Thursday, March 26, 2020

Mekorama (NSW) Review

SPC's next review is a smaller scale game. It's yet another mobile game turned Nintendo Switch release in the form of Mekorama. SPC previously reviewed the mobile version in 2016. How does the Switch version compare? Let's check it out with this review of Mekorama for the Nintendo Switch.

Wrap your head around the miniature world of Mekorama

Mekorama originally released as a mobile game in 2016, akin to games like Monument Valley, and probably more familiar to Nintendo gamers, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker. It's a 3D puzzle/platformer that sees you controlling a robot named B, navigating it through myriad 3D diorama-like levels with the objective of reaching the goal, indicated as a red, glowing portal on top of a brown block.

The Nintendo Switch version of Mekorama may not be free like its mobile counterpart (but the latter is a great way to "demo" the Switch version, if you'd like), but it does include approximately double the amount of levels as the original. The downside is that the game's level creator, which allowed mobile players to share levels via QR codes, does not currently offer sharing functionality in the Switch version, which sort of defeats the point of having the feature on Switch.

The actual game levels are split up into four categories: Easy, Medium, Tricky, and Hard, and they start out simple enough, introducing the player to basic concepts and allowing them to grow accustomed to the controls. Levels themselves offer a nice difficulty curve that start off with the simple requirement of traversing the environment to reach the goal. Slowly and gradually new elements are implemented to keep things fresh, such as blocks that can rise and lower based on player input--used smartly in a double-decker maze level that features an upper part and a submerged lower part--and even enemies and hazards that if B comes one space near them, he'll get electrocuted and the level will be failed. I found the Easy levels to be a good deal of fun, but even early on in the Medium stretch of levels, I found some truly brain-busting puzzles. Thankfully, there is a hint system implemented in the game for when you get stuck.

Mekorama can be played via touch screen or via analog input, though the latter is a bit cumbersome. You have to drag the cursor around the screen manually with the analog stick, and when you want to spin the camera around, you have to hold down a button while moving the analog stick in a "swipe" motion. Not exactly the most intuitive means of input, is it. Otherwise, with the recommend touch screen controls, you're tapping on squares where you want the robot to move, if a maneuver can be made, and sliding your finger on the Switch's screen to spin the map around to get a better view.

Unfortunately, even with the ability to spin the level around in a 360 degree fashion, you can't move the camera angle itself. This results in plenty of levels where you B easily becomes obstructed by the environment, requiring a lot of trial and error to move around obscured parts of levels. Adding on top of that, many levels have it where B can get knocked from a platform and fall to the ground, making the level impossible to complete. This isn't so much of a problem as it is that the game forces you to manually restart the level instead of automatically doing so. It's a design element that slows down the experience considerably when most of the time I just wanted to immediately retry the level without being forced to pause and then hit restart.

Mekorama doesn't have the same level of polish or as vivid a presentation as other games of its ilk. You won't be dazzled by its visuals or understated music, as the presentation is overall pretty sterile. What you will be with Mekorama is engaged with its ultimately well designed levels, be they focused on puzzles, platforming, precision, or a combination of the three. Mekorama is hardly a game that will make a lasting impression, but it's one that's a nice time-waster for the experience that it does deliver.

[SPC Says: C+]

A review code was provided for the purpose of this review.

Ninjala (NSW) Announcement Trailer

Kick butt with katanas, hammers, and more as you chew bubblegum in Ninjala! What is Ninjala? It is a free-to-play 4v4 team-based action game coming to the Nintendo Switch. Announced several months ago for Japan, Ninjala will finally arrive on the Switch on May 27th on this side of the Pacific as well!

Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics (NSW) Announcement Trailer

One of my favorite Nintendo DS games gets a much overdue sequel with Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics, bringing with it a variety of 51 games, such as Go, Solitaire, Dominoes, Bowling, Fishing, among many others. See all 51 games featured in this collection in this trailer. Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics launches on Nintendo Switch on June 5th.

Xenoblade Chronicles Definitive Edition (NSW) "Nintendo Direct Mini" Trailer

Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition received a new trailer during a surprise Nintendo Direct Mini presentation this morning. With it, a glimpse at the dazzling new remastered visuals, updated HUD, and additional epilogue. Embark on an adventure into the world of Xenoblade Chronicles for the first time or all over again when the Definitive Edition launches on the Nintendo Switch on May 29th.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

The Wonderful 101: Remastered (NSW, PS4, PC) Release Date Trailer

Successfully funded on Kickstarter (as if there was any doubt it would be) and originally a Wii U exclusive, The Wonderful 101 reunite for an all-new remastered version on the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Steam. This remaster has a staggered series of release dates with North America getting the game first on May 19th, Europe on May 22nd, and Japan on June 11th. In the meantime, check out this brand-new trailer for the game in all of its wonderful glory.

Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled (PS4, XB1, NSW) "Grand Prix Content" Trailer

Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled won the "Game That Keeps On Giving" award at SuperPhillip Central's Best of 2019 Awards, and this trailer is a good, quick visual example of why. With an abundance of new characters, tracks, cosmetics, and more, CTR: Nitro-Fueled powered up its roster and game with an astounding amount of free content, as evidenced by this new trailer from Activision.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX (NSW) Review

With our world in an unpredictable and scary state, let's travel to a different world as a means of escape, if only temporarily. It's a world of Pokemon with Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX, and SPC has a full review for you to enjoy. 

