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

Nintendo Switch Reviews U-Z

Ultra Street Fighter II
Grade: B-
Publisher: Capcom (2017)
Posted: 2017/6/7
Rating: Teen

screenshotI've been a Street Fighter II (SNES, 1992) fanatic since day one, purchasing just about all of its countless variations (super, turbo, alpha, etc). The only reason I passed up Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix (2008) was because it was download-only. I guess good things come to those who wait... nine years!

I have to admit I'm loving the HD graphics. They add amazing detail while retaining the original distinctive art style. Ryu's moonlit temple and Ken's sunny yacht look gorgeous, and I love the sense of depth in Chun Li's market stage. The characters are so sharp you can actually see lines on Ryu's face! The original low-resolution graphics are available as an option, but they look downright harsh on a modern TV.

The original fighting lineup has returned along with newcomers Evil Ryu and Violent Ken. These guys seem suspiciously similar to their regular counterparts except they happen to be demonically possessed (it happens). The strategic one-on-one fighting feels just like the old days, but if you're used to cranking up the turbo setting it might feel a little slow. The improved clarity tends to undermine the collision detection, causing some obvious misses to be registered as hits.

The original musical score is back, but the remastered tunes sound a little less edgy. I'm pleased to announce Capcom has rediscovered their long lost "arcade mode" technology, and you can even rank in with your initials. Just be sure to crank up the difficulty to "master" (at the very least) because normal is ridiculously easy. It would be nice if the game kept a different set of high scores for each difficulty.

Playing with a Joy-Con controller takes some getting used to. I kept switching between the digital and analog directional controls but didn't feel completely satisfied with either one. By default heavy attacks are assigned to the right and left bumpers, but they are really hard to reach in the heat of battle. And why is it that when I pull up the move list I then have to select my character from a list? If I'm playing as Chun Li, just show me her damn moves! It's not that hard Capcom!

In addition to the standard online, training, and versus modes, Capcom tossed in two new modes of questionable value. Buddy Battle mode lets you team up with a friend (or CPU) to beat the living crap out of a CPU player. There's no score so it's basically just a novelty. Way of the Hado mode offers a first-person perspective as you execute Joy-Con motion controls to dispatch oncoming soldiers. The controls are so bad they feel like the worst Wii game ever. Ultra Street Fighter II is a lazy effort, but it's still worth owning, particularly if you haven't experienced this classic in HD. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Wallachia: Reign of Dracula
Grade: B+
Publisher: No Gravity Games (2020)
Posted: 2021/10/13
Rating: Teen

screenshotWallachia is the region of Romania which was (is?) home to the real Dracula: Vlad the Impaler. Reign of Dracula may look like a cheap Castlevania knock-off, but playing is believing. This side-scrolling platformer has the gothic charm you'd expect, but with a frantic run-and-gun style reminiscent of Contra (NES, 1988).

Wallachia's menu interface looks a bit clunky and sparse. Upon starting a new game, controls are presented in a rapid-fire manner. Umm - excuse me, can you please repeat that? Nope! During the course of the game large "up" arrows appear over people or chests. These are just prompting you to talk or investigate, but they give the impression something huge is overhead.

Despite modest production values Reign of Dracula excels in terms of raw gameplay. Your bow-wielding warrior princess forges over rainy countrysides, mountain ranges, flowery bridges, and well-fortified castles. It's great fun to take out stiff soldiers and nail icon-carrying birds flying overhead. Your rapid-fire arrows are awesome, especially when loaded with triple-shots or exploding arrows. The left bumper is used to "lock in" your position so you can fire all around.

The controls feel clumsy at times, like when you squat while trying to shoot downward, or vice versa. Large characters provide precious little room to maneuver, especially during boss encounters. Special powers are not easy to use, and there should be more checkpoints. That said, the game's quirks add to the challenge, making it madly additive.

Wallachia: Reign of Dracula is not the poor-man's Castlevania you might expect. It's brimming with beautiful landscapes, exceptional music, and non-stop twitch-shooting goodness. If you have a short attention span, buy this immediately. That's what my buddy Scott M. did after the very first time he played it. © Copyright 2021 The Video Game Critic.

