Tuesday, December 31, 2019

SuperPhillip Central Best of 2019 Awards - Top Ten Games of 2019

With hours left in 2019--at least here in North America--SPC reveals its final list for the SuperPhillip Central Best of 2019 Awards. We have here the Top Ten Games of 2019! There were so many fantastic titles to choose from over the course of the year; so many that some of them I couldn't even find the time to play. You can bet, however, that those games that I did find time to enjoy are securely placed on this list.

These games were the best designed, most fun to play, and gave me the most hours of gaming pleasure this year. There is a wide assortment of genres on display here from a great number of stellar franchises, so let's not waste any more time with me giving a grand spiel. Let's get to the countdown of SuperPhillip Central's Top Ten Games of 2019!

10) Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night (PS4, XB1, NSW, PC)

After some unsatisfactory Kickstarter stories from some prodigious developers failed to delight, it was nice to finally see a success story. Oh, what a success story it was. After some doubt and some worries, Koji Igarashi of Castlevania fame delivered with his team's terrific Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. Designed as Metroidvania and inspired by his own directed classics like Symphony of the Night and Dawn of Sorrow, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night made for a fantastic action exploration platformer that brought a nice challenge, plenty of abilities to unlock and learn, monsters to mash, bosses to beat, and secrets to discover. While the game did not do too much new for the genre, fans and Kickstarter backers weren't really looking for that. They wanted a fresh Castlevania-like game from the man behind some of their favorite titles, and that's exactly what players like me got with Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night.

9) Yoshi's Crafted World (NSW)

Comfort gaming: that's exactly what I consider the Yoshi series. Now, don't get me wrong--I enjoy the original Yoshi's Island greatly, but there are issues with that game that make it for a less than relaxing experience. With Yoshi's Crafted World, the latest featuring Nintendo's adorable green dinosaur, while there were moments in the game that did result in some vexing situations--but those were limited to going for 100% completion--the overall vibe was a calming one. The level design was the highlight for me, offering such clever ways that levels could be designed with everyday objects like sponges for lilypads, egg cartons for platforms, and green paper plates intended as hills for the background. I constantly found myself yearning to see what ideas and concepts the designers at Good Feel would come up with next with regards to levels. A lilypad ride in a bathtub? A jungle expedition to reunite a mother dino with her child? A desert jaunt while being chase by a gigantic skeleton T-Rex? All of these moments made for an excellent platformer that I'm currently playing through again just for the fun of it.

8) The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening (NSW)

The original Link's Awakening stands as one of my favorite 2D entries in The Legend of Zelda franchise, a video game series that seldom disappoints me. This remake, 26 years after the fact, was a sensational one, offering a warm, cozy, and comforting world to explore, despite nearly everything on Koholint Island wanting to maim Link seriously. That said, playing this remake was a dream. Not only were various quality of life improvements included--such as having more buttons to map items to, so trips to the menu and inventory screens were far less frequent--but new content was added in the form of more Secret Seashells and Heart Containers to collect. The dungeon designer was a bit bare bones and not the true "Zelda Maker" many of us have wanted, but the way the game made making dungeons into puzzles themselves was rather skillful of Nintendo. Then, there was the toy-like diorama presentation and wind instruments serving as the soundtrack of the game, all making for a tremendous looking and sounding game. The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening might not completely eliminate the need to play the original Game Boy classic or its Game Boy Color version, but it certainly came close for this writer.

7) Fire Emblem: Three Houses (NSW)

I am not one to partake too much in the Fire Emblem franchise. All in all, I've just played parts of the Game Boy Advance entries that reached North America, as well as have only overall beaten two of the mainline games in the series total: Fire Emblem: Awakening and now Fire Emblem: Three Houses. Featuring three (technically four, but who's counting?) unique story lines based on which of the three houses you align yourself with, Fire Emblem: Three Houses had a surprisingly dark story for the series. Still, what remained unchanged was the tactical RPG goodness that fans keep coming back for time and time again. The abundance of means to customize your characters, ways to interact with them, grow closer with them in and out of battle, and how to overall become a stronger class of students was something that kept me engaged in between the stellar battles that are the strong suit of the series. Wandering about Garreg Mach Monastery between battles could cause some pacing issues at times, but overall, it brought well deserved breaks to unwind and replenish your stock of items, weapons, magic, and more. Fire Emblem: Three Houses also sports one heck of a soundtrack, which I would be eager to purchase if made available. All that cast aside, you have a tactical RPG that delivered in almost every category for every type of fan of the genre in Fire Emblem: Three Houses.

6) Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled (PS4, XB1, NSW)

The original Crash Team Racing was a competent kart racer, but I never really found myself devoted to it. I always found it to be a pale imitation of Diddy Kong Racing, a game I much preferred. However, with Beenox's remake of the game, Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled, I've discovered a newfound love and vested interest in the game and the Crash Bandicoot series as a whole. Beenox could have simply upgraded the visuals and called it a day, but the amount of noticeable, tangible effort they put into the game I can't help but applaud and be enamored with. Old tracks look completely new with the masterful makeovers and new face lifts they have. All of the tracks and characters from Crash Team Racing plus all of the tracks and characters from Crash Nitro Kart-- probably content from a game many players are experiencing for the first time--were included. That's not even to mention all of the new tracks, characters, karts, cosmetics, and more being added on a monthly basis via the addicting Grand Prix events. Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled not only nailed the tight feel of CTR's original controls, but it brought with it a high enough skill ceiling that players can constantly find themselves improving. And you'll want to improve, too, because the game is so rewarding to do so.

5) Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair (PS4, XB1, NSW, PC)

Creativity abounded in the levels of this next game, a 2D platformer mixed with a 3D overworld. This added up to an excellent all-around adventure with Playtonic Games' Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair. Venturing into the overworld of the game, solving environmental puzzles, and using those to access new levels and alternate versions of each level (ones that drastically changed the structure and designs of each) was one of the most ingenious things I've seen implemented into a platformer of this type in a long time. Further, the Impossible Lair was the game's ultimate challenge, and while the implementation proved too challenging for many players unfortunately, the concept was so clever and smart. You took the Bees you collected at the end of each of the game's 40 levels, and then those were your "hits", shielding you from damage. That said, the lair isn't called "impossible" as part of Playtonic's trademark cheeky level of humor. No, it's actually REALLY hard. Most players might not manage it to make it through the 20+ minute ordeal, but for me, it was the journey and not the destination. I enjoyed every minute of going through the game's levels, running, jumping and rolling as the heroic duo of Yooka and Laylee, collecting the well-hidden doodads, and the nabbing the Bees at each level's conclusion. Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair is a highlight of the year for me, and very much scratches that Donkey Kong Country itch many of us have had.

4) Luigi's Mansion 3 (NSW)

After falling out in many Nintendo fans' favor with the unfortunately timed and received Metroid Prime: Federation Force on the Nintendo 3DS, Next Level Games more than proved itself yet again as an excellent developer for Nintendo with its first Nintendo Switch effort, Luigi's Mansion 3. The sheer amount of creativity in the environments and puzzle design were sensational, and each time I completed a floor, I was excited and eager to see what kind of ingenious designs would await me on the next floor of the Last Resort hotel. From veritable jungles to an Egyptian themed pyramid, the level of imagination in the floor designs and concepts were just astonishing to me. Luigi's added helper of Gooigi made puzzles even more clever, and I felt like a genius when I finally stumbled upon a solution after figuratively beating my head against a wall with no luck. Nearly every moment of Luigi's Mansion 3's 10-15 hour ghost-busting campaign filled me with delight, and even its online counterpart, the ScareScraper, gave me plenty of hours of entertainment as well. Busting certainly made me feel good this year with Luigi in his third solo adventure that was Luigi's Mansion 3.

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

As you can probably tell from the accompanying screenshots, we're moving on from whimsical spooks and scares to downright and outright intense and terrifying scares with Resident Evil 2's incredible remake from early this past year. Striking a perfect balance between keeping things familiar for old fans and making new additions to make for a more modern game, Resident Evil 2 offered one hell of thrill ride. The game nailed its unsettling atmosphere where every encounter was a danger, especially ones pitting Leon and Claire against the immensely intimidating Mr. X, a brilliant new inclusion to the game. From the immaculate visual design, amazing lighting, and excessive detail in the gory goodness of incapacitated enemies, Resident Evil 2 shined brightly in its graphical overhaul as well. Survival horror was remade and re-imagined in a really remarkable way with Resident Evil 2, and it makes me entirely on board with Resident Evil 3's retelling this upcoming April.

