Saturday, June 27, 2020

Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics (NSW) Review

The weekend is a great time to unwind and play a game or two... or one of 51! That's exactly what you get with Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics for the Nintendo Switch, and here is SuperPhillip Central's review!

Nintendo's got game... and LOTS of them!

The original Clubhouse Games released on the Nintendo DS in 2005 as part of Nintendo's Touch! Generations lineup of casual-oriented software for the system. It brought about many digital family game nights and rowdy online sessions with friends alike almost 15 years ago. Now, it's 2020, and fortunately, Nintendo--with the help of Super Mario Party developer ND Cube--has decided to bring the series back out of long hibernation for a sequel. Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics is no doubt packed with games from all around the world to enjoy, but some odd quirks stop it from being as terrific of a title as it could have been.

Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics features--unsurprisingly--51 unique games from all around the world. You have various categories of games, from board games to parlor games, and card games to action games. There's definitely something for everybody in this collection of classic games.

While it was easy for me to dive in and play the games I already knew the rules for and enjoy them immediately, it was also a barrel of fun to pick up and learn the rules of new games, some of which I had never even heard of before this package. I'm alluding to titles like Mancala, Nine Man's Morris, Hare & Hounds, and Pig's Tail, for instance.

Mancala, pictured here, wasn't just one of the games I learned to play--it was one I learned to love.
Fortunately, each game not only houses an adorably cute opening video presentation of each game, complete with a family of wooden figurines interacting with one another in amusing ways, but the games have a comprehensive list of rules to interact with. For games like Chess and Shogi, for example, you can even turn on an assist grid that shows where there are safe and hazardous spaces for your pieces to move. Super helpful and there whenever you need them.

Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics has easy-to-learn controls for players of all skill levels. Even playing with my game-averse dad was something that we both enjoyed, as he [eventually] learned the controls and even won a bunch of games--particularly some of his in-real-life favorites, Billiards and Bowling. The latter uses touch or Wii Sports-like motion controls so you feel like you're in a bowling alley yourself--save for the need to spend money on a rented pair of bowling shoes.

"Four-in-a-row!" More than just the name of the game; it's also the objective!
Multiplayer is of course a huge part of Clubhouse Games, and it works well enough with this Nintendo Switch sequel. The majority of the 51 classics in Clubhouse Games on Switch can be played locally on one screen. When you get to certain card games like Texas Hold'Em or the Uno-like Last Card, it gets trickier. You'll need a Switch for each player for these games, as they'd otherwise be impossible to play when everyone can see each others' cards. That said, only one copy of the game is needed across all Switches. The player or players without the game can download a free trial version of Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics from the Nintendo eShop and link up with the Switch of the player who owns the full version. It's a charitable way to handle things--and moreover a most welcome one.

Texas Hold'Em is one of several games that requires multiple Switches to play locally.
What isn't so wonderful is playing multiplayer online, particularly with randoms. There is a twofold issue with Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics' online on the Nintendo Switch. The first is that you need to have the Nintendo Switch Online app on a smart device to voice chat, which isn't new to Nintendo's online method with the Switch--just one that is woefully under-cooked and inefficient. Secondly, and most alarmingly, there is sometimes a hellish amount of lag present when playing online with other players. I'm not just talking about action-oriented games, either--I'm talked about turn-based ones as well, which is just amateurish from Nintendo. Considering the original Nintendo DS Clubhouse Games had competent online as well as voice chat directly in the game, and this Switch sequel has neither--and you're playing money to play online via Nintendo Switch Online--is an absolute travesty and unacceptable.

Still, as someone who prefers to play locally and with friends, Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics' shameful online isn't that big of a deal, but for those who do want to play with players from across the country and around the world, it's a travesty. No hyperbole intended, either.

I'm having Mario Party flashbacks all of a sudden!
That said, even as a solo player in Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics, there's plenty to accomplish. A clever medal system rewards players for beating the AI at various difficulties--and the AI can be quite challenging at later levels--and there's also some modest unlockables here and there. It will certainly take some time to play each game, master each game and, earn medals (which you can compare and contrast what medals other players on your friends list have for an alternate form of competition).

