Thursday, June 16, 2022

Final Fantasy VII Rebirth (PS5) First Look Trailer

It seemed like a prime opportunity to let loose a first look of the second part of Final Fantasy VII's remake project, and lo and behold that Final Fantasy VII Rebirth, part two in the remake project, was indeed shown at the end of today's Final Fantasy VII 25 Anniversary stream. It was officially revealed as well that this game will be launching next winter, exclusively on PlayStation 5, and will be the second of three parts to the Final Fantasy VII remake project. 

Crisis Core –Final Fantasy VII– Reunion (Multi) Announcement Trailer

Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII is making the leap from the PlayStation Portable to all modern platforms with a brand-new, heavily overhauled remake known as Crisis Core –Final Fantasy VII– Reunion. Promised to be more than a simple HD remaster, Crisis Core's remake releases this winter.

Sonic Origins (Multi) "Game Modes" Trailer

Gotta go fast with some Speed Strats of the upcoming 30th anniversary compilation title Sonic Origins courtesy of the Sonic the Hedgehog YouTube channel. Sonic Origins features Sonic the Hedgehog 1, 2, CD, and 3 & Knuckles in one stellar-looking collection. Play through the games individually or one after the other in a special story mode. Play the original mode or the special anniversary mode. Collect currency known as Coins to unlock new content within the museum and more. That's just the tip of the Ice Cap Zone iceberg as well, so check out the full video for all the details below! Sonic Origins speeds onto all major platforms on June 23rd.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge (Multi) Release Trailer

Are you ready for some heroes-in-a-half-shell hijinks? Hopefully so, because Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge releases today on all major platforms, in addition to being on Xbox Game Pass. Play through story mode, arcade mode, and more with up to six players locally or online. Expect a full review of Shredder's Revenge sometime within the next week here on SuperPhillip Central.

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Chocobo GP (NSW) Review

Let's start this week of SuperPhillip Central content off on the right foot, or talon in Chocobo's case! Chocobo GP launched last March with much, well deserved criticism towards its package, particularly its scummy desire to nickel and dime players. This has since been removed for the most part, making a game that I would have originally graded as at most a C- to something much better, as you'll find out with my review of Chocobo GP as of its second season.

Making a good reason to play during its second season

I don't think I'm telling tales out of school here when I say that Chocobo GP launched in an abysmal state. Fortunately, this wasn't from a foundational or gameplay perspective. In fact, the actual racing was quite well done and dare I say fun! Where Chocobo GP severely floundered was its frankly disgusting microtransactions and needlessly grindy Season Pass. No doubt the feedback and negative reception from both critics and players of the game (and probably the lack of sales from this) caused Square Enix and the developers of Chocobo GP to thankfully reverse course. Now, Chocobo GP is in its second season, and while the game still has some bumps in its figurative road, the overall package is well worth the price of admission.

Chocobo GP is character-driven racing game taking a cavalcade of familiar Final Fantasy and Chocobo series characters and placing them behind the wheel (or in some cases, ON wheels) of various vehicles to compete in three-lap races full of magic and mayhem. If you're at all accustomed to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe or any game in that series, you might get a twinge of familiarity with Chocobo GP. There is your tricking off ramps, your starting boost at the beginning of a race, your drifting where a longer drift creates a bigger boost, and of course, items. 

Chocobo GP is no "wark" in the park! Er, I mean, a walk in the park.
It's quite the technical, strategic racer!

However, items in Chocobo GP aren't taken from question mark blocks, nor are they actual items. Instead, Chocobo GP uses a Magicite system, where players can accumulate magic and use them either offensively on foes or defensively to protect themselves when needed. There are three tiers of magic in Chocobo GP, much like the Final Fantasy series it's spun off from. There are also three tiers of Magicite orbs racers can collect as well. Each character has three magic slots. This can either give them three of a different spell, two of a different spell with one being a stronger version of a spell, or one powerful spell such as Firaga, Blizzaga, Thundaga, etc. The order in which a racer collects the differently colored Magicite orbs determines what kind of spell they get.

For instance, if your magic gauge is completely empty and you collect a Silver Magicite orb, you'll automatically get a level 2 version of a spell. Likewise, if you have a level 1 spell by collecting a Bronze Magicite orb, you can then collect a Blue orb to level that spell up to its level 2 incarnation. Leveled up spells are of course more powerful and can really turn the tide in races. Where Fire magic launches a fireball forward, its level 2 form, Fira, blasts a homing fireball at the closest opponent ahead of you. Meanwhile, Firaga at level 3 launches a meteor that targets first place, causing an eruption that stops in their tracks anyone caught in the blast.

Magicite orbs like these are the "item boxes" of Chocobo GP.
Depending on the color or color combo collected, your character will get a spell of varying power.

Aside from elemental-themed spells from Magicite, there are also quite vexing at times warp magic, that creates portals that go both ways. That is, a blue portal will move a player ahead, while the red portal that a player exits from can also be entered, resulting in a costly transportation backwards on the track! Then, there's Bahamut, which is essentially Chocobo GP's answer to Mario Kart's Bullet Bill, having a player transform into the famous summon and speeding in forward flight for a temporary amount of time. Like the elemental magic, these spells can also be upgraded from collecting the correct color of Magicite to make them more potent.

