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Games are rated relative to other games for the same system.

Nintendo Switch Reviews C

Cannon Dancer
Grade: B-
Publisher: United Games (2023)
Posted: 2024/3/1
Rating: Teen

screenshotSo... what the [expletive] is a cannon dancer? Maybe it's Japanese for bad translation! This 1996 arcade game was critically-acclaimed in its time but little-known outside of Japan. Now we can all experience this lost gem. The cart also includes the American version called Osman, not to be confused with Donny Osmond. Both games are essentially the same as far as I can tell.

I'm glad Limited Run resurrected this obscure title on physical media. As the unofficial sequel to Strider (Genesis, 1989), Cannon Dancer is a fantastic, ninja-riffic romp. Starting a game can be a challenge however. It turns out you need to press the left thumbstick in. Wait - WHAT?!

Cannon Dancer's eye candy is so off-the-charts it might just blow your mind. The sparkling exotic skylines look spectacular and everything you kick explodes like a fireworks display. I don't know how many colors are used in this game but I'm guessing all of them. The characters are large and some of the bosses are beyond description. One is a giant female deity balancing a Cadillac on her back. And you should see the weird ones!

Cannon Dancer is super easy to play. Our hero can not only slash rapidly but grabs onto anything. He can climb up the side of buildings and even underneath structures arm over arm. When you strike enemies it looks like you're knocking their skin off! The controls are responsive and forgiving.

The graphics do get a little busy at times, especially when you pick up a certain power-up that will have you seeing double. In situations where you do find yourself surrounded, you can initiate a special attack that causes you to dash around the screen, dealing major damage to everything in sight. Use it to make short work of bosses.

The stages run the gamut from a submarine to a desert to vertigo-inducing heights. The music has a jazzy quality that calls to mind David Bowie's "Let's Dance". But what makes this game special is its surreal imagery. I don't know if it's best described as a dream or nightmare, but it reminds me of a 2D Bayonetta (Xbox 360, 2010).

The standard mode allows for rewinds and cheats, but the challenge mode forces you to play under a strict set of conditions, adding some replay value. You can save states (including high scores) and I like how each continue tacks a point to the end of your score.

Old games are tricky to grade on a modern system. While I love the increbible visuals and pick-up-and-play action, Cannon Dancer is a pretty short romp. I guess the light that burns twice as bright burns half as long! Still, collectors of rare antiquities are sure to cherish this long-lost artifact. © Copyright 2024 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Capcom Belt Action Collection
Grade: B-

screenshotYou don't see many 2D side-scrolling beat-em-ups nowadays but they were big in the 1990's. This awkwardly-titled import offers seven arcade games from the era including Final Fight, King of Dragons, Captain Commando, Knights of the Round, Warriors of Fate, Armored Warriors, and Battle Circuit. Despite being a fan of the genre, I had never even heard of some of these!

Final Fight is a classic brawler where you punch and kick your way through the mean streets of "crime capital" Metro City. Any fighting game that lets you shatter a phonebooth with one punch has got to be good. Like the other titles, only two buttons are used yet there's still a wide range of moves. Final Fight's vibrant city skyline is a feast for the eyes although more variety in the thug department might have been nice. The game is great for coop and the ending is well worth the effort.

Captain Commando is like a futuristic Final Fight with post-apocalyptic scenery and mechs you can commandeer. In the medieval world of King of Dragons you employ might and magic to battle orcs, minotaurs, and dragons (duh). Knights of the Round is more sword-oriented, with gorgeous countrysides, classy renaissance music, and RPG elements. In Warriors of Fate you do battle on horses but I found it mediocre.

Armored Warriors is a futuristic fighter with hulking mechs like the film Pacific Rim. The sprites definitely push the envelope with behemoths that fill the screen. Battle Circuit is a downright weird futuristic romp with aliens and mutants in a tawdry, reality-show setting. One of the bosses is actually an Elvis impersonator.

All games are configurable but only three let you adjust the continues. The others are on "free play" which removes any tension and undermines the high score system. I'd recommend lowering the difficulty, cranking up the lives, and forgoing any continues. My friends clocked a lot of time with Capcom Belt Action Collection, especially since most games support up to three players. Not all are gems but collectors will appreciate owning these on physical media. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

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1 to 3 players 

Castlevania: Anniversary Collection
Grade: B-
Publisher: Konami (2021)
Posted: 2022/11/6
Rating: Teen

screenshotCastlevania: Anniversary Collection is a fine way to get up to speed with the franchise or revisit its gothic glory. It includes the original NES Castlevania trilogy (1987-1990), providing quality 8-bit platforming mayhem with a macabre edge. You also get two 16-bit titles from the Genesis and SNES. Rounding things out are a pair of Game Boy entries, along with a bonus Japanese-only NES release called Kid Dracula (1990).