Want a solid Mystery Dungeon game? Then, Pokemon to the rescue!

Over a decade ago, the first games in the Pokemon Mystery Dungeon series, Red Rescue Team for the Game Boy Advance and Blue Rescue Team for the Nintendo DS debuted, offering a Pokemon twist to the tried, true, and to many, tedious gameplay of the Mystery Dungeon series. While this brand new remake, improves in almost every way on the original games and adds an absolutely lovely watercolor aesthetic to the game, Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX won't exactly make those who haven't exactly loved this style of game suddenly start doing so with this entry. That said, those that already do will find an engrossing Pokemon world to lose dozens of hours in.

Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX starts you off with a questionnaire that determines which of a selection of Pokemon you will be. Personally, it is rather pointless and a bit of a waste of time, since you can just pick whichever of the offered Pokemon you want after the fact, but for those undecided or just open to being whichever Pokemon the game recommends, it can be helpful. You then choose your partner Pokemon from the same selection and your journey into the world of Pokemon as a "human turned Pokemon" begins. 

I choose you, Pikachu! (Or should I say, "I choose ME, Pikachu"?)
True to its name, Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX sees you entering mystery dungeons with a team of up to three Pokemon, completing various "rescues" (so, THAT'S why the game is called that!) from Pokemon posted on the game hub town bulletin board, and advancing the story. These jobs are as simple as talking to the stranded job-giving Pokemon in a dungeon, giving a Pokemon a desired item, or reuniting two Pokemon together to enable them to escape safely. After a dungeon is complete, either by making it to its end or escaping when given the option, the Pokemon you rescue and jobs you've completed grant rewards. It can be a bit of slog to go through the reward results, especially if you complete a high number of rescues in one go, but the rewards are definitely worthwhile. In addition to money and items (occasionally rare ones, at that), you also gain points that increase your rescue team's rank, allowing for more item storage, Pokemon to recruit, and much more.

Of course, dungeons aren't as safe as the town that your Pokemon call home, where you can purchase and sell items, store your money, and take on new rescues. No, dungeons are not nearly as safe at all--quite the contrary! Enemy Pokemon make these dungeons their home, and they're all too content to make your life a living Poke-hell if you aren't prepared. Dungeons are made up of multiple floors, and while starting out, the amount of floors is paltry in the early dungeons, by the post-game you'll be trekking through dungeons that seem to go on forever with floors in the tens of dozens--and even one that has 99. 

As you can see, I chose to have my partner be the ever-adorable and awesome Squirtle.
Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX plays similarly to other games of its genre. Pokemon in dungeons take turns moving, attacking, and using items, one after the other. However, it's different from a traditional Pokemon game as it's done in a grid-based format and also instantaneously. Enemy Pokemon do not act until you do. With this in mind, you have a game that requires a mild amount of strategy to overcome encounters. Not only is it important to consider what move you make, but it's also important to consider where you position your Pokemon. Some attacks have a long range instead of being only viable for close quarters, while the Pokemon series's Pokemon types during battles--such as fire, water, grass, psychic, poison, etc.--is ever present in Rescue Team DX to consider as well. Using a fire Pokemon against a rock Pokemon is a recipe for disaster.

Many Pokemon attacks are like my puns in every one of my reviews--they reach quite a bit!
Pokemon moving through dungeons get their HP restored slowly but steadily, as long as they don't have any adverse status effects. However, traveling can be quite exhausting, also causing Pokemon to grow hungry, also slowly but steadily. If a Pokemon wanders a dungeon on an empty stomach, their health will begin to deplete. Only through consuming apples will their hunger be satiated to safe levels. Thankfully, only the currently controlled Pokemon in your party has its hunger level increase, so when one Pokemon got low, I simply switched control to another. That didn't alleviate the need for apples, but it did help considerably with rationing my supply.

Unlike the original Rescue Team games, you don't have the option to conserve PP from using a normal attack. Instead, you just have your four Pokemon's moves to work with, and each use of a move drains its PP by one. Run out of PP for a move, and you can no longer use it unless you drink an Ether of some type, making these items more of a must-have than they were before. Your partner Pokemon also use attacks that consume their own PP, so it's wise Using an attacking move enough will strengthen it, and not just for the Pokemon that uses it. If you have a Pikachu that uses Discharge a lot and later recruit a Zapdos that also has Discharge, it will be at the same upgraded level as that of the Pikachu. 

By holding down the ZL button, you can bring up your Pokemon's choice of four moves,
also showing how effective each are against the enemy.
Speaking of recruiting, sometimes when a Pokemon you fight has been defeated, they'll be motivated to join your dungeon-exploring cause. Unlike the original game, you can have a group of up to eight Pokemon in a dungeon at once--three of which are your starters and five that join you. This makes getting through the dungeons easier as you have more attackers at once, but it can also cause some bottlenecks when it concerns traffic, especially in the numerous narrow passageways of the dungeons. 

Occasionally, a defeated Pokemon will want to tag along.
Up to eight Pokemon can be in one party at a time.
Regardless, if you're able to keep a Pokemon alive to the very end of the dungeon or if you escape without your team being defeated, you'll get the option to have them join your rescue team permanently. That is to say as long as you have the right rescue area for that Pokemon species to stay at, which are unlocked by spending money at Wigglytuff's shop in town. If you don't have the correct rescue area, or you opt to not have a Pokemon join you at the end of your dungeon run, they'll depart and leave behind money as a "thank you" for an enjoyable expedition.

