Saturday, January 4, 2020

Top Ten Most Anticipated Games of 2020

As the saying goes, out with the old, in with the new, and that's the perfect sentiment to have as SuperPhillip Central turns away from 2019 and focuses its attention and energy to 2020. As is customary to kick off the start of a new year of content on the site, I have a look at my most anticipated games currently announced for 2020. These games need to have a confirmation of being released in 2020 and can't have rumors, so unfortunately, there's no The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild sequel on this list to speak of. That said, what IS on this list are some other truly exciting games that show that 2020 is going to be one killer year of gaming content.

After checking out these picks, which games are you most excited for this year?

10) Ghost of Tsushima (PS4)

Kicking off this countdown is Ghost of Tsushima, developed by Sucker Punch, the minds behind the Sly Cooper and InFamous franchises. Sure, the game checks a lot of the boxes of a PlayStation first-party game: third-person perspective, open world, action-adventure--but it's difficult to deny that the PlayStation brand's first-party output has skyrocketed in quality over the past generation or two. Thus, it's hard to doubt that Ghost of Tsushima will do anything other than impress and delight when it releases later this year. I look forward to stealthily slicing and slaying my way through hordes of enemies in Ghost of Tsushima.

9) Trials of Mana (PS4, NSW)

I've been on a bit of a Mana kick recently, having played through Final Fantasy Adventure (aka Adventure of Mana), and am now playing through Secret of Mana as part of the Collection of Mana compilation on the Nintendo Switch. I have yet to start Trials of Mana's original version from that collection, but it's my hope to do so before its full fledged remake arrives in April. That way I can see and appreciate just how much effort was put into the remake and what has changed. This colorful and whimsical game already looks right up my alley, so here's to playing the final, finished product when it releases in a few months on both PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch.

8) Doom Eternal (PS4, XB1, NSW, PC)

The 2016 revival of the Doom franchise was one of my favorite first-person shooters released in a long time. Its near perfect mix of platforming, exploration, and traditional run and gun action made for a game that I loved Platinum-ing on the PlayStation 4 and beating fully on the Switch soon after. While the Switch version of Doom Eternal won't release along the other versions, that's alright for me, as it's not preferred place to play the game. What I expect out of Doom Eternal is a game that is bigger, better, meatier, and gorier than the original, and I hope I'm not disappointed when the game launches in March.

7) Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition (NSW)

Despite owning Xenoblade Chronicles on two platforms now, the Wii and New Nintendo 3DS, I still have yet to beat the game. I look to change that with the Definitive Edition of Xenoblade Chronicles, due to launch sometime in 2020 on the Nintendo Switch. What I played of the original Xenoblade I greatly enjoyed, and I got very far in the game before other titles took my attention. That said, this is one lengthy game, and the additional content (just rumors for now on what that content actually is are being circulated) will no doubt make the game even longer. However, I'm ready to take on the challenge, Xenoblade Chronicles, so bring it on!

6) Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Remastered Edition (PS4, NSW, Mobile)

This is a bit of wild horse on this list of my most anticipated games of 2020. It's a remastered version of a game that came out in 2004 in North America. It's Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Remastered Edition, and the original GameCube game was one of my favorite titles on the system. The action-focused, co-op-centric multiplayer dungeon crawler was quite unlike anything else at the time, and the added bonus now of being able to play online with friends and randoms alike will add to my love of the game. I just hope that I won't always be stuck carrying the chalice!

5) Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot (PS4, XB1, PC)

While I'm not a huge fan of Dragon Ball Z, and could not sit through a whole saga due to the original show's atrocious pacing, I do find the characters and spectacles of the fights to be incredible to witness. Being able to play a role in them is what gets me playing games like Dragon Ball Xenoverse and Dragon Ball FighterZ, for instance. While playing through the entire Dragon Ball Z series isn't anything new, the approach that Bandai Namco Entertainment takes with Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot very much is new. It's essentially a 3D version of The Legacy of Goku games from the Game Boy Advance era, and adding a much heavier sense of size, scope, and scale. I won't have to wait long to play the game either, as Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot launches in less than two weeks.

