Civilization VI (Switch)
Also available on Linux, OSX, and Windows
It's often said that heroin, nicotine, and cocaine are the most addictive things in the world. Have no experience with those substances, I can only take recovered addicts at their word. I do, however, carry with me a strong suspicion based on personal experience that even as addictive as those drugs are, they pale in comparison to the highly addictive nature of Civilization. "Just one more turn, I swear" inevitably turns into 50 more turns. "Oh, it's only 9:15," you think as you glance at the clock. Five minutes later, it's 4 am, and you have to get ready for work in an hour. Oops. The only saving grace we had with Civ 6 before was that it was tied to PC meaning that one had to be at a computer in order to play or, if one had a laptop, survive having the heat of a thousand suns on one's lap as that poor laptop CPU tried desperately to keep up with everything going on. Then, out of a void in our hearts that we never knew needed to be filled, 2K says "Hey, what if we put this on Switch?" Thanks, figurative drug dealer, for enabling my addiction even further.
When I finally broke down and ordered Civilization VI on Switch, I was expecting it to be a lot like comparing Civilization V and Civilization Revolution - the same core Civilization gameplay but in a MUCH simplified form that works better on console. To my surprise, that's not at all what I got. What I got was Civilization VI. Not slimmed down, not condensed, not kinda-sorta-but-only-barely. It's legit Civilization VI. The only big differences between the Switch version and the PC version (aside from the obvious visual effects absent) are the lack of the two major expansions on PC and the lack of community mod support. Other than that, this is the complete Civilization VI package. Even the small expansions like the Nubian and Australian civilizations are present. The fact that they put that masterful PC game on what is frankly an underpowered tablet and got it to run beautifully is in itself an amazing feat in my book.
The game I played lasted (so far) about 700 turns since I'm the very definition of "methodical" in my Civilization games, and in all that time, I only experienced one crash. The only two complaints I have with the game are the solid five or six minutes it takes to load a game and the tenish seconds of hiccuping that happens between turns as the system processes what the AI opponents do during their turn. Those two things do definitely get annoying, but it's worth noting that Civilization VI isn't exactly a fast loading game on PC (unless you're rich and have an all SSD build with shit tons of RAM), and it's not at all uncommon to have some short lag between turns on PC, either. It's worth noting that the vent on the top of the Switch DOES sound a Boeing 747 during takeoff and pumps out enough heat to melt steel beams during gameplay, but the game volume usually drowned out the fan in my experience. Besides that, it's not like it could possibly be any louder than the Dreamcast's disc drive.
This all sounds great, right? A no compromises port of Civilization VI on Switch - what could be better? Well, buckle up, buttercup, 'cause it gets better. Not only is this a dream of a port job, but it supports cross platform cloud saves. Provided that you don't use expansions or mods unavailable on Switch, you can start a game on PC, play two or three hours, save, and as long as your 2K account is linked both on PC and on your Switch, you can download your PC save and keep playing on Switch. "One more turn" just became an even deadlier lie to tell yourself. It works the other way, too; if you're on a plane, let's say, and you start a game on Switch, but you're just 10 or 15 turns away from finally shutting up those damn French for good, you can save the game, boot up your PC at home, and keep playing from the comfort of your undoubtedly overpriced PC chair. It's a feature I never knew I wanted, but dear god, is it a nice feature to have.
I know that older Civilization games had been ported to consoles during the 90s, but having only been playing Civ for the past five or six years, I was admittedly unsure of how a console port would go. I've played Civilization V and Civilization VI on PC, and I've played Civilization Revolution and Civilization Revolution 2+ on 360 and Vita, respectively, so that's what I was expecting a console port of Civilization VI to be - stripped down and bare bones - and I suspect that other Civilization fans probably had similar concerns. Let me assure everyone, then, that this is not the case. Civilization VI on Switch is as full fledged and full featured a console port as possible, and absolutely no aspect of the game whatsoever has left me disappointed. I've read that sales of Civilization VI on Switch have far exceeded 2K's projections, too, so that makes me hopeful that the Rise and Fall and Gathering Storm DLC expansions will make their to way to Switch someday, as well. If you're a fan of disgustingly deep and addicting strategy games, you owe it to yourself to pick up a copy of this game on Switch.
My Rating - 5 Neps
Yoshi's Crafted World (Switch)
Yoshi's Crafted World was honestly probably the Switch game currently available for which I've been the most excited leading up to launch day. Yoshi's Woolly World is my absolute favorite first party game on Wii U, so when a follow up on Switch got announced, I was bursting at the seams (no pun intended) with excitement. Feel Good had already proven they knew how to make a fun, approachable, and cute platformer with Woolly World, and with them at the helm for Crafted World as well, I had full confidence that this would be an instant classic.
So does Crafted World stand up to the high bar set by Woolly World? Well, mostly. I think Woolly World was still a much better game overall, but that's not to detract from the exceptional experience that Good Feel crafted for Switch owners. You've got something like 50 levels and over 500 smiley flowers (basically this game's power stars) to collect. Some of those flowers are found as collectibles throughout the levels, but every level has one that's awarded for collecting 100 coins in that level, one that's awarded for finishing the level with all 20 hit points, and one awarded for finding all 20 red coins in that level. Each level also has a "flip side" with three flower-bearing Poochy pups to find. If you find all of that level's Poochy pups within a set time limit, you're awarded an additional smiley flower.