2) Super Mario Maker 2 (NSW)

If I gave the Game of the Year awards to the game that took up the most of my time this year, then Super Mario Maker 2 would definitely be it. As that's not how it works, this accessible creation software to make your dream Mario levels will have to settle for runner-up this year. That said, it truly earned its spot, allowing players to easily create Mario levels in one of five game types, including the new Super Mario 3D World type, and in a dozen level themes. The game keeps on giving, too, with new tools to create more crafty and clever creations with the additions of Link, new enemies, and new objects to interact with in levels. The addition of playing levels with friends online, a much requested feature, has only heightened my love for the game. Apart from the new added content, Super Mario Maker 2 also came equipped with Nintendo's own set of levels set up in a story mode, allowing players to enjoy professionally made content as well as get inspiration for their own creations. Super Mario Maker 2 delivered as both a powerful kit of creation tools as well as a solid Mario experience for playing entertaining platforming levels. It's more than deserving of the number two spot of this list.

And SuperPhillip Central's Game of 2019 award goes to...



1) Kingdom Hearts III (PS4, XB1)

Perhaps a big surprise as SuperPhillip Central's pick for Game of the Year 2019, considering that I don't particularly care for the nonsensical story of the series, but Kingdom Hearts III did surprise me with its excellent quality. I loved exploring the more complicated and involved level designs of the Disney worlds--unrivaled in the series by their size, scope, and density, battling tremendous creatures with the multifaceted combat which allowed different approaches to how I wanted to tackle enemies, and I was astounded by just how gorgeous of a game Kingdom Hearts III truly is, even running on just the base PS4 hardware. Moments like sailing an open world sea in the Pirates of the Caribbean world or teaming up with Buzz and Woody to take on the Heartless in the Toy Story Toy Box world hold high in my gaming memories this past year.

I understand that many longtime fans of the series might have felt that the lengthy wait wasn't worth it for Kingdom Hearts III, but for me, as someone who has played bits and pieces of the franchise here and there, I found myself loving nearly every minute of my time with the game. Enough at least to earn the Platinum trophy for Kingdom Hearts III, and eagerly awaiting the DLC coming early in 2020. Like the Attraction Flow attacks, Kingdom Hearts III was a wild ride, and it possessed enough charm, magic, and spectacle to easily keep me engaged from beginning to end.


That's officially a wrap on the SuperPhillip Central Best of 2019 Awards! What did you think? Check out all of the previous lists of this awards show of SPC's with the following links:

~ See you all in 2020! ~

Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD (NSW, PS4, XB1, PC) Review

I hate to end the year review-wise on a negative note, but that's what SuperPhillip Central is doing regardless and regrettably. The review in question? Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD. Let's check out why this entry of the Super Monkey Ball series was the wrong one to revive and remaster with the SPC review.

A remaster that needed more time to ripen

Super Monkey Ball was one of my favorite launch titles for the Nintendo GameCube back in 2001, and its sequel improved on the formula in nearly every way. Ever since, however, Super Monkey Ball games have gone from middling at best to abysmal at worst. Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz was one of those "middling" games, and launched with the Nintendo Wii in 2006. It added motion control movement for guiding one's Monkey Ball around each stage and a jump button. That wasn't all of the unnecessary additions either.

Now, Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD remasters the original Wii game--why of all Super Monkey Ball games SEGA chose this one I'll never understand--but with terribly bad boss battles, little redeeming content, and poor mini-games, the bananas in this blitz are of the rotten variety.

Every world grants you an opportunity to rack up some lives
via a bounty of bananas in these bonus stages.
There are 100 main stages in Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD, and they are divided up between ten worlds. Persistent (see: masochistic) players can opt to try to complete each world without using a continue, but that's pretty much just setting yourself up for punishment by the time the sixth world rolls around. The game loses its motion control steering of the stage to guide your monkey in a ball that was found in the original Banana Blitz, and instead utilizes traditional analog stick movement. This makes it so stages are easier overall to complete in some regards, but many latter levels in the game are rage-inducing in both their lengths and the how precise you have to be with your movements--something made more manageable with the better fine tuning one can do with gyro-based controls.

