Bladed Fury review: a sharp nod to Vanillaware

So…why wasn’t Muramasa: The Demon Blade brought to new game systems again? When Vanillaware initially released this stunningly beautiful game for the Wii several years ago, it became a massive underground hit. That prompted the studio to release another version…for the PS Vita. And yet, here we are without a version for current-gen consoles, where it would no doubt shine brightly in 4K.

But at least we have a pretty good fill-in with NExT Studio’s Bladed Fury. While it’s a bit on the short side and has a few slight issues with its gameplay and visuals, it has Muramasa’s spirit completely intact. Not only that, but the story delves deep into Chinese culture, creating a tale that’s as fascinating to watch as it is to play.

The story focuses on an unlikely heroine named Princess Ji, who finds herself on the run after she’s framed by the Tian for the murder of the Duke of the Qi region. But she’s not running away without a fight. She’s gathering weapons and spirits, readying for a showdown with the folks that wronged her.

Yep, it’s a story about revenge. But it sets the stage for Bladed Fury’s action, which is quite satisfying. Though Muramasa is still somewhat preferred, there’s some great combos to take advantage of here, between power and quick strikes. Not only that, but you can also knock enemies into the air; and utilize other special techniques. It’s not entirely original, but it is cool for those of you that missed out on what Vanillaware’s title had to offer.

That, combined with the Princess’ swiftness to get through platforming and challenge bosses, makes the game an overall blast to play. There are moments when you can slip a little bit, due to minor glitches, but the ebb and flow is there enough to satisfy. If you’re a fan of hack-and-slashers, this is worth adding to your list. You can also upgrade abilities, which will help you expand your skill set over the course of your journey.

Not only that, but Bladed Fury also features exquisite visuals that almost reach the level of Vanillaware classics of old. The hand-drawn animation is impressive; the backgrounds are colorful and bring this Chinese world to life; and some of the enemy designs really stand out. There are times that the action slows down a little bit, but not enough to throw off what you see exploding on-screen. I just wish it was longer, as it ends at a fraction of the time that Muramasa concludes in.

Also, the music isn’t quite as good. It has some great tunes here and there, but I miss Muramasa’s mighty soundtrack. Still, it fits the tone of what’s on-screen, so it’s not too shabby.

Overall, Bladed Fury can’t quite match the graciousness of what Muramasa’s team brought before. However, it’s truly inspired by it, feels excellent to play, and offers some fun visuals to watch on-screen, especially in 4K. It may not be the original warrior we asked for, but the Princess is more than ready to deliver on her own accord. Give her a shot.

RATING: 7.5/10

Godzilla vs. Kong review: total beast, hardly a burden

Fans of the classic Godzilla films have been feeling somewhat mixed about Legendary’s newer films in the franchise. While the 2014 Godzilla did an effective job bringing him back into the current monster fold, he was barely on-screen for the film. And for that matter, while Godzilla: King of the Monsters had epic monster battles, it also had a bit too much of the human element – which audiences didn’t really care about.

Now we get Godzilla vs. Kong, the latest in the series, helmed by horror director Adam Wingard. And while it does have some predictable moments here and there – once again with, yes, the humans – it’s probably my favorite Godzilla film in the series to date. Of course, having Kong definitely helps; and the monster fights these two put on are nothing short of spectacular.

When we’re first introduced to Kong, he’s in a large containment facility in Skull Island, being watched over by scientist Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall) and a young charge that he’s able to communicate with. It appears that he’s being kept in there for his own good, with Godzilla on some kind of legendary hunt for him.

Meanwhile, a scientist named Nathan Lind (Alexander Skarsgard) is called upon to recruit Kong to find some kind of lost world, hidden beneath the Earth’s crust. But the corporation he’s hired by, Apex, has some sort of dangerous plan; and that’s something returning character Madison Russell (Millie Bobby Brown) wants to learn more about, alongside a friend and a podcaster named Bernie Hayes (Brian Tyree Henry).

There is a bit of human composition here, just like the last films. But Wingard is smart enough to keep it to kind of a minimum here, even with a couple of awkward moments here and there. And it’s got enough flow to keep the film going into its most entertaining parts – the battles between Godzilla and Kong.

The first one, taking place on the high seas, is outstanding, involving exploding jets, battleships serving as platforms and more chaos than you can shake a stick at. It also sets the stage for a huge battle in Hong Kong later on, taking on Pacific Rim for the best neon-lit fight of all time.

And it all culminates with a winner and a loser, of course – and a surprising union when Apex unleashes a monster of its own. And judging by the trailers, you can probably take a good guess who it is. (We won’t spoil here.)

