Saturday, June 16, 2018

Top Ten Most Anticipated Games of E3 2018

E3 2018 is over and done with, but the feeling of hype is still ever present. Why? Because now that the games have revealed themselves, it's time to hype them up until their releases, of course! E3 2018 was a pretty banner conference for all parties involved, and with it, saw an immense amount of new and returning games to the press conferences and show floor. Trying to limit this list to just ten titles from E3 2018 for my most anticipated games of the show was quite the challenge, but here they are in digestible list form. From an Armored Core spiritual successor to the remarkable return of a survival horror classic, this list has got it all.

10) Daemon X Machina (NSW)

All-star talent is behind this first game on this top ten list of most anticipated games from E3 2018. When you have the creative minds behind the Armored Core series invested in making their latest project the greatest mech game of all time, you know you should be hyped. And that's what both the Daemon X Machina trailer that kicked off Nintendo's E3 2018 Direct and later shown in a deeper capacity at Nintendo Treehouse Live soon after bestowed upon onlookers: hype. While still in early development, this 2019 title looks like it's going to shape up become a classic on the ever-increasing number of excellent games on the Nintendo Switch. Daemon X Machina was without a doubt my biggest surprise announcement from E3 2018, and the most satisfying one at that.

9) Super Mario Party (NSW)

Speaking of Nintendo's E3 Direct, another game that caught my attention was a game that wasn't so much of a surprise that it was coming, but the surprise was more that it was coming in the form that it did. Super Mario Party returns to the classic, traditional rules of its boards in its main mode while also offering other board modes like Mario Party: Star Rush's Toad Scramble on top of that. 80 new mini-games see themselves entering into the fray, as does a whole heaping host of playable characters, many of which have never seen a playable appearance in a Mario Party game until now. The addition of online play for only a special mini-game mode is a good first step, but it's not the "I want to play with my online friends across the country" board game mode that so many have been yearning for. Still and again, this is a good start, and with a grand lineup of features and additions, Super Mario Party seems like it's going to ruin friendships for a whole new generation of Nintendo console owners.

8) Mega Man 11 (Multi)

Being a huge Mega Man fan was not the best feeling in the past several years, with little thrown our way besides some collections and an, awesome not withstanding, inclusion in the Super Smash Bros. series. But now? Mega Man is back, baby, and back in a big way with an all-new game in the Classic series of Mega Man titles, Mega Man 11. Introducing a new Double Gear system to add something fresh to the series, but also something that doesn't just feel thrown in for novelty's sake, the new system allows Mega Man to power up and slow down time as long as he doesn't overheat. This brings a whole new strategic element into the Mega Man series. Throw in a pleasing new visual style, the familiar Mega Man gameplay of old, and a presentation fitting for a new generation of Mega Man games, and there's no wonder why this lover of the Blue Bomber greatly anticipates the latest in the long-running series.

7) Gears 5 (XB1, PC)

Coming fresh off the heels of Gears of War 4, Gears 5 (as you can see, dropping off the "Of War" part of the name entirely for this new entry) sees players assuming the role of Kait Diaz, who is off to search for her missing mother while discovering the secret origin of the Locust horde. Along the way, familiar characters like Marcus Fenix and his son JD also come back from previous games. Including single player, split-screen (hell yeah, local couch co-op!), and online play, Gears 5 is shaping up to be not just a return to form for the Gears series, but it's also beginning to shape up to become a defining, game-changing entry in the series as well. There's no doubt in mind that developer, The Coalition, will handle Gears 5 with the utmost of care, making a must-own game for all Xbox One owners when it launches sometime next year.

6) Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice (PS4, XB1, PC)

Fan favorite From Software's latest title was finally fully revealed at Microsoft's E3 2018 press conference, and holy moly it looks absolutely splendid. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is a bit of a departure for the developer compared to recent games. It eschews the role-playing elements of the Souls series (i.e. being able to create a character, various classics, etc.) in favor of a more traditional blend of stealth and third-person action. The sword combat involves having players strike foes with their blades, intended on making them become unbalanced. While they're in this state of vulnerability, the player can then perform a life-ending, one-hit strike to the enemy to defeat them in an instant. Combining all of this with the ability to utilize tools such as grappling hooks to reach new heights and get the jump on opponents, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice at last got the light shined upon it this past week, and man, the excitement from the trailer makes me hyped for early next year when the game launches.

5) The Last of Us Part II (PS4)

Now, I must admit that I don't have the same amount of admiration towards the original Last of Us that many others in the industry do. That notwithstanding, the original was and still is a phenomenal game. The Last of Us Part II looks like it will take all the positive features of the first Last of Us while reworking some of the features that didn't quite work out as well to make a PlayStation 4 exclusive that seems to be a real Game of the Generation contender. And what is there to doubt when we're talking about a Naughty Dog production? Well, there was Jak 2, but I'll allow a mulligan for that game due to its age. Focusing on Ellie this time around, The Last of Us Part II aims to expand on the aftermath of Joel's decision in the original Last of Us and make for an intense, violent (but not just for the sake of violence) and meaningful adventure for all who experience the game.

4) Resident Evil 2 (PS4, XB1, PC)

Long announced but just recently fully unveiled at E3 2018, the remake of Resident Evil 2 had a lot of riding on it announcement-wise, and to say it delivered is as obvious a statement as "zombies eat human flesh." And there was a lot of that going on in the Resident Evil 2 trailer. Gore was everywhere for you lovers of the macabre out there, and for everyone else, there was the satisfying return of Resident Evil 4's over-the-shoulder gameplay, bucking the idea that this was just going to be a simple tank-controlled, fixed perspective Resident Evil game like the remake of the original game. (Though that isn't to put that incredible game down.) Resident Evil 2's remake appears to be a longtime fan's dream come true, and for survival horror fans and connoisseurs of appealing third-person games alike. We won't have to wait too terribly long to play it either, as Resident Evil 2 haunts its way onto the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One early next year.

3) Kingdom Hearts III (PS4, XB1)

Square Enix not only brought us one new trailer at Microsoft's E3 presser, but it delivered a second at the PlayStation E3 conference. One of these featured the world of Frozen, while the other showed off bits and pieces of Tangled, Disney's Rapunzel-themed tale. Sappy, stilted dialog aside, Kingdom Hearts III revealed plenty of story elements, gorgeous (and I DO mean "gorgeous") graphics, enough Disney love letters to fans to run a post office ragged, and the insanely cool new combat system, incorporating various mechanics from past Kingdom Hearts games. Sure, one might need a flowchart, a reference guide, and a drop of acid to make any sense of the convoluted, overarching story, but who cares? It's Disney and fantastic action-RPG sweetness with undeniable charm. We'll only have to wait until this upcoming January to finally get our hands on Kingdom Hearts III.

2) Spider-Man (PS4)

"Wow." That's all that was needed to be said about the E3 2018 gameplay demo of Spider-Man at the PlayStation press conference this past week. The webhead swung through a prison breakout, clobbering foes with the sensational-seeming Batman: Arkham series-inspired combat that flowed so effortlessly, while seeing familiar villain after villain causing Spidey some serious trouble. Who was the villain at the end of the demo that Spider-Man's eyes grew wide to? Green Goblin? Doc Ock? I hope it's kept as a surprise, as the demo already more than spoiled me with its supervillain goodness, high octane web-slinging, and insane action. September can't come soon enough for this fan favorite superhero.

1) Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (NSW)

Nintendo's offerings at E3 2018 might have been on the weak side compared to the competition, but that didn't stop its main game of the spotlight and the show from hitting number one on this top ten list. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is essentially a compilation of all past Smash games (all characters, plenty of stages from past games, familiar Assist trophies, Pokemon and items) with several new inclusions and additions to both the aesthetics and the gameplay. The alterations to each character were shown to be put into painstaking detail (and giving pain if you didn't care at all about the game when Nintendo devoted half its E3 Direct to Ultimate), and the gameplay changes all seem like winners so far. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is looking to be the magnum opus of the Super Smash Bros. franchise, and I can't wait until the beginning of December to have the game in my Nintendo Switch.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Disc Jam (NSW) Review

Last week, we stepped on the baseball diamond for the first review of June 2018 with Super Mega Baseball 2. Now, we go from a traditional sport to a wholly atypical one with the half-tennis, half-air hockey hybrid of Disc Jam, specifically the Nintendo Switch version, with SuperPhillip Central's review.

Shut up and slam, and welcome to the jam.

Combining sports together has seen fantastic results already on the Nintendo Switch. We've seen Rocket League reach amazing popularity with its combination of soccer and racing. Now, High Horse Entertainment looks to capitalize on the success with a mashup of sports of its own: tennis and air hockey. The result is Disc Jam, a game highly reminiscent of Windjammers, but offers enough freshness and novelty of its own to keep it distinguishable. 

Disc Jam has a basic simplicity to it at first glance. You toss the disc, and hope to have your opponent miss catching it, allowing you to score points in the process. How long your "rally" of sorts goes on determines how many points you earn from getting the disc in your opponent's goal. 

The complexity and depth in Disc Jam comes from performing a wide variety of throws by maneuvering the left analog stick prior to a throw. This brings up a series of results like a fast throw with lots of curvature to it, a straight toss, a lob, a toss that bounces from wall to wall (potentially tripping up your rival), and much more. The faster you throw the disc upon receiving it, the faster your throw will be. 

This can't be a screen of the Switch version because you can actually consistently slide diagonally here.
Of course, the best offense is a good defense, and you're not going to get anywhere without being able to defend your side of the court. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to do this, though like many things in Disc Jam, defense takes a fair amount of practice to get down. For one, you have to face the disc to catch it, otherwise the disc will hit off you and potentially crash to the ground, awarding your opponent the points for that rally. At the same time, when there's a toss that's out of your way, you can quickly try to gain ground by sliding across the court to catch it. The only downside to sliding is that you won't be able to launch the disc as quickly as you could from your hand if you had just caught it normally.

Herein lies a significant issue with the Nintendo Switch version of Disc Jam that the other versions don't suffer from. The Nintendo Switch JoyCon's analog stick doesn't fully rotate with the precision necessary to consistently play well in Disc Jam. On many occasions I would try to perform a diagonal slide to catch an incoming disc, only to slide up, down, left, or right unintentionally. Trying to throw the disc with any kind of spin is also a challenge. Considering playing online pits you against opponents from the Steam version of the game where those players don't have this described handicap, matches can often feel unfair for Switch players.

Unless he's Stretch Armstrong, it's safe to say this disc is out of reach.
Furthermore, the actual online is flat-lining with a weak pulse. Few players routinely play Disc Jam, so you can find yourself sitting on the "looking for a match" loading screen for ages. The lack of any meaningful single player content--there's no arcade mode, offline tournament mode, nothing besides playing against AI that quickly gets ridiculously tough to play against and a lame "training" mode--only further hurts the overall Disc Jam package.

Each of the six characters has their own strengths and weakness.
The buff dude here can throw hard and slide great distances.
Playing through and completing matches earns you in-game currency that can be used to purchase capsules from a gacha machine. These capsules unlock things like character icons, taunts, alternate colors for characters, among other unlockables. There is an option to use real world money to unlock new characters and goodies on a much faster basis, but considering how lacking the presence of players online is, there really isn't much of a place to show these goods off in, making buying them with real world money pretty much a fool's errand. Fortunately, when playing locally in multiplayer, all unlockables in Disc Jam are unlocked but only for local play. 

