While its presentation is in some cases downright lacking, the Irem Collection Volume 1's essentials are at least in order, delivering three great games, several port variations, and enough adjustable options to satisfy. That said, both Image Fights are utter taskmasters that require a hardened disposition, and that limits their broader appeal. X Multiply makes up for this by being a lot more accessible, with a visually superb aesthetic, but also feels like the odd one out because of it. We can't help but feel an Irem Collection combining eight to ten titles would have been something worth shouting about, but with further volumes in the pipeline, this does feel like yet another exercise in squeezing a niche consumer base over several releases. Despite our appreciation of the games on board, it's hard to get too excited.
Halberd Studios has crafted a Metroidvania with a really encouraging number of unique elements. We have no issue in declaring it A Good Game™ and a great time thanks to its careful crafting and implementation of a number of original ideas that elevate the gameplay, rather than stifle it. It is just another Metroidvania at heart, yes, and it doesn't revolutionise the genre; but, while there are a few scrappy bits where you can see a thinning of the budget compared to works by larger studios, it holds its own as an inventive, pretty, and consistently enjoyable adventure.
While we were desperate to love Air Twister, it feels like an undernourished Space Harrier homage full of missed opportunity. For Sega fans who want little more than a Space Harrier experience in new clothes, there's little to complain about… except maybe that soundtrack. But, while the extra modes expand the game's longevity and encourage a clear, they feel tacked on. It's fine to go back to for a quick blast now and then, but sit with it for a day or two and its lack of inspiration starts to gnaw. The arcade hardcore are most likely to reap the greatest rewards, but even then there may be a nagging feeling of uncapitalised promise.
Alien Hominid Invasion's setup won't appeal to everyone. We were disappointed to find the mission objectives recycle far too often, and their random nature seems to rob the stages of any real individuality. But in terms of its handling, execution, and additions, Invasion feels much superior to the original. And, while ultimately repetitive, its chaos is fun for brief single and multiplayer arrangements, and we enjoyed dipping in for a quick bout of raucousness.
While the Visco Collection doesn't have high-end 3D menus or the granular wallpaper and filter options of other collections, it's still a fun and accurately emulated series of seven solid arcade games. Appeal will vary; what's on offer here won't have the same arcade allure as the likes of Final Fight or Strider, despite remaining an enjoyable, varied set of titles, elevated greatly by their ability to be played online. It's a shame, however, that Puzzle de Pon, the Vasaras, and Breakers didn't make the cut - even if the latter two are available in other Switch collections - as they would certainly have boosted it to the next level.
Fans of Hot Wheels will feel well served from a nostalgia point of view, and inspired by its huge number of new modes. Unleashed 2: Turbocharged combines furious arcade race challenges with childlike creativity, being able to build tracks any which way, and race them to breaking point. You can feel the Switch's lack of muscle, with a markedly smudgier feel than the grip offered by more powerful consoles, but as a racing experience bursting with customisation, modes, and creativity to mine, it's both an excellent successor to the 16-Bit Micro Machines legacy and sits firmly in pole position over its predecessor.
Existing fans will feel so well served by this release that there needn't be any hesitation in picking it up. Those dipping their toes for the first time should know that it operates in a way that has aged differently to other classic first-person shooters. Whereas Doom's combat and fluidity remain free and immediate, its axis of movement more realistic and its stage layouts more controlled, Rise of the Triad functions around its own, unique design parameters, where violence and abstraction reign supreme. Learn its maps, the versatility of its weaponry, and how to make best use of its playground elements, and there's a game here with the capacity to enthrall.
This genre's lineup on Switch has changed a lot since the original in 2018, and this feels primitive. Slaps & Beans 2 offers a long, adventurous campaign with a lot to see and do, and will remain a treat for dedicated fans of the duo. But, the combat, overshadowed by its novelty interludes, should be more fulfilling and less repetitive.
Raindrop Sprinters is as pure an arcade experience as one could wish for, its base simplicity underpinned by a deep scoring game that can be approached in a variety of ways, ultimately presenting a bottomless reflex-based affair that will wash out the impatient and reward the dedicated in a shower of euphoria. It’s not a game for everyone and will hold little appeal or longevity for the vast majority, but it does what it does well, and its construction is a little bit clever. When you reach that moment of dodging zen, where you’re weaving those drops against impossible odds, you run a real risk of just-one-more-go addiction.
Thunder Ray isn't perfect, but it is very good. The feel of the blows and the creativity of your opponents are very nicely executed. It's missing the minute precision of Punch-Out!!, but it's close enough, and while you can occasionally win matches at higher difficulties with a certain amount of luck, you'll get the most from the experience by mastering each opponent and earning a true sense of boxing accomplishment. Being able to toggle between difficulties and going back to previous opponents is great, and the entire thing feels polished and flashy. It could have been more elaborate, featuring more modes, and bonuses, but, as it stands, it's a brief but solid tribute for fans of Punch-Out!! to enjoy knocking into next week.