Each racer in Chocobo GP also comes equipped with their own special ability. Through collecting crystals sprinkled across the game's tracks, a crystal gauge fills. When it's completely full, players can unleash their special. Not only does this leave them invincible during, but it also creates a different effect depending on the racer's ability. For instance, Shiva puts the freeze on every racer, slowing them down considerably for a few seconds, whereas Chocobo speeds forward, leaving a trail of rings that other races can follow and gain speed boosts from. The more powerful and useful the special ability's effect, the more crystals are required to collect to unleash the ability. 

Ben the Behemoth says "forget the traffic" and decides to just storm
 through the competition on foot with his special ability.

When being targeted with a Magicite, a yellow alert will flash on the bottom of the screen. Generally, this can be interrupted with another Magicite shot backwards or even a shield spell. However, red alerts mean a special ability is being used and potentially being used on the player. This cannot be blocked, only avoided by some skillful driving or invincibility during your character's own special. 

Thus, you can imagine that there is a lot of strategy--surprisingly so--on when to use Magicite, what color to collect of orbs, and when to keep or use special abilities. Using a spell or special ability at the wrong time or moment can make all the difference between coming in first place and being cast to the back of the pack.

Chocobo GP sports plenty of offline modes to engage players with, such as traditional Grand Prix events, time trials, and even a story mode with two difficulties. The latter is how you unlock most of the characters within the game, and there is a sizable amount of them too! Everyone from standbys from the Chocobo series, to summons like Ifrit, Ramuh, and Golem, to Final Fantasy series party members like Terra from Final Fantasy VI, as well as Vivi and Steiner from Final Fantasy IX. Each have unlockable vehicles (one with standard stats, one tuned more to drifting, and one tuned more to speed), color combinations, and more to customize them and their rides.

Races are often won not just through sheer driving skills,
but also through proficient Magicite and special ability use!

However, the main event and attraction in Chocobo GP is of course the eponymous mode of the game. The Chocobo GP pits a field of 64 players against each other in a series of four elimination-style races. Each round sees the racers ranking fifth place and below become eliminated while fourth place and up advance to the next round. Ultimately, the last series of eight racers remaining compete in the final, with the winner becoming Grand Champion of the Chocobo GP, earning both bragging rights and lots of season experience in the process.

Players earn experience throughout each Chocobo GP season--lasting three months generally--that they collect and level up. With each level earned, a prize is unlocked. Sometimes it's one of the game's currencies like Gil or Mythril, while other times it's special season-exclusive content like characters, vehicles, cosmetics, and more. 

A major issue with the first season of Chocobo GP was that the season itself was a major grind. To unlock Cloud Strife from Final Fantasy VII, one had to either pay to level up to level 60 immediately (which cost real world money to do) or grind the Season Pass to unlock him sloooooowly. Furthermore, the prizes handed out were so paltry compared to the prices of items in the game's store. It was like squeezing water out of a rock with how stingy the game truly was with handing out and awarding Gil and Mythril. Mythril is the major primary currency of Chocobo GP, and while the developers handed out enough for the cost of the Premium Season Pass, the effort to level up was hardly worth it with how slow progress was.

With Season 2, not only is the amount of experience required to level up much smaller, but to unlock every major new thing in the season, players only have to get up to level 20. This takes but 5-6 hours to do, which in the span of three months is hardly a major effort. Furthermore, the game is much less stingy about rewarding Gil or Mythril. I have both coming out of my ears now through regular play, while in the past season, both were incredibly hard to accumulate. 

While Chocobo GP is a much better game than it was in its first season, there is one thing holding it back currently, which will hopefully continue being remedied with time. That is the track selection, or rather the amount of tracks available. There's a modest amount of locales in the game, and while most of these sport different track configurations, you'll quickly see all of them in no time. While you probably won't get bored of them (save for the obnoxious Rift tracks quite possibly), the number is a bit disappointing, especially compared to other competitors in the genre. Still, what tracks that are here are quite enjoyable and thrilling to race on, especially sites like Final Fantasy IX's Alexandria and a newcomer set of tracks for this season: Final Fantasy VIII's Balamb Garden. I'm eager to see what locales are added in future seasons, assuming that future seasons actually happen!

New and familiar locales abound in Chocobo GP.
This is gorgeous Alexandria of Final Fantasy IX fame.

Because who knows the future of Chocobo GP. This could be a Super Bomberman R Online situation where the game loses support in a short amount of time and is abandoned due to the figurative fumbling of the ball at the game's launch. Hopefully not, though, as the gameplay is so stellar, the characters and current content on display are wonderful, and the signature Chocobo GP mode and updates to the formerly scummy season pass system are both most welcomed. If you dig enjoyable, character-based racing games, have a soft spot for Final Fantasy, or a combination of the two, you'll find a great deal to like about Chocobo GP. While this bird isn't the final word on kart racers and won't give plumber boy a ride for his money, Chocobo GP will more than serve as a lovely complement to Mario Kart on Nintendo Switch.

[SPC Says: B]

Want to try Chocobo GP but are still not sure what to think even after my review? Try the Lite Version of Chocobo GP first, where you can now play online with players of the full version of the game!

