Monday, September 10, 2018

Review Round-Up - August 2018

While SuperPhillip Central's Game of the Month was a return
 of Captain Toad and Toadette tracking treasure...
With my new gig writing for TouchArcade, I didn't have as much time as I would have liked to dedicate to reviews on SuperPhillip Central--hence there just being four reviews for August. That said, the lineup of reviews was rather good. I started off with a stay-cation to Kawawii Island in Go Vacation (B). Then, the Game of the Month, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker for the Switch tracked some treasure for a B+ grade. The Nicalis-branded fighter (with some indie guest stars like Shovel Knight and Gunvolt of Azure Striker Gunvolt fame) Blade Strangers fought its way to a B grade, as did Mega Man X Legacy Collection 1. I hope to have the second collection reviewed for September.

Check out every review ever posted on SuperPhillip Central with the SPC Review Archive!

Go Vacation (NSW) - B
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker (NSW) - B+
Blade Strangers (NSW, PS4, PC) - B
Mega Man X Legacy Collection 1 (PS4, NSW, XB1, PC) - B

...Another game reviewed this month took us to the activity-filled Kawawii Island with Go Vacation.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Mega Man X Legacy Collection 1 (PS4, NSW, XB1, PC) Review

The week continues as does SuperPhillip Central's roll-out of reviews. This next game is a collection of four stellar action-platformers. It's Mega Man X Legacy Collection 1, and it's the PlayStation 4 build being reviewed here.

A collection with "X"-tra features but also "X"-tra problems


Unlike the classic Mega Man series, the Mega Man X series is much more inconsistent with its quality. There are just some games in the series that are simply stinkers while others are some of the best 2D action-platformers of all time--at least in this writer's opinion. Thankfully, despite the series being all over the place when it comes to quality, Mega Man X Legacy Collection 1 gathers up four of the most fantastic games in the series and places them in one classic compendium. While that should be a recipe for immediate and doubtless success, Mega Man X Legacy Collection 1 has one problem that may affect the enjoyment of these otherwise excellent games.

Mega Man X Legacy Collection 1 features the first half of the Mega Man X series: the original Mega Man X trilogy, X1-X3, from the Super Nintendo and Mega Man X4, which is the PlayStation version. Each game has similar options to it, such as the ability to play full-screen or with a customizable, themed border, the ability to play with or without scanlines to create an old school CRT feel, and a special Rookie Hunter mode, which decreases the damage players take and in Mega Man X4's case, makes it so spikes and bottomless pits are not instant death. This mode is a nice addition, allowing players of all types and skill levels to enjoy the first four Mega Man X games, ones that are notoriously difficult for most players. 

The "buzz" on this stage from Mega Man X is that it's a premier example of a sensational opening level.
Mega Man X, of course, started it all back in 1993. Bringing with it a more mature approach to its story, greater action, faster gameplay, and a fully upgrade-able Mega Man by way of discovering Dr. Light's hidden capsules and items like Heart Tanks and Sub Tanks, Mega Man X was an entirely new generation of the Blue Bomber. He was much more mobile, able to scale walls, jump dash, and with Dr. Light's aforementioned capsules was able to find so many more ways of movement and maneuverability. The game introduced a new villain in the seemingly immortal, never-say-die/never-CAN-die Sigma, and brought forth a popular character in the series lore, the blonde-ponytail secondary protagonist Zero. The original Mega Man X is a game that other entries in the series have attempted to surpass in quality, but I maintain that the original is still the best. Some entries come close, but the very first Mega Man X remains my favorite with no filler, no superfluous gameplay--just all action and ingenious level design.

Recognize this guy? His random attack pattern landed him on
my Bad Boss Battles in Gaming History series of articles. (Okay, he's not SO bad, but still...)
Mega Man X2 followed, and it's my second favorite of the SNES games. It introduced even more replay value with an alternate ending for collecting all of Zero's parts from the X-Hunters, and further refined the gameplay of the original X game. Meanwhile, Mega Man X3 is what I consider the weakest game in the first Mega Man X Legacy Collection, offering an overwhelming overabundance of collectibles, too many variables to consider in how the last stages of the game play out, and a soundtrack that grates occasionally on the ears. However, it's important to note that Mega Man X3 with all of these minor issues that I have with the game is hardly a poor entry in the series. That's an especially apparent fact considering the latter collection of games.

