Monday, June 1, 2020

Super Mega Baseball 3 (PS4, XB1, NSW, PC) Review

Fresh off the heels of last month's Review Round-Up, SuperPhillip Central has the first review of June for you. It's for the third installment of a fantastic baseball series that strikes a nice balance between sim and arcade sports game. It's Super Mega Baseball 3 from Metalhead. Here's my review, which is based off of the PlayStation 4 version of the game.

When you can't take yourself out to the ballgame, stay in and let the ballgame come to you.

Major League Baseball has been postponed from its April season debut to at least July, and there's plenty of disappointed baseballs fans out there feeling the pain of the current missed season. Thankfully, video games come in when real life sports are unable to be played. PlayStation's MLB The Show continually does well for itself on an annual basis, but that's far from the lone quality baseball game series on the diamond. Metalhead's Super Mega Baseball series sees its third installment walk up to the batter's box. Does it strike out or score a grand slam?

Super Mega Baseball 3 returns with a lot of familiarity with its accessible sim-like approach, but an approach that doesn't get nearly as involved or as complicated as Sony's MLB The Show series. This is a great thing for a rookie to the sport like myself who just knows the basics of baseball and little else. That said, there's still more than enough depth here to keep the most hardened of baseball fanatics enjoying the game.

Metalhead's third offering for the series brings with it the return of the Mojo system, where as individual teammates do well, their abilities and performance in the game will increase. Meanwhile, players who continually strike out or otherwise play poorly will find themselves tensing up more on the field, dropping easily-made catches, among other relatively unforced errors. The game also has a fitness system, which starts at Fit and goes down from there. Generally, pushing a particular player more than required will result in them becoming more susceptible to an injury, such as performing frivolous dives for errant baseballs.

Super Mega Baseball 3 brings with it a brilliant balance of accessible fun
and simulation-like qualities to make for one terrific game of baseball.
Alongside the Mojo system making its grand return, so does the Ego system, where you can set an Ego number from 1 to 99 to determine how difficult your Super Mega Baseball 3 experience will be. Like past games, you can either set a number for the entirety of the experience or set an Ego number for individual categories, such as making pitching and batting easier or more challenging on you, the player. To get back into the swing of things, I found myself starting at the easiest of Ego numbers, 1, which saw me effortlessly wiping out my AI opponents with endgame scores that looked more like an football game than a baseball one. I finally found the right balance for me where the AI gave me a run for my money (and some genuine soul-crushing losses here and there).

Pitching, batting, and fielding are relatively unchanged from Super Mega Baseball 2. With pitching, you target a spot and when a type of pitch is made, you try to aim the cursor as close that targeted spot as possible within a strict amount of time so your pitch isn't off the mark, or worse off, an easy pitch for the batter to knock a multi-run ding-dong from. A key difference here in Super Mega Baseball 3 is the addition of being able to step off the pitcher's mound to pick off potential base stealers. When batting, you can either perform a normal swing or a contact swing that requires you to hold down the leftmost face button with proper timing and a required increased level of precision to successfully hit the ball.

No matter where you are on or off the diamond, Super Mega Baseball 3 delivers.
Base-running has been improved since Super Mega Baseball 2, offering both simple controls to send every runner forward and backward by holding down one set of shoulder buttons, as well as individual base running. Both old school "retro-style" base-running controls, where a shoulder button and a D-Pad direction corresponding to the base you want a runner to rush to, and traditional controls are available. Like base-running, stealing is as easy as pressing the D-Pad to the corresponding base you want to attempt to steal. It took a few innings to get the controls situated in my head, but once I was returned to a state of being accustomed to them, I was playing baseball like I belonged in the majors.

The most anticipated and advertised feature to Super Mega Baseball 3 is the addition of a Franchise mode. In this mode, you take a team through at minimum a 16-game season. Unlike Season mode, Franchise mode is meant to be played multiple seasons, and as seasons end, players grow older (thus losing their youthful playing abilities and are more susceptible to injuries), some retire, while others become free agents. It's during the off-season where big moves can be made--signing new players to fill in gaps left by players that retire or otherwise vamoose from your ball club, and formulating a winning lineup to hopefully go for the championship next season.

Even during the regular season there are ample opportunities to develop your players--for a price, of course--giving them new traits and temporary stat increases and decreases. While one developmental opportunity may strengthen one's batting capabilities, it might also weaken their ability to make proper contact with the ball. Traits are a new component to the Super Mega Baseball series, offering conditional abilities at given times during ballgames. For example, an RBI Dud negative trait will more likely result in that player leaving their teammate stranded on base, while the Tough Out positive trait will allow a batter with two strikes to stay in the batter's box longer, doing a war of attrition with foul balls.

The crowd is ready for this batter to give them something to celebrate.
Each mode, including Franchise, comes in two varieties: Standard and Custom. With the latter, you can freely simulate games, edit stats of your entire team, decide on how many innings each game is, how many games are played, and so forth, whereas with Standard rules, you're locked into playing the entirety of the season with little wiggle room for customization. Apart from Franchise, there is the Season mode, Exhibition for casual games, Pennant Chase for online players to compete against one another, and the round robin-style Elimination mode.

Speaking of which, the customization options go deep in Super Mega Baseball 3, allowing you to create your own team, logo, roster of players, uniforms, and much more. Every facet of your custom team can be tinkered with to your delight.

If I had to consider a controversial point to Super Mega Baseball 3, that would easily be its asking price. Past games in the series had a price point of around $20 or so, while Super Mega Baseball 3 has a $45 price tag to it. Quite the hefty upheaval of price. Whether it's worth the newfound asking price really has to do with how much you consider the major new addition of the Franchise mode to be. You'll definitely get a lot of play time out of Franchise mode, especially if you're one to enjoy tracking stats, changing up your lineup, increasing your players' abilities, and attempting to build your own multi-season-winning dynasty. Thus, for me, Super Mega Baseball 3 is something I can easily see worth its jump in price compared to previous SMB installments, and I'm a passing fan of stuff like that.

...And that's the game with a sensational walk-off home run!
The Super Mega Baseball series is known for both its entertaining and accessible gameplay, and now Super Mega Baseball 3 further hammers this point home like a long, powerful drive over the center field wall. It makes even finagling with team budgets, lineups, and free agency--stuff that I found difficult to wrap my head around in more sim-like games--to be incredibly approachable and dare I say, fun. While the high cost of entry robs the game from being a complete grand slam, as it might be a barrier of entry for some prospective players, the welcoming gameplay and robust lineup of modes gives Super Mega Baseball 3 the walk-off home run all the same.

