It’s the one time of the year where studios need to bring their A (or maybe AAA) game and show it to the world. Look out for these games, both big and small coming to Nintendo Switch (except for two, which you still might enjoy).
Starlink: Battle for Atlas
At first glance it looks moderately fun and with great visuals for a game aimed at a younger audience. Unfortunately it was a different story when I got to play it, as my main concern is with the controls. I would have liked to try it with the motion controls but it wasn’t available in the demo, and I’m uncertain it would fix the issue. You can freely move your spaceship around like Star Fox‘s All-Range Mode and alternate between hugging the ground or flying through the air at your command. When it came time to fight the boss, I knew what I had to do (hit the glowing weak point) but executing it was difficult. There are no air brakes and no lock-on mechanic to pan around a target. By the time my ship was facing the boss (in the air) I was too close, had to turn around, and missed my opportunity to hit its weakness. A cycle that would repeat ad nauseam. I was either too far away to hit its weak point, or too close and it was still protected. At the same time, enemies on the ground would respawn and attack you even from a distance, so hugging the ground wasn’t a better option. On a side note, having your ship that close to the ground without wheels or some sort of landing gear feels off.
The demo took much longer than I knew it should have and it soured the experience. I was told by a journalist that the demo is much better when the developers are there to guide you, but I felt my time was better spent covering a different game. Perhaps a 2nd round is all it needs, but at this time I think it needs some work.
Mega Man 11
For nearly a decade, Mega Man fans had lost hope that the series would return outside various collections. At this point almost any new game with the Blue Bomber would be enough to get fans excited. They could have taken advantage of this by putting anything out, but they didn’t. They put something out that feels worthy of the name.
The controls feel tight like you expect from the series, and based off Block Man’s stage, there aren’t cheap deaths that the earlier games were plagued with: deaths that come from being hit mid jump, from an enemy off-screen, and then falling into a instant death pit or spikes. I’m not sure if this is because their design philosophy changed or because the Classic series is in widescreen for the first time. Regardless it doesn’t look like it will be a problem for this entry.
This game also introduces a new mechanic, the double gear system. It gives Mega Man the ability to do more damage or slow everything down for a short period of time. On paper this might sound like it makes the game easy, but rest assured it doesn’t. It’s short enough to act as a bonus, but never as an instant win button. It also has a cooldown effect if you try to use it too much. It’s also worth noting that Mega Man’s slide and charge shot return after being absent from 9 and 10. Like Mega Man, bosses can also be overclocked, resulting in a 2nd phase to them to make it more interesting.
Mega Man 11 feels like a genuine Mega Man game with some fun additions thrown in.
It’s hard to talk about Paladins without mentioning Overwatch. They’re both hero-shooters that share characters either in design or in play style. Instead, let’s focus on their differences and why you might prefer one over the other. There are two key differences with Paladins. One is that you can’t change your hero mid-game. This might seem like a disadvantage, but sticking with a character forces you to learn and give them a shot. In my case I wanted to change from a ranged character to a melee character, but over the course of the match I enjoyed the character I chose. If I could switch out I likely would’ve limited my options. The second key difference is that you can upgrade your heroes. In Overwatch it doesn’t matter how much time you spend with a character, they will always be the same. With Paladins, using a character overtime will unlock new abilities. It’s an incentive to get better, and gives you a little sense of accomplishment outside of a kill/death ratio.
I had fun and will check out more of it. While it is $30 right now, a free version is aiming for a summer release if you want to test it first. I might require a Nintendo Switch Online subscription when that goes live, so keep that in mind.
Dragon Quest 11
(not coming to Switch… at least in the near future)
Few big publishers are making turn-based JRPG’s but you can always count on Dragon Quest to fill that void. Basic attacks, magic attacks, and status effects are all there as expected. Party members can be controlled individually, or automatically if you prefer sticking to the main character. There’s even a travelling performer who will temporarily join your team and act of his own will.