While limited in how much you can play as him,
Mega Man X3 was the first time Zero was playable in any fashion.
Finally, Mega Man X4 rounds out the package, and it delivers 32-bit visuals for the first time in the series, anime cutscenes of dubious voice acting quality (but I personally love the pure cheese of it), the ability to play two different storylines as either X or for the first time in the series, a fully playable Zero (he was only available in limited quantities in X3). Although the levels are the exact same for both characters, their story beats, gameplay styles, and a boss or two differs. While X2 is my second favorite Super Nintendo game in the Mega Man X Legacy Collection, Mega Man X4 is my second favorite in the series in general.

So, having these four terrific games from the past is great and all, but there is one gnarly problem with them that mucks things up some. While the games look the same visually with no new graphical problems, the gameplay--on the other hand--is a different story. There is noticeable input lag in all four games, making it so many button and control inputs can be slightly delayed or don't register at all. By no means did it make these games absolutely broken, but it did make it for a harder go of things, especially in the more difficult platforming sections in each game. One such instance of this for me was the first Sigma Palace stage in Mega Man X1, where you ride moving platforms over a bottomless pit to reach the inside of the palace. I kept missing jumps I'd otherwise make because of the input lag. 

Outside of the four games that have the leading role in the Mega Man X Legacy Collection 1, there are also myriad other features included. For instance, there is an art gallery that spotlights everything from promotional art and character designs, to box art and special illustrations. There is also a music player that has all of the songs from Mega Man X through X4, and this can be listened to in playlist form. Included with the music player is a series of remixed and wholly original themes inspired by the series, which sound pretty awesome, especially as someone who loves the X series as much as I do. Listening to a new version of the Mega Man X stage select screen or the Mega Man X4 boss theme filled me such joy as a serious fan of the original Mega Man X games.

Also included in Mega Man X Legacy Collection 1 is a brand-new boss rush mode called X Challenge. It pits you as X in an X Challenge mode exclusive armor against duos of Maverick bosses across the first six Mega Man X games. Each main stage is a series of three battles against a pair of bosses that you fight against simultaneously, usually themed in some way. For example, you'll take on underwater bosses like Mega Man X4's Jet Stingray while combating Mega Man X5's Tidal Whale, while another battle will have you take on a pair of Mega Man X2 bosses, Bubble Crab and Wheel Gator. Thankfully, X has more health to him than in the traditional games, and you get to choose from three special weapons from a limited selection to bring into each series of fights. Depending on what difficulty you play on, the bosses you face will be different and how much health X regains between battles changes as well.

Mega Man X's Ice Penguin AND Mega Man X4's Frost Walrus?
Let's give 'em both the cold shoulder, X!
X Challenge is a rather cool mode, all things considered. It's sort of surreal seeing Mavericks from completely different games team up together, but then again that's one of the major selling points of this mode. Attempting to evade attacks from one Maverick is generally challenging enough, but when you have two to deal with, things become mighty taxing mighty quickly. With online leaderboards to try to climb the ranks by how fast you beat each boss pair, there is some good replay value to be found in X Challenge, making it a nice inclusion to the collection.

Mega Man X Legacy Collection 1 delivers some of the best 2D action-platformers in gaming history, and I don't say that flippantly. The games have truly withstood the test of time, and they're great for those who have loved them since they originally came out and for those who are playing them for the first time. While the mild input lag (it's more or less severe depending on the platform you're playing on is highly disappointing to witness, having such excellent games with Mega Man X1 through X4 and all of the included extras makes for a worthwhile collection. So, if you're searching for a retro compendium of games that continue to be awesome two decades after the fact, then Mega Man "X" marks the spot.

