Friday, July 2, 2021

Mario Golf: Super Rush (NSW) Review

Leading the way to the Fourth of July weekend is a brand-new review, the first for the month of July. It's a golf game that launched onto the links last Friday: Mario Golf: Super Rush. Is this a game you should rush to buy, or is it just a game that feels super rushed instead? The answer, as the SPC review will tell you, lies somewhere in the middle.

The links on layaway

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, well, you know how the rest goes. After the lackluster launch of Mario Tennis Aces with its barebones amount of content (which to be fair, would be remedied to make for a much more serviceable offering), Camelot has returned with its second Mario sports game on the Nintendo Switch. This time around, it's a long-awaited home console return to the links with Mario Golf: Super Rush. While the golfing gameplay is rather up to par, it's the content--or lack thereof--that once again sullies an otherwise solid game of golf.

Let's start off with a heavy positive, and that's the golf on offer here in Super Rush. It's superb and it's almost the best the Mario Golf series has ever seen. It's approachable for beginners, but at the same time it doesn't exactly hold players' hands either. The traditional three-click system that most arcade golf games prior to Super Rush have used is completely absent in this entry. Instead, you start the gauge with the first press of the button, and then set the power with the second press, using a combination of A and B to determine topspin, backspin, or super backspin. Accuracy of your shot is determined somewhat randomly, but not completely. The more power you set on your second button press, the more the gauge enters into a red risk zone. It's here where your shot is more likely to go off course and lose power, though you'll never actually duff the shot like in previous Mario Golf games. This change will most likely instill the wrath of longtime fans and veterans of the series, but other parts of Super Rush have been made more challenging because of this change.

Luigi's all dressed up for his return to the links.
Let's aim for a birdie, shall we?
For instance, the dotted line that shows the arc of your upcoming shot is incomplete this time around. It doesn't trail all the way to the point of where the ball will land. There's also factoring in the carry of your shot (aka how far the ball will fly in the air) and the roll when it lands (aka how far the ball will move along the ground once it lands). You only have two ways to see the lay of the land of where your shot will fall, and that's either with the overhead view or scanning the area with a first-person viewpoint. This no doubt makes for a more challenging round of golf, but one that I very much enjoyed. No longer is the process as automated as it was, and while it did take some getting used to in order to learn how the lie of the ball, the lay of the landing area, the wind, as well as slopes and inclines would affect my shot, once I got these down pat, I was having rounds massively under par. That didn't mean I wasn't making errors here and there, but my successes on the links and putting on the greens felt well earned and the rewards felt far greater than past Mario Golf games.

Depending on how much club you take, the red risk zone at the top of the shot gauge will increase, so be careful!
Alongside the Standard Golf mode, which allows for stroke play or points-based play (where the player who scores the lowest on a hole earns that hole's points, and if there's a tie, the points carry over to the next hole until someone wins), there is also Speed Golf, a much marketed and hyped mode with Mario Golf: Super Rush. This mode makes the careful consideration and precision that golf normally needs and requires its player to haul butt on the links, hitting their shots quickly but also as accurately as possible. It's not just about getting the ball into the hole as fast as possible but also doing it in the least amount of strokes possible, as the time added to your overall score is dependent on both of these factors. 

A sibling rivalry on the links! All golfers can take their shots at once even outside of Speed Golf.
Meanwhile, when competing with other players, you can wreak all sorts of havoc as you grip it and rip it, and run to your ball. You can dash, perform a special dash as long as you have the stamina for it, and knock other players and their golf balls out of your way. Unlike Standard Play, I loved having character-specific special shots on for this mode, as this really added to the party-like atmosphere and feel of Speed Golf. There's nothing like messing up another player's putt by smashing your special shot down right on top of the green to ruin their shot, and potentially ruin their chance for par in the process. Each of the game's seventeen characters (your Mii included) has their own unique special shot. For instance, Wario's special shot launches his ball up into the air before it gets struck by a lightning bolt, causing a cloud to appear above where the ball lands. Players underneath this cloud cannot hit the ball too hard or they'll get shocked by a bolt of electricity themselves, messing up their shot gauge. Meanwhile, Yoshi's special turns all impacted golfers' balls within its target zone into extra-bouncy eggs. 

