Also available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, iOS, Android, Linux, OSX, and Windows
The Banner Saga 3 is the culmination of an epic fantasy trilogy that puts you in the position of leader of a caravan of refugees fleeing a Dredge invasion and a mysterious world-destroying “Darkness.” As was the case with the transition from The Banner Saga to The Banner Saga 2, the jump to The Banner Saga 3 sees almost nothing change. There are a couple of very minor quality of life tweaks that were made, but those are so minor that a lot of players might not even notice them. The only other big change is, as was the case with the second game, a bump to the level cap; the max level is now 15 instead of 10. Otherwise, it’s pretty much another continuation.
With the huge cliffhanger on which The Banner Saga 2 ended, there was a lot for The Banner Saga 3 to live up to. Personally, I found this third entry to be the weakest of the three, but that’s like saying that Fat Man was a weak bomb when you line it up against Castle Bravo and Czar Bomba; the weakest of three VERY strong entries is still pretty dang strong. By the time we get to this point in the narrative, the caravan has arrived in the last known free city in the world unswallowed by the ever-encroaching darkness, and it’s time to put up or shut up. The pressure is on as our heroes literally stare Armageddon in the face and try desperately to hold out against the slew of enemies pounding on the gates while a small team tries to venture into the Darkness and stop it from destroying all of creation.
The only minor problem I had with the fact that almost nothing has changed since the first game is that by the time you get to the third ten-hour game with almost no change to combat, the battles can feel a bit boring after a while. You know your basic strategy, you know your preferred combat line-up, and you know what enemies have what abilities for the most part; a lot of the fighting turns into a wash/rinse/repeat scenario, and that’s not going to hold everyone’s attention. I still found it personally enjoyable, but it was certainly less captivating at Hour 25 than it was at Hour 3.
Since this is a trilogy with no real visual or mechanic changes that flows pretty seamlessly in terms of narrative, it’s not a series you can really just jump into anywhere you like; to get a full appreciation for the trilogy and its story, you really have to start at the beginning. It’s fortunate, then, that the trilogy is available in a single package which is how I played it on Switch. The physical version of the trilogy, while coming on one game card, does require a download to start, so it’s not great in terms of preservation, but it is nice to have all three games in one bundle with one application to launch.
The Banner Saga 3 is the epic conclusion to a Nordic fantasy adventure that I honestly didn’t expect to love as much as I did. The characters are interesting and pretty deep, the storyline is compelling, the world is fascinating, the combat is fun, and the choices you have to make are difficult with often gut-wrenching consequences with which you have to learn to live. It was a remarkable trip that I wish I could experience for the first time all over again, and I consider the trilogy to be an absolute must-own for Switch players.
My Rating - 4 Neps
Also available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, iOS, Android, Linux, OSX, and Windows
The Banner Saga 2 picks up exactly where the first game left off, and not much has really changed. There’s no major gap in the story between the first game’s conclusion and the second game’s beginning, and the game’s mechanics and visuals are largely identical. The only change of note is that the max level for your characters has been increased from 5 to 10 which makes sense considering that they’re about to go through an entire second game’s worth of combat.
The main narrative point driving this second game is the approaching apocalyptic “Darkness” that threatens to destroy everything - human, Varl, and Dredge - and seems to be unstoppable. While the first game had an uneasy atmosphere, Banner Saga 2’s atmosphere is downright foreboding with the lurking specter of global annihilation coupled with the continued pressure and attacks from the Dredge. As the overall circumstances become more desperate, so too do the situations in which your caravan finds itself. As the leader of the caravan, it’s up to you to find resolutions to these situations, and as is often the case in real life, many situations leave you little but a choice between “bad” and “worse.” I think Polygon hit the nail on the head in their review when they said “The Banner Saga 2 is intense and unrelenting in its mission to make you feel like the worst leader alive” because of the choices you’re forced to make really do feel that way.
The combat is exactly the same as it was in the first game. It’s your standard SRPG affair with a team of six fighters chosen from your roster of probably WAY more characters than that. I usually ended up with three times as many fighters as I was allowed to field, and while I played on Bitch Mode (my term for Easy) keeping me from having any injuries kind of exacerbated how overstaffed my army was, the game is definitely generous with making sure you’re never lacking people to field in a fight. Partway through the game, a fourth race - the Centaur-looking Horseborn - is introduced, and this adds a new element to your combat strategy should you choose to employ your Horseborn character in combat.
All in all, The Banner Saga 2 is a perfect follow-up to the original game even considering how high the original game set the bar. The game’s story continues to impress, the characters continue to develop and entertain, and the choices the game forces you to make continue to twist your soul and make you live with the consequences of your often ill-considered decisions regardless of whether those consequences are positive or negative. It’s a fantastic ride from start to finish that will leave you almost literally salivating to see how the story wraps up in the third installment.
My Rating - 4 Neps
Also available on PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows
With Catherine getting an expanded and enhanced port for PS4 and Xbox One, I was sorely tempted to pick up this definitive edition and finally see what all the fuss is about with Atlus’s tower climbing puzzle adventure. Then I remembered that I’m poor and already have the original release on 360, so I figured I’d just play that version instead of spending more money I don’t have. From what I’ve read, the re-release has another character that adds some pretty major points to the story, but whatever; beggars can’t be choosers, and public teachers in North Carolina are definitely beggars.
You play as Vincent, a guy in his early 30s who’s, by all accounts, a pretty good dude but with a serious complacency problem. He’s in a long term relationship with Katerine, but while she clearly wants marriage, Vincent fits the stereotype of guy-who’s-terrified-of-commitment. Every night, Vincent meets up with his friends at the Stray Sheep bar, but one night he meets this young, flirtatious blonde named Catherine. Then, night after night, he starts having dreams about being trapped in his world full of talking sheep and being forced to climb a massive tower or die. What could this all mean? Who is Catherine? Why is everyone a sheep?
The underlying theme in Catherine is order vs chaos. Most games that introduce choice mechanics are on a good vs bad dichotomy, but Catherine’s choices aren’t so cut and dry. Sometimes the choice that seems “good” will swing you towards the chaos alignment, and the choices that swing you towards the order alignment sometimes seem kind of harsh. I don’t see this as a flaw so much as a commentary that life isn’t as easily discernible as black and white as a lot of us sometimes make it out to be.
For the first three quarters or so of the game, the story is fantastic. It’s got a solid romantic drama vibe going that really hooks the player and keeps them coming back to find out what happens next. The last part of the game, however, starts to weaken quickly. Once the secrets behind the game’s goings-on are revealed, it gets kind of disappointing. Not bad, per se, but much less intriguing and captivating than it had previously been.
The actual gameplay starts off pretty simple to ease you into the puzzle-solving, but after the first nights, it gets downright brutal. The bosses especially can be exceptionally challenging. What I have to note, however, is that the game never feels unfair. There are enough continues that it never feels insurmountable provided that you have the perseverance to keep trying until you figure it out. You’ll need quick reflexes to solve some of the later puzzles, but it’s totally doable.
Catherine was a frustrating experience at times, but it was an extremely rewarding experience. The puzzles really make you work your spatial reasoning skills, but they do so in a way that encourages you to keep trying rather than getting frustrated and giving up through checkpoints and retries. I can’t speak for the improvements and additions that were added in the PS4 and Xbox One remasters, but the original releases on PS3 and Xbox 360 are still totally worth playing in 2020, so I can only imagine that the polished and enhanced ports are even better.
My Rating - 3 Neps
For more than 20 years, I’ve been a huge Pokemon fan. Since I was in the first grade playing Pokemon Red and Blue, I’ve been crazy about the series. One of the things that most excited me was always seeing all of the new Pokemon to catch and train and fitting them into my team. With that in mind, I was rather nervous about Pokemon Sword and Shield. There were a TON of features for which I was extremely excited, but likewise, there were some design choices that upset me and that I still question. Every sequel will have that to some extent, though - some design choices that I love and some that I loath. The real question, then, is do the good changes in Sword and Shield outweigh the bad for me?
Clearly, Pokemon Sword and Shield is popular - in its first weekend alone, it sold over 6 million units, making the best selling game in the series - but popular doesn’t always mean good, and I had some reservations. My biggest concern (and still my biggest complaint) is the lack of National Pokedex. That means that the only Pokemon in the game are the 400 in the Galarian Pokedex. Normally, during the main game, you’ll go through that region’s Pokedex and then have the ability to transfer Pokemon from previous games in the post-game after beating the main story. That’s not the case here, at least not fully. Sometime in early 2020, a companion app called Pokemon Home is supposed to launch and will give players the ability to transfer Pokemon from the 3DS Pokemon Bank and Let’s Go but only if those Pokemon are in the Galarian Pokedex. Sorry, Blastoise and Mewtwo lovers, but those Pokemon aren’t supported. On the one hand, I do understand - with fully animated 3D models, that would be an IMMENSE amount of work, and 400 Pokemon to catch is no small number as it is. Still, though, for a series whose tagline has been “Gotta Catch ‘Em All” for more than two decades, it’s odd not having the ability to catch them all.
While the lack of National Dex may be a major letdown for me and for players who play like me, it’s not all bad news with Sword and Shield. On the contrary, I found the additions to the game to outweigh the flaws by a mile. First and foremost, like Let’s Go Pikachu and Let’s Go Eevee, the game is a fully 3D adventure for the first time with random encounters scrapped in favor of overworld encounters (for the most part, anyway). Sadly absent is the follower mechanic from Let’s Go, but GameFreak made up for it somewhat with the camp mechanic where you can pitch a tent and either play with or cook for your team. This is a great way to boost your friendship with your Pokemon, a somewhat cryptic mechanic needed to evolve certain species.
Sword and Shield also add the “Dynamax” mechanic, this game’s version of the Mega Evolutions from X and Y or the Z Moves from Sun and Moon. With Dynamaxing, under certain conditions and in certain arenas, your Pokemon can grow to enormous sizes and get a big stat boost for three turns. Likewise, your moves change based on type. A select few specimens from a small number of species can change their appearance while Dynamaxing and gain a special, unique attack; this is called Gigantimaxing. For most battles, Dynamaxing won’t really come into play, but they do for the gym battles and the championship battles, and they’re the main focus of my favorite addition to the game - raid battles.
