Friday, March 6, 2020

Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX (NSW) Launch Trailer

Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX launched on Nintendo Switch today, and Nintendo and The Pokemon Company have a trailer ready just for the occasion. Encounter myriad Pokemon in the randomized procedurally generated dungeons of this challenging game. Expect a review here at SPC within the next week or so!

Underhero (NSW, PS4, XB1, PC) Review

This month we have a pair of indie game's featuring playable underlings who just want their chance to shine. SPC has the first of these games with Underhero, part platformer, part Paper Mario-like RPG from Paper Castle Games. Let's take a look at the game with the SPC review!

A minion's moment to shine

Creativity and the indie scene go together like peanut butter and jelly, salad and ranch dressing, and pepperoni and pizza. The two are synonymous with one another, and the point keeps getting hammered home with release after release from these super talented studios and small teams. The gang at Paper Castle Games is but one of these teams, and while their game Underhero might seem like yet another 2D pixel-based indie release, the game makes a terrific name for itself with a clever RPG/platformer hybrid that plays around with genre conventions in a truly smart way.

Yes, Underhero is a satirical take on the RPG genre, having you begin the game as a hero on his way to encounter the big bad boss of the game and take him out, as the prophecy says. But, when things don't exactly go the way the prophecy is supposed to, and the hero dies, a generic underling is essentially ordered to take his place. Without going into too much detail as to spoil the story, Underhero's tale turns the RPG genre on its head and constantly pokes fun at the genre's conventions, often in clever ways. This is helped by some really smart dialogue and humorous scenarios featuring abundantly charming and quirky characters. My favorite of the bunch happens to be a moth with a split-personality, one a regal snob and the other a dimwitted child, complete with music changes when each personality takes over and speaks.

Will our hero have all the answers here or be completely clueless?
Throughout my 10 hour adventure with Underhero I was smiling, enjoy the ride, and finding myself amazed at what the folks at Paper Castle Games were able to do with their small team. The final area and boss of the adventure perfectly encapsulated the abundance of creativity on display in the game, and was just a majorly impressive way to cap off the adventure, even if it wasn't mechanically perfect.

Underhero is part platformer and part RPG. The platforming in Underhero is a bit too loose and slippery for my liking, and this caused me to initially miss plenty of basic jumps or slide off platforms too easily. With enough practice, missed jumps were less of a commonality, but the point still stands that you're not going to get Mario quality tightness in controls when it comes to platforming with Underhero.

Sliding off platforms and missing what should have been simple jumps
 plagued my early experiences with Underhero.
There are five worlds in Underhero, and the first three take you to different kingdoms ruled by various bosses in order to hand back mystical and mythical MacGuffins to them. Of course, nothing is that simple, and there are plenty of platforming puzzles and just puzzles in general to encounter along the way that make what should be simple missions more complicated and convoluted. That's not to say that in a negative way. While one world requires you to make a roundabout way to reach the top of a tree, another requires you to enter a maze to acquire the right pepper to reach a volcano. This is all the while the occasional mini-game rears its enjoyable head in, ranging from rhythm-based ice skating to skateboarding down a hill as a rampaging beast pursues closely behind.

As I grew more accustomed to the platforming physics, though,
moments of missed jumps were lessened (but not completely eliminated).
Really, the only negative I can muster about some of the scenarios in Underhero is that there's a modest but occasionally tedious amount of backtracking with no option to fast travel when you're within a world. Neither is there an option to view how many treasures you've missed within a world, so if you wish to complete the game 100% or max out your stats, you will encounter some trouble. As you can imagine, the backtracking through long-winded platforming sections for treasure and to just reach desired destinations can seriously grate on the nerves.

Underhero utilizes a combat system heavily inspired by the Paper Mario series, but given its own unique spin from Paper Castle Games. Battles initiate by coming into close proximity to an enemy and then beginning combat. Instead of having to take turns, you have a stamina meter that depletes upon attacking. A simple sword swipe for ground enemies or use of a slingshot for aerial foes will take less stamina points to use than a hulking hammer shot. The stamina gauge slowly recharges, and you can find upgrades that lower the cost of stamina for certain weapons' attacks.

Don't let this fellow minion make a monkey out of you, hero!
When it revolves around defending, stamina also comes into play as a factor. You need at least two stamina points to be able to jump or duck to avoid attacks. If you don't have enough stamina, your character is too pooped to do anything and will be vulnerable to attack, so it's a strategic game of not overexerting yourself or getting too greedy by attacking so much that when it comes time to dodge, you are unable to do so.

