Thursday, December 3, 2020

The Games We Bought PlayStation For

On December 3rd, 1994, 26 years ago, the original PlayStation was born, ushering a new console and competitor in the market. Today, on this 26th birthday of the PS1 and the PlayStation brand in general, let's celebrate on SuperPhillip Central with a personal journey of sorts from yours truly, going through the games that pushed me and my family (hence, the "we", since when I was a kid I couldn't buy a PlayStation myself) into the PlayStation ecosystem again and again. Whether on consoles or handhelds, I've owned almost every major PlayStation platform (save for a recent, quite obvious one!). So, join me on my journey as a reminisce and briefly touch upon those killer apps that enticed so nice that they pushed me towards these PlayStation platforms.

[PlayStation One]

Final Fantasy VII 

Let's begin with a big one. Nintendo lost a lot of immediate ground to its new competitor, Sony, in the console race due to sticking with expensive cartridges on its Nintendo 64 over the PlayStation's CDs. What was seen as a massive betrayal was then-Squaresoft moving its complete focus to the PlayStation. The biggest game that Nintendo fans were going to miss out on (until 20+ years later, of course) was Final Fantasy VII. My older brother and I definitely didn't want to be one of those fans, so we begrudgingly begged our mom for another console, the PlayStation. It's fortunate that we did, as we have been happy PlayStation customers ever since. Maybe not so much big-time Final Fantasy fans, though, due to the series' quality over the years... 

Mega Man 8: Anniversary Edition

Like Squaresoft, Capcom, too, opted to jump ship from Nintendo to PlayStation after the rising costs of cartridges on the Nintendo 64, and they took one of our favorite franchises with them: Mega Man. Perhaps Mega Man 8 and its anniversary edition was more of a killer app for us than Final Fantasy VII was! Not only was the game gorgeous with its colorful, vivid, and vibrant sprite-based visuals, but the game featured so many new things, such as fully (and badly) voiced anime cutscenes, collectible bolts to use to purchase permanent upgrades at Dr. Light's, and a Mega Ball item, for kicks, of course. We would have missed out on so many Mega Man games--particularly one of my favorites, Mega Man X4--had we not leaped into Sony's ecosystem.

[PlayStation 2]

Final Fantasy X

With the PlayStation 2, the initial launch wasn't too exciting, so it was rather easy to pass on the PS2's offerings in the beginning. Of course, we all know how that story played out--the system has one of the best, all-encompassing game libraries of all time now. But, there were two games that truly tested my brother's and my will to ask for a PlayStation 2. One of these was Final Fantasy X. After adoring the PlayStation Final Fantasy games and much of Squaresoft's catalog on Sony's first system, it only made sense for us to have extreme hype for the first Final Fantasy on a bold new platform. Final Fantasy was already impressive and exceptionally large on the PS1, so we couldn't even imagine how big the newest game would be on the PlayStation 2. While the end result wasn't the best game in the series to us--far from it--Final Fantasy X will always have a special place in at least my heart for being the bait that lured us to the PlayStation 2's sunny shores.

[PlayStation 3]

Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction

I should take the time to note that my family has never actually gotten a PlayStation platform at launch. But, if there was a case of purchasing one the closest to launch, that would be the case with the PlayStation 3. That's funny because we would both argue that the PS3 was Sony's weakest home console in terms of library. Regardless, my love for the Ratchet & Clank series' PlayStation 2 outings, especially Going Commando--my first game in the series--saw me absolutely drooling at the thought of playing the newest entry. Not only would be a bigger and bolder adventure, but it'd be in glorious high definition for the first time. That game was of course Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction, and thank the lovely lombax for that, or else I would have never gotten to play his other PS3 adventures or this next game on this list.


"Play, Create, Share." I love making video games. Sure, I've only published one real game, but the act of creating levels, designing characters, and implementing all of it to work into one cohesive project is both exciting and fascinating to me. LittleBigPlanet came with the promise of being able to create massively complex level creations and share them with the world. You can bet I enjoyed doing just that! LittleBigPlanet quickly jumped to the top, right by Ratchet & Clank, as my favorite PlayStation franchises, and basically I'll now go anywhere Sackboy as well as Media Molecule does!

[PlayStation Portable]

Mega Man: Powered Up

Let's take a detour from PlayStation consoles to Sony's handheld efforts starting with the PlayStation Portable, or PSP. Another case of getting the system almost a year after launch like several other PlayStation systems, we did the same with the PSP. However, this time around I did something I never did before--I bought a game before even owning the system. Yes, my love for the Blue Bomber was so much that I NEEDED to own a copy of Mega Man: Powered Up, a remake of the original Mega Man with new content. The main selling point and killer app-potential for me with Powered Up was, like LittleBigPlanet, the ability to create and share my own levels. The fact that it was dolled up in Mega Man clothing, one of my favorite franchises, only made that decision stronger. 

