Review: Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 (Switch)

 

mario and sonicSega, on a roll, II: While its appeal might seem to be more towards super-fans and younger gamers, Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 ($59.99) is quite a fun game overall for all ages. That said, you’d better have a few Switch controllers in tip-top shape and prepare to do a bit of of a workout with your fingers in some of the trickier events. 24 zippy mini-games are here with bright and colorful visuals and a soundtrack that’s suitably Olympic-sounding.

Nostalgic fans who may be a bit older or keen on old-school visuals will very likely love the retro 2D goodness found in the time traveling (via oddball game console trap) Tokyo 1964 storyline and its additional 10 events. The nice thing is the game lets you play through its story modes in order and also lets you have at it in any mini-games here if you just want to grab a few friends and family members (up to 8) and play together. Online play and cloud saves are of course, all aboard if you want to play with a few folks online. That said, it’s good to see the game supports couch play (something more games need).

While it’s kid-friendly, and only supports the less fancier means of control (well, Joy-Cons, motion controls, and some first and third-party game pads), the game doesn’t skimp on the challenge for new players in some events where every bit of precision counts. The 2D retro mode’s games are far easier, bit everything here is well done any guaranteed to get you grinning. You can stay on the couch, too in either mode, but prepare to work those controllers in some events where a bit of precise button pressing, some rapid jamming and other moves need to be pulled off. Notably, there are no voices for the characters outside some generic grunts, but there’s enough of a plot that ties things together if you’re into it and prefer not to skip through short cut scenes and dialog segments.

Switch_Mario&Sonic2020_02v2

Featuring… a cast of DOZENS!

Continue reading

Advertisements

Review: Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD (Switch)

Switch_SuperMonkeyBall_03

You better have those banana grabbing skills down, folks.

SMB_SwitchSega, on a roll (Part I): Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD ($39.99) is a pretty fun time on the Switch, but you better have steady hands and steadier nerves if you want any chance of completing this game. Yes, the multiplayer is a ton of crazy fun here (that could have used a few more games) and that’s a reason some will jump all over this with a few friends. But this is a game where the solo play can be as hair-raising as it gets because it’s too easy to fail (and multiple times at that) some courses if you’re susceptible to anything from an itchy body part or any sort of issues with your controller.

If you’re new to this, it’s a game that will have you cracking up and pulling out hairs in equal measures. There’s a goofy plot here, but all you need to know is you’re a monkey in a big plastic ball and you need to roll, jump and quickly grab bananas as a clock is ticking down, fighting bosses a few times along the way.  You probably won’t be good at this initially, but practice makes perfect, as they say. Paradoxically, both Zen-like calm and lightning reflexes are absolutely necessary in this game where courses are tightly timed, bosses require super-quick pattern recognition and you need to play and replay stages to nab those bananas without falling off some deviously designed courses.

Switch_SuperMonkeyBall_02

“This is bananas, and bananas is good!”

Well, you do have to fall off some courses, but onto a lower part of a level, or to shave seconds off a course time, missing a few bunches of bananas in the process (until you figure out how to get them later in a different run). Developer Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio (yes, the folks behind the excellent Yakuza games as well as a few others) took the 2006 Wii-only game and have tweaked it into a multi-console game that’s quite good and yes, maddening when it needs to be. In addition to reworking the interface and adding online functionality, 40 of the Wii-specific mini-games are gone (well, 50 was overkill way back then and the Wii remote was a pain to use for some of them), cut down to a mere 10 that keep multiplayer games a faster-paced chunk of mayhem for up to four players.

Continue reading

Review: SEGA AGES Columns II: A Voyage Through Time (Switch)

Columns II artHoo boy, I’d forgotten how very hard the Columns series of games can be. But yes indeed, this port of Columns II: A Voyage Through Time ($7.99) from the SEGA AGES lineup comes highly recommended if you want a match-3 game that’s constantly entertaining while you get used to the ropes. Also included in this solid M2 port is a a Mega Drive/Genesis port of the original Columns, so you can get schooled by the AI in two games. The coolest thing about the sequel is M2 has wisely added a tabletop mode feature where the co-op play switches Player 2’s screen 180 degrees for face-to-face battles, quite a nice thing to see as an addition.

