Thursday, March 19, 2020

Most Overlooked Current Gen Games - Part Ten

Welcome to a very special edition of Most Overlooked! No, I don't mean "very special" like one of those "very special" episodes of Full House or Saved by the Bell. I mean, "very special" as in we've reached our tenth installment of the Most Overlooked Current Gen Games!

SPC has always been passionate about sharing those gaming gems that aren't your traditional million-selling, triple-A mega hits. Instead, the Most Overlooked series by its very nature looks at those games that don't get extravagant marketing campaigns, don't stay on the sales charts for prolonged periods of time, and don't get as much hype dedicated to them. Perhaps with this series of articles you'll discover a new game that piques your interest and preference.

This tenth edition features games from a wide range of different genres; We have a dungeon crawler, a fighting game, a JRPG, a platformer, and a point-and-click puzzler.

Before we continue our journey through the land of the Most Overlooked Current Gen Games, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the previous nine installments of this long-running series for your to peruse:

Current Gen - Part One
Current Gen - Part Two
Current Gen - Part Three
Current Gen - Part Four
Current Gen - Part Five
Current Gen - Part Six
Current Gen - Part Seven
Current Gen - Part Eight
Current Gen - Part Nine

Darksiders Genesis (PS4, XB1, NSW, PC)

Our first game for this tenth edition of Most Overlooked Current Gen Games takes the familiar hack and slash, dungeon crawling gameplay of the Darksiders franchise and puts in a new, isometric perspective. Darksiders Genesis offers a Diablo-like dungeon crawler with Zelda-like puzzles and platforming challenges. The levels feature myriad secrets inside to encourage meticulous exploration and return trips, and the boss battles are absolutely intense and entertaining. Whether playing alone and switching between War and Strife on the fly, or playing co-operatively with another player with one as each Horseman, judgment will be brought down on your enemies. Darksiders Genesis was a pleasant surprise to start off the gaming year with when it launched on home consoles (the PC and Stadia versions launched late last year), and it's a shame it seems to have come and gone without much fanfare.

Power Rangers: Battle for the Grid (PS4, XB1, NSW, PC)

With a history of less than morphinominal licensed games, it's easy to see why not many took to a fighting game based off of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Those who did, however, experienced one of the most fun and fluid team-based fighting games available, albeit not very content-rich. Power Rangers: Battle for the Grid launched rather bare bones with a limited roster and very little single player content to speak of. Since launch, the roster's reached higher numbers with every fighting game archetype represented, a story mode based off of the Shattered Grid arc of the Boom! Studios-published comic was added, the presentation greatly improved, and the fighting itself has only gotten better. This 3 vs. 3 fighting game is a blast not just for fans of Power Rangers but also just those who desire a fighting game with deep mechanics and plenty of pluck.

Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore (NSW)

Perhaps this next game is proof that it wasn't just the Wii U's failure that made the original Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE bomb at retail when it originally released on Nintendo's first HD system. Even with a second chance in the spotlight on a much more successful system (and that's understating the Switch's success in comparison to the Wii U), Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore didn't exactly follow in the footsteps sales-wise of other ports of Wii U games like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, among others. That's okay, though, as the game has found its own following, and if you can stomach and tolerate the overdose of Otaku and idol influences, you'll get a challenging JRPG that has both style AND substance in grand abundance. This RPG is quite unlike anything else, not just on the Switch, but on any platform.

New Super Lucky's Tale (NSW)

3D platformers are in rather short supply on ALL systems this generation, and that stretches to the Switch as well. Nevertheless, owners of Nintendo's hybrid system received a rather remarkable addition to the genre from an unlikely place. Lucky's Tale was originally an Oculus Rift exclusive, and then, it was expanded to the Xbox One as Super Lucky's Tale. Late last year, the game arrived on the Nintendo Switch with added content, additional levels, and another word in its title with New Super Lucky's Tale.

Lucky himself is enjoyable to control, being able to burrow into soft surfaces to dodge hazards and enemy alike and reach otherwise inaccessible areas. Levels are full of secrets to find and special pages to collect, whether they are in non-linear 3D, side-scrolling 2D, or auto runner form. Lucky's adventure doesn't wear out its welcome, nor does it overly frustrate. New Super Lucky's Tale delivers a charming and entertaining platforming adventure that didn't necessarily find an overly perceptive audience on the Switch. Particularly disappointing when you consider the longtime audience of Nintendo consoles.

