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The 60 Best Nintendo Switch Games

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Best Nintendo Switch Games

Best Switch Games Guacamlee 2

40. Guacamelee! 2

The original Guacamelee is a game with a celebrated reputation as one of the best Metroidvanias in the history of the genre, so fans could be forgiven for expecting a lot from the long-awaited sequel. Luckily, Guacamelee 2 fires on all cylinders, delivering a worthy successor to its forebear. Nixing much of the bothersome side quests that dragged things out the first game, as well as adding in a string of new moves and upgrades, Guacamelee 2 doesn’t just match the quality of the original — it improves on it in nearly every conceivable way.

Fans of the more silly aspects of the original will be pleased to find that Guacamelee 2 is just as bananas as you’d expect, but the real surprise comes with the amount of depth and heart that it packs, especially in its ending. Even as there are more and more indie gems to pick from these days, Guacamelee 2 is still well worth your time. It stands apart from the pack as one of the best indies on the Swicth. (Mike Worby)

owlboy-story

39. Owlboy

Owlboy, a love letter to adventure platformers of gaming past, is a game almost a decade in the making. It actually took the five-man team at D-Pad Studio nine years to finish the game before it launched on PC, and while that may seem like an unusual amount of time to create an indie game (especially one that consists of roughly ten hours of gameplay), the hard work paid off in spades. For a retro 2D Metroidvania-style indie game that places a heavy focus on exploration and combat, you could be forgiven in thinking that Owlboy has nothing new to bring to the table, but in fact, the game boasts qualities that are usually missing in platformers: tingling observations, unforced comedy, an engaging story, and quirky, enduring charm.

While everything about Owlboy is done with extraordinary care, what really sets it apart is the story and writing. What we have here is an exceptionally well-crafted coming-of-age tale full of really dark moments, as well as some heart-wrenching scenes. It follows the story of young Otus, a mute protagonist who studies under his domineering mentor, Asio, a curmudgeonly owl who routinely criticizes our feathered hero and chastises his inability to speak. What at first seems like a simple 2D platformer quickly reveals an incredibly deep plot involving ancient owl societies, dark secrets, abuse, and a recurring theme of failure. When sky-pirates attack the peaceful surroundings of Otus’ world — threatening to destroy the city and steal powerful relics in the process — Otus teams up with a military mechanic, Geddy, and other trusty companions he meets along the way to put a stop to the pirates before their home is destroyed.

From its heartbreaking opening (a sequence of cold verbal abuse leaving Otus with his head bowed) to its equally devastating conclusion, Owlboy ends up being an extraordinarily intimate portrait of a life unfolding, and an exceptional, unconventional game in which a boy with a disability must overcome his insecurities, find courage, and more importantly, gain confidence to save those he loves. (Ricky D)

Best Nintendo Switch Games Grim Fandango

38. Grim Fandango

Grim Fandango remains one of an elite group of 90s games that don’t seem to age. Even after a remastering, it still manages to maintain a nostalgic atmosphere, smothered in witty humor and dark themes that ensure it’ll stay a masterpiece for as long as humans are gaming. So naturally, its introduction onto the Nintendo Switch was one of momentous applause, allowing another generation to explore the Eighth Underworld just like the generation before did.

This game is a reminder as to how clever story writing can immerse a player without the need for dynamic gameplay. There are so many different emotions sharing this tale — a story of hope being driven away by greed, lust, and reluctance, all tied together with a humor that makes the journey compelling. So many games deliver on their story, but none have had the potency that Grim Fandango manages to inject.

This might be a twenty-year-old game that’s been remastered and placed into the Nintendo library, but it’s such an amazing accomplishment that it could be re-released in twenty years on a future console and would undoubtedly still stand shoulder to shoulder with the rest. If you didn’t visit Grim Fandango in the 90s, now’s the time to do it. (James Baker)

Best Nintendo Switch Games Pokken Tournament

37. Pokken Tournament DX

Whether you’re in it to catch ‘em all, battle to be the best like no one ever was, or simply love the world, the lasting impact of the Pokémon series can’t be understated. However, the turn-based RPG nature of the games leaves a lot to the imagination when considering pokémon battles. Don’t get me wrong; I love the turn-based battle mechanics central to the main series titles. However, the concept of a fighting game where players can control their favorite pokémon in bouts for glory has long been dreamed of, and it’s surprising that it took so long for that to appear. The wait, however, was worth it. Pokkén Tournament, from the makers of the popular Tekken franchise, not only fulfills a long term wish of Poké-fanatics, but is a brilliantly novel new fighter all the more brilliant for its clever fan service and celebration of the franchise.

