Also available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows
Question - what's better than brutally slaughtering Nazis and white robed Klansmen?
Answer - brutally slaughtering Nazis and white robed Klansmen on the go.
This is the beautiful world we entered when Bethesda had the brilliant minds at Panic Button port their Nazi-killing masterpiece Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus to Nintendo Switch. Crated with the same brilliance and attention to detail as Panic Button's previous but no less impressive Doom port, shows once again that when in the hands of talent developers, the Switch is not only the little system that could but the little system that does more than it has any business being capable of doing.
Since I already reviewed this game on Xbox One when it first came out, this is going to be a shorter review as I'm primarily going to focus on some comparisons between my experience with the game on the two different platforms as well as how it generally looks, sounds, and plays on Switch. As one would naturally expect when going from a 4K-capable console to a handheld, the visuals took a big hit on Switch, but as was the case with Doom, it's not as bad as one might reasonably assume. The resolution took a BIG hit - it drops down to the sub-SD resolution of 360p - but the trade off is that most of the lighting effects are kept intact (albeit blurry) and the frame rate is shockingly stable. That was one of my few issues with Panic Button's Switch port of Doom - the frame rate was fairly unstable depending on how many enemies were on screen. I didn't notice any of those issues in Wolfenstein II. It seems that the variable resolution system was much improved for this port, and it really shows where performance is concerned.
Stemming from the necessary visual downgrades comes a similar situation to the Doom port. As was the case with Doom, the game looks pretty terrible when playing docked, but it looks totally fine when playing handheld. Its visual downgrades are still apparent, mind you. The small screen hides a lot of the game's visual flaws and blemishes, and the end result is that while it may look pretty disappointing on a 65" TV screen, it looks totally fine on a screen 90% smaller. The cutscenes, it's worth noting, look much nicer than the actual gameplay. That's to be expected, naturally, but the difference in this case is pretty major. Fortunately given the top notch voice acting and soundtrack, the audio carries over pretty perfectly to the Switch. The rockin' soundtrack still hits just as hard, and the voice acting is still just as brilliantly performed.
Given the system specs on the Switch, it's really amazing that Panic Button managed to fit the whole game onto the system without cutting any content. The physical release does require a download as not all of it was fit onto the cartridge, but still, the fact of the matter is that NOTHING was stripped out. This is a fully intact port. It's just a bit blurry, but again, that's really only going to be a major thing if you're playing it docked. If you want to play on your sofa with the TV, then yeah, go PS4 or Xbox One. If you want to be able to play on the go, at work, on the toilet, so on and so forth, then the Switch is a PERFECTLY viable option. It's really quite amazing that it runs so smoothly and doesn't look worse than it does given the system that it's on, and speaking as one who's played the game on the strongest system and the weakest system currently on the market - the Xbox One X and Nintendo Switch, respectively - this is a perfectly playable version and a downright remarkable handheld version.
My Rating - 5 Neps
Also available on Android, Wii U, Switch, and Windows
Ace of Seafood is a masterpiece. It's an absolute masterpiece. Just like Epic Dumpster Bear was for Wii U, Ace of Seafood is a bizarre indie game that scratches an itch you never knew you had - conquering the seas as a fish that shoots lasers out of its mouth. Seriously, that's the whole game. Humans have been wiped out in some nuclear war, and now fish fight for oceanic supremacy with lasers. It's the most gloriously stupid concept I've ever heard.
When you first start the game, you get to pick between three different starter fish, and from there, you have to kill whatever fish you come across and absorb their genetic material. If you get enough genetic material of a certain type of fish, you unlock the ability to breed that fish. Some of these fish are small, weak, and easy to breed like a hermit crab or a sardine. Some of these fish are big, expensive, and pack some serious muscle like the bluefin tuna and the leopard seal. Some of these fish are massive, behemoth boss-tier fish with a price tag to match like the great white shark or the giant squid. Depending on how many reefs you've found and secured, your resource pool for your school of fish increases. This will allow you to add more fish to your school and add better fish to your school. A salmon, for example, takes 40 school resources to add; the giant squid takes 300 school resources. It's all about picking the right tool for the job.