The game lures you in with some gorgeous art (a bit of lovely Mucha-like imagery for the senses is the first thing that greets you), but even at the easiest setting the game will beat you like an angry drummer or a polite Gene Krupa doing a rapid fire solo. Nevertheless, when the pace gets speedier you’ll be beaten like an egg here as you learn to play. This turns out to be a good thing, as the only means of seeing more here is by getting better. It’s funny that I’m using “git gud” for the second time this week, but like the last time, it fits the case. It’s a game that masters will appreciate, but those who haven’t the skills down will find themselves going to until (and past) the ending. Like it should be, coming back to the game that was giving you grief to one where you’re seeing how the AI responds to a better player doesn’t ever get old.

Columns II gems

Uh-oh, unless you can clear some gems out…

Continue reading

Review: SEGA AGES Ichidant-R (Switch)

Switch_Ichidant_03

“It’s a puzzlement…” (but a good one!)

ichidant_R coverAh, so that’s what it is – an arcade game that’s neat to play whether online on off, but playing with a friend is better overall when you share the fun. I actually have the Mega Drive import version of SEGA AGES: Ichidant-R ($7.99) here in the collection, but the Japanese was daunting and I’ve not touched it in a few years (Well, I know a little of the language since, but I need to practice more). Thankfully, finally getting the chance to play this (thanks, SEGA!) has made for quite the appreciation for its inclusion in the ongoing SEGA AGES lineup. In a great touch, there’s a Japanese Mega Drive port included in the price, so now I’ve been playing it and having a blast thanks to getting a handle on how to proceed flipping back to the new English arcade version when I run into a mini-game I have trouble with if the language barrier stops progress.

Some will think of the US Sega Genesis and Bonanza Bros., but that was a more  a straightforward side-scrolling shooter with the same quirky art style here (and some major story changes from the Japanese version that changed the main characters from criminals to detectives).

Switch_Ichidant_02

It’s the 90’s again (time travel works!).

Anyway, Ichidant-R is an arcade game where the same two characters get a medieval makeover and the setting is now changes to a castle where there’s a princess to be rescued. The gameplay also changes into a mini-game filled fun-fest that, thanks to it’s timed nature, keeps the pressure up throughout. While it’s a great game, having a friend to face off with makes this all the more enjoyable. M2 keeps it as the original arcade version, but adds the usual choices of scan lines and screen fit scaling if you want them as well as a few backgrounds to choose from. I played with then off because the game looks better without them, I think – but it’s your call if you like them.

Every mini-game requires quickness and most are fun to play, but the tense time limit sometimes makes figuring out what to do in a few seconds pretty tricky until you calm down and zen out a bit. Here’s a little sample of that to expect. The game rolls out and mixes up quite a few games randomly, but I want to save the fun for you to discover. For newbies, think of it as a Warioware or similar game, bit released long before. Yes, one caveat is the puzzles will get old for those who get too jaded to this stuff, but to me, the fun here never gets old with a game you can go to for some quick fun in short bits. I’d write more, but this one’s a no-brainer because the games adds some cool cleverness to the genre and is a more than recommended buy if you like these these types of games.

Switch_Ichidant_04

Ray Milland would probably have hated this mini-game (ha-ha)

Score: B+ (85%)

-Review code provided by the publisher

Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz HD Hands-On: It’s in the Monkey

SMB-HD-logo-02b

I’d be lying it I said I was good at this one right out of the gate, but that’s because it’s been a while since I’ve touched a Super Monkey Ball game. That said, I’m currently having a blast with the Switch review version of Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz HD (set for a US release on October 29). Sure it’s a HD rework of a 2006 Wii game with a nice HD fix-up and yes, some mini-games are MIA, but the story mode is quite lengthy, there’s online leaderboards and and couch co-op content and the core mechanics are pretty darn fun when you settle in for a spell. Here’s a trailer to look at for the Switch version (the game is also set for release on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One systems):

So far, I’m grinning like a loon and sweating like a pig when I safely make it through a stage, but as things get twisty and the maps get tougher, I want to give up for a few seconds each time I fail. But dang it, if the game keeps pulling me back in for more every single time. Must be those bananas or something. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to figure the second boss out – back with a review shortly.

preorder SMB

Feel free to go bananas if you like with a physical version of the game.

-GW

 

 

 

Review: SEGA AGES Puyo Puyo (Switch)

Switch_SEGAAGES-PuyoPuyo_04

I’m set to be sorry, heh.

Puyo Puyo SwitchWhile it’s a tad barebones when stacked up (heh) against its other ports, the M2 version of SEGA’s classic Puyo Puyo is a pretty addictive gem. I had to put off my review thanks to a friend who wanted to school me being a bit ill, but man, I walked right into her trap because even though she was still a bit under the weather when I dropped by to see if she was up for a surprise gaming visit, I was a smoked duck almost as soon as she started playing, drawing a few hearty laughs out of her husband, who refused to play with a “Well, she’s pretty good, even though she’s sick” mantra he fell back on almost every time I lost a round. No, he’s not a big gamer, but he does know from about 20 years of wedded bliss she’s a total monster at games like this.