There’s a special area of the map called the Wild Area, and this is where the game goes from good to great. The Wild Area is basically the Safari Zone perfected. It’s broken into different zones, and the Pokemon that appear differ from zone to zone, and even within a single zone, different Pokemon will appear based on the weather. Thunderstorm? Expect to see dragon and electric types. Mist? Expect to see fairy and psychic types. Throughout this Wild area, there are clusters of rocks called Pokemon Dens. When a beam of light is pouring from a den, you know a Dynamax Pokemon is there, and there’s a slight chance that there may even be a Gigantimax Pokemon in the den. If you activate the den, you can trigger a raid battle. These raids can be done solo with three utterly useless AI teammates, but the fun really begins when you connect to the internet and team up with people from all over the world to take out these massively powerful Pokemon. When you defeat a Dynamax (or Gigantimax) Pokemon, you have the opportunity to catch it, but even if you fail to catch it, you’ll still get some awesome rewards. You’ll usually get some berries, some treasures to sell, some Exp Candy to level up your pokemon, and some TRs (items that teach moves like TMs but that break after a single use like the old TMs). Online raids are, hands down, my absolute favorite post-game activity. When you find a five-star raid, it can get TOUGH, and you’ve really got to bring your A-game and have a solid team on your side.
Competitive battle is another post-game aspect of Pokemon that I used to be HARDCORE into in college with X and Y, but it can be an extremely intimidating thing to get into initially. Breeding egg moves, breeding natures, breeding perfect IVs, EV training, perfecting your moveset, balancing your types...it can be overwhelming. Fortunately Sword and Shield has made it a LOT easier to understand and get into. After you get to a certain rank in the post-game Battle Tower, you can unlock an IV checker to see at a glance how good your Pokemon’s IVs (or Individual Values) are for each stat. These are stats that the Pokemon is born with and never change. Or do they? If your Pokemon is level 100 and you have a bottle cap, you can go to a man in the Battle Tower and put your Pokemon through Hyper Training, artificially raising that IV to the maximum. That perfect IV can’t be passed down through breeding, but it can give your Pokemon an edge if they have imperfect IVs. The Battle Tower also offers an item that can change a Pokemon’s nature, something that affects the growth rates of certain stats. Like IVs, natures were something that couldn’t be changed prior to Sword and Shield. EVs (or Effort Values) are probably the least intimidating aspect of competitive battling, but even that has been simplified in Sword and Shield. In addition to the items that can boost EVs and the regular training you can do, there are PokeJobs that you can send Pokemon on for 24 hours that will raise their EVs for a certain stat. You can fully EV train a Pokemon without doing any actual training yourself in a week with the PokeJobs. Not everyone will like having it be easier to get competition-ready Pokemon, but it’s definitely nice for folks just getting into the competitive scene.
Pokemon Sword and Shield is definitely not going to please every long-time fan, and I still have my own complaints with the game, but it’s arguably the best point of entry for new fans save for maybe Let’s Go, and it’s definitely the most welcoming for newcomers as far as competition goes. The story is good, the visuals are great (even if lacking in anti-aliasing), the animations are awesome, and the new Pokemon are super cool for the most part. One thing I absolutely love is how few legendary Pokemon there are. Past games with NUTS with overloading legendaries into the game, but Sword and Shield only have three - the cover legendary for Sword, the cover legendary for Shield, and a third legendary central to the game’s story. That’s it. Well, you can get Mew, but that’s sort of a special case I won’t get into. Long story short, the game’s not perfect, but it’s DAMN close and a definite must-own for Switch owners.
My Rating - 5 Neps
Also available on Xbox One and Windows
Resident Evil has always been one of my favorite horror series, and Resident Evil 2 was, for a long time, my favorite game in the series. While my "Top X Resident Evil games" list has changed over the years, Resident Evil 2 - preferably played on my Sega Dreamcast - has remained near and dear to my zombie loving heart. When I heard that Capcom was releasing a remake, I was ecstatic. Granted, I didn't buy it right at launch because North Carolina refuses to pay its teachers well, and I didn't play it immediately when I did get it because I wanted to wait to make it my Halloween 2019 game, but when I finally did start it, I immediately got sucked back into the zombie infested Raccoon City police station and was met with a horror that the original game's 240p visuals just couldn't convey as well as the remake's 2160p visuals can.
The overall layout of the police station and underground hallways are remarkable in how closely they match up to the original game. The puzzles themselves are largely identical, too, giving the game the feeling that it's as much an extremely impressive remaster as it is a full remake, and when I say that, I mean it as a HUGE accolade. One of my frequent pet peeves with remakes is changing things in the world, and Capcom kept faithful to the original game here. It's definitely not 100% identical, but it strikes a perfect balance of making quality of life improvements with keeping faithful to the world and design of the original game. In that respect, this is as as perfect a remake as the Switch's Link's Awakening.
As with all great horror games, the atmosphere is a bigger part of the "scary" factor in Resident Evil 2 than the actual events of the game, and this remake nails that atmosphere perfectly. The lighting effects, the sound effects, and the timing of enemy appearances and jump scares are all perfectly done to maximize that unsettling feeling without desensitizing players the way that a lot of recent horror games do. The enemy designs, benefiting from having more than 81 times the pixel count of the original release, are truly horrifying in a way that very few games' enemies manage to be. Mr. X, the prototype Tyrant that pursues you throughout the game (especially if you're playing as Leon), is especially terrifying this go around, far more so than he was in the original release. During my playthrough, I tweeted, "It will be a miracle if I get through this game without peeing myself," and I stand by that sentiment; Mr. X is scary as shit, dude.
For those who aren't familiar with the structure of the game from its original release, the game is divided into two campaigns that take place concurrently and largely in the same locations. In one - the story I played through first - you play as my all-time horror husbando, rookie RCPD cop Leon Kennedy, as he, like an idiot, travels to investigate the mysterious silence from Raccoon City in defiance of a "stay tf away" order. He meets up with a young woman named Claire Redfield, sister of the first game's Chris Redfield, who's traveling to Raccoon City to discover the whereabouts - or fate - of her brother. In Leon's campaign, your main foe is Mr. X, and you work with a cryptic woman named Ada Wong, allegedly with the FBI, as you seek to secure the G-virus and prevent the infection from spreading outside of Raccoon City. In Claire's campaign, your primary foe is a horrific monster mutated by the G-virus as you seek to take the young Sherry Birkin to safety outside of the zombie-infested city.
I have a few minor complaints with Resident Evil 2, but all things considered, this is a virtually perfect remake by most of my metrics. It stays faithful to the original world while making some much needed quality of life improvements, it adds difficulty levels for those who need an easier time as well as those who want a more intense challenge, there are some extra scenarios for you play after you finish the main game, and the overall horror atmosphere of the original game has been brilliantly enhanced thanks to the technological advances that the PS4 Pro offers over the original PS1 hardware. I can only imagine that the game looks and plays at least as well if not a little better on PC and Xbox One X as it does PS4 Pro, and I was thoroughly impressed here. If you're a fan of horror games, zombie games, or the Resident Evil series, you absolutely owe it to yourself to give this game a play. It's a damn shame that Capcom hasn't seen fit to port it to Switch, but if you've got a PS4, an XB1, or a gaming PC, make sure you check this one out.
My Rating - 5 Neps
Also available on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Windows
Holy crap, my dudes. I thought I knew what the word "intense" meant. I mean, I played through the original Famicom Disk System Super Mario Bros 2. I've seen the effects of Operation British in Mobile Suit Gundam. I've read Stephen King's "IT." I've heard the heaviest songs that Cannibal Corpse has to offer. I've endured the psychological abuse to which Doki Doki Literature Club subjects its players. But this? The suspense and heart-wrenching events of the story in Muv-Luv Alternative give the word "intense" and all new meaning for me. I cheered. I screamed. I cried. I laughed. Okay, so there wasn't much laughing this time, but there was a solid chuckle or two. But DUDE. I wasn't prepared for how intense this game got. I know I keep reusing that word, but I truly can't think of a better way to describe the interaction between the fast and hard hitting events of the game and the emotional investment I had in this story, this world, and these characters.
Muv-Luv Alternative picks up immediately after the events of Muv-Luv Ultimate, the second of the two parts of the first Muv-Luv release. For the most part, the game works exactly the same way - it's a visual novel with the occasional choice here and there - but unlike Extra and Ultimate, Alternative really only has one real ending. The choices you make can have minor effects on a couple instances of character interactions in the story, but the main events of the story stay the same. In that respect, it gives much less agency than the previous game, but that's intentional because the tone and point are a little different here. There is no picking your best girl in Alternative. That's a luxury you can't afford with the BETA breathing down your neck. From start to finish, Alternative is a mad dash to pull humanity back from the brink of extinction and unravel the mysteries surrounding Takeru's ability to shift between worlds and timelines. This is not a happy feel-good story like Extra, and this is not an inspiring story of triumph in the face of adversity like Unlimited; this is a story of perseverance and duty in the face of unspeakable horror, hopelessness, and despair.
The first thing to keep in mind about Alternative is that it is MUCH longer than Extra or Unlimited. It's only 10 chapters, but each chapter takes several hours to get through. I didn't time myself or look up average playtimes to confirm this, but I'd hazard a guess that a single playthrough of Alternative will take longer than a playthrough of Extra and Unlimited combined. Granted, there isn't as much incentive for repeat gameplay in Alternative since you're not picking a best girl, but still, it's quite the hefty visual novel. It also answers a lot of the questions that I still had after Unlimited, and its focus on the world and the way the events of the story affect the characters rather than focusing largely on the effects of interactions between the individual characters serves to help you get really sucked into the world building and invested in the game's world and history.
The visuals are pretty much the same as in Extra and Unlimited, although there are some animated bits in Alternative and some sections where the text scrolls automatically regardless of your manual or auto settings to give the game a real sense of urgency and action. This is one of those few games where I really did find myself totally unable to put it down. Everything about the game perfectly accented the game's tone. The music was a perfect fit, the tonal inflections of the voice acting reinforced the emotions of the scenes, and the writing was exceptional. It may not be the best writing I've ever seen in a game, but it was absolutely top tier.
Muv-Luv - the entire trilogy - is one hell of a ride that I really can't oversell. It's incredible, and Alternative is an almost perfect conclusion. The tone and atmosphere are so dark and serious, and while it contrasts with the tone in Unlimited and especially Extra, it really reinforces the change in Takeru's mentality and personal goals. This definitely isn't a game you can play without playing the previous one first, but by the same token, I don't see how anyone can play the first game and not have an immediate NEED to play this one. My only complaint with Muv-Luv Alternative was that it had to end. I need more. There's an epilogue after the end chapter that leaves just enough questions to keep the door open for another true sequel down the line, so it's my fervent hope that âge sees fit to bless us with more Muv-Luv.
My Rating - 5 Neps
Also available on iOS
When I heard that Nintendo was releasing a Mario Kart game for cell phones, I was skeptical. Just a touch screen? No buttons? How will that work? When I downloaded this Mario Kart game for cell phones, I was skeptical. When I was starting the first race in this Mario Kart game for cell phones, I was skeptical. When I finished that first race in this Mario Kart game for cell phones, I had been converted into a born-again believer in the Word of Mario Kart Tour.
