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.

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