Hello gentle readers, and welcome to the SwitchArcade Round-Up for February 27th, 2023. In today’s article, it’s a review bonanza as I offer up not one, not two, not three or four, but five reviews for you to digest. All of the Ninja JaJaMaru games! Grim Guardians: Demon Purge! Elderand! Which one is the best? Which one is the worst? I hope you are excited to find out, because otherwise all I have for you is a single new release and some lists of sales. Let’s see if it works!
Reviews & Mini-Views
I’ve said a great many times that the Metroidvania genre is so saturated at this point that you can have a perfectly good game that doesn’t do anything wrong and it will still end up in the middle of the pack. You have to have a hook of some kind, and it had best not be a hook that is equally well-worn. Unfortunately, Elderand‘s main hook is in bringing in elements from the Dark Souls blueprint, and that’s pretty much the costume everyone shows up in these days. If you’re jonesing for a new Metroidvania and aren’t burnt out on the genre, Elderand is a fine enough choice.
You find yourself in a strange, dangerous land and need to survive while also sorting out what is going on. The plot is a bit thin at the start but eventually picks up to the point that I was paying attention, which is high praise for me with this genre. A lot of that comes down to the subtle world-building, which it accomplishes in most of the usual Souls-like ways. The presentation is solid, with great pixel art and some cool animations. As you might imagine given its hook, combat is a major part of this game and can be really tough and unforgiving. The regular enemies are often more dangerous than the bosses, and if you fall in battle you’re sent back to your last save point without even a booby prize in your hands.
One thing I appreciate about the game is its brevity. I feel that many Metroidvania-style games run way too long these days, pushing hours upon hours past the point where they run out of ideas. Elderand wraps up in about five or six hours, and it feels like it ends just about where it should. You don’t get a ton of new abilities along the way, but the ones that you do get are meaningful and fun to play with. I had a better time just moving around the game’s world than I did with its combat, and I wish things had been a bit more even in that regard overall.
In another time and place, Elderand would be a game I could easily recommend to anyone. But in a market where we’ve seen the same ideas pop up so often, it just doesn’t really bring anything novel to the table. If you’re okay with that, by all means proceed. It has a few technical issues and the boss battles are a bit limp, but otherwise it’s a very well-rounded take on the genre. On the other hand, those who have slaked their thirst for meandering around a map looking for abilities to help them meander more will probably want to give this one a pass. Decent, but decent only gets you so far these days.
SwitchArcade Score: 3.5/5
Ninja JaJaMaru: The Great Yokai Battle + Hell ($19.99)
I didn’t expect to enjoy this as much as I did, but it ended up pushing a lot of the right buttons for me. Given how all over the place the Ninja JaJaMaru series has been, I should probably specify that this is a modern take on, or perhaps sequel to, the original NES Ninja JaJaMaru game. Each stage tasks you with defeating all of the enemies that appear, and you’ll need to dispatch them with whatever weapon your character uses. You can also stun them by knocking the floor out from under them or by jumping on their heads. Smashing breakable floors can also reveal power-ups, including a very useful scroll that activates your super attack. There is a wide variety of enemies and several bosses to battle, and when they’re in mixed groups things can really get tricky.
After every stage you play, the coins and souls you earn from defeating enemies are converted into Jalecoins, which in turn unlock new things as you achieve certain amounts. These include new playable characters, new guest characters for the Jaleco power-up, and other extras like manual and box scans. The new characters help keep the game fresh and allow you to strategize a bit by picking the right one for the stage at hand, and the rest of it is good fun. It feels like a game designed and built by people who really love JaJaMaru and Jaleco at large, and that passion is infectious. Whenever a new unlockable was around the corner, I always found myself wanting to play just a little more.
The game can be played alone or with a friend, with more than twenty solo challenges to tackle and an assortment of stages for co-op gameplay. You can also take on a special ranking challenge and see where you stack up on an online leaderboard. The scoring element, extra badges on each stage, assortment of achievements, and bevy of unlockables will keep you playing for a while. In terms of presentation, it does the whole retro revival thing very well. It certainly looks like the original game in a lot of ways, but it runs a lot better and has lots of neat effects that will remind you it’s a lot more modern. You can use the music from the original game if you want, but there’s a slick arranged soundtrack that ended up being my preferred choice.
If you happen to be a Ninja JaJaMaru fan, you’ll love The Great Yokai Battle + Hell. It’s the best game in the series, and not by a little. It’s also packed to the gills with loving references to previous JaJaMaru games and the JalecoVerse in general. If you’re coming to the series for the first time, then this is the one to get. It’s a fun arcade-style action game with lots of hooks to keep you coming back again and again. Not exactly an all-timer, but it’s a very enjoyable game that punches well above this franchise’s historical weight class.
SwitchArcade Score: 4/5
Grim Guardians: Demon Purge ($24.99)
I’ll give this to Inti-Creates: they know what they’re good at and they tend to stick to it. Apart from the cheeky light gun-style shooting action of Gal*Gun, Inti-Creates pretty much just makes 2D action-platformers. They have always done so, through the troughs and peaks of the genre, and I suspect they always will. And hey, there’s nothing wrong with that. Outside of one particularly high-profile miss, you know you’re going to get a decent game at the very worst when you pick up an Inti-Creates release. And Grim Guardians certainly isn’t bad as these things go.
