Friday, August 23, 2019

Mortal Kombat 11 (NSW) Review

Continuing on here at SuperPhillip Central, a new review is here for your eyes to read and enjoy. It's a Nintendo Switch-specific review for Mortal Kombat 11. Check it out below!

Your port is mine!

It seems like a dream that big-time Western-developed games are hitting a Nintendo home console, and not only that, but they're day and date with the other versions. It doesn't happen too often, but the fact that they're happening at all and are mostly successful ports is something to celebrate. Mortal Kombat 11 is one of the most recent of these games that has released on the Nintendo Switch. While it's by no means a flawless victory, Switch owners who are Mortal Kombat fans have scored a victory by having this miraculous port available to them all the same.

As someone with limited experience with the Mortal Kombat series, Mortal Kombat 11 was a terrific jumping in point for me. The amount of exhaustive tutorials that guided me through everything from the basics to advanced techniques and specific character tutorials, I didn't feel like I was simply thrust out of the proverbial nest to fend for myself with no knowledge of how to play the game.

Fights in Mortal Kombat 11 are as gloriously gruesome and beautifully brutal as ever. (Though, I have to admit, some of the more intense/disturbing portrayals of violence left me a bit squeamish.) The fighting system has you performing front and back punches and kicks, throws, blocks (with a dedicated block button instead of the more traditional means of holding away from your opponent), and using a series of memorized combos to take down your opponent. Special moves can be augmented by holding the R button upon performing the required button combo and making contact with your opponent with the attack in order to deal even more damage and deliver more hits.

I do not think you have a license for this kind of surgery, Kitana.
Mortal Kombat 11 also brings with it environmental hazards that opponents can interact with. These flash in the arena when they can be used, and result in everything from picking up a chainsaw and cleaving it into your opponent's flesh to chucking an undead spectator at your foe.

When you or your opponent's health enters into critical territory, a Fatal Blow attack can be used with the tap of the ZL and ZR buttons. If it connects without your opponent blocking, this one-time-per-match attack delivers a devastating amount of deadly damage to your foe in a really grisly manner. For instance Erron Black's Fatal Blow has him shooting bone-piercing bullets into his opponent, and has a duo of shots banking off a pair of coins and into and through his opponent's eyes. Yee-ouch. If a Fatal Blow fails to connect, it can't be attempted again until a little time has passed. However, these Fatal Blow moves are a bit of a match-pace killer for me. At first they're... interesting enough, but after seeing them a seemingly endless of time, they grow tiring to see, as there's no way of skipping through them. They just take too long to unfold.

Fatal Blows are provocative enough the first dozen times seeing them,
but after the fact, they're quite bothersome as they interrupt the flow and pace of matches.
Brutalities and fatalities return from past Mortal Kombat games, and the latter allows even beginning players to mercilessly murder their opponent in a macabre fashion without the need to memorize a unique button combo based on the character and fatality used. You can earn and purchase Fatality Tokens that when you're ordered to "Finish Him/Her", you can just hold the ZR button and press the A button to use. You can have all the disturbing realistic violence without any of the work!

For each of the 20+ characters in Mortal Kombat 11, they all feel markedly dissimilar to one another in how they play. There are characters for beginners like series mainstays Scorpion and Johnny Cage, and then there are more technical characters that take some practice getting used to. Fortunately, as mentioned early on in this review, learning a new character isn't too terribly daunting thanks to the in-depth character tutorials that explain how to use and the time to use each special attack in a character's repertoire.

Kombatant Skarlet uses her own blood as a weapon.
The characters in Mortal Kombat 11 all have their own unlockable gear and various cosmetics to unlock, though this is a bit of pain in the butt process. More on that in just a little bit. Each character can have different introductions and post-match victory cutscenes, unique moves equipped to them, as well as specific fatalities to select from. Additionally each has three gear slots they can equip gear to, and these can earn experience points through battle to earn augment slots. Unfortunately, augments slots come in various varieties, and require a lot of grinding and a lot of luck to get the ones you want for the particular character you desire. It's rather random, but once you do, augments serve as a way to boost up different stats and abilities of characters. Some make their defense towards specific elements stronger, while others make specific attacks stronger by a certain percentage.

You can unlock different cosmetics for each character, such as Sub-Zero's classic line of outfits.
If you want to unlock gear and cosmetics like new costumes for characters, you're going to spend most of your time grinding in Mortal Kombat 11, which is an unfortunate part of the game. The Krypt from past modern Mortal Kombat games returns, and it has you controlling a character in an over-the-shoulder perspective through Shang Tsung's island, gathering keys and special items to progress further into the depths of the island. You use Koins and other currency to open the plethora of treasure chests strewn about the island. (Ha-ha, get it? KOINS?! Mortal Kombat 11 has a penchant for replacing the first letter of words that begin with C with the letter K instead because it's klever like that. Dammit! I just did it now, too!)

While this is all fine and dandy, the loot that you get from opening treasures is completely random. Most of the time instead of getting the desired costumes you want for your favorite character or characters, you'll be unlocking concept art, Konsumables for the Towers of Time, and other items that you might not be too interested in.

As for the aforementioned Towers of Time, this mode introduces an ever-rotating assortment of challenging towers of varying difficulty. Each is themed, generally having each combatant you face off against in a given tower have a helpful Konsumable that they use against you in a fight. Thankfully, you can also use Konsumables either to counteract the effects of your opponent's Konsumable or to give yourself some other benefit. Such Konsumables can be used multiple times in a single battle, but depending on how powerful and useful they are, there is a cool down time for each. Some Konsumables fire a series of bloody shurikens at a foe or otherwise interrupt an enemy with an attack, while others have defensive benefits like healing your health bar by a certain percentage or giving you temporary armor.

Complete all of the objectives of a tower to earn beneficial rewards.
The towers in the Towers of Time award different bonuses for completing them--from Koins and Konsumables to new gear, costumes, and more. Technically, there's a seemingly endless amount of longevity for solo players to tackle each tower--as they rotate out regularly (every few hours or so) and there are hundreds upon hundreds of different towers in total--but the repetitive grind is real and it doesn't take too terribly long for tedium to set in.

