Saturday, September 14, 2019

Fire Emblem: Three Houses (NSW) Review

Before we conclude this week here at SuperPhillip Central, let's talk about one of the better games of the summer so far--and it's been a pretty good summer, especially for the Switch! Fire Emblem: Three Houses is one such game, and it gets reviewed on your Saturday night here at SuperPhillip Central.

Class is now in oh-so-satisfying session.

For a lot of Western Nintendo fans, Fire Emblem wasn't on their radars until Roy and Marth's inclusion in Super Smash Bros. Melee. Though several releases of the Fire Emblem franchise launched after that fact, it wasn't until Fire Emblem: Awakening that the series truly climbed into the upper echelon of Nintendo franchises. In fact, Awakening historically saved the franchise from a nasty fate of being shelved indefinitely if it hadn't reached Nintendo's sales goals and far surpassed them.

Regardless, while Fire Emblem has mostly stuck to handhelds since its Western arrival, now the series returns to a home console after over a decade and this time for its first appearance in HD. It's Fire Emblem: Three Houses, and unlike what the setting might suggest, this game is no schoolyard scuffle. It's one of the bleakest stories in the series to date, and moreover, one of the best overall games in the franchise yet.

Fire Emblem: Three Houses has you in the role of silent protagonist Byleth, giving you the choice of a male or female version, similar to more recent Fire Emblem games, Awakening and Fates. Your avatar plays the role of a new professor for Gurreg Mach monastery, home to the Church of Seiros and its knights. There, you choose one of the three houses: the Black Eagles led by Edelgard, the Blue Lions led by Dimitri, or the Golden Deer led by Claude. Each house has its own set of students each with their own defining personalities and character traits.

No matter which house leader is your favorite, you're wrong if you didn't choose Dimitri.
Though you don't get a lot of information to assist you in choosing which house you wish to join, other than basically a short introduction of each house leader, the repercussions of the story are greatly affected by your choice. While the first half or so of Three Houses plays out similarly regardless of the house you choose, the second half is where the story greatly differs, and the mission types and story scenarios change greatly. It truly is worthwhile to play through all of the routes in the game in order to get a full idea of all characters' motivations. War certainly isn't as black or white as it can seem, and Fire Emblem: Three Houses' tale hammers that point home quite well, even if it requires several 40+ hour play-throughs to get the complete gist.

Three Houses is structured significantly differently from past Fire Emblem games. There's a lot more downtime in the game instead of rushing from battle to battle with short breathers here and there like past games. A lot of your time will be as professor of your house, and that involves all of the teaching duties one would expect in such a role. The game plays out in a monthly structure with each month containing one major battle while each week has you choosing from one of four actions to do for that week: Explore, Battle, Seminar, or Rest.

If you opt to Explore, you'll venture around the Gurreg Mach monastery--the hub of Three Houses--a fully three-dimensional campus where you can chat with students of the eponymous three houses, participate in various activities like gardening, entering suitable students into mock battle tournaments for prizes, cooking as well as sharing a meal with some of your students, among other options. A helpful fast travel option makes getting to each section of the monastery extremely easy as the loading times are negligible between traveling. You only have a limited number of activity points to use on days you opt to explore the monastery, and these are of course used up when performing a given activity. You gain more points to participate in more activities by leveling up your professor rating.

Bond with your students over a freshly prepared meal. This obviously wasn't like the school I went to...
At the start of each week, you begin teaching your students. Depending on a student's motivation, you can level up multiple skills at once. As these skills, such as lance, axe, Faith (magic), heavy armor, etc, are leveled up, new skills are learned. Teaching can be done manually (assigning skill points to your own satisfaction) or automatically (where the skill points are handed out in an automated fashion without your call). It can be a slow process to manually teach students, and even slower of a process to motivate your students to allow them to be taught--which is prompted by spending time with them via activities and giving them gifts sprinkled about Gurreg Mach and dropped in battles.

