Wednesday, June 29

Mini Reviews: June 29th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Capcom Fighting Collection [Capcom] (AAA Choice!) - Considering the fact that I originally bought my SNES expressly to play Street Fighter II at home against my friends (yeah, Super Mario World and the like were games I’d “get to”), Capcom’s fighters over the years have consumed a fair amount of my time and robbed me of a fortune in quarters. With that in mind it was a delight to crack open this collection of games I know well, some I know more peripherally, and a few that were just an utter surprise.

Starting with the better-known stuff, if you’re a fan of the Darkstalkers franchise, by god this game absolutely has you covered, with literally every incarnation of it, including two releases that were only seen in Japan. Add to that the truly deep and impressive Hyper Street Fighter II Anniversary Edition, which essentially lets you dial up any fighter from any version of that classic and rock out with them, and you’re starting to feel the party. Now throw the pretty damned odd but awesome puzzler Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo and you’ve even got some nice diversity building up to make it a more complete collection.

Diving then into the surprises, at least for me, and it’s more of a mixed bag. Probably my least favorite of the bunch is Cyberbots, which attempted to go for more of a Rock Em Sock Em Robots style fighter, where you’ll jump into a variety of mechs to duke it out. It could absolutely be worse, but with so many other great fighting options in the collection it doesn’t really connect. Going with an amusing look and style there’s also the somewhat odd play of Super Gem Fighter: Mini Mix, which will have you collecting gems which will enable different abilities you can use to attack your opponent. It takes some getting used to, for sure, but it’s cute and catchy in a surprisingly-compelling way with its very left field approach. Then, finally, there’s the very unusual and unique Red Earth, which still has very fighting-oriented mechanics but blends that with a more RPG-like story, collecting pick-ups, building experience, and more of a challenging boss rush format. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea but it’s a pretty fascinating look at an attempt to pivot and create something new… something I can at least admire.

When you take all of this and then wrap it up into one pretty consistently-presented package, complete with all sorts of game art, promo materials, and original soundtracks, it makes a noble attempt to absolutely give you your money’s worth. While ultimately how long and how consistently people remain engaged with the game’s online play will always be a fair question, the pretty rudimentary but very playable remote play is a welcome option… but I’d say that’s more icing on the cake than a critical feature. If you’re a tried and true fighting fan it’s hard to find any substantial faults with this surprisingly diverse and well-composed package, and it easily qualifies for “must-buy” status.

Steve Jackson’s Sorcery! [No Gravity Games] (Nindie Choice!) - While I may be prone to complaining when titles put me to sleep with their droning stories and dry lore, when the quality of writing is top-notch I’m completely there for it. Whatever misgivings you could have with the “game” side of its implementation, the rich and challenging choose-your-own-adventure style storytelling absolutely shines and makes it a standout on the system. Be prepared to make some pretty awful decisions and doom your adventure more than once, it’s a staple of this style, but when the prose is so imaginatively worded it’s hard to really complain and instead just try to grit it out in the hopes you can turn things around. The game’s combat, which is pretty essential to at least get reasonably skilled at, takes some getting used to and is passable but also forgettable… but aside from disappointments in how it can throw a wrench in your adventure it does at least add a little more “active” flavor to the mix and helps break things up a bit. If you’re a fan of narrative high adventure, and don’t mind regularly needing to regroup and tackle making better decisions on your next run, this is absolutely one of the top games in this style to enjoy on the system.

Pocky & Rocky Reshrined [NATSUME ATARI Inc] - Coming to the Reshrined experience without any dog in the fight, Pocky & Rocky is an SNES classic I’ve heard quite a bit about but haven’t experienced for myself. Keeping that in mind, I have no nostalgia for it and its very different take on a top-down run-n-gun variety shooter. My first impression is simply that its style is quite different than usual, with an emphasis not only on shooting your enemies, but then also learning to get down the timing of deflecting their bullets. Given that there’s no instruction to help out novices and, weirdly, the game’s Easy mode must be unlocked with in-game currency (making for one of the most baffling game unlocks ever), expect a rough start if you’re new to the franchise. That said, once you get into the swing of things it does give everything a different feel than the usual which is refreshing. The fact that from stage to stage you’ll play as different characters, which then changes up the style of play a little as well, also adds to the game’s charm and keeps you from getting too comfortable. Absolutely a unique experience, it’s probably most ideal for fans with nostalgia for its more classic incarnation but if you can be patient and like a new sort of challenge it also makes a pretty good case for giving it a shot.

Hot tip: you can get the game in a boxed edition as well at:

REDO! [Robson Paiva] - This is one of those titles I struggle with, where despite what may ultimately be its merits it gets off to an extremely rocky start. Without any general starting guidance, how the controls work, no map of any kind, and almost no clue what you’re supposed to be doing… you just start meandering around. You’ll run into some types of obstacles you’ll be able to clear but others you can’t, encounter enemies that can pretty quickly be lethal that you’re meant to combat with pretty meager abilities (and with a numeric stat system that still doesn’t make much sense to me), and try to carefully save to minimize your losses as you try to find something to actually reward your time adventuring… but for me there’s just no clear hook since there’s not even enough established story to compel you to press on. I have no doubt there’ll be people who don’t mind the investment to begin reaping even some minor reward but the game’s design, focused so heavily on stick and almost no carrot at all, I found to be hard to get past when there’s so much out there to play.

