Friday, December 13, 2019

Final Fantasy VII Remake (PS4) The Game Awards 2019 Trailer

Final Fantasy VII wasn't one of my favorite games growing up, quite unlike a lot of gamers of my generation, but that doesn't mean I'm not over the moon with hype towards its remake. Final Fantasy VII Remake might be split up into parts, and we might go until 2050 to see the conclusion going by Square Enix's history, but all that notwithstanding, my hype is through the roof. Final Fantasy VII Remake starts its classic adventure in Midgar on March 3rd, 2020.

Ghost of Tsushima (PS4) "The Ghost" Trailer

Ghost of Tsushima was announced and then it disappeared, just like a ghost. We got a teaser during this past week's State of Play presentation from Sony to catch a full trailer during The Game Awards, and now here it is. Not only that, but a release period was announced, too--Summer 2020.

Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order (NSW) "Rise of the Phoenix DLC" Trailer

The second DLC pack for Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order was announced last night, and it features a quartet of X-Men--Phoenix, Gambit, Ice Man, and Cable! A new mode called "Danger Room" is also included, as are more Gauntlet missions to keep owners of the game extended their play times even further! The Rise of the Phoenix DLC Expansion #2 for Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order launches on December 23rd, 2019.

Bravely Default II (NSW) Announcement Trailer

Announced last night, the Bravely Default series returns, this time to the Nintendo Switch. However, it's not alone in making a return. Composer of the original 3DS game, Revo, returns to compose the game's score as well, and as you might recall, I listed the first Bravely Default as having one of the best soundtracks of the past decade. Bravely Default II is set to release sometime next year.

No More Heroes 3 (NSW) "The Return" Trailer

A lot of new trailers arrived around the timing of and during The Game Awards last night. One such trailer was a brand new extended trailer for No More Heroes III, currently given a 2020 release year. What it lacks in gameplay, this trailer sure delivers in that trademark Suda 51 wackiness and eccentricity.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove (Multi) Launch Trailer

The complete Shovel Knight experience is finally here with Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove. By themselves, each individual game would more than make for an incredible game packed with enough content to spend countless hours with, but together, this collection of five Shovel Knight games makes for a retro-styled compendium of modern action-platforming classics. Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove receives its launch trailer for an abundance of platforms, which you can check out below.

Resident Evil 3 (PS4, XB1, PC) Announcement Trailer

Such a sensationally creative and playful way to reveal this next remake in the Resident Evil franchise--introducing it as the single player campaign to Project Resistance. What a showing for Resident Evil 3, introducing familiar characters with a fresh coat of paint, and even more shockingly, an April 3rd, 2020 release date. Evil takes up residence once more much sooner than many of us might have thought!

Dreams (PS4) State of Play Release Date Trailer

If you can dream it, you can make it with Media Molecule's newest, extremely ambitious creator tools in its latest game, Dreams. We saw but a taste of Mm's magnificent means for user game creations with its LittleBigPlanet series, but Dreams takes the idea of user generated content and runs wild with it. Aspiring game creators should be prepared to lose their social lives when Dreams releases on February 14th, 2020.

Kingdom Hearts III (PS4, XB1) State of Play "Re Mind [DLC]" Trailer

Leaked over the weekend, a new DLC trailer for Kingdom Hearts III was revealed in an official capacity during Sony's State of Play PlayStation showcase this morning. As an aside, despite my love of Kingdom Hearts III and considering it a contender for SPC's Game of the Year, this trailer continues the series's penchant for... uh... "questionable" voice direction and writing. (I'm trying to be charitable here with my wording.). Still, the gameplay shines and keeps me interested. Kingdom Hearts III's Re Mind DLC arrives on the PlayStation 4 on January 23rd, 2020.

Babylon's Fall (PS4, PC) State of Play Trailer

The combination of Square Enix and Platinum Games seems to be delivering explosive and extraordinary results, if this trailer for Babylon's Fall is any sign. During PlayStation's State of Play presentation this morning, Babylon's Fall returned from a long, quiet absence to show its stuff with an exciting trailer. More info about the game arrives next summer.

Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games: Tokyo 2020 (NSW) Review

After Thursday's Mario Kart Tour review, let's continue with our Mario theme we have going on with our reviews. It's time to take a look at Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games: Tokyo 2020, the first of two Olympic-themed games coming from Sega to commemorate the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Here's the SPC review.

A solid effort, but not enough to earn the top place on the podium.

It was over a decade ago that the gaming world was rocked with the announcement of longtime gaming rivals, Mario and Sonic, putting aside their differences to join forces to face off in the most unlikely of places--the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympic Games. Nowadays, we take for granted that Mario and Sonic face off every two years, be it summer or winter, and occasionally in a once-per-console-generation offering of the Super Smash Bros. series as well. The year 2020 approaches, as does the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympic Games. Sega seeks to jump in on the Olympic hype ahead of next summer's games with two separate titles. The first released last month: Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games: Tokyo 2020, and with new features and new events, it aims to go for the gold.

Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games: Tokyo 2020's biggest new feature is that of a story mode. While strictly handheld versions of previous titles in the Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games series had story modes, Tokyo 2020 is the first for a major console version. It involves Mario, Sonic, Bowser, Eggman, and Toad being transported into a video game console based on the Tokyo 1964 Olympic Games, the very first time the Olympics were held in the city.

The Story Mode clocks in at just over five or so hours, depending on how fast you race through it.
The story transfers between chapters where Mario and Sonic compete against Bowser and Eggman in various retro events as well as unique one-off mini-games such as Sonic making a mad dash to pursue a bullet train, and chapters where the rest of the gang, led by Tails and Luigi, compete in real world events against various characters. Both story perspectives give players the opportunity to explore a world map with real life Olympic locations, though the locales outside of the Tokyo 1964 game are the most impressive. Obviously not just due to polygon and pixel difference, but the areas that Luigi and Tails visit are recreated with great detail, such as Tokyo Tower, for instance, among many other Tokyo points of interest. Inside the areas of the game that can be quasi-explored, there are multiple statues that reveal bits of trivia about Tokyo, the Olympics, and characters within the Mario and Sonic universes. Overall, the story mode lasts anywhere between 5-8 hours, but a good portion of that is cycling through text scenes which unfortunately cannot be skipped at the time of this review.

The participants have lined up at the starting gate, and this race is ready to be run!
While I mention the Story Mode first in this review, it was not my first destination within Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games: Tokyo 2020. Instead, and I imagine it will be this way for a majority of players, my go-to mode when I initially started up the game for my maiden session was Quick Play. This mode allows you to dive head first into every individual event in the game--all 34 of them. The majority take place in the--for lack of a better term since this is a game we're talking about--"real world of Mario and Sonic", while the others play out in the Tokyo 1964 retro-themed events. The latter are the most basic and easiest to understand of the games as they utilize incredibly simple controls, which are a cinch to learn. Unlike the main events of Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games: Tokyo 2020, only half of the roster is available to play as in this mode, and from my understanding, they don't have any specific pluses or negatives to them like the main events in the game.

