SwitchArcade Round-Up: ‘Grandia HD Collection’ and ‘Tactics V: Obsidian Brigade’ Reviews, ‘Dragon Quest Builders 2’ Update, the Latest Sales, and More

Hello gentle readers, and welcome to the SwitchArcade Round-Up for August 21st, 2019. Well, the sole new release scheduled for today seems to have been bumped to tomorrow. That makes this the first weekday in a very long time without a new Switch game of some kind. How will we ever survive? How about with a pair of reviews and an assortment of news? We top that all off with a little information about new sales. As for those new releases, don’t worry. Tomorrow has an awful lot to sort through, after all. Let’s get to it!

News

The August NES Nintendo Switch Online Titles are Now Available

Coming in a little later in the month than usual, the latest update for the the NES Nintendo Switch Online app is now available. This update brings two new games to the service along with one SP version of an existing release. The new games are the excellent and rarely seen Vice: Project Doom and the also rare but less exciting Kung Fu Heroes. The SP version this time around is Gradius. Yes, we already had an SP version for that which let players start late in the game loaded up with power-ups. This SP version starts you off at the beginning of the more challenging second loop through the game. Few players have the skill to see this on their own, but now you can just jump right in. Vice: Project Doom is a very cool surprise, but I do hope Super NES games are on the way soon.

‘Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games: Tokyo 2020’ Launches November 5th

Mario and Sonic have been meeting up for friendly sporting competitions for a pretty long time now. This one is a bit special, however, as the upcoming 2020 games are being hosted by their home country of Japan. SEGA really seems to be pulling out all the stops on this one, even going so far as to include a Tokyo 1964 Olympics mode where classic 2D versions of the characters compete in 10 different events. You can see what it looks like by watching the trailer, but I will say that the clash between the 8-bit Mario sprites and the 16-bit Sonic sprites is… amusing, if nothing else. The game also has a firm release date now. It will hit on November 5th in North America.

‘Dragon Quest Builders 2’ Update Now Available

The excellent Dragon Quest Builders 2 has gotten some nice post-release support, and its latest update adds in a bunch of stuff that should make players very happy. There are new epilogues that tell you what happened to certain characters after the events of the game, which is pretty awesome. The number of Buildertopia islands you can store has been increased to three, and the number of save slots has also been bumped up to three. There are new hairstyles, new weather-changing items, and a bunch of UI improvements and additions. And yeah, a lot of the more over-the-top glitches have been plugged. Probably for the best, even as fun as some of them were.

Dan Aykroyd is Ready to Believe You Will Pre-Order ‘Ghostbusters: Remastered’

Ghostbusters: The Video Game Remastered will be launching relatively soon on the Switch and other platforms. The game hits on October 4th, but pre-orders are apparently available now. And I can’t think of a better way to hear about that than from Canadian treasure Dan Aykroyd, who plays Ray Stantz in both the original movies and the game. It’s hard to believe ten years have passed since the game originally released, but here we are. I’m excited to have an excuse to run through it again, as I was rather fond of the original release. Dan, for his part, always seems excited to talk Ghostbusters, even if it’s just a short promo for a pre-order campaign.

This Weekend’s ‘Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’ Event Goes Old-School

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate has a wild roster of characters. No matter how you slice it, having a roster of over 70 characters in a fighting game is incredible. It’s even wilder when you consider that the first game had just twelve characters in it. It’s that original bunch that the latest Super Smash Bros. Ultimate event will pay homage to. Kicking off this Friday, the new tournament will focus on the original bunch. The more wins you rack up, the better the quality of the spirits you obtain will be. It’ll run through the weekend, so get out there and party like it’s 1999.

Reviews

Grandia HD Collection ($39.99)

One of the editors at a place I wrote for early in my time as a game critic beat more than a few cliche phrases out of my hide. Chief among them was referring to something as a “mixed bag". I still flinch a little whenever I see someone use it. But there are rare cases where a cliche can sometimes do the job better than anything else. Grandia HD Collection embodies that one in particular stronger than most recent releases I can think of. You get two really great RPGs that have rarely been re-released until now with a number of nice improvements. That’s good! But it’s arguable if some of the improvements are actually improving things, and some new bugs have been introduced for good measure. That’s bad! Bah.

