Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Spyro: Reignited Trilogy (PS4, XB1) Launch Trailer

Spyro the Dragon returns to the world of gaming, and it's not in grotesque Skylanders form either! Don't be fooled by the title of this trailer--Spyro: Reignited Trilogy, a collection of all-new HD remakes of Spyro the Dragon, Spyro 2: Ripto's Rage, and Spyro: Year of the Dragon, actually launches in three weeks. However, that isn't stopping the marketing gears at Activision from shifting. Check out the high definition transformation yourself with this trailer.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Super Mario Party (NSW) Review

Next up on October's schedule of reviews is Super Mario Party. Ruin friendships on a brand-new system with the Mario Party series's debut on the Nintendo Switch. Here's SuperPhillip Central's review.

Party like it's 1999 all over again

...And that's sort of the premise behind Super Mario Party, the eleventh mainline installment in the nearly 20-year-old Mario Party series. Ditching the "everyone rides in the same vehicle" car mechanic from Mario Party 9 and seen again in Mario Party 10 that saw a tepid response from series fans, Super Mario Party brings back individual movement across nonlinear boards. The goal? Collecting more Power Stars than your opponents by the end of the final turn.

The Mario Party mode is the most traditional of modes within the series's debut on the Switch. You take turns rolling dice blocks (and this time around each character has their own specific dice block--in addition to the standard 1-6 roll available to choose from), and then explore the four boards of the game. While these boards are indeed smaller than in past Mario Party games, this means that there aren't many--or even any--turns where nothing really happens. In Super Mario Party, a host of things can occur--from players landing on event spaces that affect the board and/or players in a variety of ways, collecting Stars, buying items from Flutter, stealing coins or Stars via Lakitu, participating in special "Rumble" mini-games, or falling prey to one of Kamek's Bad Luck Spaces, something is always happening regardless of the turn number. The point here is that there are no "worthless" turns where everyone is just moving around the board with little interactivity going on.

The boards are smaller than what veterans may be accustomed to,
but they're absolutely dense with activities and happenings.

After each player has moved during their turn, a mini-game occurs--a staple of the Mario Party series. While developer ND Cube has failed at delivering the type of Mushroom Kingdom bash that could rival the prior developer of the series, the now-defunct Hudson, one aspect that stays strong and even outdoes the older Mario Party titles is the fantastic amount of mini-games available. Super Mario Party utilizes a single Joy-Con for all players, making it so those with just one set of Joy-Con controllers that came packaged with the Switch can enjoy the game with another player at the very least.

The mini-games in Super Mario Party use the Joy-Con controller in a myriad of ways. From moving the Joy-Con to fly safely through swarms of killer Fuzzy obstructions, to using the analog stick to dodge oncoming Chargin' Chucks in Gridiron Gauntlet, to holding the Joy-Con vertically to flip a cube of meat on a frying pan--feeling the rumble to determine when a given side is sufficiently seared, the mini-games are well done and all control great.

Somehow I'm thinking that our players aren't suited up safely enough for this mini-game...
But, Super Mario Party is more than just the standard Mario Party mode. Returning from Mario Party: Star Rush is what the game calls Partner Party, where two teams of two travel around the same four boards of the Mario Party mode, except these are built like grids. The goal of earning as many Stars as possible is the same, but this time around you have to land on the space where the Star-seller Toadette is in order to purchase a Star. As the turn amount left decreases, the amount of Stars you can buy at once from Toadette increases up to three Stars. This can make for some seriously hilarious come-from-behind victories.

Here's pie in your eye!
What also makes for some good comeback wins is the two bonus stars handed out at the completion of a game. These reward players with Stars for performing certain tasks within a given game, such as getting first place in mini-games the most, landing on the most red spaces, partnering up with the most allies, and so forth. A point of contention here is that the category of Stars rewarded is completely random, so you can't just shoot for a specific Star like the Mini-Game Star, as it might not be one of the two bonus Stars handed out. This can make for some aggravating losses where the player who was the most skilled and had the most Stars before the end isn't the winner due to two random Stars being given to second place, giving them the edge over the player who was winning the whole game. Others like myself will note that this is what Mario Party is all about as a series, so it's not too irritating. Perhaps only when trying to earn the game's five Gems, which unlocks the ending of Super Mario Party.

