Saturday, June 19, 2021

Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World (NSW, PS4, PC) Review

With SuperPhillip Central's 1,000th review in the rearview mirror, let's look forward now to new heights and new goals! How about we aim for 2,000 reviews next? Too much? We'll see about that, but first, let's check out Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World, a recently released remake of a 1994 Sega Genesis / Mega Drive game. Here is the SPC review!

Will wonders never cease?

The original Monster World IV released over 25 years ago. With Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World, Inin Games has taken the foundation of Monster World IV, prettied it up with newfangled cel-shaded visuals, added an accessibility improvement here and there, and pretty much then called it a day. For a title originally released in the nineties, Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World nowadays feels like a bit of relic of a bygone gaming era. For some, this will be to this remake's detriment. For others, this makes for an "if it isn't broke, don't fix it" mentality. Either way, Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World serves as a fun-filled adventure with some caveats to be discovered in its tantalizing retro-themed package.

Our heroine Asha is a "cut" above the rest!
Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World's heroine, Asha, doesn't have too much in her repertoire of moves. She has a simple sword slash, as well as the ability to bring out her shield to block enemy attacks. It isn't until she meets an adorable blue companion named Pepelogoo that her move set grows, though not that immensely. 

No need to fear with the trusty and adorable Pepelogoo at Asha's side!
Upon calling on Pepelogoo, Asha can carry her blue buddy around, and use him to double jump. This feat takes some getting used to--that is, hitting a button to summon Pepelogoo, waiting for Asha to grab hold of him, and then initiating said double jump. Pepelogoo can also be gently thrown to collect faraway items or even to hit buttons that Asha can't interact with. As Pepelogoo evolves and takes different forms throughout the duration of Asha's adventure, he gains further abilities, such as being able to save Asha from sinking under the water, discern the whereabouts of hidden doors, and even get frozen to serve as a stepping stool for Asha to reach higher places. 

Pepelogoo has all sorts of actions in him. One such feat is activating buttons.
Unlike other games in the Monster World series, Asha's adventure is not a Metroidvania game by design. Instead, after the starting village and climb up a tower, Asha arrives in Rapadagna, an Arabian-style city serving as the main hub of the game. It connects to various shops where Asha can purchase new sabers to up her attack power, bracelets to add to her collection of hearts, and shields to defend against all manners of elemental attacks. Rapadagna is also where the temple containing Wonder Boy's four main dungeons is located. Generally, pursuing various events and antics within Rapadagna unlock medallions that each opens a new level within the game. 

Compared to the original game, Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World fully takes advantage of its 3D design. Of course, the characters, enemies, and such are beautifully cel-shaded in 3D, but much of the level design, too, takes advantage of 3D. Many places, most notably Rapadagna itself, features intersections where Asha can move on the Z-axis, walking towards and away from the camera, in order to reach new areas. Entering doorways in the dungeon-like levels reveals entertaining transitions in how Asha moves between rooms. 

The four levels--these serve as the places where Asha does battle against the game's evil magicians in order to rescue the various captured sages--are quite large and expansive areas. Some seem to go on for ages, but they're mostly enjoyable to explore. I say "mostly enjoyable to explore" because the third is a pretty obnoxious ice labyrinth that's easy to get lost in. Regardless, exploration awards items like elixirs to heal Asha mid-battle or when her hearts run out (this only works if Pepelogoo is alongside her), as well as money to purchase equipment, and Life Drops that are sprinkled and scattered throughout levels and in Rapadagna itself. For every ten of the latter collected, a new heart gets added to Asha's health, making her heartier and able to endure even the most frantic of battles. 

It's a hot time in the ol' volcano tonight with this particular boss!
I mentioned accessibility improvements early in my review, and Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World does deliver on these--for the most part. Life Drops were previously unattainable if you missed them in a level, but now you can return to the majority of levels to collect any you've missed. There's even a helpful tally that says how many you've collected and how many there are total. Unfortunately, even though you can return to some levels, not all of them are available. For instance, the areas Asha visits prior to arriving in Rapadagna are a one-way ticket. Once you've beaten them, you can't return to them. There are also several side quests and events that reward Life Drops that only happen at specific points in the game, and once the windows of opportunity to get them are closed, they're closed forever unless you load from a prior save. 

