Friday, August 21, 2020

Shinsekai: Into the Depths (NSW) Review

SuperPhillip Central's next review for August arrives from deep beneath the ocean blue. It's a former Apple Arcade-exclusive game that recently arrived on the Nintendo Switch. It's Shinsekai: Into the Depths, and if you haven't yet tried this game out, "water" you waiting for?

Not unfathomably great, but still a game worthy to take the plunge on

Originally released as an Apple Arcade exclusive, Capcom's Shinsekai: Into the Depths puts players in the role of one of the last submariners in an iced-over world. As the ice has utterly decimated the world, humans retreated to the briny deep below, but even there, the ice has started to penetrate into the waters. This is where Shinsekai's story begins, with the submariner being forced out of their underwater safe house due to encroaching ice. Now, they must journey through the dangerous and mysterious waters of the world to find a new place to call home.

The story of Shinsekai: Into the Depths is an understated one, featuring a total lack of dialogue. Instead, the game prefers a show and not tell approach, offering myriad pictograms and slides to view, leaving it up to the player to decipher them and the story as a whole themselves. Still, even if you wish to shut off your brain completely when it regards to the game's tale, you'll still get an enjoyable underwater adventure. It's just that Shinsekai: Into the Depths' experience is heightened through better understanding the overall narrative... I imagine. I'm dumb as a box of rocks, so the hell if I know what was going on most of the time. That's okay, though, because I bet you, reading a review of mine, probably care more about the gameplay of Shinsekai: Into the Depths than my boasting about my eighth grade level of media literacy anyway.

Rather than eat this submariner whole, how about a spear to tide this overgrown creature over?
Regardless, moving around the underwater world of Shinsekai sees our intrepid submariner using the pack on their back to jettison through the water, and that involves having you, the player, keep an eye on their oxygen tanks. The more you propel the submariner through the water to gain height, the more oxygen is used. Hostile creatures and even things like falling from painful heights will damage your oxygen tanks, resulting in them becoming cracked and eventually unusable. Fortunately, there are extras aplenty throughout the game world to pick up, though you can only hold a small capacity of tanks at the start of the game. When all of the oxygen and air are used up, it's game over due to asphyxiation.

There is a plethora of spots to excavate minerals from,
so intrepid explorers will want to be on the lookout for them.
The major gameplay loop of Shinsekai has you slowly but surely being able to survive higher areas of pressure, aka reaching deeper and deeper levels of the mysterious ocean abyss. This is performed by acquiring the right amount of resources to build new suit upgrades on the fly, and that is done through finding materials in storage containers and mining points, both sprinkled throughout the game world. Smartly, while the resources required for you to level up your suit to reach deeper portions of the ocean change with each upgrade level, the resources you need to find never require you to backtrack; that is to say, they're always in the general area of where you need to go next. Excavated resources and materials found underwater can also be used to craft limited use weapons, helpful items, and permanent upgrades that increase your oxygen capacity and strengthen your suit's defense when it concerns extreme temperatures.

The red line on the mini-map in the corner of the screen (and this uninviting red water)
show depths that house too much pressure currently for our submariner friend's suit.
Thus, Shinsekai: Into the Depths is a clever Metroid-structured game, where the main method of progression isn't item or ability-based (though those are used here and now, of course), but instead, it's based on upgrading your suit to tolerate higher underwater pressures, thus allowing you to access and explore new areas of the game world. That's not to say this aforementioned "clever Metroid-structure" is perfect. The foundation certainly is there, but it can be frustrating to traverse underwater, having the submariner cling to walls when you don't want them to, stumbling around areas to find specific materials, and learning to come to terms that even the shortest of falls can result in damage to your character. The latter point is a bit annoying, especially early in the game where you lack a plentiful amount of oxygen tanks, resulting in one or two cracked tanks leaving with you with little health to work with.

Later in Shinsekai: Into the Depths, you come across your own submarine, which allows you to access to new areas completely, using its drill to serve as the "key" to power through the ice "gates" that separate major unique areas of the game. It's also used in combat, particularly well done in one boss battle. Speaking of those, encounters in Shinsekai can be intense to the uninitiated, but each have a method and weakness to defeating them. The part that can be difficult is figuring that out.

While some areas can be quite claustrophobic, others are wide open to explore. Great for one's submarine.
Shinsekai: Into the Depths isn't a terribly lengthy game. I completed it with most of the in-game achievements in tow in just over seven hours. However, a second run mode, the potential for players to miss certain collectibles, and the simple joy of replaying the game make an argument for some more longevity. That and the game being a general and genuine pleasure to play and being a poignant experience adds to that aforementioned argument as well.

As a game originating on iOS devices via the Apple Arcade initiative, it didn't take much housekeeping for Capcom's game to arrive on the Nintendo Switch in a positive manner, but Shinsekai: Into the Depths is a successful port of a sublime and creative take on the Metroidvania genre. Aquaphobics may feel some unease playing this particular title, but for everyone else, Shinsekai: Into the Depths delivers an engaging, if not short-lived underwater adventure worthy of diving in and enjoying.

[SPC Says: B]

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 (PS4, XB1, PC) Launch Trailer

A couple of weeks ahead of its launch on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC is the launch trailer for Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1+2, an absolutely killer trailer if I do say so myself. It's all in-engine, showing the game in all of its skating glory. Familiar locations and skate spots have been re-imagined to great effect, and as a player of both THPS classics, this trailer does a fantastic job of hitting my nostalgia right where it needs to. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1+2 manuals onto PS4, Xbox One, and PC on September 4th.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Bomberman Jetters (GCN, PS2) Retro Review

It seems like it's been ages since we've had a retro review on SuperPhillip Central. With a slower release schedule of games--for obvious reasons--it seems like a good time as any to look back and dig into some older games! We'll do just that with this Majesco gem, Bomberman Jetters. Here's the SuperPhillip Central review!