Written by Eric Pearson and Max Borenstein, the script for Godzilla vs. Kong moves along swiftly. Again, some jokes fall a little flat, and Henry’s podcaster does go a little nuts at times; but overall it keeps just the right flow for a monster movie. Not to mention that there’s some good explanation as to how this ties in with King of the Monsters, even if Kong was an absentee that time around. (At least we have Kong: Skull Island, which is still the best of the monster movies to date.)

Wingard directs with a swift hand, backed by a wondrous effects team that delivers the goods at every corner. The monster fights are epic, especially on the big screen (though you can watch this on HBO Max as well), and the special effects and shots are spectacular. You won’t get bored in the least here, especially with the final fight, where Kong lets loose with a glowing axe like he’s the next Conan.

When Godzilla vs. Kong strays into the human territory, it’s a bit easy for it to lose its way. Fortunately, that doesn’t last very long – even the ending is a bit abrupt – and the general focus on the monsters themselves is never lost. That makes for an entertaining fantasy that’s easily the best current-gen Godzilla movie to date. Here’s hoping we get a round two down the road.

RATING: 8.5/10

What the Dub?! Review: yes, talk during the movie

Party games are enjoying a neat little resurgence these days, especially online ones in the face of COVID-19. That’s exactly where Wide Right Interactive’s What the Dub?! thrives, providing a great place for creativity while having fun with others. Oh, and it helps if you’re a fan of Mystery Science Theater 3000, of course.

The general purpose of the game is to come up with a clever quip to go along with one of the many flip clips within the game. First, there’s the set-up, in which you see the clip and then the space where you need to provide the dialogue. From there, you’ve got a little time to enter what you think would be the funniest or most clever (or dare we say…both?) comment to say.

From there, a voting period begins, and players decide which is the best particular quip for that clip, in which the top choice gets rewarded.

The game supports up to twelve players. Six jump in as the contestants making the comments, while six more serve as audience members who can partake in the voting. That keeps the pacing for What the Dub?! just about right, so rounds don’t stretch out long enough for the game to become boring. If you want, you can extend entry time for input, just in case you’ve got some players that are a bit on the slow side – or trying to manage a mobile keyboard. Oy.

Connecting is easy. Like the Jackbox games, Wide Right uses a system where players can log into a website for the game, and then enter a unique four-letter code to take part in whatever match-up is happening. This makes What the Dub?! ideal not only for get-togethers with friends, but also for streamers that want to build and connect better with their audience.

Now, considering this is an indie game and some older material would probably take forever to attain the rights to, What the Dub?!’s clips mainly stem from infomercials and public service announcements, as well as some really bad movies that no one wants to take ownership of. While that does take away a little bit from general variety in a game like this, there’s still more than enough content to provide commentary to.

What the Dub?! has a good presentation. It may not be over-the-top like the Jackbox games, but it sets out what it needs to accomplish. The virtual movie theater where you see these atrocious clips is a nice setting; and, again, there’s some fun little variety here in the clips provided. The GLADoS-esque readings of dialogue are kind of cool, too, though a bit weird with some footage. Still, it fits the theme.

Even though it does come across as a one-trick pony – there’s just the dubbing and that’s really about it here – What the Dub?! still scores very well. It’s a terrific party game that (mostly) brings out the creativity in would-be comics or those who cherish the mighty church of Crow T. Robot. What’s more, the price is more than suitable, going for under $10 and providing solid service for online connectivity. It’s definitely the best way to enjoy bad movie clips, compared to, say, trying to watch something seriously and grumbling under your breath.

RATING: 8/10

SturmFront is bringing back that classic Smash TV feeling

So it used to be that if you wanted to lay waste to all sorts of enemies, you could do it with a game from Midway Games, like Robotron 2084, Smash TV or Total Carnage. However it’s been a good while since we’ve seen a game like that in this day and age. Fortunately, Red Art Games has a solution to all that.

The company recently released a new game called SturmFront – The Mutant War: Ubel Edition, which is available now for Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4 for the low price of $9.99. And it comes with all sorts of “shooty” goodness in that style of Smash and Total.

In the game, players take control of Siegfried von Hammerstein, who serves as a “unique semi-organic battle unit” that fights through a crazy world, filled with all sorts of devastating mutants. In order to clean house, he’ll need to do what he does best – kill ‘em all.

Featuring “more content, enhanced gameplay, improved graphics and more blood” over the previous release, SturmFront also has a rockin’ soundtrack that’ll have you shredding on an imaginary guitar as you shred your enemies. Check out the trailer below for a dose of this goodness.