Thankfully, tedium is not something that sets in with Mortal Kombat 11's 6-8 hour story mode, told through cinematics that seamlessly flow into actual battles. (Well, not so seamlessly in the Switch version where the actual cinematics are pre-rendered and then have an abrupt change into the Switch's downgraded visuals when the battles begin. Regardless, the pacing is done well, and while there are significant sections of the story mode where you're simply watching the narrative progress, when it is actually your time to play, you get to do so for a good while. The story mode is set up between chapters, and each chapter has you controlling a different character or duo of characters. With the latter, you're given the option of who to control in a particular fight. Fights are essentially one right after the other in each chapter--it's merely given a bookend by extended cutscenes.

Generations collide in Mortal Kombat 11's entertaining story mode.
I alluded to the downgrade of the Nintendo Switch version of Mortal Kombat 11 just a little bit ago when comparing the cutscenes that are pre-rendered in the Switch version but in-engine with the PS4, Xbox, and PC versions. Let me go further into detail. It's an absolute accomplishment that Mortal Kombat 11 runs as well as it does on the Switch. Frankly, I'm more than pleased with the game's performance. However, there are problem spots. For one, the Krypt looks and runs pitifully on the Switch. There isn't even a genuine skybox in the Switch version, and it's slowdown central whenever you open up a treasure chest in the mode. Furthermore, character models in battles have a weird glow and sheen to them, notably wherever there is hair--specifically on their heads and on their eyelashes. It's a bit jarring and distracting when zoomed in. There have also been some game crashes I've experienced while playing, but these are infrequent. That said, the development team hasn't turned their back on the Switch version at all, and they continue to produce patches and upgrades to the game.

Docked mode is rather sharp, but handheld mode on the Switch can be a bit fuzzy.
Mortal Kombat 11 manages to impress on the Nintendo Switch with a version that while not anywhere as technically amazing as its bigger brothers, delivers a game that isn't dumbed down for Nintendo players. Switch owners get the full, satisfying experience of Mortal Kombat 11 and one that they can take with them on the go. The choice of having to grind for gear and not being to select which goodies and prizes you want brings down the game (and this isn't just for the Switch version, but all versions in general of MK11), but all in all, Mortal Kombat 11 dishes out a brutally satisfying eleventh entry in the long running fighting game franchise.

[SPC Says: B]

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana (NSW, PS4, Vita) Review

After some posting of a selection of trailers fresh out of Gamescom, SuperPhillip Central has a new review to share. Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana released several years ago on the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita, and recently as of last summer launched on the Nintendo Switch. After taking an extended break from the game, I recently jumped back into the adventure and completed the game. Here's my full review.

Weep not, as this Ys entry is one of the series's absolute bests.

Falcom doesn't have as extravagant a budget as its contemporaries, so the Ys series hasn't exactly been the most ambitious when it comes to its presentation. With its first brand-new installment in over eight years and the first Ys installment made primarily for high-definition platforms, both developer Falcom and its Ys series do their best to impress with Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana, showcasing the series at its most ambitious. Does Ys VIII ride a ship to success, or is it marooned on an island of failure?

Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana has intrepid explorers and adventurers Adol and Dogi on a luxury cruise ship known as the Lombardia, where they serve as part of the crew. After all, saving the world multiple times over doesn't exactly pay well, so one has to pay the adventuring bills somehow! The cruise is going well, but it's not long before a monstrous ocean behemoth attacks the Lombardia and capsizes the ship. Adol later finds himself waking up on the beach of a deserted island of legend, one with its own secrets and legend that will make for one of his grandest and most memorable adventures yet.

No, you don't, as I even mentioned that adventuring doesn't pay the bills!
(Thanks for not reading my review, Dogi.)
The primary objective of Ys VIII is to escape the island Adol and fellow castaways have found themselves marooned on, but that's of course easier said than done. Luckily for us as players, that's what makes it a ton of fun. However, as you might suspect, the stakes get raised exponentially, and what starts off as a typical deserted island tale turns even more intriguing and interesting. 

Though the game starts out relatively slow and the story tends to meander quite a bit early on, once the narrative picks up, it really does pick up with extremely high stakes. Still, even with the slow-to-start story of Ys VIII, I found that the tried and true gameplay of the Ys series more than carried the relatively anemic beginning of the game. 

The surviving castaways of the Lombardia make their home in a makeshift town aptly named Castaway Village. The population starts off meager, but as you explore new parts of the incredibly large island, you come across various survivors from the Lombardia's upheaval. Each survivor has their own specialty and value at Castaway Village--well, some more than others--but by the end of the adventure, I felt I had been through a lot with this cast of characters. I enjoyed their company, and I really felt like I had been through hell and back with these folks. 

The Isle of Seiren is home to beasts of all sizes and levels of danger.
Part of that is how Castaway Village begins as a squalid and lonely place, but as more survivors join up with Adol and return with him to the village, it becomes a more bustling community. Different survivors bring different specialties with them, such as some that will make lifesaving medicine, help forge weapons and armor with materials found at resource points and dropped from monsters, assist with crafting accessories with said materials, and so on and so forth. 

Exploring the Isle of Seiren, as the island is known as by legend, is terrifically entertaining. Ys VIII is fully 3D, offering complex and intricately designed areas that are both expansive and a sight for the eyes. The ability to jump, climb certain objects, and platform in general make for dense areas full of fascinating places to venture to and treasure chests to discover. The amount of optional areas is tremendous, packing plenty of replay value and longevity to an already lengthy adventure. An island of this size with myriad areas to explore might seem overwhelming and quite the annoyance to traverse. After all, covering large distances and backtracking is common for both the story and optional quests. Fortunately, a fast travel ability is unlocked not too far along into the game, allowing warping between specific purple crystals.

The variety of locales on the Isle of Seiren is quite vast.
Furthermore, the map in Ys VIII is a particular godsend, as it offers not only detailed views of each area of the world, but it also houses information like amount of the map explored, treasures collected, resource points found, and also--and most importantly--icons that show where to go next in the story and other points of interest (think: side quests). I don't want to even ponder how much of a pain Ys VIII's world would be to navigate if not for the map. That's how useful and essentially it was to me and my enjoyment of the game.

