Wednesday, June 23, 2021

NEO: The World Ends with You (NSW, PS4) Final Trailer

NEO: The World Ends with You has revealed its final trailer, culminating with a ton of information regarding the game's story, characters, setting, battles, and much, much more. Of particular note at the end of this trailer is a demo will be available on Friday, June 25th! NEO: The World Ends with You escapes the streets of Shibuya and takes on the world at large on July 27th.

Top Ten Sonic the Hedgehog Games

Today, June 23rd, 2021, is Sonic the Hedgehog's 30th anniversary. 30 years ago today in 1991 a blue hedgehog named Sonic took the gaming world by storm with a spin dash, a too-cool-for-school attitude, and a hankering for chili dogs. SPC celebrates the occasion with a special top ten list, presenting the site's picks for the very best of the Blue Blur's biggest and boldest titles. After you've checked out the picks here, which Sonic games would you select as your personal favorites? 

10) Sonic Unleashed (Multi)

The first but nowhere near the last 3D Sonic on our list of top Sonic the Hedgehog games, Sonic Unleashed brought with it an adventure around the world across themed areas based on real-life locales. Using the boost formula that future modern 3D Sonics would utilize, Unleashed also featured a beat-em-up component with some careful precision platforming thrown in via the Werehog. During nighttime stages, Sonic would transform into the burly beast, using his limbs to slash and strike enemies into submission. Whereas during the daytime hours, Sonic sped through levels, blazing a trail. A great speed-running game for the daytime levels, but pretty clunky and cumbersome during nighttime levels, Sonic Unleashed was essentially half a great game.

9) Sonic Rush (DS)

Sonic's debut on the Nintendo DS was a fantastic one, spanning both of the handheld system's screens. Levels sprawled on the dual screen setup, allowing for great verticality in levels, and offering a wider perspective on the action. The extra hardware power of the Nintendo DS gave players boss battles against Eggman's numerous mechanical monstrosities in 3D arenas, truly showing off the capabilities of the system. The introduction of Blaze the Cat was also welcomed, bringing a second adventure to enjoy with her incredible abilities and powers. And no Sonic Rush description would be complete without mentioning the stellar soundtrack composed by Hideki Naganuma of Jet Grind Radio fame, so let's not fail to mention his groovy songs that further heightened this highly capable Sonic game.

8) Sonic Adventure 2 (Multi)

I'm not going to lie here--a lot of my love for Sonic Adventure 2 is based off of nostalgia. It's also based off of the game still being rather good. I'll admit that Knuckles and Rouge's treasure-hunting segments are less than excellent, but they still show signs and semblances of entertainment. Tails and Eggman's shooter sections offer high amounts of action and platforming, while Sonic and Shadow's levels are indeed the pieces de resistance--the greatest part of this package. Sonic Adventure 2 was my first fully-fledged 3D Sonic--not counting games like Sonic 3D Blast that were quasi-3D--so it was a big deal for me. It's part of my adoration and fondness for Adventure 2, and why I hold it so dear to this day. Nostalgia's hard to shake sometimes!

7) Sonic the Hedgehog (GEN)

We couldn't go through a list of Sonic's greatest hits without visiting the game that started it all, now could we? Well, technically we could, but there's no reason to do so when 1991's Sonic the Hedgehog remains such a significant and stupendous game. It of course laid the foundation for Sonic, how he moves, how he handles, how he controls, and it's really amazing to consider all the masterful programming that went into making Sonic work in those loop de loops, blazing fast speeds ("blast processing" marketing speak notwithstanding), and slopes. What I really like most about the original Sonic is that the game gives plenty of moments for breathing. One zone opens itself up for fast speed-runs while the next requires more careful, cautious approaches. The pattern repeats to the very end of the game. 

6) Sonic Colors (Wii)

While PlayStation and Xbox platforms received the bigger entries in the Sonic franchise, "the little motion-control-centric system that could", the Wii, was pretty much given hand-me-downs and smaller Sonic experiences such as Sonic and the Secret Rings and Sonic and the Black Knight, both part of the Storybook Series of games. It wouldn't be until Sonic Colors that a tried and true major release in the Sonic series would spin dash onto the Wii. The wait for a major game was really worth it, as Sonic Colors remains one of my favorite 3D entries in the Sonic series, delivering a mix of stellar 3D and 2D sections and Wisp-based transformations. With Sonic Colors Ultimate heading to all major platforms this September, I eagerly await and anticipate being able to relive my experiences from the Wii days of blasting through Eggman's theme park as the Blue Blur.

5) Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (GEN)

After 1991's Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic sped onto the Genesis scene once again for a sequel, and it was everything fans wanted from a follow-up. It was bigger, bolder, and dare I say better than the original Sonic the Hedgehog. Double the length of Sonic 1, and offering more zones and variety, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 also added a second playable character, though one that would only be available via co-op and a second controller. This second character was Miles "Tails" Prower, or Tails for short, and would give beginning players (or little brothers like myself whose big brothers wouldn't let them play as Sonic) a chance to tag along with player one through the rather lengthy adventure. 

4) Sonic Generations (PS3, 360, PC)

Sonic's 20th anniversary ten years ago was punctuated by this game, giving players and longtime fans of Sonic something to celebrate over--a fantastic entry in the series. Sonic Generations brought with it two main styles of play: Classic Sonic (generally comprised of 2D levels) and Modern Sonic (generally comprised of--you guessed it--3D levels). Together, the two trekked and sped through familiar zones from pretty much every major past Sonic game, from Sonic 1 all the way to Sonic Colors, for nine zones with two acts total--one act for each version of Sonic. Save for a rather wet fart of a final boss, Sonic Generations was everything I wanted out of a 3D Sonic game, and it remains one of my favorites within the franchise.

3) Sonic & Knuckles (GEN)

As we approach the end of this 30th anniversary list dedicated to Sonic's best game, we'll be sticking strictly to 2D titles from here on out. We begin with Sonic & Knuckles. This game's cartridge used special lock-on technology to allow players to open its top and stick other Sonic games directly into it, such as Sonic 2 (to play the game entirely as Knuckles, for instance), and of course, Sonic 3 to create one extended adventure. But, we're not focused on the latter at the moment--or anything pertaining to the innovative lock-on technology presented to players. Instead, taken by itself, Sonic & Knuckles finally allowed players to assume control of Knuckles as a playable character, opening up levels considerably. Paths Sonic couldn't reach could be traveled to by Knuckles, and vice versa. The game had a solid collection of memorable zones, and one truly spectacular final confrontation with Dr. Robotnik.

2) Sonic the Hedgehog 3 (GEN)

Right from the get-go and the beginning of Sonic's adventure on Angel Island, you know you're in for something special as the character Knuckles the Echidna is introduced, the marimba synth of the first zone starts playing, and the beauty that is Sonic the Hedgehog 3's graphics and gameplay begin. Sonic 3 is a marked improvement over its predecessors--and those games were hardly pushovers--making for one marvelous platforming package of six zones of two acts apiece, accentuated by a stupendously catchy soundtrack. Sonic 3 may not have the length of Sonic the Hedgehog 2, and it may have that annoying, rather unintuitive barrel in the Carnival Night Zone, but as a whole, it's a phenomenal game. However, it's not THE most phenomenal game in Sonic's 30-year history.

1) Sonic Mania (NSW, PS4, XB1, PC)

Perhaps this is blasphemy to say, but my favorite Sonic game is without question Sonic Mania. Now this is mostly because I'm not combining Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles into one game here, so if I did, this ranking could possibly change. However, as it is, Sonic Mania evoked such warm, happy feelings from this particular player. Between the masterful level designs, return to familiar zones made fresh with new level mechanics and concepts, as well as the four brand-new zones that each felt cohesive to the entire package, Sonic Mania delivered in pretty much all aspects all-around. From the music by Tee Lopes, to the art design, to the level design, to the boss encounters, to the myriad secrets and more, Sonic Mania rushed its way to the top of my list of favorite Sonic games when it launched a few years ago, and it remains at the top of the hedgehog game heap.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD (NSW) Overview Trailer

This evening, Nintendo published an overview trailer for its upcoming HD remaster of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, releasing on the Nintendo Switch on July 16th. There's less than a month remaining until fans will get a chance to either relive this first tale in the Zelda timeline or experience it for the very first time. In the meantime, check out this trailer. While it doesn't reveal much that wasn't already known (hope we get some quality of life update info soon), it's still a pleasant watch.

Super Magbot (NSW, PC) Review

Super Magbot launches onto Steam and Nintendo Switch today. To coincide with the launch, SuperPhillip Central has a full review of this particularly difficult puzzle-platformer ready to go! Let's check out Astral Pixel and Team17's Super Magbot with this review.

An "attractive" puzzle-platformer

When an evil asteroid, tearing through the universe, leaving nothing but chaos and destruction in its path, heads towards the ever-powerful Magnetia Star, it's up to Super Magbot to save the day--and the universe. Needing to head to each of the Magnetia Star's surrounding planets to collect each one's Planet Fragment, Magbot has quite the arduous mission ahead of itself. There's no time to dawdle, either, as the sinister Magsteroid is quickly pursuing!

