Friday, October 25, 2019

Super Kirby Clash (NSW) Review

Allow SuperPhillip Central to take you into your weekend with a free-to-start game that launched last month on the Nintendo Switch. Without further ado, let's team up and take on Super Kirby Clash together with SPC's review!

A Gem Apple a day keeps the Kirbys at play.

Team Kirby Clash Deluxe was a free-to-start game on the Nintendo 3DS that pit a team of four Kirbys against various large-scale enemies and bosses from the Kirby franchise. Super Kirby Clash is essentially a revamped version of the 3DS game with higher definition graphics, a lower frame-rate, and new battles thrown in. What it lacks in complexity, Super Kirby Clash more than makes up for in a solid boss battler with some addicting hooks.

The battles in Super Kirby Clash have you pairing up with three other Kirbys in Story Quests, which are offline, solo affairs where you're teamed up with three AI Kirbys--and Party Quests, which are played either online with three other random players, or offline with up to three other local players. The latter type of quests rewards more experience points, which in turn, levels up Kirby to be stronger in battle. Story and Party Quests not only have different orders of bosses you face, but they also have different Heroic Missions to complete, making both types of quests worth playing, as completing various Heroic Missions earns Gem Apples.

If you're looking for complex and deep battles, you won't find them in Super Kirby Clash,
but for me, that accessibility made for part of the game's charm and appeal.
Gem Apples are the premium currency of Super Kirby Clash. These are required to enter new battles for the first time in the game's Story Quests. Once they've been spent on a battle, that battle is available for play without ever needing to spend a Gem Apple again on it. In this sense, Gem Apples are the keys that open the locks to battles. However, even after unlocking a battle, you need to have enough Vigor, which is the game's implementation of a stamina system, to attempt it. If you don't have the necessary Vigor, you must either spend Gem Apples to recharge your gauge, or simply wait for a little while until the gauge restores itself.

This hub is where the quest board, Gem Apple tree, adventurer bell, and shoppe are located.
These Gem Apples are also used to purchase items and equipment in Super Kirby Clash's shoppe. As you progress through the game and beat various bosses, reach new levels, and complete Heroic Missions, you gain the ability to purchase higher level weapons and armor. These cost Gem Apples to buy, as well as Fire, Water, and Light Fragments, which are collected from completing quests. The more powerful the weapon and armor, the more Gem Apples and Fragments you'll need to fork over. Super Kirby Clash introduces even stronger weapons and armor than what were found in Team Kirby Clash Deluxe, and these can be enhanced to a greater level.

Ooh. Bad look, Kirby. You're wearing white after Labor Day.
There are four roles in battle that your Kirby can take on, and these can be switched between before and after battles at your leisure. The Swordsman is the most balanced of the four roles, able to slice, dice, and carve up enemies, as well as summon an aura-like shield that can protect nearby players. Meanwhile, the Hammer has the most powerful offense in the game, but this role is also incredibly slow and charges attacks even more slowly. Next, the Mage has the power to blast a time beam at foes which can temporarily stop time, allowing your team to deliver damage while the boss is frozen solid. Finally, the Healer has a considerably smaller range of attack, but is a big time help for healing teammates with its potion when the need calls.

What kind of sorcery is this? The Electric Dragon is frozen solid by the power of the Mage!
Now, while I found it necessary to have a team possessing one of each role, it became apparent that getting Platinum Medals on quests relied on having at least two Mages to help stop enemies in their tracks, thus stopping the clock in the process. That way, we could whittle a foe's health down while clearing a quest quickly enough for the medal requirements.

Battles themselves in Super Kirby Clash are rather basic affairs where each role has a simple move set, all revolving around pressing the attack button and an analog stick direction to perform a different offensive move. Some moves can be charged by holding the attack button down to deal more damage, pending you're able to make contact with the enemy. Other moves are dealt by running towards the enemy and pressing the attack button. It's easy to learn and has the level of accessibility one would expect from a Kirby game.