It's good to recruit different Pokemon as a means to "catch 'em all", but it's also good to have a variety of types, such as the aforementioned grass, fire, electric, water, psychic, and so forth. Furthermore, some Pokemon you recruit can have rare qualities to them. These grant special bonuses in battle, such as being able to attack flying Pokemon with moves that they'd normally be resistant against or being able to sell items in dungeons for more than you'd normally get for them. Many Pokemon of the same species have different rare qualities, so even if you get the same Pokemon of the same species, it's worth to recruit ones with the quality that works best for you and your play style. 

It's a Pokemon party! ...Well, that is, if instead of presents each guest brought pain.
Recruiting new Pokemon was as much of an addiction for me in Rescue Team DX as it was in the mainline games. I loved fighting a Pokemon, especially rarer ones in dungeons, and seeing them remain on the battlefield after their defeat, allowing me to recruit them to join my team and my cause. Switching in and out different Pokemon as my initial team to explore a dungeon until I found the best combo that fit my play style was something that took some patience and a lot of trial and error, but at the same time, it was rewarding and most importantly, fun to do for me. 

Pokemon level up through experience through defeating enemy Pokemon, and the experience is shared between your three starters who enter the dungeon. Pokemon who are recruited mid-dungeon do not gain experience. While earning experience through dungeons is the main way to gain levels, you can also use special tickets at a dojo in town to level up Pokemon quickly via playing timed one-floor dungeons where the enemy Pokemon you face are weak against the Pokemon you select for training. Dojo tickets come in bronze, silver, and gold forms, and obviously the rarer the ticket you use, the more time you get to spend training and the more experience you get per Pokemon defeated. Outside of training, you can also use items to boost a Pokemon's individual stats. 

Between dungeons, do all of your necessary preparations in this peaceful village.
Dungeons aren't too exciting design-wise, as while they are randomly generated, they are always similar square or rectangular type rooms connected by narrow, claustrophobic pathways. Outside of predictable locale changes that are mere window dressings for the dungeons, they do attempt to spice things up with a but of unpredictability with random traps, monster rooms--where upon entering a room filled with items you're ambushed by a copious amount of enemies who drop into the room--and special floor effects like hail, sunlight, sandstorms, and more. The latter affects Pokemon in different ways. Some cause damage to Pokemon on a per-square-movement basis, while others strengthen the power of certain elemental attacks, for instance. 

The Mystery Dungeon games are games of risk, though with Rescue Team DX, the consequences of being completely defeated in a dungeon aren't as severe as other games of the genre. Still, there's the risk of losing everything currently in your possession item-wise, as well as losing the Pokemon you currently have recruited in your rescue team if you fail. So it's a matter of asking yourself is continuing in a dungeon is well worth it, or whether it's better to escape while fortune shines on you. Sometimes, all it takes is a string of bad luck, or something catastrophic happening at just the wrong time. Perhaps you step on a trap that puts your Pokemon to sleep while in the midst of a monster room, or perhaps you get hit by a room-wide attack that wipes out your entire team before you can utter, "what the Poke-heck?!" 

The new cutscenes in Rescue Team DX rarely fail to dazzle and delight.
Fortunately, the kindness of strangers is available in Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX. You can send out a rescue request via code or through the game to have others attempt to rescue you within a dungeon, retrieving everything you lost and giving it back to you automatically to you upon a successful rescue. You can also rescue other players in their games as well for great rewards, too. It's a fun addition to the game that adds a nice community aspect that I found enjoyable.

However, with all of the bells and whistles that Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX has, it's ultimately a very repetitive game. The prospect of plodding around similarly designed dungeons, looking for staircases to make progress, all the while battling Pokemon after Pokemon, escaping said dungeon, and then starting the process all over again can be quite tedious for many--much more to actually do. However, while others might find Rescue Team DX and games of the Mystery Dungeon variety to be a slog, I found cultivating a powerful team of Pokemon, taking on the myriad post-game dungeons where the game really opens up freedom-wise, and recruiting as many Pokemon as possible all to be well worth the grind. Essentially, those that love the series will continue to find reasons to love it (like myself), and those that don't won't necessarily find anything in Rescue Team DX to change their minds--not even a fresh coat of paint, as it's the same basic game underneath the updated graphics, monotony and all. 

[SPC Says: B]

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Most Overlooked Current Gen Games - Part Ten

Welcome to a very special edition of Most Overlooked! No, I don't mean "very special" like one of those "very special" episodes of Full House or Saved by the Bell. I mean, "very special" as in we've reached our tenth installment of the Most Overlooked Current Gen Games!

SPC has always been passionate about sharing those gaming gems that aren't your traditional million-selling, triple-A mega hits. Instead, the Most Overlooked series by its very nature looks at those games that don't get extravagant marketing campaigns, don't stay on the sales charts for prolonged periods of time, and don't get as much hype dedicated to them. Perhaps with this series of articles you'll discover a new game that piques your interest and preference.

This tenth edition features games from a wide range of different genres; We have a dungeon crawler, a fighting game, a JRPG, a platformer, and a point-and-click puzzler.