At the game’s core is a colorful cast of Pocket Monsters comprised of fan favorites, and a blend of the franchise’s many types of pokémon. Each pokémon has its own unique move set, despite being grouped into one of four categories of fighter — Standard, Power, Technical, or Speed — with types assigned to give a general impression of how the character will play. Despite having a roster of totally unique characters, as well as two variations of featured pokémon that play completely differently than the ones they’re based on, Pokkén is remarkable for its overall balance and ease of use. Mastery of its unique characteristics, however, will separate the simple trainer from the Pokémon Master.

Most notably, Pokkén Tournament DX features two different styles of battle in a single match. The first, Field Phase, is a free-range, 3D arena mode where players can traverse the entire map. Dual Phase plays more like a standard 2D fighter. Both phases impact character move sets and play to character strengths differently, and only by landing a heavy hit can a player shift phases. Consequently, mastery means having a handle on a pokémon’s move set regardless of phase. Fairly unique to fighters, Pokkén Tournament also features Support Sets, duos of pokémon that can be summoned once a specific meter has been filled. These support pokémon feature varying charge times and abilities, and provide an interesting level of strategy, as only one pokémon can be selected per round, while the other will be fully ready for the following round, providing a decent amount of strategy and plotting on the part of the player.

The game also features a Synergy Meter that allows pokémon to unleash a special move or transformation when ready, and feature some fantastically designed cut scenes when these moves are pulled off. The result of all this is a diverse fighter featuring some of the most recognizable pokémon around, enjoyable fighting mechanics and gameplay — including a sort of rock, paper, scissors take on different move types — exciting special moves, fun supports, and an incredibly unique phase system to keep players on their toes. Pokkén Tournament DX is a fun fighting diversion for fans of the franchise, and a refreshing fighting escapade for fans of the genre craving something new. (Tim Maison)

Oxenfree Best Nintendo Switch Games

36. Oxenfree

Teens alone on an island squaring off against deadly forces is nothing new in the horror genre. One doesn’t need to look far to come up with a list of similar stories and truth be told, Sony’s Until Dawn quickly springs to mind when thinking of a comparison point. On paper, the premise of Oxenfree may seem like a clichéd thriller, but really, Oxenfree is a near masterpiece, a blend of mind-boggling sci-fi, and subjective storytelling that serves as a singular and timeless piece of gaming. These high school seniors aren’t just fodder — they’re three-dimensional characters with complex inner lives that you don’t often see in video games. The mystery that unravels as you explore every corner of the island is really just a MacGuffin, an excuse to navigate the heady dynamics inherent to a group of hormonal, troubled teens. The real charm in Oxenfree is the character development, and like the majority of great horror films, Oxenfree explores the theme of isolation, both in a literal sense and in a figurative sense.

Like most walking simulators, Oxenfree‘s story also branches depending on the choices you make, and it’s possible to get one of a few different endings. But no matter what ending you get, sacrifices must be made. And that’s the beauty of Oxenfree — by giving players the agency to tell the story they want and creating emotional connections to the characters, every ending comes with a heavy price to pay. While the horror elements are what grant Oxenfree its narrative urgency, the character interactions are the best part of the journey, and like most games that offer players a choice, the results of your decisions — much like with life itself — aren’t always satisfying.

In closing, Oxenfree is an astonishingly imaginative, poignant, genre-defying tale of loss, grief, guilt, revenge, and time travel wrapped in a ghostly mystery that’s just as dark and disturbing as adolescence. (Ricky D)

FURI Best Nintendo Switch Games

35. Furi

Released by French indie studio The Game Bakers, the fast-paced action game Furi is a combination of hack-and-slash swordplay, twin-stick shooting, and non-stop action. It’s also a game consisting entirely of boss fights of escalating difficulty. There are no levels to explore, no disposable cannon fodder, and no puzzles to solve. It’s essentially a series of extremely difficult boss fights strung together by extremely stylish animated cutscenes.

To note that Furi is not for everyone is to belabor the obvious. Not that any game will please everyone, but truth be told, Furi is one of those games that only a small percentage of gamers will appreciate. On the surface, Furi may seem like it’s all about style, but dig deeper and you’ll appreciate the level of craftsmanship that went into making this indie gem — that is, if you have the patience and skill to progress far enough.