[SPC Says: B]

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Blade Strangers (NSW, PS4, PC) Review

The final days of August will bring a whole slew of new reviews to SuperPhillip Central. We start the week off with Blade Strangers, a 2D fighter releasing later today on the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and PC. The Switch build is the focus of this review.

Stranger Danger



Forgive me for talking about another franchise here, but there are many reasons why I like the Super Smash Bros. series. I love how simple it is to pick up and play without needing to learn and memorize myriad moves and their respective inputs, and I love how it puts characters from a slew of franchises together for one big celebration of gaming. While Blade Strangers on the Nintendo Switch (also available on the PlayStation 4 and PC) might not have as heralded or as recognizable a roster as what you'll find in Nintendo's all-star franchise (and that's decidedly an understatement), what the game does have is an appealing and accessible fighting system that is engaging to use and a game in general that is engrossing to play.

Right away, I'd like to dive right in how accessible Blade Strangers is as a 2D fighter. The game uses the right Joy-Con's four face buttons, each corresponding with a different type of attack: from your typical lights and heavies, to something more skill-centric. As opposed to more technical fighters out there that demand a lot of "finger-fu" from players, Blade Strangers is a lot easier to pull off special moves and create killer combos while still delivering a good share of depth to combat. Whereas a series like Street Fighter utilizes a lot of half-circle, quarter-circle, and full-circle analog inputs that gives my thumb blisters just thinking about performing them, Blade Strangers merely uses one of the four face buttons in conjunction with a direction to pull off its characters' wide range of moves. Not only does this serve as a great way to provide accessibility to all fighting game skill levels (while again, maintaining a sense of depth in fights), but it also makes it so Blade Strangers is one of the few 2D fighters on the Nintendo Switch that isn't burdened by the Joy-Con's lack of a proper D-Pad.

Like each characters' gauge, this fight is certainly heating up.

You have two gauges to you in Blade Strangers, and one is obviously health. The other is a gauge that heats up upon taking damage as well as pulling off successful attacks. When it fills up, you can perform an Ultra Attack by pressing the right shoulder button. This is a devastating maneuver that can deal heavy damage to your opponent. Though, like any other attack in Blade Strangers, this can be blocked for small chip damage. If you opt to power up your gauge even more, you can use a stronger Ultra Attack by double-tapping the shoulder button, unleashing a varied, more powerful offensive strike to your (hopefully) unwitting foe.

Not the most gentlemanly thing to do, flinging a friend to the ground, but Cave Story's Quote is in a battle here!

Nevertheless, your gauge also helps you if you're on the receiving end of the butt kicking. When a character's health gauge enters yellow, they're ready to heat up, meaning that they can enter what is essentially a "last resort: state where they're much stronger and aren't as phased by attacks for as long as their Ultra Attack gauge still has some juice in it. What can result from this is some truly exciting come-from-behind wins, snatching victory from the disturbingly close jaws of defeat.

Coming fully featured with modes, Blade Strangers has a fair amount of content to enjoy. The main mode of focus for solo players is that of the Story mode, which has the same general, overarching story being told with each character's campaign. The only real differences between which fighter you play as are what characters your fighter battles and what dialog is spoken. Regardless of who you choose to play as, the structure of seven fights is always the same as is outcome of the story for the first batch of characters available to you in Story mode. You unlock the other handful of fighters (the more indie guest stars like Shovel Knight and Azure Striker Gunvolt's Gunvolt) in Story mode by completing the mode as multiple characters.

Do you think Shovel Knight battles for fun? No! He does it for shovelry!
No worries, however, as when it concerns every other mode of Blade Strangers, every character is available to you to play as soon as you turn on the game. That goes for the bog-standard fighting game modes like Arcade, Versus, Survival, Tutorial, and the Mission mode that tasks you with completing combos for each character, as a means to up your way of roughing up your opponent more impressively.

Each mode offers something for everyone, and I found myself quite invested in playing through each. Sure, playing through Story, Arcade, and Survival with each of the game's 14 characters to acquire relatively mundane unlockables--such as alternate character colors, portraits, and profile titles--might seem tedious (more so in the fact that I wouldn't have known I was actually unlocking stuff for completing these modes if I hadn't ever been observant to my Profile page), but it presents some longevity nevertheless.