Sorry, Blue, but the old rope-a-dope technique won't save you here!
Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics is one of those games that I see myself coming back to for the near and also distant future. It's perfect to bring out for parties, family get-togethers, and any not-so-special occasion as well, such as when you're bored and looking to play a quick game of Four-In-A-Row or Dominoes to kill some time. Though online is a ridiculously rough spot, Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics is an otherwise highly competent and well put-together collection of gaming classics. Not all of the 51 games are winners, but the majority of the games brought and continue to bring loads of fun to the SuperPhillip household. I managed to accumulate armfuls of favorites. You certainly will, too.

[SPC Says: B+]

Azure Striker Gunvolt 3 (NSW) First Look Trailer

Speaking of Inti Creates, a special announcement arrived last night from the development studio: it's the return of the Azure Striker Gunvolt series with the third numbered entry coming to Nintendo Switch. A new playable character was introduced alongside Gunvolt's tried and true (and blue) gameplay, and Keiji Inafune of former Mega Man series fame is supervising the combat and action of the game. Currently, no release date has been given for Azure Striker Gunvolt 3, but the announcement was exciting enough as is.

Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2 (NSW, PS4, XB1, PC) Official 2nd Trailer

Alongside the Nintendo Switch announcement of Ys IX: Monstrum Nox (updated as I had the subtitle backwards!), a reveal that excited me the most during the New Game+ Expo from earlier this week was that of Inti Creates' Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2. With more playable characters, the option to switch between them on the fly, and co-operative play--a first for the series, Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2 looks to be a solid followup to the excellent 8-bit original. Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2 launches on all major platforms on July 10th.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Saints Row: The Third - Remastered (PS4, XB1, PC) Review

I'm running out of time for the month of June, so it's time to kick it into high gear with the review backlog I have this month. Let's begin with Saints Row: The Third - Remastered, my third go with this particular entry in the Saints Row series. Is this remaster of such a high quality that it's worth taking a return trip to Steelport? Like the Saints, let's go marching into the SuperPhillip Central review!

The third time's the charm for the Saints' third entry

I'm no stranger to the Saints, in particular, Saints Row: The Third. Having reviewed it on the PlayStation 3, the Nintendo Switch, and now the PlayStation 4 build of a brand-new remastered version, I've been around Steelport a few times now. Despite the series's flagrant juvenile sense of humor and moments that occasionally bring a cringe to my face, there's something about the open world sandbox gameplay of Saints Row: The Third that keeps me coming back for more.

Saints Row: The Third - Remastered is hardly a "tighten up the graphics on level 3" and call it a day effort. No, between the much more defined and detailed characters and environments, the Saints and Steelport have never looked so good. It almost seems like the developers undersold their own tech giving the game a "Remastered" title when it feels sometimes like a full-fledged remake. While the beauty of the game is a bit of a bittersweet thing, underneath its flashy veneer is a game full of retained bugs and occasional frame-rate issues.

Compare and contrast the top screen (on Switch) to the bottom (on base PS4).
While Saints Row: The Third - Remastered has been greatly changed visually, it remains a very similar experience to its original release back in 2011 with regard to gameplay. Aiming at targets can be a bit troublesome, as can the less than stellar driving controls. There's definitely a learning curve to both. As mentioned, various and numerous bugs and glitches plague the game, whether they be characters falling through the environment and other gameplay-related issues, trophies not popping up, or worse, game crashes. Still, it says something about this remaster and Saints Row: The Third in general that even with these bothersome issues, I still felt the urge to continue playing, seeing myself enjoying my time with the Saints again regardless.

The Deckers are but one of three rival gangs ready to get in the way of the Saints' Steelport domination.
Your character in Saints Row: The Third is yours to customize how ever you wish. The Saints Row series delivers one of the most robust character creation systems in gaming, to my recollection, and everything from voice to brow size to... ahem... sex appeal, can be altered to your liking. As you earn respect from completing missions, performing insane stunts and otherwise awesome feats, you unlock new abilities for your character to purchase for themselves. These range from more ammo capacity, lowered vulnerability to weapons and hazards of various types, higher health and stamina, and an increased amount of Saints members that can tag along with you at once, to name just a small sample of the abundant amount of options available.