Of course, bosses and foes don't just sit there and take damage from you. They're always on the move, engaging in their own offensive moves, and making battles considerably challenging with their unique move sets, attack patterns, and abilities. If a member of your team's health bar depletes, they faint in battle, able to picked up by another teammate. However, the more you revive in a battle, then longer the process takes. If all players perish in battle or if time runs out on you, it's game over, and you'll need to either start the quest anew or pay a Gem Apple fee to continue.

When you've knocked down a boss to its last half of health, it will become furious, using even more powerful and hard-to-avoid attacks. During this stage of battle, the boss eventually drops four Power Tablets that when collected allows your team of Kirbys to unleash a devastating comet attack to the enemy, usually dealing a powerful amount of damage in the process based on player button press timing.

Battles conclude with your team's performance being rewarded with a medal of some type: from bronze up to platinum. This is also where the Heroic Missions come in. Each battle in both Story and Party Quests have a range of Heroic Missions to tackle, and these have different goals such as clearing the battle in a certain amount of time, beating the battle as a specific role, not taking damage and earning a certain medal, among other challenges. Gem Apples are usually the rewards for completing these, so to make any kind of progress in the game, it's somewhat of a good idea to try to complete them. That said, there are also Heroic Missions for non-battle-related accomplishments, such as buying gear from the shoppe, collecting a given amount of Fragments or Gem Apples, or calling in for some help from other players' characters via the hub world bell.

It wouldn't be a Kirby game without the opportunity to beat Whispy Woods down to a pulp.
Despite Super Kirby Clash being a free-to-start game, it doesn't fall into the trap of being obnoxious with its wish for its players to spend money. In fact, you can easily play through the majority of the game's content without dropping a single dime on it. By paying out of pocket, you're merely expediting the process of clearing quests, walloping bosses, earning more Gem Apples, completing more Heroic Missions, leveling up, getting better gear, and so forth. A patient player, especially one with an online connection or other local players to enjoy the game with, can get through Super Kirby Clash as cheaply and as cost-efficiently as they desire. Thus, it's pretty darn cool that even with its monetization practices, they're completely avoidable and you can still enjoy the game without them.

Team up with three other players offline or take the battles online with some spotty Wi-Fi connections!
Super Kirby Clash isn't the Kirby series' most innovative or entertaining experimental spin-off, but it does offer a wealth of gameplay without the need to spend money--depending on your level of patience, of course. It lacks complexity, which may turn off a good portion of potential players, but for a game that one can pick up and play and then put down after an enjoyable bite-sized session, Super Kirby Clash is a winner. Besides, what do you have to lose but a little time--it's a free game to try out anyway!

[SPC Says: B]

Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 (NSW) "Fun Takes Off" Trailer

Just because your flight's been delayed doesn't mean the fun has to stop. In fact, it's just getting started! At least, that's the premise of this Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 trailer that SEGA recently put out for the game's upcoming November 5th release date. Go for gold by checking out this brand-new trailer for the game.

MediEvil (PS4) Launch Trailer

The PS1 classic has returned from the dead to haunt PlayStation 4 owners' systems this Halloween with a full remake of MediEvil. While the gameplay and design are a bit dated and hasn't had too much done in the ol' update category, MediEvil looks better than ever on PS4. Don't believe me? 1) Why would I lie, and 2) Then, check out this trailer!

Thursday, October 24, 2019

The Unpopular Opinion 7: Games SPC Liked That Many Did Not

There are some things that a lot of us can agree on. For instance, "Tom Hanks is a national treasure." (Love you, Tom!) Some opinions, though, are less popular, less prominent, and ones that we might find ourselves in the minority on. That's how "The Unpopular Opinion" series of articles came to fruition on SuperPhillip Central--talking about the games that the site championed or enjoyed while others trashed and disparaged them. From a popular series where players are encouraged to "catch 'em all", to a certain franchise featuring a familiar blue hedgehog, these six games are the ones that SPC found treats to play while others screamed with fright.

