Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Best Levels in Gaming History - Volume 22

Spring has sprung, and with it a new season featuring more of the Best Levels in Gaming History! We've reached the 22nd volume (wow!), and there's no signs of stopping. Whether they be actual levels, missions, maps, or even this time around, golf courses, these sectioned-off portions of games are some of the greatest ever. We've got a packed list of franchises represented this time around--we start with Spider-Man, move on to Sackboy, Crash Bandicoot, and Yooka-Laylee for some platforming fun, and end things by checking in on our backswing with some Mario Golf. 

If you have some time to spare or are simply yearning for more great gaming levels, then no look further than every installment of Best Levels in Gaming History right here with these convenient links:

Volume One
Volume Two
Volume Three
Volume Four
Volume Five
Volume Six
Volume Seven
Volume Eight
Volume Nine
Volume Ten
Volume Eleven
Volume Twelve
Volume Thirteen
Volume Fourteen
Volume Fifteen
Volume Sixteen
Volume Seventeen
Volume Eighteen
Volume Nineteen
Volume Twenty
Volume Twenty-One

Hold onto your web-shooters - Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales (PS5, PS4)

Our opening Best Level in Gaming History is also the adrenaline-pumping opening to Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales, "Hold onto your web-shooters". After the events of the original Spider-Man game from Insomniac, Miles Morales has taken on the mantle as a second Spider-Man and has the original Spider-Man as his mentor. The two are entangled in a mission to oversee the transport of a convoy of R.A.F.T. prisoners who had escaped in the previous game. A helicopter malfunction results in a crash and the escape of several prisoners, including one rambunctious member of Spidey's rogue's gallery, Rhino.

While Spidey takes on Rhino, Miles focuses on the brawn that are the more manageable prisoners. Here, players learn the ins and outs of the most basic of combat: punches, kicks, web-shooting, evading attacks--that sort of thing. After two mobs of enemies, with the second batch having long-range weaponry in the form of guns, Spider-Man wrestles with Rhino, as the latter charges through the city, with Miles pursuing. 

Eventually, the three make it into a mall, where Miles takes over the Rhino-riding duties, weaving through stores, displays, and avoiding taking damage. The fun goes from the top floor straight to the bottom floor, and the rampage continues, even blasting through J. Jonah Jameson's Christmas-themed podcast set, much to Jonah's dismay and utter rage. 

The chase continues through the city streets, causing much more unintended collateral damage, but it ends when Rhino smashes himself, with Spidey and Miles in tow, into a flammable tank, which explodes upon impact. After Miles takes care of some crowd control of the escaped prisoner kind, Spidey #1 finds himself on the receiving end of Rhino's offense, leaving him unable to move. It's Miles' turn to shine, armed with an unknown and mysterious new electrical power that courses through his body, Venom Power, Miles does battle with Rhino, ultimately defeating him.

Between the amazing set pieces on display, whether it's the carnage on the streets or the rampage through the mall, the intense action, great and amusing dialogue, or how seamlessly everything happens (whether on PS4 or PS5), the opening mission in Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales starts the game on an insanely impressive note. And the entertaining ride only gets more enjoyable from there.

Flossed in Space - Sackboy: A Big Adventure (PS5, PS4)

Let's move on from one PlayStation Studios game to another, this time with Sackboy: A Big Adventure, a game that was runner-up on SPC's Games of 2020 list. For good reason, too, as the Sackboy's Super Mario 3D World-like platforming adventure was a masterclass of wonderful design, enjoyable and accessible platforming, and abundant imagination. So many of the levels could be selected from the game and represented for this type of article series, but if you've played Sackboy: A Big Adventure, then you probably already know what level type is most worthwhile.

This obvious pick is any one of the music levels featured in the game. These levels take a licensed track from popular music, such as Britney Spears' Toxic or Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars' Uptown Funk, and almost seamlessly syncs the running and jumping action on screen with the music. It's similar to Rayman Legends' lovely music levels, though these in Sackboy are not levels you just run like there's no tomorrow. No, in Sackboy, you play these levels at your own pace. 

Really, any of the five or so music levels featured in Sackboy: A Big Adventure could easily be selected for this volume of Best Levels in Gaming History, but I'll pick my personal favorite, featuring Foster the People's Houdini. The level Flossed in Space, an obvious but still clever riff off of Lost in Space, features a copious amount of portals that warp Sackboy to and from destinations, moving platforms, and a stupendous intergalactic space theme that is all complemented beautifully by the backing music. Part of my love for this level stems from the actual song, which is quite the bop, and another part is just how well executed the transitions between portions of the song are. It's an overall incredibly fun, sensationally original level that oozes with personality, much like the overall adventure of Sackboy itself.

Off Beat - Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time (Multi)

On the subject of 3D platformers, let's turn our focus to a much more difficult game. While I didn't necessarily love Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time for several reasons--as you can read in my review--there is no question or hint of denial on my end that a multitude of levels within the game are abundantly packed with creativity and genius. My pick for my favorite level within Crash 4 comes from the New Orleans-inspired music level Off Beat.

Off Beat starts out innocently enough with a vertical climb of boxes and platforms to the rooftops, and this is where the real fun begins. Complete with rising and lowering block platforms with mischievous faces painted on them, ghosts that bugle out and drop painful-to-the-touch notes from their trumpets, helpful bipedal cannons that assist Crash by blasting him across the city skyline with ease, and even a parade featuring familiar Crash characters and even a Spyro the Dragon appearance, Off Beat is a level that is hardly one-note. It's fun to run through, features limited "gotcha" moments that I felt plagued this game throughout its adventure, and is just jam-packed with creativity.

Cliffside Quest - Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair (Multi)

From 3D platforming to 2.5D platforming, we turn to the wildly charming, clever, and well executed Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair from Playtonic Games. While Yooka-Laylee was a spiritual successor to Banjo-Kazooie that didn't quite stick the landing, with Impossible Lair, Playtonic successfully nailed its take on the Donkey Kong Country-style with some insanely ingenious additions as well.

The levels in Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair are pretty much all wonderfully well done, but nearly all of them are somewhat linear affairs. That's what makes the Cliffside Quest level so unique in Impossible Lair. The premise is simple: Yooka and Laylee are greeted with a statue of villain Capital B., and inside a protected shield is a bee, essentially the "goal" of the level. However, in a "so close, yet so far" type of scenario, Yooka and Laylee need to track down six gems that are scattered on all corners of this nonlinear level in order to unlock the shield and complete the level.

