Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Heroki (NSW) Review

Releasing this Friday on the Nintendo Switch, the formerly mobile-only Heroki gets the review treatment this morning. Scope out why I wholeheartedly recommend the game with my review.

Fun takes flight... this time on the Nintendo Switch.

Over two years ago, I covered Heroki on my iPhone. The game was an absolute joy to play, and it reminded me of the classic types of gaming experiences that were offered by SEGA in the publisher's golden years. Now, Heroki is being self-published by the developer Picomy, and being brought to the Nintendo Switch. With analog and physical buttons being standard for this version of the game, Heroki manages to deliver and delightful time once again on an entirely new platform.

Heroki is a side-scroller where instead of running and jumping, our hero hovers and flies around the labyrinthine levels in pursuit of Emerals and other collectables, all the while reaching each level's goal. Levels consist of some mild and modest backtracking, usually comprised of hitting buttons to open gates and doors in other parts of levels.

Checkpoint markers aren't overly common in levels, but since you're usually returning to past areas in levels, it's not as much of an issue. This is because when you activate one checkpoint and then activate another, the most recent checkpoint is the one turned on while the first one returns to its original state. This means you can return to the first checkpoint to reactivate it and it will serve as your place to continue if Heroki's perishes mid-flight. In theory, you can merely switch between activating a level's two or three checkpoints to constantly record your progress in a level.

Take aim, Heroki, and then bash that enemy with that box!
Our hero doesn't have the strongest disposition to him, so Heroki has other means to take out enemies that stand, fly, hover, etc. in his way. Heroki can carry boxes and boulders, transport them through levels, and by holding the throw button, he can aim where he wants to chuck his cargo, in a fashion similar to Yoshi's egg-throwing in Yoshi's Island. Many times it's to smack a box or boulder into an enemy to defeat the dangerous creature blocking Heroki's way, but other times it's a TNT box to throw at a destructible wall or to carry crates from one section of a level to another to weigh down a switch. Heroki also has the ability to quickly descend, sometimes used to avoid pursuing enemies or hazards, while used more frequently to bash through clouds platforms which can block his progress.

Oh, it's no joke. This frog is about to croak.
In each level, there are five Emerals to collect, and these are the most important collectable in the game to gather, as at the end of each world, of which there are three with eight levels each, it's required of you to have a specific amount of Emerals in order to progress onward. It wasn't a roadblock for me, as I personally enjoyed going through Heroki's levels and thoroughly exploring every corner and area possible, but if you're merely rushing from the start of a level to its goal, not only will the adventure be a breeze but you also will have to return to levels to get more Emerals to proceed to the next world. Understandably, this can get quite irritating when you just want to get to the next world, destroying the pacing of Heroki in the process.

"My, what big teeth you have!"
"The better to guard this Emeral with!"
Other than Emerals, levels in Heroki have two others types of collectables. One of these are six gold letters that spell out HEROKI, as well as a hidden treasure chest that contains anything from more currency to special presents that show up in Heroki's home back in the hub town. Everything is hidden well with plenty of secret alcoves and areas in levels that require you to keep an eye on your surroundings for suspicious-looking walls, floors, and ceilings.

In order to 100% a level, you need to get every Emeral, spell out HEROKI, and find and open the treasure chest in one run. It can be vexing occasionally, as sometimes you're gated from returning to past parts of levels, meaning you're potentially locked out of a perfect run. Regardless, 100%-ing a level is merely an optional task to create more replay value in Heroki's relatively short campaign.

Heroki is about to make sure this particular puffer fish puffs up for the last time.
Outside of Heroki's 24 levels, the game has a hub town where you can do a variety of tasks and small quests for its denizens. Since there aren't any achievements in the Switch version, doing most of the quests in the town doesn't really serve a purpose other than earning lives and more currency, which is a bummer and confusing why in-game achievements didn't travel over from the iOS original. Currency collected in levels can also be used to purchase a wide assortment of items, such as lives, power-ups, and even new colorful trails that follow Heroki upon flight.