Develop a lesson plan and tutor your students to magnificence.
As stated, major story-related battles happen once per month, but you can also opt to perform special Paralogue battles which are side-missions that flesh out your characters more, as well as simple auxiliary missions for experience and level gains. Battling in Fire Emblem: Three Houses is much improved with some much desired and welcomed new features to make for the most engaging tactical battles in the series yet. Although the primary foundation and structure of Fire Emblem is still here--what, with its grid-based battlefields where different unit types can move a set amount of spaces, its combat forecast that tells you when you are in range of an opponent, and the likelihood of a successful attack in addition to how much damage you or your opponent will do.

This grid-based system is no stranger to Fire Emblem fans.
For one, the rock-paper-scissors-like weapon triangle system has less prominence in battle. Weapon durability makes its return. The system stills works where using weapons will lower its durability, and overusing it without repairing it between battles will result in it breaking on you, significantly weakening it. Using special attacks in the form of Combat Arts will cause the durability to go down faster. For example, a normal attack costs 1 point while using a Combat Art such as Helmbreaker costs 5 points of durability to use.

While the Iron Gauntlet isn't the strongest of gauntlet-type weapons,
it has a higher durability than those gauntlets that have a higher attack.
Essentially, having the best weapons available to you (i.e. the most expensive ones) will result in an easier go of battles, but the catch here is that unlike past Fire Emblem games, you don't have a constant influx of money to purchase new weapons at a steady rate and this time around, materials to forge and repair weapons as often as you might need. Fortunately, your units are more freely able to mix and match weapon types as their roles and classes change. This freedom to explore and be more creative with your units' abilities and roles in battles in a great inclusion in Three Houses.

Finally, another worthwhile inclusion to battles in Fire Emblem: Three Houses is that of gambits. These allow you to equip mercenary groups and battalions to a given character to use in battle. When used, these will allow you to attack your opponent with the gambit without having to worry of a counterattack, and in many cases, will result in the foe being unable to move on their next turn. Gambits have limited uses per character, but they're terrific in their effects. Some gambits call upon a brigade of characters to charge directly into the enemy--stampede-style--while others have a defensive purpose such as a giant circle of mages that summon a healing circle for surrounding characters. These gambits are paramount to tackling fierce 2x2 grid space-sized monsters and beasts that regularly show up in later maps of the game.

The cavalry has arrived with Edelgard's equipped Gambit. 
While a lot has changed in Fire Emblem: Three Houses, some aspects do, in fact, carry over. A lot of this comes from Awakening. Casual mode is available for beginning strategists and those of us (yep, myself included) who want a less intense Fire Emblem experience where downed units return after battle instead of being gone for good like in Classic mode. Various difficulty options are available, but you can only go down difficulties and never up. For me, I enjoyed playing on Casual/Hard mode, and I feel that is the best way of playing the game. Of course, future play-throughs are Casual/Normal, just so I can enjoy the story at a faster pace.

Also, like Awakening, Fire Emblem: Three Houses has romance and support options, granting boosts in how your units interact with one another. The amount of support conversations can be quite overwhelming if you unlock a grand number at one time. I got to the point late in the game that I just skipped the conversations (I know, how dare I!) so I could rake in the rewards of having a class of students that got along well and did better in combat together.

Fire Emblem: Three Houses has certainly upped the presentation as the very first high definition mainline entry in the series. That said, the visuals apart from the character models and occasional cutscenes (which both do look ace, to be fair) do little to amaze. That said, the budget must have gone into the voice acting and music, because both are phenomenal. Every bit of dialogue within Three Houses is fully voiced--all major conversations, all support conversations, all minor characters, and so forth). My only issue with the music, particularly as it pertains to the battle music, is that a lot of it is repeated way too much throughout the game.