It is, however, very predictable. It’s thematically inspired heavily by Castlevania, and I’m sure most will know it isn’t this developer’s first kick at that can. Don’t expect these to play too much like the Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon titles, however. This isn’t really a Castlevania throwback in the gameplay sense despite how it looks, sounds, and it roughly structured. You’re swapping between two characters, one of whom has a gun and the other a sword. They both have their strengths and weaknesses, and they can team up for a super attack that is honestly a bit too powerful. You can play alone or pull in a friend for some co-op gameplay, and the latter is certainly a more enjoyable way to digest the game.
There are eight decent-sized levels to play through, and you’ll be able to upgrade your characters as you go to power them up and give them new capabilities. It’s not a very difficult game at all, especially if you bring along a friend, and you’ll likely have it wrapped up in a reasonable five or six hours. There’s a little replay value baked in as you can find some alternate routes to explore, but there’s no great reason to do so beyond simply seeing more of what the game has to offer. The story will probably appeal more to Gal*Gun fans than anyone, with some cameos and such calling back to those games, but it’s mostly just a silly excuse to have the girls assault a gothic castle.
If you’re on the hunt for a well-built 2D action game, particularly one you can play with a friend, then Grim Guardians: Demon Purge will likely satisfy. It’s a highly experienced developer working in the genre it’s best known for, and the resulting level of quality is hardly a big surprise. I think it’s more for the fans of the developer than the fans of the property it draws its themes from, and I do wish it had a little more bite to its challenge. An enjoyable romp, but nothing all that special.
SwitchArcade Score: 3.5/5
Ninja JaJaMaru: The Lost RPGS ($12.99)
I’m not going to spend too much time on these. You get a shameless, shoddy Dragon Quest clone and an okay action-adventure game in this set, both originally Japan-only NES/Famicom games. They’ve been properly translated, which is actually pretty cool. The games are running in the usual Ratalaika emulator wrapper, but for some reason any attempt to use the CRT filter causes the sound to stutter very badly. There are no instructions or anything included, which is a shame because some guidance would go a long way here. A very bare bones affair.
I can’t imagine many people will get much fun out of grinding their way through the RPG in this set, but the action-RPG is tolerable enough. I have to commend ININ for translating these games just on principle, and for the most part Ratalaika’s emulation does the job. That said, there are some bugs with some of the emulator options, and I can’t imagine this set being a good value for most people. Sometimes things that are lost are better off unfound.
SwitchArcade Score: 2.5/5
Ninja JaJaMaru: Retro Collection ($14.99)
This collection focuses on a spread of JaJaMaru action games, with five in total included. Three are NES/Famicom games, one is a Super NES/Super Famicom game, and the last is a Game Boy game. Some of these are being made available outside of Japan for the first time, so that’s neat. Additionally, the Game Boy game has been given the full Game Boy Color treatment, which is an unexpected extra bit of effort. None of these games are anything beyond decent at best, though. The first game is a technical mess but amusing enough. The sequel is dull and poorly conceived. Operation Milky Way seems cool at first but turns into an absolute nightmare before long. The Super NES game is pretty fun but doesn’t do a whole lot to distinguish itself. The Game Boy game is okay.
As with the Lost RPGs set, these games have all been tossed unceremoniously into the Ratalaika emulation wrapper without many extras or instructions to speak of. They also share the sound emulation bug that set suffers from when CRT filters are enabled. But on the whole I think the games here have more appeal and you certainly get more bang for your buck in terms of included titles. I’d advise sticking with The Great Yokai Battle and skipping these sets, but if you want to dig a little deeper into JaJaMaru‘s history, this will help you do that.
SwitchArcade Score: 3/5
Sentry Paragon ($5.99)
A pretty straightforward take on the top-down arena shooter. Defeat enemies and pick up the skulls they drop, then use those skulls to upgrade your character and build useful things to help you survive longer. How long can you hold out? That’s about all there is to it.
(North American eShop, US Prices)
Seems like it’s time for another ININ Games sale. The Ninja Saviors, G-Darius HD, and Cotton Fantasy are all great and available at fine prices for the next couple of weeks. Oh, and do note that Onion Assault appears to be having its first post-launch sale, albeit a small one. The outbox has some titles from EA, plus popular indies like Golf Story and Gunman Clive HD Collection, so give it a good look as well.
