Cotton Reboot! is one for the diehard shmup historian. The core experience is largely based on a dated shmup design, which will be noticeable to newcomers and genre veterans. It’s a welcomed preservation of a rare and oft-forgotten Japanese cult classic. Still, some of the choices in the visual presentation make the reboot experience far more uncomfortable than it needs to be. Nevertheless, better shooters are available and even better Cotton games are on the horizon, making Cotton Reboot! one for the connoisseurs and collectors.
Olympic Games Tokyo 2020: The Official Video Game is a functional and serviceable sports video game at best. While it features various events, the play mechanics and controls are too basic, so there isn’t much long-term replay value. The biggest problem here is that the experience sits somewhere between a sports simulator and an arcade game, and it doesn’t succeed with either approach. If you own a Nintendo Switch, pick up Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 instead.
Mushihimesama is a long overdue and welcome release on Nintendo Switch, serving as an exemplar of its developer’s signature shmup style. The Switch version comes with all modes and features intact, and so whether you are a returning veteran or a complete newcomer, players can approach the experience however they like. However, regardless of who you are, Mushihimesama is the quintessential bullet-hell shooter that is especially a blast to play in handheld mode.
Guilty Gear -Strive- is the premier fighting game for the next generation of gaming. At launch, the experience feels complete with an in-depth single-player, robust multiplayer, and plenty of great extras. It has, without a doubt, the best 2.5D graphics featuring unreal fluidity in its animation. The gameplay is superbly refined and engaging, featuring a roster of imaginative characters with uniquely contrasting fighting styles. What once was an obscure fighting game has now become a genre leader, like a small-town rock band selling out stadiums.
Virtua Fighter 5 Ultimate Showdown appears to be a test to see if a revival would be feasible for this series to modern consoles. There seems to be a push to get this game in as many hands as possible to gauge interest and show that Virtua Fighter can still put up a fight. Thankfully, the updated systems, balances, and visuals make this a worthy fighter, but a lot rides on the competitive modes.
Cozy Grove definitely lives up to its namesake as a cozy gaming experience, one designed for short bursts of play, where playing a little each day allows you to get more out of it than longer play sessions. The basic gameplay loop is limited, but the charm of the game world and the basic premise provides a relaxing sense of achievement. While it doesn’t replace Animal Crossing as your next time-sink, it does enough to provide a lighter and less demanding alternative.
SNK vs. Capcom: The Match of the Millennium holds up really well as a 2021 release on Switch, and while the other fighting games in the Neo Geo Pocket Color Selection were interesting curiosities at best, this one feels like a legitimately strong fighting game experience in its own right. The game undoubtedly suffers from the basic limitations holding back other games on the handheld. Still, thanks to the diverse roster of characters, game modes, mini-games, and the sheer fanservice detail, this is an excellent retro fighting experience on Switch.
Heaven’s Vault is one of those extraordinary adventure games that will likely become more legendary in time. Much like the ancient Empire that players must uncover in the game, Heaven’s Vault is rife with intricate details where players are likely to notice something new each time they revisit the immense nebula. While not all of its gameplay ideas are effective, and Aliya as a protagonist can take a while to become likable, the adventure as a whole is staggeringly epic, one that makes you feel like a providential participant in a dynamically evolving narrative.
Tanuki Justice is an enjoyable and welcome retro release, one that recaptures the magic of ninja action games like Shinobi and Ninja Gaiden while adding some bullet hell shenanigans to provide a different type of challenge. There are some mechanical imperfections and omissions which do hamper the intended fast-paced ninja action. Still, the experience as a whole tends to shine through thanks to its vibrant presentation and strong level design.
Morbid: The Seven Acolytes is a challenging game which generally incorporates both the good and annoying elements of a Souls-like experience. Still, it manages to stand out thanks to its strong dark fantasy presentation, rich Lovecraftian lore, and gameplay systems that offer methodical combat and plenty of features to make the adventure satisfying. It’s a difficult game, for sure, but it doesn’t forego quality-of-life features for the sake of being difficult, and so in this sense, many players outside of the Souls fandom can get something out of it.