That said, the survivors of the Lombardia do more than just sit around Castaway Village, twiddling their thumbs as Adol and his party of companions explore the island and progress the story. They're all a major help in progressing in the island. At many points around the Isle of Seiren there will be obstructions blocking progress. Said obstructions require the aid of a certain requisite number of survivors clear. Sometimes you'll readily have enough survivors, but other times you'll need to do some searching of the island to scrounge up the necessary number. 

Darn. And I left my bulldozer in my other vest, too.
Aside from teaming up to remove obstructions and help with various services at Castaway Village, there are multiple occasions throughout the story where monsters will attack the village, requiring all to present arms and fight. These raid battles have two halves: one which has Adol's party protecting a gate from waves of monsters, and the other half which has the remaining castaways doing fighting on their own front. If the latter does well in battle, they'll bestow helpful battle bonuses to Adol's party in these raids. To help out with raids, you can add defenses and reinforcements like barriers and traps with the spending of resources. 

This ties very nicely to the next subject of this review (as if it was planned that way... Hmm.). That would be the combat in Ys VIII, which follows a similar path of the most recent entries in the series with a trio of party members you can play as at one time, able to be switched between on the fly with a press of a button. This is great, as different party members deal more damage to certain enemy types. While the brute-like Sahad is fantastic at bringing down heavily armored enemies, Laxia is the party member to go to for flying pests. The AI controls the other two party members not under your control, and they behave in a relatively efficient and inoffensive way. They don't find themselves getting in the way or worse off, getting themselves killed. You can switch between characters with the security that the AI won't lose you tougher battles.

Bash those beaks in, Adol! Combat is a blast, staying true to the Ys series's rich history.
While Ys VIII allows only one attack button to chain attacks with, there's more complexity to its combat mechanics than one might surmise. For one, there are special attacks that can be used on enemies through holding one of the shoulder buttons and pressing the corresponding face button. These can't be spammed, as they cost SP to use. However, SP can easily be recovered by hitting enemies with normal attacks. Special attacks can be leveled up with continued use, making for more destructive and efficient offensive maneuvers, and new special attacks are learned as the game progresses. Additionally, as Adol's party gives and takes damage, a big orange gauge fills at the bottom right corner of the screen, and when it's full, the currently controlled party member can unleash an ultra powerful special attack that delivers devastating amounts of damage to a large area.

Of course, and as cliche as it is to say, any good offense needs a good defense, and Ys VIII encourages smart defensive play. Simply whacking an enemy to submission is fine enough for low-level foes, but for those of a more dangerous persuasion, there are plenty of options at Adol's party's disposal. Rolling out of the way of an attack is simple enough, but for those attacks with a wider field and range, it's important to learn how to evade and guard with proper timing. Not only does performing an evasion or guard, whether rolling or when standing still, negate damage that would otherwise be inflicted by an oncoming attack, but it also provides a bonus benefit. 

When all else fails, tuck and roll, Adol!
When performing a Flash Move by rolling with precise timing right when an attack is set to hit you, you temporarily slow down enemy movement, granting you normal speed to hack away at foes. When performing a Flash Guard, you simply defend just before an attack hits you to get a temporary but significant boost to your attack. On later difficulties and heck, just later enemies and bosses in Ys VIII, learning these moves and using them smartly are the measures between victory and defeat. It takes some getting acquainted with the timing of these helpful maneuvers, but they make combat all that much more satisfying. 

There's so much to love about Ys VIII, and one of these parts of the game that satisfies as well is its presentation. By far, I absolutely adored the soundtrack the most. Falcom's Sound Team knocks another one out of the park with a sensational score highlighted by energizing rock themes, emotional ballads, and terrific environmental tunes. This is Ys music at its absolute best, which is quite the statement considering the caliber of the series's music thus far. Meanwhile, the quality and direction of cutscenes and the voice acting is stellar. Though the former doesn't exactly stay true when it involves playing the game. Slightly off textures in the environment and small but noticeable frame-rate issues pop up more than desired throughout the game. Overall, though, Ys VIII sports an impressive presentation package.

Don't mind us. We're just admiring the view.
(Though for Switch players the view is much better in docked form.)
Ultimately, Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana succeeds off its thrilling combat and engrossing exploration. Those coupled with its entertaining story makes for yet another fantastic entry in the Ys series. Though the nearly 40-hour adventure does have some pacing issues and some technical problems that muddy the proverbial waters a little, Ys VIII is unquestionably my favorite entry in the franchise yet. High praise for such a long-running celebrated series, indeed, and I now cannot wait for Ys IX to grace us with its presence when it finally releases.

[SPC Says: A-]

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Final Fantasy VIII Remastered (PS4, NSW, XB1) Official Release Date Reveal Trailer

On September 3rd, Final Fantasy VIII Remastered lands on the PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox One in glorious high definition. Though considered the black sheep of the PlayStation 1 era Final Fantasy games, I look forward to returning to FFVIII's world, as it's one of the few Final Fantasy games I've actually beaten! Take a look at the revamped visuals and some snippets of memorable scenes with this release date trailer.

Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 (NSW) Classic 2D Events Reveal Trailer

Bringing back those old school Track & Field vibes, Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 has brand-new classic 2D events, taking some nice retro inspiration. This trailer showing these new events was revealed by Sega this morning as part of Gamescom 2019. Check it out below.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Gears 5 (XB1) "Kait, Unleashed" Story Trailer

The long-awaited story trailer for the upcoming Xbox exclusive Gears 5 is finally here. New faces join up alongside familiar old ones, and this combination is set to be extremely explosive. Gears 5 launches on Xbox One and Xbox Game Pass on September 6th.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – Complete Edition (NSW) Release Date Trailer

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt - Complete Edition receives a release date trailer straight out of Gamescom 2019. This port is nothing short of a miracle to how the developer got the game running so amazingly on the Nintendo Switch hardware. As for the release date itself, Nintendo Switch owners won't have to wait too long, as The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt - Complete Edition charts a path for adventure on October 15th. As a final important note, the full game with all of its DLC included will be 100% on the game card itself, so no need for an additional download!