Bizarrely, there are also human ships that you can destroy and collect "genetic" material for to "breed." I don't really get why this is a thing - all the humans are dead, and boats aren't genetic anyway - but whatever, I can have a nuclear submarine fight alongside my giant squid and great white shark. I'm NOT complaining, that's freaking dope. One specific reef leads to the final boss, but it doesn't tell you this until you're there. You're just wandering around, minding your own business, and you beat the guardian fish for this reef, and you enter the reef to save and heal. Next thing you know, it throws you straight into a battle (after auto-saving and healing you, thankfully) with a genetically engineered super fish bio-weapon. That's a tough fight, to say the least, but when you beat Metal Fish Solid (not really the name. Just my dumb nickname), you're rewarded with the end credits. It then puts you back in the ocean by the reef to continue your conquest if you so wish along with some huge schools of invading fish that spawn and must be repelled. I mean, you could ignore them, but where's the fun in that? MUCHO MARINE MASSACRE MAYHEM!!
Ace of Seafood is my new second favorite indie game ever. Epic Dumpster Bear will always be #1 in my heart, but holy crap, Ace of Seafood is absolutely incredible. Objectively speaking, it's not perfect. The targeting can be a little bit finicky, the menus are fairly bare bones with minimal explanations save for the tutorial that's either go through the whole thing again or go through none of it. What it may lack in the final polish that games with the funding and manpower of big development teams or publishers, however, it MORE than makes up for in charm and sheer bizarre awesomeness.
My Rating - 4 Neps
Also available on Xbox One and PlayStation 4
Starlink: Battle for Atlas is perhaps the biggest surprise of 2018 for me. I originally bought it because it was on sale for like $30 on Amazon and had a sweet Arwing model to go along with the Switch-exclusive Starfox content. I thought it was just going to be a stupid toys-to-life cash grab...and it somewhat is. If you buy it physical, it's a total rip-off; you can easily spend close to if not more than $200 on the various ship, pilot, and weapon models. Granted, they're pretty decent quality and look pretty cool, but considering that you can get almost everything digitally if you buy the $60 digital edition...yeah, that's definitely the way to go.
The premise of Starlink is that you're part of a crew of humans on the first interstellar starship bound for the Atlas system in search of the homeworld of Judge, an alien who crashed on Earth. When you get to Atlas, you discover that a race known as the Legion has taken control of the system's seven planets (there used to be eight planets, but then it exploded. It never really explains why) and are attempting to exterminate the native species and drain the planets of electrum, the resource that serves as both energy and currency for Atlas. You then being your quest to pew-pew your way through the star system, murdering countless Legion and conquering/liberating the planets of Atlas. Then, if you're playing on Switch, you can go blow up Wolf because why not?
The missions themselves are pretty cut and dry for the most part, but the majority of my gameplay consisted of scouring every planet to get my discovery percentage to 100 because for some reason, this is one of the few games that captivated me enough to bother 100%ing it. You go through each planet to discover each planet's four biological samples, three unique fauna species, and freeing all of the various ruins and outposts from Legion control. There are also imp hives to destroy (imps are like the Legion's ankle-biter grunt soldiers), Legion Extractors to destroy (they spawn Legion enemies), and eventually Legion Primes to destroy. There's also a "wonder" on each planet that have an exceptionally strong enemy with its small entourage, but if you defeat these enemies, you unlock a "Relic" ship enhancement.
The big selling point for the game is the ability to customize your ship, and aside from the hella pricey physical ship and weapon options, the game does a really good job of giving you a ton of options (just buy it digitally for the sake of your wallet). There are five main weapon types - fire, ice, gravity, stasis, and kinetic. Fire and ice are effective against one another, gravity and stasis are effective against one another, and kinetic is kind of neutral to everything; it's nothing's weakness, but nothing is strong against it, either. If you play on Switch and pilot the Arwing with no weapons attached, you get another option - the Arwing's standard laser cannons. They're not overwhelmingly powerful, and they can't be modified with weapon upgrades, but they pack enough punch to be viable, and there's not much that looks more badass in a space battle. Othwerise, though, there are 19 weapon options, and you can attach a weapon to each of your ship's two wings. You can also Frankenstein up to three wings on one side of your ship, but they just sort of stack onto one another awkwardly making a single sort of chimera wing; you can still only have two weapons equipped.
The neat thing about the physical aspect of the game, rip off though it may be, is that you can make changes on the fly. Find that your weapons aren't working in the middle of a fight? Just pull the weapons off of the figure attached to your controller and slap different ones on there. It changes immediately in the game to reflect the change. Of course, you can also pause the game and do all of this in the menu which is how it needs to be done if you buy the game digitally, but it's pretty cool to see the weapons and ship configuration change immediately. With that said, though, it's not really necessary for you to have all of the weapons unless you're trying to 100% the game. It definitely makes it a ton easier to have ice weapons to use against fire enemies, but it's not necessary. I was able to kill fire enemies with fire weapons, and I used a shotgun in space. It's just harder. Of course, you could always just go with Fox's lasers and pew-pew your enemies to death.