Though I didn't care for the slower structure and pace of the game or having to tread through a ton of familiar ground story-wise just to get to wholly new content in my second (and eventually third and fourth) play-throughs either, Fire Emblem: Three Houses managed to rekindle my long, lost interest in this tactical RPG series anyway. Just the fact that I wish to continue playing to see all the sides of Three Houses' involved story says a lot about how much I enjoyed the game. (For those that don't know, I have a habit of quitting a game as soon as I review it, but this certainly won't be the case with Three Houses.) Fire Emblem: Three Houses schools other games of its genre and is a master class of engaging and enthralling tactical grid-based battles. The amount of freedom to customize your units based on your particular play style and overall whims as well as the aforementioned various houses to play as make for a game with so much content and for me, so little time to take it all in.

[SPC Says: A-]

Thursday, September 12, 2019

The Most Improved Video Game Sequels - Part One

A new SuperPhillip Central segment approaches! We've looked at the best levels in gaming, we've looked at the best bosses in gaming, and now SuperPhillip Central looks at the most improved video game sequels. These sequels greatly surpassed their predecessors, added features that are now mainstays for their respective franchises, or even made the originals look like student projects by comparison.

Once you've checked out the inaugural class of six entries to Most Improved Video Game Sequels, what games do you think should be on future installments?

Super Smash Bros. Melee (GCN)

The original Super Smash Bros. was such a creative premise and dream scenario for Nintendo fans--pitting their favorite characters against one another to determine who would win in a fight. The Nintendo 64 game laid a successful foundation for the Super Smash Bros. franchise, but it wasn't until the GameCube's Super Smash Bros. Melee that the series really kicked into high gear. Adding more characters (such as Bowser, Peach, Zelda, Ice Climbers, Marth, Roy, Mewtwo, and more), more stages, more items, and just an abundance of content and improved combat, Super Smash Bros. Melee for some is still uncontested as the best game in the series. The additions of Adventure Mode, All-Star Mode, character and series-specific trophies, and other goodies took an already fantastic foundation from the N64 original and made a truly special game that wouldn't be dethroned for  almost two decades.

Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES)

Regardless of whether or not you consider the tough-as-nails Lost Levels or the Doki Doki Panic retooled Super Mario Bros. 2 to the be sequel to the nowadays rather basic Super Mario Bros., there's no denying that Super Mario Bros. 3 took the Mario to extremely high new heights. Taking Mario and Luigi on a lengthy adventure though eight themed worlds complete with world maps, bestowing them with new suits such as the Tanooki and Hammer Suits, giving them the power of flight with the Super Leaf power-up, having an onslaught of new enemy types, inspired and creative levels, and the first appearance of the Koopalings, Super Mario Bros. 3 did arguably more for the Super Mario series than any other 2D platformer bar the original. 

Super Metroid (SNES)

The third installment of the Metroid series and the last Metroid game to be released until the one-two punch of Metroid Prime and Metroid Fusion (on the GameCube and the Game Boy Advance respectively), Super Metroid brought so much to the franchise and games of this platformer style in general. For Metroid as a series, Super Metroid brought a godsend to players who found themselves lost and stumbling through the similar corridors and chambers of the original Metroid and its Game Boy sequel. That godsend was a helpful map. Super Metroid also introduced many items and power-ups that are now common for the series, such as the Charge Beam, Grappling Beam, Gravity Suit, Power Bombs, and Super Missiles, to name a handful. There's a reason that Super Metroid is held as the standard that all current Metroidvania games strive to be and are measured against. It's just that darn good.

Street Fighter II (ARC)

Perhaps the most substantial marked improvement from an original game to its sequel, the original Street Fighter was less than a stellar fighting game--to put it charitably. The stiff and unresponsive controls, the frustrating AI opponents, and the general quality were not up to snuff. Street Fighter II, on the other hand, introduced and established so many new features to the fighting game franchise formula that it's no wonder that so many fell in love with Capcom's fantastic fighter. From the addition of new playable characters, varying and distinguishable characteristics for each, combo-based gameplay, and controller commands that were easily more accessible to players. Street Fighter II managed to not only improve on its predecessor, but it managed to influence (and continues to influence) essentially all future fighting games worth their muster in quarters.