Bomberman Jetters vs. Bomberman Generation: A study in con-blast... er... contrast.

It was three years ago that I originally brought you a review of Bomberman Generation, the first of two Bomberman games to blast its way onto the Nintendo GameCube. Now, several years older but perhaps not any bit wiser, I have returned with the second GameCube entry, Bomberman Jetters, based off an anime of the same name. This gives me some understanding as to why I had no idea who a good portion of the characters in White Bomber's corner actually were!

Regardless, Bomberman Jetters opens up a calamity in the making--the HIGE HIGE Bandits are back to their nasty tricks, but this one is on a much more explosive and dangerous level. They've armed a giant bomb and launched it towards Planet Bomber! As White Bomber, your objective is to shut off all four engines of the bomb before it can detonate and destroy its intended target.

Right away when you start Bomberman Jetters and get into the game itself, you'll notice an obnoxious amount of starting and stopping in the form of gameplay interruptions. Every new level gimmick, whether obvious to figure out or not, results in one of White Bomber's allies radioing in to stop the gameplay completely in its tracks. This wouldn't be so awful if it didn't occur as much as it does! Even in late game levels, the amount of interruptions made me beyond aggravated and just wanting my "allies" to just SHUT. UP.

In each world, the HIGE HIGE Bandits love to dress up in different costumes,
 and with each world and each new costume, they obtain new attacks.
When you're actually playing through Bomberman Jetters, it's not nearly as awful an experience. You move through 3D environments, planting bombs to defeat enemies and destroy obstacles, as well as solving simple puzzles along the way. White Bomber can also kick and/or throw bombs into enemies to daze them, making them sitting ducks (or sitting bandits, in many cases) in the process. Otherwise, it's more of a challenge to take down baddies as they're moving targets.

Levels themselves aren't as enjoyable to play around as Bomberman Generation. They're much more maze-like in structure and design, often leading to frustrating situations where getting lost and racking up level runs that take upwards of 20 minutes all but a guarantee. Part of this is due to a lack of a cohesive feel or design in levels, but another major part is due to the how zoomed in the camera is, even when it is at its farthest away. It's far too easy to have one's view obscured by level geometry and take cheap hits. Additionally, being forced to use the L and R shoulder buttons to spin the camera around takes getting used to as well, and trying to properly line the camera up so White Bomber can, in turn, line up his bomb kicks or throws is also more difficult than it should be.

Sharkun rips through these waves with ease.
The Pokemon-like Charabom creatures from Bomberman Generation make their return in Bomberman Jetters, though there are no Rock, Paper, Scissors-like mini-games to acquire them and add them to your roster of helpful characters. Instead, they appear in levels, ready to be snatched up, saved, and able to join White Bomber's heroic cause. When equipped, Charaboms bestow White Bomber with various effects. Some allow him to travel along water, some gift him with the ability to kick and throw bombs farther, while others provide various other offensive, defensive, and traversal capabilities.

Charabom Pommy Dragon can float off specific platforms to give
White Bomber access to new areas of levels.
White Bomber can stumble across numerous items along his journey to save his home planet. There are various fruits that are used to level up the aforementioned Charabom creatures, boosting their usefulness. There are also gold heart pieces that add health to White Bomber's supply of hearts, as well as numerous uniquely colored HIGE HIGE cards, which unlock new characters in the tried and true multiplayer portion of the game.

There are five major worlds in Bomberman Jetters, and they have 4-6 levels each, with two of the levels being boss encounters. The first pits White Bomber against a similarly bipedal elemental-themed Bomber in one-on-one confrontations, a true highlight, while the latter battles have White Bomber face larger foes. A final world opens up once players have acquired every Lightning Card in the game, two from each elemental Bomber battle.

What, not even a courteous "Look out below" for White Bomber?
Despite most of the boss battles being entertaining, between the constant interruptions to the gameplay, the obnoxious mazes that are the levels, and the annoying, impractical camera, Bomberman Jetters' story mode didn't give me the same level of enjoyment as its predecessor's. While I wouldn't call it a dud, I certainly wouldn't exactly call it a blast, either.

Apart from the relatively breezy and disappointing story mode, it wouldn't be a Bomberman game without an explosive multiplayer mode. Fortunately, Bomberman Jetters does not disappoint here. Featuring an abundance of unique modes, stages, and a nice array of options to boot, the multiplayer allows up to four players (human or AI) to take on one another and blast each other to smithereens. (Or, of course, if you're like me, find a way to blow yourself up.) The stages have some smart gimmicks to them, such as an arena set in a boxing ring where bombs and Bombers that run into the ropes will bounce back, causing some enjoyable insanity. Overall, Bomberman Jetters' multiplayer is a highlight of the game, and one that will last a long while--maybe even longer than the main story.

Bomberman Jetters doesn't make the case for itself a much-needed sequel to Bomberman Generation or make the case that the GameCube needed a second Bomberman game to begin with. By no means is it terrible, but a lackluster story mode really hurts the overall package despite Jetters having a rather entertaining multiplayer component. If you are still in possession of your Nintendo GameCube, have it still hooked up, in working order, and REALLY need a Bomberman game for it, take a look at Bomberman Generation instead.

[SPC Says: C]