Before we continue our journey through the land of the Most Overlooked Current Gen Games, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the previous nine installments of this long-running series for your to peruse:

Current Gen - Part One
Current Gen - Part Two
Current Gen - Part Three
Current Gen - Part Four
Current Gen - Part Five
Current Gen - Part Six
Current Gen - Part Seven
Current Gen - Part Eight
Current Gen - Part Nine

Darksiders Genesis (PS4, XB1, NSW, PC)

Our first game for this tenth edition of Most Overlooked Current Gen Games takes the familiar hack and slash, dungeon crawling gameplay of the Darksiders franchise and puts in a new, isometric perspective. Darksiders Genesis offers a Diablo-like dungeon crawler with Zelda-like puzzles and platforming challenges. The levels feature myriad secrets inside to encourage meticulous exploration and return trips, and the boss battles are absolutely intense and entertaining. Whether playing alone and switching between War and Strife on the fly, or playing co-operatively with another player with one as each Horseman, judgment will be brought down on your enemies. Darksiders Genesis was a pleasant surprise to start off the gaming year with when it launched on home consoles (the PC and Stadia versions launched late last year), and it's a shame it seems to have come and gone without much fanfare.

Power Rangers: Battle for the Grid (PS4, XB1, NSW, PC)

With a history of less than morphinominal licensed games, it's easy to see why not many took to a fighting game based off of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Those who did, however, experienced one of the most fun and fluid team-based fighting games available, albeit not very content-rich. Power Rangers: Battle for the Grid launched rather bare bones with a limited roster and very little single player content to speak of. Since launch, the roster's reached higher numbers with every fighting game archetype represented, a story mode based off of the Shattered Grid arc of the Boom! Studios-published comic was added, the presentation greatly improved, and the fighting itself has only gotten better. This 3 vs. 3 fighting game is a blast not just for fans of Power Rangers but also just those who desire a fighting game with deep mechanics and plenty of pluck.

Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore (NSW)

Perhaps this next game is proof that it wasn't just the Wii U's failure that made the original Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE bomb at retail when it originally released on Nintendo's first HD system. Even with a second chance in the spotlight on a much more successful system (and that's understating the Switch's success in comparison to the Wii U), Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore didn't exactly follow in the footsteps sales-wise of other ports of Wii U games like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, among others. That's okay, though, as the game has found its own following, and if you can stomach and tolerate the overdose of Otaku and idol influences, you'll get a challenging JRPG that has both style AND substance in grand abundance. This RPG is quite unlike anything else, not just on the Switch, but on any platform.

New Super Lucky's Tale (NSW)

3D platformers are in rather short supply on ALL systems this generation, and that stretches to the Switch as well. Nevertheless, owners of Nintendo's hybrid system received a rather remarkable addition to the genre from an unlikely place. Lucky's Tale was originally an Oculus Rift exclusive, and then, it was expanded to the Xbox One as Super Lucky's Tale. Late last year, the game arrived on the Nintendo Switch with added content, additional levels, and another word in its title with New Super Lucky's Tale.

Lucky himself is enjoyable to control, being able to burrow into soft surfaces to dodge hazards and enemy alike and reach otherwise inaccessible areas. Levels are full of secrets to find and special pages to collect, whether they are in non-linear 3D, side-scrolling 2D, or auto runner form. Lucky's adventure doesn't wear out its welcome, nor does it overly frustrate. New Super Lucky's Tale delivers a charming and entertaining platforming adventure that didn't necessarily find an overly perceptive audience on the Switch. Particularly disappointing when you consider the longtime audience of Nintendo consoles.

Layton's Mystery Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaires' Conspiracy - Deluxe Edition (NSW)

Being real here, Level 5 has bungled a lot of its franchises over the years. What was once a strong Japanese developer currently faces challenges in getting attention to its various series, many of which have either been mismanaged, or worse, run right into the ground. Like many other Level 5 franchises, the Professor Layton series isn't as strong as it once was during the Nintendo DS days, but that doesn't stop Layton's daughter, Katrielle, from having her first puzzle-filled adventure in Layton's Mystery Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaires' Conspiracy from being a success, at least quality-wise.

The original game launched on the Nintendo 3DS as well as mobile devices, offering over 100 unique brain teasers sprinkled and scattered throughout the game's dozen chapters. Instead of one overarching mystery, Katrielle and her group of companions took on a different case each chapter. Regardless, whether it's because of franchise fatigue or a lack of Layton fans nowadays, not even a new protagonist could renew interest in the series. Whether Layton as a franchise can bounce back is almost as great a mystery as any featured in the games themselves!

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Top Ten Nintendo Switch Games of the System's Third Year

The Nintendo Switch recently celebrated its third anniversary on the market just a couple of weeks ago. Since its launch back on March 3, 2017, the Switch has accumulated quite the collection of excellent software. SPC previously listed the system's best exclusives from its first two years in an article last March. Now, we check out our favorite games released during the Switch's third year, which came to an end two weeks ago on its aforementioned third anniversary. From third party games in unexpected places to familiar franchises in unexpected new forms, the Nintendo Switch had a little bit of everything for its owners this past year.

10) Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order 

Kicking off this Switch-centric countdown is a surprising exclusive in the sense that the formerly Activision-published Marvel Ultimate Alliance series moved to Nintendo and was developed by Team Ninja. What wasn't surprising, however, was that the end result, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order, possessed plenty of superpowered heroes, villains, and iconic worlds and was as addicting as every other game in the MUA franchise. Perhaps even more so with the game's continued support, featuring new modes, characters, costumes, and more. While the game is far from perfect with its occasionally cumbersome and chaotic camera (especially in local co-op), it says a lot about Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 that even with the game's issues, one could greatly enjoy and spend dozens of hours fighting off foes of all shapes and sizes without realizing it.

