Hello gentle readers, and welcome to the SwitchArcade Round-Up for June 17th, 2019. With E3 2019 behind us, there’s not a lot of news going on in the world of gaming right now. Mostly, it’s people arguing about what they saw last week, if I’m reading the room right. But we do have one interesting bit of news to look at, along with reviews of a couple of recent releases. We’ve also got summaries of today’s amazing-looking new games, and the sales information you know and crave. Let’s see what we’ve got, shall we?
‘The Bard’s Tale ARG: Remastered and Resnarkled’ Coming to Switch
One of the more curious chapters in the history of the The Bard’s Tale series was when it took a brief foray into the world of top-down console action-RPGs. Besides the title, there was little connecting the game to the famed first-person dungeon crawlers, but it turned out to be an enjoyable game all on its own. It was also pretty funny, with Cary Elwes bringing his trademark dry wit to the lead character and the legendary Tony Jay serving as the deadpan narrator who will not, can not stop dunking on the Bard. I’m not sure how well the humor works fifteen years later, as I haven’t revisited it in a while. But this Remastered and Resnarkled version that is coming to Switch is more or less the same game that you can get on iOS, presumably minus the inclusion of the original trilogy. No word on a release date yet.
Contra Anniversary Collection ($19.99)
The third, and for now final, of Konami’s recent anniversary collections is now out. The company had a lot of huge successes in the 8- and 16-bit eras of console gaming, but if you had to pick the biggest of the bunch, Castlevania and Contra would be among them. In the long run, the former was far more prolific, but even focusing in on these specific periods, there just weren’t as many Contra games made. Nevertheless, this collection does its best to give us a good value for our money, and it’s hard to complain too much about what ended up being included. However, like the Castlevania Anniversary Collection, there are a few things that keep this from being everything it could be.
First up, the list of included games. You get the arcade versions of Contra and Super Contra, the NES versions of Contra and Super C, the Game Boy Operation C, the Super NES Contra 3: The Alien Wars, and the Genesis Contra: Hard Corps. Additionally, some regional variants are included in the forms of the Famicom Contra and the European localized versions of the Super NES and Genesis games. The latter are particularly interesting as, due to local laws and/or customs in some countries at the time, the familiar commandos have been swapped out for robots. The arcade games are different enough from the home versions that I’d call them distinct games, but the regional variants have very little to distinguish them in terms of gameplay.
The availability of these games has been all over the place over the years. Super C for the NES and Contra 3: The Alien Wars have been re-released at just about every possible opportunity, appearing on every Virtual Console service and the NES and Super NES Classic Mini systems respectively. The arcade versions of Contra and Super Contra were released on Xbox Live Arcade for the Xbox 360. The NES Contra has been conspicuously absent from most retro initiatives, with its only appearances post-NES being as an unlockable in the Nintendo DS Contra 4 and as part of a weird Windows collection back in 2002. Operation C and Contra: Hard Corps are the two least-seen, with this being the first re-issue of both on new platforms.
Basically, when you set aside all the variants, you’ve got seven different games here. The arcade games are not that hot overall, but the remaining five games are white-hot, easily among the best action games on their respective platforms. Better still, all but the Game Boy game support simultaneous two-player gameplay. Playing Contra games with a second player is one of those experiences that just about everyone from a certain age has enjoyed, and with good reason. The thrust of Contra is stupid, over-the-top action, and having a friend along on that kind of ride is always great. Developer M2 has done a great job emulating the gaggle of systems that these games are spread across, too. These games are just as they were, right down to the terrible slowdown in the arcade Contra. Actually, there are some small differences, but they’re clearly deliberate. Some of the strobe-like effects in the games have been toned down, likely for safety reasons. This is most obvious in Contra 3, which was an incredibly flashy game in its original form.
The package itself is quite similar to that of the Castlevania Anniversary Collection. Each game has its own save state you can make use of, and you can pick from a number of different aspect ratio and filter options. There’s an in-game Bonus Book filled with awesome information and developer tidbits that is definitely worth a read. And I’m going to go ahead and count the variants as extras, as well. The Famicom version of Contra has a ton of extra visual details that make it worth the trip, and the European Probotector variants offer a cool alternate-universe look at two of the more advanced games in the series. Those versions also allow you to pick between 50hz and 60hz, so you can have the authentic, slower European gameplay or speed the games up to the level of the North American and Japanese releases. Rather pleasantly, each speed variant also keeps it own save state.