First thing's first - the game's not perfect. The controls feel kinda awkward. The motion control works pretty well, and it does give you two basic control schemes - "basic" controls that lets you turn your kart normally and "drift" controls that offer more precision but are a bit tougher to get the hang of by making every turn into a drift - but neither scheme ever felt particularly "good" in my opinion. That said, however, it does work very well; it's just not ideal. Honestly, though, with just a touch screen and no actual buttons or control sticks, it works way better than I expected. There's no accelerating to worry about; that's done automatically. The game pretty much keeps you on the track and out of the grass or sand or whatnot for the most part. What you need to do is focus on collecting and using items, getting on jumps for the boost, and maneuvering your way around the tracks.
Visually, the game isn't as nice looking as some modern smartphone games I've seen, but keeping in mind that Nintendo has always focused largely on accessibility and likely wanted to keep the required specs fairly low so more folks could play, it looks pretty good. The sound design is fantastic and feels right at home with the Mario Kart series. Being a freemium game, it's naturally filled with microtransactions as well as a "Gold Pass" subscription that unlocks extra rewards, but I was able to play through every tour and have a FANTASTIC time with the game without spending a penny on it. As far as I can tell, almost everything can be unlocked for free in-game (although that would take a looooong time), and while not purely cosmetic, I wouldn't call the things that can be unlocked more easily via microtransactions pay-to-win, per se. Yeah, the ruby unlocks are pretty much just loot boxes, but it doesn't feel quite as scummy as Battlefront II's loot boxes. Maybe that's the Nintendo fanboy in me talking, but that's the impression I got from the game's unlock system.
Your opponents in the tours are AI controlled versions of other players' accounts, and while PvP is supposedly on the way, that won't be available until the future update. Still, though, with tracks being relatively short and only lasting two laps, this is a great game to play while pooping (or pretending to poop) at work, and it's undeniably enjoyable. The amount of characters and karts that can be unlocked is pretty expansive, too, but I'll always be loyal to my ol' faithful, Koopa Troopa. I'm not the biggest fan of mobile games, and given the portability of the Switch, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is still obviously a VASTLY superior portable Mario Kart experience, but if you either don't have the time for full fledged Mario Kart or don't have your Switch with you (because if you just plain don't have a Switch, shame on you), this is a good, solid stand-in. Especially with the low price tag of $0.00, I can't think of anyone to whom I wouldn't recommend this game.
My Rating - 4 Neps
Also available on Windows
I've played a lot of games that I had expected to be fantastic and ended up being garbage, but of all the games I've played in my life, this is probably the biggest disappointment. Like someone offering you a bowl of Skittles just to find out that they're full of M&Ms, I ordered this game from Play-Asia on impulse expecting it to be same kind of goofy hilarity that Gal*Gun: Double Peace provided only to discover that it's barren wasteland of sub-par gameplay, stupid story even in the context of pointless lewd games, and less content than a mobile game. I am the Warlord of Waifus, the Emperor of Ecchi, the Führer of Fap, and the Baron of Best Girl, but even I was unable to extract any enjoyment whatsoever from this game.
The story, as I previously mentioned, is just stupid. Not even ha-ha enjoyable stupid. It's painfully stupid. You play as Yurika, a high school girl who is what's called a "Warrior of Love," someone who (apparently) loves panties so much that she can see talking panties and turn into a panty. There's this evil panty called Panzi that's building a massive brainwashing machine to brainwash the entire human race and make them love all panties equally. If this comes to pass, Yurika will be forced to live as a panty forever, and since that idea does not appeal to her, she embarks on a quest to stop Panzi and destroy his brainwashing machine. That's it. That's the whole story. I mean, along the way you meet a couple other Warriors of Love and some other panty characters, but it never gets less stupid. The story is more haphazardly written than an elementary schooler's short story, the characters are more two dimensional than a loli's chest, and at no point do either become interesting or compelling in the slightest.
The game plays like a crappy Xbox 360 indie beat 'em up. You use the left stick to move, the right stick to control the camera, you click the left stick to dash, and you can use L and R to dash to the side to dodge. ZL can activate "Passion" mode when your Passion gauge is filled which gives you a buff to attack and defense as well possibly changing an attack depending on the panty you're playing as. B jumps, A is your special attack, Y is your melee attack, and X is your range attack. The controls feel awkward, none of the hits ever feel satisfying, and the combat itself is short lived and monotonous.
Visually, the game is okay at best. It doesn't even make the Switch break a sweat docked, but it's not going to impress anyone. Lackluster textures, an uninspired art style, an unimpressive resolution without any visual flairs. It's the epitome of average. With a visual detail this unimpressive, I figured they could have at least gotten a solid 60 fps out of the game, but it seems to be running at a standard old 30 fps. That's certainly not bad and is a totally acceptable frame rate, but my 2019, I feel like 60 should be the target for games that aren't pushing a system graphically. Especially when the game isn't even good. Have SOME aspect that stands out other than how disappointing it is.
The game's length is kind of a backhanded mercy. From first putting the game card in my Switch to having beaten the game with every playable panty unlocked, only two hours passed. That's it. Two hours start to 100% finished. On the one hand, that's a mercy because the game sucks, and I was kind of bored after just 45 minutes. On the other hand, this is literally one of the shortest games I've ever played without trying to speedrun, and it's definitely the shortest game to 100% complete that I've ever played. With the lackluster visuals, the blah music and voice acting, the stupid story, and the average performance, the game's length is just the icing on top of this moldy, festering cake.
Panty Party is without a doubt the biggest disappointing of my gaming life. I've played games that are worse, but I knew those games were going to be terrible going into it. I definitely never expected a game like Panty Party to be game of the year material or anything, but come on; I'm me! I should absolutely love a game like this. I'm SO easy to please when it comes to lewd anime games, but somehow, AnimuGame (in hindsight, I feel like the name of the developer should have been a red flag) found a way to disappoint me. My reviewing this game is like Hillary Clinton in the 2016; it should have been the easiest win imaginable, and yet it still somehow found a snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. This game sucks. Don't waste your money on it. I'd say not to waste your time on it, but there isn't enough game here to take up much of your time.
My Rating - 1 Nep
Also available on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Windows
Muv-Luv was a definitely surprise hit for me. I love me a good visual novel, especially when it's a cute slice of life/waifu visual novel, but this one was all that and more. After I heard about my friend David's GLOWING review of it, I knew it wasn't a game I could pass up, and even as high as my expectations were going in, every single one was smashed and surpassed.
Muv-Luv is actually broken into two stories. The first, Muv-Luv Extra, is what I expected to find here - a cute slice of life waifu story. Takeru, the protagonist, grows up next to his adorable girl-next-door childhood friend, Sumika, but then suddenly this hella rich big tiddy blue hair waifu named Meiya shows up randomly in his bed one morning, and WOAH commence typical harem romantic comedy story. There are, of course, more potential waifus than just those two. OBVIOUSLY Sumika is best girl because of the Childhood Friend Corollary to the Intergenre Waifu Conventions which clearly states:
While not automatically Best Girl, when the archetype is present and the option given, the Childhood Friend™ must be the chosen waifu for any anime-styled game. Possible exceptions to this requirement are cases of realistic hairstyles and/or colors, malicious personalities, and character gender depending on the personal romantic preference of the player.
The great thing about Muv-Luv is that there's not really a "bad" girl to pick as your Best Girl, but it's pretty clear that the two "canon" choices, so to speak, are Sumika or Meiya. It's a solid 30 or 40 hour experience through the game for one playthrough depending on your reading speed, but there are multiple endings depending on who you choose as your waifu, and it's pretty much guaranteed to hurt your feelings at some point because all of the girls are so cute, and you just want to make them all your beloved waifu. Of course, that's not an option either within the mechanics of the game or within the limitations of Waifu Law; after all, more than one waifu will wreck your laifu.
The second half of the game, Muv-Luv Unlimited, marks an abrupt shift in tone. It takes place shortly after the events of Muv-Luv Extra although your waifu choice does not appear to be taken into account, and Takeru is still the protagonist, but he wakes up to a world that just seems....off. Sumika is nowhere to be seen. Meiya is nowhere to be seen. The world outside his house has, somehow, become a barren wasteland, the only clue being a wrecked mobile suit of some kind crashed into where Sumika's house should be. Obviously, Takeru's immediate assumption is that he's dreaming. He walks through this would-be dreamscape carefree, wandering to the school only to find it guarded by armed United Nations soldiers. From there, reality begins to sink in for him that somehow he's not in the same world he was when we went to sleep.
The overall experience in Muv-Luv Unlimited is very similar to Muv-Luv Extra. It's still a visual novel, and it's still all about picking your waifu, but the tone is dramatically different. The world in which Takeru finds himself is much darker and more desperate than the world into which he was born, and the story's tone is appropriately darker and more serious than in Extra. Most the characters return from Extra; pretty much everyone is there except Sumika, who is depressingly absent; but in her place is a mysterious but adorable girl named Kasumi. Unlimited is definitely not a feel-good cutesy story like Extra was, but it's told so well that it's every bit as compelling. Most folks would actually probably find Unlimited to be the more compelling of the two, but since I'm a neckbeard weeb, but I love the cutesy waifu stuff.
I absolutely loved Muv-Luv. From the moment I read David's thoughts on it, I knew that this was a game that I NEEDED to play. Extra and Unlimited may be totally different in tone and mood, but they're connected so well that it feels both jarring and natural at the same time for one to follow the other immediately. Very few stories I've read or experienced can pull off that abrupt an atmosphere shift, but the fact that Muv-Luv does it so well is, in my view, a testament to the quality of its writing and character development. If you flat out dislike visual novels, there still may not be much here for you, but it's no exaggeration that this is one of the most excellently written and thoroughly enjoyable visuals novels I've ever played through. The story itself can take a little time to pick up, but the characters are likable enough to keep players hooked until the story really sinks its teeth in. No exaggeration, this is probably my all-time favorite visual novel. I understand folks who just don't like reading a game, so to speak, but if you're at all into or even curious about the genre, check out Muv-Luv. It's an immensely rewarding experience.
My Rating - 5 Neps
Link's Awakening is one of the games I see frequently mentioned in discussions of favorite Zelda games, but despite having the Game Boy Color re-release of the original, Link's Awakening DX, I never got around to playing it. I know it's one of the defining games of the original Game Boy's library, but I just never seemed to find the time. With such a beautiful and exciting remake being released on Switch, though, I decided it was high time that I experience this classic action adventure game for myself.
