Saturday Summaries 2019-02-23: Even More Direct Edition

I thought I stopped last week's 2019-02-13 Nintendo Direct rundown about halfway through, but I was way off the mark. For the sake of expediency I'm just going to give you one sentence appraisals based on what I saw in the Direct and my history with that franchise, if any. The Moogyo rating system is back too, of course. I can't even get rid of these fishcows now; they're spawning like nobody's business. Starting to understand why they were only in the one Mario game, frankly.

Disney Tsum Tsum Festival

Surprised this adorable little licensed party game is presently a Switch exclusive, but I wondered for a moment if Bandai's intending to stick NFC chips in future Tsum Tsums to utilize the Switch's compatible hardware.

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Starlink: Battle for Atlas (Star Fox DLC)

I've been considering grabbing Starlink now that it's dropped precipitously in price (and I suspect this late-arrival Star Fox DLC won't rescue it) and I'm always down for a fun, low-stress, exploratory-focused space shooter/sim.

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Rune Factory 4 Special (+ Rune Factory 5)

As one of those people who played Stardew Valley before they ever touched a Rune Factory or Innocent Life, though unlike Dan at least knew about these franchises beforehand, I've always had my eye on possibly dropping a few dozen hours into one of these bucolic RPGs if it looked polished enough.

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Though likely to be a sleeper hit at best, there's a lot to be excited about here: Square's little experiment with old-style JRPGs via the pragmatically named Tokyo RPG Factory is seeing slow improvement with each new game, and this creepy new title about resurrecting souls has Chrono Trigger/Live A Live director Takashi Tokita at the helm.

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Yoshi's Crafted World

Still looks mad cute, but I feel like Nintendo's doing their little dinosaur buddy a disservice by releasing his charming papercraft platformer the same month as the Kirby's Epic Yarn 3DS remaster, making me wonder why Nintendo's two cutest and most voracious icons are always forced to compete.

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Fire Emblem: Three Houses

No interest in Fire Emblem beyond a historian's respect for how long the franchise has persevered and adapted with the times from its halcyon NES days, but I am hoping its continued success will inspire quality reboots of SRPGs I care about like Vandal Hearts or Final Fantasy Tactics.

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Tetris 99

Honestly surprised it took this long for someone to come up with Tetris Battle Royale (though I'd probably prefer a new Tetris Battle Gaiden) and it's genius that Nintendo leveraged the idea as a reason anyone would want to sign up for their online service while they inconceivably struggle to assemble a Virtual Console collection worth the admission alone.

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Deltarune: Chapter 1

I've already played the PC version of this sorta-demo/sorta-prologue for Toby Fox's next project, but I appreciate him releasing it for free on the eShop and am still curious how he convinced Nintendo to give him shelf space for a gratis game when they're parsimonious enough to charge £30 for indies available on Steam for a fraction of that.

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Daemon X Machina

Mech games aren't my thing but I'm still waiting for the other shoe to drop in regards to what this one does differently, the answer to which may yet determine whether or not I'll give it a shot.

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Switch AAA Ports: Dead By Daylight + Grid Autosport + Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice + Assassin's Creed III Remastered + Mortal Kombat 11

Just lumping all these together because I have zero intention of getting a weaker console port of any of these big-budget games, none of which really interested me in the first place besides maybe Hellblade.

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Unravel 2

Conversely to the above, the co-operative Indie game Unravel 2 seems like something more manageable for the Switch, which is honestly becoming the ideal place for Nintendo first-party and Indies, in the rare cases where they're being sold at a competitive price.

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Final Fantasy VII + Chocobo's Mystery Dungeon: Every Buddy + Final Fantasy IX

Square Enix dropped a few ports from their flagship franchise on us, though I'm fairly sure these were all announced earlier and there's plenty of places to buy FFVII and FFIX already (and I'm not that hot on Mystery Dungeon roguelikes either, even new Chocobo ones).

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Astral Chain

Verrrrry intrigued by this one, and even if I'm not a huge fan of character action games in general I think Platinum's earned the benefit of the doubt with the likes of NieR: Automata and Vanquish so I'm hoping it's more like those.

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The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening

I mean, obviously this was the highlight for me personally as Link's Awakening was the first Zelda game I ever played and remains, to this day, the one I'm most emotionally affected by (and I think the visual style is just dandy - Link's Awakening is meant to be a little more fantastical and surreal than usual, and this aesthetic lends to that conceit effectively enough).

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That's enough of being a sycophantic hype man for a corporation that hardly needs the help. Time to see what Sega and some other rivals are up to in this week's blog rundown.

Back to Bed

The Indie Game of the Week was a softball, but that's mostly on me spending most of Thursday game time trying to Platinum a certain other game further down the page. Figment's been showing up on giveaway sites a lot recently - usually means it was part of a bundle - and I remembered that I'd never played the first game from the same developers (Bedtime Digital Games, who I guess are cornering the market on games set in dreams. Well, besides for Media Molecule and Dreams, I suppose). Back to Bed isn't going to freak your bean with diabolical puzzles, but it will gently ease you into a soporific state in an entirely positive sense of "this game will send you to sleep". I recall Waypoint's Natalie Watson tweeting that the Switch eShop should have a section for games designed to be played as you're lying in bed and about to drop off, and Back to Bed seems perfect for that. It's just a really chill, visually interesting puzzle game that can be finished in an hour or so. Sometimes I want that instead of spending six hours trying to troubleshoot the factory assembly line from Hell (don't think I've forgotten about you, Infinifactory).

