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.
So what's the actual premise to lead to this? Why, it's simple. Your poor sad little dude starts the game without this time limit. ...And then the first thing you do is pick up a cursed sword that kills you in sixty seconds and it all goes to shit. Every time you come back to life, a good chunk of your progress holds. The big stuff. But all the little things reset. It's kind of like a compressed Majora's Mask, except that reset a lot more than this does.
This game is just fun. It's a big smashy explody mess of a game that's willing to do things like hand you over twenty jumps and just see what you do with them. I went through one stage with four shotguns, which actually was pretty damn effective. There's a ton to like here, and quite a bit of character and charm for such a simple setup and loop.
The actual premise is simple, set in a comical fantasy land where a vaguely-English royal army faces down an invading Viking horde. The royal army has to, of course, defend itself with all means available, though not everything is as it first seems... So all of this is fairly well-treaded ground. It's the execution where things get interesting. Because CastleStorm basically has three separate mechanical layers going on at once in a given stage, and each of them presents something very different.
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.
Of course, no game is without its problems, and much as I really like Gundam Versus, it has a few. For a series whose home entries used to have quite a fair bit of single-player content, the relative lack in this entry has an extra sting to it. And the localization is a bit...Limited, for something with a retail release. A lot of incidental dialogue has no subtitles, so it's just a steady stream of stuff you have no hope of understanding unless you know Japanese. There's also the issue that the game is online-multiplayer-only, limiting options for things like LAN play or, even better, split-screen.
Sometimes pulled in two directions by its attempt to balance serious tension with comedy relief, Maize ends up relying heavily on the idea that you'll buy into both sides of the equation. For some, this will be a blessing, but for others it will be a curse that weakens the rest of the package.