Ori and the Blind Forest: Definitive Edition (NSW) Announcement Trailer

After many rumors, Ori and the Blind Forest is, in fact, heading to the Nintendo Switch courtesy of Microsoft and developer Moon Studios, as announced during this morning's Nintendo Indie World showing. The game releases on September 27th in a month that is already absolutely packed with games for the Switch.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age - Definitive Edition (NSW) "World of Erdrea" Trailer

A new trailer for Dragon Quest XI's Nintendo Switch port that will finally be releasing next month is available for view on Nintendo's YouTube channel. Why go all the way to YouTube, though, when you can check out the trailer below? Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age - Definition Edition (you can't see it, but I'm hyperventilating after saying that title in one breath) releases September 27th on the Nintendo Switch.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield (NSW) "A New Team and New Rivals" Trailer

Two new rivals and several new Pokemon have revealed themselves in this new trailer for Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield, both releasing on the Nintendo Switch worldwide on November 15th. Scope out the trailer and its new additions below.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

The Most Disappointing Video Game Sequels - Part Six

Sometimes you're waiting years for a video game sequel only for it to finally come out and your excitement and hype end not with a bang but a whimper due to the game's lackluster quality. With how long it takes for sequels to be developed nowadays with longer dev times and bigger budgets, this pain can sting even more.

With that said, some things come in twos, and that's the theme of this installment of The Most Disappointing Video Game Sequels. From Xbox first-party efforts to retro revivals, SuperPhillip Central has several themed pairs of disappointing sequels this time around. After checking out this edition's selection of six disappointing sequels, which would you personally add to a future installment?

Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four
Part Five

Crackdown 3 (XB1, PC)

Crackdown 3 was a bit of a miracle that it finally got released. It's sort of a Frankenstein of parts, each created and conceived by different studios and development teams here and there. However, as the saying goes, "Too many cooks spoil the broth." The core gameplay of Crackdown 3 meets the standard of past games in the series. This is a good thing and a bad thing. As a positive, you know what you're going to get with Crackdown 3, and if you enjoyed the gameplay of its Xbox 360 predecessors, then you're more than likely to enjoy what Crackdown 3 has to offer.

However, a negative, and one that overshadowed the positives of Crackdown 3, is that the game was in the making for so long and the end result is so similar to past games. What was deemed fresh and modern back when Crackdown originally released isn't so much in the present, over a decade later. Seeing Crackdown 3 in the state that it released in with little in the way of innovation and little more than a shinier coat of paint made for a disappointing sequel after many years of waiting and many delays as well. Still, one can find a fantastic amount of fun with Crackdown 3, and that's really the most important thing. That said, the game still remains disappointing even with the fun one can have from it.

State of Decay 2 (XB1, PC)

I don't mean to pick on Microsoft Studios with Crackdown 3 and now this next sequel, but it's a pretty common opinion that Xbox's first party catalog on Xbox One has not been the most inspiring. That continues with State of Decay 2--at least its launch. Surviving a zombie apocalypse is no new idea in video games. In fact, zombies as a concept by itself is one used ad nauseum, but the idea of fighting for your virtual life against hordes of undead, flesh-craving creatures is one that permeates through pop culture and survives. Why? It's just plain fun. The original State of Decay made a mark in the Xbox ecosystem with rewarding survival-based gameplay and plenty of zombies for players to battle or escape from. It made for a tense and IN-tense experience that was worthy of a play (or hundred).

That's why coming off the original State of Decay to its sequel was such a shock to the system. While the gameplay itself was compelling enough with its similar survival and combat, scavenging for items, and new addition of co-operative play for a maximum of three players to face the open-world zombie hellscape together, there was an even greater danger in State of Decay 2 than the zombie apocalypse. That was the copious amount of bugs and glitches that infested the game worse than zombies ever could. State of Decay 2 isn't a bad game, but its lack of polish made it a lesser game at launch compared to its predecessor.

Dragon Age II (PS3, 360, PC)

Our next pair of games bestow unto us medieval fantasy worlds, though one comes from a big publisher while the other comes from a much smaller by comparison indie. Regardless, Dragon Age II from EA and BioWare is hardly a bad game, but the reason this title is disappointing is when you're looking at it through the lens of being a sequel to Dragon Age: Origins. After all, games aren't released in a bubble, and when you are the sequel to a game that spawned so many brilliant ideas, you're going to draw obvious comparisons.

Dragon Age II brought with it a more simplified, streamlined combat system, which for some players made for a less satisfying gaming experience. The fact that you cannot customize your character in any detailed way also stung. Then, you have the game world of Dragon Age II, which eschewed the open world that its predecessor had, delivering a much more claustrophobic world by comparison. It's definitely up for debate on whether Dragon Age II is a lesser game than Origins, but it's hard to argue against the idea that this sequel didn't disappoint a fair amount of players due to the features that are absent compared to the first.

Trine 3: The Artifacts of Power (PS4, XB1, NSW, PC)

I recently reviewed Trine 3: The Artifacts of Power's Nintendo Switch version, which recently launched on that system. Needless to say--by virtue that Trine 3 shows up on a "most disappointing video game sequel" article--I wasn't too thrilled with it. I do give credit to Frozenbyte for not resting on its laurels with the Trine series. After two successful installments with gorgeous 2.5D visuals and satisfying gameplay, the development team tried their hand at taking the series into 3D.

Between the bugs and glitches presented in the game to the depth-perception issues that plague many parts of its 3D world, Trine 3 was an experiment gone awry. The disparity in budget between a 2.5D game and a 3D one made it so that the adventure ended on an abrupt cliffhanger right when the story was getting interesting. It was hard for players not to feel like the wind was taken out of their sails, and some longtime fans of the series grew toxic enough that Frozenbyte felt the need to release an apologetic response. This is a double disappointment for this sequel--not just for the game itself, but the toxic and offensive way some fans lashed out at the developer as well.

Sonic the Hedgehog 4 - Episodes I and II (Multi)

Sonic the Hedgehog is a well known character and series for any "most disappointing video game sequel" list, so it's no surprise that the Blue Blur in the modern era sees an appearance on this article. Rather than delve into the myriad 3D games that one could choose, I'm picking the so-called return to Sonic's roots with Sonic the Hedgehog 4's duo of episodes. They're drastically different in visuals and presentation, but they're similar in how much they disappoint.