[SPC Says: B+]

Metalhead provided a code for the purpose of this review.

Review Round-Up - May 2020

Some might say the remake of Trials of Mana leaned too closely to the original for their liking,
but I loved nearly every minute I played of this wonderful remake!
SuperPhillip Central finished off the last full month of spring in style with four reviews this past month. It's once again time for the Review Round-Up! Beginning with the incredible remake of Trials of Mana (earning a B+), which also is SPC's Game of the Month for May 2020, it was a month of games from various genres, all mostly enjoyable.

From Trials, we went full indie with games such as Team Reptile's superb "Smash Bros-style gameplay meets Custom Robo-style customization" with Megabyte Punch, which scored a B-. We then went from destroying robots to destroying our bikes (though unintentionally) with the fantastic, zen-like Lonely Mountains: Downhill, getting a B+ for its tremendous effort. Finally, despite my love of mini-golf (which perhaps is why it was all the more disappointing for me), Golf With Your Friends failed to deliver a competent putt-putt experience, coming out well over par in the end with a D+ grade.

As usual at the end of these Review Round-Ups since the end of last year, I have excerpts from all four reviews posted last month as well as a reminder to check out the SPC Review Archive for every review ever published on SuperPhillip Central.

Trials of Mana (NSW, PS4, PC) - B+
...Trials of Mana doesn't delve too far away from what made the original game memorable and beloved. While Final Fantasy VII Remake offered a bold new change to its original work and brought with it much more complexity, Trials of Mana offers a soothing and refreshing bit of familiarity. There's a fine sense of simplicity here, whether it's in the combat, the brisk pacing of the game, or the story--which might make it a bit too faithful to the original for some players. While Trials of Mana is not a remake that reinvents the wheel, for me, it successfully does what it sets out to do in recreating what was once a lost game from the Super Famicom era into a more modern and enjoyable game, warts and all. Just play on the Hard difficulty if you want something resembling a steadier challenge.
Megabyte Punch (NSW) - B-
Megabyte Punch isn't a particularly lengthy game, but that all depends on one's skill level and--with certain boss battles--luck. However, a plethora of parts and color combinations to collect, as well local multiplayer with bots or other players means that there is enough bot-bashing goodness to enjoy for at least a fair amount of hours. The lack of online hurts the chances of the game having a lasting impact in my Switch's library, but at the same token, I'm quite pleased to have finally played Megabyte Punch.
Lonely Mountains: Downill (NSW) - B+
Lonely Mountains: Downhill comes complete with dozens of in-game achievements, countless unlockables, and plenty of hidden areas on mountains to explore. You'll discover a lot to do in the game and on the mountains themselves. Sure, you'll have to deal with the occasional, unruly, inconvenient--dare I say--"rocky" hitching of the frame-rate, which turned some prospective runs into violent ends for my rider, but overall, Lonely Mountains: Downhill is a smooth enough ride. So, take the plunge, hop on your bike, blaze a trail, and get riding with Lonely Mountains: Downhill.
Golf With Your Friends (NSW, PS4, XB1) - D+
And, really, that's what word Golf With Your Friends can be summed up with: "frustrating". Whether it's the overly lengthy and overly designed holes that test your patience with the "everything and the kitchen sink" approach they have, to the often unpredictable physics and bugs rampant within the game. The concept of Golf With Your Friends is an immensely creative one, but the execution leaves a lot to be desired. With more players putting at once, I can see the uncontrolled chaos of the game being more tolerable--after all it is Golf With Your Friends (plural) and not Golf With Your Friend (singular), but no amount of customization, cheery skins, hats, and trails for one's golf balls, or whimsical course designs will suddenly make a game fun if the base foundation is one that is shoddy. Unfortunately, Golf With Your Friends' round of golf is one that is disappointingly over par.
A trio of indie games also joined Trials of Mana to round out the rest of the reviews
posted in May on SuperPhillip Central.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Shantae and the Seven Sirens (NSW, PS4, XB1, PC) Launch Trailer

Shantae returns in a brand new adventure, bringing back the Metroidvania-style formula for this installment with Shantae and the Seven Sirens. The game launches today on all modern platforms. Between the luscious-looking visuals and the non-stop action the trailer delivers, there's a lot to like about Shantae and the Seven Sirens.

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered Edition (NSW, PS4, iOS, AND) Release Date Trailer

After a delay or two, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered Edition finally has a firm release date of August 27th. Play online with up to three other players via cross-play across all platforms, customize your characters like never before, and explore new dungeons and battle new bosses. I'm eager to engage with this stellar and enjoyable Final Fantasy spin-off once more.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Welcome to the World of Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition (NSW) Trailer

With two days to go until the game's release, Nintendo has provided us with another glimpse at Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition. This time the focus is on the world, featuring multiple particular points of interests and major locations within the game, such Colony 9 and Gaur Plain. Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition launches on Nintendo Switch this Friday, May 29th.

Friday, May 22, 2020

The "Worst" Things About SuperPhillip Central's Favorite Games V

They may be some of my favorite games released over the past few years, but that doesn't absolve them from having some of their own issues! Welcome to the fifth installment of an article series where I take a gander at the worst things about games that I really love. Some of these are big problems that hurt the overall experience while some could be categorized as nitpicks in general. Some might even be problems I have with games that supersede the more common problems other games have! Whatever the case may be, it's time to be a more discerning player, and pick out the problems I have with these five favorites of mine!

For previous installments of this article series, look no further than these four links:

Volume One
Volume Two
Volume Three
Volume Four

Animal Crossing: New Horizons (NSW)

We begin with a game that I absolutely adore and continue to adore--Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Since its launch on March 20th, I've yet to miss a day of playing, planning out my island, chatting with the locals, digging up fossils, shaking trees, building up my bank account, etc. With a little over two months of play now, I've amassed a list of negatives about the game, such as tools breaking, no ability to mass craft items, or the problems with sharing an island with more than one player.

That said, the thing that I consider the worst about Animal Crossing: New Horizons, at least in how it affects me as a player to the game, is the online. Between countless communication errors I faced, interference when attempting to travel to another island, to the ever-so-slow and tedious takeoff and landing procedures, hopping online can be a serious pain. This is compounded when having multiple people visit your island or you visit theirs. With up to seven other players able to visit one's island, the constant start and stop interruptions and waiting make it so I dread hopping online.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (NSW)

There's no doubt in my mind that Masahiro Sakurai and company weren't joking when giving the latest Super Smash Bros. the "Ultimate" subtitle. It has almost everything a Smash fan could like for a fantastic installment--worthwhile single player content, meaty modes, all of the characters and most of the stages from past games, and plenty to see and do. While most would go after the low-hanging fruit of the game--the horrid online net code--and they would be more than within their right to do so, my pick for the worst thing about Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is something far more trivial in the grand scheme of things.