Furi is a difficult game to enjoy because it’s so damn difficult. To enjoy Furi is to master your attack, a process that will involve having to start over again and again, causing immense frustration. Regardless, Furi is the product of a studio to watch out for, and may prove to be one of the more rewarding and rage-inducing gaming experiences in many a year. (Ricky D)

DarkestDungeon

34. Darkest Dungeon

Intense and oppressive, yet lacking any particular need for rhythm, Darkest Dungeon is a tactical, squad-based dungeon crawler with team management mechanics. It features permadeath, so your many heroes are always at risk, and there’s no save-scumming to pull them back, making it especially devastating to lose a high-level hero you’ve been with for some time. However, not only is mortality an issue, but so is sanity. A heavily Lovecraftian game, Darkest Dungeon inflicts all kinds of mental and emotional strain on your heroes, leaving you to manage who risks going back into the dungeon, and who sits the next one out.

With awesome Mignola-esque artwork, the actual best narration ever by Wayne June, and brutally tactical combat, Darkest Dungeon is not only one of the best indies in years, but one of the best games, period. (Michael Riser)

Best Switch Games The Messenger

33. The Messenger

Sabotage Studio’s debut game The Messenger was one of 2018’s breakout hits, garnering positive critical reception and even winning Best Debut Indie Game at The Game Awards. The game begins as an action-platformer that is very reminiscent of Ninja Gaiden on the NES, complete with a retro, 8-bit aesthetic and killer soundtrack.

Initially, the story presents itself as a generic quest requiring you to journey to the peak of a mountain and deliver a mythical scroll in order to save humanity. However, about halfway through you encounter a twist in the narrative that grants a special ability that not only changes the fundamental game design, but the graphics and music update to reflect a SNES-era 16-bit game!

Gameplay is very straightforward in The Messenger, and is centered around a ninja who wields a sword that can be used against a variety of enemies. As you progress, more abilities are unlocked that allow you to traverse levels differently. Though it’s mostly a solo experience, The Messenger does feature a small cast of memorable characters, including the incredibly funny Shopkeeper, who will undoubtedly give you a few good laughs.

The game is well-paced and features a challenging set of well-designed levels that contain many optional secrets to be uncovered. The second half of the game really opens things up to become an unforgettable experience, with boss fights that are fair, but will test your skill as a player. If you’re a fan of retro or indie gaming, or looking for a new game to sink your teeth into, The Messenger is one of the best indie platformers available on Nintendo Switch. (Matthew Adler)

FireEmblemWarriors

32. Fire Emblem Warriors

The Fire Emblem series has a lot to do with the overall success of Nintendo in 2018, thanks to Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia for Nintendo 3DS (a faithful remake of Fire Emblem Gaiden) and Fire Emblem Heroes, the free to play mobile game that proved a financial hit for Nintendo. Warriors may not fully please hardcore fans, but it’s great for those new to the series. And while it may not be perfect in its execution, the charming cast, addictive gameplay, and various modes are reason enough to sink plenty of hours into this game.

In short, Fire Emblem Warriors is an orgy of frenetic combat, a blood-letting on a titanic scale, a ballet of butchery that moves in perfect harmony with its thunderous gameplay. Needless to say, I loved every minute of the game! (Ricky D)

31. Into the Breach

A turn-based strategy game from the makers of FTL: Faster Than LightInto the Breach pits players against the monstrous Vek in a fight over the future of mankind. Lest its narrative sheen seem superficial, Into the Breach is actually one of the deepest strategy games of the generation, but it’s the especially tight design that makes it stand out from other great TBS’s like X-COM 2 and Mario and Rabbids: Kingdom Battle.

Here, battles take place across small eight-by-eight grids that ensure every nano-choice carries weight. Meanwhile, a broad swathe of deeply customizable characters and units add a personalized depth to every encounter. This is a game for people who love their systems intricate and deep, yet Into the Breach is somehow also a roguelike, meaning that despite its finely tuned pacing and balance, a wide array of randomized elements make every round unique. Along with its roguelike constitution and customizable combat units, Into the Breach also features multiple difficulty levels and an enjoyable in-game achievement system that make it endlessly replayable. For those Advance Wars fans left out in the cold or Fire Emblem devotees devastated by delays, rest assured there is already a strategy game on Switch whose bite-size matches pair especially well with Nintendo’s hybrid console. (Kyle Rentschler)

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30. Puyo Puyo Tetris

Puyo Puyo Tetris was released alongside the Switch in Japan when it launched, and within a few months everywhere else. It, like many early Switch games, was buried under the success and rave behind Breath of the Wild, but Puyo Tetris definitely deserves some time in the time spotlight for being one of the best multiplayer games on the console. While the game was released on just about everything prior to the Switch, it remained Japan-exclusive until the Switch port.