The two RPGs in question are Grandia and Grandia 2. Developed by Game Arts, this was sort of a successor series to Lunar after things went pear-shaped with Lunar co-creator Studio Alex. The first game launched in Japan on the SEGA Saturn in 1997 and was hyped up as the Saturn’s Final Fantasy 7 killer. Spoiler: it did not kill Final Fantasy 7. The game was given a so-so port to the PlayStation in 1999, and that version was localized and released in the West by Sony themselves. This new HD version is technically its first re-release since then, but the PlayStation version has been available for quite a number of years on PSN. This first game is particularly similar in feel to Lunar, following a kid with a lust for adventure as he and his friends stumble into something far bigger than they expected.

Grandia 2 was originally released on the SEGA Dreamcast in the year 2000. It was right in that pocket of time where the Dreamcast seemed to have a chance of survival. A couple of months after Ubisoft’s Western release of the game, the Dreamcast was eating dirt. The game was then given a terrible port to the PlayStation 2 in early 2002, and an acceptable port to the PC a few months later. That PC version got shined up and re-released as Grandia 2 Anniversary Edition in 2015, which serves as the basis for this Switch port. This time around, the story is a bit more mopey, with lead Ryudo following in the footsteps of successful protagonists like Squall Leonhart. No adventure for me, thanks. I’m having a sad.

Both games are quite well-loved among RPG fans, and with good reason. The characters are strong, the stories are interesting, and the Grandia series has one of the best battle systems you can find in a turn-based RPG. Your character’s distance from the enemy actually matters here, and you’ll have to position carefully to take advantage of that. You can also cancel or counter enemy attacks if you do things right. It’s very much in a prototypical state in the first game, but the second game builds on things nicely. Later games would improve the battle system even more, but totally mess the bed with the rest of the game. It’s safe to say these two games represent peak Grandia, in other words.

So how does this HD Collection treat these treasures? Well, it could have been worse, I suppose. First, don’t expect any of the quality-of-life features you may have come to expect from re-releases of classic RPGs. No fast forward, no save states, not even a resume save for when you really need to stop playing. Mechanically, these are the same experiences you would have had with the originals. You can switch between English and Japanese voices, make use of rumble, invert the camera stick controls, and that’s about it. Grandia 2 also adds a Hard Mode, which is nice.

All of the other changes relate to the visuals, and this is where things get really dicey. Grandia 2 was originally a fully 3D game, so they’ve basically just bumped up the resolution and given us a nice widescreen view of things. Sure, the models look a bit simple in places, the framerate occasionally chugs, and some of the textures are rough, but I think the game looks more or less the best it ever has. The original Grandia, on the other hand, used a mix of 3D backgrounds and 2D sprites for the characters. It was a Saturn game, after all. The PlayStation port seems to have served as the basis for this new version. That version had awful slowdown that has been smoothed out in this new release, and that’s great. We’ve got a widescreen view and the background objects are in high resolution. I can’t argue with that stuff. But the sprites have had a filter applied to them to smooth out their sharp pixels, and it doesn’t look so hot, especially if you’re playing on a big screen.

There are also a few new bugs in Grandia HD specifically. The music restarts after battles, which it didn’t do before. Sometimes strange black flashes appear in battles. There’s nothing game-breaking here, but I could definitely see some people being irritated. Frankly speaking, the original Grandia is available on PSN for six dollars and can be played on a PSP, PlayStation 3, or Vita. This new version really ought to be a premium experience for the price, and I’m not sure I’d agree that it is. An option to use the unfiltered sprites would be really nice, and I’d love to see those bugs fixed. This game does some things better than the PlayStation version, but I’d love to be able to say that it’s unequivocally better. I can’t do that at the moment.