Yes, there are the much beefier Puyo Puyo Tetris and more recently, the online-centric (and less beefy) Puyo Puyo Champions to scream at (she has both). But this one’s special to her because it was an arcade staple of her growing up in Japan. Well, there was also the hefty bragging from her and a few humorous warnings not to play her by the hubby every so often.  Those alone were reason enough to get a review code. Well, I also was curious see to how good (or badly) I was going to get beaten. Let’s just say I wasn’t disappointed by the near total routing I received. Or, I was, but too bruised up to say much in my defense, heh. Ow.

Continue reading

A Little Mario and Sonic Reminder Tease

So, it’s rare that I write about sports-themed games, so this one’s special on a few fronts. Now, I can’t say a thing until the embargo lifts, but I will reveal some facts about this Switch exclusive.

Ready? GO!

Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 will take to the starting blocks exclusively for the Nintendo Switch on November 5 in the Americas for $59.99 USD and November 8 in Europe with commensurate pricing. For more information, including where you can pre-order the game, be sure to visit the official website, and watch our latest trailer.

Uh, that’s all I got. No, seriously. The reviews are under embargo, so I can’t report anything until then Switch fans, sorry. That trailer and retro mode are nice additions, right?

retro sports

-GW

Sega Genesis Mini: It’s 199X All Over Again

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

Yeah, I got one last week.

So yeah, I picked up a Sega Genesis Mini from Amazon last week and it’s quite a good purchase overall. While there are a few clunkers in the bunch (did we really need a Virtua Fighter 2 that’s NOT the arcade version here? Plus some games om the Mini would have been better served with their appropriate sequels on board), the content is pretty solid and developer/port house M2 has done a very stellar job in converting the games to HD in this collection of 42 mostly excellent titles. While I’m exceptionally pleased, I also want a Mega Drive Mini here at some point for some of its cooler Japanese imports and shooters, some of which can be enjoyed in English (if they were localized for other territories outside that country).

Continue reading

Review: SEGA AGES Space Harrier (Switch)

space harrier switch

Welcome to the Fantasy Zone. GET READY!

Hell, even if I were to think I was born ready for it, back in 1985 seeing and playing Sega’s Space Harrier for the first time in an arcade was a total and unexpected blast. Granted, it wasn’t my first psuedo-3D sprite-based shooter (Willams’ still phenomenal BLASTER was an instant fave for me two years earlier), but Yu Suzuki’s even more instant classic made for a more lasting impression thanks to its more superbly detailed visuals, rock-solid 60fps gameplay and yes, a somewhat crushing difficulty level for beginners. Watching someone play any of the three cabinet version was thrilling enough. But as a player, if you lucked out and got one of the sit-down versions with that big flight stick and body-shaking tilt feature, it was pure gaming bliss that left you maybe a bit wobbly after a few too many replays. Ah, memories!

Still, Suzuki’s game was perhaps too well made, just like his other supremely reliable arcade hits some take for granted these days. This is a game that is flawless in execution, but might be seen by the more jaded gamers out there as “repetitive” because they don’t see the beauty past the lightning fast speed and brilliant use of color. Ever busy developer M2 has done another outstanding job in porting the game to Switch for the ongoing SEGA AGES project ($7.99 per title) in both its original form with a new stage select, optional visual filter and control additions and a new version of the game called KOMAINU Barrier Attack that adds infinite continues and two small stone lion statues to aid Harrier in his quest.

Switch_SEGAAGES-SpaceHarrier_03

Screenshots really don’t do this game any justice. Some heads will roll for that.

Continue reading

Phantom Gear Funded: Mega Cat’s Got The Magic Touch, Again

Phantom Gear logo

Mega Cat, on a roll with mustard.

Phantom Gear is officially a physical and digital reality on the “it’s funded!” front and that’s a great thing. Excellent, in fact and yes, I dropped some coins into this particular fountain not long after finding out the game was going the crowdfund route. It’s always great to see, read about and eventually get the chance to play new retro games, especially from a company so devoted to producing some mighty fine ones. The game has indeed made its Kickstarter target, but you can still contribute to its success here.

Now, if only I had a few spare thousand bucks to drop on everything Mega Cat makes so I can add it all to the library, I’d be an even happier camper.

-GW