Because the game is missing crucial single player content to it, Disc Jam lives or dies by its online community. Unfortunately, this community is quite minuscule, making for long waits to find a match, if you even find a match. The difficulty with the Nintendo Switch version's controls also makes for a challenging game to recommend to anyone who isn't totally devoted to the idea of chucking discs back and forth, missing easy catches due to the controls, and loves a lack of players to play against.

[SPC Says: D+]

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

All-Star Franchises, Underrated Entries - Part Twelve

If you've been around SuperPhillip Central for a little while (it's still okay if you haven't, so no harm done), then you know that I like talking about underrated and overlooked games. I've done various series on the subject. However, most of the time, the games mentioned in these articles are from wholly new or overlooked franchises themselves.

There are also a multitude of series that I can think of that have one, two, or a handful of games in it that aren't viewed as highly as the others, whether just or not.

These ideas are where the concept of All-Star Franchises, Underrated Entries comes from, and since our eleventh edition, I've come up with six more underrated entries to big-time franchises, some bigger than others. If you'd like to see past parts of this long-running series, check them out here:

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

This first game represented on All-Star Franchises, Underrated Entries stirred up quite a bit of controversy with how it was presented and how it was handled by both Marvel and Capcom. Missing key characters to its roster due to difficulties on Marvel's side of the equation and having a sterile presentation overall, there was a good amount to find troubling about the newest installment of Marvel vs. Capcom. However, the actual fighting game systems incorporated into the game still showed Capcom knew how to make a fighter and an engaging one at that. The new Infinity Stones mechanic, more accessible controls, and welcomed Story Mode made Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite a better game than a lot of players give it credit for. That said, next time how about teaming up for a crossover fighting game with a company that has less of a stick up its butt, huh, Capcom?

Monster Hunter - Monster Hunter Stories (3DS)

Releasing near the end of the Nintendo 3DS's time in the spotlight meant that your game would more than likely get overlooked by the gaming public. That was the case with Monster Hunter Stories, a game that served as a traditional RPG-styled spin-off for the Monster Hunter series. Not only did you fight alongside and did battle with monsters, but you also collected eggs to hatch and acquire new teammates in the form of stronger beasts and monsters alike. The rock-paper-scissors-like combat system kept you on your toes in battle, and the story involved, albeit far more family-friendly than what one usually gets from Monster Hunter, was something that could keep players enthralled from beginning to end in this 40 hour+ adventure. Throw in a wide abundance of quests both main and side to take on, and you have a Monster Hunter spin-off that deserves to be played by more people.

God of War - God of War: Ghost of Sparta (PSP)

The first God of War on the PlayStation Portable, Chains of Olympus, saw much success in the critical and commercial fields. The followup, God of War: Ghost of Sparta, was met with less in both categories. Although Ghost of Sparta brought a lot of familiarity from past games into the fold, it also brought forth a stirring story featuring Kratos's brother that served as an interesting look at an otherwise one-note character (well, that was until this year's God of War, of course). The same enjoyable hack and slash combat, occasional platforming, and crafty puzzles that the series was known for made an appearance in Ghost of Sparta, and running on the small PSP hardware remains a fascinating concept. Being able to play another traditional God of War on a handheld--with no sacrifices made--was amazing at the time, and Ghost of Sparta remains an amazing game.

Kirby - Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards (N64)

Kirby's Nintendo 64 platforming adventure was and still is an atypical one for the series. Levels incorporated the Nintendo 64's main selling point, 3D, to create 2.5D platforming worlds to explore, suck up foes, and absorb their abilities. Speaking of which, this was handled differently as well compared to other Kirby games, allowing the pink puffball to throw his currently equipped copy ability at foes and combine them to create an all-new ability. This meant that Kirby's arsenal of copy abilities was at one of his highest in any previous game in the series. The addition of the collectible titular crystal shards brought with it more longevity and replay value than your typical Kirby game. From its wonderfully crafted 2.5D worlds that possessed pathways that could twist and turn around themselves to the innovative mechanic of combining copy abilities, Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards is a terrific entry in the Kirby franchise that doesn't get as much love as I think it needs for two reasons: 1) It released at the tail end of the N64's life, and 2) It can be hard tracking down a used copy for a reasonable price. Thankfully, past Virtual Console releases have helped with giving Kirby 64 a second chance to shine as brightly as the shards of the crystal he's out to collect.