The ability to use an actual analog stick and physical buttons on the Nintendo Switch version of Heroki instead of touch controls like the mobile version makes it so there's a greater sense of precision in Heroki's movements. Touch is still possible for menus, but for everything else, there's more accuracy in using analog controls. Well, that's save for using a power Heroki learns after the first world, where holding down the X button allows the player to draw a line of any type on the screen to activate a gust of wind. There aren't too many calls for precision with this power, but when there are, the speed at which the cursor moves in addition to how imprecise the analog movements are make for a more difficult control setup than what was originally found in the mobile version. Trying to push a ball through a curved passage by guiding it through with gusts of wind can be an effort in utter frustration.

Heroki is a gorgeous game to look at, and part of that can be attributed to the jaw-dropping lighting on display in the game. Flying through a vine-filled vista while in the distance, the sunlight peaks out through a flower in the background is just an amazing sight to behold. Heroki is a beautiful game, and it manages to stay a relatively steady frame-rate the entire time as well, which is a great bonus. The music is suitably catchy and gels well with the flying, floating, and box-toting gameplay Heroki possesses.

Alley-oop! This cactus enemy is about to have a blast--literally!
While the analog controls bring both a blessing and a curse in some regards to Heroki, it was an absolute pleasure to return to Picomy's game with the Nintendo Switch version. The lack of in-game achievements cuts away some of the game's longevity, and locking progress behind collecting Emerals can be a bit of an annoyance if you aren't already hunting for them. That notwithstanding, for its relatively inexpensive price and the amount of entertainment I got from the game, Heroki takes flight and soars high with one immensely enjoyable game.

[SPC Says: B]

Review code provided by Picomy.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Most Overlooked Current Gen Games - Part Six

One of the oldest article series on SuperPhillip Central returns today. It's "Most Overlooked Video Games" with an appearance of some PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and 3DS games that didn't get as much attention as was expected or just were completely ignored altogether. Once your eyes have scrolled through my picks and explanations, which games would you add to this list?

For a look at past parts of Most Overlooked Current Gen Games, check out these five links:

Current Gen - Part One
Current Gen - Part Two
Current Gen - Part Three
Current Gen - Part Four
Current Gen - Part Five

Dissidia Final Fantasy NT (PS4)

Taken from the arcades and placed on the PlayStation 4, Dissidia Final Fantasy NT might not have the robust amount of modes or roster of characters that the PSP installments possessed. The latter, however, is improving, such as the recently announced Rinoa from FFVIII. Nevertheless, what is available currently in Dissidia Final Fantasy NT is a satisfying 3 on 3 fighter that pits favorites from the Final Fantasy franchise against one another across familiar battlefields with sensationally arranged musical remixes blaring as adrenaline-pumping accompaniment. Unfortunately, despite hitting the top spot its week of release in Japan, Dissidia's PS4 debut failed to live up to Square Enix's expectations. The publisher now hopes that future updates (like the aforementioned addition of new characters) will revive sales of the game. Hopefully so, as there is a lot of potential to be found within NT.

Attack on Titan 2 (NSW, PS4, XB1, PC)

As someone who hasn't watched the Attack on Titan anime nor read the manga, the video game Attack on Titan 2 served as a primer for the source material. I feel like I got a huge understanding of the show's plot and characters by simply playing the game, and now my urge to watch the anime is even stronger than it was beforehand. Attack on Titan 2 sees players controlling a custom hero inserted into the AoT story. They then join up with familiar characters and see the story through that their character's eyes. Battles are engaging, having players swing and propel themselves through the air, targeting Titan extremities, and then going in for the kill. There is a bit of repetition involved in the gameplay, but the loop is satisfying enough to keep players engaged.