Mega Man 2 (NES)

"If at first you don't succeed" started the story of both Capcom's retro gambles. We've seen it already with Street Fighter, and now Mega Man is the second instance of this. The original Mega Man, for the most part, did not reach sales success. It was a pure risk to give the Blue Bomber a second chance, but the development team of Mega Man 2 did just that. The game was a tale of having both quality and quantity, with its addition of eight new Robot Masters instead of the original Mega Man's six. Though the inclusion of now series standbys like a save system (via password in this case) and health and weapon energy-restoring items like E-Tanks and W-Tanks, Mega Man 2 was still quite the challenging game even with these improvements to the formula. Despite dozens upon dozens of Mega Man games release since, to this day, fans of the Blue Bomber find Mega Man 2 to be the pinnacle of the long-running series.

Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando (PS2)

The original Ratchet & Clank brought an unlikely lombax and robot pair together in one intergalactic adventure. The sequel, Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando, upped the ante and the arsenal quite a bit, including introducing several mainstays to the series that would appear in most of the games in the franchise. For one, the ability to strafe more easily was extremely helpful, and the addition of being able to level up weapons through dealing damage with them made it so Ratchet's collection of firepower could become one devastating repertoire of destruction. Added gameplay types like racing and gladiator battles rounded out this excellent package, making Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando one of the best entries in the series and one of the PlayStation 2's best games in general.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot (PS4, XB1, PC) Buu Arc Teaser Trailer

Two important pieces of information have come out of this new Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot, just in time for Tokyo Game Show 2019. The first is that the game's story will not be stopping at the Cell Saga. Instead, it's going the distance to Majin Buu! The other, and just as exciting, is that Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot will launch January 17, 2020.

Final Fantasy VII Remake (PS4) Tokyo Game Show 2019 Trailer

Old familiar faces and places meet new scenarios and situations in Final Fantasy VII Remake, which received its latest trailer at the Tokyo Game Show 2019. Rather than prattle on about it, I think I can let the trailer speak for itself. Are you hyped for Final Fantasy VII's upcoming glorious return to gaming prominence?

Monday, September 9, 2019

Top Ten Dreamcast Games

Twenty years ago on one of the best release dates for anything ever--9/9/99--the Sega Dreamcast launched. While Sega exited the hardware market shortly after, in just two brief years, the Dreamcast managed to amass a library that consoles that have been on the market much longer can only dream about. To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Sega Dreamcast, SuperPhillip Central takes a look at some of the best games to ever grace the system and--since many of these have been ported elsewhere--other systems as well (though that just shows how strong the legacy of the Dreamcast really is!).

After you've checked out, SPC's picks, which Sega Dreamcast games are your favorites?

10) Power Stone 

Capcom showed a competent amount of support for Sega and its Dreamcast, and one of its most beloved titles on Sega's final home console was Power Stone. This arena brawler was less of a traditional fighter and more of a game where you beat your opponents senseless with character attacks, objects strewn about the 3D arena environments, and items that occasionally dropped in to the playing field. Collecting the fabled "Power Stones" in battle meant your character charged up immensely, ready and able to deliver some devastating damage to your opponent's or opponents' life bars. A sequel would release, bringing more of the same to the series and Sega's system, but I have a soft spot for the original Power Stone.

9) Hydro Thunder

A launch title for the Dreamcast--and later ported to the original PlayStation and Nintendo 64 down the road, though the Dreamcast original remained the best way to play it on a home console back then--Hydro Thunder was a high-speed, high-octane aquatic racer where you piloted futuristic speedboats across rocky waters in a bevy of exhilarating locations. Carving a path through the waters with your speedboat felt so fantastic, and the speeds at which you did so was nothing short of jaw-dropping. Hydro Thunder packed a lot of entertainment within its courses, its boosting-based gameplay, and phenomenal tracks.

