So where's that leave us? Is it good, is it bad? I mean, for me, here's the thing. The funny replays and the odd fit of the graphical style don't take away from the core fun of the gameplay. Gameplay is always the thing. And the gameplay here works. The timeline based system, while not the first time I've ever seen it, is a real rarity in the tactics space. And the specific touches done in this game, really make it sing when all the pieces come together.
So now we gotta talk the bananas part. Bananas in a good way. Gal Fighters originally did 2P via link cable. You both had to have a Neo Geo Pocket Color, and a copy of Gal Fighters on you, plus the cable. Yeah that's not happening. And in the modern day, it's made the game tragically difficult to enjoy properly. So how does the Switch port handle things?
Really, the one big problem that I think Bubble Bobble 4 Friends has is that, sticking true to the original design doesn't leave you a lot of room to grow and experiment. This feels like a more slick presentation of an 80s arcade game...Because that's what it is. For all of the 3D graphics and such, unless you're busting out the 4-player co-op, there's not that much here to differentiate it from the cabinet you played as a kid or one of the various decently popular home ports you may well have owned.
So, a strongly presented idea with Felix is his love of music. He slaps on a pair of headphones at the start of every level, his boss admonishes him for it in the first cut-scene of the game, and his every step is done dancing to the beat of the game's BGM. There's even a track list in the pause menu, letting you skip or replay tracks just as Felix might do.
So, Wargroove. It's a fantasy themed strategy RPG, built around commanding armies and claiming territory in a style more like RTSes than, say, Final Fantasy Tactics. It's a grid-based game with unit manufacturing, income, and objectives. Mechanically, how it works is pretty simple; You've got basically three kinds of buildings. Your stronghold, which if destroyed you lose the game; Unit-producing buildings; And villages, which produce money. At the start of a given match, you have a tiny little set of basics, just enough to start getting your first buildings locked down. Unlike the RTS comparison, here the buildings are all fixed, and you take a unit to them and capture them for your own use.
Sphinx is doing that action-platformer simple-puzzles thing of a lot of the games from this original era. He runs, jumps, swings a sword, gets a bunch of items, all that jazz. Meanwhile, the Mummy(of a young prince Tutankhamen, to be precise), being already dead, has this Wario Land style going on. He can face everything from electrocutuion to crushing, and endure all of it as it puts him into crazy specific states for more complicated puzzles. It's an interesting mix of setups, that keeps either one from overstaying its welcome too badly. Just when you tire of figuring out a complex puzzle for the Mummy, you get to switch back to Sphinx and do something more straightforward and punchy, and vice versa.
The focus on roguelike design, letting a relatively small amount of assets turn into a lot of game. The fact that there's no mid-game saves, because that sort of longer-term multiple-session play wasn't needed and would complicate the design. The little touches of things not quite refined, like how I can hear room tone in the relative handful of voice acting clips. Hell, the fact that the intro cut scene only plays the first time you play, with no way I found to start it up again. Or the hidden shield in the tutorial area, just tucked behind a rock without collision detection. If this is the work of newcomer devs, then it's a really interesting first piece. There's a lot of neat ideas here: I like the fact that a lot of the Berserker and Witch unlockables actually require some degree of success with the other class, thus forcing you to differentiate on playthroughs. It just...needs work, as a commercial product.
First, let's cover the broad spectrum, before we start dialing in on some of these actual titles. Right out the gate, I can tell you the presentation here is amazing. Every last game comes with just about every variant the original release exists in. American and Japanese arcade variants, contemporary console ports, it's all here. Not only do you have all of these variants, all of them superbly emulated, but you also have all of the extras. How would you like a ton of soundtracks to listen to, of classic SNK tunes? Done. Posters, samplings of vintage magazines, concept art? You've got it. There's tons of these little details and careful touches all throughout.
Right here, right now, Windjammers is an excellent port of an absolutely amazing game. And while all the platforms are good, I think the Switch might be the single best platform for it. Between the easily learned mechanics, their smooth compatibility with a single Joycon, and the speed of a match, this is one of those games that is perfect for those magical moments where you just set the system down and start playing with someone.