Link's Awakening's intro sees Link at sea during a storm. This storm ends up destroying his boat, causing him to wash ashore a mysterious island. He soon learns that the island is protected by a Wind Fish, and that in order for anyone to leave the island, the Wind Fish must be awakened. There's a prophecy, however, that if the Wind Fish is awakened, the island and all of its inhabitants will cease to exist. What is Link to do? Escape the island to return to Princess Zelda's side and risk ending the island and everyone who calls it home, or resign himself to staying on the monster infested island forever to protect the villagers living there? It's quite the moral quandary, and the only way to unravel the mystery of the island is to trudge along your quest and discover its secrets.
It seems pretty clear from the success of Breath of the Wild and the statements from Nintendo since that game's release that most if not all of the future Zelda games will be much more open ended than the traditional linear Zelda games, but Link's Awakening is an exception to that. This is a virtually perfectly faithful recreation of the original Game Boy game while still including modern quality of life improvements and upgrading the visuals from 8-bit pixel sprites to full HD models. The game itself, however, keeps a 2.5D perspective so as to stay more faithful to the original, and the effort to which the development team went to recreate the original Game Boy world perfectly is astounding. It's truly a testament both to the developer's dedication to the original game's legacy as well as to the importance that the original Link's Awakening had on the action-adventure genre as a whole.
In a lot of ways, this game is a major feather in the Switch's cap. As I mentioned, the world is perfectly recreated, and the visuals are absolutely beautiful. The glossy, plastic toy-like appearance of the world and character models fits perfectly, and the music really feels like what those 8-bit tunes would have been had they been created 25 years later. Not all is perfect, though, and while I found them to be only a minor inconvenience, there are some performance issues that have caused a lot to grief to some more perceptive players. The frame rate is the biggest issue. Normally, the game keeps a pretty solid 60 fps, but during area transitions, there's a consistent albeit very brief drop to 30 fps before jumping back to 60 fps. This didn't detract from the experience for me personally, but it was rather jarring especially at first. In addition, there are occasions with either a lot of enemies on screen or a lot of effects like fire or dust that will cause some minor slowdown. Again, it's nothing that I personally to be a major impact on the experience, but opinions online differ wildly, so it's definitely something worth noting.
There is one very important addition that was made to the game that I'd be remiss not to gush about a little, and that's the dungeon creator. There's a totally optional side feature that lets you create your own Zelda dungeons and run through them. Given the square room grid nature of Link's Awakening's dungeons, it's basically a matter of taking pre-created rooms and arranging them like puzzle pieces. With the various bosses, mini-bosses, chests, locked doors, etc, this opens up a lot of options for some really creative and challenging dungeons. It feels a lot like the kind of creative outlet that Super Mario Maker provided, and I REALLY hope that this is a testing-the-waters prelude to a full fledged Legend of Zelda Maker game because honestly, I had more fun with that than I did the actual game itself.
The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening is an absolute marvel, and while it's certainly not perfect, it's an exceptionally good time and a fantastic experience that I consider to be a non-negotiable must-play for Switch owners. For those who loved the Game Boy original, it's an extremely faithful homage while still bringing modern QoL improvements to the game, and for those who, like me, never experienced the original Game Boy version of the game, it's a great way to experience one of the truly beloved Zelda adventures. Some folks I know have said that $60 is a steep asking price for a remake, and I can't entirely disagree with that, but it's my humble opinion that this is a remake impressive enough in both its accuracy to the original and in its improvements over the mechanical limitations of the original that it's a fair asking price all things considered. If you're a fan of the Legend of Zelda's traditional dungeon-based adventure formula, you'd seriously be doing yourself a disservice not to gives this one a go.
My Rating - 4 Neps
Also available on PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, and Windows
My first foray into modern Far Cry games was Far Cry Primal on PS4, and boy, that game was dope. So when I saw that Far Cry 4 was all modern and had a fabulously psychopathic dictator to topple, I was instantly interested. However, I was also poor, so I waited. I'm still poor, but now Far Cry 4 is hella cheap, so I'm FINALLY getting around to playing it, and WOW, good things truly do come to those who wait.
The premise of Far Cry 4 is that you're a native of the island nation of Kyrat raised in the United States who has returned to Kyrat to scatter his mother's ashes as per her dying wish. Then your bus gets attacked, your companions get shots, your tour guide gets tortured to death, and you get drugged and wake up at a dinner table with the merciless dictator of Kyrat, Pagan Min. From there, you could either sit and wait for like fifteen minutes, have him come back and kill you, and get the bad ending; OR you could actually play the game you paid for, help the resistance group that your dead dad started overthrow Pagan Min, and blow up everything in sight.
The game, as is standard for the series, is a first person shooter. You can craft storage upgrades from materials you hunt from animals to hold more ammo, more medical items, more explosives, etc. You can also purchase new weapons although some of these get unlocked for free as you progress through the game. Once you purchase a weapon, it can be reacquired for free at any shop, so that's a nice feature. With enough upgrades, you can equip up to four weapons - a sidearm and three main weapons. I usually ended up keeping a revolver, an assault rifle, a rocket launcher, and a sniper rifle with me. You also have four throwable weapons - molotovs, grenades, throwing knives, and bait meat that lures tigers and the like to eat your enemies. All in all, you get a lot of leeway to play how you want. You can be stealthy and sneak around using stealth takedowns, silenced weapons, and throwing knives. Alternatively, you can run in guns blazing with machine guns and shotguns and grenade launchers. The sky's the limit, and if that limit isn't filled with flying dismembered bodies, you're doing it wrong.
Visually, you can tell that the game was designed for last generation consoles and ported to Xbox One, but it still looks pretty nice. The soundtrack is extremely well done, providing solid atmosphere without distracting from the action on screen. The voice acting, as well, is extremely well done, especially Pagan Min's voice actor. 10/10 would listen to again. A well voiced antagonist can really make or break a game, and Pagan Min's voice actor definitely made this game. The highlight of the game, however, is the hunting. I don't mean sneaking around the hunting deer with a bow. GTFO with that redneck real-world garbage. Na, man, I mean a REAL MAN'S hunting. Far Cry 4 is like a Cabela's game if it were actually fun. I'm talking aobut hunting tigers by driving cars into them at 100 KPH, hunting elephants with a rocket launcher, or hunting rhinos from a helicopter with a semiautomatic grenade launcher.
My experience with the Far Cry series is still fairly limited, but from what I have played, Far Cry 4 is an exceptionally fun and well crafted entry. The story is interesting, the map is detailed and a blast to explore, the voice acting is exceptional, and the gameplay is addicting to say the least. AND THE HUNTING. I felt like the Terminator roughing it in the wilderness. Sure, rocket launchers tend to leave the animal's hide too damaged to use, but good GOD, it is fun. Far Cry 4 isn't perfect, and it still has its share of shortcomings with frame rate dips, glitches, and profoundly challenged AI at times, but as a whole package, it's an exceptionally fun experience, and with the price it goes for used these days, I high recommend it to fans of open world shooters.
My Rating - 4 Neps
Also available for Xbox 360
With all the hype that Red Dead Redemption 2 got at launch, I started to feel a little bad that I hadn't played the previous games in the series yet. After playing through Red Dead Revolver, I took a brief break before diving into Rockstar's not-Grand-Theft-Auto heavy hitter, Red Dead Redemption. I wasn't really sure what to expect as all I'd really heard was that it was extremely different from Red Dead Revolver (which is absolutely true), it was really good, and it was kind of Grand Theft Auto in the Old West.
Red Dead Redemption follows the character of John Marston, a Wild West gangbanger-turned-vigilante on a less-than-voluntary mission to hunt down and kill his former gang companions. This quest takes him through the fictional state of New Austin and parts of northern Mexico and into contact with a jaded town sheriff, a sweet rancher lady and her grumpy libertarian father, a snake oil salesman who would make Joel Osteen look sincere, an actual necrophiliac, an alcoholic Irishman (I guess that's a bit redundant), and a Pancho Villa stand-in among others. Throughout his journey to hunt down his former companions, he has the opportunity to help - or hurt - the people he encounters. There are many opportunities to do good. If you pass a wrecked lawman with escaped fugitives, will you help him catch the criminals, or will you shoot him and skin his horses? If you see a prostitute being beaten to death in the street, will you pretend you see nothing, or will you shoot him and save her? If you see someone stranded on the road, will you stop to help? I always did cause I'm a Good Guy(TM), but they always ended up being horse thieves, so then I murdered them. For the good of the people, of course.
Visually, the game looks pretty good for the time although there were a few noticeable frame rate drops every now and then that got a bit annoying. The voice acting, however, for the main characters was very well done. Rob Wiethoff's performance as John Marston especially was spectacular, and the quality of his performance really helps to immerse you in the world and story being told. Voice acting is extremely important to my immersion, and the quality of the motion capture and voice acting are usually the determining factor in how emotionally invested I get in the game. This game made me tear up. That's as glowing an endorsement as I could ever write.
As a history teacher, one of the things I loved about Red Dead Redemption's setting was the relative accuracy with which it was portrayed. Obviously some creative liberties were taken, and there were parts that were made less accurate for the sake of making a fun game, but for the most part, Rockstar did a fantastic job of showing the death of the "Wild West" and the awkward and often unwilling transition to modernity. Those two systems had a lot of incompatibilities with the spread of federal law enforcement and vigilantes' increasingly finding themselves as being the outlaws, the horse's increasing obsolescence as a mode of transportation with the rise of the automobile, and the assimilation of native American tribes with the lingering myth of the "savage red man." Those issues were rarely put explicitly front and center, but they were issues that were addressed with subtle finesse throughout the game, and that made the historian in me as giddy as a kid in a candy store.
Red Dead Redemption is a fantastic work of historical fiction in its own right and a stellar open world video game. The world can feel a bit empty at times, but the accuracy with which that world is portrayed especially with respect to when the game is set is exemplary. It tells an immersive story with a massive world and an impressive degree of historical accuracy. The who, what, and where are all fictional, but they're believable, and the when of the setting is done justice. It's not perfect, and there were more a few technical hiccups and bugs that I encountered, but man, what a wild ride. I suspect most folks have played this one by now, but if somehow you haven't, do yourself and favor and remedy that. Whether you play on PS3 or 360, play this game. It's fantastic.
My Rating - 4 Neps
Golf Story is a unique sort of game especially in today's gaming landscape. It's a sports game - golf, specifically, as the name suggests - but it's a story drive sports RPG. That's what's relatively unusual about it. That sounds to may like a bit of a tough thing to pull off, but I gotta admit, Golf Story did it superbly. I never thought I'd find a sports game with a compelling story let alone one that also has well done RPG mechanics, but lo and behold, here it is, and it's a Switch exclusive, no less.
