Thursday, March 28, 2019

Yoshi’s Crafted World (NSW) Launch Trailer

SPC is still in a platforming kind of mood! In just a little while, Yoshi's Crafted World will release digitally in North America on the Nintendo Switch. To commemorate the occasion (well, the launch of the game in general), Nintendo of America has provided this special launch trailer for the game. SuperPhillip Central will have its in-depth review of Yoshi's Crafted World in early April.

Shantae: Half-Genie Hero (PS4, XB1, NSW, PC, Wii U, Vita) Review

Most recently released on the Nintendo Switch, Shantae: Half-Genie Hero seemed like a perfect game to review on SuperPhillip Central due to the announcement of Shantae 5. I like to pretend I'm always this clever, but longtime readers have had to withstand some of my truly terrible review taglines for a while now. Regardless, here's the SPC review of Shantae: Half-Genie Hero.

I dream of half-genie.

With the announcement of Shantae 5 (sure, it's just a teaser logo and nothing more, but don't kill my buzz, people!), I felt compelled to try out a game that lingered on the shelf of my family's PlayStation 4 collection for a while now--Shantae: Half-Genie Hero. After taking some time to fully complete the game, I feel ashamed for not giving it my attention sooner. I was looking for an engaging 2D platformer, and it seems my wish for one has been granted with WayForward's latest.

Shantae: Half-Genie Hero is structured differently from a Metroid-style game. Rather than having an interconnected world to it, Half-Genie Hero has a world map that you select various levels from. As you advance in the story, new areas are unlocked to visit and revisit. Revisiting areas with new abilities that Shantae didn't have before opens up the levels to reach new locations inside them to acquire methods of progressions and various collectibles.

Shantae's long purple locks aren't just for show--they're also good for whipping up on enemies.
It could have been extraordinarily tedious and repetitive to constantly return to past levels to collect this and that when new abilities are earned, but thankfully, Half-Genie Hero has a fast travel option that can be purchased in the in-game shop. This allows Shantae to warp to the next section of level without the need to run through it yourself. That said, it still would have been nice for levels with multiple sections to allow players to simply warp to the section they wanted instead of having to warp to one section after the other.

Half-Genie Hero has Shantae discovering animal transformations to turn into, granting her different powers and abilities, as well as extra mobility to reach areas otherwise inaccessible. For instance, the monkey transformation allows Shantae to climb quickly up walls and fit through narrow passages, whereas the crab transformation grants her the power to explore the underwater depths. There are just under a dozen unique transformations in the game, and of this number, eight of them are required to reach the end of the game.

Monkey see, monkey climb.
The animal transformations have numerous abilities that can be added to their arsenals, allowing even more uses for each. Whether it's the crab's claw that can snip through grass blocks underwater, the elephant's ability to pound the ground to break blocks and uncover buried treasure, or the harpy's ability to fling her talons at enemies as a means to defend herself, the added abilities make already awesome transformations even more interesting and fun to use. Some abilities are more useful than others--for instance, the bat's sonar ability is only used for one room in the game--but most have multiple uses.

Half-Genie Hero possesses a plethora of collectibles to uncover and collect, as well as goods to purchase in the game's shop located in the town. From collectibles that increase Shantae's maximum health and keys that unlock concept art in the gallery, to goods for sale like unique magic moves and equipment that boosts attack, defense, and magic, getting 100% completion in Half-Genie Hero takes some commitment. However, at the same token, even performing this task doesn't take too terribly long. My first run through the game with everything in the game collected took just over five hours.

That's not to say Half-Genie Hero isn't worth the price of admission. Quite the opposite, in fact. Shantae's latest is a game that begs for repeated play-throughs, and is a speed runner's dream. It's a game that doesn't overstay its welcome, and when I was finished with a run through the game, I eagerly yearned for more. I'll take that over a game that lingers too long and I shelve it forever after beating it once.

Shantae's monkey form can also leap incredibly high.
Wayforward took the presentation approach of a previous title in its catalog, DuckTales Remastered, and pepped it up for Half-Genie Hero. There's the same 3D environments with gorgeous 2D spritework, and it looks absolutely sensational. The most astonishing visuals come from sections of the game that wraparound in a tower-like setting and feature bosses that take up the entire screen.

Shantae: Half-Genie Hero is a visual treat and delight.
Meanwhile, Jake Kaufman delivers yet another fantastic soundtrack that is mix of modern instrumentation with an infectiousness that harks back to the NES classics he's been noted to be inspired by. Voice clips by characters are occasionally uttered by characters both during gameplay and during various scenes, which is a nice touch, though I'd be lying if I didn't wish every line of dialog in cutscenes was fully voiced. Then again, for Kickstarted project, that's probably not overly realistic of me.