Meanwhile, while dodging itself doesn't use up stamina, successful evading of enemy attacks refills part of your stamina meter more quickly than just letting it recover by itself. Like the Paper Mario series, enemies generally have tells on when they're going to attack. Some of these tells are more helpful than others. For instance, the first enemy you encounter in Underhero will blink twice before performing an attack that requires you to jump over it and will stick out its tongue before performing an attack that requires you to duck it to avoid it.

Much like Paper Mario, timing is everything in avoiding attacks in Underhero.
Not too far in your adventure you'll gain new weapons alongside your simple sword. The slingshot is necessary to ward off flying foes and the hammer is terrific for dealing heavy damage but takes a while to wind up and use. Then, there's the defensive shield, which is perfect in a pinch for parrying enemy attacks, mainly projectiles that can be blocked right back into enemies for damage. Blocking requires you to time when you pull out your shield just right, or else your shield will take damage. Some attacks cannot be parried at all and will result in you or your shield taking the brunt of the blow. Your shield can break in battle, leaving you with one less method of defending yourself, but shields can be repaired with anvils found in treasure chests strewn about the world and more reliably purchased from a reoccurring peddler in the game.

Finally, when all else fails and you just find a foe to trying to face, you can always go the politician route and bribe them with coins. By filling a gauge completely with coins, you'll successfully bribe an enemy, not only giving you experience but a pass from fighting them. I didn't utilize this method too much because while experience is still rewarded, coins seemed to be a finite resource that could be better spent on upgrades at the hub world's shop, such as health increases, potion storage upgrades, and more. Though some enemy encounters I found when on way too long and tested my patience, so I would bribe these particular enemies just to avoid a three minute encounter.

Overall, I'd say combat in Underhero is just like the premise of the game itself--it's creative and works well enough. It helps that battles play into the premise of the game as well as one of its major themes--one that I won't dare spoil as it would ruin the overarching narrative of the game. Some battles do get drawn out to the point of tedium, and once an enemy has been bested, they're gone for good with no real way to "grind" for experience in the game. This is not a major problem because the difficulty for the most part is balanced enough that you seldom find yourself with your back against the wall challenge-wise. Well, that's save for the second world of the game, which I found to be a big jump in difficulty just in how enemies attacked and how I had to learn more complicated timing to avoid them.

While most encounters play out the same, it's when you face off against bosses that battles open up considerably and delight even more so. All revolve around platforming to avoid enemy attacks while waiting for the appropriate opening to close in and attack the boss's health gauge. Some bosses require you to simply dodge their offensive outbursts before they finally tire themselves out, while others ask you to use your noggin to the point where battles become like puzzles. These boss battles were one of the greater highlights of Underhero for me.

Ah, a boss after my own self-conscious heart...
Another highlight is the game's presentation, and I've already spoken highly of the game's story and the way it weaves its satire like a string to sew an impeccably designed quilt with patches of humorous and heartfelt moments. Nevertheless, the art on display between the character sprites and impressive backgrounds and environments are truly well done, offering a superb and clean look to them. The music is as worthy of being put under the spotlight due to its memorable melodies and accompanying the environments and scenarios well.

Underhero falters with its platforming not being as precise as I would like, featuring some tedious backtracking too, and some battles being overly lengthy and repetitious affairs. However, those negatives are just drops in a bucket compared to the copious amounts of positives the game possesses. Between the often humorous and witty story, dialogue and characters, tremendously creative boss battles, and overly engaging battle system, Underhero is an overachiever in many senses of the word.

[SPC Says: B]

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

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Prinny 1+2: Exploded and Reloaded (NSW) Announcement Trailer

An unexpected blast from the past, both Prinny platformers were fins-to-wall difficult games originally released on the PlayStation Portable. Now, they are announced as coming to the Nintendo Switch this fall in an exclusive package. With 1,000 Prinny penguins to work with, you might think you have an easy adventure ahead of you, but players of the platformers will tell you that you couldn't be any further from the truth, D00D!

Trials of Mana (NSW, PS4, PC) Gameplay Trailer

Take a deep dive into the gameplay of the upcoming Trials of Mana remake, coming to Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Steam on April 24th! Explore a magical world, encounter a robust lineup of unique characters, and do battle in real-time against sensational foes of all shapes and sizes. I'm currently struggling to think of a more hype-worthy remake from Square Enix that releases next month. Surely, it's a fantasy that there is one, and that's my final word on that. In all seriousness, though, you can look forward to the SPC review of Trials of Mana sometime around the game's launch!

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Luigi’s Mansion 3 (NSW) "Multiplayer Pack DLC - Part 1" Trailer

Luigi's Mansion 3 just received a drop of new content in the form of the Multiplayer Pack DLC - Part 1, featuring new ScareScraper areas, three new costumes, and several multiplayer mini-games. Scope out the complete list of content and it in action with this new trailer from Nintendo.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Mega Man Zero/ZX Legacy Collection (NSW, PS4, XB1, PC) Launch Trailer

Coming off Inti Creates' most recent game, which SPC reviewed last night, we turn our focus to a compilation of the developers' past works with Mega Man Zero/ZX Legacy Collection, which launched last Tuesday. Six games from two sub-series of Mega Man games equal one action-packed package!