Puyo Puyo Tetris combines all the elements of its two namesake games into one chaos-induced puzzle game. There are five different game modes to play from, but the real draws are the Swap and Fusion modes that combine both Puyo Puyo and Tetris on the same grid, and force players to stay on their toes to rack up combos and clutter up their opponent’s field. There are bright colors, goofy looking characters, and funny sound effects to go along with a crazy amount of depth to the game thanks to how well the mechanics of both Puyo and Tetris mix.

The portability of the Switch also makes it really easy to play. You can very easily move and rotate pieces with just one joy-con, making it one of the few games you can comfortably play with just the two joy-con halves included with the Switch. There’s a somewhat healthy online community for the game, so you’re not stuck with only playing local if you can’t constantly round up a Puyo posse. There also a rather eccentric and funny story mode to the game that takes itself about as seriously as you would expect it to.

Cheap, fun, and great on-the-go are all reasons that Puyo Puyo Tetris should be in every Switch owner’s library. (Taylor Smith)

29. Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Let’s Go, Eevee!

Nostalgia is an addiction that the older generation is often powerless to resist. When Nintendo announced Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Eevee!, they knew it was the children of the 90s that were going to buy into this charm offensive, with any doubts about the two games being quickly dispersed.

Curiously, the nostalgic elements of Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Eevee! are merely a facade, with much of the gameplay mechanics drawing from Pokémon Go in one form or another. Notably, catching a pokémon is borrowed straight from that mobile title, with much of the gameplay centered around catching as many as possible. This is made easier by wild pokémon that appear visibly on the screen, with the tall grass acting as a loose spawn point. While it’s easy to argue that Pokémon: Let’s Go is an experiment by Game Freak, many of the mechanics introduced could easily be used in any future Pokémon adventure.

Creating addictive gameplay and wrapping it all up in memories of Pokémon Yellow is the best present we’ve had from Nintendo this year, and we didn’t even know we wanted it. Essentially, what has made Pokémon: Let’s Go such a raving success isn’t that it’s what we expected, but it’s everything we thought we didn’t want, but now do. We’ve been seduced by Nintendo, and now we’re craving more; the new generation can’t come soon enough. (James Baker)

28. The Binding of Isaac

From the brilliant mind of Super Meat Boy creator Edmund McMillen, The Binding of Isaac could best be described as the perfect Nintendo paradox, both staying true to a classic Miyamoto formula while diverging into thematically dark territory. It is a game that seeks to explore religious fanaticism through a comical lens, offering both great surface gameplay and deep lore for longtime fans. Despite its controversial religious themes, The Binding of Isaac‘s core elements are as classic Nintendo as a game can get. Inspired by the dungeon crawling gameplay of The Legend of Zelda, developer McMillen combines the standard stage bosses, powerups, and treasure rooms with a modern procedurally generated level design to ensure that no playthrough is ever the same. By mixing the roguelike elements with a top-down viewpoint and twinstick gameplay, the game combines the stressful and fast-paced appeal of Ikaruga with the nostalgic charm of A Link to the Past.

Drawing inspiration from a biblical tale, the game places the titular Isaac on the run in his basement from the fervent Mom. Convinced that God is testing her faith, Isaac’s mother seeks to sacrifice her son because of her religious devotion. Over the course of a single playthrough, players will battle skeletons, monsters, embodiments of sin, literal poop, and much more, eventually having a bullet-hell showdown with a very powerful Mom in one of many possible final boss fights. Along the way, Isaac will power up his shots and abilities with a plethora of different items, taking various morbid and comical goods to increase his damage, health, and stats.

