Hello gentle readers, and welcome to the SwitchArcade Round-Up for November 28th, 2023. In today’s article, we’ve got a little slice of news before we head into another parade of reviews. Our pal Mikhail has his takes on Spirittea, Salt & Sacrifice, and Frog Detective: The Entire Mystery, while I dive into the retro zone with Jurassic Park Classic Games Collection and Irem Collection Volume 1. After that, it’s new release time. Not a whole lot going on there, but we summarize it anyway. We then wrap things up with the usual lists of new and outgoing sales. Let’s get to it!
The Next Two ‘Tetris 99’ Maximus Cup Events Have Been Announced
It looks like we’ll be finishing out the year with two more Maximus Cup events for Tetris 99. The first is a tie-in with Wario Ware: Move It!, and it’s kicking off this Thursday and running through Monday. Then, a couple of weeks later on December 14th, we’ll be seeing a Super Mario Bros. Wonder event. They both work the usual way, with you needing to collect 100 event points by playing the game before the event expires. Do that and you get to keep the nifty new theme. I’ll probably give you another heads-up before the Mario Wonder event, but you’re on your own for remembering that the Wario one starts in a couple days.
Reviews & Mini-Views
Whenever No More Robots announces a new game, I’m curious because I’ve ended up either adoring a few games by the publisher. Slayers X, Fashion Police Squad, and Let’s Build a Zoo are probably my favorites. When Spirittea was revealed, I wasn’t sure if it would do enough to stand out in the life simulation genre because we see tons of cozy games trying to appeal to the Stardew Valley crowd these days. Having now played it on both Nintendo Switch and Steam Deck, Spirittea is excellent in many ways, but needs a bit of work before it will be amazing.
On paper, Spirittea should be an easy recommendation for any life simulation or cozy management game fan, but it does a few specific things in its mini-games that made it appeal more to me, but I feel like this might hold it back.
You play as a writer in the countryside who happens to drink the aptly titled Spirittea and then discover spirits and more. Your aim is to help the townsfolk, spirits, and make everything better as you learn about the colorful characters, spirits, and their backstories. The core management in Spirittea happens at the bathhouse. The spirits you help end up here, and you aim to upgrade said bathhouse to decorate and make things easier for you.
Spirittea’s mini-games feel a little weird to me as I usually enjoy karaoke, fishing, drinking, and cooking mini-games the most in other releases. Spirittea features all of those, and is probably the first non-Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio game to nail the mini-game choices for my taste this well. I think some accessibility options in these would help those who aren’t fans, but I loved them.
I’ve seen a lot of comparisons to Spirited Away, but I’m not familiar with that. I know most will be drawn to Spirittea by that comparison, but in my case Spirittea made me want to watch Spirited Away.
Spirittea‘s visuals are very good, but there are some clarity issues in points of interest, and in specific locations where you might miss a room or two. Barring that, I like the character designs and adore the menus. This is the rare game that actually puts effort into its menus.
On the performance side, I had no issues on Steam Deck, but there are some frame pacing or minor jitter issues I noticed on Switch. It wasn’t bad, but it was noticeable. The load times are very good on Switch which is good and rare to see in games like this. (Oh and if you’re wondering why I haven’t done my usual picture of the Switch and Steam Deck for this game, I don’t drink tea and felt it would be wrong to do one with coffee for this one.) All of this is accompanied by David Linares’ excellent soundtrack that is equal parts uplifting and chilled out.
In its current state, I recommend Spirittea on Switch if you’re ok with some small text and minor performance issues. The game itself has a lovely core gameplay loop and I ended up enjoying it more the deeper I got into it. Sometimes games will use a larger font when you play in handheld, but I couldn’t see any option to increase it on Switch, and saw no difference in the size when playing docked or handheld.
Right now, Spirittea feels a bit early access in parts, and lacks the polish it deserves on Switch. The early access bit might be because I feel like Spirittea has loads of mechanics and systems that aren’t all as well-realized as others. A few improvements to text sizes, tutorials being more accessible, and some of the clarity in specific locations being improved would make this special. Thankfully updates are confirmed, and I’m confident in this game becoming even better.