Still, if you’re just looking to have the first two Grandia games on your Switch, or you’re interested in the series and want to try it out, Grandia HD Collection is certainly good enough. If you don’t know what the unfiltered sprites look like, that point may not even bother you. And the games themselves play just as they always did. They’re still great at some things that few other RPGs really nail down properly. They’re worth playing, even fifteen to twenty years later. You’ll get tons of hours of fun out of this set, and you may even find a new favorite JRPG in the process. I just wish it wasn’t such a mixed ba-

SwitchArcade Score: 4/5

Tactics V: Obsidian Brigade ($24.99)

I think the first thing that anyone is going to notice about Tactics V: Obsidian Brigade is how it looks. The developer has taken a very interesting approach that is probably going to turn some people off. And yet when I first laid eyes on it, I was fascinated. It reminded me of an old computer game in screenshots, with a detailed but heavily dithered appearance that was characteristic of many late 1980s titles. Just what kind of thing is this? I tried to investigate on the web, but nobody was talking about this game at all. Fortunately, the developer provided me with a code to try it out. After spending a little over 25 hours working my way through the game, I can now perhaps provide the answers to others that I once sought myself.

Let me cut to the chase. This game takes a lot of notes from Final Fantasy Tactics. It takes so many notes that if it were a student in my class I’d probably ask to talk to it after the lesson and possibly contact the parents. The look of the game might make you think it’s going a different way, but once you start playing it’s so familiar that it feels like a pair of well-worn shoes. You have your little squad made up of important plot characters and less important redshirts. They all have different classes, and as they gain experience and skill points you’ll be able to unlock more abilities as you see fit. You can also re-class, assigning learned abilities to the new job to make amazing game-breaking Frankenstein’s Monsters.

Each mission plays out as an isometric turn-based tactical challenge. You move each unit around as their turn comes up, which is dependent on how fast they are. Positioning is vital. If you get hit in the back, you’ll take more damage and won’t be able to counter even if you have that skill unlocked. Getting to higher ground helps your ranged attacks reach farther. If any of your unimportant characters dies and isn’t resurrected within a few turns, you’ll lose them forever. Mechanically speaking, this is as Final Fantasy Tactics as you could expect from an indie. That’s not to say that it doesn’t have a few ideas of its own, because it does, but more than in practical gameplay terms this is deliberately hitting a lot of the same notes as Matsuno’s classic SRPG.

There’s not quite as much breadth here in terms of class options, but I was quite satisfied with the depth of each one. There are a lot of skills to learn and once you start mixing and matching jobs you can come up with some really cool combinations. The UI is a bit clunky in places, but hey, the same could be said for Final Fantasy Tactics. The important thing is that the gameplay was enjoyable enough that I didn’t mind regularly sinking an hour here and there to clear a mission or two. The last battles were a pain in the butt, but the game otherwise went down pretty smoothly. There are four difficulty settings, so I’m sure I could get a bit more of a fight out of the game if I played again on a higher level, but you know what? I’m good with the normal setting. It gave me a fight without making me frequently replay maps that took 30 or more minutes to clear, and that’s all I really ask for out of a game like this in terms of challenge.

Unfortunately, like many games inspired by Final Fantasy Tactics, Tactics V somewhat drops the ball outside of the battles. The story is passable but not especially interesting, and the writing just comes off as amateurish at times. It lacks the flowery grandiosity of Matsuno channeled through Alex O. Smith, but also doesn’t sound believable as normal human conversation, either. It’s particularly bad in the first half of the game, where you’re really just going wherever your client at that moment points you to. It eventually finds a point but it comes so late that nothing really lands the way it was probably meant to. If you come to this sort of game looking for a story, I’m not sure I could really recommend this one.