These levels make yo' monkey wanna... JUMP! JUMP!
The added ability to jump lends itself well to the level design, requiring some quick hops here and there, jumps over gaps, and precision timing. The physics on display here in Banana Blitz HD are just as good as ever, so seldom do you feel you were cheated out of clearing a level because your Monkey Ball didn't bounce the right way. It's generally always user error that results in falling off the course.

What Banana Blitz HD takes away in motion control movement, the game keeps one of the more unsightly and unsavory parts of the game--the end world boss battles. These encounters are maddening to try to stay on the stage, avoiding boss attacks, all the while contending with the camera as you attempt to attack your target's weak spot. Several times I'd find myself losing lives like quarters in a slot machine just because the bosses were so frustrating and infuriating. While the mechanics of the bosses are bad and drove me ballistic, I can say that I did love seeing each design.

The bosses are a low point to a game that I already don't think about too highly.
If you can challenge yourself to push through the 100 stages of the game with persistence and patience, you'll find yourself unlocking content in the form of alternate costumes for the Monkey Ball cast, as well as a not-so-secret unlockable that SEGA made no attempt to hide in its promotional trailers for the game. That would be Sonic the Hedgehog, who is the fastest character in the game and instead of accumulating bananas to acquire 1-Ups, he collects rings.

Aside from the 100 stages in Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD's main mode of play, there are a selection of ten mini-games from the original Banana Blitz's 50 to choose from. However, between guiding a monkey down an assortment of see-saws to gather bananas, snowboarding downhill on an obstacle-ridden track, and whacking moles like you're at Chuck E. Cheese--but without the fun of getting tangible rewards like pencil erasers for doing so--there is not much to be excited about in this collection of mini-games. Even the fan favorite Monkey Target, while returning, is a pale imitation of past installments and fails to provide any long lasting entertainment. If you're looking for any kind of depth to these mini-games, you're going to be sorely disappointed like I was.

Banana Blitz HD's Monkey Target is unfortunately not quite on target when it concerns fun.
Another disappointment I found with Banana Blitz HD was the removal of most of the original soundtrack from the Wii version. This is apparently due to licensing issues, something SEGA seemingly struggles with more than other companies. It's a darn shame, as the music of the original Banana Blitz was one of my favorite parts of the game. Such insanely catchy music that game had. What replaces it is mostly songs taken from other Super Monkey Ball games, and more times than I'd like to hear, the music is ill-fitting for the stages or scenarios it's played in. Though, speaking of catchy music, I must decree that Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD's new vocal theme is an insane earworm and a good one at that.

Someone in charge of infrastructure better get to all of these broken bridges.
Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD gives me a lot of questions. The top question being: Of all the Super Monkey Ball games that could have been remade, why this particular one? Other questions include: Why does this game exist? Who asked for it? Will SEGA be surprised when this poorly received remaster bombs at retail, and when it does, will SEGA think that means no one wants new games in the series instead of thinking, "Hey, maybe Banana Blitz was a bad game to revive?" Ugh. All of these questions are driving me bananas, so just take your review grade, Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD, and then make like bananas and split.

[SPC Says: D+]

Monday, December 30, 2019

SuperPhillip Central Best of 2019 Awards - Top Five Remakes/Remasters

The second awards category on this Monday for the SuperPhillip Central Best of 2019 Awards is for the Best Remake and/or Remaster. There's sometimes annoyance from gamers towards remakes of older games. Some would prefer wholly new experiences as opposed to treading old territory. However, I'm of the opinion that if an older game that would otherwise be stuck on dated hardware gets an even better version, then what's the problem with that? These following remakes are ones that I believe do just that, or at the very least complement the originals well. With that said, here we go with the list of winners for this countdown.

5) MediEvil (PS4)

Kicking off this countdown of the top five remakes and remasters from the past year is MediEvil. Now, MediEvil was a remake through and through, being insanely faithful to its source material. Perhaps too much so in some critics' cases, as there were occasional warts that showed up in the form of a high difficulty and some obtuse puzzle design. This wasn't a game back on the PS1 that held your hand, and in 2019, this remake was not one that did the same either. If you dug the original MediEvil like I did growing up, then you'll definitely find yourself in love with this remake. Again, warts and all.

