Friday, May 3, 2019

Dissidia Final Fantasy NT (PS4) Review

For the past year I've played Dissidia Final Fantasy NT off and on, each time finding myself disgusted enough to stop playing for a long while. Maybe I'm a masochist or something. Well, at least you can't say I didn't give Dissidia Final Fantasy NT a fair shake! Here's my in-depth review.

Dissin' Dissidia

Let's get this out of the way immediately--if you're expecting a similar experience to the PSP Dissidia games--complete with 1-v-1 battles, a comprehensive story mode complete with world map and leveling systems, you'll find yourself greatly disappointed with the Dissidia series's debut on a home console with Square Enix and Team Ninja's Dissidia Final Fantasy NT. Even if you're just expecting a competent fighter, you'll still find yourself disappointed with what NT has to offer.

Gone are the one-on-one battles the Dissidia series was known for in the PSP entries, and in their stead are 3-on-3 matches that start to bring forth just how chaotic the battles in the latest Dissidia are. Between dealing with a finicky lock-on system, trying to decipher all of the intrusive UI elements that litter the screen, and learning the complex gameplay mechanics involved in NT, you can quickly feel like you're attempting to pat your head while rubbing your tummy, all the while trying to evade fireballs and sword slashes from every angle while doing so.

Fight as your favorite Final Fantasy heroes...
There's just way too much going on, and such a huge learning curve to overcome. Dissidia Final Fantasy NT is not a pick up and play game. It's a pick up and get destroyed game if you're just getting into it, so it's definitely not beginner-friendly. Even still, once you've become accustomed to the messy lock-on system, the sidestepping, the wall running, the aerial acrobatics, and trying to keep your wits about you when you're attempting to make heads or tails of three possible attackers, you're still dealing with a broken camera system and a game that focuses more on flashy special effects and chaos than fun.

...As well as your favorite Final Fantasy villains.
What hasn't changed with Dissidia Final Fantasy NT is the standard mechanic used to deal damage. There are two types of attacks in Dissidia, Bravery attacks and HP attacks. The former are performed with the Circle button while the latter are initiated with the Square button. Bravery attacks boost your own Bravery gauge number as you lower your opponent's Bravery at the same time. If your opponent reaches zero Bravery from one of your attacks, their Bravery enters a Broken state, where you amass even more Bravery. Whatever your Bravery number is at is what HP damage you cause upon a successfully landing HP attack.

Breaking an opponent's Bravery will net you lots of your own Bravery for a potentially powerful HP attack.
Once your land an HP attack on your opponent, their HP decreases, and if you deliver more damage than they have available in their HP gauge, your opponent is temporarily incapacitated. Meanwhile, your Bravery returns to an amount of 1,000 to keep things fair and balanced. Which ever team incapacitates three players on the other team (and they can be the same player or a combination of any three), they're deemed victorious in the battle. As an aside, there is also a second battle mode that sees players trying to destroy the other team's core before their own is decimated.

The UI in Dissidia Final Fantasy NT is an unrefined, cluttered mess.
As mentioned earlier, Dissidia Final Fantasy NT does not feature a comprehensive story mode for its main campaign. Instead, you're given a map that contains various nodes that feature either story cutscenes or battles to them. The rub here is that these must be unlocked via special memento currency just to continue through the game's story. Obviously, the developers realized that if they left the story's progression completely open, players would find themselves completing things quite quickly. What better way to artificially lengthen the game and its story than locking players out of content until they play more of the other modes in Dissidia Final Fantasy NT?

The actual cutscenes within Dissidia Final Fantasy NT are beautiful displays of the impressive tech behind the game, but most are simply pointless to the overall story. The actual story is an overall mess of boring dialog with an unintelligible plot. But again, at least it's pretty to look at!

Final Fantasy X's Tidus makes some cunning sword contact with Final Fantasy II's Firion.
When you're not grinding to unlock mementos to make progress in the story mode, you're grinding for currency to purchase shop goods such as character costumes, weapons, and music. When you're not doing that, you can earn loot box-style treasure chests that randomly unlock items that you'd otherwise purchase in the game's shop. Said "loot box" treasures aren't purchased with real-world money, but instead unlocked throughout your gaming sessions with NT. While you might think that the process to unlock treasures comes quickly with all that you receive within the first five or so hours with the game, this is merely a ruse. It becomes a slow, agonizing grind to unlock new treasures soon after your initial few hours with the game.