And if you prefer a physical copy of the game, you can get it here on the Red Art Games store for $19.99. It’s limited to 999 copies, so you might want to get yours quickly!

Check out the game now. If you need to see it in action, the trailer is below. Rock on!

RetroMania Wrestling Xbox One review: Wrestlefest

The state of wrestling games is in flux at the moment, between the horrid mess that was WWE 2K20 and the somewhat mixed response to the arcade-style WWE Battlegrounds. In fact, the only solace that gamers had for some time was the old-school Fire Pro Wrestling World – and without availability on all platforms, its audience was more limited than expected.

However, now we have RetroMania Wrestling, a game from Retrosoft Studios that takes the formula of the 1991 classic WWF Wrestlefest and runs with it in its own special way. Perfect it is not, as it doesn’t really have all the features needed to be a winner. However, there’s more than enough retro goodness to keep you putting fools in a headlock.

The gameplay works similarly to Wrestlefest when it comes to the attacks you can use. You have weak, medium and strong, but it’s all based around a system of timing. So aside from some grappling moments, it’s all about when you can hit the buttons the right way. Do so and you can gain leverage in a match. Don’t, and, well, we hope you like getting body slammed. Not everything is clearly explained, but RetroMania has an excellent “pick-up-and-play” mentality that works fundamentally well. In fact, after a few matches, you may be tempted to throw friends around locally (in-game, mind you).

That brings up an interesting flaw with the game’s lack of online multiplayer. Locally, it works really well, and makes for some good match-ups. Except without an online component, it’s a little more limited than 2K’s WWE fare. Perhaps a future update can fix that.

Fortunately, there’s more than enough variations of matches to keep you busy; and there’s a decent story mode that walks you through what this revamped wrestling world is all about. It’s not overwhelming, but not half-bad either. The game also has a superb roster for an indie game, including everyone from The Blue Meanie to Tommy Dreamer to Matt Cardona to a variation of John Morrison, in the form of Johnny Retro. It’s not hustling and bustling like WWE’s games, mind you, but it’s still pretty cool. And there’s more to come via DLC, as well. That said, it would’ve been awesome to have some sort of customization tool, so you could bolster the roster along the same lines as, say, Fire Pro. As it stands, though, not bad at all.

On top of that, RetroMania has a terrific style going for it. You can tell that the devs are big fans of old-school wrestling games, as this chews it up at every turn. The animations are sharp and the characters and in-ring details are very clear to see, even on a portable Nintendo Switch game screen. It runs very fluidly too, even with the default 2D camera set-up. Wrestlers barely overlap and you can see all the action clearly. The themes are a lot of fun, too, and the “attitude” is just about right when it comes to classic wrestling action.

Overall, RetroMania Wrestling is a nice blast from the past, especially considering we never got a console port of THQ’s Wrestlefest reboot from years ago. This feels like a title that flashes back to the good ol’ days of wrestling games, when it wasn’t really about the fantastic engine or the features, but the easy-to-adapt-to action and fun roster. It’s a bit light on certain features, and has no online wrestling community (at least, not yet), but as it stands, it’s a blast from the past that’s worth adding to your collection. And it sure beats taking a steel chair to the sternum, tell ya what.

RATING: 3.5/5

Gyromite 70 announced for Nintendo Switch

We know a lot of you are hurting with the ending of Super Mario Bros. 35 on Nintendo Switch. But fret not, as another beloved classic has returned with a multiplayer twist!

Nintendo has announced that Gyromite 70 will soon make its way to Nintendo Switch, bringing with it all the fun and excitement of the original NES game. In this fun adventure, players will compete with their own separate Professor Hectors, making their way through laboratories as quickly as they can while avoiding getting crushed by pistons. They’ll also need to defeat as many Smicks as possible in order to stay alive and become the top Gyromite player in a field of 70.

“It’s exciting to see Gyromite make a return after all these years!” said Doug Bowser, president of Nintendo of America. “Players will be able to compete against one another in this fast-paced game to see whose Professor Hector will come out on top. And we’ve got an assortment of R.O.B. stickers for players to unlock and share with their friends. Move over, Mario!”

On top of that, Gyromite 70 will introduce the R.O.B. Switch gameplay mode. For the first time ever, players can mimic the classic NES robot, using their hands to move around like a robot to randomly open and close pipes on rival players.

“It’s a game that’s all about competition!” said the legendary Shigeru Miyamoto. “And you don’t want to smash Professor Hector anytime soon. Also, please don’t misinterpret that as Professor Hector coming to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. I’m already in trouble for confirming Waluigi coming to the game. I’ve said too much!”