[PlayStation Vita]

Uncharted: Golden Abyss

With the PlayStation Vita, despite all three of the games that attracted me to the system were launch titles, I didn't purchase a Vita until six months or so after the fact. Nevertheless, one of the top titles that enticed me to buy a Vita was Nathan Drake's then-latest adventure, and his first handheld epic, too: Uncharted: Golden Abyss. While I could have done without several of the hardware-themed gameplay gimmicks, there was something mightily impressive about taking a PlayStation 3-sized, graphically gorgeous adventure and having it in the palms of my hands. This was an amazing future for portables. Little did I know that the PlayStation Vita wouldn't have as bright of a future as many owners like myself would have hoped from Sony's first-party studios.

Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational

If there was ONE game that I had to pick that single-handedly thrusted me into the PlayStation Vita ecosystem, it would have to be none other than Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational. I adore the Hot Shots Golf series, now known as Everybody's Golf here in North America to match the PAL naming scheme. The game's phenomenal visuals certainly wowed me as an introduction, but what really got me was the tried and true excellent golfing gameplay. Developer Clap Hanz definitely knows how to make a great golf game, and while it's not the best in the series, it certainly shines as a bright title in the Vita's impressive library.

ModNation Racers: Road Trip

If you haven't picked up on the theme yet (and no worries if you haven't), something that gets me running to a game, or in this case putting the pedal to the metal on a game faster than 200cc Mario Kart is a game that allows me to create my own content. ModNation Racers: Road Trip was one of these games, and it was in one of my favorite genres, the kart racer. Not only was the allure of designing my own custom tracks appealing, but so was building my own karts and characters! I spent so many hours designing content for Road Trip, yes, but the single player campaign was also a blast all by itself to its own credit. A double dose of kart racer awesomeness, indeed--whether creating or actually racing!

[PlayStation 4]

Ratchet & Clank

With the PlayStation 4, I did something I never did before with a console: I bought it used and online, and I did it just for Ratchet & Clank, the re-imagining of the very first game in the series and tie-in to the movie of the same name. The latter was a bust, but the game itself was my favorite upon the year of its release. Both Ratchet and Clank never looked better, and the various planets and environments seen throughout the game absolutely stunned. The risk of buying a used console online ultimately paid off. I got the system for a price I could realistically afford, and I got to enjoy one of Sony's best lineups of games on offer for one of their platforms.

[PlayStation 5 ...eventually!]

Astro's Playroom

While the jury's still out on when a PlayStation 5 will grace the SuperPhillip household--due to the console's incredible and insane popularity that sees sellouts on the words "we now have stock"--I know that one game that I just can't wait to try out is Astro's Playroom. Plus, it comes free with the system, so that's a plus already! Add in the fact that it's a 3D platformer (another plus) and that it looks adorable, charming, and masterfully made as all get out, and I have more than enough reasons to be jealous of gamers who can put Astro's Playroom on their "best of 2020" lists!

Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart

Hopefully the stock situation with the PlayStation 5 clears up by the time this last game on my personal journey through PlayStation releases. It's my favorite PlayStation franchise's latest game, and I don't know if I'll have the self control and patience to wait for stock to come in after Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart releases. I might just pay people to rent their PS5s! Okay, okay. I wouldn't be THAT desperate, but my desire to play Rift Apart at launch is darn near excruciating. Between the visuals that make my jaw fall down to and through the floor, to the awesome gameplay showcase that Sony showed several months back, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart will most likely be the game that puts Sony's shiny new white toy in my entertainment system... that is, if that large goliath fits in there!


What games on PlayStation systems were YOUR killer apps that made you want to get those systems? Let the SPC community know in the comments below!

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Review Round-Up - November 2020

SPC was thankful this past Thanksgiving for a cornucopia of entertaining games,
but taking the crown in November was none other than Sackboy: A Big Adventure!
The tail end of November always sees Thanksgiving occur in the United States, but for SuperPhillip Central, the site was feasting and stuffing itself full of game reviews all month long. Seven reviews were published to the site, and like I always enjoy doing, I'd like to recap for everybody what games were reviewed and what grades they received. It's Review Round-Up time, y'all!