Luigi's particular special shot coats its area of impact in a slippery layer of ice.
While special shots are fun to use and unleash in Speed Golf and the arena-based Battle Golf, where players compete in an arena to get their golf ball into three holes before the competition, in Standard Golf it's less fun and less fair--at least if you're competing with other players. There is no time limit per strokes in Standard Golf, which means when you have a special shot opportunity, you can simply wait for the other players to hit their tee shots or whatnot first, and then unleash your special to cause them trouble. Not exactly the most sportsmanlike way to play, for sure. Furthermore, Speed Golf doesn't show you a closeup of your shots and where they land. Many times I've gotten a chip-in from far away (and this is not to brag) and couldn't see it. Throw in a total lack of replays even in Standard Golf modes, and that feels a bit disappointing, even with the video capture option built into the Nintendo Switch hardware.

As a single-player game, Mario Golf: Super Rush is a better offering than that of Mario Tennis Aces. Part of that is due to the more enjoyable solo adventure mode, but the other part is that golf is a sport that is more that you're competing against the course itself rather than other players. There's always room for improvement to better your scores, better your rounds, and simply better your overall play. 

For Super Rush's solo outing, Golf Adventure, it's important to immediately eschew the thought that this is a deep RPG like Camelot's Mario Golf games on the Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance. Golf Adventure is not this whatsoever. You do level up your Mii from participating and completing rounds, matches, events, and challenges, but there is no deep story, side quests, or anything like that present. That notwithstanding, you get the most variety out of this solo mode. You start off being a rookie at the golf academy in Bonny Greens, and learn the ropes of golf alongside a series of Mushroom Kingdom denizens, such as Toadette, Boo, and Chargin' Chuck, who makes his first playable appearance in a Camelot-developed Mario sports game. By the end of Golf Adventure's somewhat sporadic story, you're saving the kingdom from a monstrous snow lord who wishes to turn the world into his own personal icebox. 

Golf Adventure doesn't make a hole-in-one, but it's not necessarily a bogey either.
Golf Adventure takes your Mii across six courses, but a lot of it seems artificially lengthened by often having you have to run to your ball after hitting it instead of the more traditional Standard Play. This isn't exactly the most fun way to play golf, as first of all, in real life that's what golf carts are for. Thus, why does Camelot think rushing to one's ball throughout the adventure mode seems like a fun idea when it's absolutely not? Still, there are plenty of unique ideas and concepts within the Golf Adventure which I'm surprised aren't available outside of the mode, such as the Cross Country Golf mode. This gives you a set stroke limit to hit your golf ball into all of the required holes of a course. Sure, the devs picked one of the most obnoxious courses to perform this in, but it was enjoyable enough to do. For a lot of players, however, I can see Cross Country Golf being overly obnoxious and a frustrating stumbling point because of all of the height disparities of the course selected. 

Level up your Mii from experience points earned from events. 
Just be mindful to balance your customized character out.
Aside from events like Cross Country Golf and Speed Golf-like events, there are boss battles to be found in Golf Adventure. However, these advertised battles are stuffed into the last stretch of the game, which makes for some odd pacing. There are also occasional side challenges to complete in the Golf Adventure mode outside of the necessary events required to progress, and these are generally putting, approach, and driving challenges. These are also generally quite--well--challenging challenges as well. If you're looking for an easy time in Golf Adventure, you might want to look elsewhere as the 8-10 mode is rather difficult at times. 

Mario Golf: Super Rush features online play, but like so many parts of the game, this feels undercooked and underdeveloped. There are no online tournaments as seen in Mario Golf: World Tour whatsoever, nor are there ranks or leaderboards of any type. There's just matches with randoms or friends in various lobbies. It's massively disappointing, but on the subject of friends, the rarely used "invite" feature of the Nintendo Switch is available for Super Rush, which is one helpful inclusion. That said, matches are on a peer-to-peer basis, so your match quality is only as good as the other players and your connections. 

As ZZ Top once sang, "Every girl's crazy 'bout a sharp dressed golfer. WAH!"
Despite falling for the trap of getting yet another Camelot-developed Switch game with an utter lack of content at launch, I overall have enjoyed my time with Mario Golf: Super Rush thus far and see myself ultimately playing long after this review is published. The main reason is that golf is a more satisfying sport to me, and Mario Tennis Aces lacked a strong single-player component by virtue of being a sport better player against other people. And no, the AI just didn't do in Aces, much like the AI doesn't do it in Super Rush because it plays absolutely terribly (and there are NO difficulty options for the AI from what I saw either--another cut corner of the game). 