Super Magbot is a 2D puzzle-platformer where the main mechanic revolves around magnetism and attraction. Magbot itself is way too heavy to even jump, so instead, it uses its arms to shoot forward rays that either allow it to attach itself to magnetized walls, ceilings, and floors or repel to launch itself upwards and onwards. 

The objective of each level is simple enough--reach the goal! Getting to the goal, however, in these hazard-filled, obstacle-laden levels is another story. Starting off in Super Magbot, the game eases you into the somewhat confusing method to traverse the world. Using the left analog stick for movement and the right stick to control the direction that Magbot shoots its magnetic rays (whether red or blue), players interact with levels--specifically red and blue pieces of the environment--to get around. For example, if Magbot is standing directly on a blue floor, aiming the right stick downward and then pressing the left bumper to shoot a blue ray will result in Magbot being launched upward. Which way upward Magbot is launched depends on the angle of the right stick when the left bumper is pressed down.

Starting off, Super Magbot gently eases you into how to play and interact with its mechanics...

Likewise, there are plenty of magnetized blue and red walls that can only be scaled by Magbot aiming at them and then shooting the opposite colored ray at them to move up them. Again, the angle of its shot determines how far up Magbot gets launched. As you can probably imagine, things start off easy enough, but by the end of the first world you're needing to shoot Magbot's beams at floors, walls, and ceilings all in one go without much time to stop, breathe and think about things. 

When you have moments to ponder how Magbot's beams relate and how they will interact with the various magnetized objects like floors and walls--among other obstacles like floating bubbles, destructible floors and walls, destructive floors that fall apart soon after touching them, etc.--in levels, the game is rather enjoyable and breezy. However, the moments to think in the latter half of the game quickly dwindle to next to nothing, resulting in myriad failed attempts because you'll accidentally use the wrong ray on an object when pressured, which in turn results in plenty of frustrating deaths.

...But quite quickly the game ramps up the challenge considerably!

Thankfully, Super Magbot comes with various accessibility options for if and when the adventure becomes too tough. These include adding checkpoints to levels, allowing you to infinitely slow time when holding down one of the beam buttons (instead of only having a quick second to slow down time), and being able to use as many beams as you like without needing to touch solid ground to recover beam energy. These three accessibility options can all be turned on, off, or have one or two turned on while the others remain off to customize your Super Magbot experience to your liking and preference. Of course, turning these on will immediately disqualify you from having your top times posted on the game's online leaderboards, but not only is it a small price to pay for less aggravation, but you can turn off the accessibility options at any time to compete on said leaderboards.

Not mentioned in the review text and not pictured here, but Super Magbot does offer a colorblind mode.

Still, even with all of these options turned on, Super Magbot is NOT for the timid player. It can still kick your butt quite easily and repel certain players from enjoying the game. The most difficult challenges within Super Magbot occur when you're attempting to do perfect runs while collecting a level's duo of star fragment pieces. Collecting both of these and completing the level successfully earns you a full star fragment. In turn, collecting all star fragments in every level--even the broken versions of planets that unlock once Magsteroid "visits" them--results in seeing the best ending Super Magbot possesses. Again, even with every accessibility option turned on, this platformer is no cakewalk.

There are four main planets in Super Magbot, each containing 27 levels. The 27th level pits Magbot against a massive boss of some variety. These encounters are rather enjoyable, whether they be chase sequences where players must rush either horizontally or vertically while a boss pursues them as they frantically cycle between attracting Magbot to objects and repelling Magbot from objects, or arena battles where players must avoid attacks by utilizing careful platforming and magnetizing maneuvers.

Book it, Super Magbot! Don't let this boss or its rising tide of lava catch you!

Super Magbot utilizes a lovely pixel art style reminiscent of some of the better 16-bit games of yesteryear. It's a delightful art style that Astral Pixel crafted for its game, and it runs heavenly, too. The sound design, particularly Super Magbot's music, features plentiful amounts of hummable music, great bops, and terrific tunes that won't grate no matter how many deaths you will no doubt encounter.

Despite being a game that did once again reveal that I'm not the mellowest platformer player out there, after personally witnessing moments of gnashing my teeth together, cursing to the heavens, and having my blood pressure noticeably rise at times, Super Magbot was an overall fun and enjoyable platformer. If you crave an almost Super Meat Boy-like challenge from your platformers, then you'll most definitely discover something great to enjoy from Super Magbot. For everyone else, you may find yourself "repelled" from the level of challenge on display in this game.

[SPC Says: B]  

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