Select New Games on Sale
A Sketchbook About Her Sun ($1.99 from $4.99 until 3/4)
Will Die Alone ($1.99 from $4.99 until 3/4)
Promesa ($1.99 from $4.99 until 3/4)
Eldest Souls ($6.99 from $19.99 until 3/7)
Roki ($5.59 from $19.99 until 3/7)
Tails of Iron ($8.74 from $24.99 until 3/7)
Amnesia: Collection ($8.99 from $29.99 until 3/12)
Doodle God: Evolution ($6.74 from $14.99 until 3/12)
Doodle Mafia: Crime City ($4.49 from $9.99 until 3/12)
Doodle Devil: 3volution ($4.04 from $8.99 until 3/12)
Onion Assault ($7.19 from $7.99 until 3/13)
Taito Milestones ($19.99 from $39.99 until 3/13)
Space Invaders Invincible Collection ($23.99 from $59.99 until 3/13)
The Ninja Saviors ($9.99 from $19.99 until 3/13)
Spelunker HD Deluxe ($7.49 from $24.99 until 3/13)
Cotton 100% ($7.49 from $14.99 until 3/13)
Panorama Cotton ($7.49 from $14.99 until 3/13)
Cotton Fantasy ($17.99 from $39.99 until 3/13)
Umihara Kawase BaZooKa! ($5.99 from $29.99 until 3/13)
Clockwork Aquario ($9.99 from $19.99 until 3/13)
Turrican Flashback ($11.99 from $29.99 until 3/13)
Darius Cozmic Collection Arcade ($17.99 from $44.99 until 3/13)
Darius Cozmic Collection Console ($23.99 from $59.99 until 3/13)
G-Darius HD ($11.99 from $29.99 until 3/13)
Dariusburst: AC EX+ ($11.99 from $39.99 until 3/13)
Bubble Bobble 4 Friends ($19.99 from $39.99 until 3/13)
WitchSpring3 ($19.99 from $39.99 until 3/13)
Ultracore ($3.99 from $19.99 until 3/13)
Brutal Chase Turbo ($1.99 from $9.99 until 3/13)
NeonLore ($1.99 from $5.99 until 3/16)
BraveMatch ($1.99 from $4.99 until 3/16)
War-Torn Dreams ($1.99 from $6.99 until 3/16)
Nerved ($1.99 from $8.99 until 3/16)
Frightence ($1.99 from $5.99 until 3/16)
Blastful ($1.99 from $3.99 until 3/16)
Dungeon Bricker ($1.99 from $3.99 until 3/17)
My Universe: My Baby Dragon ($20.09 from $29.99 until 3/19)
My Universe: Doctors & Nurses ($11.99 from $29.99 until 3/19)
Agatha Christie ABC Murders ($8.99 from $29.99 until 3/19)
Professor Rubik’s Brain Fitness ($2.99 from $29.99 until 3/19)
The Smurfs: Mission Vileaf ($15.99 from $39.99 until 3/19)
Escape Game Fort Boyard 2022 ($14.99 from $29.99 until 3/19)
Sales Ending Tomorrow, Tuesday, February 28th
Adverse ($1.99 from $5.99 until 2/28)
Ampersat ($4.99 from $9.99 until 2/28)
Art Sqool ($1.99 from $12.99 until 2/28)
Battle Brothers A TBT RPG ($14.99 from $29.99 until 2/28)
Burnout Paradise Remastered ($9.89 from $29.99 until 2/28)
Crowalt: Traces of the Lost Colony ($2.49 from $9.99 until 2/28)
Elemetals: DMDM ($1.99 from $12.99 until 2/28)
Exertus Redux ($2.06 from $4.39 until 2/28)
Fantasy Blacksmith ($6.69 from $9.99 until 2/28)
Fe ($4.99 from $19.99 until 2/28)
Golf Story ($6.99 from $14.99 until 2/28)
Gunman Clive HD Collection ($2.99 from $4.99 until 2/28)
Hunting Simulator 2 ($11.99 from $39.99 until 2/28)
It Takes Two ($29.99 from $39.99 until 2/28)
Little Bug ($1.99 from $12.99 until 2/28)
Lost in Random ($5.99 from $29.99 until 2/28)
Mechstermination Force ($7.19 from $11.99 until 2/28)
Monster Truck Championship RH Edition ($14.99 from $49.99 until 2/28)
Need for Speed Hot Pursuit ($7.99 from $39.99 until 2/28)
Niche Genetics Survival Game ($5.99 from $19.99 until 2/28)
Overpass Deluxe ($6.49 from $64.99 until 2/28)
Plants vs Zombies BfN Complete ($5.99 from $39.99 until 2/28)
Pure Chase 80’s ($1.99 from $14.99 until 2/28)
RiMS Racing ($14.99 from $49.99 until 2/28)
Super Punch Patrol ($2.99 from $4.99 until 2/28)
Super Soccer Blast ($3.99 from $7.99 until 2/28)
Super Tennis Blast ($4.49 from $14.99 until 2/28)
Super Toy Cars Offroad ($9.99 from $19.99 until 2/28)
Super Volley Blast ($4.99 from $9.99 until 2/28)
TT Isle of Man ($4.99 from $49.99 until 2/28)
Under Leaves ($1.99 from $12.99 until 2/28)
Unravel Two ($4.99 from $19.99 until 2/28)
V-Rally 4 Ultimate Edition ($6.99 from $69.99 until 2/28)
WRC 9 Deluxe Edition ($4.99 from $49.99 until 2/28)
That’s all for today, friends. We’ll be back tomorrow with a handful of new releases, plus some sales, a couple of reviews, and whatever news rolls in. I hope you all have a marvelous Monday, and as always, thanks for reading!