Pikmin - Hey! Pikmin (3DS)

I mentioned Monster Hunter Stories previously as a Nintendo 3DS game that launched in the system's waning years. Hey! Pikmin was another, a spin-off in the cult classic Pikmin series that took on a different, unfamiliar form to fans of the franchise. Hey! Pikmin was a game that essentially brought the classic gameplay of the series and transplanted it into a 2D side-scroller. Captain Olimar could still gather Pikmin, though this time only up to 20, guide them through enemy and puzzle-filled levels as they searched for treasure and each level's goal. The game offered a robust amount of content and things to do: such as beating each level without losing a single Pikmin, collecting all of the treasure in a level, finding secret exits in levels to reach bonus ones, and taking on colossal bosses in fierce battles. Hey! Pikmin wasn't exactly the game that fans of the series wanted, but it was a welcome edition to the series and its lore that put a wonderful spin and fresh take on the Pikmin franchise.

Ridge Racer - Ridge Racer 3D (3DS)

Ready to race? A lot of Nintendo 3DS owners at launch definitely were, but when people talk about great entries in the Ridge Racer franchise, most look towards Ridge Racer Type-4, Ridge Racer 7, or heck, even the PSP entries of the long-running racing series. One that seems to get overlooked in these discussions is the excellent Nintendo 3DS launch title Ridge Racer 3D. It was essentially a compilation of the best in the franchise, featuring a robust roster of cars, tracks, and adrenaline-inducing races and race types. Ridge Racer 3D put players at the back of the line at the start of each race with the goal of overtaking all adversaries in front of you and hopefully crossing the finish line in first. The drifting in Ridge Racer 3D felt as good as ever, and the 3D effect that entered the fold was surreal and astounding at the time. The game was loaded with things to unlock, races to compete in, and modes to participate in. The lack of online play surely hurt, but it didn't overall bring the entire experience down to an immense enough degree that Ridge Racer 3D wasn't worth playing.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Classics I Can Return To - Part Nine

It's been almost a year (two days shy, in fact) since I last presented a look at modern video game classics that I can come back to time and time again. These games are indeed classics in every form of the word. Just like last E3, this E3 we're delving deep again into six modern-day classics from the industry's recent years to see which ones players like myself will see themselves returning to perpetually in the coming weeks, months, years and even decades.

For past parts of Classics I Can Return To, check out the previous eight articles listed here for your convenience:

Super Mario Odyssey (NSW)

Mario came back in a big way with his newest 3D platforming adventure last year, and it was SuperPhillip Central's runner-up for best game of 2017. Super Mario Odyssey was a world-trekking adventure that brought Mario from prehistoric waterfalls and an isle of eateries to sun-parched deserts and glistening beach sands. Mario's arsenal of moves was never as large and encompassing as it was in Odyssey, and it gave players so many ways to conquer platforming challenges. The addition of Cappy to capture particular enemies and objects showed a brilliant stroke of creativity, and it really brought something novel in the process. Super Mario Odyssey has as much replay value as you want--you can either collect the bare minimum Power Moons to beat the game, you can collect all 999 of them, or you can shoot for a goal in between. It's all up to you, and I can't help but want to gather all 999 Power Moons all over again, as Super Mario Odyssey is a magnificent, masterful platforming adventure that is tailored to all ages and skill levels.