8) Crazy Taxi

"Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, YEAH!" Any fan of Crazy Taxi has those initial lyrics and notes engrained deep in their virtual taxi-driving brains. Having roots in arcades, Sega created and ported a lot of its arcade hits to its home consoles, and that tradition continued with the Dreamcast. Such a defining example of a proven arcade hit and putting it on the system was Crazy Taxi, a game where you drove your yellow, checkered limousine and chauffeured passengers to their desired destinations around a closed-in city setting. Performing--ahem--crazy stunts and tricks while getting your passengers to their destinations in quick fashion awarded more in tips during your timed sessions racing around town.

7) Jet Grind Radio

Paint the town up with graffiti as you skate, jump, and grind your way through colorful, cel-shaded, open environments in Jet Grind Radio (future releases would establish the brand of the game and series as Jet Set Radio, in line with the international releases). As a fierce fighter to anyone who would degrade the cel-shaded art style, due to his heavy love for it, Jet Grind Radio brought with it the goal of tagging specific spots on maps before the game's timer ran out. Of course, the MAN (aka the authorities) would just have to make this mission of your inline-skating, graffiti-tagging gang member more challenging. The controls, favoring simple button presses as opposed to something slightly more complex like Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, allowed for a level of accessibility for beginners while also granting a great deal of depth for masters of the game to unleash some killer moves and nail insane shortcuts in the game.

6) Sonic Adventure 2

It was a bit of a struggle to pick between Sonic Adventure or Sonic Adventure 2 to be the representative of Sonic the Hedgehog's Dreamcast debuts, but in the end, I had to go with the game that trimmed a lot of the fat that the original Sonic Adventure possess--that being the hub worlds and plodding extraneous gameplay types like Amy Rose, Gamma, and of course, Big the Cat. While there are some lesser parts to Sonic Adventure 2, the more streamlined approach, excellent Sonic and Shadow levels, okay to good Tails and Dr. Eggman vehicle levels, and passable Knuckles and Rouge emerald fetch quests made for one of Sonic's most memorable adventures to this day.

5) Shenmue

After almost two decades of waiting, the next chapter and the third installment in Ryo Hazuki's adventure, Shenmue III, will finally be available later this year to fans who have been with Ryo since the very beginning. And that beginning was on none other than the Dreamcast and from the mind of Yu Suzuki. Combining small open world areas, fighting segments, quick-time events, and an insanely obsessive amount of detail in the actual game world, Shenmue is a fantastic quest that showed just how ambitious Sega was during its final generation as a console manufacturer.

4) Marvel vs. Capcom 2

Capcom took players for a ride not just with the Power Stone series, but also with Marvel vs. Capcom 2, which the Dreamcast version is deemed one of, if not the best of the versions of the game. This second ultimate crossover between the superheroes and supervillains of Marvel Comics and the video game star power of Capcom brought accessible 2D fighting game action to the Dreamcast with its simple to pick up and play combat, flashy visuals, gorgeous colors, and supersized cast of characters. Marvel vs. Capcom 2 remains a fantastic fighting game that fans of one or both companies come back to on a regular basis, even if it's not the most balanced fighter out there.

3) Phantasy Star Online

During its time as a console manufacturer, Sega brought so many important innovations into the gaming sphere, and one of the most notable of these was bringing about and helping to popularize online play on home consoles, a sector of gaming that the PC had a hard monopoly on. With the release of Phantasy Star Online, Dreamcast owners had the ability to step foot on the planet of Ragol, explore its wondrous world, and do battle with its dangerous creatures with a party of up to four players online. It's something we of course take for granted nowadays, but even still, the Phantasy Star Online series remains popular, with part of the big news from Xbox's E3 2019 showing being that Phantasy Star Online 2 was coming to Xbox One. We can thank the original Phantasy Star Online for its mark on gaming, and just for remaining a solid and addicting game today.