Successfully got hit by the attack--hook, line, and sinker.
What brings even further longevity and replay value for Blade Strangers in the long term is something every fighter worth its weight in knockouts better have in 2018, and that's decent online play. I was able to test out the Switch version in a private, password-entry-only online match in Casual mode, where one's league rank isn't affected. Of the four online matches I played with an acquaintance, all four ran relatively well with no noticeable input delay. Hopefully that stays the course when Blade Strangers officially releases this morning. I'll be sure to update this review if I find any glaring problems, then.

The battle of the blondes begins in Blade Strangers.
While Blade Strangers may be a crossover game, it certainly doesn't have the gravitas of a Super Smash Bros., but then again, what does? My point here is that Blade Strangers offers an extremely niche variety of characters from even more niche games. For fans of titles like Code of Princess, Cave Story, Azure Striker Gunvolt, The Binding of Isaac, and Shovel Knight (okay, maybe that one isn't TOO terribly niche), you will feel well at home. For everyone else, you might be left with a clueless expression on your face as to who the heck these characters are. That said, the characters in general have varied enough tactics and move sets that you need not recognize every or even one of the characters to enjoy yourself with Blade Strangers. It sure doesn't hurt to recognize some of them, of course.

Some might call it a "who's who" of guest characters. Some might just ask, "Who!?"
When one thinks of the biggest crossovers in gaming history, one might think of Nintendo's Super Smash Bros. series, and to a lesser extent, one might also conjure up the image of PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale. I mean, Mario and Sonic? Ryu and Cloud Strife? Kratos and Nathan Drake? Those are big names and worlds colliding. The characters of Cave Story and Code of Princess colliding? Well... perhaps not so much.

That notwithstanding, that doesn't make the crossover 2D fighter Blade Strangers any less of a satisfying and riveting game. With accessible (and more importantly Switch controls that work well for a 2D fighter), relatively pleasant visuals (a little over-pixelated with regards to the fighters), competent online play, a multitude of modes, and plenty of characters to learn and attempt to master, Blade Strangers delivers a fighting game that may not do much to distinguish itself from the big boys in the genre, but it doesn't screw up its attempt in trying.

[SPC Says: B] 

Review copy provided by Nicalis.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker (NSW) Review

We go from a game that debuted on the Wii and received a port on the Switch, to a game that originated on the Wii U and got ported to the Switch as well. It's Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, and as I didn't want to shell out money for both the Switch and 3DS versions of the game, I'm reviewing the Nintendo Switch build exclusively.

Oh, Captain, My Captain!


Once again, dear friends, we've come to a Nintendo Switch game that already saw its debut on the Wii U, Nintendo's ill-fated console. While it's no wonder why Nintendo wishes to get its Wii U software out to more players by putting it on the Switch, in many cases, the additions (or lack thereof) don't really justify double-dipping. (Unless you're a sucker for playing games on the Switch like me, of course.) Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is the latest Wii U game to get a Switch port, and with it comes a new co-op mode and a quartet of levels based off of Super Mario Odyssey. For those who have already played the Wii U original, do these new additions make the case for double-dipping on the Captain's adventure?

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker plays out in a miniature diorama-like levels, which can be completed in less than five minutes each. In these levels, the objective is to reach the Power Star located in every level, usually involving interaction with the environment, avoiding enemies, and figuring out how to maneuver through the stage to progress. For instance, you'll spin wheels to turn platforms to make a way for Captain Toad to get across, and you'll touch special platforms to slide them around.

Unlike Mario, Captain Toad does not have any "super" jumping ability to him. Instead, he needs to climb hills, ladders, ride in pipes, and scale other height-bestowing objects in order to reach higher locations in levels. He can then drop down to new parts of levels, which is a mechanic that is used generously in Treasure Tracker.