Gyromite 70 will be available for a limited time on the Nintendo Switch Online service, for subscribers to enjoy at no charge. The original NES Gyromite game is coming as well, for those that need a little bit of practice.

“Hey, it’s me, Reggie,” said Reggie Fils-Aime, former president of Nintendo of America. “See if you can beat my Gyromite 70 score. I dare you.” You can download Gyromite 70 for Nintendo Switch starting today, April 1st.

Beach Buggy Racing 2: Island Adventure Xbox One review – paradise found

These days, everyone’s trying to generate a hit kart racing game along the lines of what Nintendo did with Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. However most of the time, these companies miss, either because they rush their products out the door or they just can’t match the majesty of the multi-million seller.

Nonetheless there are some that come close. Sonic and All Stars Racing Transformed remains amazing after all these years; and Activision’s Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled is a real treat. But other than that, most of these indie kart racing games end up burning out their welcome.

That said, Beach Buggy Racing 2: Island Adventure is a real surprise. No one really asked for a sequel to this tropically themed kart racing game, but the developers at Vector Unit (Hydro Thunder Hurricane) managed to deliver anyway. And for what the game lacks in genuine characterization, it more than makes up for with tight racing fun.

A whole lot to do here

Beach Buggy Racing 2 has plenty of content between its single player and multiplayer – and that more than justifies the paltry $20 price tag.

The single player campaign requires you to capture over 440 stars in all, divided mostly across three stars per race. And what’s more, the races are actually entertaining, with adjustable difficulty settings, a whole lot of obstacles to overcome (damn you, crabs) and some neat options that allow you to power up your vehicle along the way.

You can also unlock additional racers as you go along, piling up your roster of selectable racers. That said, their personalities are somewhat lacking, as they seem to follow trademark types (the cool guy, the island girl) instead of being memorable characters. Still, they fit the bill, and their special abilities are noteworthy.

As for multiplayer, it’s a lot of fun, with up to four players able to join matches locally in split-screen. It’s not the greatest when it comes to online support, but there’s a lot to do here if you’re racing alongside your kids, your roommates or your buddies when they drop by. And with so many courses and racers available, you’ll find a whole lot to do here – more than you might’ve expected from a game that fits into the “indie” category.

Gameplay and graphics that deliver

As for the rest of Beach Buggy Racing 2, it’s got a lot to offer. The gameplay is a genuine surprise, as the vehicles handle nicely on all sorts of terrain. They can be a bit “airy” sometimes, particularly if you hit a spring trap and go flying out of control. But overall, it’s not bad at all when it comes to turns, powerslides and power-ups.

Speaking of power-ups, they perform well enough. They’re not the most original ones introduced in a kart-racing game, but they’re effective and fun to pull off. The only downside is that they get piled up when racing against AI opponents, so be prepared to avoid traps a lot more often than you’d expect.

Presentation-wise, Beach Buggy Racing 2 is a nice surprise. The character design may not be the greatest (generic faces all around), but the tracks look excellent and offer a great deal of island variety. The game runs very smoothly as well, at a beautiful 60 frames per second with all sorts of neat little details. Even in split-screen, the game looks like a delight.

The audio’s not bad either. Most of the music is inspired “surf rock,” something you’d likely hear on a trip to Hawaii or something. But it suits the game, and you’ll like the various tunes available here. The sound effects are good, too, though the lack of character voices is noticeable.

Get your bug-gy on

Obviously something like Beach Buggy Racing 2: Island Adventure isn’t going to replace your favorite AAA kart-racer in your life. But as a suitable alternative that won’t leave too big a dent in your wallet, it’s not bad at all. The gameplay’s a good deal of fun; the presentation is sharp (for an “indie” title, anyway); and there’s a lot to do on your own and with friends. Sure, there could be improvements for the third go-around – if it happens – but this is a neat little island getaway that deserves a spot in your collection.

RATING: 8/10

Interview: Premium Edition Games gets physical on Nintendo Switch

Something we’ve been seeing a lot more of lately are indie developers teaming up with publishing companies to make their Nintendo Switch releases in physical form. Limited Run Games has found great success in this, along with other companies. Now, Premium Edition Games is getting a turn.

The newly founded company recently released its first two physical Nintendo Switch games, Super Blood Hockey and Pigeon Dev Games Collection, both of which are big hits with collectors. There’s more where that came from, with other titles currently in the works.

To get an idea of what it’s like to create physical Nintendo Switch games – as well as what leads to the decision of which games to publish – we talked with Premium Edition Games co-founder (and Nintendo Switch fan) Jonathan Polan. You can see the full interview below, and then order the games for yourself from the Premium Edition Games page!