Starlink: Battle for Atlas is an infinitely more legitimate game than I ever expected when I first saw it advertised, and the digital option makes the toys-to-life money pit completely optional. There are a couple of ships and weapons that aren't available digitally (yet at least), but the digital version has a ton of content and configuration options. I really expected to hate it, but I ended up absolutely loving it. My biggest complaint with the game is that the tutorial was really hit or miss. Some features and mechanics are never explained at all and really could have used a tutorial whereas there are some things that are explained over and over again every single time. Pick up a rare piece of salvage? Doesn't matter if it's the first time or the hundredth time, the game will remind you that Prospectors will pay you a bunch for it. Try to use a shotgun in space? Every single freaking time, Razor's stupid face appears on your screen telling you to try a different weapon because the shotgun doesn't have the range needed for space. Like, shut up, woman. I'm an adult; I do what I want. Other than those frustrations, though, I absolutely adored my time with this game.
My Rating - 4 Neps
I'm not the world's biggest fan of Super Smash Bros. The obnoxiously toxic competitive scene (which includes a couple of my friends - you know who you are) kind of ruined it for me. When I bought Smash Ultimate, I did so out of a bizarre feeling of obligation more than anything else. As an avid Switch fan, a collector, and a Nintendo fanboy, I felt like I HAD to buy Smash. Turns out, though, the title "Super Smash Bros Ultimate" is quite fitting as this truly is the best of the five Smash games.
Normally any "single player" in Smash is kind of an afterthought. Brawl made a solid effort with Subspace Emissary, but even then, it was clearly never the focus. Ultimate is different. The adventure mode in Ultimate is a fully fleshed out single player that could easily stand alone as its own game. It kept me busy for around 30 hours, and that's longer than I spend on a lot of full price retail games these days. In addition to that, each of the more than 70 characters has their own unique classic mode. All of that is in addition to the standard local and online multiplayer that Smash is known for. It really feels like they tried to balance the expected multiplayer aspect with a legitimately great single player, and for that, I give some major props.
The adventure mode in Ultimate has you go through a fairly large map fighting TONS of matches against clones of the heroes that have been possessed by spirits (basically replacing the trophies from Melee). Each match you win frees a spirit which you can use to customize a spirit team that enhances your fighting abilities. You can have your fighter start off with a beam sword, start off giant, do extra damage to metal enemies, etc. It adds a TON of options for varying approaches. They also added a Fire Emblem style type triangle to the "primary" spirits that dictate your type so to speak; Attack spirits beat out Grab spirits, Grab spirits beat out Defense spirits, and Defense spirits beat out Attack spirits. There's also a Neutral type that's neither strong to nor weak against any type. Very much like Fire Emblem's Sword > Axe, Axe > Spear, Spear > Sword with magic being the neutral equivalent (before they added the magic triangle). Through adventure mode, you can unlock all of the game's characters, and there are three different endings you can get.
The standard multiplayer Smash mode is exactly what you'd expect; up to eight fighters with a TON of playable characters and a TON of stage options. It's nothing new or exciting aside from a few new items, but it doesn't have to be. They perfected the formula back in Melee; all they've had to do since then is add characters and stages. In that regard, they hit the nail on the head. The toxic competitive try-hards are whining about how they need to nerf this character or buff that character, but speaking as someone who plays Smash to have fun and not stroke my e-peen, it's fine. I mean, I also said that about Brawl, so take that for what it's worth, but if you're just trying to enjoy the game and not turn into CS:GO levels of competitive BS, it's great.
Super Smash Bros Ultimate really is the "ultimate" Smash Bros. Every aspect of this game is clearly carefully crafted. The single player is a truly fantastic experience that could easily stand on its own as an independent game. The fact that the multiplayer remains as masterful as ever makes this about as truly perfect a game as Smash has ever been. This is the perfect Smash package and a definite must-have for all Switch owners.
My Rating - 5 Neps
Among Pokemon fans, the two newest games in the series, Let's Go Pikachu and Let's Go Eevee, are pretty controversial. A lot of the more hardcore fans don't like how "dumbed down" the game is in a lot of ways, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. It's essentially a remake of Pokemon Yellow, but the 3D visuals and the jump to HD make this the most immersive Pokemon experience for me personally to date despite the simplified mechanics and strictly Gen 1 Pokedex.