I "saw" what you did there! You were cutting it quite close there, weren't you, Asha?
Saving is no longer relegated to a Sage NPC. Instead, you can save pretty much anywhere and everywhere. The only issue here is that there is no auto-save feature available, so remembering to save is paramount unless you wish to redo sections of the game because you forgot. Fortunately, this did not happen to me, but I would imagine it would be a massive demotivator if it had occurred. Still, being able to miss Life Drops and by extension miss the opportunity to get the best ending really stinks. It's a part of the game's design I wish hadn't been brought back from 1994's Genesis/Mega Drive original. Even though Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World isn't exactly the longest game out there--it took me about five hours to beat--having to redo the game because I missed some Life Drops (and because I am a completionist) wasn't the best feeling in the world.

No matter how big and mean the enemy may look, they all do the same amount of damage to Asha!
Finally, accessibility-wise, there is an easy mode, which I happily partook in, offering more health replenishment as well as coins dropped by enemies automatically getting siphoned towards Asha. That's pretty much the only difference here, as playing normal mode was just as enjoyable for me after my easy mode run was completed. 

(Piggybacking off the last caption) Unlike Asha, who depending on the sword equipped, deals variable amounts of damage!
Compared to previous remakes of Wonder Boy/Monster World series games, Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World feels a bit too simplistic for its $40 price tag. Yes, the visual style is lovely to look at, and the increased personality in Asha's animations--whether she's sliding like a figure skater on ice, or shaking her can as she prepares to open a treasure chest--is also pleasant to see. However, by a gameplay and game length standpoint, Asha in Monster World isn't the strongest experience. Again, the gameplay is rather simple, and the length is quite short. These aspects notwithstanding, there is a lot to like about this remake of Monster World IV (especially if you get the physical version as--at least the Switch port received the original game on the cartridge), and now a new generation of players can join Asha on her fun-filled adventure.

[SPC Says: B-]

Thursday, June 17, 2021

[1,000th Review!] Resident Evil Village (Multi) Review

Earlier this month, SuperPhillip Central celebrated its 13th anniversary. Today is another auspicious occasion to celebrate this anniversary month as SPC officially hits its 1,000th review, and boy, is it a big one! Resident Evil Village is the eighth installment of the premiere survival-horror franchise, and it reaches highs never before seen within the series. How high of highs? Let's find out together with this VERY special SPC review!

Come for the survival horror, slay for the action.

4 + 7 generally equals 11, but in the case of the Resident Evil series, if you take the action-packed survival horror elements of Resident Evil 4 and throw in the first-person perspective of Resident Evil 7, you get Resident Evil Village, the eighth numbered installment of the long-running horror game series. Village takes some of the highest highs of past Resident Evil games, adds some streamlining of features, and creates one hellish nightmare of a scenario for our unfortunate protagonist Ethan Winters to survive through. 

Ethan previously battled a family of benevolent backwoods psychopaths in Resident Evil 7 in order to save his wife, Mia. This time around in Resident Evil Village it's another member of his family that he must rescue--his baby daughter Rose. Mysteriously taken after one hell of a shock-to-the-system opening, Rose is somewhere in the titular village's boundaries, and it's up to Ethan to find and rescue her. Unfortunately for him, he'll have to deal with a litany of Lycans, ravenous human-like werewolf creatures, as well as contend with four lords who essentially rule over the village from their four corners. 

Where'd everyone go--bingo?

The village itself isn't just here as a backdrop for the story--nor is it just a way for Capcom to cleverly thrust the roman numeral VIII into the subtitle. No, the village is basically the hub of Resident Evil 8. Ethan returns to the sinister community constantly throughout his macabre adventure, and each time new areas open up, allowing him access to new locales inside. His first foray into the village is reminiscent of Resident Evil 4's, where Leon S. Kennedy was attacked by a cavalcade of grotesque creatures. Similarly, Ethan struggles to survive against the sheer numbers of Lycan that assault him from every corner of the map, and this nod to Resident Evil 4 made me quite giddy. Of course, Resident Evil Village isn't simply retreading old ground from past games to coyly tip its hat and wink at players, but at the same time there is a lot here that has similarities to past games only given a fresh new window dressing. 

As you can probably imagine, within these cornfields rest some unsavory monstrosities! 

For instance, the resident shopkeeper, the rotund Duke, serves as the man Ethan sells various found goods to, whether they be extra unneeded goods or better yet, the immense amount of treasure that the village contains. Oh, yes, the Duke will buy it for a high price, indeed! You can purchase all sorts of items and goods from the Duke, as well, such as additional storage in the series' trademark attach case, ammo, upgrades to Ethan's weapons, and a lot more. Hunted animals such as fish, chickens, goats, and pigs can have their meat used for cooking various dishes, offering new boosts to Ethan's health, guarding abilities, and speed. 

The Duke never fails to mysteriously appear when Ethan needs to do a little shopping. 