Still, the six courses on offer are enjoyable enough, if not a bit sterile in presentation, save for Bowser's course, which feels and looks like something as creative as World Tour's themed courses. Planned free DLC should open up the creativity level some with the course ideas, and it's reasonable enough to suggest that new characters will also get added to the roster. (Though the roster is the least of the game's content problems.)

Balmy Dunes features visibility-reducing sandstorms, Pokeys, sand creatures,
and undulating greens to create one challenging course!
Really, though, Mario Golf: Super Rush seems like a bittersweet time on the links. The golfing gameplay is as stellar and solid as it's ever been, but everything surrounding the game doesn't quite seem par for the course, especially when compared to other entries in the Mario Golf series and even other contemporary golf games. There is a lack of Ring Shot, unlockables other than star and superstar club versions of characters (though, this is fun to use different characters to earn points to upgrade them), online tournaments and leaderboards, and even basic stuff like taunting, post-hole celebrations, and replays. Mario Golf: Super Rush could have been so much more, and perhaps like Mario Tennis Aces, in a year we will see the game we should have gotten at launch. As is, unless you're devoted to improving upon your scores and replaying courses and hopping online like I am, you should give this particular golf game a pass for the time being.

[SPC Says: B]

Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin (NSW, PC) Launch Trailer

One week from today, Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin will be available for purchase on Nintendo eShop, store shelves, and Steam. Ahead of its July 9th release, Capcom has shared the launch trailer for the game, including details on the roadmap for the title, featuring new Monsties and more. Take a look at this trailer as we approach release!

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD (NSW) "Quality of Life" Trailer

With Mario Golf: Super Rush out now (and it will be reviewed on SuperPhillip Central this weekend or thereabouts), Nintendo's attention has turned to The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD and rolling out the green carpet for the action-adventure game. This particular trailer showcases some quality of life information within, such as optional Fi hints, the ability to skip cutscenes, fast-forward through dialogue, and even not be pestered by repeated item information. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD launches on the Nintendo Switch on July 16th.

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD (NSW) "Soar Into an Epic Adventure" Trailer

If one commercial for The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD wasn't enough, how about another with an extended length? That's exactly what Nintendo has in store with this commercial, showing some dazzling and exciting sights within. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD launches on the Nintendo Switch on July 16th.

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Review Round-Up - June 2021

June 2021 saw a lot of great things for SuperPhillip Central--13 years online and our 1,000th review: Resident Evil Village!

What a month here at SuperPhillip Central for the month of June! It was a massive month on the site, as we celebrated our 13th anniversary, as well as the arrival of SPC's 1,000th review! While we're on the subject of reviews, let's take a look at all seven of the reviews published on the site for the month of June with the good, ol' Review Round-Up!

The month started out mellow enough with a wonderful photo expedition starring hundreds of cute, adorable, and amazing Pokémon in New Pokémon Snap, which earned a B+. Also earning a B+ but a decidedly less mellow experience was that of the Donkey Kong Country-inspired Kaze and the Wild Masks. From safaris and platforming escapades, we then took the ocean waves with King of Seas, which rocked the proverbial boat a little too much, getting a C- for its excessive grind and repetitive content. Another indie title quickly followed, Piczle Cells, and this short but sweet puzzler impressed, getting a C+.

What came after was what the review SPC has been teasing and hyping for months now, and it finally arrived--the 1,000th review! Resident Evil Village took the honor, and it wowed (and scared with its quality) with a stellar A grade. From there, we wrapped up the month with two platformers, one retro remake with Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World (which got a B-) and the Super Meat Boy-esque Super Magbot, which was quite the attractive game, getting a B.

Finally, for your convenience, check out all seven of the reviews, with links and excerpts, below. And don't forget to check out the SPC Review Archive for every review--all 1,000+ of them--ever published and posted to SuperPhillip Central!

New Pokémon Snap (NSW) - B+

With 10-15 hours of playtime to complete the initial campaign, and dozens of hours more to snap every Pokémon, fully explore every area, and earn every title (achievement-like challenges), New Pokémon Snap is very much worth its price tag. It won't enthuse every player out there, but if you're the type who loves Pokémon, the idea of seeing them in natural surroundings, and taking pictures of some Pocket Monsters, then I certainly recommend that you snap up New Pokémon Snap.