The levels themselves provide a ton of variety to keep things interesting, as well. Most levels are the standard designs you'd expect from a platformer - get to the end of the level, yay, you're the winner. Every now and then, however, they throw in a challenge level where half of the collectible smiley flowers are based on your performance. One, for example, has you pilot a giant Yoshi mech, and you have to rack up 9000 points - easier said than done - to get all three flowers. One is a race in solar powered cars, so you have to carefully change lanes both to keep out of the shade and to keep ahead of your AI opponents. One has you flying a plane from a horizontally scrolling perspective where you control the pitch of the plane. On top of that, there are a few boss levels scattered throughout the game as you seek out the five scattered magic dream meth crystals or whatever plot device they decided to use to justify the purpose of the game.
As was the case with Woolly World's yarn style, the use of a craft theme naturally lends itself to gorgeous visuals. I do, however, with Nintendo didn't seem to have this stubborn refusal to use adequate anti-aliasing. Yoshi's Crafted World looks great, but it would look downright stunning if the jagged edges were just smoothed. Despite the jagged lines, though, it's still a beautiful game with a fantastic art direction. The music, as well, is the same high quality that most Yoshi games bring to the table. It's not a perfect game, but it's still an exceptionally good 2D platformer and a definite must-have for any Switch owner. It started to get a little bit tedious towards the end, but it does provide a perfect way to relax and unwind at the end of a long and frustrating workday.
My Rating - 4 Neps
Moemon (Game Boy Advance)
Have you ever been playing Pokemon and thought to yourself, "Man, I wish these adorable little creatures that I'm forcing to fight to the death were SUPER adorable little girls I could force to fight to the death"? If so, then you're in luck, because Moemon turns Pokemon Emerald into exactly that game. In terms of content and Pokemon included, it's exactly the same game as Pokemon Emerald. With the exception of Pokemon sprites, absolutely nothing is changed, but holy shit, these new sprites are impressive (and kawaii af).
All 386 Pokemon sprites have been completely replaced; every Pokemon sprite has been made into an adorable anime girl. From my experience with the game, a good chunk seem to have had their Pokedex data removed and replaced with just "X" presumably as a placeholder that, at least by the release of the version I have downloaded, never got replaced. Honestly, though, who actually reads the Pokedex entries? We're all here for the cute moe girl catching and the death battles, and in that respect, it delivers beautifully.
What this ROM hack doesn't provide, however, is a truly new Pokemon experience. The story, region, NPCs, etc are all 100% identical to the original Pokemon Emerald from what I could tell with the ONLY alterations made being the Pokemon sprites. To some folks, that's going to be disappointing, but to others, that might be a welcome thing. I, personally, like my Pokemon hacks to be as new and different as possible, but I know some folks are going to want to just experience a familiar with with a twist, and Moemon provides just that. If that return to familiarity is what you want AND you like cute 32- bit anime girls, then look no further. If you want an all new and original Pokemon adventure, however, then I'd probably direct you towards Pokemon Vega.
My Rating - 3 Neps
Also available on Wii U
One of the ironic things about the sixth Fire Emblem game, Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade, is that despite the fact that the inclusion of a character from the game - the protagonist, Roy - in Super Smash Bros. Melee is a big part of what got Westerners talking about Fire Emblem, it's never received an official English translation. Fortunately for SRPG aficionados likes me, Fire Emblem has a pretty dedicated fanbase which produced a high quality fan translation patch for the series's handheld debut.
The first game in the Fire Emblem series to get a Western release was the seventh game, Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade (simply titled "Fire Emblem" in the West), but that was actually a prequel to this previous game. In Binding Blade, the game centers around Roy, the son of the seventh game's Lord Ephiram, as he sets out to discover why the nearby neighbor of Bern has launched a war of aggression and shattered the peace that the continent had worked so hard to maintain. Most Fire Emblem games follow a fairly similar story structure, but in typical Fire Emblem fashion, the quality of the storytelling and the absolutely fantastic character development make up for the relatively generic nature of the story itself.
From what I've read about the game's development, Intelligent Systems tried to make Binding Blade more forgiving than the previous entry in the series, the Super Famicom's Fire Emblem: Thracia 776. That alone makes me terrified to play Thracia 776 eventually as Binding Blade already had more than its share of challenges. The game's overall difficulty was tough but fair, but there were a few bosses and individual levels that were absolutely brutal if you didn't have a weapon that could exploit a specific weakness. I appear not to be alone in that opinion as Blazing Blade and the 8th game in the series, Sacred Stones, both saw the overall difficulty toned down a bit.
Binding Blade had an interesting development cycle having started its life as Fire Emblem: The Maiden of Darkness on Nintendo 64 before being virtually completely scrapped and moved to Game Boy Advance with only the protagonist, Roy, and a swordmaster character, Karel. Beyond the scrapped development of Maiden of Darkness, though, Binding Blade ended up introducing its own new spins on the series. First and foremost was the introduction of the magic triangle. Since the Super Famicom era, Fire Emblem games have had a weapon triangle; sword beats axe, axe beats lance, and lance beats sword. Binding Blade expanded that mechanic to magic in a system where anima (elemental magic) beats light magic, light magic beats dark magic, and dark magic beats anima. Binding blade wasn't technically the first game in the series to have this sort of advantage system - that would be Genealogy of the Holy War, the fourth game - but whereas Genealogy only had the dis/advantage affect accuracy, Binding Blade expanded that to have an effect on both accuracy and damage, making it much more crucial to the development of effective strategies.
All things considered, Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade made about as impressive a debut on the handheld scene for the series as one could want. The game isn't perfect as there are some minor quality of life things that I found annoying - the inability to use non-combat items like Speedwings and Hero Crests from the pre-battle prep screen, for example - but those are nit picks at best. The only real complaint I have is that the game's balance could have used a little bit of tweaking, but at no point does it feel unbalanced to the point of being broken. I'm not willing to say that Binding Blade is the best game in the Fire Emblem series, but it definitely is the best of the first six games that saw retail release.
My Rating - 4 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.