First off, we know you and your team have been big fans of Nintendo Switch games for some time, based on your fun little Facebook group and the Switchmania Playcast. What made you guys decide to get into game publishing?

The start of this journey was a very slow progression that really began when (co-founder) Jeffrey (Wittenhagen) reached out to me to see if I was interested in assisting on his upcoming book, The Switch Collector. The Switch Collector is a series that will chronicle all the Nintendo Switch physical releases (as well as many digital only titles, cool collectibles and more) on a year by year basis. From there, we both began the weekly Switchmania Playcast series to not only help promote the upcoming book, but share our love of the Switch. 

It was at this time that we both attended a video game convention to host a panel about the upcoming book series where talks of potentially starting a physical publishing company began. Being very big physical collectors as well as appreciative of that medium, it felt like a natural progression of where we wanted to focus our passion. Plus, being a full set Nintendo Switch physical collector, how could I pass up the opportunity to see if we could make this possible?! Fast forward to August 11, 2020 and we officially launched Premium Edition Games to the world, haha!

What’s the biggest challenge when it comes to launching a company like this? Supplies for publishing the cartridges? Making publishing deals with the developers? We know more companies are trying to get into it, but what’s probably the biggest hurdle to overcome?

There’s definitely a number of challenges and while finances is towards the top, I would really say time and passion rank just as high. Becoming a physical publisher (Nintendo Switch specific) takes a lot of time. From registering your company to applying with Nintendo, it’s not an overnight process. On top of that, you want to make sure you have the right business plan, members comprising your team, and the dedication to making this work. Once those are accounted for, it then shifts to finding the right titles to sign and to see what’s available. Who would be willing to work with a new publisher? Are our ideas in line with how the developer and digital publisher (if applicable) view their game should be handled?

That’s why Jeff and I first started discussions over a year before we officially launched. There was a lot to set up prior to going public and even today, we continue to finetune our process and constantly look at ways to enhance our efficiency and how we want our company to run. I did allude to finances earlier and that’s absolutely a big challenge for anyone looking to get into this field. Sadly, much like in life, everything costs money and it’s quite easy to get overwhelmed with every step of the process. Thankfully, one piece of advice I would share is to take every step one at a time and make sure you set your company, and expectations, early on!

What goes into selecting the games that you want to publish under your label? Looking for what’s trending in the eShop on the Switch? Buzz within the indie community?

There’s a few factors to consider when it comes to deciding what game(s) to publish under our Premium Edition label. On our side, it’s whether the game appeals to us and if we would buy it as a physical if it was released. Another aspect is if a game that we are interested in is even available to have discussions with the developer. Many times, there might already be plans for a physical with another publisher or the developer might not be interested. 

For us, it’s a mixture of having developers reach out to us personally with a game (or selection of games) in addition to us staying on top of upcoming releases. Plus, we are part of a wonderful community where we’ll get suggestions every day of digital only games that people would love to see physically. Thankfully, with the Nintendo Switch already being in its fifth year, there are so many amazing games on the eShop from previous years that should have had a physical, but never did. In short, there are no shortages of amazing games waiting to be put on a cartridge!

The first game you’ve released is Super Blood Hockey. Almost seems like Blades of Steel with a hint of Mutant League Hockey for good measure. Has there been a lot of buzz behind this title? How has reception behind the physical release been so far?

Super Blood Hockey is such an amazing game that first released on Steam back in August 2017 and then on the Switch in April 2019. That means it’s been around for a few years, depending on when you first played it and the buzz was there. With the Switch not having many sports games (realistic or arcade-like), we wanted to change that! So when Jeff and I knew we wanted to move forward and make Premium Edition Games a reality, Super Blood Hockey was already on our short list of games to pursue. We began talks with the digital publisher, Digerati, as well as the developer, Loren Lemcke. Jeff and I explained our goals for the company and it was quickly a perfect match. 

From the moment we launched pre-orders in August 2020 to shipping just a few weeks ago, the excitement has continued to grow! So many new Super Blood Hockey gamers have been made through our physical releases and it’s been such a delight watching Loren see all that love on social media!

Next up is Pigeon Dev Games Collection, a release we haven’t even heard that much about. Tell us how you managed to make this a reality on the publishing front. Were the developers excited to take part?