Looking for an entertaining but relatively short 2D platformer that invokes wonderful DKC-style gameplay while adding a few interesting twists of its own? Then, Kaze and the Wild Masks is indeed worthy of your time. It's challenging, it's gorgeous to look at, and it's packed to the brim with exceedingly well done designs in both levels and boss battles. I waited quite a while for the retail release of the game to arrive, but fortunately and blessedly so, my wait was most definitely worth it.
Between the groan-worthy grind that is the campaign and utterly uninspired side quests, and tons of time wasted within its slow sailing, lack of fast travel, and punishing deaths, King of Seas is a lot of floundered potential. The base of the game is inspired with regard to controlling your ship and presents some excellent ideas, but the game's economy, glacial sailing speed, and campaign woes all lead to a game that capsizes not too long after the adventure starts to unfold.
As a puzzle game, Piczle Cells will put your brain through the wringer, giving you 100 brain busters of cell sliding, combining, and solving to enjoy. The core concept and gameplay mechanic is structurally sound, but once these 100 puzzles have been completed, there's not much else to keep you returning to the game. While puzzles have multiple solutions, there's really no incentive to find new ways to solve them, unless you really, REALLY are loving the game. The appearance of that aforementioned touch screen control-related bug made that control option less than functional, so go into the game thinking you'll be using analog exclusively (unless you have more patience for bugs than I) and you'll be fine. At any rate and even with these issues, Piczle Cells is hardly a puzzle game that I would call a tough cell--er, sell! In fact, I recommend it.
[Village is] 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.
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.
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.
Meanwhile, a vastly different game tonally, SPC started this momentous month for the site
with a review of the cozy and quaint New Pokémon Snap!

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD (NSW) "Your Destiny Awaits" Trailer

Meanwhile on the Nintendo side of the gaming world, a new commercial for The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD is available. You can see the quick 30 second spot below. Take flight into this somewhat polarizing adventure in the Zelda franchise when Skyward Sword HD soars onto the Nintendo Switch on July 16th.

Ghost of Tsushima Director's Cut (PS5, PS4) Announcement Trailer

The fantastic Ghost of Tsushima is receiving a Director's Cut, including a new story expansion on Iki Island and PlayStation 5-centric features such as haptic feedback on the Dualsense, adaptive triggers, Japanese lip-syncing (something much desired from the base game), and of course, dynamic 4K resolution which targets 60 FPS. 

If you're curious as to how to upgrade to the Director's Cut when it releases on August 20th, check out the PlayStation Blog for full details.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

The Tuesday 10s - Most Anticipated Games from E3 2021

E3 2021 has come and gone. Can you believe it's already been two weeks since the final showcase? While this past E3 was much more understated for obvious reasons that have impacted the industry and the world at large over the past year and some change, there were some incredibly interesting video games revealed and showcased during and around E3 season. This edition of The Tuesday 10s deals with the most anticipated games from E3 2021 (and one shown around E3), as selected by SPC.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Sequel 

Let's face facts here--we would have seen unabashed hysterics and hijinks from a certain sector of the gaming audience had we not seen any footage from the upcoming sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Thankfully, we did get to finally see a new trailer, including some gameplay of this much anticipated follow-up to what many consider to be one of Nintendo's most magnificent games. Showing off footage beyond Hyrule and into the clouds and skies above, as well as a new device attached to Link's arm, the trailer was but a tease for much more in the future. For now, all we have is a nebulous planned launch year of 2022, but given the history of the Zelda franchise, the sequel slipping into 2023 is very much a possibility (although a very unwelcomed one!).

Elden Ring

FromSoftware's next project was announced years ago, and then there was an immense amount of radio silence from the studio. That was until the Summer Games Fest courtesy of and hosted by Geoff Keighley, where Elden Ring came back and it came back in a big way with an impressive trailer showcasing an open-world formula, horses, and lots of foreboding sights and sounds. You could have probably guessed that the latter vibe would be in the trailer for obvious reasons. Regardless, there will be a slight wait for Elden Ring, as the game has a late January launch planned of January 21st, 2022.