9) Ring Fit Adventure

We move on from Marvel to a game that encourages fitness through taking down monsters and enemies through the power of exercise. Ring Fit Adventure seemed like such a goofy idea on paper, but in execution, it's a tremendous means to get active while gaming. The "ring" of Ring Fit Adventure is an invaluable accessory that makes it all happen, serving the same function as a Pilates ring, and offering a robust workout. That's whether you're stepping in place as you move through fields and dungeons and "jumping" over obstacles, or engaging with enemies in intense cardio and strength-building workouts. The whole implementation of Ring Fit Adventure is genius to its very core (play-on-words definitely intended), and it's an idea that's so abundantly and enjoyably Nintendo.

8) Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield

The latest in the line of Pokemon games graced a home console for the very first time with Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield. Trainers old and new braved the brand new Galar region with an abundance of Pokemon to battle, catch, and train. The fresh Wild Area brought forth an open world setting that changed depending on the time of day, offering an ever-changing and exciting assortment of Pokemon to encounter, and Raid battles against gigantic Pokemon to engage in with friends, strangers, or the AI. While the cut to the Pokedex certainly stung, and the difficulty of the base game was low, the prospect of the forthcoming DLC with two new areas to explore, each with their own batch of Pokemon to catch and content to delve into, makes for an exciting addition to a pair of games that packed a wallop.

7) Yoshi's Crafted World 

The earliest game on this list released in the Switch's third year, Yoshi's Crafted World delivered with its name, offering a world filled with creatively designed worlds and levels all built out of everyday products. From rolling hills in the background made out of green-painted paper plates to lily pads made of kitchen sponges, Yoshi's Crafted World was just as crafty with its world design as it was with its levels. The latter supplied players with constant new surprises and fresh ideas and concepts with each level introduced. Collecting flowers, red coins, and finding hidden surprises in levels was as much of a delight as the game itself. It's one that I return to a year after release just to get a nice, warm feeling while I play.

6) The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt - Complete Edition

Plenty of people said it couldn't be done on the Nintendo Switch. Well, I better be more specific, as we've seen since the system's launch, a lot of developers have been able to make seemingly impossible ports possible on the Switch. Perhaps the granddaddy of them all was proven possible with CD Projekt Red's The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt - Complete Edition arriving on the Nintendo Switch, albeit certainly toned down graphically, but definitely playable and very much enjoyable all the same. The ability to play such a grand scale of a journey with Geralt of Rivia on the Nintendo Switch screen amazes me, and the recently released patch makes it so the game's graphical options can be customized to the player's preference. It all adds up to an incredibly impressive port for one of the best games of the past generation.

5) Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age - Definitive Edition

Here's another example of an impressive third party port, while we're on the subject! Despite being one of, if not the absolute first game announced for the Nintendo Switch, back when the system was still known as the NX, Dragon Quest XI finally launched on the system this past fall. That said, the wait was most definitely worth it with all of the new content that the Switch version received. Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age - Definitive Edition--and pardon this SPC cliche--was definitely definitive, offering an exclusive 16-bit mode, orchestrated music, new plot particulars for the game's heroes, and much more. Square Enix didn't just deliver the absolute bare minimum to Switch owners--they delivered one of the best ports from the PlayStation 4 possible with enough new content to almost* justify a second purchase.

*Your mileage may vary.

4) The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening

The beloved Game Boy classic returned in 2019, 26 years after it originally released on the small screen. The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening received a full fledged remake on the Nintendo Switch, and did it in style--a toy diorama style, to be exact. The new art style delivered an abundance of charm and personality, more than the already personality-rich Game Boy original did. No small feat! Adding to the game's stellar and adorable presentation was new quality of life features such as more buttons to map items to, thanks to the ready and able Switch in either JoyCon or Pro Controller form. While the addition of designing dungeons didn't reach Mario Maker levels of ambition, it did serve a nice puzzle function in properly positioning rooms in a way that satisfied all conditions. The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening is loved for many reasons, and for me, the Switch version only added to those.

3) Fire Emblem: Three Houses

I constantly have a battle in my brain between Fire Emblem: Awakening and Fire Emblem: Three Houses as to which is my favorite in the Fire Emblem series. After some fierce pondering and some serious (not really serious) soul-searching, I really do think Three Houses edges Awakening out overall. Between its multiple routes with different characters to grow with and eventually grow fond of, scenarios to encounter, and battles to, well, battle, Fire Emblem: Three Houses offers an exceptional combination of strategic fights to overcome, an intriguing story that really goes to some dark places, and even some enjoyable and rewarding sim life parts with the respites at Garreg Mach Monastery. The amount of content in the game is absolutely staggering, and nearly all of it is of a tremendous quality.

2) Luigi's Mansion 3

While I was conflicted to right away give a preference to my favorite Fire Emblem game, there is no doubt in my mind that Luigi's Mansion 3 is my favorite in the Luigi's Mansion trilogy thus far. It's a near perfect mix of what made the original Luigi's Mansion great (its open mansion to explore without being split up into missions) and what made Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon even better (each mansion being a different beast altogether with unique themes and puzzles). Luigi's Mansion 3 outdoes both of its predecessors with cleverly designed puzzles which implement an equally clever addition in Gooigi, immaculately made floors that each possess their own unique themes, incredibly boss encounters, fully interactive environments that really show off the physics on display when messing around with Luigi's Poltergust G-00 vacuum, and so much more. Luigi's Mansion 3 was scary good with its quality, and I can't wait to see what developer Next Level Games does... well, next!