The HD upgrade gives the original trilogy a dramatic facelift with colors that really pop. Still, I prefer the scanline filter option to soften the edges. The emulation is fine, although I detected some audio imperfections with the original Castlevania. In general the music is slightly less full compared to the NES cart, and the controls slightly less tight. I know because my friend Chris and I played them side-by-side.

Super Castlevania IV was one of the original titles for the SNES, boasting nifty rotation effects and the ability to whip in any direction. But Castlevania: Bloodlines for the Genesis is the true revelation. If you don't remember it looking this good, that's because it never did. The Genesis video signal was always a bit fuzzy. Now Bloodlines is not only drop-dead gorgeous, but also the most playable game in this collection.

Next up is a pair of Game Boy (read: black and white) games. In Castlevania Adventure you're ascending some kind of mountain graveyard whipping rolling eyeballs. It's slow and unresponsive. Belmont's Revenge on the other hand plays like a dream. Instead of going the RPG route like the NES sequel, this is a straight-up platformer with selectable stages.

Wrapping things up is the oddball of the bunch, Kid Dracula. This cartoonish take on the Castlevania formula features a white-haired vampire brat fighting Frankenstein monsters, kung-fu dogs, knights, and other random enemies. Cute minigames and the ability to rapidly fire shots keep the fun factor above water, if just barely.

Bonus materials come in the form of a "digital book" offering 80 pages of box art, instructions, history, and discussion. But it's time to address the elephant in the room. What happened to the two Dracula X games, including the critically-acclaimed Castlevania Dracula X: Rondo of Blood (T16, 1993)? I hate to rain on the parade, but to me this collection feels strangely incomplete. © Copyright 2022 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

Cotton Reboot!
Grade: B
Publisher: Beep Games (2021)
Posted: 2021/10/13
Rating: Everyone 10+

screenshotFor longtime 2D shooter fans, the Cotton shoot-em-up series is the stuff of legend. Originating in Japan back in 1991, this quirky side-scroller is bursting with spooky Halloween imagery and zany anime elements. Its fun rapid-fire shooting action is punctuated by blinding explosions, crazy combos, sexy fairies, and random, bizarre enemies.

The original game is included, starring a cute witch on a broom. The Halloween themes shine through with dilapidated graveyards, haunted houses, and spooky villages. A huge variety of enemies includes flying eyeballs, spear-tossing blue devils, and head-hurling Frankenstein monsters. The intermissions feature giddy Japanese schoolgirl talk that will have you reaching - no lunging - for the skip button.

The new "arrange" mode is everything you'd expect from a modern remake, with dazzling graphics, rich music, and shooting with an intensity cranked up to "11". It reminds me of Deathsmiles (Xbox 360, 2010) - another seasonal favorite.

This reboot plays differently from the original. Instead of crystals blocking your shots, they refract them, allowing you to effectively spray and inflict far more damage. Avoid the urge to snatch the gems up and let them float out there instead. Snagging purple crystals can net big points, but frankly it's hard to discern colors when things get hectic. When the screen is being plastered with point values it's pure sensory overload.

Armed with unlimited continues you could finish these games in one sitting if you wanted. Personally I like to play for the high score, always displayed on the top right. These scores have so many digits they are hard to read! Have the developers ever heard of a comma? There's also a manic two-minute time-attack mode if you just need a quick fix.

The game contains a very funny digital instruction booklet that walks you through all the subtle nuances of its combo system, which I have yet to fully comprehend. Cotton Reboot looks so amazing that the original looks quaint by comparison. Overall this is a pretty sweet package for seasoned shooter fans, and also for younger gamers who want to see what all the fuss is about. © Copyright 2021 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Crash Bandicoot: N-Sane Trilogy
Grade: B
Publisher: Activision (2017)
Posted: 2019/8/2
Rating: Everyone

screenshotI'll never forget the first time I played Crash Bandicoot (PS1, 1996). As I ventured down that scenic island path I felt as if I was being engulfed in dense jungle foliage! The tropical 3D graphics were brimming with style and character. Crash Bandicoot N-Sane Trilogy resurrects the series for a new generation, giving the stages a high-def makeover while retaining its classic gameplay.

The original game ushered in a new breed of 3D adventure, restricting the player to a path but allowing for free movement within its confines. As Crash hops across overgrown ruins he'll bash crates, collect fruit, and perform twirls to send turtles, crabs, and aardvarks spinning off the screen. There's plenty of variety too. Certain stages are more 2D in nature while others let you run toward the screen. Crash 2 introduced new moves, a stage select, and a higher difficulty level. Crash 3 tempered the difficulty while introducing motorcycles, airplanes, and even a bazooka!