The Third Street Saints are number one, baby!
Saints Row: The Third - Remastered as a game, much like the Saints, is one of excess, and Remastered delivers content in spades with all three DLC packages in one nice and neat game. If you recall, the Nintendo Switch port also had these missions in the game right from the start, but with this fully remastered version, you get all that and some gorgeous graphics as opposed to visuals from the early 2010s. These missions take you from encounters with Genki, a bloodthirsty mascot who puts the leader of the Saints through death-defying stunt mini-games, to being an unassuming actor in a crazed director's big blockbuster project about gangsters in space, appropriately called "Gangsters in Space".

It's no Ben-Hur chariot race, but this is one intense vehicular exchange all the same!
Aside from the DLC missions, there are the standard missions within Saints Row: The Third's story that sees the game opening up with the Saints robbing a bank in a caper gone awry, as things are never easy when it comes to the Saints. A rival gang sees that the Saints are arrested for their ill-fated heist and they are thrust into the unknown, the sin-soaked metropolis of Steelport, where the Saints must rebuild their empire from scratch. Of course, the three large gangs of Steelport won't lie down and die so easily. Missions in Saints Row: The Third follow a similar prototype to that the series's clear inspiration, Grand Theft Auto, though Saints Row's third outing has no qualms with going absolutely insane with the stakes and ridiculous scenarios throughout the story.

Yeah... this definitely was not in the whole foolproof "rob the bank vault" plan.
When you're not tackling story missions, there's a host of side hustles and activities to partake in--from purchasing properties, to clearing gang operations strategically sprinkled around Steelport, each piece of side content slowly gives the Saints more of the city to take over. These side hustles also provide the Saints with an hourly cash flow which can be accessed from a helpful phone, which is also used to select missions, assassination targets, vehicle theft targets, as well as to access a map of Steelport. It's a handy and dandy phone, which makes a lot of the work in Saints Row: The Third less tedious to do.

Speaking of tedium, the side activities in Saints Row: The Third - Remastered range from fun to utterly obnoxious with a mix of boring within. It's certainly a blast both figuratively and literally to commandeer a tank and unleash as much destruction and property damage as possible in a set amount of time, while it's more agonizing to deal with a dimwitted AI who seems suicidal in both their driving and their moving about when it concerns the Trafficking missions. Then, there's the Heli Assault side activity, which thankfully there are but two, and these drag on a little too long and can see the health of the AI character you're meant to protect as they proceed to make various deals around Steelport, dwindle to absolutely nothing in a flash. This results in multiple minutes of playtime wasted in a frustrating fashion.

Side activities are mostly optional affairs, offering various rewards for completing them.
Still, there are far more fun moments in Saints Row: The Third - Remastered than there are frustrating or yawn-inducing ones. Laying the smack down in a ring full of Luchadores, taking on the appearance of a villain via plastic surgery to infiltrate an enemy base, and saving the day after an ultimate, ultra-important, in-game choice as the song "I Need A Hero" by Bonnie Tyler blares show just some of the crazy silliness that Saints Row: The Third - Remastered exudes. These are the entertaining and enjoyable moments that the game produces on a frequent basis.

Saints Row: The Third - Remastered may not have evolved too much in the gameplay department, but what it has done is more than market itself well as a remaster, looking phenomenal at times. Much of the humor is dated and beyond juvenile, but there is some good stuff that gave me a giggle here and there. If you're sick of Steelport and the Saints' adventures therein, this remaster is not going to do anything to sweeten your opinion on the fictional city, but for those who want to jump in for a first, second, or--like me--a third time, then Saints Row: The Third - Remastered is a great game and excellent effort.