No doubt the Duke's goods are very much worthwhile, but they are also quite costly. Thus, the game actively encourages full exploration of its many nooks and crannies to seek out bags of money, as well as items and treasures to sell. Heck, I would have done so regardless since the level design offers so many entertaining puzzles to solve, secret sights to seek out, and places to plunder. It's always fun to find a glint in the environment, perfect for placing a shot or two at it to knock loose a hidden treasure like an invaluable gem or other treasure. Not only is surveying and exploring the environment worthwhile to nab collectibles and treasures, but it's also necessary for scavenging for ammo. You never want to enter a confrontation with a hungry Lycan without a clip in your handgun.

On the subject of scavenging, Ethan comes across lots of different crafting goods, such as gunpowder and metal scraps which can be combined into various ammo types. There's a bit of a strategy in crafting as well. Do you spend your scavenged goods to craft some handgun bullets, which while weaker are much more plentiful to craft, or do you spend materials on crafting more powerful explosives like mines or pipe bombs? The latter two are massively more potent to defeat Lycans, but you only get one shot with each! Perhaps instead of handgun or explosives you opt for rifle ammo, great for picking off foes safely from afar. These tactical crafting decisions can be the difference between successfully defeating an enemy horde or becoming a Lycan's lunch. 

These particular foes emerge out of the bloody water to spook and surprise attack poor Ethan.

One notable thing regarding enemies like Lycans is that when compared to Resident Evil 7, in Resident Evil Village, the enemy variety is incredibly high by comparison. It's always a thrill (whether a welcomed one or not depending on your preparedness) to encounter a new enemy type and to see what the game will throw at you next. From the Lycans that love to bite into Ethan's flesh, to late-game Soldats whose arms are at the ready with drills to plunge deep into Ethan's body, there are plenty of foreboding foes for Ethan to encounter and hopefully defeat. They require every trick and strategy available to survive their aggressive advances.

I'm "Lycan" the end to this particular encounter a lot! I bet Ethan is, too!

Resident Evil Village's most interesting enemies are of course the four lords. Each of their individual sections have incredible variety as well. My favorite was the very first, Castle Dimitrescu, owned and operated by the tall, vampiric Lady Dimitrescu herself. Not only was the area packed with areas to explore, but by the second half of the castle, Lady Dimitrescu stalks the halls in pure Mr. X fashion. As Ethan you must do your best to avoid getting caught by her painfully deadly extended claw as you desperately roam the castle searching for special key items that serve as the way out. 

Face to face and in the flesh with Lady Dimitescu.

Despite the first lord's area, Castle Dimitrescu, being my favorite, that isn't to say that the other three areas occupied by the lords were pushovers, not notable, or failed to entertain me. That couldn't be further from the truth. Whether exploring the flooded reservoir area or entering the insanely creepy and all-time horror highs of House Beneviento, there was something notable and enjoyable about every area in Resident Evil Village.

Castle Dimitrescu serves as my personal favorite locale among Resident Evil Village's
wide assortment of entertaining areas.

Starting off in Resident Evil Village, save for the opening Resident Evil 4-like skirmish, I only had to contend with a single Lycan at once, perhaps encountering multiple foes to eliminate at best. However, by the end of the game, hordes of enemies almost overwhelmed myself and poor Ethan, offering gameplay that felt less like a survivor-horror game and more like something from DOOM or Call of Duty. That said, there was always a feeling of dread while playing Village, despite these more action-intensive moments, especially in the hardest difficulty within Resident Evil 8, the Village of Shadows difficulty, where death's door is easily opened.

After completing the campaign of Resident Evil Village, all 10-11 hours I spent in that delightful hellhole, I was eager to return to the nightmarish place as Ethan. (Poor Ethan, but happy me!) A New Game+ option opens upon beating the game, carrying over all of your money, weapons, and inventory. Further, a bonus shop unlocks, allowing players to enjoy the always-lovely-and-fun Mercenaries Mode. There are also infinite ammo weapons to purchase--though these require a given weapon to be fully upgraded at the Duke's before the option is unlocked for that particular gun--as well as other bonuses like character models and such. The main point to take away here is that there's plenty more to partake in long after the initial credits roll in Resident Evil Village, and I wouldn't have it any other way with how fantastically enjoyable the game truly is. 

There's definitely a haunting beauty to be found within Resident Evil Village's many vistas.