Horizon: Zero Dawn (PS4)

Quite possibly my favorite brand-new protagonist in gaming in 2017 was Aloy from Guerrilla Games's Horizon: Zero Dawn for the PlayStation 4. Strong, independent, smart and highly capable in combat, Aloy was a joy to play as. Stealthily sneaking through tall grass, carefully approaching the robotic enemies of the game, and then swooping in for the kill was always a pleasure, but I oftentimes found myself wanting to engage with enemies directly, as the combat in Horizon: Zero Dawn was immensely satisfying. While the open world aspects of the game had me more often than not just looking at a map for icons instead of exploring and learning the world, this small, niggling issue I had with Horizon doesn't deter me from wanting to step back into the lovingly crafted world Guerrilla Games made. With the Frozen Wilds expansion, there is even more of an excuse to return to Horizon: Zero Dawn, and beyond that, I see myself coming back to the game quite often.

Dragon Ball FighterZ (PS4, XB1, PC)

With the recent rumor and even more recent announcement of Dragon Ball FighterZ arriving on the Nintendo Switch with limited (if any) compromises in either docked or undocked form, you can bet your seven Dragon Balls that I'm going to jump back into this Arc System Works-developed fighting game. When I played it originally on the PlayStation 4, I saw a fighter that perfectly resembled the high octane action and speed of the anime, complete with a fighting system that was accessible for all, yet challenging enough that only the very best (or the very patient) could master it. The roster of combatants already available in the game pre-DLC was phenomenal, with each character feeling different enough from one another, while the actual DLC introduced even more roster additions that were most welcome. I greatly look forward to returning to the arena of Dragon Ball FighterZ, obliterating an opponent with a Kamehameha, and launching them directly into a mountain. Ah, hell. Who am I kidding? I'm going to be on the receiving end of that just like in the PS4 version! I'm looking forward to it anyway!

Crash Bandicoot: N. Sane Trilogy (PS4, XB1, NSW)

Although Crash Bandicoot: N. Sane Trilogy is still exclusive to the PlayStation 4 as of now, in two weeks it won't be with the Nintendo Switch and Xbox One releases. Three games for a bargain price, Crash Bandicoot's glorious return with some revamped and remade games from his very first trilogy of adventures was a most exciting one and gives hope for the bandicoot's return with a brand-new game. New content still comes to the game, as announced at E3 this week, with a never-before-seen level called Future Tense. Nevertheless, even without the inclusion of new levels (the count now stands at two), Crash Bandicoot: N. Sane Trilogy is an insane value. Sure, the first game doesn't really hold up with its brutal, occasionally unfair difficulty, but overall, the complete package is more than worth its weight in Wumpa Fruits.

Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition (NSW)

To tell you how much I love Hyrule Warriors, The Legend of Zelda version of Dynasty Warriors, I've now purchased the game three times: Once with the original Wii U game, once with the expanded content of the Nintendo 3DS game (though possessing vastly downgraded visuals, as one could easily figure), and now, Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition on the Nintendo Switch. This version of the game comes packed with all of the characters (DLC included, which I never purchased on either the Wii U or 3DS versions), Adventure mode maps, weapons, costumes, features and modes of the past versions of Hyrule Warriors, alongside some graphical upgrades and quality of life improvements. I've put in over 60 hours into the Nintendo Switch version, and I'm nowhere near completing everything that this truly definitive edition of Hyrule Warriors has to offer. Whether it's investing a couple of hours to knocking out several missions at once, or turning on my Switch for a quick mission to complete, any play style is perfect with the Switch.

Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove (Multi)

You have to admire the team at Yacht Club Games, as they continue to support their darling indie game, Shovel Knight, with loads of new content. Already we've seen two new campaigns for two of Plague Knight and Specter Knight, introducing fresh gameplay mechanics and levels in the mix, and a third is shortly on its way starring King Knight. The original Shovel Knight game by itself was a tremendous success, a superb 2D platformer hearkening back to the NES days, and a highly entertaining romp with plenty of content to it. The DLC campaigns make it so there's always a reason to return to Shovel Knight, but even without them, the game is a retro-inspired wonder that is as addictive as the classics it's modeled after and inspired by.