Whether in its springtime version or its frozen variant, Cliffside Quest has myriad platforming challenges to take on, and most of these are relegated to specific rooms and chambers. There are climbing challenges, where Yooka and Laylee must avoid killer lasers as they climb, there are enemy gauntlets, swimming situations, and much more to track down all six gems to satisfy the conditions of clearing the level. It's a scavenger hunt of sorts, and one that is enjoyable in either variant of this atypical, untraditional level in Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair.

Mario's Star - Mario Golf (N64), Mario Golf: World Tour (3DS)

We wrap up this 22nd volume of Best Levels in Gaming History with a first. Yes, in the 21 previous installments of Best Levels in Gaming History, we've never seen a golf course ever represented. Time to give the game of golf its proper due with some representation, and why not with Mario Golf: Super Rush for the Nintendo Switch fast approaching!

One of the most creatively designed courses in Mario Golf history comes from the very first Mario Golf for the Nintendo 64. Mario's Star is the ultimate course in that game, and what makes it so creative in its design is how each hole is essentially art of famous Mario characters and enemies comprised of things like bunkers, water hazards, rock, fairways, greens, and more. As you can see in the attached photos, the noble and honorable Princess Peach gets immortalized in this course with a striking portrait (and one hard hole of golf, might I add!).

It's more than a gimmick, though, which is much appreciated. The designs lend themselves well to a challenging round of golf, but one that is ultimately fair in its difficulty. Mario's Star would reappear as one of the six downloadable courses in Mario Golf: World Tour for the Nintendo 3DS. In fact, every course in the aforementioned DLC are courses from Mario Golf for the N64 that have been remixed, remade, and mostly renamed for World Tour.

Monday, April 12, 2021

New Pokémon Snap (NSW) North American Advertisements

Ahead of the game's April 30th release date, New Pokémon Snap has a pair of commercials to advertise this Pokémon-capturing (but on photos this time around instead of in balls) game. Can you believe that we're finally getting a sequel to Pokémon Snap, and that it's less than three weeks away? It blows the mind. Regardless, enjoy these two new ads below!

Friday, April 9, 2021

NEO: The World Ends With You (NSW, PS4, PC) Release Date Announcement Trailer

NEO: The World Ends With You has received a new trailer featuring for the first time the English voice cast and dub. More interestingly, a release date has been revealed. NEO: The World Ends With You will hit Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4 on July 27th, 2021. Lastly, the newly announced Epic Games Store PC release is set for Summer 2021.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Toree 3D (NSW) Review

We continue this month of reviews on SuperPhillip Central with another brand-new review. On the eve of its release, we turn our focus to a bite-sized 3D platformer, Toree 3D. For a dollar, can you really go wrong with this game? Let's find out with the SPC review!

A quick and fun 3D platformer you can buy on the "cheep"

With the Nintendo eShop, I've gotten to a point of paranoia when I see games listed at launch at one dollar. Too many times these games that are at this price point turn out to be low effort, less than great games that sell purely on their $1 price, because "hey, if it's bad, I'd only be out a dollar!" Thankfully, for Toree 3D from developer SIACTRO and publisher Diplodocus Games, it may be a dollar game, but it's by no means one that can be described as "low effort" or "less than great". This 3D platformer is a quality speed-running game that deserves any Nintendo Switch platforming fan's attention.

Toree 3D is described as "a bite-sized 3D platformer", and that's an incredibly apt description for it. This platformer is a quick one, as you can run (and jump) through all of its levels in less than 45 minutes. However, there's more to Toree 3D than just playing through its nine levels and calling it a day.

The visual style on display in Toree 3D is reminiscent of old PlayStation games, only touched up and looking clean.

Starting off with Toree 3D, you have eight starting levels to choose from, playing them in any order. Of the eight levels there are four themed locales each that they take place in, from rushing across city rooftops in a colorful metropolis to leaping off moving traffic on a futuristic highway, or slipping and sliding along icy platforms in a snowy winter wonderland, the levels in Toree 3D offer short bursts of entertainment, smart level design, and of course, plenty of motivation to speed run through them.

Levels in Toree 3D offer plenty of obstacles and gimmicks to them. There are moving platforms, boost pads and conveyor belts that increase Toree's running speed in the directions that point, as well as wind gusts that Toree can use to gain height--or be used as obstacles to attempt to push poor Toree off platforms. Enemies are to be avoided, as unlike a traditional 3D platformer, there's no means to defeat these foes. Instead, touching them instantly K.O.s our feathered friend. Fortunately, plenty of checkpoints are available to instantly revive a doomed Toree to their location upon death, so there's little downtime between deaths. Of course, better yet is to not die at all!

There really are three objectives in each level of Toree 3D, though the game doesn't exactly spell it out for you. The first is to simply reach the goal. The second requires you to collect all of the stars in a level. Most of these are in plain sight, and you'll pretty much run into most of them without trying. A select few are hidden and require some mild exploration, but this happens rather rarely. Finally, the last objective is to reach the goal as fast as humanly--or in Toree's case--as chickly possible. 

Collect every one of these stars in all nine levels to make one of the two unlockable characters playable.

Levels aren't too terribly long, with most of my speed running attempts taking anywhere between 1-2 minutes to get through the levels. My beginning speed-running career in Toree 3D saw plenty of "C" ranks, as the times needed to get that much desired "A" rank are pretty tight. However, because levels aren't lengthy affairs, and furthermore, they're just plain fun to run (and jump) through, I found myself with plenty of motivation and enjoyment in repeatedly going through these levels. Each run would see me dare to make even more death-defying jumps and double jumps in my attempt to shave seconds off my run. Usually these attempts would end in failure, but eventually I'd make my way to my coveted trophy, that prized "A" rank.

Included in Toree 3D are three playable characters, though two of these need to be unlocked through collecting all of the stars and what I would assume is clearing all nine levels with an "A" rank. I say "I would assume" because I've got two more levels to somehow figure out the best speed-running strategies for, as well as execute them to actually get the needed "A" ranks. You can bet your beak that I'm not about to give up on that challenge, Toree! The unlockable character earned from collecting every level's amount of stars has unlimited flight, allowing you to flap and fly freely through levels--though their levels are not scored by ranks. Sorry, you'll have to do your speed runs legitimately--a lesson I learned quite quickly.