Battle Chasers: Nightwar (NSW, PS4, XB1, PC)

Funded through Kickstarter and based on a comic book property, Battle Chasers: Nightwar may be styled after a Japanese RPG, but the developer is based right in the United States--comprised of former Vigil Games (Darksiders) staff. Battle Chasers is a traditional turn-based RPG, but a twist is with its procedurally generated dungeons, as well as the ability to turn up the difficulty of the dungeons to increase the amount of experience points earned. While there is a steep difficulty jump in the game that requires some mild-to-heavy grinding, Battle Chasers: Nightwar is a terrific turn-based RPG that one can easily enjoy. The fact that it's sold at a budget price on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC (sorry, Switch owners, but the game is still "new" to your platform) makes the decision of taking a chance on Nightwar all the easier. Well, at least it SHOULD make it all the easier.

Monster Hunter Stories (3DS)

The last two games on this edition of Most Overlooked Current Games are victims of the system they were on being in its twilight years. Yes, I'm talking about the Nintendo 3DS. It definitely didn't help that when these games came out, the Nintendo Switch was the new hotness. Despite being overlooked by many in the West when the game finally came out, long after its original Japanese release, Monster Hunter Stories tells the tale of a monster tamer who goes on an adventure to tame monsters, battle with them in turn-based affairs, and explore a vivid and colorful world. From sneaking into monster dens to steal hatch-able eggs to battling vicious monsters with a rock-paper-scissors-like approach, Monster Hunter Stories' epic 35+ hour story--packed to the brim with quests to take on and monsters to tame--was a great send-off of Capcom's massively popular series on the Nintendo 3DS. It's just a shame so few Westeners gave it a look.

Hey! Pikmin (3DS)

Perhaps if instead of "Hey! Pikmin", the game was called "HEY! PIKMIN!!!!!!!!!!", more people would have taken notice to it. Instead, this overlooked Nintendo 3DS game that cleverly and capably takes the familiar Pikmin gameplay the series is known for and turns it into a 2D side-scroller had microscopic sales--as big in stature as a tiny Pikmin. There's still time for you to check it out, however, even if it won't put a dent into the game's sales. With intuitive touch controls for aiming and throwing Pikmin, smart level design, tense encounters, entertaining exploration, a fair challenge for those who want to 100% the game, and over a dozen hours of content, Hey! Pikmin delivered a lot to me for its $40.00 USD price tag. Go ahead--pluck this game up from a store shelf. You won't regret it.

20XX (NSW, PS4, XB1, PC) Review

I love Mega Man, so when it came time to review 20XX, I was excited to do so. This review is based off the Nintendo Switch build, but the game is also available on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Steam.

Looking for a game where Mega Man X meets roguelike? Then 20XX marks the spot. 

20XX is a game that combines the gameplay styling of Capcom's action-intensive Mega Man X series and combines it with roguelike sensibilities. Your goal in a given run is to move through procedurally generated levels, blasting baddies, collecting augments--which are upgrades to your character's armor, health, attack strength, speed, and so forth--beating the bosses at the end of each of the ten stages in the game, and trying to do so all in one life.

The structure of 20XX has you randomly entering a stage at the start, and upon reaching its end, you face a boss. After (hopefully) defeating that first boss, you might earn a speed bonus treasure chest for quickly completing the level, as well as your choice of one of three items (either that boss's special weapon a la the Mega Man series, 10 Nuts, or a randomly chosen augment), and a selection between three teleporters leading to one of three levels with a different boss at the end of each one.

Anything you can do Nina can do better, such as shooting three shots like this! Thanks, arm augment!
Choosing which level and boss to tackle has some strategy. As you progress through a run in 20XX, levels and bosses become more difficult. For example, if you face the Twin Astrals boss early, which is a pair of two fire and ice ball-spewing bosses, you don't have to defeat them both in close duration to one another. Likewise, if you face them as one of the last eight bosses you need to beat before moving on to the two final stages, then you have to destroy both almost at the same time, otherwise one will revive itself in battle.

My, what big... everything you have!
As stated, levels are procedurally generated, taking pieces of levels and enemy placements and arranges them via an algorithm in different orders, so each time you play a level it's a unique experience. Sure, early on I caught on to the pieces of levels that were being used, at least in the initial eight levels, but the arrangements still kept me on my toes. I only wish there were more environments used in the first eight levels instead of just four--those being a jungle bio-dome, an icy base, a sky temple, and a fiery factory. While the time of day changes when you return to a level archetype, I would have loved to see more level and environmental variety regardless.