The Making of Karateka is not for everyone, and most of its appeal will lie with older gaming generations. If you're a student of historical gaming flash points, however, it's a package that delivers the goods, and in fine form. It doesn't have anywhere near as much unique gaming content as Atari 50: The Anniversary Celebration, a fact that will limit its appeal. Despite this, the two remasters are solid, the prototypes intriguing, and the content comprehensive. If you were a fan of Atari 50, The Making of Karateka will find you well.
Dino Rex and Solitary Fighter aren't exactly high points, and considering they're two of three exclusives, much of the appeal of this collection depends on how many titles you may already own, and how much you want Darius II. That said, for those who are yet to dabble in Hamster's series, it's a superb slice of Taito arcade gaming that outdoes its predecessor in terms of quality and appeal, and comes through with solid emulation. There are hundreds of hours of fun to be had here with some of Taito's most deservedly celebrated works.
Alas, even with WayForward’s skilled programming and graphical artistry, Xtreme Sports remains limited. The island overworld works well, adding a charming dash of RPG-lite, and the increased challenge will keep you at the events for some time. There are purportedly more than 400 competitors to defeat, but while fun and neatly executed, the repetitive nature and limited number of sporting events means that mileage will vary in how long it holds your attention.
It's hard to fault the presentation and delivery of M2's ShotTriggers collections. Hellfire and Zero Wing are both excellent old-school shoot 'em ups, representative of Toaplan's then-burgeoning creativity. They look good, sound great, and are super fun to learn. Emulation quality is on point, and the little extras, like the visual gallery, are very welcome. But again, it's lamentable that this can't just be a complete collection of Hellfire and Zero Wing, with all its home console port variations, without requiring people to pay for them as DLC. It's the one thing that feels wrong about the way M2 have handled their ShotTriggers releases, and it's not particularly fair to fans.
Double Dragon Gaiden is beholden to some unique ideas, and they're fairly well-applied. You can experiment with mix-ups and tag team advantages, and multiplayer makes things altogether more enjoyable, although it's restricted to local co-op. But, being associated with Double Dragon is arguably to its detriment. It's a game that has secrets to uncover, twists to happen upon, and plenty of cash grinding and unlocking to do. While initially fun to work through, how many times you'll feel encouraged to replay the campaign is questionable, especially with its overall pacing and neutered thrill of brutally knee-slamming someone in the face. Still, it's certainly worthy of attention for beat 'em up fans looking for old things in new forms.
PixelJunk Scrappers Deluxe is a good, fairly unique idea with several interesting challenges to juggle, and, if you enjoyed the original, the expanded worlds and new additions will fulfill your craving for more recycling action. Clever though it is in premise and arrangement, however, it isn't a very thrilling single-player game until around halfway through. If you do decide to give it a spin, you want to be online-ready, because multiplayer is where its engineering comes to the fore.
Switch-bendingly tough though it is, Gimmick is a salient example of what made the 8-bit era so wonderful: a razor-sharp, thoughtfully illustrated action adventure full of creativity and imagination. Just be warned that when people talk about 'old-school difficulty', Gimmick is a cut above what they usually have in mind, and to that end may prove frustrating for those unable to steel themselves to the challenge.
This is the best of it in regards to home ports of the Ray series, spit-polished by M2's dedicated commitment to quality. It offers very accurate arcade ports of three superb, nuanced shoot 'em ups, famous for their fantastic soundtracks, engrossing gameplay mechanics, and visual showboating. Lag is minimal enough to have no impact, and the HD upscaling is wonderful. With no training modes, historical bonuses or rearrangements, however, it falls shy of being the ultimate package. But only just.
Batsugun remains a thrill ride: a barnstorming, explosive affair that holds a pivotal position in the history of the shooting game and its evolution. Its systems are not as in-depth as most Cave titles, and it's also comparatively short if you discount all the looping, but it remains a superbly entertaining and surprisingly accessible piece of gaming history. It's a shame the arcade originals aren't present, but, with all its very welcome bells and whistles, it's certainly the best home release yet.
Even without Takahashi Meijin's association, Star Gagnant would still be a Terarin work that genre fans can rely on. Its simplicity is what makes it so engaging: a clean, enjoyable shooting game with a deep scoring system to mine like crazy, and tons of modes in which to do so. And this, really, is where its creativity is strongest, drawing on games from the late '80s and '90s to build a new, Meijin-flavoured tapper that reworks those elements into something fresh. It's primarily pitched at existing Terarin fans and PC Engine shooting-game aficionados, and ably achieves its goals.