The negatives also mirror the previous collection’s, unfortunately. You can’t remap the controls, and the 8-bit games have shooting and jumping assigned to the B and A buttons as in the originals. Some find that grip a little awkward and would prefer a Y/B style, but the game doesn’t offer such a set-up. While each game does have a save state, you only get one. So if you want to keep a save state when you play by yourself and one for when you play with a friend, that’s too bad. The same issue with the normal mode in the display settings is present here as well, with it not filling the vertical span of the screen unless you turn on scanlines. Finally, while some regional variants have been included, we’re missing some of the Japanese and European versions. It would be nice to have the Probotector versions of the other games, and the Japanese version of Contra: Hard Corps is a much more playable game thanks to its gentler difficulty.
That said, Konami has announced that it will at least be adding in the Japanese versions of the games with an upcoming patch. I’m not sure if remappable controls and fixes for the display settings oddity are in the cards, but I hope they are. I did have one other issue off-and-on with this collection that I hadn’t run into with the previous ones. Namely, when playing in handheld mode the ZL and Select buttons wouldn’t work properly, with Select’s functions mapped to a long-press of ZL and ZL’s function mapped to a long-press of ZR. But this was inconsistent. Sometimes, it worked just fine. Outside of handheld mode, I never had any problems at all. As such, I’m not going to hold this against the game too strongly.
While I think the Castlevania Anniversary Collection gives you a bit more bang for your buck, the Contra Anniversary Collection is another fine set from Konami and M2. Every console game included here is a classic in its own right, and the action works just as well today as it ever did. Even if you don’t count the variants and the arcade games, you’re still getting a great value for your money. I certainly hope Konami keeps these collections rolling somehow, because they’ve been an absolute treat for fans of classic gaming even with the odd problem or two that has come up.
Is it tacky to ask for more games in the review of an existing one? Friends, I don’t care. Konami, go get that TMNT license from Nickelodeon and give us a TMNT Anniversary Collection with TMNT, TMNT: The Arcade Game (arcade and NES), Turtles in Time (arcade and Super NES), The Hyperstone Heist, Tournament Fighters, and the Game Boy trilogy. I will pay whatever it takes.
SwitchArcade Score: 4/5
Dead Dungeon ($4.99)
For all of the various problems video games introduce, it’s kind of shocking how many of them can be solved in the same way. I’ve done everything from rescuing princesses to saving the world to becoming an ultimate wizard just by the simple process of grabbing a thing and heading to an exit twenty or thirty times in a row. And that’s what you have to do here in Dead Dungeon. Your sweets have been stolen and the souls of all living things have been taken, and you need to get all of that stuff back where it’s supposed to be. You do that by grabbing a thing and heading to an exit fifty times in a row. More or less.
Dead Dungeon is a platformer with single-screen stages packed to the brim with instant-kill traps. Your little hero can run left or right and jump. They can also, rather remarkably, jump again in mid-air. Okay, yes, that’s just a normal double-jump, but I feel like we don’t take enough time to reflect on how much of a physics-breaking super-power that is. Good job, video game heroes! Anyway, each stage has an entrance, an exit, a soul that you need to collect to open the exit, and a sweet that you should collect because sweets are delicious. And maybe, if you look hard enough, you might find some other points of interest along the way.
Stages are full of traps like spikes, saw blades, and enemies. Touching any of them is a one-way ticket back to the start of the stage, and anything you’ve collected will be put back where it was. That’s the only penalty, however, and restarts are swift. It’s a good thing, because as in most games of this sort, you’re probably going to die a lot. Not a lot in the first few stages, but once it starts to heat up you’re going to be seeing a lot of those little blood spatters that clearly indicate how badly you messed up. The game’s controls are mostly on-point though, so when you die it’s rarely the game’s fault. Well, there are some gotcha moments that you probably won’t see coming, but that’s part of the fun in this kind of thing.
It’s all very perfunctory, and that ends up being the biggest problem with it. When stacked up against the best of the bunch in this genre that you can pick up on Switch, Dead Dungeon just feels like it’s missing the sauce. It’s visually uninteresting, and while the SID-like music is alright it leaves the head almost as quickly as it enters. The level designs are fine but nothing about them really stands out. The gameplay works, but there’s almost nothing here that you haven’t seen many times before. It’s not a bad game by any stretch, though. If you sat me in a room with only this game to play for the afternoon, I probably wouldn’t complain too much. And for the price, perhaps that’s all it needs to do. At the same time, it’s just a little too plain to give it a strong recommendation.