The eventual Switch release of The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth is truly the definitive edition of the adventure. The title boasts numerous unlockable characters, hundreds of additional powerups, and a variety of different game modes, ensuring that plays will continue descending through the basement, battling Mom and more in increasingly various ways for countless hours. A favorite of speed runners and Let’s Play streamers, The Binding of Isaac is easy to pick up yet almost impossible to master, offering a steady challenge for players of all skill types, and guaranteeing the ‘just one more run’ level of addiction. (Ty Davidson)

Best Nintendo Switch Games Salt and Sanctuary

27. Salt & Sanctuary

Salt & Sanctuary wears its inspirations on its sleeve. It borrows the lore, character progression, class system, and even checkpoint system of the Dark Souls series along with the world progression, level design and the non-linear landscape of the earliest Castlevania games. Paying homage to two of the most beloved video game franchise while still finding your own voice is no easy task, yet the two-person team at Ska Studios made not only one of the best indie games in recent memory, but arguably the best couch co-op game available on the Nintendo Switch. After sixty-five hours exploring every nook and cranny, fighting every beast and villain, collecting every weapon and item, and memorizing the labyrinth of environments you must journey through, all I wanted to do was play the game all over again. Salt and Sanctuary is so good, I honestly think this might be one of the most under-rated games ever made.

The game may not be original, but it’s undeniably exciting and at times awe-inspiring. From the electric guitar/synth soundtrack to the predominantly hand-drawn animation to the gratifying combat, as well as local cooperative play, Salt and Sanctuary puts a lot of triple-a titles to shame. (Ricky D)

26. Katamari Damacy ReRoll

Katamari Damacy is the ultimate video game safe space. Imagine you could take all your worries and annoyances, then roll them up into a giant ball and shoot it into space — sounds good, right? Then imagine if you could also roll up almost literally everything else in the world, causing absolute chaos to help your dad — the giant King of All Cosmos — repair the galaxy, all while listening to a funky Japanese soundtrack. No matter the mood, Katamari Damacy will make you smile, and a port to the Switch must have been an absolute no-brainer to maximize its addictive ‘one more go’ appeal.

There’s very little to the game: you start off with a small katamari ball, collecting small objects like sushi and paper clips, and gradually increase its size to eventually collect enormous things like giraffes and cars. To assume there is no challenge in Katamari Damacy is foolish, however, as there are numerous levels that add a puzzle element to rein in reckless rolling. Sometimes you might have to collect as many swans as possible (don’t even think about collecting more ducks than swans — that’s just not graceful), while other times you might have to collect the biggest bear you can find. The game can be made more difficult if players fail to grasp what is a pretty bespoke control system that exclusively consists of different combinations using both analog sticks simultaneously (don’t bother with the motion controls), but perseverance can make it second nature in no time.

Being a remake of a cult classic, many will already know the appeal of this beautiful, chilled-out game, but it retains a niche appeal today, and there’s no better time or place to get into the series than with this faithful hi-res remake of where it all began — one that you can take with you anywhere. (Alex Aldridge)

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Games

‘Oracle of Seasons’: A Game Boy Color Classic

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Oracle of Seasons

“It is an endless cycle of life… the changing seasons!”

The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages & Oracle of Seasons are very much two halves of the same grand adventure, but they’re both worth examining on their own merits. Seasons in particular brings with it quite an interesting history. The game that would eventually become Oracle of Seasons began life as a remake of the original Legend of Zelda. This remake would be accompanied by five other games– a remake of Zelda II: The Adventure of Link and four original titles– all developed for the Game Boy Color. These games would not be developed by Nintendo themselves, but by Flagship– a subsidiary of Capcom that was also funded in part by Nintendo and Sega.

These six games would eventually be trimmed into a trilogy slated to release in the summer, autumn, & winter of 2000, before settling as a duology that would launch simultaneously in 2001. Where Oracle of Ages was the sole survivor of the four original games, Oracle of Seasons was a brand new game morphed out of the Zelda 1 remake. Considering director Hidemaro Fujibayashi’s own reflection on Flagship’s Zelda proposal, much of what would define Seasons was always present;

 “The core of the game was pretty much decided. That is to say, the fact that it would be on the Game Boy Color, the use of the four seasons, and the decision to retain the feel of the 2D Zelda games. It was also decided that it would be a series.”

Not only was this remake never intended to be a standalone entry, it would kick start its own sub-series while featuring seasons at the forefront of the gameplay. Series creator Shigeru Miyamoto likewise asked Fujibayashi to pen a new story for the original Legend of Zelda, suggesting a fairly comprehensive remake as the end goal. With so many inherent changes, however, The Hyrule Fantasy ended up leaving the region altogether. 