Dissidia Final Fantasy NT features a fully fledged multiplayer mode, though this is only available for online play and nothing local whatsoever. Online pits players together and against one another not by their player level but by their character level, which can result in some lopsided matches. Furthermore, that's even if you're paired with human allies or opponents. You can find yourself sitting idly in the online multiplayer waiting room for up to five minutes only to discover that you're playing an uneven match where you get the privilege of playing against three human opponents while you get two clumsy AI partners. While the addition of the free version of Dissidia Final Fantasy NT has remedied this a little, the community for the game just isn't there. That isn't even talking about the lag that is a feature in many matches for when you do battle against fellow humans.

The visuals like these screen-hogging special effects do nothing more than
make an already confusing battle even more bewildering.
One strong point of this otherwise mediocre fan service fighter is the amount of love and care taken to represent each mainline installment of the Final Fantasy series, as well as Tactics and Type-0. Over 30 fighters, both in the hero and villain categories, are featured fighters in the game, and there is at least one stage representing a famous area in each Final Fantasy game featured. That is whether it's the original Final Fantasy's Corneria, Final Fantasy VII's Midgar, or Final Fantasy Tactics' Orbonne Monastery.

Furthermore, the collection of original and remixed music from the famous scores and soundtracks of the Final Fantasy series is off the charts in how amazing it is. From hearing a rearranged version of FF1's Matoya's Cave up to hearing the modern chorus booming in Final Fantasy XV's Apocalypsis Noctis in either remixed or the original game version form, the music is sensational, and you can even build your own playlist of songs by character.

Still, no matter how much love was put into the fan service for Final Fantasy fans, it doesn't mean a thing when Dissidia Final Fantasy NT is such a poor, confusing, chaotic mess of a fighting game. There's simply too much happening on screen at once, too many characters to keep track of, and too much frustration to be found in this fighter. I tried to keep an open mind with Dissidia Final Fantasy NT, continually coming back to it over the course of a year, but each and every time I ended up aggravated by not just the gameplay systems involved, but at the spoiled potential in this game. Even at its current budget price point, the latest Dissidia is a dud.

[SPC Says: D+]

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Aggelos (NSW, PC) Review

Recently released on the Nintendo Switch, Aggelos is a Metroidvania with a retro feel, but a modern take on the sub-genre. SuperPhillip Central delves into this delightful title with its full review. 

Retro meets modern in one magnificent Metroidvania

Aggelos is one part Wonder Boy and one part Castlevania, creating a satisfying combination and a game worthy of purchase and download. You venture across side-scrolling maps in an interconnected Metroidvania world, hacking and slashing enemies, performing great feats of platforming prowess, and exploring areas like caves, forests, mountains, cliff sides, and even the sunken depths.

The game's story puts you in the role of an unnamed hero, and with only an iron dagger and armor, you're tasked with collected four essences around an in-peril kingdom in order to combat the rise of a nefarious villain. The story is rather basic, but it serves its job well, and ends on a nice twist in its 5-6 hour length.

Aggelos bestows a sense of old school, retro charm to it, from its simple graphics to its chiptune soundtrack. However, Aggelos manages to blend in modern, contemporary sensibilities to it as well, such as an unlockable fast travel system that can quickly get you across the game's expansive map by transporting you to any past save point you've already been to.

Aggelos brings with it an experience and currency system that is also contemporary. Grinding might have been something the games Aggelos is clearly inspired by would force upon the player, but Aggelos awards experience for leveling up and currency to purchase new items like weapons and armor (some at gasp-worthy prices) in spades. There were only a few occasions in Aggelos that I felt I needed to kill some extra enemies to earn enough coins to purchase a special item, but even then, I was only spending a few minutes to do so, as enemies sure aren't stingy in handing coins out.

Our hero shows this monster flower some true power, enough to nip it in its bud.
Another contemporary aspect to Aggelos is how every puzzle and secret in the game has zero obtuse qualities to them. That is to say that you won't be needing a guide to find everything in the game nor to solve every puzzle. NPCs gladly deliver the information needed to solve the most cryptic of puzzles--some of which require you to use more common sense than others to solve and/or find.