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes (NSW) Awakened Rivals Trailer

A new trailer for Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes is live on Nintendo's YouTube channel. You can catch it below. It shows off more story elements including the enhanced role that Byleth will take on within the game, as well as the various houses players can align with. With multiple houses, each with their own story beats, Three Hopes is one Musou-styled game that promises to deliver loads of content.

Also, announced and already available as of this morning is a playable demo, allowing players to enjoy the introduction of the game up to Chapter 4, and progress made in the demo can be carried over to the final version of the game. Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes draws out its weapons and takes to the battlefield on June 24th.

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

The Tuesday 10s - Kart Racers

We've sure missed a LOT of Tuesdays since being on hiatus here at SuperPhillip Central. Let's make up for it, if just for one post with a brand-new installment of The Tuesday 10s! In case anyone has forgotten what the deal with The Tuesday 10s is, this is where I list ten relatively unordered things (usually games) within a set category.

This time around, I've got the need--the need for speed! (How topical with Top Gun: Maverick setting the box office ablaze and aglow with its dominance, right?!) On this edition of The Tuesday 10s I'm entering the driver's seat and regaling memories of some of my favorite kart racers of all time, one of my FAVORITE genres in general. From mainstays like Mario Kart to more obscure racing titles, these ten are some of the best to ever take to the track! 

After you've read my picks for top kart racers, let the SPC community know some of your favorites by posting them in the comment section below!

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (NSW)

We begin this list of ten of my favorite kart racers with the granddaddy of them all, the Mario Kart series. What better way to begin than with one of the best--if not the best--entry in the series with Mario Kart 8 Deluxe! This entry in the Mario Kart franchise may be a port from the Wii U, but it brought more than enough freshness to the formula to be worthy of its "Deluxe" moniker. First and foremost: all of the DLC tracks from the Wii U game were included in the vanilla game: from Dragon Driftway and Wild Woods, to new takes on familiar tracks like Cheese Land and Ribbon Road. The updated and upgraded Battle Mode brought new arenas to it instead of simply battling on retrofitted tracks from the base game. New accessibility features like steer assist to protect beginning players from easily falling off the track, and auto acceleration meant that anyone could have some fun with this new Mario Kart.

No doubt Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is a juggernaut in the kart racing genre, as it continues to move copies five years after launch. Nintendo obviously took notice of fans of the game starving for new content, as the Booster Course Pass brings with it 32 new tracks until next year's end. Speaking of, we should be expecting the second wave soon! 

Mario Kart 7 (3DS)

It's difficult to deliver a list of ten of my favorite kart racers without including at least a few from my favorite series in the genre. It's even more difficult to determine which three to actually include! Mario Kart 7 may not be the greatest entry in the series, but it definitely delivered a lot of delightful fun and hijinks for me as a player. The character roster isn't the best, eschewing Waluigi, Bowser Jr., and Diddy Kong as inclusions, but newcomers like Metal Mario, Wiggler, and Lakitu were fun enough additions all the same. Mario Kart 7 has a great variety of tracks both new and retro--the latter including some of my faves in the franchise, such as Dino Dino Jungle, Airship Fortress, and Waluigi Pinball. The addition of kart customization remains a feature in all Mario Kart games after, and the online of the game still wages on with intense races and hard-hitting hijinks in Battle Mode. It might not be the most beloved Mario Kart for many, but it's quite loved by me!

Mario Kart DS (DS)

As a single-player experience, Mario Kart DS is without question for me the leader of the pack in the long-running (or is it "long-riding"?) franchise. This is due to the addition of Mission Mode, a full-fledged series of challenged-centered missions ranging from coin-collecting to superb boss battles. While Mario Kart DS's follow-up, Mario Kart Wii would incorporate missions into its package, these would be limited-time only affairs. A bit of a bummer. Further, Mario Kart DS brought with it blasts from the past in the form of Retro Cups. Unlike Mario Kart: Super Circuit before it, these weren't limited to just Super Mario Kart. Instead, these 16 retro tracks were picked from all of the previous games in the series. Throw in the franchise's first foray with online via Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection (of course, the online that was present is no longer in service), and you had one wild handheld ride.

Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed (Multi)

SEGA and Sumo Digital turned up the action and intensity dial to 11 with Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed. Launching on virtually every platform under the sun at the time of its release, the game boasted an impressive roster of characters... and for whatever reason Wreck-It-Ralph and Danica Patrick. Regardless, being able to race as oft-forgotten SEGA all-stars like Gillius Thunderhead from Golden Axe and Vyse from Skies of Arcadia was a pure privilege and joy. Those are also the words I'd use to describe the track design, literally transforming between laps to change up the races dynamically in a glorious, action-packed way. That's not all the transformations included in the game: as Sonic and friends would see their vehicles transform as they hit the waves, soared into the sky, and of course, met the pavement. Although the game does suffer more than its fair share of "interesting" bugs and glitches, these don't prevent Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed from zooming across the finish line in style.

Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing (Multi)

Of course, Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed wouldn't have been what it was without having a sturdy and stellar foundation to build off of. The original Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing was that foundation, and it remains an excellent kart racer to this day, even with an arguably superior sequel alongside it now. Taking a wide range of SEGA all-stars and putting them in colorful race courses to speed through was a genius idea, and Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing is fantastic in that regard. It's also fantastic in its racing controls, handling, and pure sense of speed. While Transformed would indeed raise the dial of insanity and intensity up to 11, the original Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing is still worth taking a look at, as it's a really remarkable racer.

Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled (Multi)

From one mascot to another, we move on from Sonic to Crash Bandicoot in one of the greatest, most content-rich kart racers around: Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled. Remaking all of the tracks from the original Crash Team Racing as well as Crash Nitro Kart, introducing several "seasons" featuring brand-new tracks that fit right in quality-wise with the originals, and presenting a multitude of characters, karts, cosmetics, and more to unlock, Crash Bandicoot's original kart-racing outing was definitely given as much tender, loving care as possible. Sure, the high skill ceiling may put off some players, especially if they hop online and get decimated by racers who have mastered the "Blue Fire" technique, but the game can be enjoyed by pretty much everyone.

Diddy Kong Racing (N64)

Speaking of Crash Team Racing, how about we go back a little further in the past to the game that CTR was no doubt inspired by especially with its Adventure Mode? Diddy Kong Racing brought a collect-a-thon angle to its kart racing goodness, offering Gold Balloons to collect in its Adventure Mode, opening doors to new levels and areas, races to win, bosses to beat, and mini-games to win. Diddy Kong Racing was developed and published when Rare was firing on all cylinders, creating banger after banger on the Nintendo 64, and DKR remains one of my favorite kart racing games, period. Even after two decades and some change, the Adventure Mode as a single-player or co-op experience is unmatched in a kart racer, and I hope to goodness we see Diddy in the future take the wheel of a kart once again without having to share the road with Mario and friends.

Kirby Air Ride (GCN)

An untraditional kart racer where you play with an analog stick and one button? Madness! But when the game design guru behind Super Smash Bros. and Kid Icarus: Uprising, Masahiro Sakurai, is at the helm, the team under his leadership somehow made it work and wonderfully so! Featuring three main modes: a standard racer, a top-down racer mode, and the "get ready to lose a good portion of your free time in" City Trial mode, Kirby Air Ride delivered abundant fun to go along with its extensive amounts of charm. The controls may have been simple to learn, but as the cliche goes, they were indeed tough to master. A myriad of unlockables meant that players who were engaged enough with this delightful racer would stick with the game for a long time, and the local multiplayer was absolutely amazing in its entertainment value. Kirby Air Ride is a shining star in the GameCube's lineup.

Chocobo GP (NSW)

The most recent game on this list is from Square Enix, and truthfully, a month ago, I would have been hard-pressed to recommend this game. However, ever since Square dropped the trashy, scummy, and aggressive business practices from Chocobo GP, and have since added multiple improvements to the game as well, I can wholeheartedly recommend this racer. A follow-up to the PlayStation's Chocobo Racing, Chocobo GP might not boast a massive amount of track locales (though most locales feature multiple track arrangements), the game more than makes up for that with its pure unadulterated fun. Its cast of unlockable characters is large, its titular Chocobo GP mode is ingenious, and controlling Chocobo and friends feels wonderful. There is some Mario Kart madness to be found with using the game's version of items (Magicite), but overall, Chocobo GP shows that this bird truly is the word when it comes to complementary racers on Switch to play alongside Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.

ModNation Racers: Road Trip (Vita)

ModNation Racers is pretty much on the backburner if not completely dead as a PlayStation franchise. That said, the third and final release in the franchise was the PlayStation Vita launch title, ModNation Racers: Road Trip. Part of the thrill of this game was the racing shenanigans and full-fledged single player mode. However, the main event here was Road Trip and ModNation Racers as a series as a whole's ability to create your own drivers (Mods), karts, and yes, courses. All of this was quite intuitive and easy enough to do with a little practice and patience. While LittleBigPlanet Karting would take the course creation to a whole new level entirely (maybe to a too intimidating level), ModNation Racers: Road Trip offered a more simplistic, accessible approach that anyone could pick up, design, and play around with. The base game is enjoyable, the content creation is enviable, it's just too bad that there wasn't any online play to make this ModNation Racers installment even better than it was already.

Sunday, June 5, 2022

Kirby and the Forgotten Land (NSW) Review

Don't call it a comeback... yet. However, SuperPhillip Central celebrates its 14th anniversary today, and I would have kicked myself if I didn't have a special something planned for it. Considering the site has been in a hiatus for essentially all of 2022, what better "special something" than a new, surprise review after this extended absence and silence!

While I can't say yet how routinely new articles and reviews will come this year, I can confirm that they definitely will start appearing more frequently than, y'know, every six months. 

That said, let's dive in with a new review, and it's a great way to return to reviewing on SuperPhillip Central, because it's a great game in general (spoiler for if my review will be positive or not, I guess!). It's Kirby and the Forgotten Land, another reason I would have kicked myself if I had not reviewed this delightfully adorable title. Let's check it out with the SPC review.

Kirby Deluxe'd 

Kirby is one of Nintendo's oldest and longest-running franchises. However, even in the franchise's illustrious and storied history, Kirby has never fully leaped into three full dimensions in a traditional mainline platforming setting. That is until NOW. Kirby and the Forgotten Land is a brave, new frontier for Kirby, and while it's not a majorly revolutionary moment for the franchise as the jump to 3D was for Mario or Zelda, Kirby's first full foray into 3D platforming is a tour de force that is as fun to play as it is adorable.

