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Fan-tastic

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Mighty Switch Force! Collection
Xbox One

EVEN THOUGH WayForward Technologies already boasted of an impressive resume when it came out with Mighty Switch Force! in late 2011, it was nonetheless presented with not insignificant hurdles in its efforts to steer its intellectual property to success. For one thing, the Nintendo 3DS wasn’t yet a year old and developers and gamers alike still had to grasp the handheld’s full potential. For another, it saw fit to release the third title in its Mighty series via the eShop; at the time, the digital distribution platform was in the early stages, and the definition of ownership of a product that couldn’t be physically handled remained the subject of debate.

For all the evident obstacles, Mighty Switch Force! proved to be a critical and commercial hit. In part, it benefited from WayForward’s stellar reputation and the 3DS’ rapid takeup rate. In larger measure, it found its cause strengthened by gameplay mechanics and characteristics that held universal appeal. Puzzles platformers aren’t always well received, but its work became the exception to the rule, transcending genres with the ideal blend of story, technical proficiency, and fairness. Parenthetically, outstanding replay value offset short length and gave great bang for the buck.

WayForward would go on to make four more Mighty titles, including a “Hyper Drive Edition” of Mighty Switch Force! which presented updates and additional levels for Wii U owners. And as with its iterations on Nintendo hardware, releases on the personal computer were well received. Considering the crossover acclaim and appeal, it’s no wonder the developer has now seen fit to offer gamers the opportunity to enjoy the aforesaid material, Mighty Switch Force! 2, and Mighty Switch Force! Academy on current-generation consoles.

Compilations are nothing new to the industry, with publishers seeing them as a way to get contemporary gamers on board while giving their subjects new leases on life. In the case of the Mighty Switch Force! Collection, the benefits are compounded by the fact that the series sports an unabashed retro look and feel, but with decidedly modern-day sensibilities. On the Xbox One, the port of every single title is nothing short of outstanding; the pixel-art style jumps off the screen in an obvious nod to the processing power of Microsoft’s eighth-generation console despite seemingly less-capable roots, and the accompanying audio tracks embrace their classical inspirations.

Needless to say, titles in the Mighty Switch Force! Collection retain their storylines and gameplay. Mighty Switch Force! and Mighty Switch Force! Hyper Drive Edition get to see principal protagonist Patricia Wagon on a mission to recapture the Hooligan Sisters, five convicts who managed to escape from Planet Land. Mighty Switch Force! 2 has her making a career change from police officer to firefighter in her efforts to rescue the same sisters, but already reformed — and, occasionally, the “Ugly Secret Baby” — from spontaneous combustions threatening to engulf the planet. Mighty Switch Force! Academy transports her back as a cadet, but zooms out of the grid and expands the action to allow for four-gamer cooperative play on a single screen.




If inclusions in the Mighty Switch Force! Collection sound like birds of the same feather, it’s because, well, they are — albeit with enough unique features to make each stand out from the rest. The puzzles are certainly varied and challenging, never mind that their handheld DNA has level designs leaning toward relatively quick finishes. Difficulty spikes are thankfully nonexistent; rather, handicaps progress gradually and logically. Moreover, the interface is a blast; whether with a standard or Elite controller, gamers will appreciate the pristine input registers and ultra-smooth aesthetics, even during frenetic activity.

If there’s any negative to Mighty Switch Force! Collection, it’s the utter absence of bells and whistles. While others have seen fit to churn out compilations introducing new features or providing a smattering of production-related Easter eggs, WayForward eschews any add-ons. Even the menu is relatively barebones. That said, the Xbox One port earns its $19.99 price tag with plenty to spare. The absence of embellishments aside, it stands out because of the games themselves. Simply put, they’re “fan-tastic.”