4) Spyro Reignited Trilogy (NSW, PC)

We move on from one classic from the PS1 era to another with Spyro the Dragon, a little precocious purple fire-breather whose platforming trilogy I greatly prefer to a certain bandicoot's. Be that as it may, the Spyro Reignited Trilogy released on both PlayStation 4 and Xbox One last year, and it wasn't until this past September that all three remade games saw their journey to the Nintendo Switch and PC. The latter of which is more than enough of a reason to put the games on this list, as the PC version was fantastic and looked absolutely jaw-dropping and gorgeous if on the right settings. Don't worry, Switch fans, the Spyro Reignited Trilogy also looked great for that hardware as well, especially being able to play all three games on the go. Both new versions amount to this remade trilogy reaching the fourth spot on this list.

3) The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening (NSW)

My return trip to Koholint Island was one that brought me faint memories of playing the original Link's Awakening as a child, being bewildered by bosses and puzzles inside the eight dungeons of the game. However, back then I had my trusty Nintendo Power to guide me through. This time around, despite The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening being completely remade on the Switch and having Koholint Island look like a totally different--albeit just as cozy--place, my memories from my youth came flooding back like waves of nostalgia. Even then, the new content made it so my adventure wasn't a predictable one. Koholint Island had never looked better with its warm, fuzzy, toy-like appearance, and the new arrangements of old classic tunes made for a game that I will happily return to for the rest of my gaming years. The original Link's Awakening gave me plenty of happy memories as a child. The Switch remake has already given me even more to enjoy as an adult.

2) Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled (PS4, XB1, NSW, PC)

What can I say about Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled that I haven't already? Well, I'm going to have to think up some things, not just for its placement on this list, but also for a later category as well. Crash Team Racing's remake saw Beenox put so much effort into the game. Familiar locales and tracks were completely made over with a fabulous brand-new look that if one didn't recognize the layouts, they might not even recognize the tracks at all! Not only were the CTR original tracks and characters included, but so were those from Crash Nitro Kart. Couple this with a meaty amount of modes, as well as the continued monthly sequences of Grand Prix events, and you have a game that delivered for fans thirsty for incredible kart racing action featuring characters other than those from the Mushroom Kingdom.

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

Utterly terrifying as a game in both scare factor and quality, Resident Evil 2 marked Capcom's continued rise in prominence this generation after having faltered quite a bit last gen. There is a fine line when remaking a game. Change too little and you've done the bare minimum. Change too much and you might ruin what made the original special. Capcom nailed the balance perfectly, offering a remake in Resident Evil 2 that satisfied both new players and fans familiar with the PS1 original game. This substantially "gore-geous" game brought a more serious story and tone, offering truly intense and emotional moments. Then, there was the tried and true gameplay that changed the perspective to a third-person over-the-shoulder one which worked flawlessly, as did needing to watch your limited ammo and manage your meager amount of inventory space. Dealing with zombies--a once benign threat--now turned into scenarios where every encounter with the undead was a dangerous one. And that's nothing to say about the newly added threat introduced halfway through the first section of the game. Resident Evil 2 delivered in every way one could imagine, making it the best remake of 2019.

SuperPhillip Central Best of 2019 Awards - Top Five Platformers

It's time for a genre of gaming that I love so much that so many years ago on the site I devoted an entire category of awards to it--it's the platformer! SuperPhillip Central's Best of 2019 Awards chugs along, ready to run and jump its way forward with the Top Five Platformers of 2019. These games are mechanically sound with excellent controls, overall entertaining platformers in regards to both gameplay and design, and they feature some of my favorite level designs of the year. If you're ready to roll on with the countdown, then let's make a starting dash and jump on in to things!

5) Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night (PS4, XB1, NSW, PC)

Our first top platformer of 2019 is an overall better game than at least one of the picks on this list, but mechanically it may not be as masterful in the gameplay department as say, the fourth game on this list. That notwithstanding, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night brought the goods and the receipts with it when it released over the summer. It took the tried and true Metroidvania formula--lovingly given the moniker of an "Igavania", named after the director of this game and several Castlevanias of gaming past--and brought some new conventions to them. Whether our heroine took on massive monsters or deadly humanoid opponents, she would gather their souls to unlock new abilities to use in and out of combat to explore the massive world. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night managed to make me love it so much that I happily went for the Platinum trophy on my PlayStation 4 copy of the game. That's saying something for how much I enjoyed it.