Kirby's latest adventure begins with our pink puffball hero sauntering about Planet Popstar, when suddenly, a dark vortex appears in the sky, sucking up everything not nailed down, including Kirby and friends. A brave new world is in front of Kirby, who quickly meets a new companion named Elfilin, who tells Kirby that a group of never-do-gooders known as the Beast Pack have kidnapped (or is it Dee-napped?) and captured a significant segment of Waddle Dees. Not only must Kirby rescue the cute and cuddly Waddle Dees, but along the way, he must do battle with the Beast Pack itself, and find a way to return home to Planet Popstar.

Kirby enters a brave, new, yet somehow familiar world in his latest adventure.

The main hub of sorts in Kirby and the Forgotten Land is a settlement made thanks in part to the help of Elfilin: Waddle Dee Town. At the beginning of the game, Waddle Dee Town isn't much to look at and it is decidedly not the most happening place in this mysterious land. However, as more and more Waddle Dee are rescued, the town grows, blossoms, and flourishes, new attractions are built. These range from shops where food and temporary stat increase items can be purchased, to fun little mini-game distractions like fishing and a tilt-and-roll-style labyrinth game, and even a major part of recent Kirby games: a Colosseum. 

Waddle Dee Town is an important place to return to, so much so that after every boss has been beaten at a world's conclusion, Kirby and Elfilin are automatically transported back. It's a good thing, too, as no doubt special blueprints have been discovered, which can be turned into the local abilities shop to upgrade what else but abilities! By collecting and trading in Star Coins and Rare Stones (the latter are earned mainly through ability-themed obstacle courses known as Treasure Roads), the local ability shop owner will upgrade Kirby's abilities to make them even stronger and more useful in levels and skirmishes. 

For example, the ordinary Cutter ability launches a boomerang-like disc that shoots forward to attack a foe before returning to Kirby. With an upgraded version, known as the Chakram Cutter, multiple discs become unleashed on foes, arcing at various angles to dish out much more damage upon enemies. Not only do upgraded abilities present more powerful means to deliver destruction to Kirby's adversaries, but they also give some cute and adorable fashion to Kirby as well! 

The rifle-toting Ranger ability is one of two new copy abilities featured in Forgotten Land.

While Kirby's move set is quite a bit limited even with new abilities when compared to past games in the series--which might be a downer to franchise veterans--it makes for an easy to pick up and play feel to the controls and a super accessible game overall. It's so much so, that casual platforming fans will find a nice game that eases them into the fun without overwhelming them.

Kirby's adventure takes him to all sorts of interesting locales: from dilapidated concrete jungles to an abandoned amusement park. One might even consider this "forgotten land" to resemble a certain world we all live in currently, albeit a distant future version of it. (Wink, wink.) 

Trust me, Kirby--you do NOT want to be taken for a ride here!

Levels are comprised of linear affairs, though there are multiple opportunities to venture off the beaten path, and you'll always find yourself rewarded for it: whether that be with an assortment of Star Coins, something like one of the game's myriad collectibles, or completing one of a level's many achievement-like tasks, which reward you with a rescued Waddle Dee for tackling the task successfully. The latter can be things like discovering an alternate path in a level, defeating a mid-boss with a certain copy ability, finding a hidden Maxim Tomato in a level, and so forth. While you can complete all of the challenges in your first run of a level, you're unlikely to do so as they are all obscured under question marks from players until they beat the level again and again. Each time the level is beaten, one of the challenges reveals themselves.

Burrow deep under the soil with the all-new Ground copy ability.

Really, you can simply run through the levels at your leisure with doing the bare minimum of exploration. You can explore as in-depth or as little as you like. The real fun and entertainment, of course, does come from taking the time to scour each level for the various collectibles within, so you can truly appreciate the level design on offer. There are of course captured Waddle Dees, which many of these are hidden in clever locations, some in plain sight, some requiring a simple copy ability-related environmental puzzle to solve. There are also capsules containing one of over 200 game-related toys, available in four volumes. These can also be collected from various unlockable Gotcha capsule machines in Waddle Dee Town. Then, finally, there are the aforementioned blueprints that bestow Kirby with new copy ability upgrade opportunities. Some of these are hidden in insanely clever locations. Much like with captured Waddle Dees in cages, you'll have to keep a keen eye and look for telltale signs in the environment to pick up on their whereabouts.

Levels are mostly linear in design, offering a Super Mario 3D World-like approach, in essence.

When not venturing through levels as Kirby with or without one of his trademark copy abilities, a new mechanic featured within Kirby and the Forgotten Land grants our pink protagonist with the ability to suck up specific large objects and take control of them. From traffic cones that can puncture cracks in pipes and floors to reveal secrets, to cars that can rush through levels with ease, this "Mouthful Mode" offers some added variety to the game. They're also mostly plain fun to use to boot, so I found myself gleefully telling Kirby to "open up and say 'aah'" at many points throughout his platforming journey.

"Mouthful Mode" allows Kirby to take on even more forms, such as this traffic cone, for instance.