Resident Evil Village looks phenomenal, regardless of what hardware you play it on. Whether last gen consoles such as the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One, or seeing the macabre graphical magnificence on display with the current gen PS5 and Xbox Series of consoles, Resident Evil Village is haunting in its beauty. Character models and the lighting in environments steal the show, but really, everything is so remarkably well done, save for incredibly minor frame-rate hitches that do noticeably happen during gameplay. However, these are so minor that they don't ruin the experience hardly at all. Meanwhile, the musical score is suitably dramatic, tense, and atmospheric. There's seldom anything you'll be humming, of course, but that's not the intention here. The soundtrack's intention is to spook and scare the player, bring out the tension of the game's various thrilling moments, and it no doubt succeeds masterfully at this. 

After the wonderful Monster Hunter Rise, Capcom concludes its 1-2 punch of excellent springtime software with one hell of a haymaker with Resident Evil Village. It's an almost perfect combination of action and survival horror elements, taking the best from past Resident Evil games, most notably Resident Evil 4 and Resident Evil 7. Between the astounding assortment of villains in Village--some of the series' absolute best and most memorable--the wide range of awesome moments that stun and delight to the point that you'll want to replay them many times over, and a combo of gameplay and level design that stand head and shoulders above other modern games, Resident Evil Village reigns as one of the best installments of the series to date. One heck of an accomplishment, for sure, and one treasure of a game--one that the Duke would most certainly buy for a high price.

[SPC Says: A]

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Cruis’n Blast (NSW) Announcement Trailer

Not going to lie, folks, this announcement got me more hyped than I expected! A game well known to those who frequent Dave and Busters locations, Cruis'n Blast, is coming to Nintendo Switch with its very own home console port, complete with four player racing mayhem and a wide assortment of zany tracks and vehicles. While no firm release date was given, Nintendo says that Cruis'n Blast will race its way onto the Nintendo Switch this fall.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (NSW) E3 2021 Teaser Trailer

Our first glimpse of gameplay at the sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was saved for the final trailer during Nintendo's E3 2021 video presentation. This isn't just Hyrule--it's high above Hyrule as well, taking players into the skies above! While we didn't receive a name for the game nor a finalized release date, we do have a launch year: 2022. 

Metroid Dread (NSW) Announcement Trailer

Between all the hints and teases throughout the decade (starting with a message log in Metroid Prime 3: Corruption back on the Wii, if I recall correctly), Metroid Dread is finally a reality and it's coming to the Nintendo Switch! It's been almost two decades since the last all-new 2D Metroid, and now Samus Aran has a brand-new, side-scrolling adventure locked, loaded, and almost ready for launch! Metroid Dread launches on Nintendo Switch on October 8th.

Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp (NSW) Announcement Trailer

After an extended decade's long hiatus, Advance Wars is back and ready to storm a new Nintendo platform. A remake of both Game Boy Advance Advance Wars games, Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp features new visuals, new music, and more family-friendly warfare than you can blast a Medium Tank with! Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp marches onto the Nintendo Switch on December 3rd!

Shin Megami Tensei V (NSW) Release Date Trailer

After having leaked a few weeks ago, the release date for the Nintendo Switch exclusive Shin Megami Tensei V is now official: November 12th! Not only this, but that date is a worldwide launch. Nintendo shared this overview trailer showcasing gameplay featured within Atlus' latest RPG during its E3 2021 showcase. Take a look below!

WarioWare: Get It Together! (NSW) Announcement Trailer

A humorous Wario serves as narrator to this announcement trailer for the latest in the WarioWare series--WarioWare: Get It Together! Offering a whole slew of new micro-games featuring different ways to play them depending on the character used, as well as two-player co-op action, WarioWare's Nintendo Switch debut happens on September 10th.

Mario Party Superstars (NSW) Announcement Trailer

The latest in the Mario Party series, Mario Party Superstars, was announced during Nintendo's E3 2021 Direct presentation. It's essentially a "best of" installment of the series, featuring five classic boards from the Nintendo 64 era of games, 100 mini-games, and new features like online play for each and every mode in the game! Mario Party Superstars prepares to party hearty on the Nintendo Switch on October 29th!

Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania (Multi) Announcement Trailer

After a less than stellar remaster of a less than thrilling game in the Super Monkey Ball series, SEGA is back at it again, but this time with a game to celebrate the Super Monkey Ball series' 20th anniversary: Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania! Rolling onto every current generation console on the market on October 5th, Banana Mania promises over 300 levels from the first three Super Monkey Ball games.

Monday, June 14, 2021

Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin (NSW) E3 2021 Trailer

Some exciting news from Capcom's E3 showing this year, and that is Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin receiving a trial version on June 25th. The trial will allow riders to take their progress from the demo and have it carry over to the full game. As for the full game, Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin soars on to the Nintendo Switch worldwide on July 9th.