1) Super Mario Maker 2

The majority of my gaming time on the Nintendo Switch last year was dedicated to one game. That was Super Mario Maker 2--if it being number one on this list didn't make that clear enough already. Its story campaign served as a terrific tutorial for how to make excellently crafted and high caliber levels. One could easily take the lessons learned of good level design introduced in the story mode and be inspired to create something really special of their own. Of course, it's easy to note that most players did not do this and instead created, well, I hesitate to say "crap", so I'll say "less than inspired creations" instead. However, finding those terrific levels online and prodigious creators that cranked out excellent level after level was like opening a box of cereal and finding an awesome toy inside. But, imagine that feeling and having it happen over and over again.

Yes, I said Super Mario Maker 2 had a lot of bad levels from the community, but it also has an amazing amount of great levels as well. The game is certainly not for everyone, especially if you don't have an urge to play others' levels or create your own, but if you do, you'll find a treasure trove of accessible creation and customization options available to you without the need for programming know-how. You'll just need a little patience and a lot of creativity.


And there you have it! While your order or selection of games may--and probably will--differ, hopefully we can all agree that the Nintendo Switch had a pretty awesome third year. Let the SPC community know which ten games from the Switch's third year on the market you most enjoyed in our comments section.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Wunderling (NSW, PC) Review

Let's cap off the week with some much needed levity with a look at an enjoyable auto-runner with a twist. It's Wunderling from Retroid Interactive, and here is the SPC review.

Small Wunder

Last Friday, I took a look at a game starring a minion that was a satire of the RPG genre with my review of Underhero. This week, I'm taking on a look at Retroid Interactive's Wunderling, which puts its own spin on 2D platformers, particularly a specific one featuring a popular portly plumber. With lovely pixel art, cool tunes, and an addicting "one more try" approach to its design, Wunderling is a delightful auto-runner with a unique take on the genre.

Wunderling starts you out as playing as the Mario-like hero (though one that's quite a bit more of a braggart) Carrot Man, and playing through a Super Mario Bros. 1-1-styled platforming level, stomping on Goomba-like enemies along the way. Upon smashing the final enemy and landing on the flagpole, our supposed hero sashays away with another victory under his hat, or in this case, leafy top. From there, a witchy sorceress arrives to revive one of her fallen underlings and tasks it with pursuing Carrot Man, hoping to siphon his supply of lives in the process.

However, that's easier said than done because like any Goomba-like underling in a 2D platformer, our vegetable minion marches forward and cannot stop or turn around until it collides with a wall. Wunderling's true gameplay then reveals itself as an auto-runner with you controlling the underling's jumps and other abilities that unlock throughout the progression of the game.

Discovering how to get around each stage successfully gives Wunderling
a puzzle/platforming-type feel.
New abilities include the power to temporarily dash to launch yourself across wide chasms, the power to fly, and a wall jump ability. These abilities unlock at a steady pace, one per world, and they give you just enough time to become acquainted with all of their tricks and mechanic nuances before a new one gets introduced. Thus, there's plenty of time to experiment, and not just for the player but also for the level designers to craft some inventive courses for you to get the most out of each ability. Worlds are fifteen levels in length, so they don't linger or overstay their welcome.

It takes a few seconds for your boost ability to recharge, so use it wisely.
Your controllable minion moves on his own and only changes direction when bumping into a solid structure, but it also can't just linger and loiter around in one place for a lengthy amount of time. You have a health bar, indicated by a small heart symbol that slowly depletes and reveals itself when the underling hasn't collected a flower bud in a while. Only through collecting an abundance of flower buds does the underling's health return to normal. If it depletes completely, the underling dies and the level is failed. Many levels have it where you don't want to immediately collect every accessible flower bud, as you'll often have to do some backtracking. Therefore, leaving behind some flower buds to pick up and collect on the way back can be the difference between having enough health to finish the level and a shortened life expectancy.

These yellow buds serve not only as collectibles but also as a means to keep your minion alive.
Flower buds, which turn into flowers when collected, are but one of the main collectibles in Wunderling. Each level houses a secret treasure chest that when collected and brought to the goal successfully unlocks a new costume piece for your minion. The amount of costume pieces and combinations are immense, and they're enjoyable to collect for numerous reasons. For one, they're generally hidden well and require you to take on different approaches to levels than you normally would. A basic run through a level is simple enough, but when you aim to collect everything possible in a level, including the treasure and--in some level's cases--song-unlocking cassette tapes, runs become more complicated and require smart strategies to successfully complete.

There is a lot of trial and error in Wunderling, and this is most apparent when searching high and low for treasure chests and other secrets, such as warp portals leading to one of three extra levels in each world. Many are hidden behind fake walls, which for this type of game leads to a copious amount of deaths as you practically have to guess most times which walls are real and which walls are hiding something behind them. Generally this isn't a huge problem as levels are usually short enough that deaths don't make you repeat too much work, and the ones that are lengthy have checkpoints in them.