4) Resident Evil 3 (PS4, XB1, PC)

After loving Resident Evil 2's remake so much that I put it on the #3 spot of my Game of the Year list, I very much look forward to the sum of Resident Evil 3's part, the full remake in the vein of Resident Evil 2, and the asymmetrical multiplayer part with Resident Evil Resistance. Obviously though, I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't looking forward to seeing the new changes and improvements to the original Resident Evil 3 more than playing Resident Evil Resistance. With a fresh coat of paint and new looks to old familiar characters such as Jill and the grotesque Nemesis, who I dread running in to if Mr. X from the previous game is anything to go by, Resident Evil 3 is shaping up to provide a terrifyingly fresh perspective to a classic game.

3) Animal Crossing: New Horizons (NSW)

March 20, 2020 is marked on my calendar. Okay, I don't have a calendar, but I do have the date etched in my memory banks anyway. That's the date that the latest installment of the Animal Crossing series, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, finally arrives. It's been over seven years since the last new traditional Animal Crossing game, Animal Crossing: New Leaf, has released on a Nintendo platform, so the extended wait has been excruciating. Not even the most ardent fan of Animal Crossing can play a game every day for seven years straight without wanting something new. Well, we're getting something new finally not just game-wise but concept-wise with an island to restore to its former glory, as well as new mechanics to help out with the process. I'm ready to lose what's left of my free time to the cozy and comfortable world of Animal Crossing once more when New Horizons launches on the Nintendo Switch in just over two months.

2) Dreams (PS4)

Speaking of games I'll lose a lot of free time to this year, Dreams comes from the developers of a franchise that I've lost hundreds of hours to--the LittleBigPlanet series. Dreams, however, is so much more. It's not built or marketed as a tool to create your own levels. Instead, it's a tool to create your own games, and the sky is the limit. It's not hyperbole to say that if you can think it, you can conceivably build it. Already, players of the beta have crafted creative and clever concoctions from playable builds of the Final Fantasy VII Remake (albeit in a much more rudimentary form), platforming levels a la Crash Bandicoot, and even an exceptionally mouth-watering, darn-it-if-that-doesn't-look-real English breakfast. There's no limit to what genre you can make, either, so you're really only limited by your imagination. As someone passionate about game design, I look forward to fully utilizing all of Dreams' tools with the hope that the level of accessibility is there for all players to enjoy making their own creations.

1) Final Fantasy VII Remake (PS4)

It's probably a gaming sin for someone of my gaming literacy to admit, but I've never played all the way through the original Final Fantasy VII. I got so far as Disc Three, but something way back when interrupted my progress. That said, what I played of the original FFVII I really enjoyed, and while I have an idea of what to expect from this wholly re-imagined remake, I eagerly anticipate being surprised by the curve balls the development team will throw in there to spice things up. Final Fantasy VII Remake is of course not just exciting because of the new content being placed into the game, but it's also one I anticipate because of seeing familiar areas given a whole new lease on life with an impressive makeover. Already, I've seen places in Midgar that have been touched up with such pristine, masterful care that I'm close to salivating at the thought of finally playing the game when it launches this March.

Friday, January 3, 2020

Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot (PS4, XB1, PC) "This Time on Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot" Trailer

Bandai Namco Entertainment has been hitting all the right nostalgic notes with its marketing towards the upcoming Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot video game. Between the opening cinematic with the original theme song and this new trailer with the original Funimation English dub narrator, there's a lot of love being put into the promotion for this game to tickle the fancies of fans. Relive the sagas of DBZ in fully interactive form in a size and scope never seen before when Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot launches in two weeks on January 17th.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Animal Crossing: New Horizons (NSW) "Deserted Island Getaway Package Primer" Trailer

Tom Nook is at it again! This time around he's doing timeshare getaways because of course he is. That said, I'm sure a lot of gamers would love to take advantage of that. We'll have to wait, though, as Animal Crossing: New Horizons launches on March 20th. New year, new horizons, right?

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Review Round-Up - December 2019

December gifted SuperPhillip Central with a triple play of Mario games of varying quality.
Happy New Year from SuperPhillip Central! Here's hoping your 2020 is a good one. With a new decade and new year, it's almost easy to downplay that it's a new month--meaning it's time for a new Review Round-Up! Let's check out all seven games that were reviewed throughout the course of the last month of 2019.