While Spirits allow for more franchise representation with Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, it still pains me that there is an absence of trophies. Now, for most players, poor, sometimes broken net code would be much more important than the lack of trophies detailing characters and providing brief snippets of information about their pasts, but for me, online isn't something I'm really interested in. It's part of the reason I rated the game so highly two years ago, despite the lackluster online. Meanwhile, for me, trophies being gone was something that hurt my experience, even with understanding the reason for their removal and appreciating their replacement, Spirits.

Super Mario Maker 2 (NSW)

We reach the midway point of "The Worst Things About SuperPhillip Central's Favorite Games V" with Super Mario Maker 2, a game that I loved so much last year that it received runner-up for Game of the Year at the SPC Best of 2019 Awards. One of the reasons it didn't quite reach Game of the Year status was the shoddy online multiplayer, which has since been fixed. However, a far greater problem has yet to be resolved with Super Mario Maker 2.

This is the discovery of good levels. As anyone can tell you, it's nigh impossible to reliable find high quality levels within Super Mario Maker 2 itself. Instead, players have to resort to outside the game, such as Reddit and gaming forums, to discover levels that they can enjoy. There is a lot of poorly conceived, slopped-together levels created by players in the game, so searching for great ones is like trying to find a needle in a haystack, or in my case, a creative analogy in a sea of cliched ones.

What alleviated a lot of the burden in Super Mario Maker 2's predecessor, the Wii U original Mario Maker, was the Super Mario Maker Bookmark website. This allowed easy access to searching for levels, picking prospective levels you wanted to play, "bookmarking" them to play them later, and was just a godsend for discovering great levels. Once again, it is just amazingly bad in how Nintendo took yet another step backwards with regards to its online system for one of its games. The lack of a Bookmark website for Super Mario Maker 2 really hurt the online community, and it continues to do so to this day.

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

We move on from Mario to Crash Bandicoot, and between Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled, it's a heated contest as to which is superior. There's no question in my mind that for solo players, CTR is far better with its amazing Adventure mode, abundance of tracks, Grand Prix events, and other single player content. However, when it comes to other categories, I'd rate Mario Kart 8 Deluxe higher.

One such category is accessibility, and this is what I consider the worst part of Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled. In Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, it's relatively easy for a new player to pick up and play the game with its easy-to-learn drift system and optional steer assist and auto-acceleration tools. It's far more approachable than CTR, which suffers from a gulf in skills between players just starting to veteran players.

CTR features a three button press drift system that grants you a greater boost for successful and successive taps of the boost button during a drift. This can result in massive gains of speed and even more massive leads for players that achieve so-called "Sacred Fire" and its even more powerful version, "Ultra Sacred Fire", where you essentially have a tremendous amount of boost energy in reserve to help you continually boost entire laps and races if performed correctly.

There's such a disparity between new players and even somewhat competent players like myself that trying to play with friends locally found them growing bored with CTR immediately. They wanted something more fun and easier to pick up and play, which I can attest that Nitro-Fueled is not that simple for pick up and play sessions. We eventually moved on to Mario Kart after a short while, and yes, as you can imagine, my friends enjoyed themselves more. Now, that doesn't mean that Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled is a lesser game. After all, I've professed its greatness on SuperPhillip Central multiple times already as it is. It just has a high learning curve, which it makes it difficult to bring new players into immediately.

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

Our final game today is another colorful title: Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair. Imagine if you will: playing through 95% of the game, enjoying yourself like mad, collecting all that there is to collect in each of the game's well designed levels, bashing baddies, exploring the wonderfully creative 3D overworld, and just making progress like crazy. And then all of a sudden the difficulty jumps to such an insane level that all that progress is stopped as if you crashed into a wall. All that momentum and fun gone. That level, my friends, is the titular Impossible Lair.

The Impossible Lair can be challenged at any time in the game. In fact, it's the first level you play, and you're meant to fail it. (Though it is, in fact, possible to clear that first time!) As you advance through the overworld of the game, discover levels, and beat said levels, you acquire Bees that you can take with you into the lair, serving as extra hits you can take. Now, this is a fiendishly difficult final challenge, and it greatly ups the difficulty level immensely compared to everything else in the game.

I can only imagine how frustrating it was for players of the latest Yooka-Laylee to find their runs through the game and subsequent enjoyment of the game stopped to a dead halt due to being unable to complete this ultimate test of platforming. Even with a full supply of Bees and the new addition of checkpoints, the Impossible Lair is tough! I don't blame players for being a bit salty for being unable to see the game through to completion, as it would make me annoyed. I know for a fact that despite multiple runs ending in abject failure, I finally persevered and felt immensely proud of myself for beating this ultimate challenge. Some players won't have the patience to continue to play this 15 minute+ level after failing again and again, and that's totally understandable. For those that do, however, they'll find a hefty sense of accomplishment for doing so--take it from me.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

The Wonderful 101: Remastered (NSW, PS4, XB1, PC) Launch Trailer

Unite with the power of teamwork to take on foes of all shapes and sizes in The Wonderful 101: Remastered, now available on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC! Formerly a Wii U exclusive, it's no question that's it's great (dare I say, wonderful?) that a bigger audience for the game is now possible. Meanwhile, the retail version of The Wonderful 101: Remastered arrives in stores on June 30th.

Golf With Your Friends (NSW, PS4, XB1) Review

FOOOOOORE! It's time to "putt" my effort into another new review on SuperPhillip Central, and it's for a new release today--the immensely creative Golf With Your Friends. This isn't your daddy's typical game of miniature golf, for that you can be certain. Perhaps that isn't the best thing, as you can judge from my review. Golf With Your Friends launches today on Nintendo Switch (which is the platform this review is based on), PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

"Putt" your putting skills (and your patience) to the test.

Mini golf seems like such a simple form of golf to put to video game form, but we've seen plenty of times where something gets lost in the transition between reality and fantasy. Some mini golf games like Infinite Mini-Golf, for instance, make the leap from real-life mini golf to its video game interpretation well enough with a solid execution. Then, there are games like Golf With Your Friends. While Golf With Your Friends shows a delightful abundance of creativity within its game modes and course designs, the actual execution is something that the developers might have wished to take a mulligan on.