2) Skies of Arcadia 

Dreamcast owners had no shortage of excellent RPGs to play on their system, and my pick for the absolute greatest of the bunch comes from Sega's now defunct Overworks team. It's none other than Skies of Arcadia. So many RPGs coming out of Japan have similar medieval settings or futuristic locations, but none are as original as Skies of Arcadia's literal skies... of Arcadia! From taking your starting small fry airship and exploring floating islands, featuring cities and dungeons to explore, to eventually earning a massive vessel to face off against other ships in aerial battles, Skies of Arcadia made a mark on this JRPG fan when it originally released. While the GameCube re-release brought with it many sizable and notable improvements, the original Skies of Arcadia still remains an impressive feather in the Dreamcast's cap.

1) Soul Calibur

We take the Soul Calibur franchise for granted nowadays (after all, the sixth numbered installment seems to have come and gone already without too much fanfare), but it can't be understated just how awesome and amazing an arena fighter Soul Calibur was. No doubt Soul Calibur fans know of the series's arcade roots with Soul Edge, but the arrival of Soul Calibur on the Dreamcast brought with it an immense following from fighting game fans and just lovers of weapon-based battles. Whether beating your opponent to the pulp with the blade your character wielded or knocking your foe out of bounds for a ring out, the soul burned strong for this excellent and exquisite Dreamcast launch title.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered Edition (PS4, NSW, Mobile) TGS 2019 Trailer

One of my favorite GameCube exclusives from back in the day, containing one of my favorite Final Fantasy soundtracks of all time, was Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles, and if you aren't aware already, the game is being remastered for a new generation of players. What's new in this trailer is a January 23, 2020 release date, new of cross-play between platforms, and some other new content added to this remastered version of the game. A great co-operative multiplayer game gets even better--and without the need for all those Game Boy Advances and link cables!

Even the Big "N" Has Some Big Duds: The Worst Games from Nintendo

Even the greatest of titans in the gaming industry let loose the occasional stinkers. Perhaps there was a more elegant way of putting that, but at any rate, for the next few weeks, SuperPhillip Central is eyeing the big three first parties of gaming and taking a look at their (very much subjectively speaking) "worst" games.

We begin on this Sunday evening by examining a handful of the blemishes on Nintendo's record, whether it be as a developer, co-developer, or publisher. For the longest-running player in the industry that still makes consoles and games, you can bet we'll be revisiting Nintendo someday. However, for now, let's take a glimpse at some less than favorably viewed games from the Big "N" and its partners.

Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival (Wii U)

Nintendo was in a very bad way with the Wii U. Not only did the system fail to capitalize on its predecessor's massive success, but most of Nintendo's developers realized something that most developers had realized many years prior: HD development is tough! The sluggish, drought-heavy release schedule that the Wii U saw brought back memories of the Nintendo 64, but it was somehow even worse than those days! The holiday season of 2015 was a time of heavy thirst for Wii U owners, and in Nintendo's desperate struggle to have a decent series of releases for the Nintendo faithful, it served this dud as well as the next game on this list to Wii U owners.

Amiibo (technically, amiibo in all lowercase for proper brand marketing) was extremely popular for Nintendo with its launch of these figures that were made of various Nintendo-related characters. For some, the ability to have data on a figure be read by the Wii U, 3DS, and now Switch, made for some clever unlocks and implementations. For others, amiibo is merely a form of physical DLC that locks content behind figures.

Nowhere did the usage of amiibo leave more of a bad taste in people's mouths than with Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival, which takes the wholesome and highly adorable world of Animal Crossing and turns it into a board game. Incidentally, you could spell the "board" in "board game" B-O-R-E-D, because that's what Amiibo Festival was--an incredibly boring game meant to squeeze more money out of consumers to purchase amiibo figures. The level of interactivity in Amiibo Festival was the complete opposite of something like Mario Party. There's plenty of sitting around, waiting for something interesting to happen. Perhaps the most interesting part of Amiibo Festival is that it is a great cure for insomnia.

Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash (Wii U)

For a while now, the duo of Nintendo and Camelot has struggled to create a stirring and riveting Mario Tennis together. Mario Tennis Open was an enjoyable romp, but its use of Chance Shots (which many argued made matches play out more like games of Simon Says) annoyed a good portion of players. The first HD entry in the Mario Tennis series excited lots of potential players... until information began trickling out about the depth (or lack thereof) regarding the game.

Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash has the mechanics of an excellent tennis game. The oft-criticized Chance Shots were placed in an optional mode, replaced with the standard tennis that fans of the Mario Tennis franchise came to love throughout the years. So, while the gameplay was almost better than ever, what stopped Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash from being a--pardon me for this lazy pun--smashing success?

Quite simply, Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash had the content of a $15-$20 game but was a full priced $60 entry in the franchise. The amount of modes was lackluster at best (and even that is being charitable), and the most prominent example of the lack of content in Ultra Smash was that there was but one stadium total in the game. Every tennis match took place here, and the only changeable option was the court type. A desperate Nintendo is not necessarily a great one, as evidenced by many of the Wii U games on this list.

Mario Party Advance (GBA)

Back in 2005, the Game Boy Advance was a successful portable for Nintendo, bringing with it Super Nintendo-esque visuals (and enough SNES ports to make it a second coming of Nintendo's 16-bit system at the very least). However, aside from the copious amounts of Super Nintendo classics making a repeat appearance but this time in portable form, Nintendo also brought with it new franchises and fresh takes on familiar franchises. Mario Party was one of those.

However, Mario Party Advance was far from the best transposition of Mario Party to a portable. It wouldn't be until the Nintendo DS's Mario Party DS that the familiar formula would be implemented well. Still, with Mario Party Advance, Nintendo and developer Hudson attempted to provide a Mario Party for the solitary player with its single-player campaign. Unfortunately, a party for one is as much fun as it sounds, as Mario Party Advance featured a bland story mode, showcased by one board, NPCs that loved to chit and chat endlessly, non-inventive mini-games, and quick tedium setting in. While points are given for originality, as we've seen with Mario Party 9 and 10, originality only goes so far if the actual Mario Party game isn't really entertaining.

Hey You, Pikachu! (N64)

As we've seen, not even Mario is immune to having some stinkers in his catalog of games. While we move on from the portly plumber, we look towards another behemoth gaming and multimedia franchise--Pokemon! With such a sprawling series of diverse characters and creatures, it's no wonder why The Pokemon Company decided to stretch out from the traditional Pokemon RPGs and try out other genres. Some have been great successes, but as we'll see with these next three entries on this list: plenty are just plain Poke-bombs.

Hey You, Pikachu! was one of the first home console Pokemon spin-offs. While Pokemon Stadium and Pokemon Snap successfully spun off the franchise in stellar directions, Hey You, Pikachu! decidedly did not. While the concept of earning Pikachu's trust, playing with the series mascot, and giving voice commands seemed clever at first, Hey You, Pikachu! isn't the deepest game. Most players found themselves getting bored with the shallowness of the game, including a middle school me.

Pokemon Dash (DS)

Racing games are generally one of the first genres that mascot-driven game franchises spin off towards, so it was a long time coming for Pokemon to get its need for speed. Unfortunately, Pokemon Dash gave less the need for speed and more the need for pain medication for the throbbing hand cramps and eventual arthritis you'd get from playing the game.

An atypical racing game, Pokemon Dash required players to vigorously swipe the DS stylus across the touch screen to speed your Pokemon up as they crossed different relay points on the open race course. Yes, you'd get those aforementioned hand cramps, but you'd also have insult added to injury by seeing that Nintendo DS touch screen of yours scratched to heck and back from merely playing Pokemon Dash as instructed!

Pokemon Rumble U (Wii U)

One last Pokemon entry to skewer over an open flame! Before amiibo, Nintendo and The Pokemon Company put out GameStop-exclusive NFC (near-field communication) figures based off of Pokemon. These were very rudimentary in their designs, and meant to look just like the basic toy models seen in the Pokemon Rumble franchise. While I enjoyed the WiiWare dungeon-crawling and button-mashing real-time battles of Pokemon Rumble, the Wii U entry basically simplified a game that was already simple enough.