It also shares a flaw with Final Fantasy Tactics in that once you find a solid strategy and/or combination of abilities, there’s very little reason to change things up. A good strategy on one map is almost always going to be a good strategy on all of them. You really have to force yourself to experiment more after you hit that point or it ends up being quite repetitive. But again, this is hardly a problem unique to Tactics V. Similarly, the gameplay takes a while before it really starts to unfold. Your options are quite limited early on in the game so things don’t get really fun until you’ve opened up more abilities and class options.

The look of the game is certainly unique, but I got used to it for the most part pretty quickly. The only thing that never really settled in properly for me were the portraits, which use the character’s face from the actual model itself. They look awful, and I think some static art would have been a better call. You can rotate the field around in 90 degree angles or switch to an overhead view, but it’s still sometimes a little hard to see what you want to. One thing I really like is how changes you make to your class and equipment are easy to spot on the actual character models. The music is fine. Not exactly memorable, but it was pleasant enough to play along to.

As indie efforts in this particular style go, I ended up liking Tactics V: Obsidian Brigade better than RideOn’s Mercenaries games but less than Fell Seal. It’s certainly the roughest of the lot, and only part of that comes from the choice of art style. If you loved Final Fantasy Tactics for its gameplay, you’ll probably like this game enough to get your money’s worth out of it. If you need a good or interesting story, however, you’ll want to give this one a wide berth. I’m not sure how many people are looking for a new turn-based tactical RPG for their Switch right now, but if you are, Tactics V: Obsidian Brigade is a decent one.

SwitchArcade Score: 3.5/5

Sales

Today’s sales are pretty dull, if you ask me. We’ve got some games that are perpetually on sale, a few so-so titles, and a couple of sales regular enough that they’re not something to jump out of bed for. The outbox probably merits more attention today. Aggelos, Black Bird, Dandy Dungeon, Cat Quest, Slime Tactics, and many others will be finishing their discount periods soon, and it’ll probably be a while before we see them go on sale again. So do that thing you do, friends. Pick through that list and make sure you’ve made your important contributions to your backlog for the day.

New Games on Sale

Vectronom ($8.99 from $9.99 until 8/31)
Dimension Drive ($6.49 from $12.99 until 9/2)
The Bug Butcher ($5.59 from $7.99 until 9/2)
Paper Wars: Cannon Fodder Devastated ($0.99 from $9.99 until 8/27)
Red Game Without a Great Name ($0.29 from $2.99 until 8/27)
Green Game: TimeSwapper ($0.29 from $2.99 until 8/27)
IN-VERT ($4.49 from $4.99 until 8/27)
Mad Bullets ($6.99 from $9.99 until 8/30)
Red Siren: Space Defense ($4.99 from $9.99 until 9/9)
Back to Bed ($3.99 from $4.99 until 9/2)

Sales Ending Tomorrow, Thursday, August 22nd

#RaceDieRun ($6.99 from $9.99 until 8/22)
30-in-1 Game Collection ($7.49 from $14.99 until 8/22)
99Vidas – Definitive ($4.99 from $9.99 until 8/22)
Aggelos ($11.24 from $14.99 until 8/22)
Alchemic Dungeons DX ($5.59 from $7.99 until 8/22)
Anodyne ($7.49 from $9.99 until 8/22)
Another World ($4.99 from $9.99 until 8/22)
Axiom Verge ($17.99 from $19.99 until 8/22)
Azure Reflections ($12.49 from $24.99 until 8/22)
Baobabs Mausoleum Ep.1 ($2.99 from $5.99 until 8/22)
Baobabs Mausoleum Ep.2 ($3.49 from $6.99 until 8/22)
Battlloon ($3.49 from $6.99 until 8/22)
Binaries ($2.59 from $12.99 until 8/22)
Black Bird ($9.99 from $19.99 until 8/22)
Bleep Bloop ($1.99 from $3.99 until 8/22)