Monday, March 2, 2020

Gunvolt Chronicles: Luminous Avenger iX (NSW, PS4, XB1, PC) Review

March comes in like a lion, and so is SuperPhillip Central with a new review to kick the month off! It's Gunvolt Chronicles: Luminous Avenger iX, a game that is set in an alternate universe in the Gunvolt series. Be that as it may, it features some of the most enjoyable gameplay within the entire Gunvolt series, so let's check out with the SPC review.

Copen brings the heat to this action-packed alternate story in the Gunvolt series

Inti Creates has had no trouble making it clear that the Gunvolt series is clearly inspired by the dev's past work on the Mega Man series, and Gunvolt Chronicles: Luminous Avenger iX very much does not hide this. Between the non-linear selection of levels to the bosses that Copen learns new abilities from, there's a pleasantly familiar feel to the game reminiscent of Capcom's Blue Bomber. However, there's just enough freshness and uniqueness in the gameplay that makes Copen's high velocity adventure stand firmly on its own two feet.

Playing as Copen feels great--he's quick, agile, nimble, and can get around levels with ease. Unlike Gunvolt, Copen targets enemies and locks on to them by dashing directly into them, then he's able to unload a series of homing shots straight at them for a short while. Being able to successfully chain midair dashes from one enemy to another is such a blast, and levels are built for this skill.

Copen's dash isn't just for offense--it can also get him out of some sticky situations rather fast!
As Copen defeats enemies, his score combo increases, and does so just as long as he goes without taking hits from foes. The more enemies destroyed, the greater the multiplier goes up until Copen takes damage. Even when taking damage, as long as Copen has a Bullit stocked, the damage output will eliminate one of his Bullits instead of taking out some of his health. Bullits are used when dashing into enemies, attacking enemies, and when damage is taken. By double tapping downward, Copen's stock of Bullits refills, allowing him to unleash more attacks without the worry of taking damage.

Abilities "borrowed" from bosses can be used to take out some enemies in a jiffy.
If you see that you're not as great of a player at Gunvolt Chronicles as you'd like, even with having a great capacity of Bullits to attempt to endure hits like a veritable teenage tank, then there's some solace for you. Occasionally when all of Copen's health depletes, he's able to be revived back via the Anthem mechanic, though this brings your overall score for the level down to zero.

The most arduous part of Gunvolt Chronicles, but also one of the most enjoyable and challenging--in a positive way--is that of the boss battles. Each level contains a final fight with a Septima boss, one who channels mystical, powerful energy and unleashes it throughout the battle. Each boss has their own patterns and set of three life bars. Each time a life bar is depleted, the next stage of battle commences, having the boss change up and add to its attack pattern. When the final third of health is remaining for a boss, they let loose an ultimate attack, usually impossible for avoid (or at least screen-clearing move) on one's first go against the boss, which can feel mighty cheap. This is especially so because many of them can deplete all of Copen's Bullits, leaving him wide open to losing a significant portion of his health.

This wannabe idol has Copen dead in her sights with her ultimate attack.
Between levels, which can mostly be selected in a non-linear order from sets of three apiece, you can use money dropped from defeated enemies and discovered in special chests to purchase upgrades for Copen. These give boosts like extra Bullit capacity, HP increases from using Overdrive attacks, halved ammo spending when using special attacks, and more. Some of the more costly items will take some necessary grinding to acquire, but you'll find yourself replaying levels anyway to aim for high scores and to uncover bonus emblems of which there are four in each level.

"My, what a big cannon you have!"
"The better to blast you with!"
Gunvolt Chronicles isn't a lengthy game by any stretch of the imagination. The main campaign will last most players just over a few hours, but there is some motivation to keep playing long after the initial credits roll. While there is no difficult to obtain "true" ending like past games in the Gunvolt line, there are a variety of extra missions that unlock after the final boss is eliminated. These extra missions feature familiar but retooled areas from levels from the base game, but the encounters against the Septima bosses at the end of each are impervious to their vulnerable weapons. Then, there's collecting the gold bonus emblems (four in each level) and aiming for S+ rankings in levels via proficient play (the latter is more for those really in tune with the game's deep and rewarding mechanics).