Layton's Mystery Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaires' Conspiracy - Deluxe Edition (NSW)

Being real here, Level 5 has bungled a lot of its franchises over the years. What was once a strong Japanese developer currently faces challenges in getting attention to its various series, many of which have either been mismanaged, or worse, run right into the ground. Like many other Level 5 franchises, the Professor Layton series isn't as strong as it once was during the Nintendo DS days, but that doesn't stop Layton's daughter, Katrielle, from having her first puzzle-filled adventure in Layton's Mystery Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaires' Conspiracy from being a success, at least quality-wise.

The original game launched on the Nintendo 3DS as well as mobile devices, offering over 100 unique brain teasers sprinkled and scattered throughout the game's dozen chapters. Instead of one overarching mystery, Katrielle and her group of companions took on a different case each chapter. Regardless, whether it's because of franchise fatigue or a lack of Layton fans nowadays, not even a new protagonist could renew interest in the series. Whether Layton as a franchise can bounce back is almost as great a mystery as any featured in the games themselves!

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Top Ten Nintendo Switch Games of the System's Third Year

The Nintendo Switch recently celebrated its third anniversary on the market just a couple of weeks ago. Since its launch back on March 3, 2017, the Switch has accumulated quite the collection of excellent software. SPC previously listed the system's best exclusives from its first two years in an article last March. Now, we check out our favorite games released during the Switch's third year, which came to an end two weeks ago on its aforementioned third anniversary. From third party games in unexpected places to familiar franchises in unexpected new forms, the Nintendo Switch had a little bit of everything for its owners this past year.

10) Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order 

Kicking off this Switch-centric countdown is a surprising exclusive in the sense that the formerly Activision-published Marvel Ultimate Alliance series moved to Nintendo and was developed by Team Ninja. What wasn't surprising, however, was that the end result, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order, possessed plenty of superpowered heroes, villains, and iconic worlds and was as addicting as every other game in the MUA franchise. Perhaps even more so with the game's continued support, featuring new modes, characters, costumes, and more. While the game is far from perfect with its occasionally cumbersome and chaotic camera (especially in local co-op), it says a lot about Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 that even with the game's issues, one could greatly enjoy and spend dozens of hours fighting off foes of all shapes and sizes without realizing it.

9) Ring Fit Adventure

We move on from Marvel to a game that encourages fitness through taking down monsters and enemies through the power of exercise. Ring Fit Adventure seemed like such a goofy idea on paper, but in execution, it's a tremendous means to get active while gaming. The "ring" of Ring Fit Adventure is an invaluable accessory that makes it all happen, serving the same function as a Pilates ring, and offering a robust workout. That's whether you're stepping in place as you move through fields and dungeons and "jumping" over obstacles, or engaging with enemies in intense cardio and strength-building workouts. The whole implementation of Ring Fit Adventure is genius to its very core (play-on-words definitely intended), and it's an idea that's so abundantly and enjoyably Nintendo.

8) Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield

The latest in the line of Pokemon games graced a home console for the very first time with Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield. Trainers old and new braved the brand new Galar region with an abundance of Pokemon to battle, catch, and train. The fresh Wild Area brought forth an open world setting that changed depending on the time of day, offering an ever-changing and exciting assortment of Pokemon to encounter, and Raid battles against gigantic Pokemon to engage in with friends, strangers, or the AI. While the cut to the Pokedex certainly stung, and the difficulty of the base game was low, the prospect of the forthcoming DLC with two new areas to explore, each with their own batch of Pokemon to catch and content to delve into, makes for an exciting addition to a pair of games that packed a wallop.

7) Yoshi's Crafted World 

The earliest game on this list released in the Switch's third year, Yoshi's Crafted World delivered with its name, offering a world filled with creatively designed worlds and levels all built out of everyday products. From rolling hills in the background made out of green-painted paper plates to lily pads made of kitchen sponges, Yoshi's Crafted World was just as crafty with its world design as it was with its levels. The latter supplied players with constant new surprises and fresh ideas and concepts with each level introduced. Collecting flowers, red coins, and finding hidden surprises in levels was as much of a delight as the game itself. It's one that I return to a year after release just to get a nice, warm feeling while I play.

6) The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt - Complete Edition

Plenty of people said it couldn't be done on the Nintendo Switch. Well, I better be more specific, as we've seen since the system's launch, a lot of developers have been able to make seemingly impossible ports possible on the Switch. Perhaps the granddaddy of them all was proven possible with CD Projekt Red's The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt - Complete Edition arriving on the Nintendo Switch, albeit certainly toned down graphically, but definitely playable and very much enjoyable all the same. The ability to play such a grand scale of a journey with Geralt of Rivia on the Nintendo Switch screen amazes me, and the recently released patch makes it so the game's graphical options can be customized to the player's preference. It all adds up to an incredibly impressive port for one of the best games of the past generation.

5) Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age - Definitive Edition

Here's another example of an impressive third party port, while we're on the subject! Despite being one of, if not the absolute first game announced for the Nintendo Switch, back when the system was still known as the NX, Dragon Quest XI finally launched on the system this past fall. That said, the wait was most definitely worth it with all of the new content that the Switch version received. Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age - Definitive Edition--and pardon this SPC cliche--was definitely definitive, offering an exclusive 16-bit mode, orchestrated music, new plot particulars for the game's heroes, and much more. Square Enix didn't just deliver the absolute bare minimum to Switch owners--they delivered one of the best ports from the PlayStation 4 possible with enough new content to almost* justify a second purchase.

*Your mileage may vary.

4) The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening

The beloved Game Boy classic returned in 2019, 26 years after it originally released on the small screen. The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening received a full fledged remake on the Nintendo Switch, and did it in style--a toy diorama style, to be exact. The new art style delivered an abundance of charm and personality, more than the already personality-rich Game Boy original did. No small feat! Adding to the game's stellar and adorable presentation was new quality of life features such as more buttons to map items to, thanks to the ready and able Switch in either JoyCon or Pro Controller form. While the addition of designing dungeons didn't reach Mario Maker levels of ambition, it did serve a nice puzzle function in properly positioning rooms in a way that satisfied all conditions. The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening is loved for many reasons, and for me, the Switch version only added to those.

3) Fire Emblem: Three Houses

I constantly have a battle in my brain between Fire Emblem: Awakening and Fire Emblem: Three Houses as to which is my favorite in the Fire Emblem series. After some fierce pondering and some serious (not really serious) soul-searching, I really do think Three Houses edges Awakening out overall. Between its multiple routes with different characters to grow with and eventually grow fond of, scenarios to encounter, and battles to, well, battle, Fire Emblem: Three Houses offers an exceptional combination of strategic fights to overcome, an intriguing story that really goes to some dark places, and even some enjoyable and rewarding sim life parts with the respites at Garreg Mach Monastery. The amount of content in the game is absolutely staggering, and nearly all of it is of a tremendous quality.

2) Luigi's Mansion 3

While I was conflicted to right away give a preference to my favorite Fire Emblem game, there is no doubt in my mind that Luigi's Mansion 3 is my favorite in the Luigi's Mansion trilogy thus far. It's a near perfect mix of what made the original Luigi's Mansion great (its open mansion to explore without being split up into missions) and what made Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon even better (each mansion being a different beast altogether with unique themes and puzzles). Luigi's Mansion 3 outdoes both of its predecessors with cleverly designed puzzles which implement an equally clever addition in Gooigi, immaculately made floors that each possess their own unique themes, incredibly boss encounters, fully interactive environments that really show off the physics on display when messing around with Luigi's Poltergust G-00 vacuum, and so much more. Luigi's Mansion 3 was scary good with its quality, and I can't wait to see what developer Next Level Games does... well, next!

1) Super Mario Maker 2

The majority of my gaming time on the Nintendo Switch last year was dedicated to one game. That was Super Mario Maker 2--if it being number one on this list didn't make that clear enough already. Its story campaign served as a terrific tutorial for how to make excellently crafted and high caliber levels. One could easily take the lessons learned of good level design introduced in the story mode and be inspired to create something really special of their own. Of course, it's easy to note that most players did not do this and instead created, well, I hesitate to say "crap", so I'll say "less than inspired creations" instead. However, finding those terrific levels online and prodigious creators that cranked out excellent level after level was like opening a box of cereal and finding an awesome toy inside. But, imagine that feeling and having it happen over and over again.

Yes, I said Super Mario Maker 2 had a lot of bad levels from the community, but it also has an amazing amount of great levels as well. The game is certainly not for everyone, especially if you don't have an urge to play others' levels or create your own, but if you do, you'll find a treasure trove of accessible creation and customization options available to you without the need for programming know-how. You'll just need a little patience and a lot of creativity.


And there you have it! While your order or selection of games may--and probably will--differ, hopefully we can all agree that the Nintendo Switch had a pretty awesome third year. Let the SPC community know which ten games from the Switch's third year on the market you most enjoyed in our comments section.