Captain Toad also doesn't have much bark to his bite. In fact, he doesn't really have either! I mean, look at that cute face, how could he possibly have any anger behind that!? Regardless, what I'm referring to here is that Captain Toad cannot directly attack enemies. His method of dispatching foes is plucking and picking up turnips and proceeding to chuck them at enemies in his way. Sometimes pluck-able spots will house coins, Mushrooms, or other items inside them as a bonus instead of a turnip. The Mushroom is used in traditional Super Mario fashion, having Captain Toad restore himself to full health if he has taken damage.

Let this be a lesson to Captain Toad: Never trespass on Shy Guy territory.
There are over 70 stages within Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, 65 of which are in the main story, which actually brings one other playable character into the mix outside of Captain Toad. These stages run the gamut from flower gardens, raging locomotives, mine cart rides down mountains, desert ruins, fiery volcanoes, beach-side excursions, snazzy pachinko boards, Wild West towns, and even some boss stages to enjoy. The levels after the main game consist of retreads through past stages where you must gather and carefully transport the Toad Brigade to a Power Star, as well as other stages where you must avoid a shadowy, dangerous doppelganger who follows your every movement.

Not the most inviting forest around, but the treasure's ready for the taking all the same!
Each stage has three diamonds to collect, and these are at many times hidden well. It wasn't uncommon for me to have to return to a previous stage just to track down a diamond that I was so unobservant that I missed on my first run. The diamonds in Treasure Tracker don't necessarily require you to nab them all, but you can find your progress gated by levels that require a specific amount of diamonds to unlock. However, they're so much to collect, offering rewarding exploration from doing so, that would be a shame to miss out on them.

Ah, coins, diamonds, and Power Stars... a treasure tracker's delight!
In addition to diamonds, each level has its own secondary objective apart from collecting the Power Star to achieve. Unlike many of the diamonds in Treasure Tracker, these objectives are completely optional, simply bringing more replay value to players who wish to complete them. These can range from finding and collecting 150 coins in a level, to discovering the location of a Golden or 1-Up Mushroom, to beating a level without being detected by a Shy Guy, and to defeating all enemies within a given stage. I found myself loving going after these objectives, as many times they made me play levels in far different ways than I initially approached them. On a lot of occasions, these secondary objectives highlighted the spectacular level design displayed in Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker.

This particular stage's secondary objective is to hit as few P-buttons as possible.
Originally in the Wii U version, free DLC made it so you could use a Toad amiibo on the Wii U GamePad and play a hide-and-seek game with Pixel Toad in each and every level. Instead of requiring a costly amiibo this time around, the Nintendo Switch version of Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker already includes these Pixel Toad hunts immediately. All you have to do is beat a stage once to unlock the Pixel Toad hunt in that level. These hunts have you navigating the levels like you'd ordinarily do, but instead of reaching a Power Star, your goal is to find and "click" on the Pixel Toad hiding somewhere in the level, usually on an out-of-the-way wall or floor somewhere that takes some work getting to.

Speaking of clicking, touching, and interacting with aspects of the environment, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker on the Switch features some curious control additions. For one, when playing in docked mode, a cursor is always planted firmly on the screen. You use it to click on items in the environment that can be interacted with. Meanwhile, when in handheld mode, you can use the touch screen as always to move platforms and the like, but it's also how you spin wheels, too. The problem here is that when running across a wheel that you can spin, the transparent graphic for spinning the wheel pops up right in the center of the screen, taking up lots of screen space. It also stops Captain Toad right in his tracks. This can result in running from an enemy only to stop to a dead halt when you cross the wheel spinner, thus taking damage. I question why the option to confirm you want to use a contraption wasn't included instead of it just occurring automatically. It's quite a vexing oversight.

What are YOU looking at, fire-breath!?
In the more pleasing department, the Switch version comes with two exclusive features compared to its Wii U original: a cooperative two-player mode and a handful of Super Mario Odyssey-themed levels. The cooperative multiplayer isn't as spectacular as having two Toads explore and meander around levels together, but instead it's meant to be shared with a more casual player of video games. The second player can poke and prod both enemies and the environment, as well as situate the camera for the player controlling Captain Toad. This, of course, requires some excellent teamwork and communication skills in order to keep Toad from meeting an untimely end.