We started off with a triple play of Mario games. Mario Kart Tour was hammered for its scummy microtransactions among other issues, spinning out to a C- grade. Meanwhile, Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games: Tokyo 2020 improved on past games in some ways, but was a step back in others, earning a B- for its effort. The last of the trio of Mario games was Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story + Bowser Jr.'s Journey for the Nintendo 3DS. These titles just seem to be getting progressively longer, don't they? Well, the quality of the games is, too, as it reviewed well with a B+ grade.

Moving on from Mario to mechs, we took on colossal Immortals in Daemon X Machina, which blasted its way to a B-. Then, we moved on to more casual fare with America's Greatest Game Shows: Wheel of Fortune & Jeopardy!, which suffered from presentation problems that distracted from the fun of both classic game shows. The compilation got a C- for this reason.

Meanwhile, New Super Lucky's Tale arrived on the Nintendo Switch, much to my delight, and it ran, jumped, and spun its tail to a B-. Finally, we sort of ended the month, year, and decade on a downer review-wise with Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD, which fell off the course to a D+.

2019 saw the posting of SuperPhillip Central's 900th review. Let's see if we can reach 1,000 in 2020! As an aside, check out every review ever posted on SuperPhillip Central with the SPC Review Archive!

Mario Kart Tour (iOS, AND) - C-

Overall, it says more about how much I love Mario Kart that I can put up with the slimy Gacha and microtransaction practices than it does my delight for Mario Kart Tour. While the game is structurally sound on a gameplay note, the systems designed to inhale all of the contents from players' wallets are just horrid and completely disgusting to me, especially coming from family-friendly Nintendo. For most players, I feel Mario Kart Tour makes for a stopgap as they wait for Mario Kart 9 to come out (whenever it does--maybe even Nintendo's next system at this rate), and even then, it's a poor one. You'll most likely find yourself wishing to go back to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. As for me, I see myself sticking with Mario Kart Tour for a little while longer, hoping I don't get to a point where I'll get truly repulsed and put off from playing the game for good--but deep inside knowing that I probably will.

Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games: Tokyo 2020 (NSW) - B-

Like some of the events in Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games: Tokyo 2020, some elements of the game just seem half-baked. The amount of content is a major one, especially when you're comparing it to past entries in the series. This seems like a step back in that regard. That notwithstanding, Mario and Sonic's trip to Tokyo to compete ahead of the official 2020 Olympic Games nails the landing when it comes to being enjoyable to play. While you will find yourself scrambling to the menus to read up on a given event's controls more times than you might care to admit or care to like, the actual events are mostly entertaining, and the retro-themed events and minigames also sport plenty of opportunities for fun as well. It wouldn't be a review about a game set in the Olympics without a cliche reference, and while the review tagline already took care of that, here's a second one for you: Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games: Tokyo 2020 goes for the gold, but winds up with silver instead.

Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story + Bowser Jr.'s Journey (3DS) - B+

Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story + Bowser Jr.'s Journey doesn't completely replace the need for the Nintendo DS original Bowser's Inside Story, but also adds enough content and updates to the game that it makes for a nice supplement all the same. Bowser Jr.'s Journey is a disappointment in how "hands off" the experience is, but considering it's an extra mode to a game that would otherwise already be full-featured, it's hard to knock it too much. After all, when you have the excellence that is the 25-30 hour adventure of Bowser's Inside Story, not even Bowser could find too much to complain about... other than some filler and padding in the form of repeated mini-games, of course!

Daemon X Machina (NSW) - B-

Daemon X Machina will most assuredly find its niche with a subset of mech game-loving Nintendo Switch owners. (There are dozens of us!) That said, the game isn't at all beginner-friendly, and will even put off some seasoned gamers as well with its complex controls and systems. For mech lovers, there's nothing like upgrading your Arsenal, prettying it all up, and then taking it out on the battlefield, whether online or off, and shooting and slicing the hell out of enemies on the battlefield. If you liked Armored Core or have any interest in mech games--while also having the patience to learn the ins and outs of its gameplay mechanics--then mecha no mistake--you should play Daemon X Machina.

America's Greatest Game Shows: Wheel of Fortune & Jeopardy! (NSW) - C-

America's Greatest Game Shows: Wheel of Fortune & Jeopardy! do offer a competent version of these two enduring game shows. They're serviceable enough, accessible enough for beginners, and entertaining enough to give some short bursts of game show goodness here and there. It's just a bit of a disappointment that game shows deemed as "America's Greatest" don't have truly great enough video game representations. Because this package certainly isn't.