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Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus
Grade: A-
Publisher: Kalypso Media (2020)
Posted: 2024/5/17
Rating: Teen (blood, violence)

screenshotIt's a shame how few good games there are based on the Warhammer 40k universe. At least this one found a viable approach: steal ideas from other games! Mechanicus is a blatant clone of XCOM: Enemy Unknown (Xbox 360, 2012). While the lack of originality is glaring, I can't deny it just works!

You play as a commander in the cyborg legions of the Adeptus Mechanicus. During an exploratory mission you discover an entire planet filled with robotic Necron tombs - and the Necrons are waking up! Issuing orders to your tech-priests and Skitarii troops, it's up to you to halt the alien uprising.

You receive missions from heads of the Mechanicus cult, each of whom has their own agenda. You begin with two tech-priests and a handful of lesser troops. Your first impulse will be to protect the troops, as XCOM's "permadeath" mechanic is in full force. This would be a mistake however, since lower units can be replaced endlessly at the start of every new mission. In true Warhammer fashion, they are mostly there to be used as meat shields. Your tech-priests are the ones you need to protect, since they has useful skills and can deal significant damage. If you let them all die it may as well be game over.

The gameplay is divided into two major parts: exploration and combat. Each mission takes place in a randomly-generated Necron tomb. There are objectives, but these provide little more than unique dialogue along and an excuse to explore the tomb. Occasionally you're presented with situations like a machine breaking or an artifact being discovered, prompting you with a list of options. The right choice will increase your rewards while a bad one can damage your troops or raise the alertness level. Each time the alert goes up, more Necron will appear in the end-of-level fight. This alertness meter carries over after the mission ends, adding to the awakening meter. Should that reach 100%, the entire Necron army will awake and you'll be forced into the final mission - whether you're ready or not.

Combat is exactly what you would expect from an XCOM clone. Both sides take turns moving their troops around the battlefield, taking advantage of cover and long-range weapons to whittle each other's health down. Your entire team has to share the same pool of action points, meaning that if one troop does too much the rest are essentially paralyzed. On the other hand I like how they've gotten rid of the percentage-based accuracy of XCOM. As long as an enemy is in your clear line of sight, you're guaranteed a hit. Just keep in mind it holds true for them as well!

The graphics are minimalistic but exploring the Necron tombs is eerie thanks in large part to the creepy techno soundtrack. New enemies, as well as new troop types, are introduced gradually throughout the story and the awakening meter adds a palpable sense of tension. Mechanicus may be lacking in original ideas, but what it does it does extremely well! © Copyright 2024 The Video Game Critic.

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Grade: C+

screenshotWindjammers (Neo Geo, 1994) aka Flying Disc Game was an underrated sports title for the Neo Geo. It features two athletes competing on an enclosed court, attempting to hurl a spinning disc past each other for points. Despite the simple concept there's a lot of technique involved. You can carom the disc off the sides or lob it for two points if your opponent doesn't catch it. Directional pad movements allow trick shots that curve or catch fire.

The matches are short but intense, with upbeat music and vibrant arcade graphics amping up the excitement. There are several bright courts to select from, but you can't beat the sandy court with the tropical scenery. Windjammers is a great head-to-head game, but its single player arcade mode is fun too, letting you work your way through a series of competitors. There are even two bonus stages. One lets you control a dog running on the beach, leaping over sunbathers while trying to catch the disc. In another you knock down bowling pins.

It's nice to see Windjammers being exposed to a wider audience, but this is got to be the laziest port I've ever seen. They just plopped the 1994 game onto the Switch with no substantial enhancements or additions. The low-resolution graphics look pretty harsh and the Joy Con is a lousy substitute for those irresistibly tappable Neo Geo controllers. There are online leaderboards but local high scores are not saved which is unacceptable. Windjammers is an undeniably great game but it deserved better than this barebones treatment. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 72203
1 or 2 players 

Windjammers 2
Grade: C+
Publisher: DotEmu (2022)
Posted: 2022/9/3
Rating: Everyone

screenshotI've long been a fan of Windjammers (Neo Geo, 1994). A combination of Frisbee and Pong, this head-to-head competition boasts bright visuals and a simple premise. The original was previously re-released as a straight port for the Switch, but I was intrigued to see what a proper sequel could do.