Overall, Toree 3D is a wonderfully playing 3D platformer, but I do have one slight issue with the game. That involves the camera control. There is currently no way to invert the camera's X and Y axes, which takes a stubborn amount of getting used to, for sure. Many times in levels you need to not only control Toree delicately, but the camera as well. It's not too much of an issue when you're casually running through levels, but when you're trying to speed run, one mistaken camera turn can result in a botched run. It's my hope that the developer adds camera options in a future patch.

Toree dresses for success with this adorable set of earmuffs.

 Toree 3D delivers a delightful low-polygon aesthetic to players. It's like the developer took a PlayStation 1 game and put it in high definition and resolution. It makes sense, too, as SIACTRO and Diplodocus Games' past title, Macbat 64, brought with it a Nintendo 64 visual look to it. Now we just need their next game to feature a Sega Saturn aesthetic, and the circle of major fifth generation console visual styles will be complete! Nevertheless, Toree 3D runs well with nary a major case of slowdown or frame-rate issues in sight. There's some nice touches here visually, too, such as seeing our fine feathered friend don earmuffs in the icy levels, for instance. Additionally, the music of Toree 3D is catchy, and it really got me into the groove to race through levels with my adrenaline pumping. 

Hitch a ride across these moving trucks in this Neo-Tokyo-like level.

Toree 3D more than justifies its dollar price tag, offering well executed 3D platforming and engaging levels that encourage repeated play-throughs to attempt to aim for those coveted "A" ranks (though leaderboards, even offline ones, would have been appreciated). This is a game that is perfect to pick up and play, put down, and then come back to now and again. It's a beauty to look at, it runs well, and it even has some cool, light spooky elements as well, though these seem to clash with the style of the game ultimately. Still, if you're up for a quick, bite-sized 3D platformer, have a dollar or some Gold Points to spare, then you should definitely download Toree 3D.

[SPC Says: B]

A code was received by SPC from the publisher for the purpose of writing this review.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Nickelodeon Kart Racers 2: Grand Prix (PS4, XB1, NSW, PC) Review

We continue from last Thursday's Ty the Tasmanian Tiger 2: Bush Rescue HD review with more family-friendly fare, this time with the cast of zany characters from the realm of Nickelodeon with Nickelodeon Kart Racers 2: Grand Prix. Ride up to the starting line, racers, and get ready to race with SPC's review.

Slime Time Drive

In 2019, I joined the likes of SpongeBob SquarePants, Tommy Pickles from Rugrats, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, to name a few, and sat behind the wheel of Nickelodeon Kart Racers. Between the lack of characters represented, charm, polish, and online play, I decidedly did not enjoy my time with Game Mill Entertainment's freshman kart racing effort starring Nickelodeon's all-stars as evidenced by my review. However, the developer of the game seems to have taken the common criticisms of their first title to heart, as Nickelodeon Kart Racers 2: Grand Prix not only adds a wider cast of characters, but online play as well. Sure, the latter is doomed from the get-go due to an inactive player base, but still! It's at least included. Nevertheless, Nickelodeon Kart Racers 2: Grand Prix manages to speed across the finish line as a much improved game from its predecessor. Though, not without its own issues.

Nickelodeon Kart Racers 2: Grand Prix features a wider net cast on Nickelodeon representation. While voice acting from said characters is still nil, there is a grander array of both playable racers and characters in general. The latter is due to the addition of a new chief and crew member mechanic. Before the racing begins, you select from a crew chief, featuring lesser known or supporting characters from several Nickelodeon properties, and these give your racer a helpful bonus ability to use when their slime meter is full. This is performed by riding through trails of slime and picking up slime coins, which serve another purpose as to make your driver's max speed increase for every slime coin collected. 

Chief skills run the gamut of usefulness and helpfulness. For instance, if you're sick of constantly getting hit by items--something that this game's AI is wont to deliver unto you--then you can have Filburt of Rocko' Modern Life fame to give your racer a temporary shield when your slime gauge is full and you activate the power. Or there's TMNT's April O'Neil's chief skill that grants invisibility when the slime gauge is at its maximum. Perfect for confusing opponents. 

The cast of characters included in Nickelodeon Kart Racers 2 has increased exponentially,
whether as playable racers or crew members.

While chief skills are skills activated manually, crew member skills are passive abilities that are activated automatically under certain conditions. Some activate upon collecting a slime coin, resulting in a boost. Others activate when your racer takes damage, such as Hey Arnold's Eugene providing a boost when your racer gets hit by an item. Of course, crew member skills can't be used one after another; they require a cooldown period of varying times in order to be utilized again. And unlike chief characters, you can have two crew members on your side at any time for a total of three members total to help your cause of securing first place on the podium.

There are over 100 different chief and crew members in Nickelodeon Kart Racers 2, so this already presents plenty of character representation in a way not seen in the original game. It doesn't stop there, though, as there are about 30 playable characters and 30 tracks to enjoy as well, also representing plenty of Nickelodeon properties. New characters alongside old favorites from the original join the playable roster, like Ren and Stimpy, characters from Avatar the Last Airbender as well as its successor series The Legend of Korra, there's characters from Danny Phantom, CatDog, Rocko's Modern Life, and many more.

New to the Nickelodeon Kart Racers lineup, the Avatar the Last Airbender and Legend of Korra series.

Tracks take place in a large variety of locations and locales, some returning from the original game with new alterations. There's everything from racing through SpongeBob SquarePants' Krablantis and the city streets of TMNT's NYC, to speeding through a Double Dare-inspired obstacle course and Rocko's Modern Life's O-Town--complete with familiar sights like Rocko's house and Chokey Chicken. (And if you must ask, yes, that's innuendo that somehow got past the censors in the '90s among many others on that show.) There is some really cool designs on display in the tracks, and if you're not impressed by those or some of the shortcuts featured, you might just get a kick out of the shows and characters represented, you hard-to-please player, you!

The titular Grand Prix mode in Nickelodeon Kart Racers 2: Grand Prix features your standard Mario Kart formula of four races one after the other with the top point winners landing on the podium. Also, like Mario Kart 8 and its Deluxe variant, you'll want to aim for first place each race in a cup if you wish to earn three stars. While this is easy enough in the slow and normal speed difficulties, once you reach fast and the insane speeds, you enter Nickelodeon's version of the fifth circle of Hell, though this version trades flames with slime. The eternal damnation persists, however. It's insanely difficult to consistently win races, as the AI loves its rubber-banding, severe item usage, and yes, its Blue Shell equivalent, that damned Jellyfish, which comes up way too often in races--two to three times.

Hurry up and beat that ghost in this tense time trial!