SwitchArcade Score: 3/5
Deer Drive Legends ($19.99)
This one is no stranger to Nintendo digital platforms, even appearing on WiiWare at one point. I have to conclude that some people are buying it. Maybe some people are even enjoying it. I don’t know. Look, hunting may not be my thing, but I can acknowledge the appeal of it. You don’t just walk into the woods, shoot a big animal, and then head home in time for tea. There’s a lot of preparation, strategy, and careful execution that go into it. Or so my uncles and cousins tell me, anyway. But that’s not what Deer Drive Legends is about. It proudly proclaims that it has none of those sim elements you find in other hunting games. No, this is just a silly, mindless shooting gallery of forest animals. You’d think you could at least plumb some basic enjoyment from that, but technical problems stymie even that small hope.
Sea King ($4.99)
This is a fairly simple party game for up to four players. Each person commandeers a ship and needs to try to blow the others out of the water in single-screen, top-down combat. Yeah, it’s not such a different game from Atari Combat, when you think about it. And that’s more or less what makes it work in its own little way. It’s no fun at all if you’re playing alone as the CPU opponents are unbearable, but if you have a few friends that can get into this sort of thing, you’ll probably get your five dollars’ worth out of it.
With practically everything still on sale from E3, there isn’t a whole lot of excitement to be found in the sales that cropped up over the weekend. It’s mostly a bunch of games that are on sale more often than they’re not. As for the outbox, the Atelier games are finishing up their sales, and they probably won’t be back on sale again for several months. Natsume’s discounts are coming to a close, and a few of Square’s non-Final Fantasy sales are expiring as well. As always, grab them if you want them. When it comes to the big publishers, there’s no telling when they’ll run another sale again.
New Games on Sale
LEGO The Incredibles ($29.99 from $59.99 until 6/22)
Shadow Bug ($4.04 from $8.99 until 6/30)
Cars 3: Driven to Win ($15.99 from $39.99 until 6/22)
Verlet Swing ($11.99 from $14.99 until 7/4)
Quest for the Golden Duck ($0.99 from $9.99 until 7/1)
Pizza Parking ($1.49 from $5.99 until 7/3)
Saboteur! ($1.84 from $8.00 until 7/4)
Red Game Without a Great Name ($0.29 from $2.99 until 6/18)
Green Game: TimeSwapper ($0.29 from $2.99 until 6/18)
Chiki-Chiki Boxy Pro Wrestling ($13.49 from $14.99 until 6/27)
Deployment ($2.49 from $9.99 until 6/22)
CricktoGame ($3.84 from $5.49 until 6/29)
Demetrios – The BIG Cynical Adventure ($5.99 from $9.99 until 6/30)
Xenon Valkyrie+ ($6.99 from $9.99 until 6/30)
Tardy ($2.99 from $9.99 until 6/25)
Riddled Corpses EX ($7.49 from $9.99 until 6/30)
Event Horizon ($2.39 from $5.99 until 6/25)
Sales Ending Tomorrow, Tuesday, June 18th
Atelier Arland Deluxe Pack ($67.49 from $89.99 until 6/18)
Atelier Lydie & Suelle ($35.99 from $59.99 until 6/18)
Atelier Meruru: The Apprentice of Arland ($29.99 from $39.99 until 6/18)
Atelier Rorona: The Alchemist of Arland ($29.99 from $39.99 until 6/18)
Atelier Totori: The Adventurer of Arland ($29.99 from $39.99 until 6/18)
DragoDino ($4.99 from $9.99 until 6/18)
Fear Effect Sedna ($1.99 from $19.99 until 6/18)
Figment ($9.99 from $19.99 until 6/18)
Forgotten Anne ($9.99 from $19.99 until 6/18)
Harvest Moon: Light of Hope ($19.99 from $39.99 until 6/18)
I Am Setsuna ($15.99 from $39.99 until 6/18)
Lost Sphear ($19.99 from $49.99 until 6/18)
Mecho Wars: Desert Ashes ($0.99 from $9.99 until 6/18)
Nelke & the Legendary Alchemists ($47.99 from $59.99 until 6/18)
Octahedron: Transfixed Edition ($9.09 from $14.99 until 6/18)
Oh My Godheads: Party Edition ($3.74 from $14.99 until 6/18)
Romancing SaGa 2 ($18.74 from $24.99 until 6/18)
Spelunker Party! ($14.99 from $29.99 until 6/18)
Wild Guns Reloaded ($9.99 from $19.99 until 6/18)
Red Game Without a Great Name ($0.29 from $2.99 until 6/18)
Green Game: TimeSwapper ($0.29 from $2.99 until 6/18)
That’s our lot for today, friends. We’ll be back tomorrow to look at a new release or two, and we’ll naturally be covering whatever news and new sales come our way as well. I should also have at least one more review ready for you to enjoy. I’ll see you all then, and as always, thanks for reading!