The retro-themed events include the 100 meter dash, hurdles, and long jump--but they also include retro exclusive events like the diving, Judo, shooting, and the Marathon, my favorite of the bunch. The Marathon is a side-scroller that starts out in the Olympic arena before quickly going to the streets. You compete against 99 other competitors, and you're trying not to run into them or other obstacles, as doing so lowers your stamina. You can regain stamina by slip-streaming off other runners when they form packs, as well as grabbing water at intermittent stations. This is all the while mashing the running button in a satisfactory rhythm that you're not going so slow that you can't catch up to first place while not going so fast that you exert all of your stamina too quickly.

Waluigi says, "Later, Gator" to Vector.
Meanwhile, there are the main Olympic events that take place in full HD glory. These feature more complex controls than what is offered in the retro events, and an issue I have with them is that they can become so involved and so different between events, that it can make remembering them a chore. Thus, many times when I returned to an event after a long absence, I had to reacquaint myself with the controls to remember what buttons did what action. If I had this trouble, imagine the trouble that more casual players of games would have.

Furthermore, so many events have little intricacies to the controls, such as pressing the jump button upon landing after your horse leaps over a fence in Equestrian to achieve a bonus boost or pressing L + A to perform an arcing kick over the goalie in Football. These are easy to forget when you're playing over 30 different events in the game with 30 different sets of controls. It makes a supposed pick-up-and-play game quite challenging to actually move from game to game without needing to reestablish what the controls are to each event. Thankfully, like Rio 2016 before it, Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games: Tokyo 2020 also features an option to select between motion controls and much more consistent button controls with the occasional need to use the Joy-Cons' or Pro Controller's gyro functionality.

Mario hopes to score a goal for the ages to put his team on top and earn a gold medal in the process.
Continuing on with some negativity, while new events like Skateboarding and Sport Climbing are satisfying new event additions to the summer series of games, the absence of events from previous entries like BMX and Beach Volleyball disappoints. Still, it is hard to complain too terribly much when the majority of the events play well and are enjoyable--especially when there are 21 varieties to choose from, some of which in singles and team varieties, as well.

Move over, Tony Hawk--Miles "Tails" Prower is here to throw down.
In addition to the 21 real life Olympic events, there is the return of Dream Events. Unfortunately, this is a part of the game where I must complain a tad. While the Dream Events included in Mario & Sonic Tokyo 2020 are indeed a load of fun, there are only three of them in total. Compare this to the majority of past games in the Mario & Sonic series--both summer and winter--and it's a bit of a disappointment. Not only does this mean there's less Dream Event gameplay to enjoy, but it also means one of my favorite features of the franchise, the wonderful remixes of Mario and Sonic music is also less prominent--only featuring one remix from each respective platforming franchise TOTAL.

Still, like I mentioned, the trio of Dream Events, while small in number, add up to a load of fun. Dream Racing takes place in Sonic Forces' Metropolitan Highway and features Sonic Riders-like gameplay on hoverboards, where leaping off ramps, grinding rails, and using Mario Kart-esque items are what matters to achieve victory. Meanwhile, Dream Karate takes place at Super Mario Odyssey's Mushroom Kingdom with Peach's Castle resting in the distance. Here, players punch, kick, and otherwise launch other opponents on to tiles that flip to their character's color. The player with the most tiles flipped to their color at the timer's end is declared the winner. Finally, Dream Shooting takes place at a real life Japanese castle, and the goal here is to move through the arena, aiming and shooting at various targets, while trying to keep your combo going to acquire the most points before time runs out.

Blaze the Cat hopes to achieve a purr-fect run down this hazardous highway course.
Events can be selected to feature normal, hard, and very hard AI. In events where direct competition is not available, the point values and times logged in by the AI are made more difficult on the more challenging AI settings. It gets to the point where on Very Hard AI you basically have to beat an Olympic Record to stand a chance at competing on the AI's level. Those events where you are competing directly against the AI--such as Fencing, Football, Rugby Sevens, Badminton, Table Tennis, 100M Dash, Hurdles, 4 X 100 Relay, and so on--simply pit you against much tougher opponents.

In addition to local play on the same screen and the same Switch, there is also the ability to connect several Switches together for local multiplayer that way as well. Expanding upon the multiplayer is online play, which allows you to share your records worldwide with other players, compete in events with friends and strangers alike in lobbies, and participate in casual or ranked play. However, waiting in lobbies for specific events is quite troublesome, as for one, there's more waiting than actual playing in the case of events like the 100m Dash, and secondly, it can be quite hard to find anyone playing in an event you might like to try out online... or any event at all.

Between a race featuring two Sonics, who would have guessed it'd be Luigi leading the pack?
If online play isn't your bag, then aside from completing the story mode and perhaps beating Olympic records within the game or getting a gold medal on every event, there's not much to keep most players engaged with this installment of Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games, despite its--for the most part--quality. There are achievements to complete, but these are merely for your own personal sense of accomplishment, as unlike past installments of the series, these don't unlock anything. There isn't even an option to play as Miis, so there are no character-related costumes to unlock. Even that was something enjoyable to do in past games to keep me playing, which Tokyo 2020 lacks.

As an aside, the amount of characters in Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games: Tokyo 2020 remains the same after several installments of the series, using the same cast of 16 characters, eight from the Mario series and eight from the Sonic series with unlockable characters that can only be played in specific events. For instance, if you love Espio from the Sonic series's Team Chaotix, then I hope you love the Long Jump, as that's the only event he can participate in.

"My name is Luigi Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die!"
Like some of the events in Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games: Tokyo 2020, some elements of the game just seem half-baked. The amount of content is a major one, especially when you're comparing it to past entries in the series. This seems like a step back in that regard. That notwithstanding, Mario and Sonic's trip to Tokyo to compete ahead of the official 2020 Olympic Games nails the landing when it comes to being enjoyable to play. While you will find yourself scrambling to the menus to read up on a given event's controls more times than you might care to admit or care to like, the actual events are mostly entertaining, and the retro-themed events and minigames also sport plenty of opportunities for fun as well. It wouldn't be a review about a game set in the Olympics without a cliche reference, and while the review tagline already took care of that, here's a second one for you: Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games: Tokyo 2020 goes for the gold, but winds up with silver instead.

[SPC Says: B-]

Star Ocean: First Departure R (NSW, PS4) Launch Trailer

One of my favorite RPGs of all time is Star Ocean: The Second Story. Despite playing through that game multiple times, I never turned to its predecessor. Obviously part of the reason is because it didn't properly release in the West until the PlayStation Portable remake, but that's no excuse as I own it! That said, I think Star Ocean: First Departure R will be my chance to finally play through the very first Star Ocean, a game that originally released on the Super Nintendo. Now, the circle is complete with Star Ocean's grand return on a Nintendo platform in addition to its launch on the PlayStation 4 with Star Ocean: First Departure R. Here is the full launch trailer for the game that released late last week.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Mega Man Zero/ZX Legacy Collection (PS4, XB1, NSW, PC) "Red Hero" Trailer

Six games, two Mega Man sub-series, one hero. Mega Man Zero/ZX Legacy Collection has a new trailer, and SuperPhillip Central has it for you below. It shows off the various weapons and capabilities of hero Zero in Mega Man Zero 1-4. February 25th, 2020 is the release date for Mega Man Zero/ZX Legacy Collection.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Mario Kart Tour (iOS, AND) Review

Mario Kart Tour revved up its engines and roared onto mobile devices several months ago. Now, that the exhaust has settled, it's time to take a deep dive into the game two months after the game's launch. Has it improved? Is it a worthy title to spend time with? Let's get behind the steering wheel and race for the finish line with SuperPhillip Central's review of Mario Kart Tour!