Bonds of the Skies ($9.09 from $12.99 until 8/22)
Box Align ($0.99 from $1.99 until 8/22)
Boxing Champs ($3.80 from $9.50 until 8/22)
Bulb Boy ($2.24 from $8.99 until 8/22)
Burger Chef Tycoon ($3.74 from $4.99 until 8/22)
Cat Quest ($5.19 from $12.99 until 8/22)
Chiki-Chiki Boxy Racers ($4.99 from $9.99 until 8/22)
Crashlands ($9.99 from $14.99 until 8/22)
Dandy Dungeon ($16.99 from $24.99 until 8/22)
Death Squared ($5.39 from $14.99 until 8/22)
Desktop Table Tennis ($5.92 from $7.41 until 8/22)
Eternum Ex ($6.49 from $12.99 until 8/22)
Everdark Tower ($3.49 from $4.99 until 8/22)
Freecell Solitaire ($4.04 from $4.49 until 8/22)
Gal*Gun 2 ($22.49 from $44.99 from 8/22)


Gensokyo Defenders ($9.99 from $19.99 until 8/22)
Gris ($10.19 from $16.99 until 8/22)
Guess the Character ($0.89 from $2.99 until 8/22)
Hell Warders ($8.99 from $14.99 until 8/22)
HexaGravity ($0.99 from $1.99 until 8/22)
Joe Jump Impossible Quest ($1.49 from $2.99 until 8/22)
Kotodama: The 7 Mysteries of Fujisawa ($20.99 from $29.99 until 8/22)
Lanota ($11.99 from $14.99 until 8/22)
Lines Infinite ($1.49 from $1.99 until 8/22)
Madorica Real Estate ($12.99 from $14.99 until 8/22)
Marenian Tavern Story ($14.99 from $19.99 until 8/22)
Monster Puzzle ($2.49 from $4.99 until 8/22)
Muddledash ($2.99 from $5.99 until 8/22)
Ninja Striker! ($2.79 from $3.99 until 8/22)
Nippon Marathon ($8.99 from $14.99 until 8/22)


OTTTD: Over The Top Tower Defense ($1.99 from $7.99 until 8/22)
Pang Adventures ($4.99 from $9.99 until 8/22)
PictoQuest ($8.49 from $9.99 until 8/22)
PlataGO! Super Platform Game Maker ($14.99 from $19.99 until 8/22)
Pocket Academy ($9.80 from $12.00 until 8/22)
Quarantine Circular ($4.79 from $5.99 until 8/22)
Razed ($5.99 from $11.99 until 8/22)
Saboteur II: Avenging Angel ($7.20 from $8.00 until 8/22)
Samurai Defender: Ninja Warfare ($6.39 from $7.99 until 8/22)
Shinobi Spirits S: Legend of Heroes ($6.29 from $8.99 until 8/22)
Slime Tactics ($7.99 from $9.99 until 8/22)
Stay ($7.19 from $11.99 until 8/22)
SteamWorld Quest: Hand of Gilgamesh ($19.99 from $24.99 until 8/22)
Super Hyperactive Ninja ($0.98 from $8.99 until 8/22)
Super One More Jump ($0.98 from $7.00 until 8/22)


The Bunker ($6.49 from $12.99 until 8/22)
The Midnight Sanctuary ($4.99 from $9.99 until 8/22)
The Office Quest ($1.19 from $11.99 until 8/22)
The Savior’s Gang ($3.99 from $4.99 until 8/22)
Tiny Metal ($12.49 from $24.99 until 8/22)
Tokyo School Life ($8.99 from $14.99 until 8/22)
Valrithian Arc: Hero School Story ($8.99 from $14.99 until 8/22)
Windjammers ($7.49 from $14.99 until 8/22)
Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap ($9.99 from $19.99 until 8/22)
Yet Another Zombie Defense HD ($2.99 from $4.99 until 8/22)

That’s the lot for today, friends. Tomorrow we’ll be looking at a ton of new releases, including the new SEGA AGES games, Oninaki, and others. We’ll also have more news and likely some slightly more interesting sales than today to look at. I hope you’ll join me then. Have a great Wednesday, and as always, thanks for reading!



Comments