Golf With Your Friends allows you to fully customize your round of putt-putt to your liking, allowing you to save a template for future rounds on the miniature links. You can select your course, the round type, and also tinker and fiddle with options like the timer, stroke penalties, and so much more. There's a bevy of things to mess around with to attempt to make rounds enjoyable enough to keep you and your friends coming back for more. This continues with all of the unlockable content within the game, such as cute hats for your golf balls to wear and colorful trails that appear behind your putted balls.

Ah, the classic windmill miniature golf hole... A mini golf game gets puts into
gaming jail if it doesn't have one of these included in it.
But, then you begin playing rounds on courses and frustration and tedium set in. Courses themselves are colorful and intricately designed, but even on the first course, a so-called beginner forest course, the par requirements are absolutely ridiculous. These are holes where one honest mistake will send you not only bogeying or worse quite easily but also cursing the mini golf gods due to how many ample opportunities there are to go out of bounds. Holes feature unique gimmicks, but so many of these are more obnoxious in practice and execution than actually enjoyable.

This isn't even talking about times where I'd land outside of a hole's boundaries, yet the game would still consider my lie playable, making it impossible to continue the hole without a huge stroke penalty or completely needing to forfeit the hole. This happened more than once, and more than once is more than what is acceptable to me. One time I got caught inside a bundle of logs on the last hole of the forest course, ruining what was: A) an attempt for an under-par round, and B) a good time that I was previously having. Unfortunate.

With ample opportunities to fall out of bounds, courses can be quite frustrating at times!
Holes, too, especially when you get to courses like the Haunted theme, just become way too extravagant and long for their own good. These are holes that Par 5's should have been made Par 10's at the minimum, because again, one mistake and you might as well write off the hole completely. You might say, "Phil, there are no such things as Par 5 holes in miniature golf." My reply would be, "There are also no gigantic holes with ghosts parading around or getting your ball glitched in the geometry in miniature golf either." This is after all putt-putt in a fantastical setting, so the traditional rules can very much be flexible.

The creativity on display in the course design is incredible,
but to play on some of these courses isn't so wonderful.
Worse for Golf With Your Friends is that the physics are sloppy and inconsistent at times, something I've noticed that wasn't in the original PC release when the game initially launched in Early Access on Steam. I've had my ball bounce oddly and in inaccurate ways, and have it bank off walls and slopes in manners that made me go, "What the heck!" at what I was seeing.

Golf With Your Friends has online play for up to 12 players (but I was only able to try it out with two other players at once online, so I can only imagine how chaotic it is with more players) that occurs in real time. All players putt and play at the same time, and in Party Mode, they can use special power-ups that can help themselves or hinder other players, such as leaving behind a trail of honey to slow their competitor's ball's roll--literally! Hopefully there's an active online community for Golf With Your Friends, as I can imagine the insanity of rounds (both intentional and unintentional) to be more fun with a larger amount of players.

Meanwhile, with local play, that's a bit messier. When I played locally with a friend, my turn was over before my ball could even get to a standstill sometimes (usually when it would continuously get hit around by on-course hazards like pendulums or whatnot), so when it was finally my turn again to putt, I would pray to those aforementioned mini golf gods that my ball was at a playable place.

Aside from "traditional" mini golf and the item-filled Party Mode, Golf With Your Friends supports other golfing modes including the "fun concept, not so fun in execution" basketball-like Dunk mode, where after you putt the ball, you can hit a button to make it jump, allowing you access to new shortcuts and an attempt to swish your golf ball into the hoop. In the personally more entertaining Hockey mode, your ball is replaced with a disc-shaped puck, slipping and sliding around with the objective to make it past automated goalies and into a wide net. I had the most fun with Hockey, but that also might have had to do with the course my friend and I played our round on.

Speaking of courses in general, there are about a dozen different themed courses to play on, taking place in a multitude of locales, such as desert oases, gravity-defying space stations, and pirate ships. Again, the creativity in the hole and course designs is ever apparent, but also again, the holes are over-designed with too many annoying gimmicks and such a small window of success that it will make competitive players rue the day they ever placed their golf balls on these courses' greens.

"Feed me, Seymour! Feed me!"
Fortunately, setting up shots and putting is a breeze in Golf With Your Friends, so at least this part of the game is super satisfying. You aim the ball with the right analog stick while setting up the power of your shot by pushing forward and backward on the left stick. With the leftmost face button you can enter a free camera mode, where you are able to move the camera around to get a quick overview of the hole. I say "quick" because this free camera mode is timed. You only get a brisk 15 seconds total of free camera mode time to work with, and on some later courses, it can be a challenge to even find the darn flag with how complicated and convoluted holes become. Additionally, free camera mode isn't perfect because the camera can get caught on hole geometry, costing you precious seconds of time with the mode. Frustrating, indeed.

It looks like a calm course, but when you get multiple players putting at once
with power-ups on, a calm course becomes crazy and chaotic in a hurry!
And, really, that's what word Golf With Your Friends can be summed up with: "frustrating". Whether it's the overly lengthy and overly designed holes that test your patience with the "everything and the kitchen sink" approach they have, to the often unpredictable physics and bugs rampant within the game. The concept of Golf With Your Friends is an immensely creative one, but the execution leaves a lot to be desired. With more players putting at once, I can see the uncontrolled chaos of the game being more tolerable--after all it is Golf With Your Friends (plural) and not Golf With Your Friend (singular), but no amount of customization, cheery skins, hats, and trails for one's golf balls, or whimsical course designs will suddenly make a game fun if the base foundation is one that is shoddy. Unfortunately, Golf With Your Friends' round of golf is one that is disappointingly over par.

[SPC Says: D+]

Team17 provided a code for the purpose of this review.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Lonely Mountains: Downhill (NSW) Review

Coming off Saturday night's review of a 2013 game that just launched on the Nintendo Switch with Megabyte Punch, we have a game that released as recently as last year on other platforms but is now available on the Switch. It's Lonely Mountains: Downhill. Let's go for a ride together with my review.

It's lonely at the top, so ride down to the bottom of the mountain!

In Lonely Mountains: Downhill, it's a solitary experience--just you and the mountain to keep you company, with all of its twists, turns, hazards, and cliffs to concern yourself with (or break your bones on). Starting off, you have but one mountain, one trail, and one bike available to you, and progression is a bit slow, especially with bikes. However, as you complete trails and challenges, more content opens up and you have a pick of each peak, so to speak.

There are four main mountains in the game, each possessing four trails, and each has its own feel and essential personality to them as well. The initial mountain is a breezy, leisurely summer forest while the second mountain is of an autumnal flair, offering a myriad of trees to avoid, shallow streams to wade your bike through on occasion, and cliff face jumps to make.