Not much! Windjammers 2 looks like the first game with an HD makeover. The pixel art has been replaced with super sharp, semi-realistic graphics. Except for some some hotties along the edge of the beach court, there's not much eye candy - mainly due to the top-down view. There are ten competitors to select from, but none are particularly memorable.

The gameplay involves hurling a disc past your opponent, occasionally lobbing it to an open spot for points. The courts are all the same size and don't offer much variety. There are some new moves at least. If you press Y as the disc arrives you can perform a "deflection" move. Sometimes your player becomes engulfed in flame for no apparent reason, setting you up for a super shot. These flashy, hard-to-stop shots have a tendency to make the disc disappear and reappear in another spot like a magic trick. Not a fan.

The online play supports a fancy "rollback system", but I was more interested in the arcade mode. Here you face off against a series of CPU opponents in various venues. You'll need to master all the techniques and your reflexes must be razor sharp. It's pretty intense! Leaning the wrong way is often the difference between victory and defeat.

Bonus stages include the "beach run" from this original game, letting you control a dog racing down a beach to chase down a long throw. That's great, but the second bonus stage where you catch a series of rapid-fire discs is just exhausting. Points earned from these help earn extra continues.

I have mixed feelings about Windjammers 2. The visuals are clean but unspectacular and the gameplay feels gimmicky. I wish the developers had taken more chances, exploring new court configurations or perhaps a four player mode. For newcomers this game can be a revelation, but for everyone else it's just the first Windjammers with a fresh coat of paint. © Copyright 2022 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 48K
1 or 2 players 

Winter Games 2023
Grade: B
Publisher: Wild River (2022)
Posted: 2023/2/4
Rating: Everyone

screenshotDon't let its generic cover and budget price scare you; Winter Games 2023 is very, very good. I'd rate its stylish graphics as about PS3 quality with smooth white slopes, beautiful evergreens, and icy blue shadows creeping in. I love the soothing techno beats but that weak commentator has got to go! ("What a great day. Thanks to all the athletes...")

You can play the ten events individually or compete in various cups. High scores are not only recorded by skill level, but by individual players as well! I'm kind of mad my Switch limits you to eight profiles! Before each event you have the option of viewing the instructions by pressing X, but if you miss them you can usually get by by following the on-screen prompts.

Biathlon has you cross-country skiing through a scenic forest with some occasional target shooting. After about a minute my impatient friend Sudz exclaimed, "Okay, when do I get to shoot somebody?!" Curling is a sophisticated game of both skill and strategy. Despite accidentally bypassing the instructions, I was able to figure it out and it played beautifully. Both of these events clock in at under ten minutes, which is pretty sweet.

Downhill skiing and Super G convey an exhilarating sense of unbridled speed with simple shoulder button controls. Speed skating on the other hand threw me for a loop. I couldn't get into the rhythm or figure out the balance meter around the corners. Nothing's more embarrassing than getting lapped and then having to skate your final lap through a crowd of celebrating skaters!

Skeleton and Women's Bobsled both take place in a tube that runs through a quaint winter village at night. I love the cozy atmosphere under the lights! The sense of speed while careening down the tube is breakneck, punctuated by blur and vibration effects. Along the way you get glimpses of beautiful lights and snow-covered trees.

Ski Cross puts four skiers on the same course, navigating turns and jumping ramps. The jump-and-land controls are confusing. I want to tap A to jump, but the game wants me to hold it in. Snowboard Cross is very similar but more forgiving. Ski jump places you on top of one of those tall ramps, looking down at your doom. I like the shaking, nearly out-of-control feeling as you fly down the ramp, and the wipeouts are fun to watch.

Winter Games 2023 offers four-player split-screen whenever applicable. My biggest gripe is its ridiculously long load screens. I have discs that load faster! The single-player experience is tempered by no unlockables or world records to pursue. Of course, you can always try to beat your own personal records. If you're looking for some no-nonsense seasonal fun during an Olympic off-year, Winter Games 2023 has got you covered. © Copyright 2023 The Video Game Critic.