From a level design standpoint, the episodes range from decent to terrible. At worst, they're a reminder of the Dimps-style level design from the design school where cheap deaths and bottomless pits aplenty are passed off as challenge and boost pads hide the fact that Sonic 4's physics are totally out of wack. Level gimmicks neglect to impress or innovate. From a control standpoint, Sonic Team and Dimps completely failed to nail the feel of the games they were riding the coattails of, as Sonic lacks momentum in his speed and physics issues like coming in and out of loops are a constant feature.

Sonic the Hedgehog 4 felt like a cynical attempt to cash-in on the nostalgia of fans, and was by no means worthy of the number 4 in its title. Today, it has been easily outmatched by the true heir and successor to the Genesis / Mega Drive games, and that is of course Sonic Mania.

Double Dragon IV (PS4, NSW, PC)

We end this edition of The Most Disappointing Video Game Sequels with the fourth numbered game in the Double Dragon series. It very much feels like a lost relic of the 1980s, only with the caveat and major problem that it was actually released in 2017. Sticking with its old school sensibilities in both appearance and how it played was a bold move by developer Arc System Works, but it also made for a game that felt like a product of a long lost time--one that was better lost than found.

We've moved on to better gaming experiences since the days of stiff brawlers and beat-em-ups, and Double Dragon IV stays stuck in the past. Sure, the game won't eat up your dollars from renting it at Blockbuster again and again like its NES brethren were designed to do, but it will eat up something far more important: your patience and your time. Quite frankly, this sequel to Double Dragon is hardly worth playing. It's a fossil in its archaic gameplay and design. If you want a competent and much more desirable sequel to the Double Dragon series, look no further than Super Double Dragon on the SNES.

Fire Emblem: Three Houses (NSW) Accolades Trailer

The reviews are out and Fire Emblem: Three Houses, the first Fire Emblem game for a home console in over a decade, is a hit! While SuperPhillip Central won't have a review until later this month, see what other critics think of the game with this accolades trailer Nintendo has posted on its YouTube channel.

Monday, August 5, 2019

Crystal Crisis (NSW, PS4, PC) Review

Recently released on the PlayStation 4 and already available on the Nintendo Switch and Steam, Nicalis's Crystal Crisis is a match-based puzzle game that pits opponents against one another in battles. It's similar to another puzzle fighter series out there. Now, if only I can remember the name of it... It's almost like I already said it... Regardless, here's SuperPhillip Central's review of Crystal Crisis.

A game whose inspiration may be crystal clear, but it's in no crisis of not being fun.

I'm terrible at fighting games, so perhaps you're like me (and God help you if you are) and yearn for a "fighting game" that solves its squabbles not with complex button combos to memorize, but instead fast thinking and chaining combos of crystals and clusters to score points and decimate your opponents. If that's your thing, then Crystal Crisis from Nicalis aims to fill a gap in the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Steam libraries that are currently missing out of a modern version of Capcom's Puzzle Fighter series. While the collection of all-star characters aren't as much of a draw this time around, the engaging and entertaining gameplay of Crystal Crisis very much is, offering a great layer of depth and sophistication.

The heroes of Cave Story battle it out for puzzler supremacy.
Crystal Crisis takes the familiar gameplay of Capcom's Puzzle Fighter series of versus puzzle games and puts its own spin on it. Each match has crystals in pairs of two falling from the top of the board to the bottom. Your objective is to connect similarly colored crystals together and then use specific spark crystals that can shatter those connected crystals. This action will send crystals to your opponent's board, but these can't be interacted with until they've cooled down, signified by a countdown timer that ticks down after a pair of crystals is put down. The more crystals you shatter at once, whether in connected lines or in even more powerful clusters, the more countdown crystals fall onto your opponent's board with the hope of filling their board to the very top, resulting in a K.O. to them. Of course, your opponent will be doing their best to do the same to you. 

It's going to be a bad night for THIS Knight if Ninja has his way with things!
If any of this sounds a wee bit confusing, then fear not--as Crystal Crisis sports a very helpful tutorial that not only shows you the ropes of the game, but it also allows you to try each instruction out yourself through a nice amount of interactivity. You'll learn the basics of chaining, how to wrap crystals around the sides of the board, and much more.

Crystal Crisis brings an interesting cast of characters, some from various Nicalis-published properties like Cave Story, The Binding of Isaac, 1001 Spikes, and Code of Princess EX, while the most notable chunk of the roster arrives from Tezuka Productions with characters like Astro Boy and Black Jack. Wholly original characters round out the rest of the roster, and each possess their own stage, though that's merely for aesthetic purposes.

Aban's about to find himself K.O.'d if he doesn't pull some trick out of that hat of his!
What does differentiate each character from one another is their Burst abilities. These come in both offensive and defensive forms, and are activated with the press of the ZR or ZL buttons respectively once a character's Burst Gauge has replenished enough. This act is performed by shattering crystals and clusters. Depending on the character, Burst abilities require part or all of the gauge to be filled in order to use them. Generally, the more powerful Burst abilities require a full meter as a means to keep the game balanced. 

What's this? A full Burst Gauge means Aban can attempt to turn this
 match around with his Defensive Burst attack!
As I said, Burst abilities come in offensive and defensive forms, so they're great to either pile on the punishment to your opponent or save yourself from defeat. Either way, they're clutch abilities that can really turn a match around, and seldom feel unbalanced from one another. Whereas Cave Story's Quote uses a missile launcher to destroy a segment of blocks from his side of the board with his defensive Burst ability, Johnny Turbo of North American TurboGrafx-16 marketing fame can use his offensive Burst attack to slow down how fast his opponent can lay down crystals in their grid. 

Crystal Crisis comes equipped with a whole slew of available and unlockable modes and options for players to consume. The Story mode is relatively short, but it offers replay value through different paths and opponents depending on which characters you choose from when given the choice. There's the standard Arcade mode, as well, which pits you against a series of six AI opponents, an endless Survival mode, Versus modes for one-on-one, tag team, and free-for-all battles, and also online play. However, the latter is not populated whatsoever, so it's next to impossible to find a random to play with unless you have great luck. Regardless, what online matches I was able to have with friends ran relatively lag-free on the Switch build of the game.

