Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Balan Wonderworld (PS5, XBS, NSW, PS4, XB1, PC) "True Happiness is an Adventure" Gameplay Trailer

From the mind of Yuji Naka comes Balan Wonderworld, coming to pretty much every imaginable platform in the (wonder)world on March 26th. A new trailer for the game was published by Square Enix, and as the title suggests, it features plenty of delightful gameplay footage. Whether the final game will turn out well is anyone's guess to hazard, but those curious can try a demo version of the game. Do you plan on playing the demo, or better yet, have you already pre-ordered the game?

PGA Tour 2K21 (NSW) Review

It's been a while since PGA Tour 2K21 released on the Nintendo Switch--but not nearly as long as it's been since the last PGA Golf game to hit a Nintendo platform! At launch, PGA Tour 2K21 was a bit buggy and prone to crashing. How has the game improved since launch? Let's find out with this special SPC review.

The Nintendo Switch finally gets into the swing of things with its first professional golf outing.

It has been over eight years since a Nintendo platform has had a professional golf game, the last of which was Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters on the Wii. Since then, if you were a Nintendo fan with a desire to take to the virtual links, then you weren't getting much--other than a Mario Golf game here and an indie romp there. A Nintendo fan wanting a realistic sim golf game? Well, you weren't getting anything at all! Now, with the Nintendo Switch, that dry spell ends with PGA Tour 2K21 from 2K Sports, and fortunately for Nintendo fans, this golf simulation lands on the green in regulation.

Rather than utilize a three-click system that is traditional for many golf games in the past--also notable in the arcade golf games Nintendo fans might be most familiar with like Mario Golf--PGA Tour 2K21 uses the analog stick entirely to putt, drive, and hit the ball. Pull back on the stick and then push it forward to hit the ball. However, you have to do so with the right rhythm, or else you'll find yourself with an errant shot due to swinging too fast or more commonly, at least for me, too slow--hooking the ball to the right. It took some getting used to, especially coming off of the three-click system having been drilled into my head for so long, but once I got over the initial small hump, I was driving, putting, and chipping like a pro. It helps that the game's interactive tutorials are present at the beginning of the game for players who wishes to utilize them, and for those that don't and wish to learn by playing a round themselves, that is an option available to you. The tutorials are always accessible in the menus regardless.

Be the ball. Na-na-na-na-na-na.
It wouldn't be a golf game review without a Caddyshack reference, would it?

Various settings in the game make it so you can customize how basic or difficult your experience out on the links is. You can move sliders up and down to determine how generous the game affords your swing timing, and you can even make it harder by playing by true simulation rules, where no distance indicator or overhead view is available to you. 2K Sports has brilliantly straddled a line between a game that is perfect for pros and/or those yearning for a strict simulation, and those who just want something that, like a 120 yard chip shot with a 9-iron, is approachable. Either way, you're bound to have a good time.

On higher difficulties, on-screen assists like this viewable putting line will be unavailable to you.

The main attraction of PGA Tour 2K21 is its robust career mode, offering players a chance to either start in the minors and work their way up the PGA Tournament, or start directly in the pros and play event to event, week to week. Either way, you're getting over two dozen events to play, though all of these are stroke-based events. Prior to each new year--and like the golfing sliders mentioned earlier--you can custom tailor your career via sliders by opponent, course, terrain, and even weather difficulties, as well as set how many rounds of each event you'll play. From there, it's playing each event each week. In the meantime, you can sign up with sponsors and attempt goals to earn various gear and equipment for your custom golfer, such as getting a certain number of birdies in a row, going a round without a bogey, or getting a high average drive in a round. 

The sun may be in my player's eyes, but a birdie is on his mind.

Speaking of your custom golfer, you have myriad options available to you to create your virtual you--or if you prefer, some other creation. Only male golfers are available, sadly, but what's here to customize otherwise is just fine and dandy. Everything from your upper body attire, pants, shorts, socks, jewelry, hats, and more have multiple pieces for you to go through and try on initially. You unlock more gear as you gain experience and from the aforementioned Sponsor Goals available in the career mode.

If you're not just content with being able to create your own golfer or satisfied with the multitude of real world golf courses available to you to play rounds on, you can also create your own golf courses. You can have the game generate a series of 18 holes in one of several themes and locales and edit it that way, or you can just start fresh and plop down your own creations your own way. The latter, however, takes a great deal of time and effort, due to Switch performance. Simply performing the act of plopping down an object takes about three seconds to generate on the course. It might not seem like much, but it certainly adds up when you're trying to make your course look more aesthetically pleasing. Then, there is an all-version issue with discovering courses, where the search system could provide some better tools to specify what types of created content you're looking for.

Customize your course in painstaking detail with the in-depth course creator.