More of a Tour de Farce than a Tour de Force

Nintendo's mobile offerings haven't exactly set the gaming world on fire. They're meant as more of a sampling--a tease, if you will--to get mobile players gaming on Nintendo systems by providing them with a taste of what will come from buying, say, a Switch or whatever. Between Miitomo, Super Mario Run, Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, Fire Emblem Heroes, and on, Nintendo's found varying degrees of success, but mostly less than satisfactory results. Nintendo hopes to change that with one of its largest properties, and instead of bringing but a small tease of Mario Kart to mobile, Mario Kart Tour is pretty much a valid Mario Kart experience in phone and tablet form. However, as we'll see with my review, a valid Mario Kart experience on mobile has plenty, and I do mean plenty of bumps in its road.

The main draw of Mario Kart Tour is its seasons. Each season in Mario Kart Tour is comprised of multiple cups of three main races and a Mario Kart DS Mission Mode-like event. The latter can be things like time trials, passing through rings, defeating as many Goombas as possible, avoiding damage, and so forth. The actual racetracks featured in Mario Kart Tour are throwbacks from Mario Kart 7's selection of new tracks and retro track selection. Few of the returning tracks from past Mario Kart games come from anywhere but Mario Kart 7, such as Mario Kart Double Dash's Yoshi's Circuit.

With regard to Mario Kart Tour's various seasons, it's not just about getting first place in a race (though that's somewhat important as is); it's about getting enough points to pass thresholds to acquire Grand Stars, which open up new cups in a given season. You earn points from doing all sorts of tasks--hitting opponents with items, performing tricks, collecting coins, and gaining hang time from flight sections of racetracks. Chaining actions together is paramount in achieving high scores on tracks. All of this adds up to a grand total, which determines how many Grand Stars you earn for that particular race.

However, Mario Kart Tour implements a system where even players who race more than adequately and cross the finish line in first place may and probably will still not have enough points to earn five Grand Stars in many races. Each track in a cup has a specific character, kart, and glider that gives different benefits for using them. The most egregious example of this comes from all tracks needing a specific racer to earn the ability to get three individual items upon driving through an item box. This can also result in a "Frenzy" when you get three of the same item, allowing you to enter invincibility and use as many of that item as you like until the effect wears off.

If you aren't fortunate to have the driver a specific track wants you to have (which you generally won't), you might be stuck with a racer who can only hold two items at once, or worse off, just one--which puts you at a severe disadvantage both race placement and point-wise. Using track recommended karts and gliders also helps in adding a bonus multiplier as well as increasing the amount of time your chain multiplier lasts. Seeing as the characters, karts, and gliders you unlock to use are mostly luck of the draw from pulls that require the use of expensive and hard-to-acquire Rubies, it can be darn difficult to stay competitive in the game.

I say "competitive", but outside of weekly tournaments where you compete against your particular tier of twenty players to see who can earn the most points in a specific cup for prizes like gold and Rubies (good luck if you don't have the "right" racers for the chosen tracks), there is no multiplayer to speak of in Mario Kart Tour. Yes, the racing series synonymous with multiplayer fun with friends and family does not yet have this feature. That said, the feature is coming, but I worry how balanced it will be (or not be) if the same rules for single player play out in multiplayer.

Of course, it wouldn't be a freemium mobile game without microtransactions and a Gacha system. Nintendo has unfortunately satisfied both conditions to be a freemium mobile game with its repulsive pricing and downright scummy odds with driver, kart, and glider pulls. Rubies are handed out like candy at first in Mario Kart Tour, but soon they become like water to a Koopa in Dry Dry Desert--incredibly hard to come across. Considering every pull in Mario Kart Tour--that is, launching a reward out of the pipe for a chance at earning something new--whether that's a new racer, kart, or glider--costs five Rubies. The odds of getting one of the featured items of each season is disgustingly low, but the odds of pulling multiple copies of characters, karts, and gliders you already possess are frustratingly high. Yes, duplicates of already possessed goodies do eventually level up your drivers and such to make them earn more points in races, but it can be absolutely deflating to make ten pulls and have nothing but lame, low rarity items to show for it.

Then, there are the microtransactions. This is Nintendo kowtowing to investors who wanted the company to go all-in on MTXs because the prices on display here are hilarious in how bold and brazen they are. For example, Mario--the character that Mario Kart is named after--once was in a pack for $20. Yes, the main character of the game isn't even available at the very start of Mario Kart Tour. You either had to get lucky and get him from a pull like I did, earn enough coins to buy him from the shop, or just give in to the evil pricing strategies being conveyed here and straight up buy the pack.

That's not even the worst of it. There's also a Gold Pass that unlocks more rewards for players for going through the various seasons. You earn more Rubies, more Gold, more goodies like drivers, karts, and gliders--but the catch here is that the Gold Pass costs $4.99. Oh, I'm sorry. I left out an important piece of information. That is $4.99 PER MONTH, a price that is insane. While you can try the Gold Pass out for a two-week trial (just be sure to cancel it before you're charged a day before the two-week trial ends), you better believe that this isn't really worth the asking price. Not by a long green shell shot.

And that's a shame that Nintendo seems to be doing everything with its pricing strategy to turn people like me off from the game, as Mario Kart Tour is rather fun. There is no real stamina system to worry about, which would otherwise limit how many times you can race per day. Instead, the amount of coins you can earn is capped at 300 per day, and the amount of experience you can earn per driver, kart, and glider is also capped at a limit per day as well.

Pretty much all of Nintendo's mobile offerings have been poor man's versions of its popular franchises. With Mario Kart Tour, you pretty much get the full experience of Mario Kart on a mobile device. Obviously, unlike say, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on the Nintendo Switch, with Mario Kart Tour you're able to play with just one hand, using your finger to slide from left to right on the screen in order to steer and drift. In order to launch an item, you swipe either forwards or backwards to fire off in the desired direction. That said, it's quite a bit of a challenge to properly aim an item in the direction you want all while negotiating a turn and especially a drift.

Mario Kart Tour constantly keeps you driving forward. There's some auto-steering involved and boundaries to make for a less frustrating experience. What I mean by the latter is that in Mario Kart games where it'd be easy to fall off the course, you automatically hug curves as if there's an invisible rail keeping you on the track. The only opportunity to plummet off a track is when you're hit by an item in midair while crossing a chasm, for instance.

It can be a bit frustrating to avoid items in Mario Kart Tour, especially because racers automatically hold whatever item they have on deck right behind them. This makes it all too easy to steer into it, making your character careen off course and lose precious podium and places and seconds of time. That said, it also makes it so you don't have to hold a button down to have an item trailing behind your character for safety purposes, so there's a pro and a con with this setup.