After you've read SPC's most recent picks, which poorly (or relatively poorly) received games did you end up enjoying?

All past installments of The Unpopular Opinion are available for view here:

The Unpopular Opinion
The Unpopular Opinion 2
The Unpopular Opinion 3
The Unpopular Opinion 4
The Unpopular Opinion 5
The Unpopular Opinion 6

Pokemon: Let's Go, Pikachu! / Let's Go, Eevee! (NSW)

At least among the Pokemon fan community, and the most ardent of those at that, a sizable portion of folks simply loathed the simplified mechanics of Pokemon: Let's Go, Pikachu! and Pokemon: Let's Go, Eevee! Bringing in a much more streamlined and much more basic Pokemon catching mechanic as a means to entice Pokemon GO players, the motion-controlled means to capture Pokemon was considered a blight to the series. My enjoyment of the capturing mechanic notwithstanding, both Pokemon: Let's Go games brought more than their fair share of welcomed additions to the series that I wish were featured in the upcoming Pokemon Sword and Shield. For instance, the ability to avoid wild Pokemon entirely instead of contending with dealing with random encounters in tall grass and in "dungeon" areas. It makes me a bit forlorn and disappointed that there are currently no plans to continue the Let's Go series of Pokemon games, but someday, I hope that decision is overturned.

Team Sonic Racing (PS4, XB1, NSW, PC)

While Team Sonic Racing doesn't hit the same highs as past Sumo Digital racers, particularly the Sonic and Sega-related ones, this all-Sonic character racing game definitely delighted this reviewer. The absence of Sega's all-stars and the impending release of the more polished and content-rich Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled certainly put plenty of potential players off from playing the game. That said, I found the titular team mechanic used in Team Sonic Racing to be a creative and smart addition to this type of racer--if not a bit imperfectly implemented. Regardless, between the terrifically designed tracks, fair but challenging difficulty, the stellar soundtrack and bright, vivid cartoon visuals, Team Sonic Racing delivered a high-octane arcade racer worthy of Sumo Digital's name and worthy of a play by more of an audience than it received.

Yooka-Laylee (PS4, XB1, NSW, PC)

While I won't even utter a semblance of dispute to the idea that the recently released Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair is the far better product to come out of Playtonic Games (heck, my review found me infatuated with the game), the original Yooka-Laylee was a worthwhile effort all the same, just affected by "biting off more than the developer could chew" syndrome. Yes, the Banjo-Kazooie-inspired game had worlds that were way too big for their own good, the mechanic to expand worlds to become larger was pointless (as players had no real reason to keep levels small), and the arcade games were less than desirable. However, despite that relatively lengthy list of problems with the game, Yooka-Laylee, for me, captured a similar level of charm and wonder that I experienced with the original Banjo-Kazooie. While it didn't reach the same highs (but unfortunately hit completely different new lows), Yooka-Laylee remains an enjoyable platformer that I find myself wanting to come back to someday.

Knack 2 (PS4)

So many gamers make fun of the character of Knack and the game itself. That's fine and dandy, but the sequel to the game, appropriately titled Knack 2, managed to bring forth a compelling and engaging game that I not only enjoyed playing from beginning to end, but achieving the Platinum trophy for, which is something I could not believe. Perhaps my amazement stems from my expecting Knack 2 to be a terrible game--a joke--something only meme-worthy and nothing more. To put it simply, my expectations may have been so low that anything resembling competence was met with delight. Nay! Nay, I say! I will argue to the death (or at least until I get bored of the debate) that Knack 2 is a great game without any asterisks needed, and one that I feel got an incredibly raw deal by being judged by the gaming populace for the sins its predecessor made when the original Knack launched with the PlayStation 4. Go ahead--give Knack 2 a try and you'll see an adventure that is action-packed and remarkably solid.