On the subject of performance, the Switch version suffers quite a bit. Load times can be lengthy. However, I can happily say that once the game has loaded a course--whether custom created or one of the game's real life courses--there are no loading screens to be found mid-round. With that positive, comes another negative, and that is that the Switch version of PGA Tour 2K21 is, quite frankly, ugly as sin. While the golfer models aren't overly horrid (damning with feint praise, if I ever did so), the courses are particularly lifeless and drab due to poor texturing, jagged edges that you could cut your arm on, and a total lack of crowds--though the latter sort of ironically fits these pandemic times. The commentary is well done, as is the TV broadcast-like presentation, such as the pleasant and relaxing music between holes, and the cutaways to other professional players on the tour performing replay-worthy shots. 

While we're at the tropics, I certainly hope this isn't a day at the beach (read: the bunker)!

PGA Tour 2K21 for Nintendo Switch was a mess at launch with rampant bugs, many resulting in crashes, visual glitches, and otherwise reprehensible qualities to an otherwise quality game. It is my pleasure to report that in my 25 hours with the game, I only suffered one reported crash, and that was in the course creator. Thankfully, I save habitually in that mode, so nothing major was lost. 

No doubt those seeking the most visually impressive golf simulation will wish to seek PGA Tour 2K21 out on another platform of their choosing, but for Nintendo Switch owners who want a great simulation game of pro golf (or those who just want a portable pro golf game), PGA Tour 2K21 is it. I don't mean that in a "take it or leave it" sort of way, either. It's honestly a superb golf simulation, offering controls that can be tailored to suit both beginners and veterans of the genre (and of course everyone in between). Swinging the club feels fantastic, and the system incorporated into the game featured is fun and especially refreshing coming off decades of three clicks gauges and swing meters. For a terrific round of golf, don't pull out a Callaway club: pull out PGA Tour 2K21 on Nintendo Switch from your bag instead.

[SPC Says: B]

Persona 5 Strikers (PS4, NSW, PC) "The Phantom Thieves Strike Back" Trailer

RE-introducing the Phantom Thieves in this all-new trailer for the upcoming Warriors-style Persona 5 Strikers! Get acquainted with the cast of colorful characters from Persona 5 interspersed with red-hot gameplay footage in this trailer. Persona 5 Strikers strikes on the PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and PC on February 23rd!

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection (NSW) "Weapons, Magic ‘n Modes" Trailer

Let's continue our retro theme for just a little bit longer this week with a new trailer for Ghosts 'n Goblins Resurrection, currently scheduled for a Nintendo Switch release on February 25th. As the trailer title suggests, Resurrection's new trailer showcases some new features, such as--for one--a new series of difficulty modes in the form of "Page, Squire, Knight and Legend" so any player of any skill level will have a fighting chance (or a nightmarish time). There are also new weapons and magic, such as one that transforms Arthur into a rolling boulder. Finally, beating the game once will unlock a mysterious "World of Shadows". Are you personally looking forward to Ghost 'n Goblins Resurrection?

Monday, January 25, 2021

Ristar (GEN) Retro Review

Fresh off the heels of this afternoon's published trailer for Wonder Boy: Ashe in Monster World, why don't we continue the SEGA Genesis themed fun with a look at another platformer from that bygone era? We're looking this evening to the sky, where somewhere Ristar awaits his chance to shine once more. Well, that day has arrived, Ristar--at least on SPC! Here's my retro review of this then-overlooked, but now-rather appreciated SEGA Genesis platformer.

 In search of an unsung, old school platforming hero? Look for the star.

During the 16-bit era, SEGA was a juggernaut in the console space, and a part of what made the console manufacturer and publisher so strong was its grand collection of characters and franchises that helped put the Genesis toe-to-toe with the Super Nintendo. However, for every Sonic the Hedgehog and Streets of Rage that turned into a lucrative series, there were multiple games that never quite enjoyed success, much more a sequel. Ristar is one of these. While SEGA's blue hedgehog still sees games to this day, the galactic hero Ristar was left in the 16-bit era, save for appearances in various Genesis greatest hits game collections and as the starter of each race in Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, of course.

Ristar arrived on the SEGA Genesis late in the console's life. In actuality, most gamers of the era were eager to move beyond the 16-bit landscape and towards the fresh tech that Nintendo and SEGA, as well as then-newcomer Sony were set to release. Thus, it's no wonder that Ristar never really got a fair shot at success as a series.

The story of Ristar has Kaiser Greedy, an intergalactic tyrant, using mind control to force each elder of the galaxy's planets to abide by his command. In the process--and if that wasn't enough--the star hero of legend, has been captured by Greedy. Young starling Ristar has an adventure ahead of him, but not just to rescue the elders, but his father--the legendary hero--as well! 

Ristar can climb...