THE GOOD:

• Outside of the Shantae series, the best of WayForward on the Xbox One platform

• Retro-style puzzle platforming with modern-day sensibilities

• Excellent port, with standout aesthetics and superb controls

• Progressively challenging level designs

THE BAD:

• Not complete (Mighty Switch Force! Hose It Down! is missing)

• Barebones and absent any bells and whistles

RATING: 8.5/10

POSTSCRIPT: The Tower of Beatrice casts the playable character as a thief contracted by an unnamed client to, as noted in its official Nintendo eShop site, “infiltrate the tower of the powerful sorcerer Beatrice, steal her Book of Recipes, and get out alive.” The first two objectives are easy enough to meet, but it’s the third that gamers are slated to spend not inconsiderable time doing — or, rather, trying to do. Developer Sometimes You’s port of its highly rated escape-room offering on the personal computer hews closely to the source material, and, for the most part, sticks the landing on the Nintendo Switch.

To beat The Tower of Beatrice, gamers will have to go through six floors, solving puzzles, making use of items put together, and summoning spells — needless to say, through the use of the target book which, infusing dry humor to the proceedings, also acts as a vehicle for the sorcerer’s condescension — at every turn in order to forge ahead. In this regard, the details in the game’s official site are spot on: the hurdles range from “simple to brain bending,” but not always in a good way. Hints are provided, but they occasionally tend to confuse more than help.

Considering the need for gamers to be extremely observant to the point of obsessive in surveying their character’s surroundings, The Tower of Beatrice could have benefited from better controls. With the Joy-Cons serviceable at best, the game thankfully provides touchscreen support. Yet, even then, there will be the occasional glitches, particularly when zooming in and out. That said, there can be no downplaying the effort Sometimes You has put forth in bringing its intellectual property to the Switch. And if there’s anything the iteration on the hybrid console presents as an advantage, it’s the capacity to be enjoyed anywhere, and at any given time.

At $5.99, The Tower of Beatrice is at a price point justified by its fairly engrossing gameplay. It’s short by the standards of similar AAA titles, but it doesn’t cheat the time it takes from gamers. And it manages not to overstay its welcome by periodically injecting doses of humor that hit more often than miss. (7/10)

Created by independent developer Phase Two Games, Battle Hunters is a surprisingly polished title that transcends the limitations of the iOS platform through its unabashed display of the passion of those behind it. No doubt, the pedigree of creative director Dan Tonkin and technical director Tony Charlton helps; drawing from their experience as co-founders of IronMonkey Studios and EA Melbourne, not to mention wealth of knowledge in providing gamers with guilty pleasures dating back to the industry’s eight-bit days, they’ve managed to produce an engrossing role-playing game well worth the 15 or so hours required to see it through.

In Battle Hunters, gamers initially take control of three from a roster of up to 25 heroes. Devon Highcastle, a soldier, Galador Stormwarden, a wizard, and Martin Swiftbow, an archer, have banded together in an effort to help keep evil from overrunning the kingdom. They go on a journey to meet the Old One, still able to hold the enemy at bay but slowly weakening over time, and, en route, they aim to overcome danger with their unique skill sets and special abilities. And even as the challenges presented before them become more and more difficult to overcome, they manage to recruit others to their cause.

For all the constraints of the iOS operating system, Battle Hunters proves to be an immersive escapade even for gamers not normally predisposed to spending significant amounts of time staring at small devices. The point-and-click interface is as smooth on the iPhone XS Max as on the iPad Pro, although the latter’s additional screen real estate does help in reading text and selecting command options faster. Loading times are fast, but the absence of a fast-forward option to skip animations and cutscenes in favor of decision points can drag proceedings.

Battle Hunters likewise benefits from outstanding graphics and an engaging audio track, though the music can be overwhelming at times. Menu options isolating it from sound effects and controlling its volume would have been welcome. The good news: Phase Two Games has promised to keep supporting and updating it in keeping with Tonkin and Charlton’s promise to deliver titles they themselves would like to play. Which is why there are no in-app purchases, no pay-to-play alternatives, no forced advertising sections. And which is also why it has actively solicited gamer feedback. At $5.99, it’s a decided steal, and one that looks to keep on giving. (8.5/10)

THE LAST WORD: Dragon Star Varnir, already out on the Sony PlayStation 4 and reviewed on this space on July 30, will be released for the personal computer on Oct. 9. The Steam version, to be offered at a 20% discount within the first week of launch, is set to include all gameplay and art content from the Japanese version, as well as English, Japanese, and Traditional Chinese subtitles.

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