The succinctly named Pokemon Rumble U took out the simplistic dungeon-crawling and just had arena-based battles, where your toy Pokemon of choice took on a parade of Pokemon. That was about the extent of the game's depth. The insult to injury was essentially being required to spend money on these physical pre-amiibo prototypes to enjoy--and enjoying the game wasn't a certainty due to how basic the gameplay was--seeing your toy "come to life" in the game. Pokemon Rumble U failed to entice many players, and for the rather crooked money system it incorporated, that's a good thing.

Steel Diver (3DS)

Steel Diver?! More like... Sleep Diver! Ha! ...Okay, I'll stick to analyzing and talking about games and not so much worrying about a stand-up comic career. At any rate, Steel Diver was a brand-new franchise from Nintendo that brought with it slow-paced submarine gameplay where players used the touch screen to spin a knob to guide their piloted submarine around 2D levels. The sluggish pace of Steel Diver combined with the need for precision with not-so-precise controls made for a frustrating at some times, and just plain yawn-inducing other times, experience.

Steel Diver would release in North America as part of Nintendo's anemic launch lineup for the Nintendo 3DS, and the game would reach bargain bins relatively quickly--and that's something first-party Nintendo titles seldom do in the first place--reach bargain bins in the first place. Fortunately, the Steel Diver franchise would get a chance at redemption with the much more enjoyable first-person perspective online multiplayer combat game, Steel Diver: Sub Wars, also for the Nintendo 3DS.

Spirit Camera: The Cursed Memoir (3DS)

Nintendo is a game company that enjoys trying out new ideas and innovating. Some of these ideas work out well and advance the medium, or at least make for a great deal of fun. Other times, the ideas come off as ones that had the best of intentions, but not quite the tech or the execution to back them up. Spirit Camera: The Cursed Memoir is one of these games, co-developed by Koei Tecmo.

Using the augmented reality feature of the Nintendo 3DS seemed like a cool enough idea, using it to point the camera at a "book" that came packaged with the game to reveal ghosts to battle in real time. However, this was definitely an instance where that aforementioned notion that the tech and execution weren't quite there rears its ugly head. The Nintendo 3DS's camera was one of low quality, and even in the best of lighting conditions, the experience of tracking down and battling AR ghosts made for a severely frustrating experience with constant interruptions and the loss of tracking. Even as someone who got Spirit Camera: The Cursed Memoir for free, the time I invested into this failed experiment of a game will never be refunded to me.

Devil's Third (Wii U)

It's always a good sign (see: it's never a good sign) for a game to be in development hell for years before finding a publisher, and then that publisher essentially releasing the game out of obligation with no fanfare whatsoever. At least instead, Nintendo of America pretty much buried the release of Devil's Third by sending out no review copies and shipping out an extremely (heavy emphasis on that word) limited amount of physical copies to store shelves.

Technical issues were abundant in the final Wii U version, as was the amount of absolutely clumsy and clunky gameplay. From a game directed by the creator of Dead or Alive and the man who brought Ninja Gaiden back from the grave, Tomonobu Itagaki, Devil's Third is a story of abject failure in every sense of the word. It's a game that was better off not existing, at least not with the help of Nintendo, and serves as blight on the big N's publishing record.

Urban Champion (NES)

We're going back in time with a blast from the past. Urban Champion is an atypical fighting game where two players duke it out with the goal of hitting the other into a sewer manhole. Really, the only fascinating things about Urban Champion are: 1) Its historic value as Nintendo's first one-on-one competitive fighting game, and 2) How many times Nintendo has found value in re-releasing it, despite how poor and shallow it is. Games on the NES aren't exactly the deepest games around, especially in the genre of fighting games, so when you consider that Urban Champion is considered too shallow for even the NES, then you can get an idea of just how poor the game truly is. There are plenty of NES classics from Nintendo's illustrious history to look back fondly on; Urban Champion is not one of those.