New Super Lucky's Tale (NSW) - B-

Overall, my happiness that Super Lucky's Tale was brought to the Nintendo Switch didn't diminish through playing the final game. Sure, there were headaches here and there while playing the game to full completion (I'm looking directly at you, marble puzzles), but I had more good times and favorable moments with New Super Lucky's Tale than bad. While I doubt I'll want to return to the game often due to the unskippable story sequences in levels and all of the non-platforming gameplay, I do think pretty highly of the game. That's because ultimately, New Super Lucky's Tale is a solid platformer, a definitive version of Lucky's adventure, and most welcome in any run and jump fan's ever-expanding collection of Switch games.

Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD (NSW, PS4, XB1, PC) - D+

Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD gives me a lot of questions. The top question being: Of all the Super Monkey Ball games that could have been remade, why this particular one? Other questions include: Why does this game exist? Who asked for it? Will SEGA be surprised when this poorly received remaster bombs at retail, and when it does, will SEGA think that means no one wants new games in the series instead of thinking, "Hey, maybe Banana Blitz was a bad game to revive?" Ugh. All of these questions are driving me bananas, so just take your review grade, Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD, and then make like bananas and split.

Meanwhile, New Super Lucky's Tale was a fun if not occasionally frustrating game,
but not because of its platforming, fortunately enough.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

SuperPhillip Central Best of 2019 Awards - Top Ten Games of 2019

With hours left in 2019--at least here in North America--SPC reveals its final list for the SuperPhillip Central Best of 2019 Awards. We have here the Top Ten Games of 2019! There were so many fantastic titles to choose from over the course of the year; so many that some of them I couldn't even find the time to play. You can bet, however, that those games that I did find time to enjoy are securely placed on this list.

These games were the best designed, most fun to play, and gave me the most hours of gaming pleasure this year. There is a wide assortment of genres on display here from a great number of stellar franchises, so let's not waste any more time with me giving a grand spiel. Let's get to the countdown of SuperPhillip Central's Top Ten Games of 2019!

10) Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night (PS4, XB1, NSW, PC)

After some unsatisfactory Kickstarter stories from some prodigious developers failed to delight, it was nice to finally see a success story. Oh, what a success story it was. After some doubt and some worries, Koji Igarashi of Castlevania fame delivered with his team's terrific Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. Designed as Metroidvania and inspired by his own directed classics like Symphony of the Night and Dawn of Sorrow, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night made for a fantastic action exploration platformer that brought a nice challenge, plenty of abilities to unlock and learn, monsters to mash, bosses to beat, and secrets to discover. While the game did not do too much new for the genre, fans and Kickstarter backers weren't really looking for that. They wanted a fresh Castlevania-like game from the man behind some of their favorite titles, and that's exactly what players like me got with Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night.

9) Yoshi's Crafted World (NSW)

Comfort gaming: that's exactly what I consider the Yoshi series. Now, don't get me wrong--I enjoy the original Yoshi's Island greatly, but there are issues with that game that make it for a less than relaxing experience. With Yoshi's Crafted World, the latest featuring Nintendo's adorable green dinosaur, while there were moments in the game that did result in some vexing situations--but those were limited to going for 100% completion--the overall vibe was a calming one. The level design was the highlight for me, offering such clever ways that levels could be designed with everyday objects like sponges for lilypads, egg cartons for platforms, and green paper plates intended as hills for the background. I constantly found myself yearning to see what ideas and concepts the designers at Good Feel would come up with next with regards to levels. A lilypad ride in a bathtub? A jungle expedition to reunite a mother dino with her child? A desert jaunt while being chase by a gigantic skeleton T-Rex? All of these moments made for an excellent platformer that I'm currently playing through again just for the fun of it.

8) The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening (NSW)

The original Link's Awakening stands as one of my favorite 2D entries in The Legend of Zelda franchise, a video game series that seldom disappoints me. This remake, 26 years after the fact, was a sensational one, offering a warm, cozy, and comforting world to explore, despite nearly everything on Koholint Island wanting to maim Link seriously. That said, playing this remake was a dream. Not only were various quality of life improvements included--such as having more buttons to map items to, so trips to the menu and inventory screens were far less frequent--but new content was added in the form of more Secret Seashells and Heart Containers to collect. The dungeon designer was a bit bare bones and not the true "Zelda Maker" many of us have wanted, but the way the game made making dungeons into puzzles themselves was rather skillful of Nintendo. Then, there was the toy-like diorama presentation and wind instruments serving as the soundtrack of the game, all making for a tremendous looking and sounding game. The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening might not completely eliminate the need to play the original Game Boy classic or its Game Boy Color version, but it certainly came close for this writer.