Despite Aggelos' aforementioned 5-6 hour length (it took me just under six to 100% complete the game), there is so much content and variety to be found. There are hidden treasures housing health and magic upgrades, optional equipment to acquire (that will make this difficult adventure all the more reasonable), minor fetch quests and trading sequences with NPCs, and yes, dungeons housed with keys to unlock doors, puzzles to solve, and bosses to beat down for one of those prized essences I was talking about earlier.

Our hero acquires various rings in these dungeons that earn him new abilities and powers, which these in turn make completing the dungeons and venturing to new locations in Aggelos' world possible. From summoning a bubble shield that not only slows your descent in midair but also serves to decrease damage from received attacks, to an air or ground dash that allows our hero to speed past foes and reach new heights, the abilities in Aggelos serve our hero well and open up lots of possibilities to his move set. Scrolls, too, offer new attacks and abilities, such as a downward sword thrust and a rising sword attack that gives our hero extra height.

The downward thrust is one of four learned moves from scrolls our hero can acquire.
However, while Aggelos brings much modernness to the old school games it's clearly inspired from, there are still some unwanted old school parts here and there that muddy the waters a little bit, hurting the overall experience a tad. For one, dungeons completely lack save points. These have a dual use in of course allowing you to save your game and also to restore your health completely. The dungeons in Aggelos can be lengthy affairs, and I often had to exit these prematurely just to save my data, on the off chance that I might perish mid-dungeon and have to redo tons of progress.

That leads me to the next unwanted old school part--the extreme jump in difficulty in Aggelos. By around the third dungeon, the overall challenge in Aggelos ramps up considerably with enemies taking off massive damage to our hero, and boss encounters featuring near-bullet hell-like conditions. This is compounded by only being able to hold one health-restoring potion and one herb (which partially heals your health upon what would otherwise be a lethal blow) at a time. Enemies themselves are awfully frugal with their desire to drop hearts upon defeating them, though your health does get restored upon hitting new experience levels. The latter, though, isn't routine enough to depend on.

The boss battles are enjoyable, but they're not for the weak of will nor faint of heart!
Aggelos is a fitting game for the Switch, with its more than suitable and cozy feel in handheld play, but I found myself overly enjoying playing the game on my television, able to utilize either the Joy-Cons or the Pro Controller for those sections of Aggelos that require more finger-fu than usual. Plus, it's just a vibrant and colorful game to look at on the big screen, but it's also a looker in handheld form as well--don't get me wrong. I only encountered one sound glitch within the game, and this happened routinely in the sky area of the game. Pausing and then later un-pausing the game would shut off the music completely for the area until I reached a different area, in which the music would return to normal. Other than that, some typos here and there--one notable one in the final part of the story before the credits--lowered my opinion on the presentation. Otherwise, Aggelos delighted.

Overall, Aggelos was a game that once I picked up, I couldn't stop playing until I reached its end. I was enamored so much by its simple gameplay and enchanting world that I beat it within 24 hours of downloading. Part of that's the brevity of the game, but the main factor was just how enjoyable Aggelos was to play. Sure, it can get mighty difficult, perhaps frustratingly so, in its final half, but all in all, Aggelos pours on old school charm and challenge with contemporary gameplay hooks and quality-of-life features. It's an excellent Metroidvania in the purest sense, and more than worthy to add to your digital collection.

[SPC Says: B+]

A review code was provided for this game.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy (NSW) Review

April's end is approaching, but there's lots of reviews to come to SuperPhillip Central before then. Our next review is for the Nintendo Switch remaster of Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy. What's next--a revival of Metal Arms: Glitch in the System?! Actually, that'd be pretty cool, too. Regardless, here's the SPC review of Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy.

Not all that it's wrapped up to be

With the recent surprising announcement of XIII being remastered for all current platforms, I couldn't help but think of other games from the past decade that have been revived much to my amazement. Now don't get me wrong--games like the stylish third-person shooter XIII and games like de Blob on Wii of all titles, are good surprises, but on the list of games that I just couldn't wait to see remastered, they sort of weren't at the top of my list.