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1 to 4 players 

Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition
Grade: B-

screenshotContributed by DaHeckIzDat of the RPG Crew and edited by the VGC. Originally released for the Wii, Xenoblade Chronicles was arguably the waggle-box's most ambitious title. It was criminally slept on however, only recently getting the attention it deserves with its Definitive Edition on Switch. With a shiny new coat of paint, more sensible controls, and a few other minor improvements, this is easily the best way to experience the game.

Xenoblade Chronicles (XC) takes place in a world where the only habitable land is the remains of two continent-sized robots. Humans living there have nearly been driven to extinction by the robotic Mechons. When a Mechon attack leaves his hometown devastated, a young inventor named Shulk with visions of the future sets off with his friends on a quest for revenge.

The first area, Colony 9, is relatively small but looks amazing with a surprising number of nooks and crannies to discover. The Bionis Leg is a massive open field filled with quests and enemies. I spent hours on side quests so I could keep exploring. I was convinced I was going to give this game an A+, but unfortunately it wasn't able to maintain that momentum through a 60-hour story. The environments eventually begin to grow emptier and less alive. Later areas are linear with repetitive enemies, making them feel like a slog.

The surprisingly innovative combat is a combination of real-time and menu-based. Unlike Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch (PS3, 2011), XC manages to be both fast-paced and thoughtfully strategic. You only control one party member (mainly Shulk) and while you can move around freely, he will attack automatically. You're presented with a list of special attacks you can activate after a brief cooldown period. Strategy comes from proper positioning, since most special attacks will incur extra damage if landed from a specific angle.

Shulk's "visions" also play a part in combat. If a battle is not going particularly well, the gameplay will pause for a brief glimpse of the enemy's next move, allowing you to make proper adjustments. It's a neat little trick, but can become annoying as it brings the action to a halt just to inform me of something I could have predicted on my own.

I can't remember the last time I had such mixed feelings for a game. After an amazing first impression, Xenoblade Chronicles overstays its welcome, forcing me to enable easy mode so that I could bulldoze through the rest of the game. The story goes completely bonkers by the end. While not bad by any means, I was happy when it was finally over. © Copyright 2023 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

Zombies Ate My Neighbors and Ghoul Patrol
Grade: B

screenshotFew games scream "Halloween" like Zombies Ate My Neighbors (SNES, 1993). Not only did it spoof a wide range of classic horror films, its lighthearted graphics and amazing soundtrack put the SNES capabilities on full display. This perfectly-emulated reissue reprises all the fun sights and sounds of the original.

30 years later Zombies still looks like a million bucks. Presented in its original 4:3 ratio, there are no filtering options but they aren't needed. The tilted-overhead camera offers an ideal view of the lush scenery and comical monsters. Assuming the role of a kid (Zack or Julia), your goal is to rescue your clueless neighbors scattered around each stage while fending off monsters with water guns, silverware, popsicles, and other makeshift weapons.

Each stage is based on a movie like the Mummy, Dracula, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Creature from the Black Lagoon, and Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Stages tend to be mazelike, but finding keys lets you open doors and rocket launchers can blow holes in walls.

Two can play at once, but the fact that both must remain on the same screen may cramp your style. Pressing a shoulder button turns on a "radar" display, making it much easier to track down stragglers. The catchy soundtrack will have you humming along to each song. I remember creating mix-tape of those songs back in the day!

What's not to like? Well most of the weapons are lame. The water gun is my favorite but it doesn't work on all creatures, and cycling through weapons is awkward. Certain stages can be pretty brutal, like that hedge maze with all the chainsaw-toting Leatherfaces on the loose. I lost most of my lives in that one.

Ghoul Patrol is the sequel I had totally forgotten about - and for good reason! It lacks the charm of the original. The controls are bad and the stage layouts are aggravating. Instead of radar, there are "yell bubbles" like "Help!" and "I'm here" floating around. It really lacks the freshness and sense of wonder of the original.

Zombies Ate My Neighbors remains a timeless classic, and the ability to save in-progress means you might actually be able to conquer all 56 levels. Bonus material including digitized manuals, concept art, and even an interview with one of the developers. This is a fun package for Zombie fans, as well as those too young to enjoy this gem the first time around. Late Note: I just discovered that the 3D glasses packaged with this game are to be used with its little instruction manual. The images in the booklet pop out when wearing the glasses! Very cool. © Copyright 2022 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

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