[SPC Says: B]

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered Edition (NSW, PS4, iOS, AND) New Features Trailer

Just a little over two months away from its release date, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered Edition has a new trailer, narrated by the talented Donna Burke. This trailer showcases a myriad of the features within the game, and also details the Lite version of the game--allowing players with that version to link up with one player of the paid version to explore 13 unique dungeons. Quite generous, if I do say so myself! Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered Edition launches on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and mobile devices on August 27th.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Ys IX: Monstrum Nox (PS4, NSW, PC) Announcement Trailer

The latest installment of the long-running Ys series, Ys IX: Monstrous Nox, is officially heading westward, and not just on PlayStation 4, but PC and the Nintendo Switch as well! The announcement trailer shows the enhanced combat and new traversal options available to Adol and his party. Ys IX: Monstrous Nox launches on PS4, Switch, and PC in 2021, with the PS4 version releasing ahead of the others first.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Sensational Summer Video Games to Mellow Out With

If you're in the Northern Hemisphere, then you probably know that summer is officially here! With summertime comes hot and heated temps, humidity, and bright sunshine. Of course, this summer is a bit different with an ongoing pandemic, so if you want to maintain social distancing rules and stay safe, there's always a digital retreat you can take with these great video games with summertime themes and feels. Now, some of these games have the feeling of summer or are ripe with activities pertaining to the season, and some stretch the definition of "summertime" more than others, but they're sure to bring a smile to your face! After you've checked out my picks, which games scream "SUMMER!" the most to you?

Super Mario Sunshine (GCN)

You can't mention Mario and summertime in the same sentence without mentioning the 3D platformer that epitomizes the season: Super Mario Sunshine. The whole game takes place on the glorious open expanses of beautiful, tropical Isle Delfino, which despite the summer window dressing, has plenty of variety in its world's trials and challenges. From Bianco Hills' treacherous climb up the windmill to face Petey Piranha, to Sirena Beach's hotel where the goal is to rout out some unruly and uninvited haunted guests, Super Mario Sunshine is a varied and pleasant platformer. Yes, it might not be the mellowest of experiences with some of the more enraging, ill-conceived challenges in the game (looking at you, lily pad and pachinko Shine Sprites), but overall, Super Mario Sunshine is some summer bliss distilled in video game form.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons (NSW)

I feel like I've broached on and on about this next game in myriad recent articles on SuperPhillip Central, but just in case it hasn't gotten boring reading about Animal Crossing: New Horizons yet, here I am again with more about this wonderful time sink of a game! Summer in New Horizons sees a whole host of new events and happenings around your personal island home, from bug-catching competitions to June wedding events, to a multitude of new fish and insects to nab with your rod and net respectively. On June evenings, the subtle but mesmerizing green glows of fireflies offers bountiful beauty in the nighttime air. Just avoid the bites of errant pesky mosquitoes! All year round Animal Crossing: New Horizons delivers abundant things to do, and summertime is but part of the fun.

Wii Sports Resort (Wii)

Wii Sports Resort was the game that originally came bundled with the Wii MotionPlus attachment for the Wii Remote to offer much more accuracy when it came to the Wii hardware's motion controls, as well as the excellent followup to the game that revolutionized the gaming industry and brought new players into our hobby (the more, the merrier--even if many didn't stick around). Wii Sports Resort brought lots of joy and merriment to players as they ventured around the many areas of Wuhu Island, a tropical getaway worthy of its name, as many players found themselves "woo-hoo-ing" as they played each of Wii Sports Resort's 12 unique activities. Between Wave Race-like jet ski-riding, basketball, golf, bowling, among many others, Wii Sports Resort kept players up and moving and is still a great game to play for those summertime gaming sessions. Book a return pleasure trip to Wuhu Island today with Wii Sports Resort!