Outside of completing traditional levels, there are the previously mentioned Treasure Roads. These side attractions of sorts generally feature one copy ability or "Mouthful Mode" modes that Kirby must use to get through these speed-running, obstacle-laden stages. These Treasure Roads are quite challenging, offering a limited amount of time to complete them, but the rewards are well worth it. After all, you can't upgrade Kirby's copy abilities without the Rare Stones these Roads reward you with. If you're truly in tune for a challenge, you can attempt to beat each Treasure Road's target time, usually immensely tight in time. Thankfully, even to 100% Kirby and the Forgotten Land, beating each Road's target time is purely optional and doesn't reward much to the player outside of more Star Coins.

Boss battles turn up the action dial to 11, especially certain late and post-game encounters!

Kirby and the Forgotten Land offers a lot of value in its cute and cuddly package. Reaching 100% completion not only requires rescuing all 300 Waddle Dees, but also beating various game modes as well, including the post-game content which is pretty hefty. Therefore, just because you see the credits initially roll, don't be surprised when there's quite a bit left to Kirby's adventure! It also helps that most of the content available is all entertaining and enjoyable. 

What is also entertaining and enjoyable is simply how astonishing Kirby and the Forgotten Land looks. I was in awe a multitude of times enjoying the environments, sceneries, and vistas on display. The soundtrack? Well, that's a pure privilege and joy to listen to as well. The main theme of the game, a vocal one, permeates throughout a fair portion of the game's soundtrack, but there are plenty of absolute ripper tracks that delight without incorporating the game's main leitmotif. The fact of the matter, at least to this reviewer, is that all of the music is amazing. 

Kirby's adventure will take him through all sorts of dangerous destinations,
but they all look absolutely breathtaking to behold.

While some may have set their expectations of Kirby and the Forgotten Land to be something it's certainly not: the series' Super Mario 64 or The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild moment, the game is exceptional all the same. It may not reinvent the wheel or revolutionize Kirby as we know it, the game really didn't have to. All I craved was the Kirby franchise finally entering the realm of 3D in a main game and knocking it out of the park while doing so. Kirby and the Forgotten Land did just that for me. With familiar yet phenomenal Kirby fun that translates splendidly from the limitations of 2D to full 3D, and plenty of content to keep players engaged for a while, Kirby and the Forgotten Land quite possibly stands as my favorite Kirby entry yet. 

[SPC Says: A]

Friday, January 21, 2022

Blackwind (Multi) Review

The rest of this month on SuperPhillip Central is most likely going to be a series of new reviews on the site. To kick things off is Blackwind, a hack-and-slash mech game with platforming elements. Will this particular mech game "suit" you? Find out with the SPC review.

Neither an ill wind, nor a soothing breeze

Blackwind begins with a space vessel becoming under attack from unknown forces. Aboard are Jimmy Hawkins and his father, the creator of a special bio mech suit that comes complete with its own AI, the first of its kind. To protect his son and in his own sacrifice, Hawkins Sr. puts Jimmy into the suit and deploys it down to the planet below. Without his father's voice authorization, Jimmy is stuck in the suit, so it's up to him to hopefully find his father at the vessel's crash site. Of course, no objective goes smoothly, as Jimmy will have to contend with hostile alien forces, as well as unravel a conspiracy in the process. 

The team behind Blackwind describe the game as a hack-and-slash sci-fi action game with platforming elements, so let's break down each aspect one by one. In terms of action, Blackwind has a lot of it. Jimmy's suit can bash and battle baddies with the best of them, offering both melee (light and heavy attacks) as well as ranged fire. When an enemy has taken enough damage, they will start to flash red. This indicates a termination opportunity, which serves as an opportunity to execute an enemy at once. This is enjoyable for the first five dozen times, but by the end of the game, I found myself just beating enemies normally without the desire to terminate them through some animation, no matter how brief it was. That and if I never have to hear "Never mess with a Hawkins!" or some other overly, obnoxiously repeated expression again, it'll be too soon.

Get up close and personal with your adversaries!

Also obnoxious occasionally, is the combat, which is pretty basic. It can also become pretty infuriating too at times, unfortunately. This is compounded adversely by a camera that you cannot control whatsoever. You're at the whims of its either overhead placement, angled position, or some other perspective that does not lend well to keep enemies in view. There are also little to no invincibility frames to speak of, which coupled with the suit's inability to stand up quickly upon falling down from taking damage means that you can easily get stuck in a damage loop. The only escape is your own death, which is sometimes an immense frustration due to inconsistent checkpoint placement.

Or stay back and unload a steady supply of missiles into them.

Enemies drop blue orbs when defeated, and you can also get them from destroyed objects in the environment, of which there are plenty. Orbs can be spent at various stations in numerous skill trees to increase attack power of melee and ranged weaponry, boost how much health and special energy is dropped from defeated foes, and also means to improve and upgrade abilities learned throughout the course of Blackwind's campaign. In a given run through the game, it is next to impossible to upgrade everything available, so I really had to pick and choose what improvements to Jimmy's mech I wanted to add. 

Speaking of abilities learned and earned throughout Blackwind, Jimmy's mech does gain a lot of interesting moves to utilize in and out of battle. For starters, there's basically a ground pound that emits of fiery shockwave that can incinerate enemies and inflict them with a burn over time once it's properly upgraded. Then, there's the ability to detach the suit's drone from its body, allowing it to freely move around, and even enter air ducts and ventilation shafts, offering some interesting navigational/exploration-based puzzles. This detachment of the drone also opens up puzzles where players will need to split tasks between both the drone and Jimmy's suit to make progress.