Take flight with the wing power-up, and carefully soar to success.
Levels in Wunderling have a great amount of unique gimmicks and mechanics to them, obviously helped by the abilities our minion receives, but also because of the mechanisms in place. There are locked gates requiring specially colored keys to unlock, doors that open and shut when buttons are pressed, boost pads that speed up our unlikely underling hero, lava and ice floors that prevent the ability to jump, Donkey Kong Country barrel cannon-style launchers that blast the minion across levels, and hazards like spikes to avoid. Much like each new ability added to the underling's arsenal of moves, each gimmick and gameplay mechanism is introduced slowly and steadily as to not overstay its welcome nor bore the player by seeing it repeatedly without much alteration.

Use these colored keys to unlock their associated blocks, or else meet a spike-filled fate!
Wunderling is a stellar auto-runner with beautiful pixel art and a catchy soundtrack. The only stumbling point I see with potential purchasers is its $15 asking price, something I perceive as higher than the usual asking price for a game of its genre. That said, if you enjoy games with humor, levels that push you to master them and fully explore their secrets, and are intrigued by its novel approach to the auto runner genre of platformer, then Wunderling certainly earns a recommendation from me. March on, minion. March on.

[SPC Says: B]

A code was provided by the developer for the purpose of this review.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Bad Boss Battles in Gaming History - Part Ten

  • Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield (NSW)
  • Luigi's Mansion 3 (NSW)
  • Spyro Reignited Trilogy (PS4, XB1, NSW, PC)
  • Sonic Mania (PS4, XB1, NSW, PC)
  • Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz (PS4, XB1, NSW, PC, Wii)

SPC just can't seem to get away from the number ten this week. Earlier the site celebrated Mario Day on March 10th, which saw a top ten list of the ten best Mario games of the past ten years, and now the tenth installment of Bad Boss Battles in Gaming History arrives in style on the site.

A good boss battle sticks with you for all the right reasons, and soon after beating it, you want to go back and do it all over again. The bosses on this list, however, are the absolute opposite of that, for the most part. These are annoying, broken, unfair, poorly designed, or just plain old disappointing. Whatever the case may be, the following boss battles lean more towards bad than fun, and as we'll see, even the greatest of games can have lulls in excitement and entertainment when it comes to their bosses while some shouldn't have included them to begin with.

Before we begin, though, check out all nine previous parts of this ongoing series of articles, and then check after the break for the latest boss entries:

DOOM Eternal (PS4, XB1, PC) Official Launch Trailer

Edited to correct how far the game's release is away.

One week and some change ahead of its release date, DOOM Eternal has a special trailer made for its launch on March 20th. Rip, tear, and raze hell in this super-powered, ultra-violent sequel that seems to take everything players loved about the original (high octane action, agile gunplay, the feeling of being an unstoppable force, and intricate level design sprinkled with clever secrets) and turns the dial up to 11.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Top Ten Mario Games of the Past Ten Years

The number ten--it has a lot of significance on SuperPhillip Central today. Not only is it March 10th, or Mario Day (Mar 10) as it's recognized by Nintendo, but on this special day we have an equally special top ten list. Today, I take a look at the past ten years of Mario games--spin-offs included (but they need to feature Mario in a starring role)--and pick out the best ten of the bunch. Mario is synonymous with gaming, so if not a special top ten list for the Big N's big mascot, then for who? After you've checked out my choices, let me know which Mario games you've loved from the past ten years.

10) Mario Kart 7 (3DS)

We begin with a Mario Kart game that many might consider leaving in the dust due to the fact that it's on a now-defunct system and most of its courses are available in Mario Kart Tour. Mario Kart 7 brought with it a host of welcomed additions including underwater and aerial racing, vast kart customization, and some truly creative tracks that took advantage of both. The retro track selections are some of my favorites in the Mario Kart series, and I spent dozens of hours racing with friends and total strangers online in fast and frantic races. It's a portable Mario Kart but without the repulsive, money-leeching, whale-exploiting tactics of Mario Kart Tour.

9) Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle (NSW)

This next game was such a surprise and such a fantastic success story. After being leaked and criticized and made fun of to death before any footage was shown, Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle proved its critics wrong and taught a valuable, if not cliche, lesson: never judge a book by its cover--or in this case: never judge a game by its premise. To be fair, combining the beloved cast of Mushroom Kingdom characters with the lesser loved, borderline annoying Minion-like Rabbids seemed like a recipe for disaster on paper, but the folks at Ubisoft Milan obviously put everything into the final product, an X-Com-like strategy game with so much love placed into it. The source material was respected, and the actual game itself was one of the best releases on Switch that year. Just a glorious and wonderful feel-good industry story all around and a great game at that, too.

8) Mario Golf: World Tour (3DS)

The Mario Golf series hasn't seen a full-fledged RPG story in a long while, and many were disappointed by the lack of one in this sequel as well, especially since previous portable entries had them. However, everything else in Mario Golf: World Tour was exquisite, making it one of my favorite arcade golf games ever made. Between the terrific golf mechanics, bevy of modes, tremendous courses that were had both realistic and fantastical designs (seriously, playing golf underwater or pint-sized in a "Honey, I Shrunk the Mushroom Kingdom"-like way were clever and amazing experiences), and great online content like ongoing tournaments and well handled DLC (featuring six returning courses from the original Nintendo 64 Mario Golf), and many Mario maniacs were in golf heaven.

