Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville - Complete Edition (NSW) Review

Before the month of March escapes us completely, SuperPhillip Central has one more new review to share with everyone on this eve of April. It's for a recent release--at least on the Nintendo Switch--Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville - Complete Edition. Check out why I wholeheartedly recommend this port with the SPC review.

Grow big or go home

The Nintendo Switch isn't any stranger to third-party games releasing later (or late) after their original launches. In fact, it's quite routine. However, occasionally a case presents itself where the wait for a particular game becomes very much worthwhile, either due to functioning well on the Switch or coming packed with a bevy of content. In the case of Electronic Arts and Popcap's Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville, it's a combination of both of these attributes, offering one impressive, feature-rich, content-heavy port that may be late to the party, but delivers an incredible amount of fun for all ages.

Part of the reason for Battle for Neighborville being so wonderful on the Switch is that pretty much everything can be access, earned, and played offline. I threw in the "pretty much" part, as only daily, weekly, and character-specific challenges are inaccessible offline without a Nintendo Switch Online subscription. These challenges award Prize Bulbs and costume pieces that the former allows you to unlock Prize Map rewards more quickly, while the latter grants you character costume pieces for completing character-specific challenges. Everything else on offer in Plants vs. Zombies' debut on the Nintendo Switch is all available offline.

Outfit your character your way with a copious abundance of cosmetics, all earned via in-game currency. (No MTXs!)

This includes multiplayer--which includes play against bots. That said, the absence of split-screen multiplayer is a tremendous bummer, but understandable as it was removed from the Switch version to allow the game to run as admirably as it does on Nintendo's hybrid hardware. The Switch port giveth and the Switch port taketh away! Still, playing offline against bots, which allows you to select what character classes are allowed and what difficulty they are set to, makes for an enjoyable time. It also presents a bit of future-proofing to the game for when the online community inevitably dries up. However, at the time of this review (and this review was published two weeks after the initial Switch release), online is thriving with players, and I've seldom--if ever--have had to wait to enter into a match. 

With the Scientist's weapon firing, the juice is loose!

That said, I do have an issue with the online lobbies. Currently, you can group up with up to three other friends for a four friend group. However, you can NOT enter into a private match with them to play against bots. This is more a circumstantial and personal problem on my end, but with a friend of mine who is relatively new and inexperienced with gaming, it would have been nice to be able to play together in a safer setting against casual difficulty bots and thrust him into competitive online against strangers and random players of varying skill levels. A small gripe I have with the game, but I hope it's somehow touched upon by the development team and corrected.

Reach for the sky pard'ner. Sheriff Citron is in town.

The multiplayer, whether offline or on, features a multitude of modes and a series of maps across them. There is a simple team deathmatch-style mode, though named a much more family-friendly Team Vanquish, as well as a mode where teams compete to control three stations. The more stations your team controls, the more points your team earns. Alongside Team Vanquish and this aforementioned area-controlling Suburbination mode, there is an exciting area takeover mode, where one team attempts to strike, controlling one area of a map after another, forcing the other team to take and hopefully make a stand. Then, there's a 4 vs. 4 arena battle where each player gets one life per round. Each character class they select for that round gets crossed out the next round, win or lose, so it's important to not only be comfortable with multiple classes in this mode, but it's also important to accent your teammates' choices of characters as well. Having everyone serve as the healing class is less than a stellar decision, for example!

Outside of multiplayer in a competitive and co-operative sense, Battle for Neighborville brings a solo-focused experience to the fold with four free-roaming maps. One is exclusive to the Plants, one is exclusive to the Zombies, and one is shared between both Plants and Zombies, but they occur at different times of day. Either way, you're going to get upwards of 10 hours with each, as they involve completing story-based quests, battling bosses, discovering and opening treasure chests, uncovering Golden Gnomes and the ultra-rare and usually puzzle or combat-oriented Platinum Gnomes, and completing a variety of achievement-like tasks that reward Medals for accomplishing them. To further add to the fun--and I definitely found a lot of fun with the four campaigns--there are bounty battles to take on, where you engage with themed "gimmick"-based bosses, as well as Ops missions where you guard a position against five waves of increasingly more difficult opposition forces. Some maps are more enjoyable than others, and the lack of a fast travel option means you'll be trekking through familiar sights (and sites) repeatedly. Still, a great amount of content is available in these four maps.