Mario Kart Tour's tracks forgo the typical three laps that the series has seen used since Mario Kart 64. Instead, Mario Kart Tour's races are two laps each. While the amount of total tracks isn't very high, and they do repeat a lot each season, the game cleverly alters how you race on them. There are four versions of each track--a normal version, a reversed version where you drive on it backwards, a trick version that has a multitude of ramps and other places to perform point-accumulating tricks off of, and a reversed trick version.

Additionally, the "Tour" in Mario Kart Tour refers to how many of the game's seasons sport a featured track that takes place in one real world location. So far, New York, Tokyo, Paris, and London have been featured as locales with unique tracks of their own, but these haven't been too exciting overall design-wise. They're certainly appealing to look at aesthetically, but they don't get the adrenaline driving as much as I would have hoped--particularly the Tokyo track, which was quite a letdown. Hopefully, Nintendo continues bringing new tours as well as new returning tracks into the roster of races to keep things fresh, in addition to new characters, karts, and gliders.

Mario Kart Tour's tracks look absolutely delightful and brimming with color and personality. This is a mobile game that looks really good, even if it is a bit too taxing on my iPhone 5S (thus resulting in a lot of crashes--one every four or five races--before and after races). It's also quite a battery hog, quickly taking down my phone's battery, though this is somewhat remedied with the power-saving mode that helps lower the depletion on my phone's battery but downgrades the visuals severely. Sound-wise, Mario Kart Tour takes nearly all of its sound and music directly from past Mario Kart games with the only new compositions coming from menus and the new tour tracks.

Overall, it says more about how much I love Mario Kart that I can put up with the slimy Gacha and microtransaction practices than it does my delight for Mario Kart Tour. While the game is structurally sound on a gameplay note, the systems designed to inhale all of the contents from players' wallets are just horrid and completely disgusting to me, especially coming from family-friendly Nintendo. For most players, I feel Mario Kart Tour makes for a stopgap as they wait for Mario Kart 9 to come out (whenever it does--maybe even Nintendo's next system at this rate), and even then, it's a poor one. You'll most likely find yourself wishing to go back to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. As for me, I see myself sticking with Mario Kart Tour for a little while longer, hoping I don't get to a point where I'll get truly repulsed and put off from playing the game for good--but deep inside knowing that I probably will.

[SPC Says: C-]

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Super Mario Maker 2 (NSW) A Legendary Update

After the arrival of online multiplayer with friends and the promise of new course features, Nintendo has revealed both fresh new course tools and a release date for these tools with this trailer for Super Mario Maker 2's second major update. Including new course elements such as enemies like Spike and Pokey, dash panels for Super Mario 3D World, and a certain hero of Hyrule that changes the game up considerably, Super Mario Maker 2 ought to spur the creative spirit even more in players when the update releases December 5th.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

One & Done: Games Without Sequels - Part Three

After a year's absence, "One & Done" is back, talking about those games that didn't receive sequels of any kind--whether spiritual or straight-out sequels. There could be multiple reasons for this: a game just didn't sell well, isn't marketable anymore, or the creator/development team simply wanted to move on to something else. We have games from a variety of eras on this edition of "One & Done", so sit back, get comfortable, and prepare yourself for a trip down memory lane.

For a look at SPC's previous two editions of "One & Done", check out part one and part two.

Tearaway (PS4, Vita)

Media Molecule became well known for a plethora of PlayStation fans for its work on the LittleBigPlanet series and have gone on to work on an even more ambitious creative gaming suite with Dreams. However, in between these two projects came a game that didn't receive as much buzz by virtue of being on the PlayStation Vita. That game was Tearaway, a charming 3D platformer that utilized the Vita hardware in glorious and ingenious ways. From using the rear touch screen to raise up platforms from below to utilizing the camera to take a picture, thus using the image to colorize a papercraft creature in need of color, Tearaway remains one of the best games to feature the Vita's various knickknacks and tools. A PlayStation 4 version would release--Tearaway Unfolded--adding new content and retooling the controls to work with the PS4's DualShock. Here's hoping that some day Sony brings back Tearaway in some shape or form.

The Bouncer (PS2)

Squaresoft's first game for the PlayStation 2 was little more than a title to get its proverbial feet wet with development on the system, and while the end result, The Bouncer, was gorgeous game for its time, it left a lot to be desired. The main point of contention critics and players of this 3D brawler was that the game was ridiculously short. In fact, the generous helping of cutscenes fattened the length of the game up tremendously, and without those, you were left with a quick romp for a full priced game. Still, The Bouncer was something of a project that I would have loved to have seen expanded upon, fleshed out more, and made into a fuller experience. This obviously did not happen as Square's attention understandably turned to its Final Fantasy games, its cash cow of sorts. That said, there's always a part of me that wonders what could and would have been had The Bouncer been more than a mere tech demo under the guise of a full game.

Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. (3DS)

If one were to give an elevator pitch to Intelligent Systems' Code Name: S.T.E.A.M., it could be given as such: "Historic and storybook figures like Abraham Lincoln and the Lion from the Wizard of Oz take on an alien threat in a game with Valkyria Chronicles-like combat." Of course, if one were to give such a pitch, hopefully the person they were giving the pitch to wasn't drinking a cup of coffee, as they would be sure to spit it out in surprise. It's quite an odd premise, but Intelligent Systems managed to make it work with tactical gameplay, focusing on a steam mechanic that is exhausted as players move and attack enemies. Efficiently managing their steam to an effective degree is all the difference between a mission's success and a total failure. Battles were unpredictable and kept players on their toes with their stiff challenge, making for one "One & Done" game that makes this strategy RPG fan lament that we won't be seeing a sequel any time soon.

Dewy's Adventure (Wii)

We conclude this edition of "One & Done" with a trio of Wii titles beginning with Konami's Dewy's Adventure, a delightful fixed camera 3D platformer with a unique control scheme. In Dewy's Adventure, players held the Wii Remote NES controller-style and tilted it forward, backward, leftward and rightward to move the water droplet protagonist through eight worlds of unique challenges and perils. Dewy himself could take on new forms by being frozen or being exposed to heat to solve puzzles and take down enemies that were otherwise invincible in his normal dewdrop form. Dewy's Adventure entered and exited the gaming sphere like morning dew, only to have what little hype it had evaporate into nothingness as many looked past the game. While Konami's other all-new Wii-centered exclusive, Elebits, managed to find enough success for a sequel--though on the Nintendo DS--Dewy's Adventure, unfortunately, did not.

Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure (Wii)

Despite struggling with the motion controls (and sometimes to the point of utter frustration) in this next game on this list, Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure brought with it a charming art style, set of characters, and gorgeous, colorful art style that suited the weak Wii hardware quite well. The game itself was a puzzle adventure game where players needed to find and use tools correctly in order to complete each level, and some of these tools required the use of the Wii Remote's motion and gyro control functionality. Most of the time these worked well, but when they didn't--woo boy! Regardless, part of why I'm devoting three spaces on this edition of "One & Done" to Wii games is because I'm nostalgic for that era of experimental gaming--damning to hell the poorly implemented motion controls that plagued the system notwithstanding. It was an era where we saw some really "out there" ideas and games put forth by big publishers--something in this HD era that is mostly left for indies nowadays (though still appreciated).