I also want to note one specific bug I ran into which also affected two of my friends who play the game on Steam while I ran into it on Switch. In the opening, if you collect random stuff while walking around and your backpack is full before you try and collect tea leaves for the quest, you will seemingly be stuck. I found the tea leaves under a basket as detailed here.
Spirittea is a great game with the potential to be one of my favorites in the genre, but it needs some updates and fixes on Switch. I still recommend it, and enjoyed the mini-games, characters, and gameplay loop a lot. The aesthetic might not work for some, but I like it a lot and recommend trying the demo if you are interested. I’ll be grabbing the physical copy for this for sure whenever it gets announced. –Mikhail Madnani
SwitchArcade Score: 4/5
Frog Detective: The Entire Mystery ($19.95)
As someone who watches Vtubers, I’m surprised I didn’t know much about Frog Detective before it got announced for consoles. I don’t know how it was on PC, but having played Frog Detective: The Entire Mystery on Nintendo Switch, I ended up loving it for its writing, music, and charm.
If you’ve not heard of this series before, the Frog Detective games are short point and click games involving colorful characters, clues, exploration, and more. Each game adds something new to the core experience as well. Just don’t come into Frog Detective expecting deep puzzles or things from older point and click games. This is very much a trilogy of games you play for the story and characters. While the games were released individually on PC, the console versions arrive as a complete set with a unified launcher and some new content.
I wasn’t sure the aesthetic would work for me, but Frog Detective: The Entire Mystery‘s silliness is perfectly complemented by its visuals. On Switch, the colors absolutely shine on the OLED display. I did lament the lack of touchscreen support though while playing these games.
While I like the visuals and would love a physical release, the soundtrack elevates Frog Detective: The Entire Mystery to a whole other level. It is just perfect. One final aspect I want to highlight is how the game perfectly suits the Switch’s pick up and play nature. You can save and quit whenever, and it respects your time.
Frog Detective: The Entire Mystery is the perfect game to unwind with thanks to its amazing writing, charm, and great soundtrack. It isn’t too long though so keep that in mind. It absolutely is worth the asking price on Switch, and I hope it does eventually either get touch support or an iPad version. It was released in a very busy period, but I feel like Frog Detective: The Entire Mystery is exactly what I needed with so many long games taking up my time. -Mikhail Madnani
SwitchArcade Score: 4.5/5
Salt and Sacrifice ($19.99)
The problem with releasing a follow-up to a successful and acclaimed indie game, is that a lot of folks aren’t fans of change. I’ve been there. I’ve seen games I love get sequels that just annoyed me like Hotline Miami 2, but there are also those that deliver in spades like Rogue Legacy 2 or Risk of Rain 2. When Salt and Sacrifice was announced, I initially was disappointed at the platforms because I wanted to play it on a handheld like I did with the original. I didn’t play it on PS5 or PC at launch. Fast forward to now, I’ve played it on both of the best portable platforms: Switch and Steam Deck. Salt and Sacrifice isn’t as good as Salt and Sanctuary, but it has the potential to get there with a few updates.
Like I said before, Salt and Sacrifice was a bit weird initially with its structure. Going from an awesome 2D Soulslike with expectations of a sequel building on that formula to Salt and Sacrifice will be off putting. Salt and Sacrifice isn’t a Soulslike in its focus. It is more Monster Hunter with those elements making it feel rather unique. I almost wish Ska Studios took things further and just made this a full-blown 2D Monster Hunter with this aesthetic, but the end result of Salt and Sacrifice is a very unique blend of mechanics from genres and games I enjoy, with the signature Ska Studios charm.
You have multiple classes to start with, can build your character as you wish later on, and even unlock tools like a grappling hook and more as you progress. Your aim is to slay the mages, and you will face off against them quite a bit, even multiple times, as you try to upgrade your gear. Think of this as farming a specific monster to upgrade in Monster Hunter if you’ve played those games. Salt and Sacrifice is also a lot longer than I expected.
Salt and Sacrifice is getting another update soon and I’ve seen it in beta on Steam, but it feels great on both Switch and Steam Deck right now. On Switch, it even scales the interface if you move from docked to handheld, and looks brilliant on the OLED screen.