Partner Party most closely resembles Mario Party: Star Rush's board design.
Yes, the main objective of Super Mario Party is to earn five Gems from completing five specific modes within the game. This includes the already mentioned Mario Party and Partner Party modes, but it also includes Challenge Road, River Survival, and the Sound Stage modes. With Mario Party and Partner Party, you need to finish at least in third place on each of the modes' four boards. Again, these are just the same four boards across both modes, just reconfigured based on whether you're playing the more traditional Mario Party mode or the more free-roaming grid-based Partner Party mode.

Challenge Road serves as the main single-player mode within Super Mario Party. It opens up for play once you've unlocked all mini-games. Based on that prerequisite, you can probably guess what you do in Challenge Road, then. You compete against the AI in six different worlds, challenging them in all 80 mini-games, one-by-one. Many of the mini-games don't just require you to win them, but to reach a specific point amount or time within the games. If you fail a mini-game three times in a row, you get the option to bypass it. Otherwise, failure does not result in any penalty besides having to try the mini-game again. What I like about this mode is that you can get a refresher on the controls and instructions on the game prior to playing it.

Mini-games occur in free-for-all, 2 vs. 2, or like this mini-game, 1 vs. 3!
This is, in fact, something I really found useful in the main "Party" modes of Super Mario Party. You can practice as much as you want in the instructions screen of each mini-game. No more wasting time entering a loading screen just to practice a mini-game, when you can do so straight from the instructions menu. When every player is ready, they just hit one of the shoulder buttons to prepare for the game.

Meanwhile, River Survival is less about competing against other players and more about cooperating with them. Your goal is to paddle down a raging river with multiple paths, dodging obstacles while picking up timers and completing mini-games to add precious seconds to (hopefully) reach the goal. The different paths along the way offer different rafting challenges, and it's really to your benefit to try to paddle down them all. Teamwork is a major factor in this mode, as if all players are paddling madly at once, the raft all four players inhabit won't maneuver well--hitting any and every obstacle that wades in their way.

The unlikeliest of allies can work together for one common goal: reaching the end of this branching river!

Teamwork's also paramount to success in the various mini-games, initiated by ramming in to red balloons along the river's path. These are all co-operative mini-games, offering the team of river-riders more seconds depending on how fast they complete a mini-game or in other cases how many points they earn. One mini-game requires all players to communicate with one another to lift a fishing net at the same time, thus capturing as many Cheep-Cheep fish as possible. Another is a maze of blocks that requires players to collect gems and place them in the center of it. Some paths are closed off, making it so another player needs to stand on a switch to open it up for them.

Lastly, Sound Stage is an all-rhythm based collection of mini-games, where every mini-game has you swinging the Joy-Con in time with the music. There are visual indicators regardless, for those who lack rhythm (like some writer for SuperPhillip Central who will remain nameless). Sound Stage has three difficulties total, and while the mini-games are a blast to play, their presence is missed in the main Mario Party mode. As is, there are a lot of repeated mini-games in the Mario Party mode, and I can't help but think they'd be better served as additional free-for-all mini-games within other modes.

Speaking of repeated mini-games, there's the online component of Super Mario Party--which before your ask, no, there is no option to play full rounds of Mario Party or Partner Party online with friends. Instead, what's here is an Online Mario-thon which is a selection of 10 mini-games that are cycled through for players to engage in. Frankly, while I didn't mind this too much, an option for a traditional Mario Party experience online would have been greatly preferred and much appreciated. As is, I just spent $20 on a Nintendo Switch Online subscription, and the very first new Nintendo game with online has the bare minimum incorporated in to it. Not the most reassuring thing there.

Off the Chain gives the "1" in this "1 vs. 3" mini-game the fun of steamrolling their opponents.
Super Mario Party is a much welcome return to form for the franchise after some shaky attempts to mix things up. While I did actually enjoy what Island Tour and Star Rush had to offer gameplay-wise it's nice in a sense that I feel that I'm back "home" with regards to the Mario Party series. The new additions like the extra modes, the character-specific dice blocks that add a whole new level of strategy to the game (do I risk attempting to roll a 10 when at the same time rolling a 0 is a distinct possibility?), and the mini-games are truly a terrific showcase for the Switch's Joy-Con controller.

What isn't so great is the limited online options--especially after the arrival of having to pay just to play them--and the limited number of boards (and how small they are) compared to past games in the series might put some series veterans off.

Regardless, Super Mario Party is a bash that deserves to be celebrated. Mario Party is back, and Super Mario Party itself is one of the grandest shindigs Mario and the rest of the Mushroom Kingdom gang has ever held.

[SPC Says: B]