"IT'S A GIANT WORM!" ...Sorry. I was having Gears of War 2 flashbacks for a moment there.
Shantae: Half-Genie Hero is without a doubt my favorite Shantae game yet. It contains a platforming adventure that is just long enough to be satisfying without feeling cheated out of more, and when I did want more, I could sit down and play through the game again due to its relatively short length. Half-Genie Hero is a game many fans wished for, and like a genie, WayForward happily granted their wish. I'm happy the development team did, too, because Shantae: Half-Genie Hero is another terrific entry in a vastly underrated series.

[SPC Says: B+]

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Trials Rising (NSW, PS4, XB1, PC) Review

Trials Rising or the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC is the next game receiving the SuperPhillip Central review treatment, so let's put on our helmets, hop on our bikes, and get ready to ride with the review! (Coincidentally, I always wear a helmet when writing reviews. Safety first!)

Rising to the challenge

Video games are a fantastic way of performing actions and doing things that you could only possibly dream of doing in real life. For instance, I don't think I'd really like to try riding a bike down a steep roller coaster track, but in Trials Rising from Ubisoft, I easily can and not be terrified by doing it. Of course, there is also the little matter that in real life I can't ride a bike to begin with, so that's another thing Trials Rising lets me do with ease! With over 100 tracks to take on and superb physics, Trials Rising is one heck of a ride, but does the inclusion of a new progression system and loot boxes result in some unnecessary and unwanted bumps in the road?

Trials Rising features over 100 unique courses to challenge yourself with, riding your bike along hills, valleys, over jumps, though loops, and other obstacles with the goal of reaching the end of each track. Depending on how fast you complete tracks, you're rewarded with a medal for completion. Every time you fault and restart from a checkpoint, of which they are generously sprinkled throughout each track, you get five seconds automatically added to your time.

Ridin' dirty. No, really. There's a lot of dirt here!
Now if that sounds easy, let me drop some truth onto you--it's not. Not at all. Starting out with Trials Rising, you'll crash, you'll bail, and you'll find yourself eating an unhealthy amount of dirt (then again, what IS a healthy amount of dirt?). Thankfully, Trials Rising features a training school that slowly teaches you all of the tricks of the trade that you'll need to survive and succeed in each of the tracks within Trials. From learning how to take inclines and declines and performing bunny hops to successfully landing on steep grades without falling off your bike, the lessons in Trials Rising grow more and more challenging, but each is explained well enough with helpful tutorials and visual examples as to not make for a frustrating experience. It's fortunate that you're not just thrust into playing the games and having to learn as you play, as that would make for an aggravating time.

Forgive me ahead of this pun, but this track is a "wheel-y" good time.
It's a literal balancing act in Trials Rising to succeed, and it's all about managing your speed and how you lean on your bike. Simply holding down the pedal will result in a lot of crashes, as it takes a lot of finesse to perform well. Starting off, the game introduces the concept of leaning back when heading downhill and leaning forward when moving uphill. Having your back tire always firmly planted on the ground will result in moving forward, but it can be all too easy to over-correct yourself and find your face planted firmly with the ground. It's a total boon that the physics system is as stellar as ever, so when you do crash, it's never due to wonky physics but instead user error.

Jumping off your back tire performs a bunny hop, perfect for reaching those higher places.
Trials Rising features an atypical progression system compared to past games. Rather than simply completing a series of tracks and moving on to the next more difficult set, you need to reach specific experience levels from finishing races, getting medals, and completing contracts.

Contracts are a new mechanic in the Trials series. These come in various difficulties and task you with completing an objective or series of objectives mid-race. These range from performing a specific number of flips, hitting a certain amount of airtime, performing a wheelie for a set distance, completing a track with minimal faults, using a certain bike with specific rules (like low gravity, your bike or ride being invisible, etc.), among others.

Not exactly my pick for a vacation spot, but it's one hell of an explosive track to race on all the same.
Fortunately, completing all of the contracts is by no means required. It's just that to make enough progress with your rider's level, you need to complete a good amount of them. What isn't so fortunate is that many times you'll find yourself locked out of the next set of tracks because your level isn't high enough to compete in and complete the stadium series of races required to unlock them. This results in some serious grinding at times.