Despite a spin-off in The Legend of Zelda series releasing on the Nintendo Switch last month, I actually didn't review several Zelda-style games because of that. It was merely coincidence. Regardless, two Zelda-likes with Oceanhorn 2: Knights of the Realm and Beyond Oasis were reviewed to kick the month off. While one game was a mobile port and the other was a cult classic Genesis game, both received the same grade of B-. The Zelda kick continued with an actual Zelda game, albeit a spin-off with Cadence of Hyrule: Crypt of the NecroDancer Featuring The Legend of Zelda (phew, I got winded typing that title out!). It moved to the groove and got an excellent A- for its efforts.

We moved from Zelda to Metroid-like with the gorgeous Ori and the Will of the Wisps, a former Xbox exclusive that wound up on the Nintendo Switch. It captivated this reviewer, and it earned its A- grade. Continuing with Xbox Game Studios, we took a look at Minecraft Dungeons: Hero Edition, which hack and slashed its way to a satisfactory C grade. 

Finally--together--we ran the gamut of review scores with the less-than-sensational Lunch A Palooza--although fitting for Thanksgiving--which got a poor D. However, SPC ended the month with a winner and our Game of the Month with Sackboy: A Big Adventure, which got a fantastic A grade.

It was a busy month of reviews at SuperPhillip Central, but something tells me December is going to be even busier! Closing out this edition of the Review Round-Up is a list of every game, attached grade, and review excerpt from this past month. Last but not least, a reminder to scope out the SPC Review Archive for every review ever published on SPC. We'll see you next year in 2021, Review Round-Up!

Despite its frame-rate issues and problems with combat and bosses, Oceanhorn 2: Knights of the Lost Realm delivers an enchanting adventure filled with clever puzzles, enjoyable exploration, and an astounding level of ambition when compared to its predecessor. This 15-20 hour Zelda-like was one that ultimately gave me more moments of joy and wonder than moments of anger and disappointment, making it a game that I would recommend with the caveat of knowing that it's a $30 game that isn't as polished as a $60 3D Zelda.
As a Zelda-like mixed with some Secret of Mana goodness, Beyond Oasis does its job well enough to be worthy enough of being within earshot of the Zelda series. By no means is this Ancient-developed, Sega-published action-adventure one that surpasses something like A Link to the Past due to its unrefined, clumsy combat and extensive and unenjoyable backtracking, but Beyond Oasis does manage to bring enough to the table to make it a recommended game to play. From the gorgeous visuals to the clever use of Spirits for battles and puzzles, Beyond Oasis may not be timeless, but it is quite the epic adventure regardless.
Cadence of Hyrule: Crypt of the NecroDancer Featuring The Legend of Zelda's retail release offers a lot of bang for one's Rupees. The procedurally generated overworld and dungeons mean you'll get a lot of replayability from the game, and the many modes mean you'll not be short in content to enjoy. As with games of the rogue-lite design, it can be rather deflating to have a good run go bad due to one or two wrong moves--especially in permadeath mode--but other than that small-ish issue, I can't see too much wrong with Nintendo and Brace Yourself Games' effort. 
Ori and the Will of the Wisps suffers from some small technical issues on the Nintendo Switch version, and my issues with the series' chase sequences continues with this sequel. However, building off the strong foundation of the original Ori, Moon Studios has managed to craft an even bigger, better, and bolder sequel with Ori and the Will of the Wisps, telling a touching tale while making a marvelous Metroidvania in the process. 
The argument about whether or not the gameplay loop of Minecraft Dungeons is satisfying enough to be worth that trouble is another story, however. By the end of my Adventure run--the second difficulty mode of the game--I was already having trouble wanting to continue playing the game. Seeing as how much grinding it would take to get good enough gear to even have a chance of getting anywhere close to surviving later levels particularly on the Apocalyptic difficulty didn't seem too enticing to me, personally. This notwithstanding, there is joy to be found in the simple gameplay and basic, blocky boundaries within Minecraft Dungeons' worlds, especially if you're able to play it with a group of friends, family members, or companions locally or online. There's certainly some fun here, but not enough for me to wholeheartedly recommend this otherwise inoffensively adorable dungeon crawler.
Lunch A Palooza fails as a party game with any kind of strategy or more importantly, any semblance of fun. It's just too random, from its inconsistent physics to its yawn-inducing, indecipherable gameplay. It has nice ideas with some clever arena design, but other than that, I cannot recommend this game at all. You might as well take a burger patty out of the freezer as well as take out a banana and start smashing them into one another like they were action figures. At least that would show attacks that actually hit consistently and be less random than suffering through this game.
While it's easy to see the Super Mario 3D World in the DNA of Sackboy: A Big Adventure, the game does without a doubt manage to weave its own path and craft its own identity. The abundance of well executed ideas in the level design, the sheer creativity on display, and the massively improved feel and control of Sackboy make Sackboy: A Big Adventure a seriously thrilling platformer to play. Throw in a sack-full of charm, and you have one of my favorite 3D platformers in a long time and one of the better games I've played this year. It's just a shame that online co-op was not ready for launch. 