4) Katana ZERO (NSW, PC)

An indie hit on the Nintendo Switch and on PC, Katana ZERO by developer Askiisoft was a colorful, vivid, vibrant, and violent action-platformer that possessed incredibly tight and responsive controls. The latter was a good thing, as the manic action require quick wits and steady hands to survive each of the game's levels, which could be completed in a number of different ways. That made it so no two play-throughs of a level might be the same. Slash, strike, and deflect bullets at foes in surprisingly satisfyingly creative ways in this excellent action-platformer, earning its spot on this list of best platformers of 2019.

3) Yoshi's Crafted World (NSW)

We move from the fast paced action of Katana ZERO to a more subdued and much more mellow game (as well as decidedly much more family friendly as well) with Yoshi's Crafted World. I must admit that while Yoshi's latest adventure won't get your palms sweaty too terribly much if you're simply moving through levels, they will when tackling some of the game's more difficult challenges, such as going for 100% collectibles and taking on the title's end-game boss. Yoshi's Crafted World featured some of the most clever level designs and concepts in a platformer this year, with each level having me excited to see what level ideas the designers would come up with next. A mostly leisurely platformer, Yoshi's Crafted World gets comfortable and cozy in the middle of this countdown.

2) Super Mario Maker 2 (NSW)

Not only is the next game on this countdown a platformer with five of the best Mario platforming styles in one game, but Super Mario Maker 2--as the name implies--also allowed players to create and craft their own Mario levels in one of four Mario themes and one of several level types. Along with Nintendo's tightly designed Story Mode levels, which not only provided excellent platforming challenges but also gave players inspiration and ideas for their own levels, players could hop online and try out myriad creations from a plethora of players and designers. Super Mario Maker 2 barely loses out in this category to our number one game by virtue of not being a wholly original game, but don't let that fool you into thinking that this platformer and platforming level tool wasn't a fantastic platformer, no matter which Mario game theme you used--Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World, New Super Mario Bros., or Super Mario 3D World.

1) Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair (PS4, XB1, NSW, PC)

We run and jump to our platforming game of the year with a pair of familiar enough characters. Unlike the original Yooka-Laylee, which many consider a pale imitation of the games it was inspired by, Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair not only lent itself to a favorable comparison to its Donkey Kong Country inspiration, but it also rivaled the games. Yooka and Laylee made one killer combo, and the running, rolling, jumping, and spinning made for a tight feeling game. The eponymous Impossible Lair was a fantastic capstone challenge for the game, but it also could cut plenty of players' adventures just short of the goal. The other levels leading up to the Impossible Lair were really well designed with smartly placed secrets, fun level gimmicks (including two versions of each level, which drastically altered their designs), and a 3D overworld that brought forth a combination of platforming and puzzle elements. All in all, Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair delighted me the most as a completely original platformer this year, giving it top honors as the best platformer of 2019.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

New Super Lucky's Tale (NSW) Review

Let's take a quick breather from the SuperPhillip Central's Best of 2019 Awards for a review of a recent Nintendo Switch release. It's New Super Lucky's Tale, a game that had previous versions on two different platforms. Now, new and improved, is New Super Lucky's Tale the definitive version of Lucky's first platforming adventure? Here's the answer with the SPC review.

Don't try to outfox this fox!

What a story Lucky has had thus far! I'm not even talking about his trials to become a guardian and such. I'm referring to his original debut on the Oculus Rift VR exclusive Lucky's Tale, followed by the more expansive Xbox One game Super Lucky's Tale. Now, the game moves to a new platform and with another new word added to its name. New Super Lucky's Tale is almost unrecognizable from its previous iterations with how much has changed, but do all of the game's new additions and changes make for a better experience? Well... Yes and no.

New Super Lucky's Tale sees the evil Jinx and his band of rogue villains, the Kitty Litter, seeking a mystical book that holds numerous worlds inside of it. When the pages are scattered about in a scuffle, the book teleports Lucky, who is caught in the fray, and taken to one of the various worlds. Only through taking on each member of the Kitty Litter and collecting the pages of the book can Lucky find his way home to his family.