My rider's racing career's so bright, he's gotta wear shades.
The actual tracks of Trials Rising are brilliantly designed and an absolute delight to race on. It's a globetrotting journey across landmarks and settings like the Eiffel Tower in Paris, a Hollywood movie set with full digitally produced monsters, a trip through a Saudi war zone complete with minefields and explosives, a race through an amusement park, a break-in to Alcatraz which is complete with electrified fences to leap over or otherwise avoid, and even a race across the back of a moving train. The level of creativity in the tracks is off the charts, and I was always enthused and excited to see where the developers and designers were going to take my Trials journey next.

From the death-defying leaps of the Eiffel Tower...
Something I was less enthused about was the actual track select menu, which is a world map featuring a collection of sprinkled icons all over. Beginning with the game, it isn't too taxing to navigate and find which tracks are which, but as more and more tracks unlock for play, the map becomes all too cluttered and a bit confusing to find and discover what you want. This is even with the ability to press the left shoulder button and custom pick what level icons show up. the steep inclines of the cliffs in Vietnam...
Multiplayer is supported in Trials Rising in both asynchronous and live play. The game pits you against a selection of ghosts from other players in the Trials Rising community. These can be turned off by completing raising the opacity of the ghosts, but it's usually beneficial to leave them on. I saw new ways to tackle tracks that I hadn't thought about--such as being able to chain multiple jumps together in order to have a way to have enough speed to reach a high-up shortcut. Multiplayer is also available for online play where you all race on the same track, attempting to reach the goal first. The first season of Trials Rising is currently going on, offering ranks and unique rewards for stellar performance. It's been fun to rise in the ranks and compete against live players--though this usually results in me being more focused on my competitors' real-time ghosts instead of the actual oncoming obstacles, resulting in some great choke jobs from yours truly!

A cool feature that I enjoyed spending a good deal of time with is the ability to customize your rider's gear with stickers. 200 total can be placed on each piece of your rider's gear to really make your riders yours. I liked seeing the creativity on display with the Rising community--seeing folks dressed up as Spider-Man, Deadpool, Goku, Naruto, and other heroes from comics and anime. I went for more of a preppy approach with mine. You can even put your custom creations on the in-game shop where they can be purchased with Trials Rising currency earned from completing races and contracts. New rider clothing and gear can be bought either from the shop or discovered in randomized loot crates, which you're given each time your rider levels up. Everything in these loot crates is wholly cosmetic to outfit your rider and ride with, so if you don't care about that sort of thing, there's nothing too foul here practice-wise.

...Trials Rising's tour will take you across the globe and to some truly spectacular locations!
While Trials Rising controls superbly on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One due to the analog triggers, allowing you to press down just enough to get the right amount of force to apply to the pedal to gain speed, the Switch version is a little trickier in this regard as the controllers--whether the Joy-Cons or the Pro Controller--do not have analog inputs to them. This means your stuck either gunning down on the pedal or applying no force to the pedal at all. There is no in-between. While this isn't too much of an issue with the first 3/4ths of tracks in the game, the latter tracks of Trials Rising do not lend well to this control issue. Though you can use a GameCube controller if you have the adapter available to you, or you can opt to use the right analog stick of the base Switch controllers for the gas--though this latter option is still not optimal.

No bikes were harmed in the making of these screenshots... (Just the rider.)
Trials Rising is a ridiculously fun riding romp that gives the player enough tutorials and tools to succeed, rather than being thrown into the deep end of the proverbial pool. The track design being the absolute best the Trials franchise has ever seen almost makes the obnoxious world map and level progression system that are necessary to reach all of them bearable. The inclusion of loot crates may put some potential players off, but they're placed in the game in a way that is hardly vindictive or malicious. As is, Trials Rising delivers one heck of a ride that rises to both the challenge and the occasion of a wildly enjoyable game.

[SPC Says: B]

Monday, March 25, 2019

Mortal Kombat 11 (PS4, NSW, XB1, PC) Old Skool Vs. New Skool Trailer

A plot that converges two timelines with characters of the present interacting with their past selves, Mortal Kombat 11's newest story trailer delivers the thrills and the laughs in spades. Mortal Kombat 11 launches on all major gaming platforms next month.

Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled (PS4) PS4 Exclusives & CNK Content Reveal Trailer

Revealed during Sony's State of Play inaugural presentation, the PlayStation 4 version of Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled receives retro skins for Crash, Coco, and Cortex (as seen in this video thumbnail), retro karts, and an exclusive retro track. In addition, Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled sees the return of tracks from Crash Nitro Kart, the multiplatform follow-up to the original Crash Team Racing. This revitalized and refueled version of Crash Team Racing releases on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch on June 21st.