Outside the hell that is Grand Prix's later difficulties, there is a free race mode, a Mario Kart DS-style mission mode known as Challenge mode, time trials, an arena battle mode (though this only has two arenas, unfortunately), and a garage area where players can spend slime coins earned through regular play to purchase new vehicle parts and skins for their various racers' rides. It's a game full of content here, and while not all of it is desirable (again, looking into the eyes of the hellish demon that is Grand Prix's Insane speed), it's mostly fun.

Challenge Mode features six tiers of seven missions each,
ranging from destroying targets to boss races to unlock new playable characters.

That fun is in part due to how much of an improvement the vehicles handle and control in Nickelodeon Kart Racers 2: Grand Prix when compared to its predecessor. There's nothing here that hasn't been done before or done better by Mario Kart--such as performing tricks off slime ramps, holding drifts to get a stronger boost, etc.--but hey, it works and is functional. Even the item selection borrows heavily from Mario Kart with every item in Nickelodeon Kart Racers 2 having some kind of Mario Kart 8 equivalent, from M.O.U.S.E.R.S. that steal items from other players much like Mario Kart's Boo item, to its Lightning Bolt equivalent, an obnoxious pig that hitches a ride on the back of your racer's kart and slows it down considerably.

Even the visuals of Nickelodeon Kart Racers 2: Grand Prix is an improvement over Game Mill's original outing. While nothing will make your eyes start tearing up because of the immense beauty on display (there is nothing of that sort here), you may just appreciate the level of detail in the racing environments. Meanwhile, while again, no characters have voice acting to speak of (which like with the original game, is a bit disappointing and occasionally off-putting), the sound part of Nickelodeon Kart Racers 2's package isn't overly a failure. The music is pretty good, honestly. I actually found myself humming on the rare occasion to the songs on offer. It's all original stuff with no melodies from the source materials featured, but it's not half bad.

Nickelodeon Kart Racers 2: Grand Prix doesn't necessarily finish at first place on the podium, but it also doesn't necessarily limp across the finish line on fumes, either. I appreciated the improved presentation (lack of character voices and familiar music aside) and increased number of shows and characters included in the game, whether they be playable, chief and crew members, or track designs. Better balancing of the harder Grand Prix speeds would have made for a higher level of enjoyment, as I don't know what kind of kid would not rage at the nonsense that happens during these races when a grown adult almost does, but overall, Nickelodeon Kart Racers 2: Grand Prix 2 is good slime--er, time. Lack of originality and balancing, notwithstanding.

[SPC Says: C]

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Ty the Tasmanian Tiger 2: Bush Rescue HD (NSW) Review

Continuing this April Fools-free April 1st on SuperPhillip Central comes the very first review of the month. While the original game released way back in 2004, its HD remaster saw a release this week on the Nintendo Switch. It's Ty the Tasmanian Tiger 2: Bush Rescue HD, and here is the SPC review.

Like a boomerang, what goes around, comes around with the return of Ty's second adventure

The sequel to Ty the Tasmanian Tiger, known as Ty the Tasmanian Tiger 2: Bush Rescue, originally launched on the PlayStation 2, GameCube, and Xbox back in 2004. Ty himself has a modest but dedicated following, as evident by both Ty's original game and its sequel's remasters securing quick funding via Kickstarter. With this Kickstarter success sees Ty's second adventure coming back (maybe you could say... like a boomerang?) in 2021 with its first destination on the Nintendo Switch, with PlayStation and Xbox ports occurring later this year. With borderline average critical reception back in 2004, how does Ty the Tasmanian 2: Bush Rescue improve with its HD remaster for 2021? Well, not too terribly much.

Unlike the original Ty the Tasmanian Tiger, in Bush Rescue, the game sees an open world approach to its design, mostly made up of missions instead of single levels to run and jump through and acquire collectables. This change in approach was a bit of a bummer having coming off the first Ty the Tasmanian Tiger when I reviewed the original game in 2015. Bush Rescue often loses its focus and tries to do too many things at once. What Ty ends up being is a Tasmanian tiger of all trades but a master of none. 

Ty the Tasmanian Tiger's second platforming outing is here for a second time.

Starting off in Bush Rescue HD, you begin at Bush Rescue HQ, a wide open area to explore, adjacent to a town area which is home to some beginning platforming and exploration opportunities to get your feet wet and 'rangs spinning, and NPCs who utter the same lines whenever Ty gets within shouting distance of them. The town contains shops to purchase new boomerangs, new health upgrades, keys to various mech suits that are required for several missions, and cosmetic skins for Ty and his buggy-like vehicle.

Armed with his twin boomerangs, Ty is ready for adventure.

Upon leaving the starting town, Ty arrives at the Southern Rivers, a series of roads that connect every point of interest, area, and level on the map. Hopping in Ty's method of traveling the roads is an all-terrain vehicle, perfect for getting around. Now, whether or not the act of getting around Southern Rivers via driving is fun is up to the player's perspective, but for me, it's a tad too tiresome. Between the less than impressive handling of the vehicle to traveling along linear roads from destinations to destinations, I'd prefer if it wasn't there in its current form. It's just tedious to have to travel from point A to point B, especially if it's completely on the other side of the rather large map. Since roads cannot be diverged from in any way, you're stuck to predetermined paths with no hopes for shortcuts or fast travel options.

Driving around Southern Rivers is unfortunately not the most exciting prospect or thing to do in the game.

Fortunately, getting around on Southern Rivers and anywhere else is made easy thanks to a helpful map that shows you various multicolored stars, indicating where missions are. You can access the menu to take a look at what star's color depicts what mission, so you're never stuck wondering. The map is absolutely a godsend for this game, as my enjoyment would have plummeted severely without it. The fact that you receive a map inside the major levels of the game, as well, offers even more convenience.

The missions themselves in Bush Rescue HD run the gamut of tasks, but so many of these at least in the Southern Rivers open world map are repeated too heavily. You'll be controlling helicopters multiple times through short, easy, breezy, but mind-numbing all the same overhead sections or being asked to deliver an item from one part of the map to another with a generous time limit (this happens way too much and like many of the missions in the game, it just seems like busywork). Without question, though, the worst of these missions--and thankfully this was the only one of its kind--was a mission involving a traffic jam caused by five tractor trailers losing their loads. Ty has to pilot a mech, locate, pick up, carry and transport five containers to each trailer. However, the mech moves so painfully slowly that this mission was immensely boring and tedious to do. 