Don't mind Nina--she's just hanging out.
20XX has multiple characters to play as, but you begin with either Nina or Ace. Nina is your Mega Man X clone, utilizing a powerful, long-range blaster, while Ace adheres more towards Zero's style of gameplay, using a sword for up-close and personal melee attacking. All of the tricks X and Zero have in the Mega Man X series are used by Nina and Ace, with some additions. Nina and Ace can scale up walls, perform charge shots, and with special augments, they can even gain X series Dr. Light capsule-esque abilities like a double jump, hovering capabilities, faster charging, knockback protection, gaining the possibility of gaining health or energy when enemies are destroyed, and much more.

The controls on display in 20XX are incredibly tight and sophisticated. They feel smooth, and if you put Mega Man X assets into the game to replace 20XX's you'd think you were playing a game featuring the Blue Bomber turned roguelike. They're that good. Plus, you get to enjoy them with a stellar frame-rate that never stutters or slows down, even when there are a megaton of enemies and bullets moving and flying around on screen. The developers of 20XX nailed both of these aspects splendidly, making for one fast and fluid action-platformer.

Whether playing as Nina, Ace, or an unlockable character, the controls feel fantastic.
Death, like in any typical roguelike, means your current run is over (unless it's Easy Mode, where you get three deaths to work with). The only thing you get to keep from your run are Soul Chips, one of two types of currency in 20XX. The other type is Nuts. Both are collected while playing through stages, but whereas Nuts can only be used during runs to purchase augments for your current run, Soul Chips are used outside of runs in the hub. These Soul Chips are purchased towards permanent augments, new augments to be dropped and discovered in runs, and augments for your next run only. While Nuts are more readily handed out than Soul Chips, the latter are found at the end of stages and dropped by flashing, more powerful enemies. This makes it so even if you're repeatedly failing runs--which is commonplace for a roguelike such as this--you're never really wasting your time, as you can always be buying new augments for your character in order to slowly but steadily have more health, attack power, etc. the next run. 20XX encourages repeated play-throughs, and the satisfying gameplay loop available will keep most players engaged and coming back for more.

If you're feeling particularly daring, there is a Hard Mode available to play, which lowers the amount of augments you can bring into runs, as well as offers the ability to turn on more challenging modifiers to your runs. These range from double damage taken from enemies; causing spikes, lava, bottomless pits, and other similar hazards to result in instant death; enemies dropping no health items; having the game run at 150% speed; and much more. Hard Mode is already difficult, but adding a modifier or two--or several--into the mix makes for even more longevity in this already packed game.

Defiant Mode is 20XX's hardest challenge, and with modifiers on,
the mode's toughness is even tougher!
Furthermore, the option to play cooperatively either online or locally with a friend is available. Players share the same screen, so things can zoom out quite obnoxiously. Thankfully, you can always teleport to one another for a price. In addition to that, if one player dies, the other can revive them at particular points in levels, sacrificing half their health each time in the process. My experience locally was that co-op worked extremely well. Fortunately, my experience online with co-op was just as wonderful and worthwhile. So, if you don't want to go it alone, you don't have to, which is a great option to have.

Quit slowing me down! Co-op mode is a blast either online or off.
20XX significantly borrows a lot from Capcom's Mega Man X series, but at the same time, the developers made 20XX their own by incorporating unique roguelike elements into the package. The only real stumbling points of the game are its relatively lackluster Flash game-like visuals (which didn't bother me personally) and how some of the procedural generation of levels can result in some unfair platforming challenges. Nonetheless, if you're craving for a highly savory and satisfying appetizer to this month's Mega Man X Legacy Collection, or just want a great game in general, then the future is now.

[SPC Says: B+]

Review code provided by Batterystaple Games and Fire Horse Games.