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.
Fast Striker is definitely, firmly a danmaku game. But it does also throw a couple curve balls to keep the design unique. Aside from the actual difficulty adjustments, each difficulty (plus the extra Omake mode, which has a bunch of extra mechanics for score chasing) also puts you in a different ship, with its own firing patterns and thus playstyle. Each ship gets a rapid fire, a sustained fire, rapid and sustained rear fire, and the strike shield.
Super Smash Bros, as a series, has been...Not necessarily one of a kind, but of a rare breed, in how hard it's stuck in with only a few actual entries. If we consider the two forms of the previous entry to be a single game, this is only the fifth game in the series' almost 20 year history. In five games, we've gone from 12 characters to over 75. From Ness being the most obscure character in the roster, to god damn Shulk from Xenoblade Chronicles being playable. His game only even came out in the US because of a fan campaign! And in that span, the series has managed to have five unique identities. The original N64 entry, and to a far greater extent Melee, are still played regularly and competitively to this day. It's the only series to my knowledge, to have actually held two separate main-stage slots for the EVO fighting game tournament for multiple years.
What can we talk about, then? Well, even without giving spoilers, quite a few things. Let's start with the most standout of the gimmicks and tricks 428 has, and one you probably already noticed. The graphics. They're not 3D rendered, they're photographs and video clips. Even at a glance, this makes the game stand out sharply in an era where this hasn't been done unironically in years.
The actual story is pretty solid: After the events of the first game, one Lt. Kai Tana finds herself on the far side of a wormhole with vicious injuries. Her ship's repair systems attempt to keep her alive, integrating mechanical components into the very core of her being, and Kai eventually awakens to find herself with new abilities, and the would-be prisoner of an alien empire... This leads to the major twist of the gameplay. While the classic shmup gameplay is still here in spades, with the usual Velocity twists, 2x introduces a new element into the mix; sidescrolling platformer sections. At various points in stages, Kai can, and often must, exit her ship to go into a base and hunt down controls or resources.
The 2nd Runner, as a sequel, builds a lot on its predecessor...But perhaps the simplest place it builds from is in sheer content. The first Zone of the Enders game is, in all honesty, practically a tech demo, with a very short story across only a few areas that mostly look similar. The 2nd Runner, meanwhile, does a lot to improve on that, with more actual story, more things to do, and more places to do them in. It's still a lean game without a lot of sprawl, but it feels like it's actually complete.
So, SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy is a fighting game. It's also a cheesecake fanservice game, and a casual-friendly fighting game. Premise is thin on the ground in a lot of fighting games, and this is no exception; There was going to be a King of Fighters tournament, then a bunch of the women who were going to be there (plus Terry, who has been turned into a woman) wake up in a freaky mansion instead wearing skimpy outfits. That's the whole premise.
The game actually puts more of a central focus on combat than a lot of Metroidvanias, too, with new areas often making you stop for a Lucha battle your first time through. These little combat challenges test various skills, from basic brawling to dealing with aerial foes to turning environmental hazards to your advantage. But where things get interesting, in my mind, is when you compare this to the first game. Because, see, I really liked the first Guacamelee. I thought it was a solid little game, but its single biggest problem was that it was slight and brief, over before I was done with it and kind of too easy for most of the experience. None of that is true in the sequel. Oh no. It starts off nice and low and lets you get used to things, but even early on, you've got these little optional challenge rooms to collect heart or mask pieces(for health and stamina, respectively) that give a real solid chunk of platforming to chew on. And the very last dungeon stands out as just plain brutal at times.
Easily the best version of the game, Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition comes so packed with content that it boggles the mind. It's a game well worth revisiting, and an amazing value if it's your first time visiting this take on the land of Hyrule. Don't let it slip you by.
Storywise, you've got your classic beats here. Things went wrong, science went too far, the dead walk and hunger, and so on and so forth. The game's riffing on some very vintage ideas here, and isn't trying to reinvent the wheel. Rather, it's trying to make that wheel look like it belongs in a grindhouse film's crappy VHS bootleg, from the scanlines to the warped color palettes to the copious amounts of gore.
So how do you feel about Ghosts & Goblins? It's not a comparison I make lightly. Cast of the Seven Godsends feels like nothing less than a complete and total love-letter to that franchise, borrowing several of its key stylistic elements and core mechanics to form something that is very, very much pulling from the classic arcade franchise...for better and for worse.
The mechanics are simple but solid. While the game ostensibly operates like a hack-and-slash, the actual beats of combat and of Thora's axe make it feel like anything but. This is a heavy weapon, one she has to shift back to a solid starting place after she swings it, or take a moment to lift it overhead to slam down. Rolling can get you quickly out of harm's way, but Thora needs a moment after just to reorient herself and get back on her feet. This is a human woman struggling to face challenges set by gods, and it feels like it.
Before we go deeper into my thoughts on gameplay, a quick thing you should know: This is one of those "premium mobile game ported to Switch" situations. Now, like a lot of the ones of these I've actually sat down and played, this is a pretty solid port, with solid graphics, and with all of the microtransaction stuff chopped off. This doesn't leave a perfect situation, with some of the seams of old mobile-focused content still showing, but it holds together quite well...and quite frankly, almost certainly ends up working better and less expensively than the original free-to-play form.
It's a game that feels right at home on the Switch, and is well suited to ducking in and out, putting 20 minutes in to do a little grinding or wrap up a sidequest, or just get to the next point in the plot. Its writing is a bit archetypal but sells itself well, and the characters have just enough meat on the bones for me to really want to see them come together and win.