Nor is piloting a helicopter in missions such as this, no matter how brief they can be.

While Southern Rivers' series of missions do less than excite, the missions and objectives within the game's actual levels fare much, much better. They're organic to the gameplay, lending themselves to Ty's true calling: platforming. And this is where Ty the Tasmanian Tiger 2: Bush Rescue HD is at its strongest. There are still some niggling issues here and there, but ultimately, what is here works, is functional, and most importantly, is enjoyable. 

Ty has all of his abilities from the original game. He has is trusty twin boomerangs, which is the optimal way of taking down enemies, as there is some poor hit detection otherwise when it concerns Ty's melee attack, a bite. Ty can jump, gain a small degree of extra height with a second leap in the air, and spin his 'rangs to slow his descent downward as he glides across gaps and other expanses. 

Ty, as expected, is at his best when he's running and jumping.

This Tasmanian Tiger is certainly no Mario with his movement capabilities. This is extraordinarily evident as Ty's range of moves is incredibly limited, even when compared to 2002's Super Mario Sunshine. Even a long jump or means to get around faster would have made a world of difference for Ty, especially with how big some of these levels and areas are (and with how slow Ty seems to move in them). It makes getting around a chore at times, but when levels are more dense and I wasn't in a barren fields or whatnot, I found myself coming around to the endearing Tasmanian Tiger. (Again, perhaps you could say... like a boomerang.)

Unlike Mario, Ty's repertoire of abilities is less tied to his movement utility and more towards his wide range of 'rangs. There are over 15 different boomerangs to collect in Ty 2, and these are acquired through purchasing them with Opals, the currency of the game. Some of the boomerangs return from the original Ty, such as the Flamerang, which can melt ice, or conversely the Freezerang can--like its name suggests--can freeze objects, enemies, and produce frozen platforms on bodies of water. The Lasharang serves as a whip that can strike enemies as well as hook onto special grapple rings for Ty to swing from. Though there is a variety of boomerangs that Ty can use, generally I found myself simply sticking to a select few outside of contextual requirements like needing to cross a chasm with the Lasharang or view hidden objects otherwise undetectable with the Infrarang, for instance. 

The touching up to the visuals is most welcome and looks great in Bush Rescue HD.

Outside of completing story and optional missions (the latter includes several Mario Kart-style races--which is also a separate package in the title screen menu), there is still plenty to do in Ty 2. While the goal of collecting various goodies is less prominent when compared to the original Ty, there remains a good deal to find, collect, and enjoy. From silver cogs to missing Bilbies, a lot of what is hidden in Ty 2 is cleverly done and lots of fun to find, and there is a lot of it to discover. 

Compared to the blurry but functional game from 2004, Ty the Tasmanian Tiger 2: Bush Rescue's HD remaster is a welcome sight for the most part. Pretty much everything has been improved visually--whether it be resolution or reflections--though the package isn't entirely remastered to its very finest. Some later levels feature some moderately noticeable moments of the frame-rate turning quite sluggish. I also ran across one crash in my 15 hours with the game when I selected the "Exit Level" option. The latter was an isolated case, but the frame-rate issue occurred multiple times in the same areas of the levels, often with heavy foliage. 

Mecha no mistake. Ty means business in this mech suit.

No doubt riding the GTA-inspired, mission-based, open-world wave that many 3D platformers of the time rode, Ty the Tasmanian Tiger 2: Bush Rescue went a touch too ambitious for its own good. Instead of sticking with and further iterating on what really worked in the original game--the enjoyable platforming--the developers and designers opted to extend themselves a bit too far with vehicle-based missions that do less than delight and an open-world design that doesn't really do much to enhance the overall experience. It seems that my thoughts from 2021 line up with those from 2004. 

That said, even as someone who didn't play the original games when they released but has a fond remembrance for games of this era, Ty the Tasmanian Tiger 2: Bush Rescue HD serves as a nostalgic trip for me. The platforming and level design are overall solid, as are the touched-up visuals. Everything else involved with the design? Well, that's better left in 2004. Still, I don't regret having Ty the Tasmanian Tiger 2 take up 15 hours of my time. It was a worthwhile game to play, despite my many misgivings with Ty's not-so-ripsnorting sequel. 

[SPC Says: C+]

A code was received by SPC from the publisher for the purpose of writing this review.

Review Round-Up - March 2021

Open your eyes to one of the better open-world action-adventure games released since
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild with SPC's Game of the Month: Immortals: Fenyx Rising!
There's no foolin' around here when it comes to the Review Round-Up! Out with the old month and in with the new, but before we do that, let's take a look back at the month that was March and see the four video game reviews published on SuperPhillip Central during that time.

Things started with an unabashed clone of SEGA's Crazy Taxi, Taxi Chaos, which no doubt was the developer's intention, but what wasn't their intention hopefully was having their game only receiving a below average C- grade. However, we rebounded, in a way, with Pumpkin Jack. Sure, it's a game better suited for Halloween, but any time is a good time for a competent 3D platformer. The game earned a B- grade. 

Following that was March's Game of the Month on SuperPhillip Central, the amazing open-world action-adventure modeled after The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild in oh-so-many flattering ways, Immortals: Fenyx Rising. Its wings (and the quality of the game) allowed it to soar high over the rest of the titles reviewed the month, earning a grand A- grade.

Finally, Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville - Complete Edition on the Nintendo Switch took root on SuperPhillip Central, surprising me greatly with its quality and addictiveness, receiving a B+ grade. 

Overall, a good month of reviews on SPC, with even more to come in April! Until then, check out some excerpts from each review from March, and scope the SPC Review Archive for all reviews ever published on this site.

Taxi Chaos (PS4, XB1, NSW) - C-

Taxi Chaos is basically store-brand imitation Crazy Taxi. It has had all of the charm, personality, and originality drained from it. If it were a cereal, Taxi Chaos would be the Fruit Rings to Crazy Taxi's Fruit Loops. The game attempts to throw in its own brand of innovation with quests, but the execution makes it not worth the effort whatsoever and a total chore to seek them out. Between the repetitive dialogue, annoying characters, grating, generic rock music, and basic city, there isn't much to love with Taxi Chaos. Fortunately, the driving mechanics themselves are up to snuff, and it is fun enough to drive around, leap to rooftops, and find shortcuts. Is the $35 price of admission--or in Taxi Chaos' case--"fare" worth it to hop in for a ride? Certainly and unfortunately not, as that price tag absolutely kills any chance of me recommending this game. Stick with Crazy Taxi and its two numbered sequels if you are desperate for a wild ride taxi-style.