On Steam Deck, Salt and Sacrifice supports higher frame rates, and it ran beautifully on my 1440p monitor while docked as well. When playing on the Deck itself, it supports the native 16:10 aspect ratio as well. If you use a DualSense controller, it shows PlayStation button prompts.
This version also comes with cross platform play which you can toggle off if you don’t want it. Co-op is great, and I’m glad it will likely be easier to find people to play with thanks to cross platform play.
I hope future updates can add a map. I know this is likely by design, but I found the lack of a map annoying. Barring that, some difficulty spikes hold this back. The blend of different systems however worked well, and I’m curious to see what the developer does next. This might not have resonated with those who wanted another Soulslike experience following the first game, but I ended up liking it more than I expected.
If you own a Switch or Steam Deck and never played Salt and Sacrifice before, your wait has been worth it. If you enjoy Metroidvanias, Soulslikes, and have wanted a blend of Monster Hunter in games like that, this is an easy recommendation. While I think Inti Creates’ Dragon Marked for Death is better in its current state, I welcome more games trying to blend in Monster Hunter with their own flavor. After a few updates, Salt and Sacrifice will be essential. Now it is excellent with some caveats. -Mikhail Madnani
SwitchArcade Score: 4/5
Jurassic Park Classic Games Collection ($29.99)
Call me a little spoiled if you must, but I’m starting to expect a bit more from retro game collections than just an assortment of games tossed unceremoniously into a basic (but functional) emulation wrapper. Particularly so if the price heads north of the twenty-dollar mark. I understand that the licensing was the expensive bit here, especially after Limited Run Games got SEGA involved for its pair of Genesis/Mega Drive titles. But that’s all the more reason, I think, to treat this a little more special than the average Carbon Engine release. You’ve got Jeremy Parish right there, don’t you? Surely we could have some cool historical context to go with these games?
I really wanted that here, because if any games could have interesting stories told about them, it’s these. We’ve got seven games included here, five of which were originally published by the… I’m going to use the word ‘intriguing’… Ocean Software back in the day. Ocean loved its licenses, but I don’t know how much the licenses loved it. I will give the publisher this much, though: it sometimes took some weird swings with properties that could have easily just been made into generic platformers. The other two games in here were under the safer hands of SEGA, and are in the main generic platformers with one fantastic twist that did a great job of selling people on them. If you don’t know, you can play as the velociraptor in those two games. Yes. Yes.
Good and bad, interesting and boring. Let’s use those words to quickly run through the games here. NES Jurassic Park – bad but mildly interesting. Game Boy Jurassic Park – bad but mildly interesting. Super NES Jurassic Park – slightly bad but quite interesting. Super NES Jurassic Park 2: The Chaos Continues – bad and boring. Game Boy Jurassic Park 2: The Chaos Continues – slightly good but boring. Genesis Jurassic Park – good and slightly interesting. Genesis Jurassic Park: Rampage Edition – slightly good but boring. Not a great group of games all around, but I know lots of people who swear by a few of them, so they’re not Bill & Ted NES bad.
Emulation on all of the games is decent enough except for the NES games, which have some odd audio issues. There have been a lot of edits made to the games to remove actor likenesses and a few other things that I presume were done at the request of Universal or some other party. Well, that’s how it goes. You get some basic display options including screen ratios and filters, borders you can flick on or off to fill out the screen, a save state for each game, language options for the overlay and menus, a music player for each game, and some game maps you can check for the few games that really need them. That’s it. No box or manual scans, no instructions for the games that could sorely use them, and certainly no cool making-of or behind-the-scenes stuff.
I’ve long since come around on the idea that the games in a collection must be great for it to be worthwhile, but in situations like Jurassic Park Classic Games Collection there just isn’t enough here to explain to players why these games are worth having out there again. I mean, yes. There is value in simply getting old licensed games out again in any form. But if you go to all the trouble of doing that, I’d love to see the extra mile gone to explain the context and history of these games. The changes and minor emulation hiccups are understandable and easily forgiven, but these games would benefit greatly from something better than the no-frills, brown paper bag approach we’ve got here.