Here comes Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy, a game that like XIII, released during the PlayStation 2, GameCube, and Xbox generation--though this time around it was published by THQ. This 16 year-old action-adventure game set in an Ancient Egyptian world and clearly inspired by The Legend of Zelda is a blast from the past, but while the visuals have been improved, unfortunately nothing else really has. It makes for a game that is a product of 2003, cracks in its foundation and all.

Thankfully, Sphinx has no fear of heights.
Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy is split up between two characters, and the title of the game sort of gives away who these two characters are. There's our primary protagonist, Sphinx, who you'll spend the majority of the game playing as, and the titular Cursed Mummy, a poor soul who was once a prince.

While both gameplay styles feature plenty of platforming and puzzle solving, whereas Sphinx throws in combat and lots of exploration, the Mummy is simply focused on puzzles and platforms. Both Sphinx and the Mummy are completely in separate areas of the game and only cross paths at the very conclusion of the 15-hour adventure. Generally, when Sphinx needs a special item or ability to continue in his journey, the Mummy will be called upon, awakened, and tasked with finding the item in the hazard-filled castle he's imprisoned in.

Sphinx slices this skeleton down to size. That'll teach you to have a bone to pick with our hero!
Unlike Sphinx, the Mummy has no health gauge to worry about. He can fall in pits, get crushed, set ablaze, electrocuted, and sawed into thirds without you receiving any game overs to speak of. In fact, all of these otherwise dangerous occurrences that would kill Sphinx in a snap of a finger actually benefit the Mummy in order to solve environmental puzzles. Certain doors and gates can only be opened by turning on a generator via an electrocuted Mummy, whereas wooden obstacles in the Mummy's way burn up with ease while he's on fire. It's all about figuring out how to transport the Mummy to the areas he needs to electrify or set fire to without stepping foot in or being doused with water, which will cancel any elemental effects happening to him.

Positively shocking. (Yes, that was a really easy joke to make, and I hate myself for it.)
Meanwhile, Sphinx is the more traditional character in the game, armed with a sword and as his adventure progresses, receives new items and abilities in true action-adventure game style. While Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy no doubt has its clear inspirations from The Legend of Zelda series (such as collecting four Heart Pieces--I mean, Gold Ankhs--to increase Link's--I mean, Sphinx's health by one), the structure is vastly different. Yes, there are still things like dungeons to conquer, where keys are needed to unlock doors, but there's seldom a boss to battle at the end. Instead, these encounters pop up here and there throughout the story. Though, what bosses Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy does have are mostly rather mediocre.

One of many dungeons filled with dangers, enemies and puzzles to tackle.
Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy is just like one of the artifacts from the Ancient Egyptian world the game takes place in--rather antiquated. The camera can get stuck at times, especially in narrow passageways, unable to turn around quickly enough. Combat is a bit clunky, and would have greatly benefited from a certain series's lock-on targeting. Jumping and platforming lack polish, resulting in more missed jumps than I would have liked to experience, plus many occasions where I'd think I could jump on something, only to fall to my doom.

Lastly, and most egregious to me, is the save system in Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy. Utilizing save statues at various points in the game, these are quite frankly way too spaced out, particularly in the Mummy segments. In these you simply get the save point at the start of the section, and you must play through the segment of jumps and puzzles--some taking over a half-hour to complete--without the ability to save. This is most frustrating when playing as Sphinx, as if you don't save and you perish in battle or while exploring, you get kicked out of the game to the title screen with all of your progress past the last time you saved at a save statue gone. I once lost 30 minutes of progress because of this once, and it almost made me stop playing the game completely. And let's not even talk about the point of no return near the end of the game that you can save your progress in, blocking you from ever revisiting past areas...

Sphinx won't say it because he's the strong, silent type, but you know what he's thinking: "WHEEEEEEEEE!"
Sadly, Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy is a bare-bones remaster of a 16-year-old game that only went so far as to touch up on the visuals of the game than add gameplay improvements and refine parts that didn't hold up so well. This could have been a chance to rework negative aspects of the adventure, such as the aforementioned save system, but instead, what you have is a basic HD remastering of what is a competent and engaging game, but one that is definitely a product of its time, with all of the wrinkles of that time included.

[SPC Says: C+]