7) Fire Emblem: Three Houses (NSW)

I am not one to partake too much in the Fire Emblem franchise. All in all, I've just played parts of the Game Boy Advance entries that reached North America, as well as have only overall beaten two of the mainline games in the series total: Fire Emblem: Awakening and now Fire Emblem: Three Houses. Featuring three (technically four, but who's counting?) unique story lines based on which of the three houses you align yourself with, Fire Emblem: Three Houses had a surprisingly dark story for the series. Still, what remained unchanged was the tactical RPG goodness that fans keep coming back for time and time again. The abundance of means to customize your characters, ways to interact with them, grow closer with them in and out of battle, and how to overall become a stronger class of students was something that kept me engaged in between the stellar battles that are the strong suit of the series. Wandering about Garreg Mach Monastery between battles could cause some pacing issues at times, but overall, it brought well deserved breaks to unwind and replenish your stock of items, weapons, magic, and more. Fire Emblem: Three Houses also sports one heck of a soundtrack, which I would be eager to purchase if made available. All that cast aside, you have a tactical RPG that delivered in almost every category for every type of fan of the genre in Fire Emblem: Three Houses.

6) Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled (PS4, XB1, NSW)

The original Crash Team Racing was a competent kart racer, but I never really found myself devoted to it. I always found it to be a pale imitation of Diddy Kong Racing, a game I much preferred. However, with Beenox's remake of the game, Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled, I've discovered a newfound love and vested interest in the game and the Crash Bandicoot series as a whole. Beenox could have simply upgraded the visuals and called it a day, but the amount of noticeable, tangible effort they put into the game I can't help but applaud and be enamored with. Old tracks look completely new with the masterful makeovers and new face lifts they have. All of the tracks and characters from Crash Team Racing plus all of the tracks and characters from Crash Nitro Kart-- probably content from a game many players are experiencing for the first time--were included. That's not even to mention all of the new tracks, characters, karts, cosmetics, and more being added on a monthly basis via the addicting Grand Prix events. Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled not only nailed the tight feel of CTR's original controls, but it brought with it a high enough skill ceiling that players can constantly find themselves improving. And you'll want to improve, too, because the game is so rewarding to do so.

5) Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair (PS4, XB1, NSW, PC)

Creativity abounded in the levels of this next game, a 2D platformer mixed with a 3D overworld. This added up to an excellent all-around adventure with Playtonic Games' Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair. Venturing into the overworld of the game, solving environmental puzzles, and using those to access new levels and alternate versions of each level (ones that drastically changed the structure and designs of each) was one of the most ingenious things I've seen implemented into a platformer of this type in a long time. Further, the Impossible Lair was the game's ultimate challenge, and while the implementation proved too challenging for many players unfortunately, the concept was so clever and smart. You took the Bees you collected at the end of each of the game's 40 levels, and then those were your "hits", shielding you from damage. That said, the lair isn't called "impossible" as part of Playtonic's trademark cheeky level of humor. No, it's actually REALLY hard. Most players might not manage it to make it through the 20+ minute ordeal, but for me, it was the journey and not the destination. I enjoyed every minute of going through the game's levels, running, jumping and rolling as the heroic duo of Yooka and Laylee, collecting the well-hidden doodads, and the nabbing the Bees at each level's conclusion. Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair is a highlight of the year for me, and very much scratches that Donkey Kong Country itch many of us have had.

4) Luigi's Mansion 3 (NSW)

After falling out in many Nintendo fans' favor with the unfortunately timed and received Metroid Prime: Federation Force on the Nintendo 3DS, Next Level Games more than proved itself yet again as an excellent developer for Nintendo with its first Nintendo Switch effort, Luigi's Mansion 3. The sheer amount of creativity in the environments and puzzle design were sensational, and each time I completed a floor, I was excited and eager to see what kind of ingenious designs would await me on the next floor of the Last Resort hotel. From veritable jungles to an Egyptian themed pyramid, the level of imagination in the floor designs and concepts were just astonishing to me. Luigi's added helper of Gooigi made puzzles even more clever, and I felt like a genius when I finally stumbled upon a solution after figuratively beating my head against a wall with no luck. Nearly every moment of Luigi's Mansion 3's 10-15 hour ghost-busting campaign filled me with delight, and even its online counterpart, the ScareScraper, gave me plenty of hours of entertainment as well. Busting certainly made me feel good this year with Luigi in his third solo adventure that was Luigi's Mansion 3.