Admire the scenery all you like during a free run. Just be sure not to crash into it!
The flow of Lonely Mountains: Downhill has you doing what is basically a trial run down a trail with no time limit and the ability to freely explore at your leisure. You can crash as many times as you like, but each crash will send you back to your most recently passed checkpoint. After the trial run is complete, a beginner set of challenges becomes unlocked. When enough of those have been completed, expert challenges for the same trial unlock. For the most seasoned daredevils out there, each trail's trials ends with a difficult, sweat-inducing, pulse-pounding ride down the mountain without the help of checkpoints. One crash means you have to start over from the top of the trail.

The challenges in Lonely Mountains: Downhill will test your mettle as a rider, offering time challenges where you need to complete your run within a given duration of time as well as runs where you have to finish the run with as few crashes as possible. You can take on these challenges separately or if you're bold enough, knock them out simultaneously in one run. In fact, there are some challenges where you have to beat a set time with a minimum amount of crashes, so with these, only the hardest of the hardcore bike riders need apply.

The rugged terrain of the third mountain places riders in a desert canyon.
Completing challenges unlocks new trails, new mountains, new color schemes for your rider and bike, and bike parts that can be spent to purchase new bikes. Like I mentioned earlier, unlocking new bikes is a slow, gradual process, and each bike itself has its own advantages and disadvantages. Some are well-rounded like the bike you begin with, while others sacrifice speed for being able to take the impact of larger jumps without the worry of bailing as easily.

Lonely Mountains: Downhill is quite the challenging game, but that's not in part due to the controls, which come in two varieties. One has you move the analog stick left and right to turn in relation which direction your bike is facing, while the other, the one I stuck with, uses full 360 movement of the analog stick to control your bike. The controls are otherwise simple, using ZR to pedal, ZL to brake, and the A button to sprint, as long as there is enough energy in your rider's sprint meter.

Where Lonely Mountains: Downhill falls short is with regard to the camera. Generally, it behaves well, offering a full view of incoming terrain and obstacles ahead of you so you have plenty of time to react. Other times, however, level geometry in the form of objects or walls block the view of your rider, making it quite difficult to judge where you are in relation to hazards. Further, sometimes I found myself missing my planned route and particularly precarious jumps due to depth perception issues that occasionally pop up and plague otherwise stellar runs I was having.

The timer only records successful sections of runs, so if you crash, the timer will revert back to its previous time from the last checkpoint you reached. This is a godsend for beating certain time trials.
Still, Lonely Mountains: Downhill provided me with a lot of enjoyment, and I see it continuing. It's a blast to find new shortcuts to shave seconds off a segment of a run between checkpoints, such as cutting through a patch of grass otherwise surrounded by hazards in the form of trees and rocks. It's this risk versus reward concept that all great games have, and Lonely Mountains: Downhill has it in spades to keep you engaged and improving your runs on trails. I found myself testing the limits of each bike I unlocked, occasionally going nuts and seeing if I could survive a steep drop and make it unscathed, thus completing a makeshift shortcut in style. Other times, I cursed at my rider for falling off a cliff to their doom--through no fault of theirs but through player error, of course.

Some shortcuts are easier than others. This particular one is quite the arduous one to pull off!
Lonely Mountains: Downhill comes complete with dozens of in-game achievements, countless unlockables, and plenty of hidden areas on mountains to explore. You'll discover a lot to do in the game and on the mountains themselves. Sure, you'll have to deal with the occasional, unruly, inconvenient--dare I say--"rocky" hitching of the frame-rate, which turned some prospective runs into violent ends for my rider, but overall, Lonely Mountains: Downhill is a smooth enough ride. So, take the plunge, hop on your bike, blaze a trail, and get riding with Lonely Mountains: Downhill.

[SPC Says: B+]

Thunderful Games provided a code for the purpose of this review.

Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics (NSW) Overview Trailer

Nintendo gets into the nitty gritty of the games and features inside the upcoming June 5th release Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics, the successor to the oft-forgotten (but oh-so-wonderfully-fun) Nintendo DS original. This trailer gives a basic overview of each of the 51 games included in the collection, as well as info on local and online play. Check it out, gang!

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Megabyte Punch (NSW) Review

Let's conclude this week of exciting SuperPhillip Central content with a second review for this month. It's a game that takes two things I love: Super Smash Bros. and customizable robots, and mashes them together for one explosive and awesome end result. It's Team Reptile's Megabyte Punch, and it's now available on the Nintendo Switch! Let's check it out with my review!

Custom Smash-bo

I had my eye on Team Reptile's Megabyte Punch ever since it released on PC more than a half-decade ago. The game takes two familiar enough concepts and mixes them into one interesting and overall engaging game. With gameplay akin to Nintendo's stellar Super Smash Bros. series as well as loosely borrowing the idea of equipping unique robot parts a la Custom Robo, Megabyte Punch is an 2.5D action platformer that has as much bark as it does "byte".

There are three main modes to Megabyte Punch: Adventure, Tournament, and Battle. The latter plays out similarly to battles from the Super Smash Bros. series, where the goal is to rack up damage on your opponents, and do this enough so they become more easily knocked off the screen, thus eliminating them. Meanwhile, Tournament gives you ten AI opponents to take on with brief pauses in between, and completing this mode unlocks new, exclusive parts unavailable in any other portion of the game.

Construct your custom robot creation and engage in battle!
The savory meat and potatoes of Megabyte Punch, at least for me, was Adventure. Here, you follow along with a mostly filler plot that failed to be too terribly engaging, but I was compelled to continue despite this. That's because Megabyte Punch's main gameplay hook is at its brightest in Adventure.

That hook is the ability to equip parts that are sometimes dropped from defeated enemies and bosses. You can equip six parts at a time, one for each section of your custom robo...t killing machine. Different parts bestow different abilities. Some make your attacks stronger by one point, some make you move with greater agility, while others provide you with various new attacks when they're equipped. Such attacks can be mapped in tried and true Smash Bros. fashion to an analog stick direction in combination with the special attack input. Thus, up to three attacks can be equipped at once to your robot (up + Y, down + Y, and side + Y).

Adventure's hub is this robotic village where all of the levels are interconnected.
This windmill structure serves as a shop, offering parts that can be purchased with bits found in levels.
As you can imagine, it's not just a question of form in Megabyte Punch with customizing your robot, but also function. Finding the right combination to suit a player's particular play style is something that I foresee a lot of the creative and customization-loving types digging deep into and enjoying. I most certainly did. Sometimes you'll want to change things up and swap in and out parts to fit the combat or exploration scenario at hand, and this is quite easy thanks to the ability to save multiple builds.

