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]