Meanwhile, replacing the Super Mario 3D World bonus levels of the Wii U game (which is a positive thing, as those levels weren't a good fit for the original game due to being directly carried over from 3D World) are brand-new Super Mario Odyssey levels based in Fossil Falls, Tostarena, New Donk City, and Mount Volbone. The middle two levels are full-fledged exploration and puzzle-based affairs, while Fossil Falls is a mine cart level and Mount Volbone is a race sequence. There is pleasant variety, but completing these levels 100% with all diamonds and bonus objectives completed doesn't take very long.

Looks like we have some afternoon congestion with a mad Hammer Bro blocking the intersection.
If you're holding out hope that the Nintendo Switch version of Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is worth picking up if you've already exhausted the Wii U game, then I have some unfortunate news for you--it's really not. Well, I add a caveat to that, and that is unless you're like me and enjoyed the original so much that you just want an excuse to experience the game all over again on a system that works without needing a giant, unreliable Wii U GamePad. Otherwise, if you don't mind sticking with the Wii U and/or have no desire to buy what amounts to the same game again for full MSRP, then you're better off saving your hard-earned money. That said, for those that have never played the game before, this puzzle-platformer is simply put (and get ready to groan), a "treasure" you need to play.

[SPC Says: B+]

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Go Vacation (NSW) Review

Rather than spend an exorbitant amount of money on a vacation, SuperPhillip Central spent a fraction of that for Bandai Namco's Go Vacation on the Nintendo Switch for its review. See why this activity collection is worth your time and money.

A perfect game for a summer "staycation"


The original Go Vacation released on the Wii way back in 2011, and out of all of the games from the Wii era that I expected to get reincarnated in HD, Go Vacation was certainly not one of them. That said, I can't say I'm disappointed, as Bandai Namco's answer to Wii Sports Resort was one of more thrilling and enjoyable games of its type on the system. Perhaps a little too ambitious for Nintendo's under-powered system, but enjoyable nonetheless. Now, Go Vacation makes its grand return from the Wii to the Switch, offering new bonus features and the same party and family-friendly gameplay that the original brought to players. Is this the type of vacation you'll have fond memories of or recurring nightmares over?

Go Vacation starts you off in style with a skydiving descent to Kawawii Island.
Go Vacation provides players and their custom avatars (either Go Vacation models or their Miis) a ticket to Kawawii Island, home of four resorts that can be fully explored as they're unlocked one by one through filling out your stamp book. This stamp book is filled as you participate in the various activities that each resort has. Alongside completing activities, each resort allows you to traverse it by foot or by one of its many means to get around, such as the Marine Resort's Marine Bikes and ATVs or the Mountain Resort's horses and off-road vehicles, for instance. Outside of finding each activity a resort has to offer, there are plenty of places to exercise some excellent exploration--from chatting with the locals, taking photo ops, finding treasure chests in each resort, and taking photos of the wildlife for your collection.

Wave Race this is not, but Go Vacation's Marine Bike races are still riveting all the same.
The activities in Go Vacation run the gamut of things to do, and while the game leans more towards "quantity over quality", a great number of the activities in the game are winners. There are races and time trials across a plentiful amount of vehicles and things to ride, such as marine bikes, ATVs, Ridge Racer-like vehicles, rally cars, horses, kayaks, snow tubes, snowmobiles, and much more. Then, there are non-race activities such as tennis, beach volleyball, skydiving, mini golf, table hockey, scuba diving, paragliding, and many more. Most activities have several different modes to them, such as horseback riding that contains both races and a mode where you collect as many coins as possible within a time limit, or snowboarding that has you pull off as many successful tricks as possible either in halfpipe or grinding form.