Being a late-gen title on the SEGA Genesis, Ristar is one of the system's most impressive looking games. The pallet is rich and vibrant, overflowing with delightful colors. This is rather astonishing, considering how limited the Genesis hardware was at displaying lots of colors at once, so you can bet I appreciate the hardware voodoo that Sonic Team voo-did. Furthermore, the amount of little, noticeable details and effects in the myriad multilayered environments are truly amazing to look upon, whether they be scrolling clouds in the background or the way the water splashes and bubbles as Ristar enters and exits its surface. Ristar is just a gorgeous game, and fortunately, it plays just as well as it looks.

Whereas Sonic bounces on--in typical platforming fashion--and rolls into enemies to defeat them, Ristar utilizes his arms, able to stretch out in eight different directions a short distance, grab enemies, and then slam into them with the whole of his body to defeat them. Of course, to keep the challenge up, not all enemies easily just stand there waiting to be body-slammed into. Most scurry and scamper about, and many are only vulnerable in specific locations. Additionally, some will simply greet Ristar with a painful star-full of spikes when an errant and careless attempt at a grab occurs. Ristar can also catch and throw certain objects and projectiles as well.

Ristar can grab on to and then catapult into enemies...

Ristar's arms aren't just for offense. No, they're also used to get around the levels--rather ingeniously, if I might add. Stretching his upper extremities to pull himself past poles--from one side to the other, to hang onto monkey bars, latch onto ledges, and to swing upon special "Star Handles" to blast off and reach new heights are just some of the tricks in Ristar's repertoire. Early levels and worlds grant you leniency in missing grabs to pull yourself to safety over perilous spike-filled gaps and chasms, but later levels demand an almost perfect amount of precision as you chain grabs together to make progress. One midgame level has you in a maze of bouncing drums that propel our protagonist high into the air. Some of these drums bounce Ristar directly into a ceiling full of spikes--that is, unless you as the player successfully grab your way to safety via grabbing a pole, before meeting a painful fate.

Ristar can run...

Speaking of painful, Ristar is no certainly cakewalk. While the game can be short, it stars--excuse me--stars out breezy enough, but not too long into the game the difficulty picks up considerably. The aforementioned need to be on top of chaining grabs together is there, but so are the different enemies and bosses to learn patterns from, evading the tricks, traps and hazards that litter each level, and making your way to the goal "Star Handle" are but some of the trials needing to be overcome. Speaking of those specific handles, in each of the platforming-based levels, there is a secret "Star Handle" that leads to a bonus area. Complete the bonus area to acquire a special item. Back at release, and obviously before the Internet (but us olden gamers still had Tips & Tricks Magazine!), these special items would reveal three passwords at the end of the game, revealing everything from a level select, to a boss rush, to an even higher difficulty.

Ristar can... sit on his butt and enjoy the scenery?
(Okay, I don't blame you. The environments ARE really nice!)

Also, unlike Sonic Team's namesake, Ristar is a much slower paced adventure than what the blue blur's original offers delivered. It's a more methodical game, focusing less on skillful twitch running, jumping and speed, and more on careful precision platforming, particularly with Ristar's stretchable arms. 

There are six planets that our protagonist explores on his way to Castle Greedy, where our mind-bending boss awaits. Each planet is set with a different theme and is composed of two platforming levels and boss fight. The opening world, Planet Flora is full of lush vegetation, fauna and flora, perfect for a pleasant welcome into the mechanics of the game. Meanwhile, worlds like Planet Scorch offer less than welcoming fires, deadly walls of flames, and traps awaiting Ristar to unknowingly get caught and subsequently burned inside. Then, the music-themed Planet Sonata features birds that block Ristar's progress, but delivering metronomes to these feathered friends through carrying the time-keeping devices to them will allow them to fly away unfettered. By Planet Freon, the frozen planet, Ristar will be slipping and sliding around, needing to time his grabs or else slide into hazards that will no doubt deliver a star-ache. 

The boss fights are yet another great part to the whole that is Ristar.

What doesn't deliver a star-ache, or a headache for us humans, is Ristar as an overall game. Sonic Team may have left poor Ristar in the blue blur's dust, but there's no denying that the game successfully differentiates itself from the developer's other, more popular Genesis works. The fact that Ristar still plays as well today as it did over 25 years ago is a testament to Sonic Team for making one of the better, more innovative and creative platformers of the 16-bit era. It may be a short game, but it's also certainly a sweet one. With a wonderfully clever grab mechanic that pours over into all facets of the game from offense to traversal, Ristar remains a very worthy play that any platformer fan out there.

[SPC Says: B+]

Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World (PS4, NSW) New Trailer

After its announcement last year, Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World, the remake of Monster World IV (I had a previous lapse of sanity and had "Wonder Boy IV" as the title. -PS), has a new trailer showing off some considerable upgrades compared to its original debut trailer. While not all of the animations are up to a high definition of quality, the game is otherwise looking quite cheery, chipper, and just plain old fun! Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World doesn't have a firm release date, but it does, however, have a release period of Q2 2021!