The magnificent Metroidvania, Ori and the Will of the Wisps, played as great as it looked.
Needless to say, the game is a visual stunner, so you can probably guess how much of a joy it is to play!

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

The Tuesday 10s - Nintendo Switch Platformers

Whether 2D or 3D, Nintendo systems are generally the home to the highest number of platformers. With this in mind, the Nintendo Switch continues this trend, which makes choosing ten platformers for one "best of" list--again, whether 2D or 3D--that much more of a difficult task to do! Even when it's on an unordered list such as this, selecting ten out of the countless excellent platformers on the Switch proved to be quite the herculean task. For this edition of The Tuesday 10s, SuperPhillip Central lists just a sampling of the greatest platformers on the Nintendo Switch with only one real caveat: a limit of one game per series on this list. Otherwise, our main man Mario would hog a lot of the spots here.

Super Mario Odyssey

Speaking of, let's begin with who else but gaming's most famous mascot in one of his biggest, boldest and best platforming adventures yet with Mario and Super Mario Odyssey. I've gone into great detail multiple times in the past already about how fantastic Odyssey truly is, so bear with me as I go through the whole production again. Between Mario's marvelous and humongous move set that allows players to tackle the huge, sprawling worlds in myriad ways, and the ability to capture various enemies and objects via Mario's traveling companion Cappy, Super Mario Odyssey delivered a globetrotting adventure that shouldn't be missed. With literally hundreds of Power Moons to collect (though one can easily just find the bare minimum to make progress--perfect for those less skilled at platformers), the fun doesn't end for a long, long time.

Spyro Reignited Trilogy

From one 3D platformer to the next, Spyro Reignited Trilogy encompasses not just one of Spyro's adventures, but all three of his original PlayStation platformers and puts them through the remake ringer for a remarkably done trilogy of games. The games--Spyro the Dragon, Spyro 2: Ripto's Rage, and Spyro: Year of the Dragon--were lovingly restored and given a new lease on life. They've never looked or played better, offering gorgeous visuals, heightened personality and charm, and just a grander sense of wonder. 100% each game will definitely give players a run for their money--or gems in this case--as well, as these titles hide secrets well and require good sleuthing to uncover and accomplish all that they have to offer.

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze

We move from 3D to 2D now with a relic from the Wii U era of Nintendo consoles that saw new life breathed into it with its arrival on the Switch. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze was initially bombarded with boos from a certain section of Nintendo fans for being Retro Studios' next project over a new Metroid Prime game. Those boos quickly turned to cheers when gamers finally got their hands on the game, as it is one of the finest, well crafted 2D platformers ever made. Levels are expertly designed, offering myriad set pieces, platforming challenges, and clever gimmicks, making players eager to see what's next. Secrets are smartly placed, as well, and the challenge is just right. You won't breeze through this game. Retro Studios made a magnificent game with Tropical Freeze, and it stands with the absolute best in both Rare's original trilogy and 2D platformers in general.

Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair

A 2D platformer that shares a lot with Donkey Kong Country in its design is Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair. Similar in mechanics to Rare's trilogy with how Yooka and Laylee move and handle, Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair is more than just Playtonic's ode to DKC. It is its own beast, and a mightily impressive one at that. Everything from the creative and ultra clever 3D world map where puzzles are solved to make progress and reach new levels, to the eponymous Impossible Lair, which can be tackled at any time in the adventure (though your chances are better the more levels you complete), Playtonic showed un-bee-lievable mastery with their game. Levels, like Donkey Kong Country, showcase one major idea or theme and both implement and build upon brilliantly. It's my hope that more players jump in on Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair, especially now that the game is coming to Xbox Game Pass.

Ori and the Will of the Wisps

Speaking of Xbox Game Pass, we have Ori and the Will of the Wisps, a game that is available not just on that service, but also on the Nintendo Switch as well. It receives a physical retail release on Nintendo's hybrid system later this month alongside Ori and the Blind Forest: Definitive Edition. Will of the Wisps improves upon its already stellar predecessor with a meatier, more marvelous game. The addition of side quests, a town-rebuilding mechanics, combat trials, speed runs, and quality of life improvements make for a better experience overall. While I still found issue with the chase sequences still being a bit too trial and error for my tastes, other than that, I adored my time with Ori and the Will of the Wisps and can't recommend it enough--regardless of what platform you can play it on.