Blade Runner: Enhanced Edition [Night Dive Studios] - Whenever I see re-releases of games with a descriptor like “Enhanced Edition” I tend to be a bit nervous about what that may mean. In the case of Blade Runner, I feel like that concern is particularly warranted. Hailing from a much earlier time of pretty bad CGI video and very rough visuals in general, there’s no doubt that the game’s looks weren’t given any of the attention, and initially I found it tough to dial back my expectations that far. Worse than the general muddy nature of the game’s “as-is” visuals, though, are some poorly-handled transitions and generalized hiccups that feel like they could have been smoothed over in the conversion. If you’re able to get past the obstacle of the dated experience, a pretty bare bones classic adventure-style game set in the sci-fi world of “the future” (we’re now well past the projected future date it takes place in) awaits and in this area the game really struggles to make a compelling case for being brought back from the dead as many areas have very little to interact with and this makes for a more dry, linear, and generally dull experience. If you have fond memories of those bygone days the nostalgia may be enough to make it worth your time, but otherwise you’d be better off looking elsewhere.

Thursday, June 23

Mini Reviews: June 23rd Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Wreckfest [Bugbear] (Nindie Choice!) - Oh man, where do I begin to properly convey my total love for this title? First and foremost I’ll start with the game’s performance and controls, which are absolutely spot-on perfect and show no signs of compromises. In particular turning simply feels great, with the game clearly distinguishing its surfaces as you move between asphalt and dirt, each clearly handling in their own unique ways. Then there’s simply the joy of vehicular carnage, trading paint, lining up to t-bone some poor sap, and kicking things into reverse when your front-end has taken too much damage in the Demolition Derby. It’s so much more than that though, offering up races from the traditional oval to turn-filled hilly courses to the bonkers fun of Figure 8 racing. It also won’t just be competing with your garage of cars that have various builds, there’s even some fun silliness with the likes of lawnmower, couch, combine, schoolbus (and more!) challenges to add a bit more fun to the mix. Playing solo locally you’ll have plenty of circuits to work your way through with a generous number of skill settings to tune the degree of challenge up and down. Online you can try to meet up with like-minded down-and-dirty racing fans to extend the fun. As an added bonus you can continue to play through the Tournament mode that offers up seasonal, weekly, and multiple daily challenges to keep the fun alive! For me, this is the racing experience I’ve been waiting for on Switch (though I’d still love to see FlatOut make an appearance as well), delivering something with well-implemented controls that celebrates the rougher and less nuanced side of races I grew up catching at the local speedway.

ElecHead [NamaTakahashi] (Nindie Choice!) - It’s always cool to see a new and inventive take on a puzzle platformer, and ElecHead certainly accomplishes that goal with a sense of minimalist style. Your little robot has the ability to charge any surface he touches, and in the dungeon-esque areas you’ll be exploring that can lead to any number of results. Whether it’s elevators, moving platforms, lasers that will zap you, and more, the challenge is in understanding the chain of events that sometimes need to occur for you to proceed. Not far into the game you’ll gain the ability to throw your head, which will by itself activate electrical things, and for the most part it’s those simple base abilities that will drive the experience forward. Now, be warned, you’ll always need to be mindful of every visual detail and inconsistency in what you see, as there are many times where the way to progress isn’t immediately apparent. Carefully going back, experimenting with ideas, and being mindful of everything you’ve learned along the way is often the key to success… or perhaps just hitting up a hint page somewhere to give you the nudge you need. Though relatively brief in its runtime there's no question it is absolutely unique, smartly crafted, and a nice bit of inventive fun on the Switch.

Blackguards 2 [Daedalic Entertainment] - I’ll admit that the opening cinematic for this game immediately started me out on a bad foot, as [trigger warning for pet lovers] for whatever reason a kitten is cruelly thrown to its death… and for the life of me I can’t even understand what that has to do with anything at all. As I said, not a great start. Perhaps appropriately, the ‘tutorial’-eque early going also got off to a slow start that made the game’s tactical style feel a bit weird, linear, and generic all at once as you try to get your main character out of a dungeon. Ultimately, once you get rolling, you’ll manage a party of various classes that you’ll manage and engage in battle, making the game feel like it’s trying to straddle being an RPG in one case, and a tactical strategy title in another. Given the result, I think I would have preferred either taking the lead, as the quality of the combat never really shines and neither does the game’s story, though there’s certainly plenty of content to play through and character attributes to manage for people who dig it.

Firegirl: Hack ‘n Splash Rescue DX [Dejima] - I hate titles where I feel so torn about their uniqueness and promise crashing up against the reality of their implementation, at least for launch. In principle, this is a fresh take on a platforming shooter, where you’re playing a young woman who has apparently followed in the footsteps of her deceased father to protect the people and property of her city from a series of decidedly unusual fires. You’ll jump into action with your hose, using your water as both the means to deal with fires and enemies, as well as for propelling you across fiery gaps or up to higher levels. Mechanically it doesn’t take much to get into the swing of things, and overall it can be satisfying when everything works. That said, there are just issues that make it feel less polished than it should. Inexplicable stutters are entirely too common, I’ve had it lock or crash a few times, and the difficulty of keeping moving and clearing missions just seems to vary pretty wildly. Certainly limitations to the breadth of activity are present, though new scenarios and adversaries do come into play, along with a bit of an odd plot that unfolds. The shame is I love the idea, and when everything clicks it can be fun, but it struggles just enough often enough that it makes it a tough one to recommend, at least without a really good patch or two.

Why Pizza? [Marginal act] - While I try not to be negative about games I’ve been given to review, when someone lobs a slow pitch over the plate you have to crack it out of the park. With that in mind my simplified editorial comment on the game would be they could have just left the word Pizza out of the title and it would have fit the experience perfectly. This is an odd and generally very simplistic platformer where the challenges don’t come from smart level design but instead from your characters weird over-sized head which can sometimes be used to do things like catch ledges for whatever reason and you stumbling around, trying to either find hidden spots or simply the exit in order to keep things moving and get to the end. It does not feel like a game made to be enjoyed, but instead to simply be endured.