A force field: Every mech's must-have for added defense!

When Jimmy isn't engaged in battles with all types of enemies--both alien and even human--Blackwind will task him with performing some platforming feats, puzzles, and challenges. This is an aspect of Blackwind where the game severely falters. Movement already in the game is stiff, and the platforming suffers because of it. The aforementioned poor camera resulted in me not being able to properly identify where I needed to jump--if I could even jump there to begin with--and sometimes it even got stuck on level geometry, forcing me to have to reload my data. 

Further, there were so many times where I'd jump on a "platform" only to not be able to jump again when I should have easily been able to do so. Blackwind is incredibly strict about when and where you can jump, use as platforms, and move in its world, and it's all insultingly limiting. There's usually just one way to solve puzzles, do platforming sections, and if you don't do them the way the game expects you to, you're going to get easily frustrated. This is especially so when you do everything right, yet the game's physics, controls, collision detection, or camera let you down.

Level design also suffers in Blackwind, offering a fair amount of exploration for things like new skins for Jimmy's mech and health and energy upgrades, but so much of it relies on places infested with invisible walls and janky platforming sections. When you're not in the out of doors, where invisible walls welcome you with anything but "open" arms, you're in dimly lit, labyrinthine, indoor areas that are sprawling mazes. These have you trudging through rooms, collecting keycards, hitting switches that for some reason open doors halfway across the compound (doesn't seem too efficient in an "if this was a real place" context), and battling enemies. It's nothing too amazing, to put it politely.

Like (unfortunately) many other things in the game, the camera does not always do Blackwind many favors.

Despite not playing the best or even looking the greatest, Blackwind runs at a steady frame-rate at the very least. Although many of the areas are drab, don't inspire much wonderment from them, and constantly reuse assets, everything in the game runs well and is stable. Blackwind's audio is a mixed bag, offering competent enough voice work (your mileage may vary), and music that simply stands as serviceable. 

By the time I was through with Blackwind, I found myself seeing a lot of untapped potential, and whether that is because of time-constraints or budget issues, it's just a shame that for every good idea in Blackwind, something just holds the game back and sometimes in an utterly frustrating way. Between the janky platforming, subpar combat, horrid camera, and myriad small issues with the game, it all adds up to Blackwind being one sci-fi hack-and-slash platformer you can safely skip without much regret.

[SPC Says: C-]

A code was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

The Tuesday 10s - Most Anticipated Games of 2022

It's time for The Tuesday 10s to make their triumphant arrival in a brand-new year. What better way to do that than to celebrate and anticipate some of the most interesting, intriguing, and exciting games due out in 2022? That's exactly what we're doing here at SPC with this alphabetical list of the site's most anticipated games of 2022. From sequels to long-running and historic franchises to all-new IP, this list has a little something for everyone, and doesn't even quite list ALL of the good-looking games currently set release this year. 

God of War: Ragnarok (PS5, PS4)

After the excellence that was God of War in 2018 (and SuperPhillip Central's Game of the Year for the same year), there's no question that there is immense excitement stirring from both PlayStation and God of War fans for the upcoming God of War: Ragnarok. Featuring the return of Kratos and a teenaged Atreus, Ragnarok occurs in the Scandinavian region of the world, features Norse folklore and mythology, and is set three years after the events of the 2018 game. Along the way, Kratos and Atreus will have to endure the wrath of both Thor and Feya, as well as face the harsh elements, creatures, and challenges that await them in the world. Set to release on both the PlayStation 5 and the PlayStation 4, God of War: Ragnarok is due out sometime in 2022.

Gran Turismo 7 (PS5, PS4)

Releasing March 4, 2022, the latest in the long-running and much celebrated (for good reason, too) racing and driving simulation series is, like God of War: Ragnarok, due to release on both PS5 and PS4 at launch, a first for the series. That said, the PS5 version sees many exclusive features thanks to the system's massively more powerful hardware, offering real-time ray tracing effects, 60 FPS, and incredibly short loading times in comparison to the PS4 version. Both versions will see the return of GT Simulation, which features a lengthy solo campaign, many returning circuits, tracks, cars, and modes from past games, such as the Driving School, Used Cars dealership, and GT Sport mode, the latter from none other than Gran Turismo Sport. Essentially a compilation of the best and greatest features and modes from past Gran Turismo games with several all-new bells, whistles, and contents, Gran Turismo 7 looks to have a lot of greatness under its hood.

Horizon Forbidden West (PS5, PS4)

Bigger and better are usually words used to describe sequels, and it's really apt for an open-world sequel like Horizon Forbidden West. Taking place in a post-apocalyptic world, namely the Western United States, and chiefly California, Nevada, and Utah, Forbidden West sees the return of Aloy as she does battle with both man and machine. The map of Forbidden West will be significantly larger than that of 2017's Horizon Zero Dawn, and sports both underground and underwater exploration, the latter being entirely new to the series. Climbing, melee combat, exploration and more have been shown to be much upgraded as well, making for a sequel that is shaping up to be a majorly and massively marked improvement as a sequel. That's saying a lot considering the original Horizon Zero Dawn was number three on SPC's Games of 2017 list. The wait for Horizon Forbidden West won't be long, as the game launches on PlayStation 5 and PlayStation 5 on February 18, 2022.

