So where's that leave us? I mean, overall, I had a really good time with Crown Trick! It's a classic style roguelike with some solid modernizations. I love the art style, and while its permanent upgrades are all pretty standard stuff (go in with more healing elixirs! Keep some of your currency across runs!), they do a lot to make the genre feel more... achievable by mere mortal man.
So where's that leave the whole package? That's the tricky part. As a set of games, these are great, right? If it's your first time playing these, or just your first time in like 20 years, you're gonna have a great time. The emulation is solid, I never had anything truly go wrong, and the stylization means these games hold up way better than a lot of their contemporaries. Sunshine's water effects still look absolutely gorgeous to this day, for instance, and even 64 has a bold, stylish charm that holds together.
It's clean and crisp and plays like a dream. I can't remember a single time where I actually saw a framerate drop, or a resolution fall, or any of the usual performance thieving tricks...And while I'm not the most sensitive to these things, I can usually at least see it if I'm looking for it. Does it get there by seemingly pushing the Switch to its absolute limits? Sure. Does it sometimes leave things a bit at the ragged edge, just barely keeping from having to drop performance somehow? Sure thing. Does it matter? No! The only reason not to play this game is if you want to start with the first one. Which I can't speak to the Switch port of that one, but if it's even half as well done as this one, it's gonna be a plenty good experience.
I kept running into little things like this, where the game's interface kept fighting me and making it difficult to actually experience and enjoy the core gameplay loop. It was a layer of...Friction, is the only way I can describe it. And it meant every time I went to go roll my fun-ball down the track, it would stop way soonerthan expected. I'd quit having fun, and then I'd have to walk away for a bit so I didn't keep getting frustrated with the game and come back later.
What really seals the deal, when I boil it down, is charm. Charm and vision. Trying to do something interesting, different, and with your own spin on it goes a long way for me. And Steam Tactics is doing that left and right. From the positioning-focused dog-fighting tactics, to the delightful animal people, to the puzzle-like way you have to untangle the enemy formations at times to get a target in position, it just...It's trying something really cool, and I have to respect that.
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.
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.