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.