Go Vacation (NSW, Wii)

If you've had your fill of fun on Wuhu Island, then perhaps an alternate island getaway destination with a considerably larger set of activities in its repertoire is more to your liking! Meet Kawawii Island from Namco Bandai's Go Vacation. The game was the publisher's answer to Nintendo's Wii Sports, and it went with a "bigger is better" and "more is more" approach (as opposed to a "less is more" one) with Go Vacation. Kawawii Island is a fully realized location, able to be freely explored, though split up between four resort areas: Marine, Mountain, Snow, and City. Each resort houses its own array of activities, such as Ridge Racer-style vehicle racing, extreme sports like skateboarding, ATV races, surfing, beach volleyball, tennis, horseback riding, and so, SO many more. Go Vacation's list of activities may not all be winners (most are, thankfully), but there's a lot of fun and entertainment to be found in this gem of a game, originally released on the Wii and now available on the Nintendo Switch.

Fishing Resort (Wii)

Fishing is synonymous with summertime. Lazy days floating on the river, in the ocean, or on a lake, so of course I had to choose a fishing game for this summer-centric list. However, there are so many fishing games to choose from, so which to pick? My favorite fishing-focused video game that I've played (and I must admit, I don't play many of them) is Prope's Fishing Resort for the Wii. Beyond the insane level of customization you have in the game, the amount of fishing locations in the game, and the amazing and oftentimes arduous fishing gameplay that really rewards you for patience, perseverance, and overall pluck, makes for a terrific fishing title. Fishing Resort pits players against a profusion of different fish to try to catch and then display them in their own aquariums. Each fish you encounter is its own tough battle, but the motion controls work so well that tedium rarely sets in. I hope that like Go Vacation, Fishing Resort somehow makes a "splash" onto the Nintendo Switch. As is, it's a great game to unwind and reel in some fun with during the summer.

Stardew Valley (Multi)

Let's now move onto a game that is a bumper crop of awesome, zen-like entertainment. It's of course Stardew Valley, which pretty much needs no special adoration from me. It's a known, quality game, after all, but permit me to partake in some love for the game, regardless. Stardew Valley is a game that, like Animal Crossing and the series it is inspired by, Harvest Moon, can make players fall into the trap of losing hours of real life time like it were nothing. Between clearing fields, farming crops, chatting with the locals, exploring caves and mines, and such--all otherwise menial real life tasks that this game somehow makes fun--Stardew Valley can easily sap hours upon hours of your life. However, seeing your farm grow from a squalid series of fields into a thriving bounty of beauty and crops is worth it, I would say!

Everybody's Golf (PS4)

We conclude this list of enjoyable summer-themed video games with two sports video games that are synonymous with the season. We begin with some time on the greens, fairways, and on my bad days on the course, bunkers, of Everybody's Golf, a tremendous golf series in its own right, formerly known as Hot Shots Golf on the North American side of the globe. Courses can be fully explored to uncover secrets, whether on foot or via golf cart, and there's plenty more than golf to participate in, such as fishing for rare aquatic species. Customize your golfer to your satisfaction, and then take them out for a round of birdies, eagles, and if you're fortunate, the ever-elusive albatross, hole-in-one, or even rarer--a condor! I don't really have a love for watching or playing the real thing, but in gaming form, relaxing in my comfy chair, golf is great fun and just what I need for some summertime satisfaction!

Super Mega Baseball 3 (Multi)

BATTER UP! Last but certainly not least, we move on from putting and driving to hitting and pitching with the boys of summer in Super Mega Baseball 3, the latest in the versatile and exciting baseball game series from developer Metalhead Software. With Major League Baseball's season status up in the air like a high ball popped up in the air to center field, Super Mega Baseball 3 is a suitable substitute, not just for summer but all year long. You can customize your own team, design their jerseys, their logo, player names, appearances and stats, and take them out against the world in seasons, elimination tournaments, as well as the in-depth and highly impressive, all-new Franchise mode. For stat geeks and players who want to work with a team that grows and changes between each game and each season, this is the mode for you. Beautifully blending arcade gameplay with simulation qualities, Super Mega Baseball 3 hits a game-winning home run.

Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time (PS4, XB1) Announcement Trailer

After leaking prior to the weekend, the official announcement for Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time is here! All new worlds, playable Crash, Coco and more, and new powers make this gorgeous looking game a true followup to Naughty Dog's original PS1 trilogy. Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time launches on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on October 2nd.