SwitchArcade Round-Up: ‘Vasara Collection’ and ‘Quench’ Reviews, ‘Tetris 99’ Event Incoming, Today’s New Releases, the Latest Sales, and More

Hello gentle readers, and welcome to the SwitchArcade Round-Up for August 19th, 2019. As I write this, rumors are swirling about the contents of today’s Indie World presentation. By the time you read this it will almost certainly be finished, but we’ll have to recap that tomorrow because time zones are fun! That said, it’s extremely likely that the list of new releases down below is now incomplete, but given the nature of the eShop that kind of thing is about as rare as the weather being super-hot in Miami. For now, we’ve got summaries of a few new releases, some news items, and the updated sales list as usual. Let’s head into the forest!

News

‘Fire Emblem: Three Houses’ Meets ‘Tetris 99’ in the 6th Maximus Cup Event

Tetris 99 has played host to a handful of Maximus Cup events since its launch. Three of them offered up eShop credit as prizes for the top-ranked players, while two of them gave out themes to players who could get enough points by the time the event finished. With the debut of the 6th Maximus Cup event this weekend, we will finally have balance. It’s another event where you can unlock a special theme if you scrounge up 100 points, and this time it’s related to Fire Emblem: Three Houses. So far the event has only been confirmed for the UK, but these things so far have run simultaneously worldwide and I wouldn’t expect this one to be any different.

‘Commandos 2 HD Remaster’ Coming to Switch Later This Year

The parade of unusual ports to the Switch continues with Commandos 2 HD Remaster, a spiffy new version of the 2001 real-time strategy game. It’s coming to the Switch and other platforms later this year courtesy of Kalypso Media, with a Q4 2019 release as the current target. The original version of the game saw you taking control of a squad of elite commandos in top-down environments and performing a variety of missions to undermine the German and Japanese forces in World War II. I remember this game being a bit of a pain in the butt to play on a controller, so let’s hope Kalypso has some good ideas that the original development team didn’t think of.

Reviews

Vasara Collection ($9.99)

Friends, you all know the opening spiel by now. The Switch has a ton of really good shoot-em-ups, new and old, horizontal and vertical, bullet hell and traditional, and any other variation you can think of. Unless you’re really into the genre, you probably wouldn’t even get around to a tenth of them if you owned them all. As such, pretty much every new release really has to answer an important question for prospective buyers: what makes you so special, pal?

Vasara Collection has three games tucked into it. Two of them are ports of some solid B-tier classics from Visco, Vasara and Vasara 2. Visco wasn’t exactly a household name, but the company put out a few decent games in its time in the business. The two Vasara games are arguably the developer’s finest hour, offering up some competent vertical shoot-em-up action in the vein of games like Sengoku Ace and Gunbird. The chief gimmick is that your character can charge up a melee attack that can deflect bullets. Another interesting quirk is that contact with enemies generally won’t kill you but simply bounce you away. Those nudges often send you into the path of lethal bullets, so don’t get too cocky about it all.

The melee attacks are the key to all of this madness. You’re going to get killed again and again in the later rounds if you stubbornly refuse to use them, but you have to think carefully about when you want to fire one off since each one requires a bit of charge time. Sure, using one to clock an enemy is fun, but if a curtain of bullets is heading your way immediately after that, you’ll be left defenseless. Charging up a melee attack prevents you from using your regular shot, which obviously makes things quite tense.

There are different characters to use and each one has a different kind of melee attack and different stats. While the stronger ones might seem like a good idea in the beginning, the speedier ones will help a lot when you get to the back end of the game and need to basically pop off one melee attack after another. It’s a fun risk/reward mechanic, but it’s quite demanding. The final stage of each game has to be cleared in its entirety without continuing, and if you don’t have melee attacks down pat by then, you’re probably not going to be able to finish the game even if you have it set to Free Play.

You get lots of options for each game, allowing you to mess around with elements like lives, visual filters, screen orientation, and so on. I’m quite satisfied with how each game has been presented in general, particularly after hearing that these aren’t emulated but rather have been ported based on the original source code. Just from playing the games, I wouldn’t have suspected that if it weren’t for the presence of one particular option that allows you to switch your super attack to Vasara Timeless style. Wait, what is Vasara Timeless?

Well, that would be the third game in this collection. It’s a new game that allows up to four players to take on a game cobbled together from various elements of the original two releases. The visuals here swap the sprites for high-resolution polygons, but since the underlying engine is basically the same it feels very similar. Instead of a tate/portrait alignment, it fills out the whole horizontal widescreen of the Switch, giving plenty of extra space for enemies to take potshots at you from. It’s really tough, and unlike the other two games you can’t credit feed your way through most of it. If you get a few friends in on it with you, things go a lot smoother, albeit with a lot of chaotic action on-screen that may obscure your view.