Flashy and frenetic are two words I'd used to describe Gunvolt Chronicles. This goes to the presentation as well, featuring easily distinguishable character models, fluidly animated, and impressively detailed backgrounds and environments. My only real gripe is with the music, offering some forgettable tunes--mostly due to the fact that you're blasting and blowing up enemies too much to hear the music--and J-Pop music that is quite frankly not to my preference. Your musical mileage will definitely vary here, though.

Most of the game is fully voiced, but it's the original Japanese only.
Gunvolt Chronicles: Luminous Avenger iX brings with it tremendously challenging, high octane, fast and fluid 2D action platforming that satisfies greatly. Though the short playtime and sometimes unfair boss battles will sour some, it's a case of action-packed quality over quantity here. Gunvolt Chronicles is at its best when you're running, gunning, dashing into foes, locking into them, and unloading everything Copen has into them--which is essentially every moment throughout the captivating three hour campaign.

[SPC Says: B]

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Review Round-Up - February 2020

While replaying the Dragon Ball Z saga was nothing new, the way that it was presented to players
certainly was with Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot, SPC's Featured Game of the Month!
SuperPhillip Central moves into March with a look back at the reviews published on the site in February. It's something I like to call the Review Round-Up, and in February, four reviews were posted. Let's call it "quality over quantity", and it's my firm hope that you agree with the "quality" part of that statement!

We started off strong with Ori and the Blind Forest: Definitive Edition, a heartfelt Metroid-style 2D platformer that was as much of a surprise in quality as it was that it appeared on a non-Xbox-related platform. The game earned a B+. Then, the featured game of the month was Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot, a somewhat long-winded but enjoyable romp through both familiar, already tread territory with the DBZ saga, and all-new territory with a bevy of side missions that dug deep into the Dragon Ball mythos. The game got a B grade overall.

Following that was the latest in the Darksiders franchise with Darksiders Genesis, taking on a new isometric, top-down perspective for its adventure while retaining many of the qualities that fans of the series have grown to love. Genesis also got a B grade. Finally, we wrapped up with the mystery files and compelling cases of Layton's Mystery Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaires' Conspiracy - Deluxe Edition, arriving on the Nintendo Switch with its abundance of perplexing puzzles and charming characters. It, too, received a B grade. Overall, a great month of games ranging from B to B+!

Now, let's take a look at some excerpts from each of SPC's reviews this month, and remember to check out every review ever posted on SuperPhillip Central with the SPC Review Archive!

Ori and the Blind Forest: Definitive Edition (NSW) - B+
Now, Nintendo Switch owners without an Xbox can see for themselves what the gaming world has known for over four years now: that Ori and the Blind Forest is a breathtaking game, most definitely worthy of playing. Seriously, you owe it to yourself if you have any semblance of a fandom for platformers or Metroid-style games to check Moon Studios' stellar outing out. What it lacks in super-satisfying combat, Ori and the Blind Forest: Definitive Edition more than makes up for in basically everything else--sensational, jaw-dropping visuals; a muted, ambient soundtrack that knows when to pack a punch when it's absolutely necessary; a heart-tugging, emotional journey; and immensely rewarding and great-feeling gameplay.
Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot (PS4, XB1, PC) - B
...while I think Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is a great Dragon Ball Z game, it's only just a good game in general. Some gameplay systems are too basic or work against one another, and battles can really test one's patience early on, especially with the sometimes wonky camera. Most outside players less familiar with the source material will probably not find as much to love about the game as a fan would. That notwithstanding, Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is a game built for the fans first and foremost, and here, it certainly serves them well.
Darksiders Genesis (PS4, XB1, NSW) - B
Even with its tremendous lack of polish (and this will only improve as more patches are added to the game), Darksiders Genesis managed to hook me in from beginning to end and long after seeing the credits roll for the first time after my initial 15 hour play-through. I found myself routinely returning to levels to retrieve collectibles I had missed or couldn't yet acquire because I didn't have a needed ability from a later level. The combat is simple enough to learn, but the ins and outs will take plenty of time to get proficient enough to tackle the game's toughest challenges, such as the arena and ultra-hard Apocalyptic difficulty. What Darksiders Genesis lacks in polish and an overly capable camera, it more than makes up for in enjoyable exploration, rewarding combat, clever puzzles, and smartly placed secrets.
Overall, if you've already experienced what Layton's Mystery Journey had to offer on a previous platform it released on, then there's no real reason to play through the game again on the Switch, despite the sharper visuals, slightly altered or completely different puzzles, and new additions. While Kat and her adventure may stay in the shadow of her father's trademark top hat due to its disjointed case structure and easier puzzles, Layton's Mystery Journey is still a top notch point-and-click puzzle game that fans of the Professor Layton series will feel right at home playing. It's also a fantastic starting point for new players to take their first leap into the Layton franchise. 
War and Strife made one unlikely but altogether efficient duo in the stellar Darksiders Genesis.