You play as some dude who decides to be a professional golfer to make his presumably dead dad proud of him...or something. The "why" of his little quest wasn't explained as thoroughly as I might have liked, but regardless of why, he heads back to his old childhood golf course to work on his game and start working his way up to the pro tour. His first step on this road to golfing betterment is to convince the old man serving as the course's official coach to give him lessons.
So the actual gameplay is pretty reminiscent of Earthbound to me if you swap out the JRPG combat with golf matches and challenges. Some characters will have you hit a ball into a certain area X number of times, some folks will have you sink a series of challenge holes, some will flat out challenge you to a best-5-out-of-9 match, but it's all about golf. When you finish a challenge or play a round of golf on your own, you're rewarded with experience and money. When you level up, you can upgrade stats like your power, accuracy, etc. With the money, you can buy better clubs from the various courses' pro shops to get bonuses like higher loft, lower loft, a farther drive, etc.
As far as golf mechanics go, it's not as intensely simulator-esque as some of the more realistic golf games are. You still have to take wind and slope into account, but it's not nearly as brutal as some of the Tiger Woods PGA games can be with wind and slope. There are a handful of different golf courses in the game most of which culminate in a tournament. To win the tournament, you have place first; second or third place finishes don't cut it, and not even tying for first is good enough. For most of them, this isn't too tough. That changes when you get to the professional tournament at the end of the game. That one is BRUTAL. You have to average par at the MINIMUM on each hole, and these holes don't play around. Narrow fairways surrounded by water, high winds, obnoxious slopes, and merciless AI opponents all make it so that you have ZERO margin for error in this tournament. At this point in the game, it honestly started feeling more frustrating than fun which is a total 180 to how the game had felt to me up until this point.
Visually, the game takes a retro aesthetic with an even-more-retro looking mini game called "Galf." I know a lot of folks really seemed to enjoy that minigame, but it just felt like a mediocre NES game to me. Like, why would I want to play a bad golf game within a good golf game? I'd rather just keep playing the good golf game. But hey, it's there if subpar minigames are your cup of tea. The music is a really nice touch, though. It's lively and cheerful in the bright courses, foreboding on the haunted themed course, and intense when you're trying to sink a putt on the green. The whole soundtrack sounds great and perfectly fits the action and atmosphere of the game. The game has a couple of bugs, most noticeably an issue I encountered a couple times (mainly on the last course) where my ball would land on what was clearly a bridge or fairway but splash as if it had hit water and count as if I had landed in a water hazard. Super annoying on a course that's already REALLY tough, but it wasn't a common issue, so it's workable.
Golf Story was a definite surprise hit for me. From the reviews, I knew it would be good, but since I'm not a sports person in general and ESPECIALLY not a golf person, I really wasn't sure how I'd feel about it going in. I found myself unable to put down the controller, though, as I had to see what the next course would be like, who the next opponent would be, how difficult the next challenge would be. If you're into golf games or a Switch enthusiast, you NEED to check this game out given that it's exclusive to Nintendo's console/handheld hybrid juggernaut, but even if you're just somewhat curious about a story driven sports game like I was, it's totally worth checking out. I promise that you won't regret it.
My Rating - 4 Neps
Fire Emblem: Archanean War Chronicles, more commonly known simply as "BS Fire Emblem," was a short series of four maps taking place in the two years preceding the events of the first Fire Emblem game that were available only via the Satellaview satellite download service in Japan. Because of the limited time workings of the Satellaview broadcasts, it's a serious pain in the ass to find a working ROM of these four maps, but with enough stubborn determination, it can be done. If you don't feel like dealing with that stubborn determination, however, you can also play them on the (sadly Japan exclusive) Fire Emblem: New Mystery of the Emblem on DS.
Because these were intended as bonus challenge maps, they're significantly more difficult than your normal Fire Emblem maps. These are basically late game challenge right from the get go. Compound that with the fact that you don't have the benefit of having a whole game to train up characters' experience and stockpile some better weapons, and yeah, you're in for some challenge. Patience, careful strategy, and the favor of the RNG gods are absolutely required for success here. Visually, they look pretty much exactly like the other three Fire Emblem games that saw release on the Super Nintendo, so expect that level of sprite detail.
The first map has you play as Princess Nyna and a small handful of loyal knights as they struggle to escape from Archanea Palace when it falls to Dolhr's troops. The second map sees Minerva team up with her enemy, Hardin, and save a village near Aurelis from attacking bandits (although Minerva doesn't know that the man she's working with is Hardin). In the third map, Lena and Rickard, accompany by Castor and Navarre, sneak past Dolhr's soldiers into Archanea's palace and look what treasure they can. The fourth and final map show Nyna's escape into Aurelis with the help of Grust's famed General Camus just prior to the events of the first game.
BS Fire Emblem is a nice ride if you want a good challenge that really pushes you to plan carefully (but mainly be freakishly lucky), but unless you're a hardcore Fire Emblem fan, there's nothing here really worth seeking out. If you want a brutal challenge, just play Fire Emblem: Fates - Conquest. If you want to flex your SNES muscles, play the cheap and easy to find Mystery of the Emblem or Genealogy of the Holy War. With how much of a pain it is just to find a working ROM let alone one in English, if you REALLY want to play through these maps, you're way better of playing the versions included with New Mystery of the Emblem. It's a solid little map pack, but there just isn't a whole lot if incentive to jump through the hoops required to play it on original hardware or a SNES emulator.
My Rating - 3 Neps
Also available on Xbox, Xbox One, and Windows
Metal Wolf Chaos is a bit of an odd story in the history of gaming. It's a game that was released fairly late in the life of the original Xbox - a system that only really saw success in the United States - about an American vice president who ousts the president in a coup, it takes place almost exclusively in the United States, it's voice entirely in English, and yet was only released in Japan. Everything about this game screams "American release" if not a release exclusive to North America, but it never saw a release outside of Japan....UNTIL NOW.
The game starts with you, playing as the president of the United States, fleeing a large coup force from the White House. Fortunately, the president has his own personal mecha mobile armor, Metal Wolf complete with the presidential seal and massive armament of weaponry. You have to fight your way through the White House lawn, into an underground escape tunnel, and to Air Force One to escape to the west coast where you begin your one-man war to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN. It's weird how much the coup forces and treasonous vice president remind me of Trump. You know, if Trump were at all competent or even moderately intelligent. They describe Metal Wolf and the budding resistance as a "great evil" and a threat to American freedom and justice. It's eerie.
The game plays as an admittedly rather clunky third person shooter. You have a SUPER limited boost ability (technically it lasts a good while, but it starts draining your health after a couple seconds), but other than that, you're pretty much just trudging through the levels on foot. You can have two weapons equipped at a time unless you're using a sniper cannon or multimissile launcher as those require both hands. There is a part or two that require a little bit of platforming above some instant-death pits, and since there are no checkpoints, death means doing the entire level over again (as I found out when I got knocked into a pit with the boss of a level almost dead), and the controls are NOT conducive of platforming, so that's not tight at all, but by and large, the controls are workable, and the game's campy tongue-in-cheek humor makes it worth playing through.
With its visuals as with its controls, Metal Wolf Chaos shows its age. This is not a remake or a remaster; this is a straight re-release with no real changes made aside from translated menus and upscaling to modern resolutions. The textures are the same, and the frame rate is still 30 fps. Personally, I'd have liked to see a bit of polish on the aging textures and polygons or at least a frame rate bump to 60 fps, but the game is still perfectly playable and enjoyable, and at $30, it's a fair asking price.
Metal Wolf Chaos XD is a game that Americans (or at least a few of us...the weird ones) have been wanting to play for fifteen years, but aside from emulation or importing (and then bypassing the Xbox's region lock), it's been out of our reach. At long last, we have available to us a game that truly does let us MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN, and this time without the concentration camps or catastrophic tariffs! Truthfully, Metal Wolf Chaos isn't an amazing game especially by today's standards, but it's a solid game for those who just want a fun, goofy robot blasting time. I'd recommend giving it a play for sure.
My Rating - 3 Neps
Fire Emblem: New Mystery of the Emblem is a remake of the second half of the SNES game, Fire Emblem: Mystery of the Emblem, which itself was a combined remake and sequel to the original Fire Emblem on NES. It's a companion game of sorts to Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon on DS as Shadow Dragon remade the events of the original and the first half of Mystery of the Emblem whereas this game remade the events of Mystery that took place after the events of the first game. To give a little more incentive to buy this game, though, it also bundles the four maps from the Satellaview streaming exclusive BS Fire Emblem: Archanean War Chronicles which aren't (legitimately) playable any longer outside of this DS release.
The story picks up where Shadow Dragon left off. The Dark Pontiff Gharnef has been defeated and evil shadow dragon has been banished from this world. A new threat has emerged, however, as Hardin, the new emperor of the mighty Archanean Empire, has begun to act extremely out of character, ruling his realm with an iron fist and mercilessly crushing any dissent. It quickly becomes apparent that while the shadow dragon's body was defeated, the evil of its soul continues to persist, casting a new cloud of darkness over the continent. It once again falls to Marth to muster his allies and face down this evil with swords, magic, and waifus.
The most significant change to the Fire Emblem formula that New Mystery of the Emblem introduced was the addition of Casual Mode. To some folks, this forever ruined Fire Emblem by making it approachable to casual players, but I disagree. I would call Casual Mode the single most significant addition to the series since the weapon triangle for that very reason - it makes accessible to less skilled or less patient players an incredible series. For that, I have a lot of respect for Mystery of the Emblem. The character portraits and battle sprites look absolutely fantastic for the DS. The DS was perfectly capable of decent looking 3D games, but New Mystery of the Emblem perfectly demonstrates how exceptional the DS is as a 2D system.
Everything about New Mystery of the Emblem has been streamlined since the SNES game it remakes. The menu system between battles is simple and intuitive, the conversations between characters that flesh out their characters have been expanded to show more of their personalities and interactions with one another, and the control in battle is simple to use and free of any waste. The screens are perfectly used to keep the focus on the action. The bottom screen always displays the battlefield while the top screen can be used to display either unit formation (hit points, items, etc) or a mini-map with the force strength of each side.
Fire Emblem: New Mystery of the Emblem is everything a classic Fire Emblem game should be. It takes everything that made Shadow Dragon great and improves it, and it takes most of the flaws Shadow Dragon had and fixes them. It's a shame that this game never saw a Western release, but fortunately, an excellent fan translation exists if you can find a working ROM and a good DS emulator (or, like I did, load the patched ROM onto a micro SD card and play it on a real DS with an R4 card). The inclusion of the BS Fire Emblem maps are my favorite "extra" from any Fire Emblem game just because how difficult it is to find a working ROM of those maps in general let alone a ROM patched into English. For Fire Emblem fans, this game is an absolute must even if you have to use some dubious means to play it in English.