So, back to that first question. Hey Vasara Collection, what makes you so special? The theme of steampunk samurai isn’t completely unique, but it is unusual enough to be interesting. That melee gameplay mechanic certainly makes for a different gameplay experience from similar titles. The four-player mode in Vasara Timeless is pretty neat, even if it does require you to get a few other people in the same room as you. Gameplay-wise, there aren’t any major failings here. Finally, the price is extremely competitive. You get high-quality ports of two really good games plus a whole new one that’s pretty enjoyable all on its own, and you pay only a little more than the cost of one Arcade Archives release. All of that together makes this an easy set to recommend, particularly for those who appreciate the late 90s/early 00s era of arcade shoot-em-ups.

SwitchArcade Score: 4/5

Quench ($19.99)

Quench has some big things going for it. The visual presentation is really unusual and quite nice. The gameplay is interesting in its premise, casting you as a godlike figure that has to use the powers of nature to help guide animals along a dangerous pilgrimage. But while it’s not bad to play, there are a few things that make it a lot more annoying than it should be. Some of these things, like control issues, could probably be fixed without any major reworking. I’m sure the developer didn’t mean for the game to interpret my pressing down on the stick as a signal to move the target up, for example. Other things might be harder to fix, like the game’s performance struggles. And then there are a few aspects of the design itself that just didn’t work out for me.

As I’ve mentioned, you play as a guide that has to shepherd various tribes of animals along a pilgrimage. This journey is broken up into stages, with your main goal in each being to get your animals from point A to point B without losing them to the various hazards along the way. Your actions are rather limited. You can use rain, wind, lightning strikes, and earthquakes to interact with the world. You can also tell the animals when and where to go. Each of your four powers can be used in a variety of ways, but you’re generally limited in how many times you can use them on each stage. While you can get more charges from various points on each map, there’s always a hard limit that you’re working within, making this a bit of a puzzle game in execution.

For their part, your animal buddies more or less move from safe spot to safe spot when you tell them to, trusting that you’ll take care of anything that will impede them. Should they hit anything hazardous, they’ll start to lose stamina. Losing members of the group doesn’t really mean that much, however, since you really only need to reach the goal with one of them. Each level is really about checking out the stage, gathering up all the possible power charges you can find, taking care of the static obstacles, and then dealing with the less static ones on the fly. In spite of the different ways each power can be used, the game ends up feeling a little tired by its close thanks to how formulaic the approach to beating each stage is. The lack of fine control on the animals can be irritating too, as they’ll often blunder into hazards and just park there as they take damage.

But you know, it’s an okay game for what it is. A lovely, okay game. There are particular problems with this version of the game that hurt its already somewhat limited appeal, sadly. The first is in the controls. The developers did a decent job of coming up with a controller scheme for Quench, but this is ultimately a cursor-based game and those rarely work out terribly well when you try to map them to a stick. Even worse, I often had the cursor movement get confused, moving in a completely different direction from what I expected. The game controls far better with the touch screen, so handheld mode is the way to go here without question. Unfortunately, no matter how you play, you’re going to run into the other issue: the framerate. This game slows to a crawl at times, especially when you’re moving around the map. Which, given the nature of the game, happens a lot. I’m not super-sensitive to this kind of thing, but it was really noticeable and unpleasant here.

Quench has a lot of good ideas but a combination of technical problems and certain design decisions greatly hold it back. Even if you can put up with the performance struggles and you play in handheld mode to avoid the control issues, the gameplay runs out of gas well before the end of the story. It’s not unpleasant to finish it out from there, but it is kind of boring once you reach that point. And when you’re bored, it’s a lot easier to get annoyed by any other little flaws that poke their heads up. Not a bad game, I suppose, but I really had wanted to like it a lot more than I ultimately did.

SwitchArcade Score: 3/5

New Releases

Far: Lone Sails ($14.99)

SwitchArcade Highlight!

This is a bit of an odd title that will appeal to people who enjoy what I generally call “experience" games. You have to pilot your ship across a dry ocean, discovering new locations and dealing with a variety of issues along the way. It’s very beautiful and strange, and piecing together the story from the little bits you find on your journey is very satisfying. One of those games where the more I say about it, the more I might spoil something cool, so I’ll just leave it here. Cool, atmospheric game that is pretty different from just about anything else you’ll find on the platform.

Anode ($3.99)

SwitchArcade Highlight!

It’s a falling block puzzle game, something that used to be as common as dirt but seems a lot less frequent since Bejeweled-style match-3 games kicked over the anthill. Anyway, you’ve probably played something similar to this before if you’ve been around the falling block neighborhood enough times. Pieces with different colors fall, and you need to try to link colors together. Every so often a piece with a detonator will come down the well, and when it drops it will explode all of the linked pieces it’s touching. There are also coupler pieces that let you link different colors together. So the idea is to make as big a link as possible, then blow the whole thing up. Neato. If you need a little variety, there’s a mission mode where you have to complete certain objectives, and a local multiplayer mode so you can battle against a friend. For a whole four bucks, it’s pretty good.