SwitchArcade Score: 3/5
Irem Collection Volume 1 ($24.99)
And then there’s this set, which suffers from some of the same problems the Jurassic Park Classic Games Collection does while adding a few more on top. There are three games included here: Image Fight, Image Fight II, and X Multiply. All shooters, which is fine. You get the optimal versions of each game, which means arcade versions of Image Fight and X Multiply and the PC Engine CD version of Image Fight II. I mean, that’s the only version of that game that exists. You also get the NES/Famicom and PC Engine versions of Image Fight, which is a cool bonus, and both Japanese and Overseas versions of X Multiply arcade. I love getting the home ports of arcade games in collections. That’s hot stuff. Probably the best part of this collection, if I am to be frank.
Image Fight and X Multiply are both stone-cold classics of the shoot-em-up genre that show why Irem was such a force in the arcade scene back in the day. I don’t have much to say about them except they’re very difficult and worth sticking with. Image Fight II was a direct-to-console sequel, and it has that direct-to-video Disney sequel feeling. A shadow of its legendary predecessor, and punishingly difficult without giving you any juice to make the squeeze worth it. You don’t see it re-released often, and it’s not hard to see why beyond the other obvious reasons. Nice to see it here, albeit in the sense that it’s nice to see any game reissued. It’s pretty bad. And it’s the only game that is properly exclusive to this set, because Image Fight and X Multiply are both part of Hamster’s Arcade Archives line. In just about every meaningful way, that’s the better way to play these games.
I’ll grant Ratalaika this much, though: there was an effort made here to add some interesting new features to the games. You can use the right stick to manipulate the movement of the satellites in Image Fight and the tentacles in X Multiply, and I hope you like that feature because even if you try to turn it off it will stay active. Little bug there. Lots of those little bugs, by the way. Phantom inputs. Odd mappings you can’t seem to unbind. Settings that don’t seem to work. But hey, we’ve got online leaderboards! That’s actually a great feature, and one I hope to see in Ratalaika’s emulated game releases going forward. I just wish the rest of it wasn’t so sloppy, or that I could trust these bugs will be fixed. Maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised.
As with the collection reviewed above this one, you don’t get anything to explain the history or context of these games. No flyer, box, or manual scans. No information about the games. There’s an opportunity here to keep not just the games from our history alive but also educate newcomers about them, and it’s one that has been left on the table in Irem Collection Volume 1. I get the sense ININ is trying to position this line as a prestige series of sorts, with just three games per volume and the addition of online leaderboards and some home console ports. I’m repeating myself here, but it wouldn’t take much more work to really make this feel special. Instead it’s just a couple of cold hot dogs thrown on a paper plate.
Irem Collection Volume 1 has a couple of excellent games and one rarity on offer, and the quality of those games is its biggest strength. Slight emulation issues, a wide array of bugs, and a bare-bones approach to presenting the games all work against the high-quality feel that ININ seems to want this series to have. Unless you’re very interested in the home ports of Image Fight and its highly lackluster sequel, you’re far better off buying the Arcade Archives releases of Image Fight and X Multiply, a choice that will save you some money to boot.
SwitchArcade Score: 3/5
My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! ~Pirates of the Disturbance~ ($49.99)
This is a visual novel about a light novel about a girl who reincarnates into the world of a visual novel as the villain of the story, who is doomed to death no matter what ending the heroine ends up at. In this game, she ends up involved in what she recalls is a fanbook for the original story. It has pirates! You know, if I had the license to make a Bakarina game, I’d make a farming sim. It feels like a visual novel is simultaneously too obvious and also too meta. Well, Mikhail is going to be reviewing this one. He doesn’t know anything about the license, and I’m actually curious how our experiences will differ as a result.
Roots of Pacha ($24.99)
This is a farming sim with a couple of twists going for it. First and most obvious is that it has a stone-age theme, which is at least something different compared to most games of this sort. Second is that you can play online with up to four players at once, and the game kind of encourages this. Otherwise, it paints inside the usual lines. Big fans of the genre may want to give it a look, along with people who miss the caveman game boom of the early 90s.