The Crew 2 (PS4, XB1, PC)

Part of my excitement and enjoyment of Ubisoft's The Crew 2 was that I had never played an open world racer before this one. Perhaps that's all the explanation you need to understand why I liked the game so much, but another factor that contributed to my love of The Crew 2 was exploring the abridged version of the continental United States that developer Ivory Towers created. The way that roads weaved through mountainsides, cities lit up with their gigantic skyscrapers, and discoveries were sprinkled all throughout the game world. The ability to switch between my favorite vehicles on the fly--whether by land, air, or sea--was a terrific quality of life idea that worked wonderfully, making my virtual trip through the United States a glorious one. Of course, when I wasn't venturing my way across the map, having my curiosity piqued at various sights and sounds in the environment, I was engaging in some heart-pounding, adrenaline-boosting races. The Crew 2 kept my need for speed going, my thirst for exploration flowing, and my desire to get more cred continuing.

Trials Rising (PS4, XB1, NSW, PC)

It says something about a game where it can be immensely entertaining to me despite not being the most technically competent or capable game out there. Trials Rising still suffers from various glitches and issues, such as having a player's custom gear become reset or having loot boxes gained after reaching certain experience levels suddenly stop appearing. However, that didn't stop my enjoyment of Trials Rising, coming equipped with the series's best arsenal of tracks--platforming playgrounds of both peril and pleasure for both my bike and its rider to enjoy racing on. Like any Trials game worth checking out, Trials Rising is incredibly challenging, and will have your butt bailing across every inch of its more difficult tracks. That said, the constant improvement that I personally got from the game from improving my course completion times, crashing less and less, having to restart less and less, and going from barely achieving bronze medals to easily clearing platinum, gave me a sense of accomplishment that I haven't felt in a game in a long time.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Luigi's Mansion 3 (NSW) "Trick or Defeat" Trailer

Halloween fast approaches, and the perfect Nintendo Switch exclusive for the occasion arrives that very day with Luigi's Mansion 3. To prepare for the game's release, Nintendo scared up this spook-tacular ad for Luigi's latest haunted adventure on its YouTube channel, so take a ghoul--er--"good" look at it as we creep up on the game's release!

AeternoBlade II (NSW) Review

SuperPhillip Central's next review as we inch towards the site's 900th total review is AeternoBlade II, the sequel to a game that originally debuted on the Nintendo 3DS. With a bigger scope and a larger scale, does that make for a game that's a better title?

Time isn't on this game's side.

I had a small interest in the original AeternoBlade which initially launched on the Nintendo 3DS. I played the eShop demo, but never got around to playing the full version. Shame on me, then, because since I didn't play through the story of the first game, I entered AeternoBlade II, a sequel with a much grander scale and scope, not knowing what the heck was going on story-wise.

AeternoBlade II starts out as a linear affair with players being introduced to the three playable characters in the game, each with their own play styles. However, the character that is the most prominent throughout the adventure is Freyja, a young woman who players can use yellow orbs from defeated enemies to level up her stats (such as HP, MP, Attack, and so forth) as well as level up her various abilities.

The game soon turns into a regular Metroidvania-structured game, having non-linear exploration, puzzle-solving, boss-battling, clearing out rooms filled with enemies to progress, and returning to past locations with new abilities to access previously unreachable areas.

Where AeternoBlade II attempts to shake things up and differentiate itself from the endless competition of Metroid and Castlevania-style clones to those games' thrones is with the game's time-manipulation abilities. These are used in a twofold way: in combat and to solve puzzles. Some abilities create clones of your character to be able to hit multiple switches at once to open gates, while others rewind time for everything except your character, allowing them to ride up platforms that would otherwise continuously move downward.

AeternoBlade II also splits up its gameplay between a traditional side-scrolling perspective that occasionally finds the camera in a 2.5D approach while other times it employs an over-the-shoulder look. Unfortunately, the latter creates more problems than the approach is worth, as the camera loves to get caught behind walls and geometry, and trying to dodge enemies coming at you from multiple directions is nothing but an impossibility.

