobot were two side games included in the package. One of these was Kirby's 3D Rumble, and like all the other side games found in Kirby's Nintendo 3DS retail releases, a larger version of Rumble is now available as a separate Nintendo eShop download in expanded form, Kirby's Blowout Blast. 

Kirby's 3D Rumble amassed arena levels together where the goal was to suck up foes and launch them into others to earn chains in order to score the most points. The latter still remains for Kirby's Blowout Blast, but now there are levels to venture through from point to point. These are extremely linear and limited in where you can go, offering quite little in the way of exploration, but they do offer better variety than the arenas found in 3D Rumble. That said, there are multiple occasions in Blowout Blast's levels that amount to closed off arenas where all enemies must be subdued before Kirby can move on. These feature enemy placements that are obvious in where the maximum potential for points are most of the time.

Unlike many other Kirby games, don't feel bad for these Waddle Dee;
they are of the antagonistic, attacking variety this time around.
Levels are limited in scope, and so is Kirby's repertoire this time around, hearkening back to Kirby's very first adventure in Kirby's Dream Land, where all the pink puffball could do was float in the air, inhale enemies, and spit them out. This arsenal of moves is all Kirby needs in Blowout Blast, as the goal is to inhale foes and spit them into other enemies to score points. Inhaling two or more enemies at once not only earns more points depending on how many foes are sucked up, but spitting them out into other groups of baddies causes a chain of points to rack up for the player. It's something that is visually appealing, yes, but it also serves as the primary incentive to pursue playing the game, long after the credits reveal themselves.

Aiming is easy, as you can simply hold the button and let go once you're satisfied with where to shoot.
In order to unlock the brunt of Kirby's Blowout Blast's levels and content, you'll need to smartly navigate levels, figuring out the best ways to score the most points. Plenty of enemy and inhaling opportunities present them, and knowing which groups of foes to suck up and which ones to shoot one of Kirby's shots into makes all of the difference in racking up a sensational score. 

At the end of a given level, your score is tallied up, and you're given a trophy of bronze, silver, gold, or platinum material to denote how well you did. Now, you can merely run through the five worlds of 4-5 levels each and see the game's end within the two hours maximum it takes. However, by acquiring a gold trophy or better in all of a given world's levels, you unlock an EX version of that world. These levels are more challenging versions of the ones you've faced, featuring new obstacles and enemy placements. If you're able to get a gold or platinum trophy in every level of the game, you unlock a special final level, which is an ultra-challenging (at least for Kirby's Blowout Blast standards) endurance run through five stages with limited health recovery options. 

Looks like a convenient arrangement of foes to score big on and blast, Kirby!
Kirby's Blowout Blast features a lot of touches and nods to Kirby's Dream Land, such as familiar tunes, environments, and even boss battles. It was really cool as a Kirby fan to see old favorites like Lololo and Lalala, Kracko, and of course, King Dedede himself to take on in 3D arenas. Every thing looks splendid with the 3D slider turned all the way up, and it helps in distinguishing how far away enemies are, allowing for better accuracy in unleashing Kirby's spitball shots.

Jeez, King Dedede. Would a breath mint have seriously hurt you?
Like many games from Nintendo's owned studios in recent years, Kirby's Blowout Blast is compatible with amiibo, specifically the Kirby line and the Kirby, Metaknight, and King Dedede amiibo of the Super Smash Bros. line. These offer new music for Blowout Blast's hub as well as shiny statues to fill said hub. The use of amiibo here is harmless, not locking significant content behind a paywall for players, but for those that use amiibo, they receive a nice bonus here.

At first, I was worried that Kirby's Blowout Blast would be quick to speed through, especially for a $7 game. However, I received more than my money's worth thanks to the joy of replaying levels to aim for platinum trophies. What was a breezy game to complete became quite the challenge, particularly in the EX worlds, where one mistake easily makes the difference between a platinum trophy and a gold. If you find yourself put off by the light challenge of Kirby's Blowout Blast at first, don't shrug off the game thinking that's how the entire game will turn out. Though, if your only goal is to beat the campaign, then you will be missing a lot of what Blowout Blast has to offer.

Kirby's Blowout Blast is by no stretch of the imagination trying to be a full priced game. Those looking for a full fledged adventure should look towards Triple Deluxe or Planet Robobot for their Kirby fix. Those who desire a simpler journey featuring the pink puffball as well as those who wish to chase high scores and earn gold and platinum trophies for their efforts will find Kirby's Blowout Blast to, well, be a blast.