It's another day at the beach for my partner and me as we challenge these AI scrubs to a game of beach volleyball.
When starting out an activity for the first time, Go Vacation defaults to the easiest control method available. What I mean by this is that in tennis, for instance, your character moves automatically to the ball with your job merely being to swing and select the appropriate shot with the right timing. However, once you complete the first stage of the mode and return to it again, you have the option of free-roaming and whether or not you use traditional controls or motion-based controls.

When first playing tennis, your character moves on his or her own.
It's not until you replay the activity that you get the choice of full movement.
The latter controls were pretty much a requirement for the original Wii version of Go Vacation, so it's nice to see an option here. That said, some activities like performing certain tricks in skateboarding, for instance, still require you to shake the controller to pull off a trick, or in the case of bailing, motion controls are required to get back up.

Activities in general are easy enough to learn regardless of what type of controls you're choosing to use. In case you forget what each button does or how to perform a certain maneuver, you can pause the activity at any time and enter the "How to Play" menu, which is a tremendous help for those who aren't as familiar with playing the Switch or playing video games in general.

In ATV races, you'll certainly be using the "All-Terrain" part of "All-Terrain Vehicle."
Completing all of the stages in a given mode in a given activity of Go Vacation rewards you with experience points that has you gaining levels. Each level you gain grants you a key to unlock one furniture set of your choice to customize your villa in an Animal Crossing-like way. You have multiple rooms to work with, multiple house designs at your leisure, and you can share your creations online for others to "heart" or "like" depending on how impressive your creativity shines. I found myself absolutely addicted to plopping down furniture in such a way to make my villa the envy of the block.

A nice aspect of Go Vacation is that any activity you've already played is available to select from the main menu without the need to enter a resort, track down the character who hosted the activity, and then play from there. Being able to choose from the main menu cuts out a lot of the hassle that would otherwise be given to players. One unfortunate aspect of this, however, is that if you want to jump in to any activity you want right at the beginning of Go Vacation, you cannot do that. You have to play most activities within resorts in order to unlock them in the main menu. Did your friends really want to try out rafting ASAP? Well, sadly, you have to unlock it first, and that's in the last of the four resorts that unlock within your Go Vacation experience.

Bust out your inner Tony Hawk in the Grind Master activity.
The Switch version of Go Vacation adds remastered textures, but all in all, the game is very much underwhelming in the visual department. It's literally a higher resolution Wii game and not much more. Also included in the Switch version are daily rewards in the form of new furniture, gear, clothing for your avatar, and new dog breeds to pal around with on Kawawii Island. During play on resorts, sometimes a plane will arrive overhead and drop some cargo in the form of a present that can be collected for a special reward. This feature is also exclusive to the Switch version. By far, though, the thing that makes the Switch version so special compared to the Wii original is something that I've already touched upon in this review, and that's the option (well, for the most part) of choosing between motion controls and traditional controls.

Though, speaking of controls, it's a bit bewildering that the right analog stick isn't used in the game for camera control. Instead, you have to hold a shoulder button and use the left stick to move the camera around your avatar. This was how it worked in the Wii version, if memory serves correctly, so it's like Bandai Namco just brought the same control scheme to the Switch game despite an opportunity to change things up for the better. I wouldn't say it's lazy, as it's more of an oversight that I wish would have been rectified now that the Switch controller has more buttons and inputs to it.

Paddle till your heart's content as you ride the raging river of the Mountain Resort.
Multiplayer is strong in Go Vacation, whether you're playing with someone who has never picked up a controller before, someone well versed in gaming, or anyone in between. You can not only play any activity together with up to four players, but you can also explore Kawawii Island's four resorts together as well. All of this can only be performed locally with no online play to speak of, save for ghost data of other players to compete against once the credits have been viewed. Still, if you've got family and friends nearby who like a good time, Go Vacation will give them just that.

Go Vacation succeeds at bringing a compilation of appealing activities and events, as well as some truly engrossing exploration to the Switch. It improves on the Wii original while offering plenty of new content to make a second look at the game worthwhile. While this particular vacation won't replace a trip to the Bahamas or Italy, it is cheaper than a round-trip ticket and won't put you at risk for a nasty sunburn.

[SPC Says: B]

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