We Love Golf! (Wii)

Speaking of Capcom and loosely tied with Zack & Wiki is We Love Golf! Nintendo didn't develop a Mario Golf game for the Wii/DS generation, so instead, its usual golf game partner Camelot turned to Capcom to create We Love Golf! While the assortment of golfers were vanilla and generic as all get out, one could unlock Capcom-inspired costumes from such series like Street Fighter, Resident Evil, Phoenix Wright, and yes, Zack & Wiki. The actual golfing was inspired, and while players didn't swing the Wii Remote like an actual club, a swing motion was required to drive, putt, and otherwise hit the ball through the game's eight 18-hole courses and three unique par 3 courses. I spent so much time with We Love Golf!, and it's a shame that the series didn't continue, though sales show the obvious reason why it didn't. At least we'll always have Mario Golf to look forward to with Camelot and Nintendo.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Review Round-Up - November 2019

If SuperPhillip Central reaching its 900th review didn't shock you,
perhaps the quality of Capcom's Resident Evil 2 remake will!
November was the month featuring Thanksgiving for most Americans, and for SuperPhillip Central, the month was like a turkey review-wise--stuffed! Check out the four reviews posted this past month with a brand new, revamped Review Round-Up!

We first took on the Last Resort hotel in Luigi's Mansion 3, a remarkable third entry in the series and one of my favorite games of the year. It used its Poltergust G-00 to suck up an A grade. Next, SuperPhillip Central went questing with an unlikely duo--a cat and a dog--in Cat Quest II, getting a C+.

Moving forward, we then went to different, though familiar territory (or should I say terror-tory?) with Resident Evil 2, SuperPhillip Central's 900th overall review! The game got an excellent A grade. Finally, we took to the mean streets of River City with River City Girls, kicking butt and earning a C+ for its troubles.

Check out every review ever posted on SuperPhillip Central with the SPC Review Archive!

Luigi's Mansion 3 (NSW) - A

Thankfully, as noted endlessly within this review, Luigi's Mansion 3 is also just amazing to play. Each floor I played, each boss I encountered, and each secret I discovered brought me so much joy. Luigi's Mansion 3 is just a pleasure to play, and the hotel setting is a wonderful compromise between the connected mansion of the 2001 original and the more disjointed mission-based structure of its Nintendo 3DS sequel, Dark Moon. I foresee plenty of my future gaming time being devoted to tackling those last achievements in the game, despite my needing to cover other, more pressing titles coming out. Alas, I think you're most definitely worth it, Luigi's Mansion 3. Like a friendly ghost, I won't mind you "haunting" me for a little while longer since you're one of the best games of the year.

Cat Quest II (NSW, PS4, XB1, PC) - C+

Cat Quest II is a game that certainly doesn't outstay its welcome, as I feel any further padding would just add to the occasional tedium and repetition I felt while playing the game at times. For this reason, for me, the game was best to play in bursts rather than an extended period of time (other than my first gaming session with it). Filled with charming personality, clever humor, a colorful world, satisfyingly simple and accessible combat, and enough cat and dog puns to last you till you wait for the inevitable third installment, Cat Quest II is far from purr-fect but by no means a cat-astrophe either.

Resident Evil 2 (PS4, XB1, PC) - A

Resident Evil VII had brought the Resident Evil franchise back to its former glory days, and now with Resident Evil 2, the series has ushered in a brand-new golden age. Resident Evil 2 is a sensational remake in every sense of the word. Capcom didn't rest on its laurels by just upgrading its graphics and gameplay--it totally reworked the game to modern game standards, and the end product is without question one of the best games released this year. Resident Evil 2 isn't just good--it's scary good.

River City Girls (PS4, XB1, NSW, PC) - C+

I would say that between the gorgeous sprites and detailed backgrounds, the mostly amusing combat, the fun enough script, and plentiful bonus content that River City Girls is indeed worth its $30 price tag. While I won't find myself continuing to return to this type of beat-em-up as much as say, a more linear, focused type like Double Dragon or even a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game, I did like my time with River City Girls regardless. The humor's hit and miss, the game can grow a bit repetitive, but as a whole, the River City Girls kick butt.
November isn't known for being a particularly scary month (having to spend time with your family aside),
but for SuperPhillip Central, our highlighted games this past month were of the creepy variety!

Friday, November 29, 2019

River City Girls (PS4, XB1, NSW, PC) Review

I hope those who celebrated Thanksgiving yesterday enjoyed their bounty. Now, allow SuperPhillip Central to provide you a weekend bounty of content starting with this review, its first after SPC's big, historic 900th review. We turn to a game from Arc System Works and Wayforward that released earlier this fall, River City Girls. Let's get our fists and feet ready to fly with the SPC review!

High school girls in a low stakes beat-em-up adventure

High school misfits Kyoko and Misako are ditching class, but this time for good reason--they're on the hunt for their supposedly missing boyfriends in River City Girls by Arc System Works and Wayforward. With beautiful 2D sprite-work, engaging beat-em-up combat, and a somewhat funny script, River City Girls makes for a goofy spin-off to the River City Ransom series, much like Double Dragon Neon was to the Double Dragon series.

River City Girls tells its tale through various means, whether it's manga-inspired, hand-drawn cut-scenes, anime-inspired cutscenes, or simply through character portraits. Every piece of major dialogue is spoken, though some voice acting is better than others, and that "some is better than others" goes for the game's humor as well. More times than I'd like to admit, I found myself letting out a loud sigh or rolling my eyes at certain jokes, and part of that is just how obnoxious pretty much every character in the game is (especially the voices of the main heroines at times).

Misako is the snarky one while Kyoko is a tad ditsy.
Following the River City Ransom series' structure, Kyoko and Misako find themselves moving around a nonlinear set of scrolling screens, taking out enemies of all types and sizes, completing quests for characters, and unlocking new sections of the city to explore. 

Around town, a multitude of shops feature food and items that not only heal our heroines when consumed, but when they're used for the first time, they give a permanent stat increase. Both characters can also equip various accessories that can help out in a pinch, such as equipment that takes out specific types of enemies more efficiently, equipment that increases the likelihood of enemies dropping more money upon their defeat, among many others. Other shops include dojos that teach Kyoko and Misako new moves to use in battle, some of which require regenerating SP to use, and many of which require certain character level milestones to use at all.

Looks like Kyoko is going to have to save up her allowance if she wants to buy more than one game,
and by "save up her allowance", I mean beat the crap out of more enemies and take their money.
Combat is enjoyable in River City Girls, offering a myriad of means to dispatch foes, whether with bare fists and kicks in both light or strong forms, special moves learned in the dojo and from characters leveling up, or by picking up various weapons littered about the game--from yo-yos to baseball bats, benches to trash cans, and guitars to baseballs. Enemies don't simply stand there and take a beating--they of course dish back damage as well. When a foe is getting set to attack, it's a wise idea to get out of harm's way, or better yet, block. 