[SPC Says: B-]

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Ever Oasis (3DS) Review

Ever Oasis from Nintendo and developer Grezzo kicks off our July series of reviews. Is it worth picking up? It sure is, but see if it's right for you with SuperPhillip Central's in-depth review.

You'll get more than your just deserts with this game. 

No doubt many Nintendo fans have shifted their attention away from the Nintendo 3DS and towards the Nintendo Switch, and so much so that many find displeasure in seeing games even still coming out for the 3DS. After all, obviously the smart decision business-wise would be to turn one's back on the 60 million+ user base on the 3DS (a system that still sells) and put everything on the Switch, a console that can barely stay in stock as it is. Point being, such an attitude is a bit shortsighted.

That notwithstanding, that means a lot of new Nintendo 3DS games that release after the Switch won't get as much attention or hype. One of these 3DS games launched recently worldwide, and it's an original effort by developer Grezzo. After enhanced ports of two games in The Legend of Zelda franchise, Grezzo got the opportunity to work on an entirely new franchise, Ever Oasis, and they teamed up with the brains behind the Mana series to do it.

Ever Oasis is set in a world that is covered with sand thanks to the presence of an evil in the land known as Chaos. Few precious oases remain, where groups of people gather, protected by a Water Spirit and led by a chief. Your character, of which you can name, lives in his or her brother's oasis, an abundantly prosperous one where he is the chief. One day the dark force of Chaos attacks the oasis. With his final act, your brother transports you out of harm's way while the Chaos engulfs you and your brother's former home.

Now, awakening nearby a small pool of water, your character meets up with a lonely Water Spirit named Esna who squeals with delight that she has a new friend. Together, you two aim to bring life to your small oasis, find out what happened to your character's brother, and vanquish the Chaos menace so the world can return to its former glory.

Even the most prosperous oasis had to start from somewhere.
Who knows--maybe our hero's oasis can be that oasis!
The beginning of Ever Oasis is a bit slow and plodding, offering extended tutorials on how to build and expand your new oasis, but it offers enough variety to not be too terribly tedious. Though it might be on subsequent play-throughs... Regardless, the goal of your oasis is to lure visitors from faraway lands by performing various tasks. The initial visitors will arrive automatically, and by performing the objective(s) necessary to satisfy them, they will permanently move into your oasis. When enough residents have made your oasis their home, you will have the opportunity to expand your oasis and level it up by talking to Esna. In doing so, your oasis will grow larger, perhaps adding more shop space for you to build or grow your garden to cultivate more crops, and so forth. Your new denizens of your oasis will then provide rumors as to how to lure other prospective visitors to your new home. This can be by having a specific shop in your oasis or by discovering them in a specified area outside of your oasis.

Welcome to my humble oasis abode, new resident!
There are a number of tribes within the world of Ever Oasis. Seedlings are the most prevalent, and they're able to open different shops depending on the character. Unlike traditional shops in RPGs like this, you're not actually the one doing the shopping in them. Instead, you provide materials gathered from defeated monsters, discovered from mining and digging, and through other means to stock the goods that shop requires. Sold stock gives you Dewadems that serve as the currency of the game, used to build new shops and buy goods from merchants. It's a good idea to keep shops fully stocked, as when they run out, it affects your overall oasis' happiness. When that is lower, you have less HP to work with when you exit your oasis and enter the outside, dangerous world.

Add new shop types to attract new visitors to your oasis.
When you've stocked a given shop enough, the owner will want to speak with you about performing a side quest for them. These range from simple material-hunting quests to defeating a certain enemy in a specific area of the game. Once a shop owner's side quest has been successfully completed, their shop will expand, being able to sell not only more quantities of goods but new types of goods as well.

Now, early on it can be somewhat strenuous to always have enough materials to fully stock each shop you have. However, as you progress in Ever Oasis, you access the option to send AI characters out in groups of three on one-to-two day material-finding expeditions. This means you need not do all the work of gathering a particular resource all by yourself, and instead you can look at the available materials in a given area of the world, send your team out, and hope for success. Materials are also used to synthesize new weapons, accessories, costumes, and items, all done inside your home.