There may be too many encounters while roaming the four maps of Battle for Neighborville's
 campaigns, but when they're this enjoyable, it's a small price to pay.

I've spoken at long length already about the content inside Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville - Complete Edition--and do I have more to cover--but what of the actual Plants and Zombies that are versus-ing one another? (Ew. There wasn't any elegance in THAT wording!) Each member of the Plant and Zombie teams has a main attack as well as three special attacks/abilities. The latter require a cooldown in order to use again with more powerful attacks and useful abilities requiring a longer cooling down period. From Peashooter's ability to turn plant its roots firmly into the ground to become a stationary turret, to All-Star's ability to produce a protective red dome that serves to temporarily shield itself and others from projectiles, it's important to learn each character class' abilities. Fortunately, it's quite enjoyable to do so. 

All-Star's showing everyone that while there is no "I" in "TEAM", 
there is certainly an "I" in "VANQUISH".

Alternately, each character class has its own strengths and weaknesses. The Sunflower on the Plants side and the Scientist on the Zombies side serve as the healing class, perfect for protecting others with added health in a pinch, but their attack capabilities aren't the strongest. Meanwhile, attack-proficient characters like Kernel Corn and 80's Action Hero on the Plant and Zombie sides respectively deal great damage, but their maximum health levels are on the lower side. For the most part, each class of characters seems balanced well enough, and it makes for matches and moment-to-moment gameplay that keeps things fresh--more importantly on a personal note, it kept me coming back for more.

Characters level up with experience earned through a multitude of methods and ways. After every ten levels earned, they stop earning experience and must be promoted. This promotion serves a twofold purpose as to gain new perks as well as allow them to resume leveling up, though starting from level 1 again. It can be a bit of a pain to have to return to the hub to promote a character, as again, they don't earn any more experience once they hit the maximum of level 10. It's pretty much wasted experience on them if you continue to play as that character without giving them a proper promotion. 

If only receiving a promotion was as easy to get in real life! (Sigh...)

The hub itself, Giddy Park, serves as one-stop spot for all kinds of actions and activities. For one, you access the four campaigns and multiplayer from this hub. There is of course the place to promote characters, like I mentioned already, but there is also a shop that stocks different goods like costume pieces, costume sets, character gestures, plaques that are displayed on another player's screen when you vanquish them, and so forth. Additionally, there is a place to spend Prize Bulbs, a capsule machine that you can spend coins earned through regular play to earn various cosmetics at random (unlike the other previously released versions of this game, there are NO microtransactions to speak of), and a central area that separates the Plants and Zombies that allows some practice of vanquishing players or bots. 

By the 80's Action Heroes' rockets' red (technically, orange) glare,
these foes feel pummeling pain with each blast and burst.

Battle for Neighborville is the first Frostbite Engine game (Electronic Arts' own graphical engine framework) to launch on the Nintendo Switch, which is exciting in and of itself for what future support from EA may hold. Regardless, it also serves as exciting because the engine really runs rather well on Nintendo's hardware. Whether docked or in handheld form, the game runs at 30 FPS, though the latter offers a blurrier look to it. Additionally, the frame-rate is not entirely stable with some noticeable drops when the action gets hot and especially heated. Still, it's amazing to see a Frostbite Engine game from EA running on the Switch, and doing so in a mostly impressive way.

Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville - Complete Edition was my first foray with anything in the Plants vs. Zombies series. Between the nearly endlessly entertaining multiplayer--that with bots means the fun will continue long after what currently is a sizable online community eventually diminishes--and the amazing amount of single player options available, whether free-roaming adventure maps or offline modes, I played a heck of a lot more than I expected I would (and I'm hardly done yet). It's only been out for just under two weeks and already I've put over 50 hours into the game with most of my time being dedicated to offline pursuits. Having a full game available online or off, no microtransactions, and plenty of content to enjoy, EA and Popcap definitely didn't pull the wool over Switch owners' eyes with its "Complete" in Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville's Complete Edition branding. It was a question of growing big or going home, and Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville on the Nintendo Switch without question grows big, warts and all.

[SPC Says: B+]

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