Playing through Adventure takes you through six worlds of three stages each, followed by a boss. The boss battles are generally one-on-one showdowns which start out simple enough. While the AI is quite crafty, you usually have more lives than the boss at the beginning. However, as you face later bosses, the live advantage is eliminated, and you must fight on steadier footing. Bosses can be real pieces of work and were the most frustrating part of Megabyte Punch's campaign. The way that my attacks seemingly failed to connect at times while the bosses' attacks seemingly never strayed away from hitting me was quite aggravating overall. It doesn't help that if you lose all of your lives, you're put back at your home base, forced to make the long, annoying, shameful trek back to the boss's lair all over again instead of being able to just hit a "retry" prompt.

One of the many bosses your robo will battle in Megabyte Punch's Adventure mode.
The stages in Megabyte Punch's Adventure mode offer a solid sense of reward for exploration, whether it's going off the beaten path to find a treasure chest in gold (a special part) or silver (currency) varieties, or discovering rare one-time color pods that allow you to alter the skin of your robot. These are hidden in the most creative and dastardly of locations within the game. There are abundance of paths in levels to take a lot of the time, and checkpoints are commonplace. These occur after what I like to call "battle rooms"--zones where you're locked inside a space and must defeat all spawning enemies before you can escape--are completed.

That said, also following the Smash Bros. route, Megabyte Punch's platforming feels rather floaty and loose. Not exactly the best combination to be found when you're at times having to make precision-focused jumps through tight, dangerous expanses. It's sort of why Smash Bros. stopped focusing on platforming-heavy gameplay and kept its focus more on the sensational, chaotic combat fans love about the franchise. Regardless, despite the light weight of the platforming, I still found myself eager to explore every which corner of Megabyte Punch's Adventure's expansive stages, even with the frustrations I faced.

Unlike Battle mode, defeat enemies (and be defeated) in Adventure mode by smashing them
into walls, ceilings and floors after they've taken enough damage.
Megabyte Punch offers multiplayer in most modes, and it's particularly helpful in Adventure. The difficulty does not take in account additional players, so there's no difficulty scaling to be found. So, as you can imagine, the more players you have--up to four via split-screen (sadly, no online is available to speak of at the time of this review)--the easier of a time you'll have. Players don't share lives, and can explore levels independently from one another, making it so more ground can be covered in a shorter amount of time. Really, it's going to be difficult for me to go back to playing Adventure solo-style after kicking butt--or "bot" in this case--in local co-op.

Up to four players can locally team up to take on Adventure mode.
Unfortunately, no online functionality is available in this Switch port.
The visual approach to Megabyte Punch is an incredibly simplistic one stylistically, comprised of basic polygons. It's a clean look, though nothing stunning. Even with such a simplistic style, there are some frame-rate hiccups that do occur. Not often enough to be a tremendous bother, but noticeable and frequent enough to occasionally get miffed towards. The soundtrack syncs with the action and moment-to-moment gameplay well, offering a retro and electronic sound.

Megabyte Punch isn't a particularly lengthy game, but that all depends on one's skill level and--with certain boss battles--luck. However, a plethora of parts and color combinations to collect, as well local multiplayer with bots or other players means that there is enough bot-bashing goodness to enjoy for at least a fair amount of hours. The lack of online hurts the chances of the game having a lasting impact in my Switch's library, but at the same token, I'm quite pleased to have finally played Megabyte Punch. It only took six years, after all!

[SPC Says: B-]

Team Reptile provided a code for the purpose of this review.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Paper Mario: The Origami King (NSW) Announcement Trailer

Talk about a well-crafted surprise! The new installment in the Paper Mario RPG series is coming, and sooner than I would have expected, too. Paper Mario: The Origami King introduces a new villain, updated battle system, and the same lovely sense of humor that have made past Paper Mario adventures so enjoyable. Paper Mario: The Origami King unfolds on the Nintendo Switch on July 17th.

PGA Tour 2K21 (PS4, XB1, NSW, PC) Release Date Trailer

After a teaser trailer last week, PGA Tour 2K21 has officially been announced, and it's coming to all major current-gen platforms. Create a custom character and go golfing with good friends and total strangers alike with PGA Tour 2K21's online tournaments. Design your own dream golfing destinations with the ability to create your own golf courses. PGA Tour 2K21 launches on August 21st.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Trials of Mana (NSW, PS4, PC) Review

We've arrived at a special moment in SuperPhillip Central history with this review. It's not a special numbered review by any stretch of the imagination, but it IS a special post. This is officially the 4,000th ever post on SuperPhillip Central! Darn it--where are my noisemaker at party hat at when I need them?!

Seriously though, thank you for continuing to read and hopefully enjoy my takes on various video games and gaming as whole!

We now move on to the second JRPG remake from last month. The first was Final Fantasy VII Remake. The second is this--Trials of Mana! Here's my review.

The mother lode of quality when it comes to Mana games

This past year has seen a resurgence of the Mana series in gaming. Last year, for the first time ever, the third game in the Mana series, one that was stranded in Japan, was finally released in the West as part of the Nintendo Switch game Collection of Mana. Now, less than a year later, Mana fans get a another dose of Mana goodness with the third game in the series getting a full 3D remake. Trials of Mana is a game deeply rooted in the 16-bit era, and while this makes it definitely feel dated despite its new presentation-related bells and whistles, it's an example of a faithful remake that seriously delights.

Starting off, the game gives you an important choice: selecting between three characters from a group of six at the beginning of the game--one for the main party leader and two companions. Which characters you select affects how the story plays out. For instance, playing as the knight Duran will have him yearning to change classes so he can be strong enough to take on and defeat the Crimson Wizard, whereas with Hawkeye as the choice of the protagonist, his tale begins with the murder of his dear friend and what follows is a journey to bring the true culprit to justice. Which characters you don't have join your party as companions will show up in a given protagonist's adventure at varying points, with the ones you didn't select making cameos here and there. When companions do opt to join your party, you'll get the option to delve into their pasts, playing through their back stories which serve as a brief introduction to their own stories and struggles. Thankfully, this isn't necessary to do, as you can easily just get a quick synopsis instead for skipping this.

I chose Duran as the main protagonist of my first play-through.
While the prologue, epilogue, a various small story beats within the 20-25 hour initial adventure are laid out differently depending on your character choices, what remains the same is the overarching tale of the Mana Tree slowly but surely losing its power and the need to reclaim the Sword of Mana is ever present to combat some awfully shady villains who wish to use its power for no good. Thus, in order to do this, your party of chosen heroes must trek about the world to find eight Mana Stones.