Instant Sports ($24.99)

Nintendo has been oddly diligent about making a clear separation between the Wii era and its current era, but I wouldn’t be awfully surprised if a lot of the audience is shared among both. That means there’s probably a fairly healthy market for sports mini-game collections along the lines of Wii Sports, and that may well be what Instant Sports hopes to tap into. It features six sports including tennis, bowling, baseball, goal keeping, rafting, and hurdle racing. There are a bunch of characters to customize and choose from, local multiplayer for up to eight players, and lots of unlockables. I’m not too big into these things so I can’t really speak to its quality, though.

Duck Life: Battle ($4.99)

Making its way over from the mobile platforms is Duck Life: Battle, something of a mini-game collection for one player only. The idea is that your ducks have to participate in battles with other ducks, and you need to train them to give them the edge. How do you train them? By playing mini-games, of course. There are 25 mini-games in all, and each one will improve one of your duck’s stats. You’ll also earn coins that you can use to buy accessories and new ducks. The mini-games are okay, but not much more than that. What really kills this game is in how it wants you to grind those mini-games. They’re just not fun enough to hold up under that much repetition. Well, at least the art is cute.

Sales

It’s an interesting mix of new sales today, if I do say so myself. And I just did, so there you go. First up, Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen. This game is awesome, and the Switch port is excellent. I’ve heard people cheekily refer to it as “Skyrim except not boring", and while I think that undersells Skyrim quite a bit, I can see what that opinion is aiming at. Very much worth that sale price. Also worth it is the excellent port of Butterscotch Shenanigans’s Crashlands. A mere ten bucks gets you hours and hours of enjoyment. As for the outbox, there isn’t really anything super-great there that won’t be on sale again soon, but I suppose if you want to get your catgirls on, Nekopara probably won’t be discounted again for a long while.

New Games on Sale

Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen ($22.49 from $29.99 until 8/29)
Tactical Mind ($0.99 from $2.99 until 8/27)
Mad Carnage ($0.99 from $4.99 until 8/27)
FunBox Party ($0.99 from $1.99 until 8/27)
Mech Rage ($1.99 from $9.99 until 8/27)
Old School Racer 2 ($3.99 from $7.99 until 9/6)
Dyna Bomb ($4.19 from $5.99 until 9/2)
Farm Expert 2018 ($26.99 from $29.99 until 8/30)
Jurassic Pinball ($1.97 from $2.99 until 9/5)
World Soccer Pinball ($1.97 from $2.99 until 9/5)
Son of a Witch ($6.99 from $14.99 until 9/2)
Crashlands ($9.99 from $14.99 until 8/22)
Airfield Mania ($4.19 from $5.99 until 9/2)


Lost Orbit: Terminal Velocity ($6.99 from $9.99 until 8/26)
Seeders Puzzle Reboot ($4.99 from $9.99 until 9/2)
Gravity Duck ($3.99 from $4.99 until 9/1)
Find The Balance ($2.49 from $4.99 until 9/7)
Hardway Party ($2.49 from $4.99 until 9/7)
Deployment ($2.49 from $9.99 until 8/25)
Skies of Fury DX ($12.99 from $19.99 until 8/30)
Super Jumpy Ball ($4.49 from $4.99 until 9/6)
Devious Dungeon 2 ($5.59 from $7.99 until 9/2)
Twin Robots: Ultimate ($3.99 from $7.99 until 9/2)
One More Dungeon ($3.99 from $7.99 until 9/2)
League of Evil ($3.99 from $7.99 until 9/2)
I and Me ($4.99 from $9.99 until 9/2)

Sales Ending Tomorrow, Tuesday, August 20th

Akane ($1.99 from $4.99 until 8/20)
Epic Clicker Journey ($4.24 from $4.99 until 8/20)
Final Light, The Prison ($2.09 from $6.99 until 8/20)
Goonya Fighter ($4.99 from $24.99 until 8/20)
MachiKnights – Blood Bagos- ($11.99 from $14.99 until 8/20)
Nekopara Vol.1 ($8.99 from $14.99 until 8/20)
Nekopara Vol.2 ($8.99 from $14.99 until 8/20)
Never Give Up ($13.49 from $14.99 until 8/20)
PC Building Simulator ($17.99 from $19.99 until 8/20)
Shadows 2: Perfidia ($6.79 from $7.99 until 8/20)
Tower of Babel ($1.79 from $5.99 until 8/20)
Xtreme Club Racing ($2.96 from $9.89 until 8/20)

That’s it for today, friends. Obviously, we’ll have some interesting things to talk about tomorrow given that Indie World showcase you’ve probably already seen. There will be new release summaries! Some interesting news! Maybe some sales! Possibly a review! All this and (not much) more, friends, in tomorrow’s exciting edition of the SwitchArcade Round-Up. Be there, or check it another day when you remember you haven’t read the SwitchArcade in a while. Have a great day, and as always, thanks for reading!



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