Pumpkin Jack (PS4) - B-

[Pumpkin Jack's] just over far too soon, which makes its initial $29.99 MSRP a bit tough to swallow considering you're essentially paying five bucks for each hour of game time. Still, with superb platforming, clever ideas in its levels, and a pleasing presentation--from aesthetics to story, one can celebrate Halloween all year round courtesy of Pumpkin Jack.

Immortals: Fenyx Rising (Multi) - A-

In many ways, Immortals: Fenyx Rising outshines its inspiration of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, which was no easy task, for sure. Of course, having a blueprint to work with instead of coming up with a totally new approach like Nintendo had to do helps, but overall, Ubisoft definitely delivered an improved experience for the most part. While Immortals: Fenyx Rising does have an Achilles Heel or two, such as some of the Myth challenges around the Golden Isle bring with them plenty of tedium through repetition, some puzzles in the Vaults of Tartaros are very unfriendly due to occasionally wonky physics, and some of the humor in the game failed to bring me any laughs whatsoever (and usually it was an eyeroll instead), the game is a gift from the Gods as far as I'm concerned. Exploration is a dream, running and soaring across the Golden Isle is a blast, and combat and the better half of puzzles in the game are magnificently done. Fortunately, Immortals: Fenyx Rising rises to the occasion and makes for one super satisfying open world adventure.

Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville - Complete Edition (NSW) - B+

Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville - Complete Edition was my first foray with anything in the Plants vs. Zombies series. Between the nearly endlessly entertaining multiplayer--that with bots means the fun will continue long after what currently is a sizable online community eventually diminishes--and the amazing amount of single player options available, whether free-roaming adventure maps or offline modes, I played a heck of a lot more than I expected I would (and I'm hardly done yet). It's only been out for just under two weeks and already I've put over 50 hours into the game with most of my time being dedicated to offline pursuits. Having a full game available online or off, no microtransactions, and plenty of content to enjoy, EA and Popcap definitely didn't pull the wool over Switch owners' eyes with its "Complete" in Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville's Complete Edition branding.

Plant yourself firmly in your seat and get ready to zombie-lieve the fun
awaiting you with Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville - Complete Edition!

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville - Complete Edition (NSW) Review

Before the month of March escapes us completely, SuperPhillip Central has one more new review to share with everyone on this eve of April. It's for a recent release--at least on the Nintendo Switch--Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville - Complete Edition. Check out why I wholeheartedly recommend this port with the SPC review.

Grow big or go home

The Nintendo Switch isn't any stranger to third-party games releasing later (or late) after their original launches. In fact, it's quite routine. However, occasionally a case presents itself where the wait for a particular game becomes very much worthwhile, either due to functioning well on the Switch or coming packed with a bevy of content. In the case of Electronic Arts and Popcap's Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville, it's a combination of both of these attributes, offering one impressive, feature-rich, content-heavy port that may be late to the party, but delivers an incredible amount of fun for all ages.

Part of the reason for Battle for Neighborville being so wonderful on the Switch is that pretty much everything can be access, earned, and played offline. I threw in the "pretty much" part, as only daily, weekly, and character-specific challenges are inaccessible offline without a Nintendo Switch Online subscription. These challenges award Prize Bulbs and costume pieces that the former allows you to unlock Prize Map rewards more quickly, while the latter grants you character costume pieces for completing character-specific challenges. Everything else on offer in Plants vs. Zombies' debut on the Nintendo Switch is all available offline.

Outfit your character your way with a copious abundance of cosmetics, all earned via in-game currency. (No MTXs!)

This includes multiplayer--which includes play against bots. That said, the absence of split-screen multiplayer is a tremendous bummer, but understandable as it was removed from the Switch version to allow the game to run as admirably as it does on Nintendo's hybrid hardware. The Switch port giveth and the Switch port taketh away! Still, playing offline against bots, which allows you to select what character classes are allowed and what difficulty they are set to, makes for an enjoyable time. It also presents a bit of future-proofing to the game for when the online community inevitably dries up. However, at the time of this review (and this review was published two weeks after the initial Switch release), online is thriving with players, and I've seldom--if ever--have had to wait to enter into a match. 

With the Scientist's weapon firing, the juice is loose!

That said, I do have an issue with the online lobbies. Currently, you can group up with up to three other friends for a four friend group. However, you can NOT enter into a private match with them to play against bots. This is more a circumstantial and personal problem on my end, but with a friend of mine who is relatively new and inexperienced with gaming, it would have been nice to be able to play together in a safer setting against casual difficulty bots and thrust him into competitive online against strangers and random players of varying skill levels. A small gripe I have with the game, but I hope it's somehow touched upon by the development team and corrected.

Reach for the sky pard'ner. Sheriff Citron is in town.

The multiplayer, whether offline or on, features a multitude of modes and a series of maps across them. There is a simple team deathmatch-style mode, though named a much more family-friendly Team Vanquish, as well as a mode where teams compete to control three stations. The more stations your team controls, the more points your team earns. Alongside Team Vanquish and this aforementioned area-controlling Suburbination mode, there is an exciting area takeover mode, where one team attempts to strike, controlling one area of a map after another, forcing the other team to take and hopefully make a stand. Then, there's a 4 vs. 4 arena battle where each player gets one life per round. Each character class they select for that round gets crossed out the next round, win or lose, so it's important to not only be comfortable with multiple classes in this mode, but it's also important to accent your teammates' choices of characters as well. Having everyone serve as the healing class is less than a stellar decision, for example!

Outside of multiplayer in a competitive and co-operative sense, Battle for Neighborville brings a solo-focused experience to the fold with four free-roaming maps. One is exclusive to the Plants, one is exclusive to the Zombies, and one is shared between both Plants and Zombies, but they occur at different times of day. Either way, you're going to get upwards of 10 hours with each, as they involve completing story-based quests, battling bosses, discovering and opening treasure chests, uncovering Golden Gnomes and the ultra-rare and usually puzzle or combat-oriented Platinum Gnomes, and completing a variety of achievement-like tasks that reward Medals for accomplishing them. To further add to the fun--and I definitely found a lot of fun with the four campaigns--there are bounty battles to take on, where you engage with themed "gimmick"-based bosses, as well as Ops missions where you guard a position against five waves of increasingly more difficult opposition forces. Some maps are more enjoyable than others, and the lack of a fast travel option means you'll be trekking through familiar sights (and sites) repeatedly. Still, a great amount of content is available in these four maps.