Hollow Knight

We go from one gorgeous Metroidvania to another with the hand-drawn, animated delight that is Hollow Knight. Despite its beauty on the outside, on the inside is one challenging game that will put players in their place if they aren't prepared. Hollow Knight can be quite difficult, for certain! What I especially appreciate about Hollow Knight is the openness of the world map. You aren't limited to a linear path that the designers want you to go on. There's multiple points and areas where you can explore, some more difficult than others, but you're essentially given a great deal of freedom. I didn't appreciate this at first because it meant that I got lost rather quickly in my first attempt at playing the game, but on my second, I found a fresh, challenging, and mysterious world to explore and an overall terrific Metroidvania to play. It's one in Hollow Knight that is a great title in its genre.

Mega Man 11

As we leap closer towards the end of our look at fantastic platformers on the Nintendo Switch, we survey a series that has a grand old history on Nintendo platformers dating back to the NES and the series' birth. I'm talking, of course, about Mega Man. For a long time there, not too long ago, Capcom pretty much stopped making Mega Man games, and it wasn't until some new collections of old games came out followed by their sales success that Capcom finally opted to create a new entry in the series. That new entry was Mega Man 11, and it boldly added a brand-new mechanic to make the Blue Bomber's latest far from just a rote sequel. The Double Gear mechanic allows Mega Man to temporarily slow down time or power up his shots as long as he has gear energy. Run out of energy, and Mega Man overheats, making him more vulnerable to damage. It's a stupendously creative and well executed mechanic that takes what was a somewhat stale series and injects it with new life. Mega Man 11 is a splendid entry in the series, and I couldn't be happier that the Blue Bomber is back.

Rayman Legends: Definitive Edition

Although our next platforming star didn't first appear on a Nintendo platform with his debut game, the limbless wonder Rayman has been a big part of Nintendo consoles and handhelds afterwards. Rayman Legends was meant to be a Wii U exclusive, but the early failure of the system sales-wise may have spooked Ubisoft in to bringing it to more platforms. Since then, Rayman Legends has sort of become the new Rayman 2--i.e. the Rayman game ported to every platform Ubisoft can possibly port to--but like Rayman 2, when Legends if this good, who can really complain? Rayman Legends: Definitive Edition arrived on the Nintendo Switch with easy-to-setup co-op thanks to the split Joy-Cons, touch or controller support for the smartly made Murfy sections, and has all of the content and fun of the original game, only now on the Switch. Sure, Rayman Legends isn't too drastically different from other platforms, but a great platformer is a great platformer, and it still remains one of the Switch's bests.

Sonic Mania Plus

This platforming mascot didn't just not debut on a Nintendo platform, he was an actual rival to both Nintendo and Mario. Sonic the Hedgehog sped onto the scene in 1991, and celebrates his 30th anniversary next year. I would personally love to see a sequel to this particular platforming pick on the Nintendo Switch, Sonic Mania and its Plus edition, for the 30th anniversary, but when has SEGA or Sonic Team ever done anything I have wanted? Rhetorical questions aside, Sonic Mania saw the return of Sonic the Hedgehog in his 2D splendor, and it rivals his best outings ever. The attention to detail to physics, to the creative level designs with multiple paths and mixture of moments of speed and slowness, all adds up to a brilliant 2D Sonic that I continue to return to, much like the classics seen on the Genesis (or Mega Drive, depending on your region).

Yoshi's Crafted World

We've gone through some difficult platformers, some super speedy platformers, but now let's slow down the pace and relax a little with Yoshi's Crafted World. That isn't to say that Yoshi's latest is some overly simple, easy, breezy game. That would be folly. Instead, what players get with Yoshi's Crafted World is a sharply designed (or should I say... "crafted"?) platformer with genius and creative level design housing an abundance of secrets, lots to uncover AND discover, a beautiful art style where everything in the world is made of crafts, and some rather tough late and post-game challenges for those who wish to take them on. It may not be everyone's cup of tea or ball of yarn, but Yoshi's Crafted World overflows with creativity, personality, and charm, making it a terrific and pleasurable platformer to play.

Immortals: Fenyx Rising (Multi) Launch Trailer

A game that is launching on so many platforms on December 3rd that I had to pull out the tried and true "Multi" tag instead of naming them all! Immortals: Fenyx Rising has no shame in identifying its clear inspiration (alluding to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild here), but if you're going to ape off any game, why not go for one of the best? I'm quite looking forward to exploring the world of Greek mythology that the game has to offer. Essentially, if you have a current gen or now next gen platform (though I guess that means next gen is current gen, now, but that's arguing semantics), you can most likely play Immortals: Fenyx Rising on the platform of your choosing. The game launches on Thursday, and here is the trailer to commemorate that.