What further aggravates with AeternoBlade II is how difficult the game is. Part of that is the clumsiness of the combat and collision detection, making it so enemies don't really have any tells to if they're taking damage. It also makes it a challenge to see what is happening on screen, meaning evading attacks is also obnoxious. And while it's nice to have an arsenal of attack types to each character (a weak attack, a strong attack, a launch attack, and the aforementioned time powers), the flow of combat just feels off when you can't cancel out of attacks easily.

AeternoBlade II attempts to be too big for its budget. The character models and environments are ghastly, the camera is terrible, the combat is too clumsy and stiff to be attractive, the difficulty is too high because of how atrocious combat is, the voice acting is awful, and I've lost progress multiple times due to the Switch version of the game crashing on me a handful of times. I appreciate the attempt at making a lengthy adventure, but with the developer's budget, the scope of the game should have been reined in and instead given more polish than what is currently here. As is, AeternoBlade II is a game that you should avoid, and no amount of manipulating time can fix that.

[SPC Says: D]

A review code was provided for this review.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Little Town Hero (NSW) Review

Game Freak has a smaller series of games coming out next month called Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield, but all the hype right now is on Little Town Hero. Wait a minute. Sorry. I was writing up this introduction in an alternate dimension. Still though, Little Town Hero is an intriguing title from the makers of the Pokemon games with a creative but complex battle system. As the review tagline asks, "Izzit worth buying?" SPC has the answer with its review.

Little Town Hero: Izzit worth buying?

While most of the gaming world focuses on the developer's more prominent and popular property, Pokemon (especially as it receives a brand new duo of entries next month), Game Freak recently pushed out one of its smaller projects akin to its HarmoKnights, its Tembos, and its Giga Wreckers. Little Town Hero saw itself featured in a couple of Nintendo Direct video presentations, but to say that the game arrives with any fanfare would be a flat out lie. Still, with Game Freak's credentials and Undertale's Toby Fox providing some music to the game, does Little Town Hero deserve your attention, or would that be a bad idea?

Little Town Hero's tale brings to the table a precocious youth named Axe, who wishes to leave his hometown and explore the world beyond. However, there's just one catch: the people of his town are forbidden to leave as the world beyond is extremely dangerous. Thus, a castle and protective wall keeps the foreboding beasts and malicious monsters out of the town. At least, they're supposed to! One day, after training with a guard, Axe and his friends find themselves in the midst of a monster attack. Using a red stone that he found in the mines, Axe apparently gains enough power to vanquish the attacking monster and save the town from destruction in the process. 

There's no coincidence that Little Town Hero's full adventure happens within the confines of this little town.
While early on, Axe has a tremendous desire to leave his hometown, this desire diminishes about halfway through the game. The middle word in Little Town Hero's title is where the entire 15-hour adventure plays out. The town is a bit expansive, offering plenty of space, but many times you're limited to where you can go. Axe will stop himself from proceeding any further, usually saying that you, the player, as Axe need to go to the next quest destination. 

When there is some freedom in exploration, it becomes quite clear that there is little to do in Little Town Hero's town, apart from the occasional side quest. These side quests generally offer a rare glimpse and back story into some of the game's quirky characters, but more often than not they're simply busywork. 

The town itself is visually nice with its clear, crisp, and colorful charm, but unfortunately and some astoundingly, there are frame-rate hiccups that pop up while exploring and also in the game's battles, where Little Town Hero players will spend the majority of their time with the game. 

Getting my brain wrapped around Little Town Hero's battle system and its quirks was quite the challenge for me. Sure, battling Axe's rival Matock in the game for the 70th time in the story eventually made me a pro, but the combat is certainly quirky and definitely one that possesses a learning curve. It involves the concept of Izzits (ideas) and Dazzits (actions). Izzits require points to turn into Dazzits, and these Dazzits are then used to combat and counter your opponent's own set of attacks. Starting off in battles, you get a hand of five random Izzits from your collection of 13, as well as three points to utilize to turn Izzits into Dazzits. Generally, the more powerful and beneficial the Izzit, the more points you need to spend to turn it into a Dazzit. As battles progress, this number of points you get to use at the start of each turn increases.