My Rating - 4 Neps
Also available on Switch, PlayStation 4, and Windows
Wolfenstein Youngblood is a pretty big departure for the rebooted Wolfenstein series in a number of ways, and that's been pretty divisive among fans. In a lot of ways, it's still Wolfenstein - you still run around killing countless Nazis with a massive arsenal of weapons - but make no mistake about Youngblood. It's not the Wolfenstein that I've come to know and love with New Order, Old Blood, and New Colossus.
The first major issue I had with the game - and the pettiest - is that the protagonist twins aren't as gruff and badass as BJ. Don't get me wrong, Soph and Jess are total badasses in their own way, but I've come to adore the gruff badassery of BJ. The aloofness of Soph and Jess, while entertaining at first, just didn't sit as well with me as BJ's darker, quieter demeanor. On the topic of the two protagonists, the use of multiplayer not just as an optional inclusion but as a core gameplay mechanic felt odd and out of place for Wolfenstein. This is a game that, just a few years ago, prided itself on being a strictly single player experience. I have nothing against multiplayer shooters - Left4Dead and Borderlands both proved how amazing they can be even beyond the dudebro Call of Dutys and prepubescent Fortnites - but it just feels foreign for this series.
My problems with the use of multiplayer don't stop at its mere existence. The implementation left a lot to be desired, too. The game utilizes those obnoxious multiplayer gimmicks - doors that can only be opened with two players, chests that can only be opened with two players, etc. While the AI was competent enough for the most part to make playing the game solo a decent experience, there were some issues. One of the cooler team mechanics was the ability to revive the other protagonist if done quickly enough after going down. The problem here was that my AI partner would randomly decide that she just didn't want to move. At all. Like, she literally just stood there shooting and taking every bullet flying her way. I'd half-dead crawl my way over to her and be like "Hey, sis, kinda dying of blood loss here. Halp plz," and she'd be like "WHAT?? I CAN'T HEAR YOU OVER THE SOUND OF ALL THESE BULLETS PIERCING MY BODY BECAUSE I REFUSE TO MOVE." And then I'd die and have to respawn by which point she'd need to be revived because she refused to move. Fortunately that little bug seemed to go away after I revived her, but it happened probably half a dozen times throughout my playthrough and seemed most severe in the last quarter of the game.
Visually, aurally, and mechanically, the game the largely identical to New Colossus. The only major mechanic changes worth noting are the RPG-esque leveling up that's used to unlock new abilities and the tedious coin grind to upgrade your weapons. I don't have a problem with either of these in principle, and the level up system really wasn't that bad, but the silver coins needed to upgrade your weapons just got annoying. Your weapons also get upgraded by using them and "ranking" them up, but the improvements that these silver coins buy are more substantial (so it makes sense that it takes more effort) and can shift the gun's focus towards accuracy, magazine capacity, and damage. It's less HOW you acquire these upgrades that bother me and more the fact that a large part of your coin supply is found just lying around in the world, making it a mundane Easter egg hunt.
The game's story - something I've always loved about Wolfenstein - is...okay. And that's sad because it's been ten years since Wolfenstein has been just okay. The New Order, the Old Blood, and the New Colossus were all absolutely fantastic, but Youngblood is just mediocre. The story starts off interesting enough - BJ has vanished, and his twin daughters take it upon themselves to travel to his last known location in Nazi-controlled Paris and find him themselves. Far fetched, sure, but considering that the guy they're looking for is just a head on a synthetic body, suspension of disbelief is kind of a must as it is. The problem is that, beyond that premise, the story just falls flat. Aside from Soph, Jess, and Abby Walker, none of the characters are even remotely interesting. There are only four "main" missions in the game - attack Brother 1, attack Brother 2, attack Brother 3, and attack Lab X - and until you do find BJ, it never feels compelling.
Wolfenstein Youngblood isn't a bad game. It's just a terribly disappointing game. It takes a series that's always been known for badass Nazi killing and turns that into okay Nazi killing. At the end of the day, you're still slaughtering hundreds and hundreds of Nazis, so that's always a good thing, but it doesn't have the charm or personality that other Wolfenstein games have. I can see this being a pretty good time if you have a friend to play through the campaign with, but as a single player experience, it's fully functional, but there just isn't any real draw when you could just replay one of the far superior recent Wolfenstein games.
My Rating - 3 Neps
The prospect of writing a review for Fire Emblem: Three Houses has been a bit intimidating for me this week. It's one of those games that just got so much so right. No matter what I say about it, I know that I'll forget to mention some amazing aspect, and since Fire Emblem is a series so near and dear to my heart - my all-time favorite Nintendo IP and quite possibly my favorite video game series - I really want to do it justice. Three Houses, especially, is an exceptional game. It might have surpassed Awakening for my title of "best Fire Emblem game." It's definitely the most approachable Fire Emblem game for newcomers.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses has you assume the role of Byleth (or, as I named her in my playthrough, Atra), a mercenary-turned-teacher at the Officers' Academy at the monastery of Garreg Mach. You are given the choice to lead one of the three houses of the Academy - Blue Lions, the house for students from the Kingdom; Golden Deer, the house for students from the Alliance; and Black Eagles, the house for students from the Empire. Each house is more inclined to one combat style or another, but it's important to note that you have a LOT of leeway over how you guide each character's development, and you can change classes at will provided that skill requirements are met. Black Eagle has more magically-inclined students, Blue Lions has more physically-inclined students, and Golden Deer has more archery-focused students. Each of the houses has units of all types, so go with whatever characters speak to you most. Each house is led by its respective country's heir; Claude is the heir to the ruling house of the Alliance, Dimitiri is the crown prince of the Kingdom, and Edelgard is next in line to the imperial throne. Obviously, Black Eagles is the only correct choice because Edelgard is bae (or, as the #SwitchCorps group DM on Twitter and I took to calling her, Baedelgard).
Three Houses made a lot of changes to the traditional Fire Emblem formula both in and out of battle. First and foremost, you'll feel like you're playing a Persona game if persona were an SRPG instead of a JRPG. Each chapter takes place during the course of a month, and in the month before that chapter's story battle, you can spend time exploring campus and building your relationships with your students, you can host seminars that your students can attend to develop skills, you can engage in extra battles - paralogues and side quests and such, or you can just rest. At the start of each week, you set up your week's lecture. You can set what skills each student focuses on developing and work one-on-one with certain students to develop their skills further provided that they have enough motivation.
The biggest change in combat come with how support levels work and to magic. Magic was the most surprising change for me, so I'll start there. In previous Fire Emblem games, magic tomes have been items that equip and degrade just like weapons. After a certain amount of use, your tome breaks, and you have to buy another one. Magic is totally different in Three Houses. As you level up your two magic skills - Reason for black magic and Faith for white magic - you unlock new combat skills. Each spell has a certain number of charges to denote how many times that spell can be used in battle. When you deplete those charges, you can no longer use that spell just like in previous games, but rather than being a tome that breaks, your spells' charges are all replenished at the start of the next battle. I was unsure about this change at first, but the farther I got into the game, the more I loved it. This absolutely should be how Fire Emblem does magic going forward.
The support levels aren't as pronounced in Three Houses as they were in previous Fire Emblem games. You still get a slight combat boost to accuracy and evasion when adjacent to a unit with which you have good support, but more important than that are the effects to the battalions and gambits. Every unit can equip a battalion like an item, and the battalions give a stat boost and a bonus ability called a gambit depending on the battalion type and level. When you have multiple units adjacent to an enemy, they all join in on your gambit, strengthening your attack. Likewise, you can get a boost if you have allied units within attack range of an enemy unit that you're attacking. The support effects may be less openly pronounced than in previous games, but I'd argue that they're actually more important and a lot deeper than in previous games as far as strategy applications go.
The game's story revolves around a mysterious threat to the monastery in the game's first part, but I'm not going to mention anything about the game's second part because it's hard to say anything about it without going into straight spoilers, and this game is just too dang good to risk that. I will say, though, that there are four distinct paths you can choose in the game, but that's as much as I'm going to say. The story is pretty standard Fire Emblem stuff, but it's so exceptionally well told (as is usually the case with Fire Emblem) that I found myself unable to pull away from the game most of the time. The artstyle is absolutely gorgeous, the sound design is completely perfect, and the characters all feel real and distinct from one another. My only complaint with any of that is that some of the environmental textures - especially the floors in the monastery - are frankly garbage. They're super low resolution and just look ugly compared to the otherwise gorgeous character models.
I'm sure there's a lot that I should have said and didn't, but really, I doubt any review could really do justice to this game. I am, admittedly, a bit biased because I love Fire Emblem SO much and am such a huge fan of the Switch, but this truly is a spectacular game and right up there with Awakening as a prime example of what a strategy RPG should be. If you have a Switch, you absolutely owe it to yourself to add this game to your collection. If you don't have a Switch, this game alone is reason enough to buy one. I can't heap enough praise onto Fire Emblem: Three Houses. It's kind of a masterpiece, guys.
My Rating - 5 Neps
Also available on Windows
My Girlfriend is a Mermaid!? was an impulse buy for me. Being a visual novel with cute anime girls, how could I possibly say no? For the most part, it's exactly like you'd expect from a visual novel - a cute story with likable characters and a handful of different endings depending on what choices you made at certain junction points throughout the game. While sticking to the formula isn't a bad thing when it's a solid tried-and-true formula, the other side of that safe route is that it also doesn't really stand out from the crowd too much.
The game's story revolves around the main character returning to his childhood hometown during a summer break from college to get away from the city and relax in the quiet countryside. While hiking in the mountains, he is reunited with a dear childhood friend...who has, at some point, transformed into a mermaid. Naturally, he is quite perplexed. This confusion grows when he encounters a younger (and much more cognitively challenged) mermaid later on. From there, the story focuses on his interpersonal relationships with the two mermaids as well as his attempts to understand just what the hell is going on and what mermaid ecology and psychology is like especially compared to that of humans. It's a cute tale that does suck you in, but it pretty much follows the visual novel how-to roadmap right down to the token tsundere and yandere characters and the obligatory "totally unexpected" plot twist.
The ambient background sounds and voice acting are pretty par for the course although having the choice between Japanese and Korean voice acting was a nice surprise as I was only expecting Japanese voices. The artstyle, however, is very well done. Each of the characters are beautifully drawn, and the facial expressions each has really add to the story and illustrate the emotion behind each line of dialogue pretty well. There are a few exceptions, of course, and there are only a handful of facial expressions that get recycled, but what is there is extremely well done. The backgrounds, as well, really stood out to me as something special because they're not just photographs with character images pasted over them; they have an almost oil painting look to them, and while I suspect they might be photographs that have been digitally edited, they are nonetheless gorgeous.