There may be too many encounters while roaming the four maps of Battle for Neighborville's
 campaigns, but when they're this enjoyable, it's a small price to pay.

I've spoken at long length already about the content inside Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville - Complete Edition--and do I have more to cover--but what of the actual Plants and Zombies that are versus-ing one another? (Ew. There wasn't any elegance in THAT wording!) Each member of the Plant and Zombie teams has a main attack as well as three special attacks/abilities. The latter require a cooldown in order to use again with more powerful attacks and useful abilities requiring a longer cooling down period. From Peashooter's ability to turn plant its roots firmly into the ground to become a stationary turret, to All-Star's ability to produce a protective red dome that serves to temporarily shield itself and others from projectiles, it's important to learn each character class' abilities. Fortunately, it's quite enjoyable to do so. 

All-Star's showing everyone that while there is no "I" in "TEAM", 
there is certainly an "I" in "VANQUISH".

Alternately, each character class has its own strengths and weaknesses. The Sunflower on the Plants side and the Scientist on the Zombies side serve as the healing class, perfect for protecting others with added health in a pinch, but their attack capabilities aren't the strongest. Meanwhile, attack-proficient characters like Kernel Corn and 80's Action Hero on the Plant and Zombie sides respectively deal great damage, but their maximum health levels are on the lower side. For the most part, each class of characters seems balanced well enough, and it makes for matches and moment-to-moment gameplay that keeps things fresh--more importantly on a personal note, it kept me coming back for more.

Characters level up with experience earned through a multitude of methods and ways. After every ten levels earned, they stop earning experience and must be promoted. This promotion serves a twofold purpose as to gain new perks as well as allow them to resume leveling up, though starting from level 1 again. It can be a bit of a pain to have to return to the hub to promote a character, as again, they don't earn any more experience once they hit the maximum of level 10. It's pretty much wasted experience on them if you continue to play as that character without giving them a proper promotion. 

If only receiving a promotion was as easy to get in real life! (Sigh...)

The hub itself, Giddy Park, serves as one-stop spot for all kinds of actions and activities. For one, you access the four campaigns and multiplayer from this hub. There is of course the place to promote characters, like I mentioned already, but there is also a shop that stocks different goods like costume pieces, costume sets, character gestures, plaques that are displayed on another player's screen when you vanquish them, and so forth. Additionally, there is a place to spend Prize Bulbs, a capsule machine that you can spend coins earned through regular play to earn various cosmetics at random (unlike the other previously released versions of this game, there are NO microtransactions to speak of), and a central area that separates the Plants and Zombies that allows some practice of vanquishing players or bots. 

By the 80's Action Heroes' rockets' red (technically, orange) glare,
these foes feel pummeling pain with each blast and burst.

Battle for Neighborville is the first Frostbite Engine game (Electronic Arts' own graphical engine framework) to launch on the Nintendo Switch, which is exciting in and of itself for what future support from EA may hold. Regardless, it also serves as exciting because the engine really runs rather well on Nintendo's hardware. Whether docked or in handheld form, the game runs at 30 FPS, though the latter offers a blurrier look to it. Additionally, the frame-rate is not entirely stable with some noticeable drops when the action gets hot and especially heated. Still, it's amazing to see a Frostbite Engine game from EA running on the Switch, and doing so in a mostly impressive way.

Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville - Complete Edition was my first foray with anything in the Plants vs. Zombies series. Between the nearly endlessly entertaining multiplayer--that with bots means the fun will continue long after what currently is a sizable online community eventually diminishes--and the amazing amount of single player options available, whether free-roaming adventure maps or offline modes, I played a heck of a lot more than I expected I would (and I'm hardly done yet). It's only been out for just under two weeks and already I've put over 50 hours into the game with most of my time being dedicated to offline pursuits. Having a full game available online or off, no microtransactions, and plenty of content to enjoy, EA and Popcap definitely didn't pull the wool over Switch owners' eyes with its "Complete" in Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville's Complete Edition branding. It was a question of growing big or going home, and Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville on the Nintendo Switch without question grows big, warts and all.

[SPC Says: B+]

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Top Ten Nintendo Switch Games of the System's Fourth Year

On March 3rd, 2021, the Nintendo Switch officially celebrated another anniversary. Since its debut four years ago, the little hybrid that could has managed to surpass expectations as well as collect quite the arsenal of engaging games. As is customary on SPC each Switch anniversary: 1) I'm late to the party, and 2) SPC is counting down the best games that released during the system's fourth year on the market. It was an understandably slower year for the Switch, for sure, but overall, there was still some quality software released during this period from March 3rd, 2020 to the Switch's latest anniversary. After you've checked out the picks here, share your thoughts on what Switch games reign supreme during the system's fourth year.

10) Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX

We start this countdown of the best games released during the Nintendo Switch's fourth year on the market with a type of game that will be seen multiple times throughout this list. No, I don't mean the roguelite. I'm talking about the remake. 2020 was no doubt a slower year for the Nintendo Switch than normal, but even still, Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX brought back the dungeon-crawling delightfulness of the Nintendo DS and Game Boy Advance adventures and added plenty of new features (and new Pokémon) to make for an enjoyable and engaging remake. Between delving into the countless multi-floor dungeons of the game, battling Pokémon, recruiting Pokémon to join your cause, and following along with the entertaining if not somewhat simple story of the game, Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX gave dungeon-crawling and Pokémon fans alike lots to love throughout its expansive adventure.

9) Trials of Mana

This next game is also a remake, though of one of a game that originally was not released outside of Japan. It wouldn't be until the Nintendo Switch's Collection of Mana that the third entry in the Mana franchise, Trials of Mana, would be properly localized. Soon after that Super Famicom game finally saw the light of day in the West, a brand-new, full-fledged remake of Trials of Mana launched on the Nintendo Switch. A fantastic game with a fully realized 3D world, satisfying combat, and glorious new visuals, Trials of Mana offered a delightful adventure boasting replay value and longevity by allowing players to select between one of six playable party members with three able to be chosen in one playthrough. Aside from some questionable voice acting in the English release, Trials of Mana served as not only one of the better JRPGs released on the Nintendo Switch in its fourth year, but just one of the better JRPGs released on any platform in 2020.