3) Resident Evil 2 (PS4, XB1, PC)

As you can probably tell from the accompanying screenshots, we're moving on from whimsical spooks and scares to downright and outright intense and terrifying scares with Resident Evil 2's incredible remake from early this past year. Striking a perfect balance between keeping things familiar for old fans and making new additions to make for a more modern game, Resident Evil 2 offered one hell of thrill ride. The game nailed its unsettling atmosphere where every encounter was a danger, especially ones pitting Leon and Claire against the immensely intimidating Mr. X, a brilliant new inclusion to the game. From the immaculate visual design, amazing lighting, and excessive detail in the gory goodness of incapacitated enemies, Resident Evil 2 shined brightly in its graphical overhaul as well. Survival horror was remade and re-imagined in a really remarkable way with Resident Evil 2, and it makes me entirely on board with Resident Evil 3's retelling this upcoming April.

2) Super Mario Maker 2 (NSW)

If I gave the Game of the Year awards to the game that took up the most of my time this year, then Super Mario Maker 2 would definitely be it. As that's not how it works, this accessible creation software to make your dream Mario levels will have to settle for runner-up this year. That said, it truly earned its spot, allowing players to easily create Mario levels in one of five game types, including the new Super Mario 3D World type, and in a dozen level themes. The game keeps on giving, too, with new tools to create more crafty and clever creations with the additions of Link, new enemies, and new objects to interact with in levels. The addition of playing levels with friends online, a much requested feature, has only heightened my love for the game. Apart from the new added content, Super Mario Maker 2 also came equipped with Nintendo's own set of levels set up in a story mode, allowing players to enjoy professionally made content as well as get inspiration for their own creations. Super Mario Maker 2 delivered as both a powerful kit of creation tools as well as a solid Mario experience for playing entertaining platforming levels. It's more than deserving of the number two spot of this list.

And SuperPhillip Central's Game of 2019 award goes to...



1) Kingdom Hearts III (PS4, XB1)

Perhaps a big surprise as SuperPhillip Central's pick for Game of the Year 2019, considering that I don't particularly care for the nonsensical story of the series, but Kingdom Hearts III did surprise me with its excellent quality. I loved exploring the more complicated and involved level designs of the Disney worlds--unrivaled in the series by their size, scope, and density, battling tremendous creatures with the multifaceted combat which allowed different approaches to how I wanted to tackle enemies, and I was astounded by just how gorgeous of a game Kingdom Hearts III truly is, even running on just the base PS4 hardware. Moments like sailing an open world sea in the Pirates of the Caribbean world or teaming up with Buzz and Woody to take on the Heartless in the Toy Story Toy Box world hold high in my gaming memories this past year.

I understand that many longtime fans of the series might have felt that the lengthy wait wasn't worth it for Kingdom Hearts III, but for me, as someone who has played bits and pieces of the franchise here and there, I found myself loving nearly every minute of my time with the game. Enough at least to earn the Platinum trophy for Kingdom Hearts III, and eagerly awaiting the DLC coming early in 2020. Like the Attraction Flow attacks, Kingdom Hearts III was a wild ride, and it possessed enough charm, magic, and spectacle to easily keep me engaged from beginning to end.


That's officially a wrap on the SuperPhillip Central Best of 2019 Awards! What did you think? Check out all of the previous lists of this awards show of SPC's with the following links:

~ See you all in 2020! ~

Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD (NSW, PS4, XB1, PC) Review

I hate to end the year review-wise on a negative note, but that's what SuperPhillip Central is doing regardless and regrettably. The review in question? Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD. Let's check out why this entry of the Super Monkey Ball series was the wrong one to revive and remaster with the SPC review.