My Girlfriend is a Mermaid!? is a bit of an odd game for me when it comes to either recommending it or not because it's such a niche product. Most people are not going to be interested in a video game that's 99.9% reading especially when the story is about cute anime half-fish girls. If that IS your cup of tea, however, then while it's not treading new ground in the genre, it does the genre quite well. If you're a #SwitchCorps collector or just fond of cute anime visuals novels, then yeah, for sure check this one out. If you're just a casual visual novel fan, maybe keep an eye out for a sale on Steam, but truthfully, there isn't anything here that the average Switch gamer is likely to find particularly interesting.
My Rating - 3 Neps
Also available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Android, iOS, Windows Phone, and Tizen
Dynamite Fishing really helps me connect with my heritage. I don’t mean my French heritage or my German heritage but rather by Southern white trash heritage, floating down a river in a bathtub and blowing up fish with sticks of dynamite. Seriously though, it’s a dumb game, and it’s a simple game, but it’s an oddly addicting game once you get into it.
The gameplay consists entirely of picking some trashy character, getting in some gaudy makeshift boat, and floating down a river while you carry out a horrible genocide on the river’s underwater denizens. You’ll have a CPU opponent whose final score you have to try to beat, but honestly, if you just go around chucking dynamite everywhere, you’ll probably win no problem. Not entirely unlike the fishing minigames in the Legend of Zelda games, it’s a super simple concept that shouldn’t be all that alluring but that, nonetheless, ends up being pretty hard to put down. Granted, even with that, I’d be hard pressed to spent more than twenty or thirty minutes at a time playing this game, but for those periods of time that I did play, I actually found myself having a lot more fun than I expected.
The cast of characters are interesting enough although they’re pretty much all caricatures and stereotypes from the white trash in overalls, a trucker cap, with eternal five o'clock shadow to the black guy with gold chains all over the place. Given that the entire game is a caricature of a ridiculous premise, it’s fitting, but I can’t help but ponder the troublesome effects of perpetuating social and racial stereotypes for the sake of humor. The gameplay itself is fun, though, and I guess at the end of the day, that’s the most important thing for a game to have. Dynamite Fishing is FAR from a must-have game, but if you see it on sale on the eShop for a dollar or less, I’d say go ahead and give it a download.
My Rating - 2 Neps
Also available on Windows
Bouncy Bob is a hyper simplistic physics based game that would be a hard sell even at the sale price I paid of $0.01. I mean, yeah, it was only a penny, but that’s a sliver of storage space that could be spent on something way more useful like a funny screenshot. In all seriousness, though, it really is a disappointing game that’s not good for much more than a few minutes of mindless entertainment here and there. I personally found it to be much less entertaining than Solitaire, and that’s been a standard pack-in game on Windows for like a quarter of a century.
The basic point of the game is that you hold a button to charge up a jump and use the control stick to steer your character in the air. Zombies will spawn, and you have to try to land on them to kill them or collect one of the occasional arrow power-ups that sends arrows flying down and try to hit them with an arrow. When you reach a certain score, the exit portal opens. That’s it. That’s a whole game. There’s a little bit of variety with the stage layout, but the actual gameplay stays pretty much the same.
The game’s visuals are pretty mediocre. The titular character is just a black blob with a goofy face and some appendages. There’s absolutely nothing particularly memorable about the sound design, and the enemies are as bland looking at the player character. The backgrounds look nice for what they are, but as the game largely went for a fairly silhouette art style, there just isn’t a lot of detail. It’s not an unplayable game by any means, but I don’t know why anyone would want to play it. It’s just boring.
My Rating - 1 Nep
Also available on PlayStation, Nintendo 64, Mac OS, MS-DOS, and Windows
Command and Conquer is a name almost synonymous with the real time strategy genre, and the original game is one of the absolute classic PC games of the mid 1990s. Originally releasing in 1995 for MS-DOS and Mac OS before being ported to Windows, Saturn, and PlayStation in 1996 and Nintendo 64 in 1999, the original Command and Conquer remains an extremely fun and playable if rather dated strategy experience, and while RTS is not known as a genre that makes the conversion to console particularly well, the Saturn did a surprisingly good job of it.
The basic story of Command and Conquer is pretty similar to the real world Cold War scenario that took place before this fictional setting; there are two main powers, the UN-backed Global Defense Initiative and the enigmatic and cult-like Brotherhood of Nod, and the majority of the world's powers back one of the two. The unofficial subtitle for this first Command and Conquer game is Tiberian Dawn, and it marks the start of the Tiberian series, one of the main series within the Command and Conquer franchise. This naming scheme is because of a new extraterrestrial resource that appeared around this time called Tiberium with the military conflicts between Nod and the GDI being in large part resource wars. There are two campaigns each with 15 missions. In one of these, you play as the GDI trying to wrestle control of Eastern Europe away from Nod. In the other, you play as the Brotherhood of Nod in an attempt to solidify your control over pro-GDI sections of Africa.
What makes most RTS conversions for consoles stumble is the controls as RTS really needs a mouse and keyboard to work truly well. That hasn't really changed here, but the Saturn pad does do a surprisingly good job once you get a feel for it. It never felt quite as natural as a mouse, but I had no trouble whatsoever controlling my units. As for content, while the Windows version certainly looks a bit nicer, and the Nintendo 64 version had some cool looking 3D models (despite lacking cut scenes), the Saturn version is a virtually perfect port of the DOS original. No content has been cut from the original DOS release, and while the Saturn version does lack the extra 15 missions from the Covert Operations expansion that PC got (it was included in the PlayStation release, as well, although that version ran a bit slower and had lower quality audio), the fact that the audio is virtually identical to the PC release and the game runs smoothly with no slowdown that I noticed makes this the version to play if you are (for whatever reason) not going to play on PC. I played on Saturn because I wanted to see how it held up, but I did play through the Covert Operations missions on PC to compare. Those are just random scenarios, though, and aren't related to the storyline, so I didn't really care that much about those.
Although the game is most known for being a pioneer of modern RTS gaming, that gameplay actually isn't the highlight; the FMV cut scenes and soundtrack are. The soundtrack is absolutely fantastic with a style of rock you just don't hear these days. The cut scenes are 100% pure mid 90s cheese, and it's absolutely amazing. They're absolutely shameless and a perfect example of "so bad it's good," and that's something the series has become somewhat known for. It's honestly worth playing through for the music and FMV scenes alone even if you're not a fan of the gameplay.
Command and Conquer has not aged well, but it's still quite playable and an absolute classic. If your options are wide open, I'd definitely recommend the PC version, but it's really remarkable how well the controls hold up on Saturn once you've spent a mission or two getting a feel for it. Being nearly 25 years old, it doesn't look as impressive it probably did once upon a time, but the music is just as awesome as ever and truly the most unforgettable part of the game. Regardless of what version you play be it PC, N64, PS1, or Saturn, Command and Conquer is definite must for strategy game enthusiasts.
My Rating - 4 Neps
Also available on Switch and Windows
One of the first things that people learn about me when they get to know me as a gamer is that I'm a MASSIVE Neptunia superfan. One of my long term goals is to get the platinum trophy in every Neptunia game (which is the only reason I played this on PS4 instead of Switch despite having pre-ordered both versions). Being such a huge Neptunia fan, I've played the whole series, and I'll be the first to admit that some entries are a lot better than others. Super Neptunia RPG, unfortunately, falls on the "not so good" end of that spectrum, but that's not to say that it's a downright terrible game. It's not as good as most of the other Neptunia games, but it's not without its merits. After all, at least it's not Producing Perfection or Megatagmension Blanc + Neptune vs. Zombies.
Super Neptunia RPG was a lot of firsts for the series. The first 2D platforming style game. The first game released on a Nintendo system (or a non-Sony console at all since I don't count PC). The first game produced by a Western studio. That last one is what had me the most uneasy, and that's what I pin most of the game's problems on. There are a number of issues, but honestly, the writing is what bothered me most. It's clear that Idea Factory and Compile Heart either trusted Artisan Studios too much or dropped the ball on oversight. Neptunia has never been a magnum opus series for writing, but Super Neptunia RPG just sounds like a bad fanfiction. The dialogue feels forced and just doesn't flow like it should. This is a more minor complaint, but the characters' representations also feel less fleshed out than usual. It's really clear what most characters are supposed personify. Planeptune is Sega, Plutia is the cancelled Sega Pluto prototype Saturn redesign, Uzume is the Dreamcast, Neptune is the cancelled Sega Neptune console, and Nepgear is the Game Gear. Lastation is Sony, Noire is the Playstation, and Uni is the PSP. Lowee is Nintendo, Blanc is the Wii, and Rom and Ram represent the DS. Leanbox is Microsoft, and Vert is Xbox. Eden is NEC, and Peashy is the PC-Engine. Tari is Atari, and Rei Ryghts is the Atari 2600. Some of the characters in this game, however, are just...I don't know what they represent. I don't even know if Artisan knows what they're supposed to represent. IMMERSION BROKEN.
Most people probably won't be as put off by the meh writing as I was. The biggest problem for most people is going to be the performance. I don't know how it stacks up against the Steam and Switch versions, and I don't know how it performs on base PS4, but I was playing on PS4 Pro, and I still had a LOT of apparent performance issues. Menus were as sluggish as the Xbox One dashboard at launch, loading sometimes felt like a Wii U or Sega CD game, and there were a lot of quality of life things that were just unusually absent. There were no options to sort your items. Yeah, there was a "Sort" button, but I still have no idea what criterion the game used to sort them, and there were no options. Just "Sort." Some menus - most noticeably the menu to use an item in battle - had both X and O confirm the item use even though O was clearly balled "Back." Speaking of items, the Berry, an early game healing item, bizarrely had its icon turn from a berry to a plain white box about halfway through my game and never turn back. Sometimes Neptune would make an endlessly falling animation when changing rooms even though she was standing in place on the ground. Inputs would lag especially in menus. It was just...bizarre. I don't remember the last game I played that had performance that bad in menus. If you used the fast forward option in battles to get through grinding faster, the game would go faster than it could load, so it would sometimes just stutter in the middle of the fight. It's a 2D game; how does it even have that much data for a PS4 Pro to load that it stutters? All around, this just seems like a mechanically flawed game.
Now that I've thoroughly crapped on the game, let me point out some of its redeeming qualities. The equipment, while super clunky in the menu, is pretty varied and has abilities and attacks tied to it. Until you've "mastered" that ability by winning a certain number of battles with the item equipped, you can only use that ability or attack when you've got that item equipped. Once you've mastered it, you can use it even when something else is equipped. This gives a real incentive to use a bunch of different weapons and accessories even if the pure stats of the item aren't necessarily the greatest. Rarely does a game give me a reason to use a weapon other than the one with the best stats. That's something I can appreciate. The dungeons were also pretty enjoyable to explore with areas initially blocked off until you progress far enough in the game to unlock jumping upgrades. Unfortunately, aside from those two aspects, nothing else is really exceptional. The rest of the game ranges from "Okay" to "Are we sure this isn't still in beta?"