8) Pikmin 3 Deluxe

A franchise from the mind of famed game designer Shigeru Miyamoto, Pikmin saw its third outing originally releasing on the Wii U. Like so many games from that failed system, Pikmin 3 made the jump to the Nintendo Switch. Not just that, but it crammed as much content as possible to more than make its Deluxe branding worthwhile. Between the original adventure (featuring full co-operative play this time around), new quality of life improvements, additional missions in Mission Mode, multiplayer offerings, all DLC from the Wii U game included, and all-new Captain Olimar-centric content, Pikmin 3 became an even more enticing, even more excellent game with its Deluxe incarnation. Whether you have a green thumb or adore the mix of real-time strategy and adventuring elements the series boasts and is known for, Pikmin 3 Deluxe offers an abundance of rewarding content making it more than worth checking out--even if you've already enjoyed the vanilla version of the title on the Wii U.

7) Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity

An interesting take on both the Musou formula and the events leading up to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (well, sort of for the latter), Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity brought with it epic battles, large scale maps, and tons of variety and replay value in its lengthy and enjoyable missions. Each playable warrior in Age of Calamity boasts a unique and distinct move set, with some requiring some practice to master, but once accomplished, players will tear through enemy forces with ease. There is so much to love and admire about Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, whether that be its implementation of many of Breath of the Wild's mechanics (such as using the Sheikah Slate in battle, completing missions around the game's map, gathering materials, etc.) or its stellar combat and aforementioned varied roster of characters. While Age of Calamity skimps on the more strategic aspects of the Dynasty Warriors formula, opting more on combat, it still serves as an excellent and rewarding Musou game, not to be missed by fans of the genre or Zelda fanatics alike.

6) Paper Mario: The Origami King

It was with great trepidation that I picked up Paper Mario: The Origami King. The previous two games in the series, while I ultimately ended up enjoying bits and pieces of, were not necessarily the best experiences overall. With The Origami King, I found myself absolutely loving almost everything about the game. Between the rewarding exploration of the game's colorful and vibrant environments--searching for treasures and collectables alike--enjoying the sensational dialogue and humor the game delivered, and even liking the battle system, though this was occasionally a bit tedious at times to engage with, Paper Mario: The Origami King crafted an exceptional adventure that filled me with joy, brought me loads of laughs, and even gave me a touching moment or two as well. It's a clever, immensely charming, (mostly) well executed game.

5) Ori and the Will of the Wisps

Those in the Xbox ecosystem enjoyed Ori's latest adventure earlier last year, almost exactly one year ago. It wouldn't be until summer that Ori and the Will of the Wisps would surprisingly find its way to the Nintendo Switch. While the game didn't reach the same visual highs as its Xbox sibling, Ori and the Will of the Wisps still managed to not just run well on the Switch hardware but look absolutely stunning, too! Adding new unlockable moves to Ori's repertoire of actions, including side quests to enjoyably pump up the play time, as well as throwing in some fun speed challenges as well, Ori's second outing was an improvement over its already stupendous first. It's a Metroidvania that shouldn't be missed by any fan of a highly competent, well developed and masterfully designed platformer. 

4) Bravely Default II

Just coming in at the tail end of the Nintendo Switch's fourth year, Square Enix brought its exceptional Bravely Default series from the Nintendo 3DS to Nintendo's hybrid wonder and did so with great gusto and style. Offering complex and challenging combat in battles, a robust job system courtesy of the game's Asterisks, and an overall well polished experience, Bravely Default II delights in almost every way imaginable. The game also saw the return of beloved prog rock performer and composer Revo to the game's soundtrack, further heightening the audio and presentation experience. For me, and no doubt others, Bravely Default is classic Final Fantasy-style gameplay in modern clothing. It's the type of satisfying RPG that works well in both docked and portable play, allowing players like myself to absolutely lose themselves in, either engrossed in the world and characters or engaged with the many gameplay systems (or in my case, that darn addicting B 'n D card game) Bravely Default II possesses.

3) Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury

The latest Wii U game from Nintendo to see a Nintendo Switch port, Super Mario 3D World makes for yet another wonderful 3D Mario platformer, though this one modeled similarly to the 2D games in how players move from the start of the level to the goal in a linear obstacle course. The 3D world portion of the game features faster movement and additional moves such as a midair roll, opening the game to new strategies and capabilities. The inclusion of well functioning online play further enhances an already appealing package. However, more so is the addition of a brand-new adventure set in an open-world playground using 3D World's movement, items, and abilities: Bowser's Fury. This exceptionally designed and crafted game serves not only as a great bonus to the Super Mario 3D World package, but also might give us a glimpse at Nintendo's future plans for the series. Either way, with Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury, Nintendo Switch owners received a combination of both the familiar and fresh in one excellent, excellent package. 

2) Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition

If you were an RPG fan and had a Nintendo Switch, you were eating well with the system's fourth year. My pick for the absolute best of the role-playing game bunch is without question Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition, a well playing, engrossing relic of the Wii era made even more engrossing and magnificent on the Nintendo Switch. Players received more than the original Wii game in glorious high definition and updated textures, environments and character models with a remixed soundtrack, they also received myriad quality of life and gameplay improvements to make an already enjoyable game more enjoyable. Not one to leave it at that, developer Monolith Soft included a brand-new epilogue in a previously cut area of the game, featuring a lovely, expansive new area to explore, new characters to play as and meet, new enemies and bosses to face, new quests to complete, new--well, you get my point. Xenoblade Chronicles was already a stellar RPG, which in my opinion released on a platform that didn't do the game much justice. Now on the Nintendo Switch, the game has been given the proper TLC and right hardware to make an awesome adventure and terrific game even better.

1) Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Though completely unintended by Nintendo, Animal Crossing: New Horizons was a great game that launched at the right time. It's no secret or original observation that New Horizons was just what most players needed to escape the nastiness that was the year 2020 and the pandemic that we currently find ourselves still facing as people. However, even removing that from the equation, Animal Crossing: New Horizons is just a fantastic game in general. It's awesome to build up your own island--your virtual home-- decorating it to your own liking, throwing everything into it, and imbuing it with your own personality and style, as you start out with a squalid isle and eventually turn it into your own virtual paradise. Even with features from past games not yet being included in New Horizons and small, niggling grievances that I have with the game, the latest Animal Crossing is one I've spent the most time with, enjoyed the most, and have the fondest experiences with. Perhaps some of that is tied to how it helped me cope with a disastrous, hellish year, but even still, Animal Crossing: New Horizons makes a strong case for not just the greatest game released in the Nintendo Switch's fourth year, but also one of the best games on the system in general.