A remaster that needed more time to ripen

Super Monkey Ball was one of my favorite launch titles for the Nintendo GameCube back in 2001, and its sequel improved on the formula in nearly every way. Ever since, however, Super Monkey Ball games have gone from middling at best to abysmal at worst. Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz was one of those "middling" games, and launched with the Nintendo Wii in 2006. It added motion control movement for guiding one's Monkey Ball around each stage and a jump button. That wasn't all of the unnecessary additions either.

Now, Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD remasters the original Wii game--why of all Super Monkey Ball games SEGA chose this one I'll never understand--but with terribly bad boss battles, little redeeming content, and poor mini-games, the bananas in this blitz are of the rotten variety.

Every world grants you an opportunity to rack up some lives
via a bounty of bananas in these bonus stages.
There are 100 main stages in Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD, and they are divided up between ten worlds. Persistent (see: masochistic) players can opt to try to complete each world without using a continue, but that's pretty much just setting yourself up for punishment by the time the sixth world rolls around. The game loses its motion control steering of the stage to guide your monkey in a ball that was found in the original Banana Blitz, and instead utilizes traditional analog stick movement. This makes it so stages are easier overall to complete in some regards, but many latter levels in the game are rage-inducing in both their lengths and the how precise you have to be with your movements--something made more manageable with the better fine tuning one can do with gyro-based controls.

These levels make yo' monkey wanna... JUMP! JUMP!
The added ability to jump lends itself well to the level design, requiring some quick hops here and there, jumps over gaps, and precision timing. The physics on display here in Banana Blitz HD are just as good as ever, so seldom do you feel you were cheated out of clearing a level because your Monkey Ball didn't bounce the right way. It's generally always user error that results in falling off the course.

What Banana Blitz HD takes away in motion control movement, the game keeps one of the more unsightly and unsavory parts of the game--the end world boss battles. These encounters are maddening to try to stay on the stage, avoiding boss attacks, all the while contending with the camera as you attempt to attack your target's weak spot. Several times I'd find myself losing lives like quarters in a slot machine just because the bosses were so frustrating and infuriating. While the mechanics of the bosses are bad and drove me ballistic, I can say that I did love seeing each design.

The bosses are a low point to a game that I already don't think about too highly.
If you can challenge yourself to push through the 100 stages of the game with persistence and patience, you'll find yourself unlocking content in the form of alternate costumes for the Monkey Ball cast, as well as a not-so-secret unlockable that SEGA made no attempt to hide in its promotional trailers for the game. That would be Sonic the Hedgehog, who is the fastest character in the game and instead of accumulating bananas to acquire 1-Ups, he collects rings.

Aside from the 100 stages in Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD's main mode of play, there are a selection of ten mini-games from the original Banana Blitz's 50 to choose from. However, between guiding a monkey down an assortment of see-saws to gather bananas, snowboarding downhill on an obstacle-ridden track, and whacking moles like you're at Chuck E. Cheese--but without the fun of getting tangible rewards like pencil erasers for doing so--there is not much to be excited about in this collection of mini-games. Even the fan favorite Monkey Target, while returning, is a pale imitation of past installments and fails to provide any long lasting entertainment. If you're looking for any kind of depth to these mini-games, you're going to be sorely disappointed like I was.

Banana Blitz HD's Monkey Target is unfortunately not quite on target when it concerns fun.
Another disappointment I found with Banana Blitz HD was the removal of most of the original soundtrack from the Wii version. This is apparently due to licensing issues, something SEGA seemingly struggles with more than other companies. It's a darn shame, as the music of the original Banana Blitz was one of my favorite parts of the game. Such insanely catchy music that game had. What replaces it is mostly songs taken from other Super Monkey Ball games, and more times than I'd like to hear, the music is ill-fitting for the stages or scenarios it's played in. Though, speaking of catchy music, I must decree that Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD's new vocal theme is an insane earworm and a good one at that.

Someone in charge of infrastructure better get to all of these broken bridges.
Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD gives me a lot of questions. The top question being: Of all the Super Monkey Ball games that could have been remade, why this particular one? Other questions include: Why does this game exist? Who asked for it? Will SEGA be surprised when this poorly received remaster bombs at retail, and when it does, will SEGA think that means no one wants new games in the series instead of thinking, "Hey, maybe Banana Blitz was a bad game to revive?" Ugh. All of these questions are driving me bananas, so just take your review grade, Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD, and then make like bananas and split.

