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
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.