You can probably guess that with six characters to choose from that there's a lot of replay value to be found in Trials of Mana, and you'd be absolutely right by that guess. While it's not mandatory to play through the game six times, once as each protagonist, it's a good idea to play through at least twice, once with a different trio both times. Not just to see how things change between main characters, but also because the New Game Plus option makes this incredibly enjoyable to do. The option grants triple the experience points, so beginning characters can quickly and efficiently gain experience, and other holdovers from your first save file come along on a second time through the game.

The world of Trials of Mana has been recreated in glorious detail.
What makes Trials of Mana so enjoyable is that the pacing is really nice. You're seldom sitting through extended cutscenes, waiting for the characters to finish rambling. There's obviously scenes to be viewed, but these play out in real time, offering the ability to skip dialogue at will if the voice acting gets to move too slowly for your liking. (As an aside, the voice acting borders on mediocre more than it impresses, to put it nicely.) Generally, however, Trials of Mana gets you going with gameplay moment after gameplay moment, whether that's exploring fields, dungeons, or towns, or battling enemies in real-time combat.

A helpful right-side-of-the-screen prompt keeps you up to speed on what is your next objective.
Combat in Trials of Mana is done action-RPG style, delivering quick battles where free movement is available within a circular battlefield (and where running against the border of the battlefield begins a gauge enabling the option to retreat). Here on the battlefield, properly positioning your playable character is paramount. For instance, attacking from the rear increases the likelihood of achieving critical hits. Also, enemies attack with all sorts of dangerous and deadly abilities, and special moves give warnings in the form of dangerous red zones that show where the attack, ability, or spell is about to be unleashed. It's a good idea to roll out of harm's way, and then when the moment arrives, dig in with some attacks of your own.

Red zones such as this one indicate an enemy's area of attack for their abilities and spells.
For the most part, the companion AI does a fair job, and you can customize their behavior in battle--whether they focus on defense, or attacking the same foe or a different one that your character is currently targeting. You can also switch between characters on the fly mid-battle as well. However, when battles become more difficult early on in the game, particularly boss battles, this is where the AI finds itself being a bit of a burden. They'll constantly take damage, fail to avoid attacks, and essentially just be a drain on your item resources, one where you're constantly pressing Up on the D-Pad to select a curative item from the Item Ring menu. More often than not, though, I found myself just leaving my companions to lay there fallen like hunks of meat and just take on bosses myself. After all, everyone gets the same amount of experience points whether or not they participated 100% in battle.

What are you looking at, Crabmeat?!
Fortunately, as your companions level up with you, they learn healing spells and other helpful abilities, they can better hold their own without as much babysitting. This is great as later battles definitely require multiple characters to quickly weaken bosses down when they're in the process of summoning an otherwise devastating move unless you're able to essentially stagger them by breaking a special gauge.

I've talked about enemy attacks, but obviously you get some offense and defense of your own. These come in the form of basic attacks, charged attacks that can deal more damage and smash through enemy defenses more easily, magic, and Class Strikes. The latter are extravagant attacks that take energy from the gauge at the bottom of the screen to use. Stronger Class Strikes take more energy to use, but result in some super flashy, area-clearing attacks. As you deal damage to and take damage from enemies, the gauge slowly increases, especially if you collect CS particles that fall from attacked foes.

Class Strikes such as this can unleash devastating attacks on single targets or groups of enemies.
Combat can be a bit tricky to come to terms with initially in Trials of Mana. For one, the camera doesn't follow your character completely. Instead, you need to keep it under your control, unless you click the stick in to lock your attention onto a foe (something that the game's many tutorials fail to teach you in-game, confusingly enough).

Duran's blade is about to clip this Harpy's wings!
As characters gain experience and level up, they earn Training Points, which can be spent on one of six attributes to increase their abilities and their stats. When enough points are spent in a given attribute category, new abilities, skills, bonuses, and more can be equipped to your character. These bonuses include the power to raise their attack when their HP falls below a certain percentage, increasing how much money is earned from enemies in battle, among many other rewards.

Trials of Mana also has a Class Change system, which allows characters at specific stages in the game to alter their class, growing exponentially stronger with regards to stats and able to learn new spells and abilities. Characters can change classes up to four times, and with each change, their appearance and abilities become altered. You get a choice between going with a light class or a dark class, each offering unique capabilities that is a choice best made to suit your own play style.

Trials of Mana will take anywhere between 20-25 hours to reach the conclusion of one's first play-through. The pacing is so enjoyable due to how brisk it is that I cleared the game within less than a week's time, often playing some days more than 5 hours at a time. The game itself is rather linear at the start, but as you progress to the second half, it opens up exponentially, allowing you to choose your destination at your leisure. Side quests are next to nil in Trials of Mana, but at the same time, the game isn't lesser for that. In fact, alternate quests would just slow down the excellent pacing. There are treasure chests to find in the world and a fun worldwide game of hide-and-seek to play with a cactus for some truly cool rewards, but other than that, you're just playing through the story.

In the process of remaking Trials of Mana, Square Enix has delivered a gorgeous looking game. Familiar sights are fully re-imagined in glorious 3D, offering new senses of place and atmosphere. The day and night system, albeit basic in execution, offers some impressive sights and some in-game use as well. There are some problems with pop-in, frame-rate hiccups, and noticeable issues where textures load into scenes a bit too slowly. Fortunately, these don't affect gameplay too heavily. As earlier stated, the voice acting doesn't do much to impress, but on the other side of the sound spectrum, the rearranged musical tracks certainly do. If for some reason you don't take a liking to these revised versions, you can change to the Super Famicom original music (and back) at any time.

Day through night, the time for adventure in Trials of Mana is just right.
Unlike a certain JRPG remake that also released last month, Trials of Mana doesn't delve too far away from what made the original game memorable and beloved. While Final Fantasy VII Remake offered a bold new change to its original work and brought with it much more complexity, Trials of Mana offers a soothing and refreshing bit of familiarity. There's a fine sense of simplicity here, whether it's in the combat, the brisk pacing of the game, or the story--which might make it a bit too faithful to the original for some players. While Trials of Mana is not a remake that reinvents the wheel, for me, it successfully does what it sets out to do in recreating what was once a lost game from the Super Famicom era into a more modern and enjoyable game, warts and all. Just play on the Hard difficulty if you want something resembling a steadier challenge.