Link here: Indie Game of the Week 108: Back to Bed

Sega Mega Drive

I've published the second part of my 1991 season of Mega Archive, which will eventually see us through to the end of that year and give us insight into the way Sega's console shifted with the mid-year release of the first Sonic the Hedgehog. Of course, development schedules being such we won't start seeing way more platformers with attitude until the following year, but the launch of Sonic is a momentous event for the system to the extent that I've seen Sega Mega Drive retrospectives make the distinction between the system's "pre-Sonic" and "post-Sonic" eras. Fair to say that besides a smattering of arcade ports early on, the early Mega Drive library didn't feel very "Sega" until Sonic and Sonic Team came along and began releasing a chain of distinctive console-only Sega classics. Seriously, check out some of the weird "throw it against a wall and see what sticks" experiments Sega was publishing in this week's entry: a Sangokushi (Romance of the Three Kingdoms) Koei knock-off and a bunch of mediocre micro-games for their online Meganet service. This week also introduces Climax and their Shining series, which I would argue is the second most notable RPG franchise that Sega's associated with after Phantasy Star (unless you count Yakuza, of course), as well as Masaya's Langrisser/Warsong, Data East's Midnight Resistance, the first James Pond, and more.

Link here: Mega Archive: Part VIII: From Mamono Hunter Yohko to Sangokushi Retsuden

Mirror's Edge Catalyst

I have a stack of new PS4 games from the end of last year, but I've long since maxed out my PS4's storage with games I impulsively bought and installed right afterwards with the intent to start them eventually. I've been slowly working my way through those already installed games this year so I can give them the ol' "complete and delete" treatment, freeing up more room for the likes of Marvel's Spider-Man and Divinity Original Sin 2, two games in particular I'm hoping to play very soon. Mirror's Edge Catalyst, which I must've bought over two years ago now, wasn't quite the disappointment I was expecting it to be from its so-so reputation. I liked the challenging but intuitive free-running plenty when I played the original Mirror's Edge, figuring that a traversal system like that would be right at home in an open-world context where you could pick out your own routes across the city or simply follow the red-tinted one provided by the CPU.

The story reboot doesn't do the Mirror's Edge universe any favors, especially since the new big twist could be seen a mile away, but all the missions and challenges and well-hidden collectibles really took advantage of Faith's ability to wallrun, wallclimb, vault, springbox, slide, dash, and coil (which just means raising your legs while jumping to clear small barriers) and other no-doubt established parkour lingo. Still really into that gleaming white plastic aesthetic too, making the game's city of Glass this oppressively sterile place as well as a spotless white canvas upon which to express oneself through leaping and running and occasionally splattering on the pavements many storeys down.

Thunderbolt Fantasy (Season 2)

Damn if this wuxia hand puppet Taiwanese/Japanese co-production isn't consistently one of the most entertaining things on television right now, or at least the online streaming equivalent that's taken this medium over. Continuing the adventures of laid-back vagabond and world's greatest swordsman Shang Bu Huan and conniving trickster Lin Xue Ya, as the former attempts to find a place to safely stash the Sorcerous Sword Index (a magical repository of some of the most dangerous enchanted swords in existence). The new season is focused largely around two enchanted swords that get stolen by new antagonist Xie Yingluo, a.k.a. the Princess of Cruelty, a deadly assassin who is an expert with venomous insects and poisons. (Since one of those swords inspired fanatical devotion and had a sexy lady voice, I took to calling it Knaifu.) Like the first season, it bounces from one unfortunate incident to the next rather than a single big overarching narrative, making it a little more unpredictable where it could be heading.

That said, the eventual real antagonist isn't a surprise (the guy has violet-colored skin and red eyes, for criminy's sake) and I'm here more for the choreographed fight scenes, which totally manages to sell the idea of these hand puppets swordfighting with blinding speed and acrobatics without turning it into a Team America parody of action cinema. The new ally and former partner of Shang Bu Huan, Lang Wu Yao, is a bard with a talking instrument (one that does most of the comic relief work) who sends out phantom blades with every riff and solo - he's mostly just around to kick several shades of ass when needed, and I'm here for that. He feels like a character designed to play into the franchise's more action-oriented strengths than the long-winded talking scenes that frequently involve the most recent well-laid scheme by Lin Xue Ya, who continues to be a big question mark in regards of loyalty, or the similarly crooked cop Xiao Kuang Juan ("The Hunting Fox") who tends to push up his glasses like an anime character before each of his sneaky and underhanded tricks or statements.

Honestly, if you've not had the chance to watch this show yet, both seasons are available on Crunchyroll and are worth checking out. "Taiwanese puppet drama" seems like the most esoteric artsy tryhard choice for one's evening entertainment, but there's nothing pretentious about this show's earnestly dramatic storytelling or its killer action sequences. Just a whole lot of fun from start to finish.

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