The developers did a fine job porting these three to the Switch but took a few liberties. When bouncing on crates Crash now collects three fruits at a time, minimizing the number of bounces necessary. Now that is a good idea! When you spin into animals, they tend to fly into boxes and enemies up ahead, which is very cool. There are new icons to collect, presumably to unlock new features. Upon completing a stage you'll watch all the crates you missed getting smashed over the head of Crash, and that gets old in a hurry.

A few new stages are included but if "Stormy Ascent" is any indication, these are more punishing than fun. So the big question is, do these games measure to the originals? Well, the controls don't feel as tight and despite the graphic fidelity I had problems with depth perception and hard-to-see hazards. Then again, unless you own an old CRT TV it's hard to experience the trilogy in its original glory. Retro gamers should clutch their old discs like grim death, but newcomers will discover N-Sane Trilogy packs plenty of bandicoot goodness for the money. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled
Grade: D
Publisher: Activision (2019)
Posted: 2019/8/2
Rating: Everyone

screenshotMuch like Crash Bandicoot: N-Sane Trilogy (Activitision, 2019), Crash Team Racing Nitro attempts to resurrect a beloved franchise with updated graphics, tossing in a few new features to sweeten the deal. Back in the day Crash Team Racing (PS1, 1999) was the only kart racer that could stand toe to toe with Mario Kart 64 (N64, 1997). This updated edition offers "revved up" versions of tracks from the original game as well as the less-than-stellar Crash Nitro Kart (Xbox, 2003).

The developers managed to bring the graphics up to 2019 standards while retaining that cartoon likeability. The gameplay however suffers from a serious lack of tuning, beginning with the frustrating single-player adventure mode. While there appears to be a whole island at your disposal, in fact everything is locked except for two tracks, and you need to finish in first place to make any progress. That's a problem because the difficulty is so hard you'll need more luck than skill to win.

The action is chaotic but not in a good way. The game's rubber-band physics has CPU karts slingshotting all over the place. One second you're in first place and next you're in dead last. Most weapons are pretty lame but those guided missiles are too good. And then there's that weird weapon that turns everybody into drunk drivers.

The four player screen screen action is always a welcome feature and the framerate is quite smooth. But like the single-player game, you'll find yourself fighting for 5th place! The over-engineered, non-intuitive controls suggest a lack of play testing. Power-slide boosts were key in the original game, but here you'll be lucky to figure out how they even work! In the final analysis Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled feels more like a wreck than a souped-up ride. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.

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1 to 4 players 

Cruis'n Blast
Grade: B+
Publisher: Raw Thrills (2021)
Posted: 2021/11/7
Rating: Everyone 10+

screenshotJust like Justin Timberlake brought sexy back to music, developer Raw Thrills is now bringing arcade back to video games.

There was a time when colorful arcade games were common on consoles, with visceral racers like Hydro Thunder (Dreamcast, 1999), Crazy Taxi (Dreamcast, 2000), and San Francisco Rush: Extreme Racing (Nintendo 64, 1996). Then the industry became obsessed with realism and the fun went away. I'm being facetious. Not really.

The idea behind Cruis'n Blast is to jockey, power-slide, and yes blast your way to victory on dozens of dazzling tracks. This game is so over-the-top that each race feels like one extended turbo boost. Your hair will literally be blown straight back. You can even perform Burnout-style takedowns.

The tracks aren't realistic but they aren't cartoonish either. No, they hit that sweet spot with sparkling colors and eye-popping animation. In London, the ferris wheel breaks loose and rolls through the streets. In the American West track tornados lift trucks and earthquakes cause gaping chasms to appear in the road. Advanced variations incorporate environmental hazards like rain, snow, and dinosaurs.

The progression is very good. You complete circuits to open new tracks, collect keys on the courses to unlock new cars, and earn experience points for upgrades. Arcade mode lets you play for score, but it only registers the initials of the profile currently in use, which is too bad because this is a great pass-around game.

The four-player split screen mode is a welcome addition, solidifying the game's old-school street cred. Granted, you definitely lose that sense of grandeur on the smaller screen. And then there's the cheesy music, which I can't stop singing - much to the consternation of my friends. Cruuuuuusinnnnn... c'mon gotta go cru-u-siiiin!

Cruis'n' Blast may be arcade to a fault. The speed boosts are practically non-stop and nothing much can slow you down. When playing with four player mode, it seems like all players finish within a fraction of a second to each other. It kind of undermines the skill of driving when the race is kept artificially close like that. That said, edging out the leader by a hair at the finish is exhilarating.

It's been a long time since a game has delivered this degree of eye candy, adrenaline, and unmitigated joy. Cruis'n Blast is pure arcade satisfaction with gorgeous graphics, a bouncy 90's-era dance track, and irresistible pick-up-and-play fun. I'd love to see it start a new trend. © Copyright 2021 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 4 players 

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Screen shots courtesy of IGN.com, MobyGames.com, Nintendo Everything, Nintendo Life, Polygon, Nintendo Difference