[SPC Says: D+]

Monday, December 30, 2019

SuperPhillip Central Best of 2019 Awards - Top Five Remakes/Remasters

The second awards category on this Monday for the SuperPhillip Central Best of 2019 Awards is for the Best Remake and/or Remaster. There's sometimes annoyance from gamers towards remakes of older games. Some would prefer wholly new experiences as opposed to treading old territory. However, I'm of the opinion that if an older game that would otherwise be stuck on dated hardware gets an even better version, then what's the problem with that? These following remakes are ones that I believe do just that, or at the very least complement the originals well. With that said, here we go with the list of winners for this countdown.

5) MediEvil (PS4)

Kicking off this countdown of the top five remakes and remasters from the past year is MediEvil. Now, MediEvil was a remake through and through, being insanely faithful to its source material. Perhaps too much so in some critics' cases, as there were occasional warts that showed up in the form of a high difficulty and some obtuse puzzle design. This wasn't a game back on the PS1 that held your hand, and in 2019, this remake was not one that did the same either. If you dug the original MediEvil like I did growing up, then you'll definitely find yourself in love with this remake. Again, warts and all.

4) Spyro Reignited Trilogy (NSW, PC)

We move on from one classic from the PS1 era to another with Spyro the Dragon, a little precocious purple fire-breather whose platforming trilogy I greatly prefer to a certain bandicoot's. Be that as it may, the Spyro Reignited Trilogy released on both PlayStation 4 and Xbox One last year, and it wasn't until this past September that all three remade games saw their journey to the Nintendo Switch and PC. The latter of which is more than enough of a reason to put the games on this list, as the PC version was fantastic and looked absolutely jaw-dropping and gorgeous if on the right settings. Don't worry, Switch fans, the Spyro Reignited Trilogy also looked great for that hardware as well, especially being able to play all three games on the go. Both new versions amount to this remade trilogy reaching the fourth spot on this list.

3) The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening (NSW)

My return trip to Koholint Island was one that brought me faint memories of playing the original Link's Awakening as a child, being bewildered by bosses and puzzles inside the eight dungeons of the game. However, back then I had my trusty Nintendo Power to guide me through. This time around, despite The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening being completely remade on the Switch and having Koholint Island look like a totally different--albeit just as cozy--place, my memories from my youth came flooding back like waves of nostalgia. Even then, the new content made it so my adventure wasn't a predictable one. Koholint Island had never looked better with its warm, fuzzy, toy-like appearance, and the new arrangements of old classic tunes made for a game that I will happily return to for the rest of my gaming years. The original Link's Awakening gave me plenty of happy memories as a child. The Switch remake has already given me even more to enjoy as an adult.

2) Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled (PS4, XB1, NSW, PC)

What can I say about Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled that I haven't already? Well, I'm going to have to think up some things, not just for its placement on this list, but also for a later category as well. Crash Team Racing's remake saw Beenox put so much effort into the game. Familiar locales and tracks were completely made over with a fabulous brand-new look that if one didn't recognize the layouts, they might not even recognize the tracks at all! Not only were the CTR original tracks and characters included, but so were those from Crash Nitro Kart. Couple this with a meaty amount of modes, as well as the continued monthly sequences of Grand Prix events, and you have a game that delivered for fans thirsty for incredible kart racing action featuring characters other than those from the Mushroom Kingdom.

1) Resident Evil 2 (PS4, XB1, PC)

Utterly terrifying as a game in both scare factor and quality, Resident Evil 2 marked Capcom's continued rise in prominence this generation after having faltered quite a bit last gen. There is a fine line when remaking a game. Change too little and you've done the bare minimum. Change too much and you might ruin what made the original special. Capcom nailed the balance perfectly, offering a remake in Resident Evil 2 that satisfied both new players and fans familiar with the PS1 original game. This substantially "gore-geous" game brought a more serious story and tone, offering truly intense and emotional moments. Then, there was the tried and true gameplay that changed the perspective to a third-person over-the-shoulder one which worked flawlessly, as did needing to watch your limited ammo and manage your meager amount of inventory space. Dealing with zombies--a once benign threat--now turned into scenarios where every encounter with the undead was a dangerous one. And that's nothing to say about the newly added threat introduced halfway through the first section of the game. Resident Evil 2 delivered in every way one could imagine, making it the best remake of 2019.