[SPC Says: B+]

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

The Tuesday 10s: Final Fantasy Soundtracks

It's Tuesday, and that means it's time to bring back The Tuesday 10s for a second go-around! With Final Fantasy VII Remake launching last month to rave reviews, including my own, it seems like an opportune moment for this edition of The Tuesday 10s to dabble into the music of the Final Fantasy series. I'm going to name my ten favorite Final Fantasy soundtracks and list some of my favorite themes from each. From mainline entries to solid spin-offs, this list has quality games and even higher quality soundtracks!

Final Fantasy VII Remake (PS4)

Speaking of the game that inspired this Tuesday 10s edition, we kick off this musical adventure with Final Fantasy VII Remake. And speaking of things that are inspired, Final Fantasy VII Remake's soundtrack combines a mix of inspired new takes on familiar Final Fantasy VII themes and creates wholly new themes to go alongside them as well. Hearing tracks from my youth fully realized in new and brilliant ways was such a gas, and made my playthrough of part one of this remake all the more enjoyable.

Final Fantasy VII (PS1)

What better way to continue our glimpse and listen to my favorite Final Fantasy soundtracks than by following a remake up with the original article? Final Fantasy VII's soundtrack is implanted in the memories of a multitude of players, young and old. It to this day remains an important piece of a masterful whole that made fans of the original love the game so much, and a reason why new fans find a lot to love about Final Fantasy VII nowadays. The final boss theme, One-Winged Angel is one of the most famous and ubiquitous in all of gaming, and for good reason, too. I wouldn't call the Final Fantasy VII soundtrack Nobuo Uematsu's best work (but then again, that's highly subjective anyway)--I'm saving that for later, but it's certainly a well done one!

Final Fantasy IX (PS1)

Nobuo Uematsu closes out the PlayStation 1 era of Final Fantasy games with style and grace with his Final Fantasy IX score. You don't know how difficult it was for me to limit myself to just five song selections from IX. Well, to be truthful, that's how it is for every game soundtrack on this list, but it was especially so for Final Fantasy IX. Something about this particular game score sets me off and in a good way--and that's without even having played through the entire thing. Yes, yes, I know, mark of shame and all that. The fairy tale sound of the soundtrack mixed with some terrific melodies and leitmotifs, a stable for the series, are ever present in this phenomenal end to the PS1 run of Final Fantasy games.

Final Fantasy XIII (PS3, 360)

Like Final Fantasy X and XI before it, Final Fantasy XII featured a group of composers lending their works to Final Fantasy XIII's sensational soundtrack, all spearheaded by Masashi Hamauzu as the main composer. Between the intense battle themes Saber's Edge and Blinded by Light (for boss and normal encounters respectively) and Chocobos of Pulse, my absolute favorite rendition of the Chocobo theme, Final Fantasy XIII delighted musically even if, for me, the game itself did not.

Final Fantasy VI (SNES)

This soundtrack, to me, is Nobuo Uematsu's finest work, but I'm open for debate on this. (You'll easily beat me down in such a debate since my musical knowledge isn't the savviest anyway!) Regardless, Final Fantasy VI remains my favorite Final Fantasy soundtrack of the mainline games, offering a diverse and impressive lineup of character themes that play gloriously in one final suite at the end of the game, a tremendous series of battle themes (such as the ever-impressive, haunting, ever-building Dancing Mad), and other great tunes. I feel like I'm doing Dancing Mad's impressiveness an injustice by just slipping it in that last sentence so casually, because it's amazing how it was programmed to switch between movements as you entered new phases of the four stage final boss encounter. Goodness, me. I'm getting goosebumps just thinking about it!

Final Fantasy IV (SNES)

Continuing our journey into 16-bit Final Fantasy soundtracks, we delve deeper into the past with 1991's Final Fantasy IV. This pick is mostly out of my own nostalgia, with it being my very first Final Fantasy game played way back when. The other reason for this pick is that it's just a genuinely excellent soundtrack! Nobuo Uematsu fine tuned his creative spirit and used his first foray with the franchise on the Super Nintendo sound chip with masterful ability, offering tunes that I find myself humming innocuously at random moments to this day. The boss themes, whether the normal (which I absolutely adore), the theme used when battling the Four Fiends, or the final boss theme itself, are etched into my gaming and melodic memories. Ah.... Don't mind me. Just waxing poetic!

Final Fantasy Tactics (PS1)

If I had to choose my absolute favorite soundtrack from the Final Fantasy series, a seemingly impossible task considering all the great music that has come from the games, my choice would have to be 1997's Final Fantasy Tactics. Composed by Masaharu Iwata and Hitoshi Sakimoto, a pair also known for their excellent work on the Tactics Ogre series, the drama, the action, and the intensity unfolds in each and every note of the soundtrack. The hauntingly beautiful melodies and satisfying harmonies make for a soundtrack that I couldn't help but make my first game soundtrack purchase when I was a younger listener to the Final Fantasy series' music.

Final Fantasy Tactics Advance (GBA)

Taking on a much lighter sound to fit the much lighter mood of the game compared to the PlayStation original, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance showed that the less than stellar Game Boy Advance sound chip and speakers could deliver some truly tremendous and high quality music. One of the best GBA game soundtracks is a credit to the composition team led by Hitoshi Sakimoto, who did the majority of the music for the game. While the GBA versions of these tracks are delightful, the arranged versions as part of the official released soundtrack are even more magical!

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles (GCN)

Here's another soundtrack from a Final Fantasy spin-off that I'm absolutely in love with. It's Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles, a game set to be remastered and released later this year, if arrangements still hold true. Part of my adoration with the GameCube's lone Final Fantasy game was how well the music complemented the journey. The music uses worldly, rustic, earthen instruments, delivering a sound that is quite unlike many other games in the Final Fantasy series. It helps that the melodies and accompaniments are just masterful--just a job well done from Kumi Tanioka!

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers (Wii)

We move from one Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles game, the original, to a much more different game in the same sub-series with our finale. It's the Wii's Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers, and it delivered a departure from the tried and true heroes of modern Final Fantasy games. Layle was a really cool and charismatic dude! Even the gameplay was off-kilter, even by Crystal Chronicles' standards, offering the ability to pick up and chuck enemies into one another to deal damage, as well as possessing a plethora of engaging mini-game-like activities. The soundtrack, which I should really get into now considering the point of this Tuesday 10 installment, was composed mostly by Hidenori Iwasaki and Ryo Yamazaki, and like the game itself, the music stretched the definitions of Final Fantasy music.

That concludes this edition of the Tuesday 10s! It's with my hope that you won't have to wait nearly a month again for the next installment! In the meantime, which Final Fantasy soundtracks are your absolute favorites? Let me know in the comments below!