Similar to Super Blood Hockey, we had a short list of titles that we were interested in. Awesome Pea 1 and 2, two of the games on the Pigeon Dev Games Collection, had made that list. So when the digital publisher, Sometimes You, approached us with an introduction to himself and the games he represented, it felt like the stars were aligning. What’s interesting about this release is that while Awesome Pea 1 and 2 have had a physical release on the PS4 and Vita from other publishers, Bucket Knight and Explosive Jake (the other two games in our collection) did not. 

One of our goals as a company is to really create a lot of value with our releases and what better way than a four-in-one games collection as our second title?! With the digital publisher and developer of all four games on board for this approach, Pigeon Dev Games Collection was born! Fun fact, but these are four individual games on the Switch, meaning each one has its own game icon on your home screen. While we’ve seen just a few releases overseas having multiple games on one cartridge, this really hasn’t been done before with a North American Switch physical release. It felt really cool to be one of the first North American physical Switch publishers offering a compilation like this.

How has reception been to these releases so far? Do you have any trouble with supply and demand like other certain companies out there, or have you taken steps to assure it won’t happen?

The reception has been nothing short of amazing! From the first day we announced, we had a lot of support from the Nintendo Switch community we were already a part of. As the months went by, we continued to see new people pre-ordering and then sharing their excitement for our upcoming releases. Then shipping began! With that, it’s brought so much excitement because of our #PremiumUnboxing and #PremiumChallenge initiative. 

To summarize: The #PremiumUnboxing is when you do a video unboxing on social media for our releases. The #PremiumChallenge is a developer specific challenge for the game that is on the back of the included trading card in the case. Complete the challenge, follow the rules on the card (post a pic, e-mail us, etc.) and you’ve done your part.

The really cool part? For doing either the Unboxing or Challenge, we will mail you a patch…FOR FREE! These are highly limited so once we are out, we are out! However, to see everyone posting their videos and pics has just been so much fun! We are seeing such a positive reaction to these patches and it’s really added a whole new level to our company. We want our games to be played and with the Nintendo Switch not having an achievement system, the patches are the way to help gamers rip open the plastic and enjoy these amazing titles! Plus, getting a physical accomplishment never hurts either, haha.

We see the next release is A Robot Named Fight!, a really underrated Metroidvania style adventure. How has the response been thus far to its announcement, and what are you hoping to do with its physical release in terms of special edition content?

Unbelievable! It’s no secret that when we announced A Robot Named Fight! during our launch Direct video, it’s been one of the most talked about titles of ours to date. Every day we have people asking when pre-orders will go live, what we’re doing in terms of our physical release, and when will it be released. That credit goes to the hard work developer, Matt Bitner, and digital publisher, Hitcents, have done with this game. There is such strong support and a wonderful community revolving around Robot that Jeff and I were surprised a physical wasn’t already in the works! Needless to say, we are VERY happy Premium Edition Games is the physical publisher that will finally help preserve this game for generations to come.

As of now, we’ve been working on this release since we launched and are taking the proper steps to get as much completed prior to pre-orders opening. This will help ensure that the wait that gamers will have between pre-ordering and availability is a small one. I can say that there will be a Premium, Retro and Deluxe Edition for Robot with some amazing physical items to go along with that. Plus, there might even be another Premium Edition first that goes along with this release. 

While I can’t share a specific pre-order/release date at this time, we are still on track for a 2021 release and I’d recommend making sure you’re subscribed to our newsletter and following us on social media for future updates!

Tell us more about this mysterious new project called Sunshine Manor. It looks like you’re actually playing a part in this game’s development, along with its publishing.

Ah, Sunshine Manor! This was a game that the digital publisher contacted us about when we launched to share some of their projects. It was at that time when the first game in the series, Camp Sunshine, was already available on Steam, but not yet on the Switch. It took all of a few minutes playing Camp Sunshine to know that everything about it is what Jeff and I love about video games. The retro inspired graphics, the storyline, the gameplay, music and more. So, when we learned Camp Sunshine and the upcoming Sunshine Manor was planned for the Switch, we proposed a two-in-one physical release.

The developer, Fossil Games, were going to take Sunshine Manor to Kickstarter and we partnered with them to create an exclusive Kickstarter physical edition. We are so happy to see the Kickstarter was very successful and development of the game is going well. For those wondering, we will offer our Premium edition on our site at a later time, but the physical items from the Kickstarter edition will remain exclusive to that version. You can actually still pre-order the Kickstarter edition here.

You’re also offering a book called The Switch Collector Volume One. Tell us what that’s all about.