The Bin Bunch
Mom Simulator 2023 ($12.99)
(North American eShop, US Prices)
The exciting thing in today’s inbox is another Arcade Archives sale. As usual, most of these games have never been on sale before and may not ever be again. Even if they do, it will be a really long time. Grab while the grabbing is good. You’ll at least want Shock Troopers 2nd Squad and Penguin-Kun Wars. Over in the outbox, get Annalynn cheap while you can if you enjoy arcade action. Check those lists!
Select New Sales
Evoland Legendary Edition ($4.99 from $19.99 until 12/11)
Northgard ($9.79 from $34.99 until 12/11)
Summer Paws ($1.99 from $4.99 until 12/11)
Strike Team Gladius ($4.99 from $9.99 until 12/11)
ACA NEOGEO Shock Troopers 2nd Squad ($3.99 from $7.99 until 12/12)
ACA NEOGEO Top Player’s Golf ($3.99 from $7.99 until 12/12)
ACA NEOGEO The King of Fighters 2001 ($3.99 from $7.99 until 12/12)
ACA NEOGEO Zed Blade ($3.99 from $7.99 until 12/12)
ACA NEOGEO Real Bout Fatal Fury 2 ($3.99 from $7.99 until 12/12)
Arcade Archives Penguin-Kun Wars ($3.99 from $7.99 until 12/12)
Arcade Archives Task Force Harrier ($3.99 from $7.99 until 12/12)
Arcade Archives Frisky Tom ($3.99 from $7.99 until 12/12)
Arcade Archives Thunder Dragon ($3.99 from $7.99 until 12/12)
Arcade Archives Super Volleyball ($3.99 from $7.99 until 12/12)
Summertime Madness ($8.99 from $14.99 until 12/18)
Witchcrafty ($4.99 from $9.99 until 12/18)
Succubus With Guns ($5.99 from $9.99 until 12/18)
Why Pizza? ($2.49 from $4.99 until 12/18)
Spacebase Startopia ($19.99 from $49.99 until 12/18)
ONI: Road to be the Mightiest Oni ($14.99 from $29.99 until 12/18)
They Bleed Pixels ($1.99 from $14.99 until 12/18)
PigShip & the Giant Wolf ($3.59 from $7.99 until 12/18)
Sales Ending Tomorrow, November 29th
Annalynn ($3.74 from $4.99 until 11/29)
Antonball Deluxe ($11.24 from $14.99 until 11/29)
Carbage ($1.99 from $14.99 until 11/29)
Cat Tales ($1.99 from $19.99 until 11/29)
Chalk Gardens ($1.99 from $5.99 until 11/29)
Deathtrap Dungeon Trilogy ($4.99 from $9.99 until 11/29)
Dr Smart Space Adventure ($1.99 from $14.99 until 11/29)
Dream ($2.99 from $9.99 until 11/29)
Dungeons of Shalnor ($1.99 from $9.99 until 11/29)
Fighting Fantasy Legends ($4.99 from $9.99 until 11/29)
Fights in Tight Spaces ($12.49 from $24.99 until 11/29)
Floogen ($1.99 from $3.99 until 11/29)
Heroine Anthem Zero Episode 1 ($3.89 from $12.99 until 11/29)
Last Command ($13.99 from $19.99 until 11/29)
Mask of the Rose ($13.99 from $19.99 until 11/29)
NachoCado ($1.99 from $9.99 until 11/29)
Passpartout: The Starving Artist ($3.99 from $9.99 until 11/29)
Shalnor Legends 2 ($8.99 from $14.99 until 11/29)
Sqroma ($1.99 from $8.99 until 11/29)
Sunless Sea: Zubmariner Edition ($6.79 from $19.99 until 11/29)
Sunless Skies: Sovereign Edition ($9.99 from $24.99 until 11/29)
To Leave ($1.99 from $19.99 until 11/29)
Voodoo Detective ($3.74 from $14.99 until 11/29)
That’s all for today, friends. We’ll be back tomorrow with more new releases, more sales, and perhaps more news and reviews. I’m a little late finishing writing this article because my friends had a little party for me today to celebrate getting out of the hospital. We did karaoke, and I did my best to sing SEGA Saturn Shiro, as Segata Sanshiro would have wanted if he were still with us. I hope you all have a terrific Tuesday, and as always, thanks for reading!