Once you finally decide to leave the comfy confines of your oasis, you'll find a sizable world to explore. Of course, at first, you're rather limited in where you can go, as natural roadblocks and ability-related roadblocks, requiring a specific character type, block your progress and opportunity to fully explore. That said, Ever Oasis does an adequate job of revealing the world to you in a way that isn't too slow and on the opposite side of the spectrum, isn't too overwhelming. There are main overworld areas with multiple caves to them, each with their own trials and things to discover within them, some of these caves serve as paths to other overworld areas.

As you recruit new characters from having them move to your oasis permanently, you can use their special abilities or weapons to access new areas within Ever Oasis' world. For instance, the tall and lean, lizard-like Drauk tribe is known for using spears as their weapons, and specific levers which hang on walls can only be pulled down by people using spears. These levers open doorways and remove obstacles that would otherwise be impossible to pass. Likewise, certain characters have special abilities that are exclusive to them, such as some Seedlings being able to use specific flower pads to fly and float in the air, crossing over chasms and reaching faraway platforms, or Seedlings that can coil up into a ball like an armadillo and pass through holes to reach other sections of dungeons.

This Seedling's ability summons a leaf wall to block rolling boulders like the one incoming.
The usage of these weapons and abilities to interact with the indoor areas of Ever Oasis is pretty novel, though an annoying issue is that while you can have three characters in your party, you can't switch them out except when you're back in your oasis. Now, while you're able to use a teleportation skill called the Aqua Gate to immediately transport back to your oasis to do so, it's still an inconvenience to have to do that every time you lack the proper ability necessary to solve a certain puzzle or progress in a specific part of a cave or dungeon. Thankfully, you can use the warp in your oasis to return to the site where you originally used your Aqua Gate, but it's a slight annoyance all the same.

The indoor areas within Ever Oasis are the ones where the puzzles and challenges present themselves. Most of the time you'll be in cavernous areas, but other areas present developer Grezzo's teachings with their remakes of the Nintendo 64 Legend of Zelda games by adding in puzzle-filled dungeons complete with obtaining keys and facing a colossal boss by the dungeon's conclusion. And of course, defeating that boss earns you one of the MacGuffins of the game. The dungeons are nicely themed, offering plenty of moments of pure action alongside pure puzzling, but the puzzles don't really get too spirited or impressive until late in the game, unfortunately. All puzzles, though, will have you switching between your hero character and your two party members, who are otherwise controlled by the AI.

It wouldn't be a dangerous dungeon without some deadly swinging hazards, right?
Going along with The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D and Majora's Mask 3D's influence on Grezzo's design in Ever Oasis is the combat. Here, you can lock onto targets, though this time you're not stuck on any axis to avoid their attacks. You have full directional movement available to you. You have a light attack and a strong attack, which obviously takes longer time to get off, and you also have an evasive roll when an enemy gears up to attack. As you gain experience levels, you get typical stat upgrades, but also more powerful combos to deal more damage to enemies. Enemies are classified by types depicted by an icon next to their name. Certain weapons are strong against certain types of enemies while others do limited damage. Combat is seldom dull or frustrating, and this is due to the game generally throwing multiple enemies at you at a time. Thankfully, a purple icon on the bottom portion of the screen indicates when a foe is behind you.

After our party beats you, you're going to be crying Iguanagator tears.
Ever Oasis is a pretty lengthy experience. Most can complete it and battle the final boss within about 20-25 hours. However, once the final baddie has been beaten, the game opens up even more. Post-game content is available in the form of new visitors to lure to your oasis, optional boss battles, and unique dungeons where the bronze, silver, and gold slabs players will most likely come across in their adventures come into play. Here, placing three slabs will determine what kind of enemies, items, and challenges you will face, changing the experience each time. There is a risk/reward factor here, as dying means you forfeit all of your collected items within the dungeon, so if you reach a place to exit the dungeon, you might want to give it a second thought before deciding to progress further.

We're not retreating. Honest! We're just... Okay, we're retreating.
I'm not the type who can't stand to look at the low resolution of the Nintendo 3DS despite the Nintendo Switch being the new hotness, as the kids say. Thus, Ever Oasis looks and runs pretty well to me. Moments of frame-rate issues were rarities at worst, the character and environmental geometry were glorious to look at, and the animations were pleasant enough. Perhaps the only gripe in the visuals came with the 3D effect. The only real 3D came from text boxes being more pronounced while everything else in the game was pushed back, so I declined to leave the 3D slider up at all. It wasn't worth the more significant loss of battery life to me. When it comes to audio, the music has some token tracks that are delightful while everything else sort of comes off as forgettable.