In contrast to the Japanese version there are some exclusive features to the Western release: a 1st person view, moving while fighting (no gameplay benefit), and English voice acting (except for the protagonist). While I focused more on the battle portion of the demo, the voice acting sounded fine and the voices suited the characters. You really can’t sum up a 40+ hour JRPG in 15 minutes. Nothing stood out as bad, and everything looked and played great. If you’re a fan of turn-based RPGs… well let’s be honest you were probably already sold on this.
For a game with only three inputs (gas, brake, and rotate your bike) it sure isn’t easy. The goal is to get to the end of a BMX obstacle course… or at least the next checkpoint. To do this you have to ride up steep hills, perform loop-de-loops, and have precise control over your bike. Anytime you land on your head, it’s an immediate failure and you’re forced to restart at the last checkpoint. Which is fine because you’ll probably press the reset button just as many times.
The game is all about retrying the same section until you get it right. If you’re patient, or like trying to beat your own score you might be interested. Because the time between failing and restarting is so quick, it doesn’t really register as a loss so it’s not as bad as one might think. Sometimes you can fail in hilarious ways too which lessens the impact of constant failure.
Overall I enjoyed it. It’s basically a puzzle game where you try to figure out what combination of gas and movement it takes to overcome each mini obstacle. I do have one concern that’s exclusive to the Nintendo Switch version. I played on the Xbox One version, and the gas and brake are mapped to the analog triggers. The Switch however, only has digital triggers (on or off). Precise controls are important to this game and if that minute degree of control is lost, Nintendo fans may not get the game the way it was intended.
Team Sonic Racing
Although some think I’m crazy, I still believe Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed is better than Mario Kart 8/Deluxe. Having nearly each lap be a unique track was such a refreshing take. So when I heard a new game was coming I was excited.
Rather than trying to up the ante with a direct sequel, Sumo Digital went with an entirely different concept, team racing. Choosing a character will determine who your teammates are. For example Sonic, Tails and Knuckles are all on one team. Between your teammates you can share items, and follow each other’s slipstream for boosts which will power your ultimate meter. When activated, your ultimate power will give you a boost and the ability to knock out opponents. To win, each member’s place will have a certain value and collected as the team’s score. How your team’ stacks against the other teams will determine the final winner.
The developers consider this separate from the “All-Stars” series (hence why the name and other Sega characters are absent). While I respect their decision to try something different, it feels like a downgrade from their previous entry. Ignoring their other games, the team aspect doesn’t feel deep or interesting enough on its own merits. You’ll earn extra boosts and items, but that’s about it. There should be more team-focused abilities to really sell the idea. For example, shortcuts that are only accessible if you worked as a team. Or abilities that reward different tactics. If you split up and do X, your team will earn more speed. If you stay close and do Y, you’ll be protected against items for 10 seconds. It would require your team to coordinate and choose different tactics on the fly to suit the situation. And with AI members, formations could be mapped to the D-Pad. The concept has potential, it’s just not being fully utilized. Overall it isn’t a “bad” game, but it is underwhelming.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey
It’s time to jump up in the ai- wait, is the Leap of Faith still a thing? …it is? Proceed singing.
(coming to PS4, Xbox One, and PC)
With each new game comes a new time period and location and this time it’s in Ancient Greece. The game is built off of the previous entry, Origins, with more RPG elements than the bulk of the series. You can sail across the Aegean sea or take place in a battle with hundreds of enemies.
The combat is different this time compared to most of the series. Moves don’t flow in between enemies like they used to. It’s very much focused on whatever is in front of you. Light and heavy attacks are your main actions, with a few other special moves like removing an enemy’s shield or using a spartan kick. It may not make sense to use it all the time, but kicking someone 50ft away is always satisfying.
It’s fun running into a mass of soldiers and picking them off one-by-one, but the combat seems a bit too simplistic. At least compared to older games. I only had one battle though, so I could be missing something. If you enjoyed Origins, it’s basically a sequel to that, but with Spartans.