Kirby and the Forgotten Land (NSW)

After 30 years of waiting, Kirby finally makes the leap into a fully three-dimensional adventure with Kirby and the Forgotten Land. Divided up into 3D levels much like Super Mario 3D World in structure, the objective of each level in Kirby's newest adventure will be to rescue the Waddle Dees trapped in cages at the end of each stage. This is all the while using Kirby's abilities, like his all-new Ranger and Drill copy abilities, to progress through levels, solve puzzles, defeat enemies, and nab hidden collectables as well. Kirby and the Forgotten Land seems set to mark the 30th anniversary of the pink puffball in a major, profound, and downright exciting manner, and I'm definitely here for it.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Sequel (NSW)

We don't know too much about the upcoming sequel to 2017's fantastic The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Heck, we still don't even have a subtitle for the game as of yet. Still, what we do know from the two trailers shown and the subsequent interviews surrounding the game has made this sequel incredibly intriguing. For one, Link now takes to the skies of Hyrule in somewhat of a nod to The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. Will we explore both the skies above and the lands below as well? With the director of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild returning for this sequel, and the idea that unused concepts from that game's development will be utilized in some way in this sequel, this follow-up to Link's first open-world odyssey looks to be well worth the wait. Here's to the hope that it indeed launches this year like Nintendo has stated.

Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope (NSW)

After the rousing and remarkable success of Ubisoft Milan's first Mario and Rabbids crossover in 2017, it's no doubt that I'm chomping at the bit to find out more and eventually play the upcoming sequel, Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope. The titular sparks refer to the fusion of Super Mario Galaxy's Lumas and the Rabbids themselves. This time around, nine confirmed playable characters are available, including newcomer Rabbid Rosalina. Gone is the grid-based system used in battles from Sparks of Hope's predecessor, instead using real-time aspects to its combat. Also, the world itself is less linear than Kingdom Battle, offering even more exploration than ever before. All of this makes Sparks of Hope something to be--well, hopeful about when it releases sometime later this year.

Pokémon Legends: Arceus (NSW)

Our next game is a bold new direction for a longtime popular series, and it's also a game that is releasing the soonest from the games on this list. It's Pokémon Legends: Arceus, and it looks like it shakes up the traditional Pokémon formula quite considerably. Starting with a choice of three starter Pokémon selected from three different Pokémon games--a first for the series--your trainer enters into the land of Hisui, a region from a bygone era that will become Sinnoh in the distant future. With multiple areas with unique Pokémon to catch and environments to explore, new ways to do battle and capture Pokémon, and a lengthy adventure ahead of players, this new take on the Pokémon series from Game Freak is shaping up to be most promising. Pokémon Legends: Arceus launches on the Nintendo Switch on January 28, 2022.

Saints Row (Multi)

Set in Santo Ileso, based on the southwestern United States, this reboot of the Saints Row series simply titled Saints Row, will see you play as a character known as "The Boss", seeking to develop their own gang from defectors from Santo Ileso's three major gangs. The Boss themselves will be fully customizable, much like past Saints Row games, and the game will also feature drop-in/drop-out co-op for two players to roam around Santo Ileso completing missions and simply painting the town red. Since its debut back on the Xbox 360, Saints Row has been one of my favorite open-world action series, and it has at many times rivaled and occasionally surpassed its clear inspiration, Grand Theft Auto, for me. Saints Row's reboot was originally going to release next month in February, but now it has an August 23, 2022 release date. It's my wish, along many other Saints Row fans out there, that this date sticks.

Sonic Frontiers (Multi)

It's no secret that SEGA's pride and joy and main mascot Sonic the Hedgehog has seen many ups and downs over the years, and I'm not just referring to the undulations of the many zones the Blue Blur speeds through. It's almost disgustingly cliché to mention that. Regardless, SEGA and Sonic Team hope to bring Sonic to a new, successful frontier with Sonic Frontiers, an open-world Sonic game with a story written by famed Sonic comic writer Ian Flynn. The debut trailer premiered at The Game Awards last month, and to say that despite all of Sonic's less than favorable games in the series' history, I'm still very much looking forward to seeing if Sonic Team can stick the landing this time. The delay from 2021 into 2022 was done to give Frontiers some added polish, so here's hoping at the very least!

Triangle Strategy (NSW)

Last but certainly not least is Triangle Strategy, a tactical turn-based RPG similar to that of Final Fantasy Tactics. Using Square Enix's tried and true (and ultimately still gorgeous) HD-2D graphics as seen in the previously released Octopath Traveler, Triangle Strategy takes the beauty of Square Enix's graphics engine and turns up the dial to 11 when it regards beauty. Of course, all of the tactical decision-making one would expect out of a game like this is present and accounted for, and not just in battle either, where players can interact with the environment to change the terrain. How you engage with the story affects three unique characteristics or values, and this in turn affects how characters will engage with you, the player. Will you value morality, liberty, or utility? The choice is yours and yours alone when Triangle Strategy launches as a current Nintendo Switch exclusive on March 4, 2022.