The sun sets once more on the desolate desert. Did anyone bring a flashlight for nightfall?
Being Grezzo's most important original effort yet, I'm floored by how much I enjoyed Ever Oasis. Niggling things like having to return to my oasis to switch characters, occasional camera bothers, and material grinding got in the way of my overall enjoyment, but not so much as to cancel out my adoration with the game. Ever Oasis is a glorious action-RPG adventure set in the desert, and one that won't even get sand in your shoes. There's no better praise than that!

[SPC Says: B+]

Monday, July 24, 2017

SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs - "The Glorious Return" Edition

It's been several weeks now without a new installment of SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs, but the worldwide nightmare is over--SPC's Favorite VGMs is back, baby! Sporting five new songs from five different video games, we're marching to the beat of our own drummer here.

This week's return to normalcy kicks off with a battle theme from Persona 4. We then venture to uncharted territory in the land of Ys: Memories of Celceta. Following this is a double dose of summer retreats: one in the tropics with Fortune Street and one to the Canadian north (aka the Northern Kremisphere) with Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong's Double Trouble. Last but not least, we wrap this week's edition off with some rockin' Mega Man X5 music.

In case you've forgotten since it's been a few weeks, just click on the VGM volume name to hear the song spotlighted, and check out the VGM Database for every video game and theme ever touched upon on this reoccurring SPC segment! Now, let's get on to the music!

v1431. Persona 4 (PS2, PSP) - Reach Out to the Truth

We're starting off this return to SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs to SuperPhillip Central with an atypical battle theme from an atypical JRPG, Persona 4. No doubt many players weren't expecting to hear a J-Pop tune kick in when an ordinary battle began, and it might be off-putting at first listen. However, as you play through the game, the song becomes more natural to the game, and you eventually start really enjoying it--unless you're like me and liked it from the beginning. As regular readers and listeners of SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs know, though, I do have quite the expansive taste!

v1432. Ys: Memories of Celceta (Vita) - Gust of Wind

Explore the vast, uncharted wilderness of Celceta in Ys: Memories of Celceta. As always with Falcom Sound Team, they deliver an exquisite soundtrack that never fails to showcase their talents. With a new Ys heading to both the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita in North America in a couple months, it seemed fitting to cherry pick one of my favorite themes from Memories of Celceta to represent the game and series in general.

v1433. Fortune Street (Wii) - Delfino Plaza

Since we're deep in hot temperatures here in Central City, it's a perfect time to head to the tropical paradise known as Delfino Plaza set on pleasant Isle Delfino. The original locale came, of course, from Super Mario Sunshine, and then it was featured as a location in Fortune Street--Nintendo and Square Enix's combination of the worlds of Super Mario and Dragon Quest. This remixed version of Koji Kondo's timeless piece of music for Delfino Plaza is peppier with heavier instrumentation than its Super Mario Sunshine original version.

v1434. Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong's Double Trouble (SNES) - Sub-Map Shuffle

If a trip to the tropics isn't what you're looking for, then why don't we take a trip to the Canada-like Northern Kremisphere from Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong's Double Trouble! Packing a wide variety of locales in the form of lakes, forests, frozen peaks, and more, the Northern Kremisphere is a getaway like no other. Previous Donkey Kong Country games had David Wise primarily composing the music, but this time around he only contributed a small amount of specific tunes while Eveline Novakovic did all other compositions. As a note of trivia, Ms. Novakovic also portrayed the main character of my favorite FPS, Joana Dark in the Nintendo 64's Perfect Dark.

v1435. Mega Man X5 (PS1) - Repliforce Base (The Skiver)

Let's take to the skies for this final VGM volume of this July 24th edition of SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs. For me, Mega Man X5 started a decline in the series. The localization changed the Maverick names to silly pop culture references, and as someone who likes consistency, going from Mega Man X1 to X4's Maverick names to Mega Man X5 was a bit of a shock to my system. Still, one thing that the Mega Man X series routinely has is a stellar soundtrack, and that was indeed the case again with Mega Man X5.