Crystal Crisis's story is fast and loose--far less entertaining than the battles themselves, as one would expect.
Additionally, in-game achievements and content in the music and art galleries also add replay value to Crystal Crisis, and the ability to select which color crystals you want (great for colorblind players), add or remove Burst abilities and more, allow you to play the game how you want.

Sporting a pleasant art style with its chibi characters and their stages modeled in colorful detail, the presentation of Crystal Crisis delights. Though most of the game--apart from Peter Cullins (Optimus Prime of Transformers fame) providing narration and Johnny Turbo's lines of dialog--is completely voiced in Japanese, it's a small price to pay for the bounty of twenty characters in the game on display. The music, too, is well done, bringing familiar remixes to fans of the games the characters come from as well as original themes. Perhaps my only distaste with the presentation of Crystal Crisis comes from its loading times, which can take 20-30 seconds between matches and modes. 

Code of Princess EX's Solange carves up the Crystal Crisis original character Hunter with her sword attack.
While Crystal Crisis doesn't do a whole lot to differentiate itself from its blatant inspiration, the game still does its important duty and does it well, which is being an engaging and entertaining match-based puzzle game. The bevy of available modes, options, and characters to choose from make this a Puzzle Fighter clone that is more than worthy of a "match" for fans of that series. Crystal Crisis is a crystal clear winner.

[SPC Says: B]

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Trine 3: The Artifacts of Power (NSW) Review

August is here at SuperPhillip Central, and we're hitting the ground running. SPC's first review of the month is for a game that is approximately four years old, but it arrived on the Nintendo Switch within the past week or so. It's Trine 3: The Artifacts of Power, and SuperPhillip Central has a full review of this Switch version.

A (hopefully) temporary stumble for the Trine series

Changing up a series from a formula that has been well received for two entries is one heck of a risk. However, developer Frozenbyte and its Trine series both did not wish to rest on their laurels. Opting to take the series from its 2.5D roots and moving it to three-dimensional environments, Frozenbyte saw great resistance and even worse reception with the final result. With a lackluster overall execution, Trine 3: The Artifacts of Power is a misstep and misfire for the Trine franchise, but it's not all bad either.

Trine 3 regathers the trio of heroes: Pontius the Knight, Amadeus the Wizard, and Zoya the Thief and brings them together once again against their best judgment courtesy of the mystical Trine. As with past games in the series, you begin playing as each character by their lonesome with their own exclusive level in order to learns the quick ins and outs of them. Then, by the fourth level, the three join forces and are able to be cycled through with the L and R shoulder buttons.

What's Amadeus's favorite holiday? Why, Boxing Day, of course!
Each hero has their own use with Pontius being the main attacker of group, with the abilities of charging into foes and walls with his shield, and colliding into the ground with great force with a downward smash attack. Meanwhile, Amadeus can conjure up one active box at a time, using it to hold down pressure plates as well as use it to reach greater heights. Finally, Zoya can shoot arrows as well as use her grappling hook to cross chasms and connect two objects together with a chain. However, with no skill tree in this installment of the Trine series, the three heroes are stuck with the abilities they start out with, making it so that puzzles that might have had multiple solutions to them only have one or two tops. This brings down the longevity of this already short game immensely.

Zoya uses her arrows to take out some of the local vegetation.
I call Trine 3 "short" because it unfortunately is. Right when the story is at its most interesting, you face a no-name boss, defeat it, and poof--the credits roll with one stone cold cliffhanger ending. It seems to me that transforming Trine from a series that focused on 2D environments and transplanting that into 3D made the developers underestimate the budget and time the game would cost, resulting in the adventure needing an abrupt ending.

Perhaps the team realized how short their game was because story missions are locked behind the forced collection of "Trine-angles" which replace the XP vials of the previous two games. Though, to be fair, this collectible aspect of the Trine series is improved by having the collectibles sorted by checkpoint from the world map screen. Thus, you need not scour an entire level just to search for a missing Trine-angle, as you can see which section of a given level you're missing Trine-angles in.

Regardless, apart from the eight story missions, there are also side missions where you play as one character exclusively. Some of these are standard puzzle-themed romps, while others are purely combat-centric, which definitely doesn't play well to the Trine series' strengths. Combat has always been sloppy and stiff in the series, and throwing that into three dimensions makes for an even more frustrating experience.

Time to hit the books, Pontius, before they start hitting you.
Trine 3's 3D environments are at first amazing and a nice fresh take on the franchise. However, when levels get more complicated and require more precision-based platforming, the fixed camera angles belie some truly tricky jumping at best and utter aggravation at worst. This is because it's next to impossible to calculate depth perception, as shadows are usually camouflaged by all the visual clutter in levels. Fortunately, death isn't too punishing and checkpoints are plentiful enough.

Moreover, at least in the Nintendo Switch version of Trine 3, some of the platforming delivers some... interesting results. On way too many occasions, I would attempt to grab onto a ledge, only to have my character swirl around in a circle in the air and be flung across the room. These particular platforming glitches happened way more often to the point where it was unacceptable and annoying to have it happen so often.
Despite the issues with Frozenbyte's transition to 3D with this third Trine installment, one part of Trine 3 that remains as stellar and as impressive as past entries is the gorgeous, GORGEOUS visuals on display. The game is jaw-dropping to look at, and that's whether you're playing it on the big screen or on the Switch screen in handheld play. Some visual aspects and effects can take away from the gameplay experience, sometimes making it difficult to tell important objects from the environment, but overall, Trine 3 is a delight to look at. It's also a delight to listen to with its whimsical fantasy score and excellent, charming voice acting.

The environments and the details within are so stunning to look at in Trine 3.
I commend the development team at Frozenbyte for taking a chance on the Trine series by fundamentally changing things up, despite this experiment not ultimately being a success. Unfortunately, even with the moments of pleasure and engagement I found with Trine 3: The Artifacts of Power, there were far too many points of frustration and downright aggravating glitches and issues to recommend this installment of the Trine series. It's good news that the upcoming Trine 4 will be returning to its 2.5D roots.