Well, those enemies that just got launched into the air certainly aren't grounded yet!
With proper timing right when an enemy makes contact with the player, a block can stun that enemy, opening them up to a tried and true offensive assault. Enemies can also be grabbed, thrown into other enemies (weapons can also be tossed at enemies), and kicked and stomped while they're lying on the ground helpless. In certain scenarios, enemies can be recruited with the press of a button once they plead for their lives.

This enemy might be begging for mercy, but Misako is going to act like
a high school football coach to a poorly performing player and bench him instead.
Despite battles being fun, River City Girls falls into the trap that many games of its genre do--it can become quite repetitive. This in part due to the countless times that the game requires you to backtrack through areas to complete quests, but another part is that as the game rolls on, enemies take quite a beating before they're finally defeated. This adds to some tediousness with the combat. '

However, boss battles do break up the small amount of monotony that players can possibly, occasionally face with River City Girls, and these battles feature bosses with set patterns, life bars that make them change up their patterns as they lose portions of their health, and unfortunately, some unwanted jumps in difficulty. That said, these bosses are generally enjoyable, such as one that is a master of the dark arts, who is satisfying to beat down while avoiding his magic There's also another that performs a Guitar Hero-like attack on the stage, which features five different tracks that scroll harmful notes down them that our heroines much jump to evade. 

Bosses offer a reprieve to the occasionally repetitive flow of River City Girls.
River City Girls isn't too long of a game, maybe clocking in at around five hours. That said, after the initial run through the game is complete, there's various options to choose from there, such as a New Game+ option where your items, character moves and levels, and such carry over to this second run of the game. Additionally, there are two unlockable characters to play as, a Hard mode to go through, and a mode that any beat-em-up worth its cost desperately needs, co-op for two local players, where friendly fire can be turned on or off. Further, there are side quests to complete in the game, 25 hidden statues sprinkled throughout River City to destroy and 25 cats to collect, and 100% completion to reach, so there is plenty of extra content that Arc System Works and Wayforward collectively mustered up into this $30 package.

And I would say that between the gorgeous sprites and detailed backgrounds, the mostly amusing combat, the fun enough script, and plentiful bonus content that River City Girls is indeed worth its $30 price tag. While I won't find myself continuing to return to this type of beat-em-up as much as say, a more linear, focused type like Double Dragon or even a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game, I did like my time with River City Girls regardless. The humor's hit and miss, the game can grow a bit repetitive, but as a whole, the River City Girls kick butt.

[SPC Says: C+]

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4 (PS4, XB1, NSW, PC) Release Date Trailer

Just in case you'd like me to cut to the chase and give you the release date without you having to watch the trailer, One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4 will launch on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC on March 27, 2020. Now that you know that important piece of information, take a look at this action-packed trailer for the game to help hype you up even more than you might be already!

Luigi’s Mansion 3 (NSW) "Hotel Getaway" and "Gear Up!" Trailers

Now, on to a game that SuperPhillip Central HAS already covered and reviewed, the splendid and Game of the Year-caliber Luigi's Mansion 3. Nintendo has posted a pair of quick 30-second trailers for the game, so check each of them out in one nice and neat location below.


New Super Lucky’s Tale (NSW) Accolades Trailer

While SuperPhillip Central won't be covering New Super Lucky's Tale until the end of the year, I can provide a trailer showing off some of the positive feedback from critics towards the game. Between the releases of Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair, A Hat in Time, and now New Super Lucky's Tale, the Nintendo Switch has accumulated quite the collection of platformers recently!

900th Review! Resident Evil 2 (PS4, XB1, PC) Review

We've finally reached another new milestone, gang! SuperPhillip Central arrives at its 900th unique review in its 11 year history! This 900th review is a big one, too--call it a biohazard in the form of a review! It's Resident Evil 2 from earlier this year, and it's a game that is too good and too terrifying to miss! Find out why with this super special SuperPhillip Central review!

Unraveling a conspiracy in Raccoon City? It takes two, baby.

It's time to take a return trip to Raccoon City, an initially bustling mountainside metropolis now teeming with the undead and biohazards alike. Resident Evil 2 receives an amazing overhaul--ditching the fixed camera angles of the original, but still classic game--and bringing in a over-the-shoulder camera in its stead. That's not all that Capcom gives players with this remarkable remake, either. Apart from the glorious eye candy that are the visuals, Resident Evil 2's 2019 revised version brings with it some splendidly satisfying gameplay changes and story beat alterations as well, making for a fantastic revisit to Raccoon City and a truly terrifying title. Do you think you know what to expect with Resident Evil 2? Think again.

Resident Evil 2 (2019) tells two revamped tales that intertwine. One of these tales stars Leon Kennedy, a rookie cop reporting for duty on the worst possible day to do so, and the other playable character being Claire Redfield, a college student in search of her brother, Chris. Playing through the stories of the two presents mostly unique cutscenes and scenarios, but the two do find themselves scouring and scavenging the same areas of the game: the police station, the sewers, and a final area. The only difference is that parts of the former are locked off depending on which character you choose to play as. You'll eventually want to explore the other character's campaign to get a full, fleshed out version of the game's events and story, and beating one character's campaign unlocks a second campaign that tells the full story and gives the real ending.

That said, having Leon and Claire live to tell their stories is a challenge all to itself. Each of the three separate sections of Resident Evil 2 are crawling with zombies, dangerous enemies, and other horrific nightmares that can't wait to cut a run short. Yes, there are plenty of locations to save your data in the form of typewriters in safe rooms--those lovely rooms that always grant Resident Evil players with a sigh of relief--but elsewhere, Raccoon City isn't the nicest place to explore.

Is it too late to mention that this review's screenshots aren't entirely all-ages appropriate?
For instance, the first major area of the game, the Raccoon City Police Station, is infested with zombies. They're also zombies of a hardy stock, requiring plenty of bullets to take down. In later difficulties, it's just better to shoot one in the head to stun them, and then quickly run past them to avoid confrontation and avoid wasting precious ammo. More so than ever in a modern Resident Evil game, being smart with your ammo and equipment management is key for survival. Ammo and health items do not fall from trees and appear in an overly generous fashion. It's quite possible to make the ability to progress highly unlikely due to having no ammo available to you. 

There's also managing your inventory to worry about, as you'll need to pick up various objects to open doors, solve environmental puzzles, and otherwise make progress. Everything takes up precious space and slots in your inventory, such as guns, combat knives used to stagger enemies as well as serve as a "getaway" item if a zombie grabs onto you, healing items like first-aid sprays and medicinal herbs, as well as all of the ammunition and rounds you find. Hip pouches lessen the worry about inventory management, as they add slots to your arsenal, but you simply can't go around picking everything up you find littered throughout the game either.