Izzit? Dazzit?! Whazzit all mean?! It takes a bit to come to terms with Little Town Hero's
 battle system, and even when you do, it still is challenging to win battles!

There are three types of Izzits in battle: red, which are attack-based and can only be used once per turn; yellow, which are defensive and can be used as many times in a turn as you like until they are broken by the enemy, and blue, which have special abilities such as the power to pelt your opponent's set of Dazzits, lowering each Dazzit's defense by one. Some Dazzits, particularly ones tied to your enemy, have secondary effects, such as turning a spent Izzit back into a Dazzit, lowering all of your Izzit's attack and/or defensive levels, or dealing direct damage to your hearts. There's a puzzle aspect here in trying to figure out how to best combat and counter opposing Dazzits so they don't a close battle into a losing one.

Each side of the battle has three hearts which serve as their overall health. When all hearts are gone, the battle is over. Most battles, particularly ones against bosses, give the boss and you an extra shield which must be first whittled away before damage can be done to you or the boss's health. If you take damage to your hearts, then your shield returns to you. It's the same way with the boss. In order to injure an enemy's hearts, you must first defeat their hand of Dazzits, and also have an extra red attack Dazzit to dish damage to them. 

Each red and yellow Izzit and Dazzit has a pair of numbers attached to it. One signifies the attack power, while the other displays its shield, or its defensive power. In battles, you want to break as many of your opponent's currently active Dazzits as possible so they don't have any left over to attack your shield or worse yet, your hearts. Though, the latter grants you an automatic reshuffling of your Izzits so ones you've already used (or discarded in a card game sense) can be turned into Dazzits again. As an aside, Battle Points (or BP) can also be spent to reshuffle your Izzit "deck" as it were.

After each turn in Little Town Hero's battles, you get a roulette wheel that spins and the number it lands on determines your movement around a board game-like map. Landing on different spaces on the map can have various effects. Some allow you to call upon the help of a fellow townsperson, resulting in actions like allowing you to turn an Izzit into a Dazzit without needing to spend any points, or having that character directly attack the enemy's health. Some battles feature objects and traps that can be used to your advantage, but require a specific Dazzit attack to unleash them. Such an example is launching a rooster into a sheep-turned-boss with one of your Dazzits. No real explanation needed on that scenario since I'm sure we've all been there.

Some secondary Dazzit effects allow you to choose which nearby space you'd like to land on.
As the game goes on, battles become more and more arduous as well as taking a lengthy duration to complete. To give you an idea (or should I say "Izzit"?), the first boss battle in Little Town Hero took upwards of 20 minutes to complete. Later battles took over a half hour, and there are no checkpoints either. That means that if you lose, you just wasted a sizable amount of time. Sure, you get a pity Eureka point to spend in the game's skill tree of sorts (these are used to upgrade Izzits to make them stronger and more effective in battles), but it can be absolutely soul-crushing to be invested in winning a battle only to lose and have your progress halted. I found myself sometimes bashing my head against progression walls, as some encounters just didn't seem fair, much less fun for me. Throw in that many times you winning is dependent on how lucky you are with the Izzits you're dealt in your current hand, and things can get quite maddening and just plain cheap.

Little Town Hero certainly delivers a delightfully cozy setting with a unique and creative battle system. However, this sometimes luck-based combat and somewhat convoluted concept can make a poor first impression on players. It definitely did with this one. Fortunately, as I stuck with the game, came up with solid strategies, and persisted despite losing battle after battle, I made progress and enjoyed a fair amount of my time with the game. That said, I doubt as many players will have the same level of patience as I had, and I doubt that I would have continued with the game if I had not needed to review it.

[SPC Says: C+]

A review code was provided for this review.