Forza Horizon 5

Enter the open-world beauty of one of the most impressive games graphically to be showcased at E3 this year, and it revved up and roared into E3 2021 courtesy of Microsoft and Playground Games. Forza Horizon 5 takes the open-world, open-ended racing series to Mexico, where the weather is so dynamic and the map so large that one section of the map could be covered in rain while another bathes in sunlight--all done in real-time to stellar effect. With eleven biomes around the Mexico map, each with different weather variants and ways that vehicles interact with them, the level of detail is going to be absolutely amazing if everything plays out correctly. As for playing, if Playground Games keeps the level of gameplay quality of past Forza games, those in the Xbox ecosystem are going to have one remarkable racer to enjoy when the game speeds onto shelves and digitally on November 9th.

Psychonauts 2

Double Fine brought some doubly fine footage featured in Xbox's video showcase at E3 2021 for Psychonauts 2. The original Psychonauts is a sensational 3D platformer, and the sequel seems to dial up the lovable insanity to ridiculous levels. The trailer showed many incredible, interesting, exciting platforming segments, ideas, humorous moments (and sometimes just attempts at humor, to be honest), and sequences. I was in awe by what I saw, and it made me without question look forward to Psychonauts 2's August 25th release date.

Metroid Dread

Heavily rumored to be making an appearance at E3 this year, a new 2D Metroid was officially announced and revealed to be incredibly far along if not in the final stages. After all, its release date of October 8th isn't that far at all! The big surprise, however, was not just the name of the game, Metroid Dread, but that it looked sensational. Metroid Dread features similar gameplay to the Nintendo 3DS's stellar Samus Returns, including the return of its free-directional aiming, as opposed to being stuck shooting in specific angles like previous Metroid games. Similar to Metroid Fusion, a new entity is on the hunt for Samus and pursues her throughout the game, the cold, robotic EMMI. Getting caught by EMMI without any defenses is an automatic "game over", increasing the tension of this already suspenseful platformer. Now, the wait is on for the next and final chapter in the saga of the Metroids and the Federation when Metroid Dread launches October 8th.

Shin Megami Tensei V

It was a long wait for Samus to return, and while not as long of a wait, it seemed quite lengthy for new news of Shin Megami Tensei V to roll out. We didn't just get new information from Nintendo and Atlus this past E3, either--no, we got a blowout of coverage, including a release date. The latter was leaked ahead of the show, but it was welcomed all the same! Shin Megami Tensei V is poised to pack a wallop for RPG enthusiasts with its deep story, involved plot, interesting characters, and compelling environments to explore and battles to wage. November 11th is when the fifth chapter of Shin Megami Tensei will launch, currently as an exclusive on the Nintendo Switch.

Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin

Showcased in both Capcom and Nintendo's video showcases, Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin is the next installment in Capcom's turn-based RPG adventure. Offering myriad Monsties to collect, raise, and do battle against, as well as the promise of a captivating story to keep players invested until the credits roll, Monster Hunter Stories 2 looks to pick up where the excellence of the original Monster Hunter Stories on the 3DS left off, at least gameplay-wise. Presentation-wise, Wings of Ruin looks the part of an insanely impressive game graphically. Nintendo Switch owners can currently download a demo of the game with progress able to be transported over to the full version of the game when it launches in a couple of weeks.

Mario Party Superstars

We're going to party like it's 1999... and 2000... and 2001, at least with the boards included in our next game on this list. Mario Party Superstars brings with it five boards taken from the original Nintendo 64 Mario Party trilogy and throws in party favors like 100 mini-games from all 10 main Mario Party games, full button controls, and online play complete with suspended play between friends in online matches. This is going to be one party that won't stop until the crack of dawn, and I wouldn't have it any other way. Mario Party Superstars starts its Switch wingding on October 29th.

Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp

A franchise revival that was a bit unexpected but most welcome during E3 was that of Advance Wars. Debuting on the Game Boy Advance--at least in the West--the series saw four entries, a pair on the GBA and a pair on the DS. The former duo of games is the one being remade--and by WayForward of all developers! Including both campaigns in both Advance Wars games, as well as hopefully the War Room and the ability to create and share maps with the world at large, the war of small stakes will occur once again on December 3rd.

Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania

Long rumored, but finally announced at this year's E3--more specifically at Nintendo's E3 Direct--a full revisit and revision of Super Monkey Ball's 1, 2, and Deluxe is coming to Nintendo, PlayStation and Xbox platforms this October with Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania. I couldn't be more thrilled and ready to load up on potassium and tilt each obstacle-laden level around to roll each monkey in hopes of reaching the goal. With more than 200 levels in store, the original developer in tow, and a content-rich game for just $40, you can bet your Dole bananas that I am in like Aiai in a ball.