Tuesday, June 22

Mini Reviews: June 22nd Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 [Sega] (AAA Choice) -
While the games were delayed by the global pandemic, now that the summer games are coming (well, perhaps not given the situation in Japan, but stick with me) there must be an inevitable video game form of the events. Having been a fan of such compilations since waaay back in the olden days of playing the original Summer Games and all of its sequels on the Commodore 64 I always look forward to these, even if the results (even within the same collection) have a tendency to vary wildly. While this video game vision of the Summer Games in Tokyo may not be perfect by any means the first, and most vital, thing I’ll say is that my highly-competitive daughter and I had a yelling-and-laughter-filled super long play session running everything through the paces.

Perhaps the most notable thing about this iteration of an event compilation is its ambition with regards to the breadth of events, many of which I’m not sure have been featured in such a collection before. While staples like track and field events or swimming are present, newer and more exotic events like rock climbing, BMX racing, and even rugby are also present. There’s a lot of game here, and given the differences in events there’s also plenty to attempt to master, though in some cases a healthy dose of luck can help… but this is also consistent with the genre.

My first disappointment with the game is that you can’t enjoy it with 4 players locally, you’ll only be able to take on a friend. I’d like to think this could be patched, but I wouldn’t count on it. Local play for multiple devices (assuming multiple copies) and online play are supported, but I’d hoped to get everyone around the TV enjoying it. The only other major thing I’d say that stood out as troublesome would be the generally wonky behavior of your AI teammates and general implementation strategy in team-based events. Granted, yelling about this tends to add to the fun in some regards, but it can be super frustrating how you can’t manually switch players and are left to the unusual whims of the game, deciding who should be your active defender in particular. Some elements like batting in baseball I would consider over-complicated to the point they were a struggle to enjoy, but here’s to hoping some observations in data coming back about how games are played could compel them to come up with a less onerous scheme. A last fleeting gripe would be the lack of an option to simply tackle all events in one massive run, but maybe that’s just something I was looking for.

Moving on to the good, on a general level there’s a lot to have fun with here, even if that can sometimes be tinged with frustration… but when playing with a friend this again can work out as comedic fodder for sure. As a whole the track and field and swimming events, being the most traditional, are also the best executed in terms of the controls and I was surprised at the number of small control tweaks that are in place for timing or execution to eke out slightly better times than mere quick button mashing. Even events that aren’t as well-implemented at least have a tendency to have similar control schemes, making simply getting used to the specifics of the event crucial but not necessarily needing to reinvent the wheel for everything either. For people who enjoy player customization it is supported, though you’ll need to keep your overall expectations in check. The ability to customize your outfit per event is an entertaining feature, and mismatches of equipment to the sport being played can at least be fun for a little bit.

All in all, while it is by no means perfect, this summer games collection should be accessible and reasonably fun to people of all ages and skill levels. A combination of mashing, some technique, luck, and certainly some skillful strategy is required to be successful and particularly if you’re able to enjoy the experience locally with a friend it can be quite entertaining (cue up the tennis matches, my family decided that the sound of the shoes on the court sounded a bit too much like a bodily function and from there things devolved quickly every time we played it). If you’re going to go it solo there is support for online competitions but even though it’s implemented well enough we’ve seen the spotty track record of games maintaining a community past a few weeks from launch so I wouldn’t rest my hopes on that being its savior. While perhaps Mario Vs Sonic may have more star power and perks of its own going for it I’d say this collection has its own strengths as well with a surprisingly diverse roster of events that are fun to explore and try to get better at.

Mushihimesama [Cave] (Nindie Choice!) - While there are certainly more modern takes on bullet hell shmups from the past it’s always interesting to see an OG classic come to the system and show people how it's done. While I hadn’t previously had the pleasure to play Mushihimesama its a title whose reputation preceeds it, and I’m inclined to agree with the accolades I’ve seen for it after spending some time with it. For the most part there aren’t overly complicated systems to learn or techniques to master, it’s purely a matter of being effective at dodging everything coming your way, maximizing your power-up opportunities, and blowing up everything in sight. As you’d hope or perhaps expect you’re also able to play it vertically so people with a FlipGrip or other means can moreso enjoy the experience as it was meant to be played in full, though I’ll note that without manually setting a zoom it still doesn’t utilize the full screen which was a bit of a disappointing detail. For people who aren’t full-blown fans of the genre it will probably seem insanely tough, but for people with a deep-seated muscle memory for dodging it’s a terrific old-school taste of insanity.

Strange Brigade [Rebellion] (Nindie Choice!) - Having played through the full campaign of Strange Brigade with my daughter on PC, and having a terrific time with it, I was overjoyed to see this announced for Switch. While there’s no doubt that graphically things have been pulled back a bit from my top-notch graphics card I was impressed with the look and performance of the Switch version… though as always portably the sacrifices are a bit more pronounced. Whether solo or with others online or locally you’ll be tackling some old-school mummified enemies of various kinds, looking for secrets, working out puzzles, and generally being a badass in the classic Indiana Jones-esque sort of manner. While this is a shooter without a doubt the pacing is much slower than you’d normally find, with a focus on accuracy, making use of a wide variety of traps that are pretty well everywhere, and your occasional special skill that can get you out of a jam. On top of the action a highlight for me is the running commentary from the classically styled narrator who reinforces the older period things are taking place in and injecting all sorts of funny commentary on different going on throughout. If you’re looking for a shooter that’s simply in a class of its own I’d definitely recommend joining up with the Strange Brigade.

7 Years From Now [hiraya-space] - If you’ve followed my reviews for any particular amount of time you’ll know that I don’t tend to be much of a fan of linear visual novels, even when they may tell a reasonably good story. In the case of 7 Years From Now I think it’s the voxel art style that makes it even more problematic than usual though, as it makes it tougher to make a connection with the characters and even the environment when there are so few details to latch onto. That said, the mystery of your character’s past and this promise he made nearly 7 years ago that he only partially remembers details about makes for a decent hook at least. I’d recommend getting a taste of the style and story before making a decision on whether this seems to be a good match for your tastes even if you aren’t as much of a snob about stories being told where you have no agency on a dedicated gaming system versus something like your mobile phone or tablet.

Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX [Jankenteam] - Oh my do these retro reduxes give me mixed feelings. First, there’s no mistaking that the hand drawn animated look of the game is wonderful and does a fabulous job of making the classic Sega Master System game look like it belongs on a modern system. Of course you’ll have the option to switch between the classic look and the new, depending on your tastes, and this sort of feature is always a bit fascinating as you ponder over what the process looks like to reskin such an old game so thoroughly. Unfortunately, while perhaps fans of the original game may appreciate the diligence in this modern redux completely buying into the original, warts and all, as someone who wasn’t a fan of it back in the day there’s no mistaking that the gameplay is troublesome at best. Alex, for all of his punching and sometimes powered-up fury, unfortunately has a horrible glass jaw and it feels like he dies if he’s even sneezed on. Mix this with some rules that you’ll simply need to accept for how things work in general, and while I’ll credit the series with absolutely having its own take on how to handle a platform action game I’m not a fan. The result is a game I felt more like I was meant to endure than enjoy and I’d warn you to be careful when considering this title unless you’re a massive fan of the original. Even then you may still be disappointed on your return to it.

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