Okay! Okay! Next time I'll book an appointment!
Resident Evil 2 first has players exploring the police station, venturing from room to room, acquiring keys in the form of "key items" and literal keys, solving puzzles, and eliminating or otherwise avoiding enemies to make progress. An insanely helpful map reveals room locations and names, whether you've visited them or not, and whether you've ransacked every item within said rooms. Of course, you have to find the maps to get a full view of the current area you're in, but with proper investigation of your surroundings, this is seldom a challenge. What IS a challenge is learning the environment, learning how to get from point A to point B in the most efficient and safe way possible, and overcoming each challenge, whether a puzzle or a horde of zombies in your path, to the best of your ability. Part of what makes Resident Evil 2 so horrifying and tense is that you're always one slip-up or mistake from dying, so you're always needing to be on full alert. 

This goes even for diehard fans of the original game from 1998, as Capcom has made some new gameplay alterations to keep even those players who know the original Resident Evil 2 like the back of their hand on their zombie-weary toes. For one, zombies like to play dead a lot. They can appear incapacitated on the ground, but they can quickly rise up or latch onto your character's leg. They can bust open doors (except in safe rooms, of course), surround you, and gang up on you quite easily. It was truly terrifying to open up a door, enter into the other side, and find poor Claire grabbed onto by a bloodthirsty zombie, tearing its grisly teeth into her flesh seemingly of nowhere. You can bet I jumped when that happened!

Another new change occurs midway through the investigation of the police station. This so happens to be a favorite of mine, and that's Mr. X, a giant, golem-like, silent but deadly type that marches through the police station. He is indestructible, and loves a chase. When his heavy footsteps resonate and vibrate nearby, you can tell he's close and you should be quite careful. Mr. X hits hard, and it's obviously for the best to completely avoid him and run away. This can make exploring the police station a bit difficult when in the claustrophobic rooms and hallways of the compound, Mr. X blocks your path, requiring you to find another way around him to reach your destination, but the ever-present dread that I felt when Mr. X arrived in the game was such an almost perverse pleasure and certainly satisfying challenge.

Claire, meet Mr. X. Mr X, meet Claire.
Resident Evil 2 has multiple difficulty settings to play on, and these greatly alter the experience. The easiest difficulty, Assisted, gives you less damage taken from enemies, auto-regenerating health at times, and the option to turn on auto-aim to make aiming at enemies much easier. Meanwhile, the hardest difficulty, Hardcore, can have zombies and bosses kill you in less than two hits, more aggressive zombies, needing to use scarcely found typewriter ribbons in order to save your progress, and a much faster Mr. X to worry about in some portions of the game. 

Utter abominations await players down in the sewer depths.
Along with the multiple difficulties, the different campaigns: Leon's initial run, Claire's initial run, Leon's second run and Claire's second run (the latter two both being the "true" ending of the game), offer noticeably contrasting experiences as well, as I've touched on a little earlier in this review. The second run of Leon and Claire's individual campaigns start off in new locations, sport new and/or altered cutscenes, and have a much different key item and enemy locations. Completing these in a fast enough time unlocks some great bonus goodies, too, such as infinite ammo weapons to help out with later difficulty runs and purely aesthetic alternate costumes for Leon, Claire, and the occasional other playable characters.

TAG! You're it! 
Resident Evil 2 nails its horror atmosphere with some of the most haunting, chilling, and just foreboding environments I've encountered in a game. The particularly dark hallways and rooms where the only light source was my character's flashlight were a highlight, as I never knew what I was going to encounter, and sometimes when I did find what I'd encounter, I "noped" the hell out of there! 

There's plenty of creatures that go bump in the night in the hellish town of Raccoon City.
The zombies are especially graphic to each and every gory and macabre detail. The way they drag their feet and lurch towards you shows stellar animation, and the way their vertebrae, muscles, and flesh drip with blood as your blast holes in their bodies or shoot open their heads, revealing an unsettling but still appreciable splash of blood, gives off some insane graphical work by Capcom.

Resident Evil VII had brought the Resident Evil franchise back to its former glory days, and now with Resident Evil 2, the series has ushered in a brand-new golden age. Resident Evil 2 is a sensational remake in every sense of the word. Capcom didn't rest on its laurels by just upgrading its graphics and gameplay--it totally reworked the game to modern game standards, and the end product is without question one of the best games released this year. Resident Evil 2 isn't just good--it's scary good.

[SPC Says: A]

Thursday, November 21, 2019

The 15 Best Nintendo DS Games

Today marked 15 years since the Nintendo DS originally launched in North America. To commemorate the occasion, SuperPhillip Central has returned to the domain of the dual screens, the handheld with heart: the Nintendo DS, to deliver to you the 15 best games the system has to offer. With its impressive library of insanely original, creative, and sometimes outright wacky games, this was a difficult process.

After you've scoped out SPC's picks for the best Nintendo DS games, which ones that may or may not be listed are your personal favorites?

Advance Wars: Dual Strike 

They say "war is hell", but in the Advance Wars series, hell appears to be rather cartoony and colorful. That notwithstanding, Advance Wars: Dual Strike saw the series march onto the Nintendo DS in style with its immense amount of strategic turn-based battles, an entertaining campaign, a custom map maker, online play, and the arrival of the titular "Dual Strike", where duos of commanding officers in battle could combine their beneficial CO Powers and use them one after the other to either turn the tide of battle or march ever closer to victory. While these could be construed as overpowered, they made for much more engaging, exciting and entertaining battles by virtue of trying to plan ahead and overcome them if you were on the receiving end of a Dual Strike.

Animal Crossing: Wild World

The Nintendo DS brought a lot of new ideas to Nintendo hardware, and one of the most profound ideas implemented during the DS generation of handheld hardware was that of online play. While having to finagle friend codes for every individual game was a hassle, it led to marvelous moments like being able to venture into friends' towns, chat, play, and enjoy each other's company in Animal Crossing: Wild World. The GameCube Animal Crossing stole a good part of my year when it came out, and Wild World managed to take even more time. However, I loved every minute of it.

Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow

The first Castlevania to reach the Nintendo DS remains my favorite of the three games, as well as one of my favorite Metroidvanias of all time. Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow followed closely to the structure of the Game Boy Advance Castlevania games, and implemented an incredibly addicting souls mechanic where hero Soma Cruz could acquire the souls of enemies. This would allow him to use their abilities in battle. Dawn of Sorrow remains one of the most cherished entries in the Castlevania series for Nintendo fans, and that's because it is one of the more well-rounded, well designed, and polished entries in the franchise.

Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride

There was no shortage of Dragon Quest games available on the Nintendo DS, but my personal favorite of the bunch was Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride--a game that arrived for the first time in the West thanks to the combined efforts of Nintendo and Square Enix. Between the ability to have a party of four characters, the coming of age tale and how it's separated so splendidly between different ages, the ability to marry one of three characters, and the ever-fantastic, tried and true battle system that the series is well known for, Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride was well worth the wait for English players to enjoy and be enamored with.

Elite Beat Agents

The western-ized spiritual successor of Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan, the rhythm-based game known as Elite Beat Agents saw the titular heroes solve concerns of everyday citizens through the power of music. Players tapped, swiped, and held the Nintendo DS stylus to the touch screen under the instruction of on-screen prompts, perfectly in sync and rhythm with the music. Though all of the songs featured in the game were cover versions and not their originals, that did not stop many players from fighting back tears during the "You're the Inspiration" chapter of the game. Who knew a rhythm game could be so emotional?

Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars

Though the series had been on the Game Boy Advance, it wasn't a truly big deal for Rockstar Games' Grand Theft Auto series to arrive on a Nintendo platform until the Nintendo DS. Two titans of gaming combined into one: the Nintendo DS and GTA, and the final result was Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars. The game returned to the series's origins, an overhead perspective instead of the fully 3D worlds franchise fans are most familiar with now. Chinatown Wars not only was a terrific game on its own, but it implemented the Nintendo DS's features wonderfully, such as the bottom screen for HUD and map information and the touch screen during specific mini-games. Overall, a well done GTA game and game in general for the Nintendo DS.

Kirby Canvas Curse

As we've seen with Elite Beat Agents, games on the Nintendo DS utilized the touch screen and stylus of the system with great success. An early example of this was a meaty platforming adventure featuring Nintendo's pink puffball Kirby, a hero who is well known for partaking in an experimental game here and there. Kirby Canvas Curse was a game where players drew lines to guide Kirby through hazard-filled, enemy-infested levels. Tapping on Kirby would speed our hero up, propelling him into enemies. Some defeated foes would give Kirby their powers, just like the mainline games. Kirby Canvas Curse was a year-one title in the Nintendo DS's life, but the fact that it remains so memorable, so fun, so creative, and so remarkable to this day, makes for a fantastic feat.

Mario Kart DS

Along with Animal Crossing: Wild World, Mario Kart DS was one of Nintendo's premier games for its Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection online offerings for the DS. Though the amount of tracks available for online play was limited, there was no question that finally being able to drift, chuck shells, and hurl items at players from all around the world kept Nintendo DS owners addicted to the game. Furthermore, Mario Kart DS brought forth other new additions to the franchise, some of which would remain with the series to this day, such as retro cups featuring returning races from past games. However, one feature that keeps this iteration of Mario Kart so worthwhile is that of Mission Mode, featuring unique challenges and boss battles that can still be enjoyed to this day. Mario Kart DS was both a success online and off, possessing enough content to keep both solo and multiplayer racers loving every chaotic moment on the track for a long while.

New Super Mario Bros.

I'm a sucker for 2D Mario, and while New Super Mario Bros. is not the best 2D Mario in the series or even under the "New" moniker, it's still a really well put together game with original bosses (no Koopalings to be found) and intriguing new power-ups. It's easy to now take for granted how important New Super Mario Bros. was for Nintendo fans back in the day--what, with countless similarly dressed 2D Mario games available to us now--but it brought back original 2D Super Mario Bros. games after more than a decade of hiatus, ushering in a new renaissance for 2D Mario. Though its challenge isn't the highest, New Super Mario Bros. remains a game I enjoy returning to, despite it setting up many of the design tropes that would plague future New Super Mario Bros. games.

Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney

Nintendo DS owners did not find any reason to object to Capcom delivering an original game to their handheld of choice. Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney saw a wacky and whimsical approach to playing as a lawyer: seeing and interacting with oddball characters, investigating crime scenes, presenting evidence at the appropriate times, and all the aforementioned leading up to finally cracking the case. Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney brought a renewed popularity to the visual novel adventure, and one that would see the franchise get sequel after glorious sequel, multiple spin-offs, and even a spot on the roster of the Marvel vs. Capcom series.

Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver

The remakes of Pokemon Gold and Pokemon Silver brought players on a return trip to the Johto region with updated visuals, new gameplay improvements, and fresh features, such as having Pokemon follow you throughout Johto--Pokemon Yellow-style. A series take on the Olympics with the Pokeathlon gave players unique touch-screen focused challenges and events to place their Pokemon in. More importantly, though, Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver allowed players at the time to trade and battle Pokemon online via Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, so players could trade not only between HeartGold and SoulSilver, but also Pokemon Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum. Johto is one of the most beloved regions in Pokemon history, so it was a fantastic privilege to revisit the region once more in this pair of remakes.

Professor Layton and the Unwound Future

There were four Professor Layton games released on the Nintendo DS, but by far my favorite of this charming and exquisite puzzle-solving franchise was Professor Layton and the Unwound Future--subtitled The Last Time Travel in European territories. Despite the absolute bonkers reveal and plot twist--even by Professor Layton series' standards--the finale to Unwound Future managed to choke me up by how heartfelt, touching, and emotional it ended up being. The 100+ puzzles and brain teasers that were generally well woven into the plot were challenging and fun to figure out, if not sometimes frustrating when the solution was much simpler than I had surmised. Professor Layton and the Unwound Future continued the tradition of a well told story with gorgeously drawn cutscenes, tremendous acted voicework, and enough mystery and intrigue to keep players guessing to the very end.

Sonic Rush

We take for granted now that Sega and Nintendo play nicely together, but there was of course a time when the two were bitter, ugly rivals. Those days have passed, and Sonic the Hedgehog has since shown up on every Nintendo hardware since Sega's exit from the hardware race, including the Nintendo DS. Sonic's first Nintendo DS speedy adventure was so big that it couldn't be contained to just one screen. Instead, Sonic Rush had the action play out on both screens of the Nintendo DS hardware, showing expanded levels and views in an incredibly way past cool manner. Meanwhile, boss battles took place in arenas with impressive (for Nintendo DS hardware) 3D visuals. Couple all of this with an insanely awesome and catchy soundtrack by Jet Set Radio's Hideki Naganuma, as well as a new playable character with Blaze the Cat, and you had one stellar Sonic adventure for the Nintendo DS hardware.

Tetris DS

Tetris DS sounds like a simple game. It's Tetris but on the Nintendo DS. However, thinking of it by those terms does an extreme disservice to the game. Tetris DS takes the Tetris pretty much everyone knows and loves, and Nintendo-fies it, attaching multiple Nintendo characters and franchises as the window dressing for each of the game's six modes. The themes consisted of Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, Metroid, Donkey Kong, Balloon Fight, and Yoshi's Cookie. Tetris DS not only brought some Nintendo love for prospective puzzle game players, but it also brought a bevy of unique modes and online play to them. While the latter is obviously no longer available, Tetris DS still contains an immense amount of content for a game of its type, making it one of my favorite ways to play Tetris to this day.

The World Ends With You

Our final game was one that was a big deal due to the fact that it was a brand-new original franchise from Tetsuya Nomura, the creator and director of the Kingdom Hearts series, and it was exclusive to the Nintendo DS. That game was The World Ends With You, and while it has since found itself ported to mobile devices and most recently as of last year, the Nintendo Switch, many fans of the game see that the Nintendo DS original remains the definitive version. Being able to battle enemies on two screens, successfully diverting attention between two battles going on at once, utilizing the right pins to unleash strategically sound attacks, and fighting foes with the touch screen and buttons made for an intense and engaging combat system with The World Ends With You. Adding in an intriguing story, a modern-day setting, and a catchy soundtrack made The World Ends With You a winner to many Nintendo DS owners.