New Super Lucky's Tale sports some voiced dialogue, but most of it in-game is through text boxes and small soundbites of gibberish. That said, the characterization in the game is top-notch with some truly charming characters. Lucky himself is bursting with personality, and I love the way he looks at the camera and greets the player when one zooms in on him. This personality is further enhanced by unlockable costumes that are purchased with the game's currency.

The characters in New Super Lucky's Tale occasionally provided me with a chuckle or two.
The goal of New Super Lucky's Tale sees Lucky entering into levels to collect Clover Pages, of which there are four per level. One of these is collected simply from clearing the main level objective, such as the first level's goal of finding and carrying three golem heads back to their lonely bodies. Another page is hidden in the level, usually locked behind some kind of platforming puzzle. Then the other two pages are acquired by finding and collecting the letters L-U-C-K-Y and gathering 300 coins in a single level. While most the goals are optional apart from clearing the level, the door to the boss of each hub world requires a set number of pages to open its lock.

Another Clover Page collected. Keep it up, Lucky!
That said, it's quite easy to just stumble upon Clover Pages as long as you're doing the minimum amount of exploration required. Nevertheless, if you want to 100% the game, you'll have to search high and low in levels and perform some rather crafty platforming spectacles to complete some of the more fur-raising challenges in the game. The post-game challenges, for instance, will cause even the most proficient of platform game players to stumble a little bit.

Lucky thinks he's a field goal kicker for the NFL all of a sudden. And... it's good!
Playful's game was sold as a 3D platformer, but it's so much more than that. There's a great amount of variety on display here with the gameplay, though that's not always a positive thing. Apart from the 3D worlds filled with entertaining exploration, platforming peril, and puzzles abound, there are side-scrolling 2D levels, which offer a decent degree of delightful design. Then, there are auto-runner levels that play at an angle, which are enjoyable enough.

The 2D levels offer a change in perspective but no change in quality, thankfully.
The unwelcome variety in New Super Lucky's Tale comes from gameplay that isn't actual platforming. While solving sliding stone statue puzzles is amusing the first five times you do it, after you see the 15th puzzle you need to solve for a Clover Page, it very much outwears its welcome. Then, there are the marble rolling mini-games, which not only are frustrating to control, but the camera angle makes seeing your ball incredibly hard when you're away from the front of the board.

If only Lucky had some pesticide for this particular petal-filled pest!
When you are running and jumping around in New Super Lucky's Tale, you're going to have a solid time. Lucky can jump and then utilize a spin of his tail, Mario Galaxy-style, to get extra distance and for last second tweaking when landing. His ability to burrow under soft ground is a highlight of Lucky's move set, allowing him to pass under otherwise impenetrable objects like cages and fences, as well as avoid detection during brief and non-frustrating stealth sections. What can be frustrating, though, is Lucky's double jump, which caused me to occasionally attempt to bounce off enemies too early. There are also some collision detection issues that needed a wee bit more polish to iron out.

Lucky is able to burrow into soft soil like this to dodge these over-sized but not over-easy eggs.
Bosses round out the action in New Super Lucky's Tale, and these aren't too amazing of experiences. They all follow the same patterns of dodging various attacks--usually barrages of fireballs--and then waiting for your opportunity to attack the boss directly. There is some variety in how you attack each boss, but New Super Lucky's Tale won't be winning any awards for exceptionally creative boss battles. They're enjoyable enough, but won't give a long, lasting impression.

This boss is beaten by flipping various switches around the arena to launch a laser beam right at it.
New Super Lucky's Tale has some performance problems with its arrival on the Nintendo Switch. Frame-rate hiccups and lengthy loading times were far too frequent for my liking through my 10+ hour play-through of the game to achieve 100%. (As an aside, I encourage going for 100%, as otherwise, New Super Lucky's Tale is a rather short adventure). There is also noticeable pop-in with objects materializing from thin air in level overviews that begin each entrance into a level, where the camera surveys the platforming to come. On a positive note, despite these performance problems, New Super Lucky's Tale is a noted beauty of a game, and proof positive that a pleasant art style can conquer all. The music is suitably catchy, as well, so much so that I tracked down some song samples on YouTube just to listen to them outside the game.