[SPC Says: C-]

A review code was provided for this game.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Bad Boss Battles in Gaming History - Part Nine


  • Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order (NSW)
  • Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back (PS1, PS4, XB1, NSW, PC)
  • Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled (PS4, XB1, NSW)
  • Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii)
  • Killzone 2 (PS3)

Exactly one week ago, SuperPhillip Central took a look at some of the best boss battles in games. Now, the site takes a decidedly different approach with some truly terrible boss battles. After all, you've got to take the good with the bad, the yin with the yang, and any other cliche that you can come up with. These bosses can be frustrating, unfair, poorly designed, no challenge, or are otherwise--and most important of all--just not any fun for varying reasons.

Check out past installments of Bad Boss Battles in Gaming History with the following links, and then check after the jump for this edition's picks.

Review Round-Up - July 2019

SuperPhillip Central's Game of the Month for July 2019, Super Mario Maker 2,
opened up infinite possibilities but was held back by lackluster online multiplayer. 
SuperPhillip Central keeps on keepin' on as the site pushes through the sweltering summer months and heats things up itself. The month of July 2019 brought with it five unique reviews to the site.

Starting us off was Furwind, a charming little indie pixel art platformer that delighted enough to earn its C+ grade. Following that was our game of the month, Super Mario Maker 2, creating levels and a case for its A- grade. Another Nintendo Switch exclusive followed, but of a decidedly much different type with Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order. It received a B-. Finally, we rounded out with the month with two arcade racers, one that brought back Retro Reviews with Asphalt Injection (C) and one brand-new game, Rise: Race the Future (B-).

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

Furwind (NSW, PS4, PSV, PC) - C+
Super Mario Maker 2 (NSW) - A-
Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order (NSW) - B-
Asphalt Injection (Vita) - C
Rise: Race the Future (NSW) - B-

The Avengers and many, many more assembled for Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order,
a fun game with one chaotic local co-op camera.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Rise: Race the Future (NSW) Review

On the eve of a new month, SuperPhillip Central delivers unto you one final review for July. It's VD-Dev's Rise: Race the Future, and SPC has a full review of this futuristic arcade racer right here, right now.

Rising to the arcade racing occasion

In its relatively short life, the Nintendo Switch has become home to a lot of racing games of a lot of different types. Some sport realism while others aim for an arcade feel. VD-Dev's Rise: Race the Future is of the latter group, and what it lacks in some features one would expect from a 2019 title in the genre, it more than makes up for with as a visually stunning racer that is both fun to play and rewarding enough to attempt to master.

Rise: Race the Future sees you speeding along circuits on both land and see. On land, your tires grip the surface of the track, allowing you to attempt to navigate each track's twists and turns, while when you're on water, your tires fold up Back to the Future DeLorean-style and it results in a much looser ride. Unfortunately, the "Race the Future" part of the Rise's full title fails to be utilized in any real way other than this.

Speaking of which, thank goodness I'm not driving Back to the Future's DeLorean--
I'd be back in the past by now by virtue of going 99 MPH!
Speaking of a looser ride, one of the major points of contention I had with Rise: Race the Future is its handling. It doesn't pull many punches, and will severely punish you for racing with reckless abandon. It takes some getting used to in order to become properly acquainted and comfortable with how slippery the handling can be. At first, I was slipping and sliding around each circuit, finding myself literally spinning out of control. However, after about a half-hour, give or take, of practice (and some better vehicles that I unlocked), I was effortlessly drifting around curves, speeding through straightaways, and taking turns like a champ.

Roads? Where we're racing we don't need roads. I'm not counting all of the times
we actually will be racing on roads, though.
That said, it's far too easy for racers to get turned around by the impact of other cars. While a gentle graze won't spin you around, if you're pushed enough on either the front or rear half of your car, you're going to get turned around. What's worse is when you finally get yourself back in position and facing forward and another car comes, spinning you back around in the process. Some... unflattering words were let loose from my mouth when these incidents happened, as they usually end any chance of coming in first in a race, but Rise: Race the Future was entertaining enough that I persevered and continued.

After the initial learning curve, you'll be taking actual curves like a pro.
Rise: Race the Future sports three modes to it. The most inspired and enjoyable of the trio is the Challenges mode, which puts you up against a series of events that task you with completing goals in each to earn points and credits. These tally up to allow you access to new vehicles and future seasons, each containing new events. Some challenges are as simple as coming in first or second, while others require a heftier amount of skill, such as never being overtaken, racing without boosting, beating a specific race or lap time, drifting a certain distance, and even a challenge lifted straight from the movie Speed where you have to keep your car over a specific speed limit. Of course, that's without the whole "car exploding upon failure" part. These challenges and events add unique stipulations to what could be perceived as otherwise repetitive races.

In order to "stay in first position", one has to GET in first position, so hurry up, slowpoke!
I mention the word "repetitive", as while Rise: Race the Future has 32 different circuits to race on, these are merely taken from bits and pieces of four themed locales: a tropical jungle, a rugged canyon, a snowy mountainside, and a waterfall paradise. It's the same looking four environments, just with different paths of the wider locale cordoned and blocked off with barriers, so it does get a little tiresome seeing the same sites and landmarks repeatedly. That said, Rise: Race the Future does offer varying weather and time of day conditions to attempt to mix things up, like sunset, rain, and fog, for instance.

Aside from the Challenges mode, there is a Grand Prix-style Championship mode, full of various circuits to compete for the top total amount of points by a given championship's end. Perhaps knowing how easy it is to get turned around in races, the developer made it so you can retry a given race if you do poorly on it rather than have to restart the championship from its very beginning. As these championships can last nine circuits total, this is a VERY welcome feature.

I'm seeing red. No, not because I'm currently in 5th place--but because
all of our cars are currently matching the crimson color.
This brings up the final mode, which showcases an issue with Rise: Race the Future. It's the Time Attack mode, and throughout this review so far I've brought up what features and modes Rise has, but I haven't talked about what the game lacks. One of these omissions really puts the damper on the time trial fun, and that's the total lack of online leaderboards. There's no way to compare times with the world or with your friends other than posting your times on social media and such, which is by no means optimal.

Furthermore, and perhaps this was to keep the game running at its steady 30 frames per second, Rise: Race the Future has zero multiplayer whatsoever. A racing game like this begs for some heated human competition, so the fact that this is not a feature--frame-rate be damned--is a bit disappointing. Still, with the amount of single-player content available--from the amount of circuits to the number of events available--it's not too painful of a loss.