Super Neptunia RPG, despite being the latest entry in my favorite game series, is not a game that I can readily recommend. It's not terrible, but it's not "good" either. It's a solidly okay platformer RPG, and I really think the big mistake here was letting a Canadian company handle the development. Nothing against Canadians, but Artisan Studio clearly wasn't up to the task. Considering that IF is the mascot for Idea Factory and a Neptunia character (along with Compa, a personification of Compile Heart), they really should have either kept this one in-house or at least outsourced development to a studio with a proven track record. WayForward could have done a stellar job with this. If you want a cute and fairly mindless 2D RPG, then sure, you can do worse than this one provided you can find it on sale down the line for less than $25, but honestly, while I say I overall enjoyed my time with it, and it was an easy platinum trophy, it's a hard sell to someone who's not already a passionate Nep fan.
And here's a bonus image so I can show off.
My Rating - 3 Neps
Super Mario Maker was one of the most unexpected gems in the Wii U's library, and when the Switch was announced, we all knew that a Super Mario Maker would make its way to the system in some form given the relative success of Super Mario Maker on Wii U and 3DS. Thankfully for fans, Super Mario Maker 2 is a full fledged sequel rather than an enhanced port complete with loads of new features and changes.
In addition to the four styles included in the original Super Mario Maker - Super Mario Bros (NES), Super Mario Bros 3 (NES), Super Mario World (SNES), and New Super Mario Bros U (Wii U) - a new style, Super Mario 3D World (Wii U) is also included. The game also makes a number of highly anticipated additions besides the new style including slopes (something so simple but so anticipated), the Angry Sun, snake blocks, and special level clear conditions to name a few. Unfortunately, there were a few changes I feel are negatives, as well. The hilarious bizarre "weird Mario" power-up was removed from the original as was all amiibo functionality and the plethora of awesome costumes that they allowed in the Wii U Mario Maker. The omission of amiibo support is an especially big blow for me as those costumes were my favorite part of Super Mario Maker (also I've spent an ungodly amount of money I don't have maintaining a complete amiibo collection).
Setting aside the tragic lack of amiibo support, the audio and visual design in Super Mario Maker 2 are every bit as high quality as one would expect from Nintendo. The mechanics are great and fluid, and while the game naturally doesn't control exactly like the originals on which the styles are based (it has been almost 35 years since Super Mario Bros released on NES, after all), they're modernized and homogenized in a way that balances playability with relative faithfulness to the original source material. The creation tools are all easy to learn and simple to use, and while I do personally miss the use of the Wii U gamepad, the Switch's control options work just fine in its absence.
There is one major addition to Super Mario Maker 2 that I've neglected to mention so far - story mode. Honestly - and this is one of the VERY few times I'll ever say this about a game - I don't think a single player story mode was really necessary here. That's not to say that it isn't welcome - it's a fun experience and serves as an excellent example of some of the level creation options to be found in the game - but I'm just not sure that a game all about level creation and sharing really needs a single player story. Sure, the original game had the 100 Mario challenge, but this is an actual story mode complete with plot, Toad characters, overarching objective, and even a couple cut scenes. It's very well done, mind you, and a welcome addition. It just wasn't an expected addition.
While there are a couple of changes from the original Super Mario Maker that leave a very sour taste in my mouth, the overall package in Super Mario Maker 2 is absolutely incredible and a definite must-own for all Switch gamers. If you want to practice your Mario skills with some easy levels, put your skills to the test with the ultimate brutal levels, or just get a good giggle with a good auto-Mario style level, someone has made or will soon make the perfect level for you. With the enthusiastic Mario Maker community online, the problem of "I wish I had new Mario levels to play" is forever a thing of the past, and Super Mario Maker is a great party game as well. Some folks might say that $60 is a bit steep for a make-your-own-levels game, but I'd argue that it's a downright bargain for that very reason. You've got virtually limitless possibilities with Super Mario Maker 2, and while some of the levels you'll find online are definite crap, some of those levels far surpass even Nintendo's most well designed levels. If you own a Switch (or maybe plan to get one later this year with the newly announced Switch Lite), you absolutely owe it to yourself to check out Super Mario Maker 2.
My Rating - 4 Neps
Also available on PlayStation 4
Super Robot Wars T is a massive crossover of roughly two dozen mecha game and anime series many of which are quite obscure in the West in one massive strategy RPG experience. Due to difficulties with licensing issues, only a small handful of games in Super Robot Wars series have been released in the West despite the series including more than six dozen entries if you include spin-offs and the like. Technically, this wasn't released in the West, either, but fortunately for me and like-minded English speaking gamers, the Southeast Asia release of Super Robot Wars T included English subtitles on both Switch and PS4.
Given that this was my first SRW experience, I wasn't sure what to expect going in aside from an SRPG. That alone didn't tell me the whole story; would it be like Final Fantasy Tactics, Fire Emblem, Golden Sun, SD Gundam, or something entirely different? In the end, what the game offers is a cross of SD Gundam and Fire Emblem; the gameplay feels almost identical to the recent SD Gundam G Generation Genesis with more of a Fire Emblem-esque focus on characters rather than using in-game currency to assemble your own mobile suit army. Fortunately (or I suppose perhaps unfortunately depending on your perspective and taste), the game omits Fire Emblem's permadeath; unless that unit was a key part of that chapter's story, any destroyed units will be right back in your roster for the next chapter.
So what IS the story of Super Robot Wars T? That's...complicated. Because it tries to blend so many series that take place in completely separate universes - a feat it pulls of brilliantly, all things considered - the story is SUPER convoluted and all over the place. It makes sense for the most part, but it's definitely not easy to follow. Basically, your avatar/protagonist works for a company called VTX Union and is working on manufacturing a prototype mobile suit to pitch to the Earth Federation Forces for adoption as the EFF's new mass produced suit. Then, as if straight out of the Bush administration, terrorists attack! Your workgroup, VTX's Special Section 3, end up working with the EFF to weed out these terrorists and end up discovering a sinister plot to disrupt the stability of the Earth's government. Actually, you end up discovering like six or seven different plots, each more sinister than the last, that are all being put in motion all at once. Not only do you have to contend with terrorists, but you also have to battle Neo Zeon, the Martian Successors, the Jupiter Empire, the Jovian Federation, the 31 Machine Primevals, space monsters, Dr. Hell, some probably-a-pedophile priest-looking dude with a claw, whatever Rita Repulsa-looking hoe is the antagonist in Magic Knight Rayearth, some aliens from God knows what galaxy called the UND, and probably a couple other groups of bad guys I forgot about it. Yeah, it's a wild ride, but for the most part, the game's pacing and storytelling (with an admitted flawed translation in places) manage to keep the plethora of plot threads going smoothly with minimal narrative confusion.
While various Gundam series only make up about 1/3 of the units in the game, I'm a gigantic Gundam slut, so aside from Spike's Swordfish from Cowboy Bebop and two Super Robot Wars original units that I took a liking to (one of which is my protag), my entire team consisted of Gundams. There's nothing quite like going up against space monsters with Zeta Gundam, ZZ Gundam, Gundam Mk-II, Nu Gundam, HiNu Gundam, two different Crossbone Gundams, two mass production Gundam F91s, Burning Gundam, Dragon Gundam, Bolt Gundam, and Noble Gundam. GUNDAM GUNDAM GUNDAM. I mean, I COULD have used Rayearth, GaoGaiGar, Mazinger Z, Brownie, or Dann of Thursday, but those are Gundams and therefore are inferior. The variety is fantastic, however; you end up with something like three as many units as you can even field, so there's an enormous about of unit variety. Between missions, you can spend accrued funds to upgrade suits, use special training to give pilots an XP boost, attach extra parts to enhance mobile suits, and even juggle your pilots around to different suits within a series. For example, I had Elle from ZZ Gundam piloting Nu Gundam, and I had Fa from Zeta Gundam piloting a Jegan.
Visually, the game looks fantastic. The animations are crisp, clear, and fluid, and the character models all look superb. The characters keep a roughly homogeneous look so as to appear to be from the same universe for the most part while still maintaining the essence of each series' unique art styles. Magic Knight Rayearth characters, being guilty of the super stereotypical 90s anime gigantic eyes, stand out the most in terms of appearance, but other than them, pretty much everyone looks like they all fit in together. The same is true of the mobile suits. Gundams still look distinct from Armored Troopers and the Brave Express robots, but none of them look out of place from one another. That's quite the accomplishment for the game's art designers to have pulled off in my opinion. The battle animations - which are literally the most amazing battle animations I've ever seen in an SRPG - are just the icing on the cake. They can be rather lengthy, so I ended up skipping most of them, but they're freaking amazing and arguably the most badass thing about the entire game.
The game's soundtrack is also almost perfect. As one would expect, it incorporates iconic music from each of the various series, and my one and only complaint with how this is done is that the transitions are jarring. Whenever you use a unit, the game plays the music from that unit's series. The only problem is that in the span of two or three minutes, you could go from Cowboy Bebop's high energy jazz to Gundam's more orchestral battle music to GaoGaiGar's...whatever rock/jazz/vocal spasm genre that is. Individually, they're all pretty great and fit the tone, but the transitions are a bit rough. It also would have been nice to be able to disable certain series' music as the theme from Magic Knight Rayearth makes me want to pierce my eardrums with an ice pick. It is, however, a small price to pay for Cowboy Bebop.
I truly cannot overstate how much I loved this game. The just over 60 hours I spent with it were an absolute blast, and I can absolutely see myself replaying the game in a few years after I've seen more of the series that lent characters and units to it. The fact that so many different series with such drastically different styles and characters were so relatively seamlessly blended together into a single game with a single continuous story still astounds me and in my opinion, really blows a hole in the "Infinity War is the most ambitious crossover" claim. When you've got Spike, Amuro, Van, Guy, Harlock, and Koji all on the same battlefield, THAT is the most gloriously ambitious crossover hands down. If you're not a fan of mecha anime or strategy RPGs, then there's probably not much here for you, but if that is your jam, then you absolutely owe it to yourself to check this game out. SE Asian English imports aren't the cheapest things in the world, I know, but this one is absolutely worth the expense if you're able to spare the cash.
My Rating - 5 Neps
I'm a teacher.
And I like to play video games. I like to collect video games. I like to talk about video games, and I like to write about video games. During the day, I teach high school history; during the night, I spend my spare time gaming. Then I write about it.