Overall, my happiness that Super Lucky's Tale was brought to the Nintendo Switch didn't diminish through playing the final game. Sure, there were headaches here and there while playing the game to full completion (I'm looking directly at you, marble puzzles), but I had more good times and favorable moments with New Super Lucky's Tale than bad. While I doubt I'll want to return to the game often due to the unskippable story sequences in levels and all of the non-platforming gameplay, I do think pretty highly of the game. That's because ultimately, New Super Lucky's Tale is a solid platformer, a definitive version of Lucky's adventure, and most welcome in any run and jump fan's ever-expanding collection of Switch games.

[SPC Says: B-]

SuperPhillip Central Best of 2019 Awards - Top Five Biggest Surprises

Let's rebound from last night's negative awards category of Most Disappointing Games of 2019 and return to what the SuperPhillip Central Best of Awards are all about--celebrating gaming! Today, there's just one category, but it returns us to a more positive place as we celebrate and count down the Top Five Biggest Surprises of 2019. These are the games that had unexpectedly great quality or just came out of nowhere and knocked people's figurative socks off. It's a colorful array of nominees and winners on the list, so it's time to begin counting them down!

5) New Super Lucky's Tale (NSW)

We start off with a game that is very much a surprise for being a quality platformer. Not only in a 3D sense, where we don't see a lot of games delve into this dimension as of late, but also in a 2D sense. It's New Super Lucky's Tale, a game that was originally an Oculus Rift exclusive turned Xbox exclusive turned Nintendo Switch exclusive, each time gaining new features a new word to the game's title. While far from perfect and adding a little too much variety to distract from the solid enough platforming hijinks, New Super Lucky's Tale wowed me with its charm, its personality, and its clever design.

4) Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair (PS4, XB1, NSW, PC)

We move from a mostly 3D platformer to a wholly 2D one with Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair. Despite enjoying the original Yooka-Laylee, which was modeled after Banjo-Kazooie and its ilk, I didn't quite expect to love Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair as much as I did. From the creative level designs, to the extremely ingenious 3D overworld and the means to alter levels, to the titular Impossible Lair, which demands platforming perfection to pass, Yooka and Laylee's second go of it was a phenomenal game, making it one of my favorites of the year. Truly unexpected, but perhaps that's on me for doubting the tremendous talent behind some of my favorite games of all time from various ex-Rare staffers!

3) Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled (PS4, XB1, NSW)

File this one like the other games thus far on this countdown of the Top Five Biggest Surprises of 2019 as a game that I didn't know I'd like as much as I did. While I knew of the original Crash Team Racing's quality, as I played the game back on the PS1, I did not expect how much of a masterful recreation and remake its Nitro-Fueled reincarnation would be. Packed with content in the form of characters, tracks, karts, and cosmetics, Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled keeps me playing to this day, and we're talking about a title released this past June. This is thanks to the Grand Prix mode and by virtue being a game that keeps on giving, but it's also because it's a game that one constantly improves at. You WANT to get better at the game because the game rewards you for doing so. Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled delivered so much unexpected joy from me this year, putting it a firm middle position on this countdown.

2) Ring Fit Adventure (NSW)

Now, we're going to talk about games that came from out of nowhere and surprised with their high quality. When one thinks of fitness games, they think of quote/unquote "non-games", but Nintendo pulled no punches with Ring Fit Adventure, a complete fitness RPG. The Pilates ring that comes with the game is the piece de resistance of Ring Fit Adventure (literally, too, in a way with its resistance training), allowing players to perform unique and legitimate exercise maneuvers to not only defeat enemies and venture the game world, but also to get a real workout in. Set the difficulty level of your workout and challenge of the game, and pick your set of exercise moves into battle, serving as your attacks. Ring Fit Adventure isn't just a surprise of how creative and innovative it is a game, but how excellent it is as a full-fledged workout!

1) Untitled Goose Game (NSW, PS4, XB1, PC)

HONK! Sneaking up on the gaming conversation and taking full control of it was Untitled Goose Game, whose name serves as a prime example of just how eccentric and off-the-wall the game truly is from developer House House. Meandering about levels causing mischief as a goose is a simple enough elevator pitch to convey--wacky, no doubt, but seeing the game in action and witnessing how the stealth gameplay and hilarious absurdity of it all work in tandem together really sells the game. Untitled Goose Game is a big surprise not only for being a sensational game, but also a big surprise for how it unexpectedly commandeered so much attention from the gaming world this past year in a viral way. ...HONK!