Mario Golf: Super Rush (NSW) "Bring on the Competition" Trailer

We have some real star power with Mario Golf: Super Rush's latest trailer--no, I don't mean PGA Tour commentator David Feherty as the voiceover here (though that is quite cool to hear)--I'm talking about Mario and the rest of the Mushroom Kingdom all-stars duking it out on the links! Mario Golf: Super Rush is less than two weeks away from launch, getting into the swing of things by arriving on the Nintendo Switch on June 25th!

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Rune Factory 5 (NSW) E3 2021 Trailer

Though released in Japan already, Western gamers will have to wait a bit longer for the localized version of Rune Factory 5--early 2022, in fact. No worries, however, as this will hopefully give the developers more time to iron out the bugs and issues that were prevalent in the original Japanese release. For the time being, here's the E3 2021 trailer for Rune Factory 5, currently a Nintendo Switch exclusive.

In other tangentially-related news, Rune Factory 4 Special and Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town are scheduled to arrive on a home console other than the Switch--specifically PlayStation 4 and Xbox One--come this year. More farming fun for everyone!

Legend of Mana (NSW, PS4, PC) Opening Movie

Ahead of its launch in two weeks, Legend of Mana's lovingly made remaster has had its opening movie published to Square Enix's YouTube channel. Be entranced by the anime visuals, calming music, and much more in this opening. Whether you're reliving the game or playing it for the first time, Legends of Mana is set to invoke wonderfully warm feelings in its players with its action-packed battles, remixed or original music (which can be alternated between via menu), and engrossing world. Legend of Mana arrives on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and PC on June 24th.

Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin (PS5, XBS, PS4, XB1, PC) Announcement Teaser Trailer

Coming in 2022, a new spin-off in the Final Fantasy series, one that takes a different, decidedly darker/edgier approach, is Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin. Featuring the original Final Fantasy's Garland serving in his role as Chaos, who--if you didn't catch it the first time in the trailer--our ragtag trio of protagonists wish to kill for currently unrevealed reasons. Check out the trailer below. Are you on board with this new take on the Final Fantasy series?

Halo Infinite (XBS, XB1, PC) Official Multiplayer Reveal

Incredibly impressive multiplayer footage from today's Xbox & Bethesda Games Showcase premiered of Halo Infinite. Essentially taking the action-packed, adrenaline-filled multiplayer the Halo series is known for and cranking up the intensity dial to 11, Halo Infinite's multiplayer with be free to play this holiday season. Check out the trailer for much, much more.

Forza Horizon 5 (XBS, XB1, PC) Official Announce Trailer

Beauty, loveliness, awesomeness? Thy name is Forza Horizon 5. Get ready to get behind the driver's seat in the ultra-impressive latest in this open-world racing series. The sights and sounds of Mexico is the destination this time around, and the varied topography will make for some interesting and truly exciting races. Forza Horizon 5 launches on the Xbox Series duo of consoles, as well as Xbox One and PC, on November 9th.

Microsoft Flight Simulator (XBS) Xbox Series X|S Gameplay Trailer

Get ready to take to the skies, Xbox Series console owners, when Microsoft Flight Simulator soars onto Xbox Series X and S on July 27th. The absolutely jaw-dropping graphics, ability to fly anywhere in the world, and realistic flight gameplay will certainly make for one forgettable gaming experience. 

Shredders (Multi) Xbox & Bethesda Games Showcase Trailer

Are you "amped" for a new, exciting snowboarding game? Shredders is aiming to be just that, and it will arrive first on Xbox Series S and X consoles. Check out the latest trailer for the game.

Psychonauts 2 (Multi) Official Gameplay Trailer

As part of the Xbox & Bethesda Games Showcase today, a new trailer and a release date for Double Fine's upcoming platforming adventure Psychonauts 2 were revealed. Get psyched, as Psychonauts 2 launches on August 25.

Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope (NSW) Cinematic World Premiere and Gameplay Sneak Peak Trailers

What a wonderful surprise! Well, technically, Nintendo revealed this themselves the morning before, and a leaker revealed the game name a day prior, as well, but still, it was a pleasure to see the sequel to Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle appear at Ubisoft's E3 showcase. Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope didn't just premier with a cinematic trailer. No, no! We got to see some gorgeous gameplay footage as well. Intriguingly enough, the grid-based gameplay of the original's tactical battles seems to be gone this time around, opening up the possibilities of strategy even further! Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope will strategize exclusively on the Nintendo Switch sometime next year.