As I briefly talked about earlier, Jeffrey Wittenhagen began The Switch Collector book series. As a published author with a number of video game related books under his publishing company, Hagen’s Alley, it was time to focus on the Switch. As a very big physical collector myself, when Jeffrey approached me to see if I would be interested in working with him on it, I couldn’t say no! We launched a Kickstarter in September 2019 that was funded within 24 hours and in less than a year’s time, Volume One released. This chronicled the physical releases during Year One of the Switch (March 3, 2017 – March 3, 2018). Additionally, there are sections in the book for digital only games, collector items/pieces, backer write-ups and more.

As of now, we launched the Kickstarter for Volume Two back in November 2020 that will cover the first half of Year Two (there’s THAT many games, haha!). The Kickstarter was very successful and writing is well underway. Make sure to be following us on social media for future updates on Volume Two!

Finally, you haven’t announced too many new projects yet, but are there any “dream” titles that you’d like to publish down the road? Or upcoming indie games that you’re excited about? (It’s okay if you want to say Sunsetriders, hehe.)

This one is a little hard to answer as we actually have a number of titles signed that will complete our 2021 (and potentially into 2022) line-up. However, one indie game that I have not been afraid to publicly say how badly I want it is Wunderling from Retroid. I had the opportunity to play this at PAX East 2020 where I sat with the developer as I played the exclusive demo he created for the convention. Wunderling is one of those titles that you just know from 1 minute of playing that it’s a solid game. Since its release on the Switch, that feeling of wanting to bring this physically has only intensified and is 100% my dream game at this time. So, you never know?!

I did want to say thank you again for this opportunity to share some words about Premium Edition Games. I also want to give a shout-out to our amazing team, consisting of: Barry, Frank, Dan, Rowan, Erica and Steve. It’s been such a delight forming this team of passionate gamers and collectors! Plus, a huge thank you to the community for their continued support and the wonderful developers and publishers we’ve been fortunate to work with so far!

Again, you guys can check out the website here. Thanks, Jonathan!

Samurai Shodown Xbox Series X review: razor sharp

For the longest time, it seemed as if SNK was going to focus solely on its King of Fighters series when it came to all things brawling. But then 2019 rolled around and the company presented us with a skillfully revamped version of its classic Samurai Shodown, complete with a roster of old and new fighters, awesome 2.5-D visuals and gameplay that paid loving tribute to the classic titles in the series.

Now, nearly two years later, the game has made its debut on Xbox Series X with a number of enhancements, along with all of its fighters in tow (some through a Season Pass, fair warning). And it’s easily the best version to date, though a couple of flaws do keep it from being the sharpest sword on the block. Still, if you’re a fan or have great appreciation for classic, thrilling beat-em-ups, this is one you can’t be without.

Taking place in the olden days when combat was settled with weapons, Samurai Shodown features a number of returning favorites, like Nakoruru, Haohmaru, Ukyo and even Earthquake (and his fart grab). There are new combatants as well, mixing some fresh ingredients to the series with surprising results.

That said, it can be a bit on the tough side. If you approach Samurai Shodown the same way you’d approach, oh, let’s say Tekken, you’re likely to get slaughtered very quickly. However, once you nail down the finesse needed to strike your opponent mercilessly, as well as the special moves and super techniques for each fighter, you’ll find this game to be worth the investment.

The gameplay is stellar, still feeling as smooth as it ever has on the Xbox Series X. Even with the boost in frame rate (up to 120FPS with the right hardware and TV), moves come off naturally. And there’s some good skirmish opportunities here, whether you’re going at it solo against CPU opponents, or mixing it up with friends in versus, online or otherwise. Match-ups are fantastic, though you may want to practice first before challenging the best out there.

That said, the game’s story mode was slightly disappointing. What should’ve been a deep dive into the lore of the Samurai franchise is instead built upon basic bullet points where you simply bop around from fight to fight. Mortal Kombat taught us how an effective story could be told with a fighting game – and it’s just not here for some reason. Fortunately, the other modes more than make up for it, and you’ll have lots to hack and slash.

Samurai Shodown’s audio is exquisite. The traditional combat tunes and announcer are right on par with other games in the series; the voice acting is excellent (if untranslated); and the sound effects couldn’t be better, thanks to authentic weapon effects.

But the real reason to come to this show is the visuals. Samurai Shodown looks spectacular on the Xbox Series X, loading up in about half the time as the original game and featuring a trailblazing speed. Even in stages where it appears there’s a lot going on (like the hustle and bustle of a nearby city), the fights run incredibly smooth without missing a beat. I was also surprised by how well the game ran online, compared to lag that hurt other fighting games in their stead.