7) Super Mario 3D Land (3DS)

Continuing with the Nintendo 3DS, Super Mario 3D Land made a terrific argument for the 3DS hardware's stereoscopic 3D capabilities. While the game could very much be played without it turned on, judging jumps and depth while being wowed by effects like spiked pillars jutting out at the screen and Bullet Bills flying towards your face were made amazing. Super Mario 3D Land brought with it a level structure similar to the Super Mario Bros. games with a start and ending flagpole. The only difference was that the game's levels were in 3D. Another entry on this list would take the foundation that 3D Land laid and run with it with tremendous results, as you'll see in just a few more entries.

6) New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe (NSW)

The original New Super Mario Bros. U released on the Wii U as a launch title in 2012. It was deemed more of the same due to its similar art style that many considered sterile, safe, and just otherwise unexciting. However, the level design remains my favorite out of any other 2D Mario game with an influx of creative ideas and clever gimmicks thrown in. The return of a Super Mario World-style map was also exciting, as it made for an interconnected-feeling world as opposed to the disjointed maps of past games. The Wii U would later receive additional DLC in the form of a more challenging Luigi-based set of bite-sized levels with New Super Luigi U. The package of the base NSMBU and DLC would release together on Wii U and also early last year on the Nintendo Switch, offering a whole new audience of players and my preferred way of playing this duo of excellent 2D Mario games.

5) Super Mario Maker 2 (NSW)

While there are a number of things that the original Super Mario Maker did better than its sequel, Super Mario Maker 2 otherwise blows the original Wii U release away. With more customization and creation options for excellent levels to be crafted, a full fledged story mode that essentially served as a tutorial and inspiration for budding creators to make their own masterpieces (or at least do their best to try), and full multiplayer in both co-operative and competitive modes, Super Mario Maker 2 floored me last year. It's by far my most played Nintendo Switch game, and the amount of excellent levels that has come out from the community amazes me and only encourages me to make better levels. While the updates have been slow releasing, they have truly made this stellar Mario level making tool even better.

4) Super Mario 3D World (Wii U)

Super Mario 3D Land on the Nintendo 3DS laid the foundation. Super Mario 3D World continued from where Land left off, offering more on top of that. Levels were more extravagantly designed and masterfully made, secrets like stamps and Green Stars were smartly placed for completionists and more skilled players, multiplayer was a huge focus but hardly necessary to enjoy the game, and the abundance of creative ideas were plentiful to the point that I don't know how Nintendo kept it all from overflowing out the Wii U disc the game was printed on. Super Mario 3D World remains one of the last worthwhile Wii U exclusives that are stuck on the failed system, so to say that are plenty of players who'd like to see the game make the jump to the Switch would be an understatement.

3) Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (NSW)

While we're on the subject of games that made the jump to the Switch--or perhaps in this case, drifted onto the Switch--Mario Kart 8 delighted Wii U owners when it launched on Nintendo's first HD console. It had 32 fantastic tracks, implementing the brand-new anti-gravity mechanic where racers would find themselves driving upside-down, down the faces of waterfalls, and much more. It also had impeccably designed DLC with 16 more tracks split up between two packs for a total of 48 tracks. What the vanilla version of Mario Kart 8 didn't have, however, was a competent battle mode. Instead, it used reworked versions of the base game's tracks as opposed to arenas like in past games. Not only did Mario Kart 8's arrival on the Nintendo Switch bring with it a revitalized Battle Mode, but it also brought with it all 48 tracks in one nice and neat package as well as new characters, too. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is one of the most complete games in the series content-wise, and it's also just insanely enjoyable as a kart racer. Fast, accessible, and amazing.

2) Super Mario Odyssey (NSW)

The latest 3D Mario to release and one of the best, we have Super Mario Odyssey. There was a whole wild world to explore in Super Mario Odyssey, and Mario did it in style--well, multiple styles, as Mario could dress up in various costumes, many celebrating the portly plumber's past and several decades in gaming. The major mechanic in Odyssey was the addition of Cappy, a cap that could be chucked at enemies, thus having Mario inhabit them, utilizing their full move set to solve puzzles and engage with the environment in various ways. The abundance of Power Moons might seem like overkill, but it allowed players of all skill levels to complete the game by going after moons that fit their particular preferred degree of difficulty. It also allowed completionists like me to go hog-wild collecting everything under the sun--er, moon. Super Mario Odyssey had as much creativity packed inside of it as it did Power Moons to collect, and I hope Nintendo saved some ideas for a sequel!

1) Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii)

Speaking of which, that's exactly what Nintendo did with the original Super Mario Galaxy, a 2007 release. The developers had so many left over ideas that they made a direct sequel to it with May 2010's Super Mario Galaxy 2. (Phew! This number one game on the list just barely qualified, didn't it!) While I prefer the original Galaxy just for being the first of its kind and being so memorable due to that fact, Super Mario Galaxy 2 is certainly no slouch. It was a bigger adventure with greater worlds to explore, new power-ups to engage the player with, and a tremendous amount of enemies and bosses to tackle. I love the level design and copious amounts of creativity on display therein, offering so much gravity-based fun. Every galaxy I entered my first time through the game, I said to myself, "Okay, the developers are BOUND to have run out of ideas and will start repeating themselves soon, right?" Wrong! Super Mario Galaxy 2 consistently and continuously kept putting forth new concepts, new ideas, new galaxy gimmicks, and new masterful moments that makes it my favorite Mario game from the past ten years. It's just that darn good of a game, even almost a decade later, and shows that despite all the excellent quality entries in the Mario franchise, none have yet surpassed Galaxy 2 for me.