VD-Dev's Rise: Race the Future brings a satisfying and rewarding arcade racer to the Nintendo Switch at an affordable price point (just over $16 USD). The absences of online leaderboards and especially multiplayer hurt the overall package, and the steering and handling takes some practice to get one's head around. However, with a copious amount of solo content and a gratifying racing experience for those who get over the initial hump of learning the ins and outs of its controls, Rise: Race the Future should not be missed by those yearning for a circuit-style arcade racing experience on the Switch.

[SPC Says: B-]

A review code was provided for this game.

Concrete Genie (PS4) Release Date Reveal Trailer

The absolutely jaw-dropping PlayStation 4 exclusive Concrete Genie has a finalized release date of October 8th this year. View the stunning visuals and captivating concept of the game with this short but sweet release date trailer for the game.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Asphalt Injection (Vita) Retro Review

It's been a long time, but Retro Reviews are back on SuperPhillip Central! The only difference is that a game only need be five years or older to qualify as retro instead of being a gen or two old. Regardless, Asphalt 9 is coming to the Nintendo Switch sometime soon, so I took that news and decided to check out one of the Asphalt series's many portable offerings in the meantime. Hence, here is SuperPhillip Central's retro review of Asphalt Injection for the PlayStation Vita.

Doesn't kick quite as much asphalt as it could.

The Asphalt series is no stranger to mobile devices--now with the series up to its ninth numbered installment. With the launch of the PlayStation Vita, Ubisoft and Gameloft joined forces to put the series on the platform with Asphalt Injection. Considering one can play the Asphalt games on mobile for free, there wasn't much of an incentive for launch Vita owners to invest in Injection for a full $30 entry in the series. That said, now the game is available for a much cheaper price--especially on the used circuit--Asphalt Injection is a competent and worthwhile enough arcade-style racer to check out if you've got the need for speed and already exhausted the roster of other racers on the portable PlayStation Vita platform.

Asphalt Injection comes stocked with fifteen different races that each have five unlockable versions to them. From the humble beginnings of speeding through the canals and into the Hollywood foothills of Los Angeles to the highly technical city and winding countryside circuit of Hong Kong, Asphalt Injection will take you on a racing journey around the world in its unique locations. Each track sports multiple shortcuts and alternate paths, some more obvious than others, to help shave seconds off your lap times as well as get the jump on opponents.

Who needs to go on a Ferris wheel when you're in a much more exciting ride?
The main draw to Asphalt Injection, especially as online is pretty much impossible to find anyone to play with, is the single player campaign mode. This puts you in twenty increasingly more challenging series of five events each. Some are simple races and time trials, while others are elimination-style races, one-on-one duels, drift challenges, police pursuit missions, and events where you try to cause as much destruction as possible--whether by ramming into other opponents, making them wipe out, or smashing into roadside obstacles.

Drifting isn't just great to negotiate a track's twists and turns; it's also great to earn extra cold, hard cash!
The campaign is already jam-packed with races and events for any purchaser of Asphalt Injection to get enough longevity out of, but the optional goal of earning up to five stars per event makes it that there's even more racing goodness that can be squeezed out of the game. Stars are earned for completing events beyond the minimum requirements, and beating side tasks, which range from not crashing too much, drifting a certain distance, or performing enough knockdowns--which are imposed crashes you cause on other opponents' cars.

Speaking of cars, there's a pretty solid selection of different cars to choose from. All, however, handle the exact same. The only difference is each car's top speed. The more expensive cars that unlock and become available for purchase obviously have the higher top speeds, which are pretty much mandatory to win later races. The fact that cars all handle similarly to one another can be interpreted as a good thing and a bad thing. Bad that a basic sedan handles the same as a full-fledged racing rig--which isn't the most realistic thing in the world--but good that there isn't a learning curve when switching from car to car. The latter is something you'll do a lot during the game as you earn enough money to purchase new cars and trick them out with upgrades to boosts, steering, acceleration, and more.

What a sweet ride. Could do without the Nickelodeon orange, though.
The racing itself of Asphalt Injection obviously leans more towards a casual arcade feel than anything realistic, and that is something one would expect from a series which has roots in mobile gaming and is trying to appeal to the pick-up-and-play masses. While there is the option for tilt controls and using the Vita's rear touch controls as a paddle shift of sorts, I was more comfortable using traditional analog controls, especially when the more technical and trickier of tracks entered the picture.

Asphalt Injection's handling feels nice for the most part, but when it comes to drifting, it can be hard to exit from said drifts. This turns into some slipping and sliding across the circuits, which can also lead to unintentional crashes. As for crashes, the way the game can pretty much flip a coin on whether your car crashes completely against a wall or simply bumps off it, can be a bit frustrating. Frustrating, too, is that Asphalt Injection employs a crash cam when you "knock down" another opponent. It takes away you control of your vehicle entirely, and I've had it where after the crash cam gives me back control of my car, I wind up conveniently colliding my front end into oncoming traffic.

Some events pit you against one other racer for one driven duel.
Visually, when compared to other launch titles on the PlayStation Vita, Asphalt Injection doesn't really make the best impression. It's not an ugly game, by any stretch of the imagination, but it doesn't evoke any excitement whatsoever. On the audio side, you're greeted by a female voice over who does a nice job of introducing each track during their openings, but she gets rather grating as you do the actual races. I didn't particularly care to be chastised for not being able to see an oncoming driver around a blind turn and told that I "deserved" to crash. Meanwhile, the music selection is a mix of serviceable techno and electronic music, fitting for the genre but not too amazing.

Not exactly a visually stunning PlayStation Vita game, is it?
If you're going to play Asphalt Injection in 2019, just know you're going to be playing it for the single player experience. Well, that is, unless you can find someone willing to play online with you, and with even more luck, if you can find someone to play locally via ad hoc play. For a solo game and for a cheap price, Asphalt Injection has a good deal of fun to it, but it's more a game for those who have already exhausted the more prominent and positively received arcade racers in the Vita's library. As is, Asphalt Injection has some solid track design, a great deal of solo content, and strong enough gameplay to be worthwhile enough to check out.

[SPC Says: C]