The game is available digitally through Xbox Network, though you can also buy a physical version that comes with additional fighters, including Samurai Shodown II favorite Cham-Cham. The only downside to this is that the digital version doesn’t have said bonus fighters, and you need to buy them separately. It would’ve been nice to have Cham-Cham around as an all-around gift to newcomers. Or, hey, where the heck is Gen-An?!

I digress. Despite the flawed story mode and the strange structure surrounding new combatants, Samurai Shodown has never been better than it is on Xbox Series X. The gameplay is still rock solid after nearly two years passed; the audio is something else (especially with a headset); and those visuals are literally to die for. If you’re a fan of the series or just want a showcase fighter that puts the Xbox Series S/X to the test, this is a sharp addition to your collection.

RATING: 8.5/10

NeoGeo Pocket Color Selection Vol. 1 Nintendo Switch review: the good ol’ days

Man, the Neo-Geo Pocket Color didn’t really have a chance on the market, did it? Granted, it had an excellent library of first and third party games, along with strong support in the U.S. and Japan. But, alas, it couldn’t topple the mighty Game Boy for handheld superiority. Still, it amassed more than enough fans to create a cult following – and now those fans can relive the old days yet again with a fun new collection for Nintendo Switch.

NeoGeo Pocket Color Selection Vol. 1 celebrates the handheld system with a compilation of ten games, which can be enjoyed in their original monochromatic format, so that they look like the older titles. And what’s more, those fascinated with the system can take a good look at the cartridges as well – 3D models of them anyway.

But the question is…would it be a wise investment for $40? Well, that really depends on your love for all things NeoGeo Pocket Color, but there’s tremendous value here.

The collection consists of ten games, which are as follows:

  • Fatal Fury: First Contact
  • Gals Fighters
  • King of Fighters R-2
  • The Last Blade: Beyond the Destiny
  • Samurai Shodown 2
  • SNK vs. Capcom: The Match of the Millennium
  • Metal Slug: First Mission
  • Metal Slug: Second Mission
  • Dark Arms (Beast Busters)
  • Big Tournament Golf (Neo Turf Masters)

If these titles sound familiar, it’s because the first six on the list got a separate release on the Switch already. So if you bought those, you might feel like you’re paying twice for a classic. But the compilation does include the four titles at the bottom exclusively, so even if the first four are already owned there’s STILL tremendous value here.

Let’s talk about those games. Probably the weakest of the bunch is Dark Arms, a role-playing style adventure with limited story appeal. That being said, it is fun to blast enemies with a shotgun and collecting spirits does have its moments. It’s a curious addition, but one that’s worth a try.

The big sports title in the collection is Big Tournament Golf, or Neo Turf Masters to some. It’s a great, cartoony approach to the sport, capturing all of its skill in wondrous handheld form. It also looks terrific, despite the crammed viewpoint of the system itself.

However if any games are worth their weight in gold here, it’s the two Metal Slug games. The First Mission is excellent, with lots of shoot-em-up action and even some side-scrolling shoot-em-up stages, but the Second Mission takes the cake. It boasts a superior design and fun gameplay, along with a few new tricks up its sleeve.

As for the other six games, they’re awesome fighting games, especially SNK vs. Capcom: The Match of the Millennium, which is the absolute gem of the collection. Samurai and Last Blade are awesome, and worth play-time too.

That said, it would’ve been nice to have more diverse offerings. Sonic the Hedgehog, for example, had a robust Neo-Geo adventure that would’ve been right at home here. Also I would’ve taken Pac-Man and maybe Biomotor Unitron.

Alas, this is just Vol. 1, so there’s hope down the road for another collection like this, depending on how well it sells.

The rendering of the Neo-Geo Pocket Color games for this collection is just about perfect, as the games run like their classic counterparts. The soundtrack is excellent for most of these games, and the visuals look great. However, keep in mind that the screen is crammed to kind of a 4:3 format, so unless you zoom in, you’ll have to put up with static wallpaper around a small screen. Not the end of the world, as it does emulate the hardware, but it might be limiting to some.

There could’ve been more history stuff, given that this is a compilation. But being able to get a closer look at the hardware itself is very cool, and may even serve as a lesson in the classic handhelds of old. That doesn’t mean we’ll get something that breaks down the Atari Lynx anytime soon, but this is still nice to have.

While NeoGeo Pocket Color Selection Vol. 1 has some missing pieces in terms of different visual options and key games that would’ve been ideal for it (at least a Card Fighters Clash title!), it’s still a tremendous value for $40. There’s more than enough fighting games here; and the others, especially the Metal Slug games, are well worth checking out again. This is the best way to rediscover the glory of the classic handheld – without actually owning the real thing, of course.

RATING: 8/10