As the titles suggest, your starting pokemon with either Pikachu or Eevee depending on your version. You quickly get the opportunity to catch the three traditional Gen 1 starters, though, and they became the bedrock of my team. My team ended up being Pikachu (whom I nicknamed Marth), Venusaur, Charizard, Blastoise, Gengar, and Starmie. While some folks have criticized the game for being too easy, I found it to be relaxing more so than childish. That's not to say that the game is completely devoid of challenge. You still need to use some strategy - you can't go fight Lt. Surge with a team of water and flying types and expect it to go well unless you're way over leveled - but it's not nearly as challenging as some of the older entries.
The highlight of the game in terms of my immersion is definitely the HD visuals and having a pokemon of your choice follow behind you. Being a remake of Yellow which was inspired by the anime, the game features the images we've come to know and love for Professor Oak, Jessie and James, Blue, Nurse Joy, and Officer Jenny. The nostalgia here is real for millennials like me. It's not just for my age group, though. In a lot of ways, Let's Go, Pikachu/Eevee is for Pokemon what Mystic Quest was for Final Fantasy. It's designed intentionally to be an entry level game to bring newcomers to the series into the fold. As such, the biggest drive was accessibility. From that perspective, yeah, it's much simpler and less challenging than the mainline entries in the series. If you let that dissuade you from playing it, however, you're making a big mistake.
One of the ways The Pokemon Company tried to make these games accessible is by only including the original 151 pokemon. Part of the reason for this is obviously that diving in head first to nearly 1000 pokemon is going to overwhelm potential newcomers. As a longtime fan, I was personally disappointed that the later pokemon are totally absent from the game, but I can hardly hold that against it; it would be judging the game on what I wanted it to be rather than what it was intended to be. That's what a lot of the user reviews I've seen seem to forget. This isn't a game for the established Pokemon fanbase. There's a lot there for us to love if we stop looking for flaws, but the game isn't for us. It's for newcomers who may have been hooked on Pokemon Go but never played a Pokemon game otherwise, and that's no small group of folks.
What really sets Let's Go apart from the other Pokemon RPGs (as the title should suggest) is its links to Pokemon Go. First and foremost, it uses Pokemon Go's catching mechanic. With the exception of a few boss pokemon, you don't battle wild pokemon, and even those that you do battle, the battle is a separate phase from the catching. The actual capture consists of throwing PokeBalls at the wild pokemon until they decide to stop breaking out. You can do this by "throwing" the Joycon or PokeBall Plus controller as if you would throw a PokeBall or by playing handheld and using the system's gyroscope to aim and pressing A to throw the ball. I personally preferred the latter, but I did get the bundle with the PokeBall Plus controller to try it out. Then my dog ate the controller. It still works and everything, but it looks all chewed up and terrible. So I bought ANOTHER controller! It's fine, though, because you can put a pokemon in the controller (think the PokeWalker from HeartGold and SoulSilver) and "take it for a stroll," using the internal pedometer to level up your pokemon and collect items the more you walk.
In addition to the shared catching mechanic, there are more direct connections with Pokemon Go. First and foremost, you can link your Pokemon Go account with your Switch and transfer pokemon from Pokemon Go to your Pokemon Let's Go game. It's not a two-way transfer - you can only transfer FROM Go TO Let's Go - but it's still super cool that there's a connection. You can also use your PokeBall Plus controller (if you bought one) as a Pokemon Go Plus accessory when you're playing Pokemon Go. These are all pretty small things, but given that the intention is to pull in those Pokemon Go players to the mainline series, it's a really nice touch, and it's a cool little extra feature.
Pokemon Let's Go Pikachu and Eevee aren't the games that established fanbase was wanting, but it's not the established fanbase for whom the game was made. This is a game that was designed to be a more casual, approachable experience to bring new players to the mainline series, and it plays like that. To expect a competitive game with deep battle mechanics is to expect the game to be something it was never intended to be. There is a LOT to love here. 3D visuals in 1080p. Pokemon followers some of which you can ride. A more relaxed experience. Nostalgia for the days of the 90s with the original anime and Gen I games. Even for Pokemon veterans like me, there's a lot to love. As I said with Final Fantasy Mystic Quest, if you let the accessible difficulty level and relatively simplistic mechanics deter you from giving it a play, then you're seriously missing out. This isn't going to challenge an experienced tactical mind, but it will definitely please the nostalgic child from the 1990s trapped within the bodies of cynical and underpaid adults. Really, that's all I need in life.
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.