“I believe the Zelda series really only started to have scenarios after the hardware specifications improved. The original Zelda was a pure action-RPG and didn’t have much of a story to begin with. I wanted to combine both those aspects (action-RPG and an actual scenario) this time around. At first, we’d only planned on creating a game one-tenth the size of the final version. But it just kept growing as development progressed and gradually turned into an original game.” 
– Hidemaro Fujibayashi, Director/Planner/Scenario Writer

Oracle of Seasons takes after Link’s Awakening and Majora’s Mask by setting itself away from Hyrule– the kingdom only ever shown during the opening cinematic. Holodrum has one of the densest worlds in a 2D Zelda game, if not the densest after A Link to the Past & A Link Between Worlds. A kingdom geographically similar to Hyrule as seen in the original Legend of Zelda, Holodrum has its own northern mountainside, a final dungeon in the northwest corner, and dozens of old men hidden amongst the land. This all makes sense since Seasons is rooted in a remake of the first game, but it isn’t as if Holodrum is without its novelties. 

Holodrum is distinct from Hyrule where it counts. The kingdom itself is quite large, sprawling when compared directly to Koholint Island. Progression often feels like a puzzle, especially when working around roadblocks early on. Holodrum’s four seasons are out of order, with the weather changing on the fly between regions. Link has to work around snow banks, overgrown trees, flooded fields, and petrified flora to overcome Holodrum’s chaos. As easy as it is to get side tracked in the vast kingdom, it’s only because there always tends to be something around the corner. Getting lost isn’t a problem when the overworld is so secret heavy. 

Old men are frequently found hiding under trees, actually giving players a reason to burn them on sight now, but new systems are in place to make exploration even more rewarding. Link will come across patches of soft soil throughout Holodrum where he can plant Gasha Seeds. Owing their name to gashapon– Japanese capsule toys not too dissimilar to blind bag toys– Gasha Seeds grow into Gasha Trees which bear Gasha Nuts after Link has defeated 40 enemies. Gasha Nut contents are randomized, but they incentivize players to return to previously explored areas. 

Not everything a Gasha Nut drops is worth the effort of chopping down 40 enemies– the worst being five regular hearts and a sole fairy– but the best rewards make it all worthwhile. While the Heart Piece tied to the Nut is probably the best overall get, Gasha Seeds naturally feed into the Ring system. Rings add an inherent RPG layer to the Oracle duology’s gameplay, offering the earliest instance of genuine player customization in the Zelda franchise. Rings, like Gasha Nuts, are completely random. Link will find many in his travels, but he needs to appraise them at Vasu’s ring shop in Horon Village before they can be used. Except in a few rare instances, Vasu’s appraisals are randomized.

There are 64 rings altogether between Seasons and Ages, all with varying effects. Which rings Link obtains can influence how players go about their game. RNG also ensures that each new playthrough is unique from the last. While this poses an obvious frustration for any completionists, it’s a fantastic way of adding another layer of replay value to an already fairly replayable experience. The Expert’s Ring allows Link to punch enemies if he unequips his weapons, the Charge Ring speeds up the Spin Attack, and the Protection Ring makes it so Link always takes one Heart of damage when attacked.

With so many rings to choose from, the gameplay is kept in balance by Link’s Ring Box. Once appraised, Link can equip his rings into his box. While he can only equip one initially, players can find a Box upgrade on Goron Mountain. With RNG already influencing which rings Link has access to, it’s unlikely two players will have the exact same experience in Oracle of Seasons– rings offering more personalization than is still usual for Zelda. Besides Gasha Nuts, Rings can be found in the overworld and dropped by Maple, a young witch who makes further use of RNG. 

Maple is Syrup’s apprentice, the recurring witch who runs the potion shop in A Link to the Past and Link’s Awakening. Riding in on her broomstick, Maple will appear after Link has killed 30 enemies. Should players bump into her, both Link & Maple will drop their treasures, prompting Maple to race the player for them. It’s almost always worthwhile to focus on what Maple’s dropped rather than what Link lost. Not only does Maple drop her own unique set of rings, she’s a convenient way of getting potions early on and will eventually drop a Heart Piece. Maple also gets progressively faster, upgrading her flying broomstick to a vacuum after enough altercations.

So much RNG can be off-putting, but Holodrum is such an extensive overworld that randomness isn’t much of an issue. Gasha Seeds drive exploration and Maple’s appearances reward it. These systems also encourage players to fight enemies head-on rather than avoid them when it’s convenient. If gameplay ever feels more involved in Oracle of Seasons than the average Zelda game, that’s because it is. This goes double when taking the very seasons into account. 

The four seasons influence overworld progression significantly and most non-dungeon puzzles center on Link using the Rod of Seasons to restore seasonal order to whatever region he’s in. Most of these puzzles solve themselves since seasons can only be changed on stumps, but concessions need to be made when an overworld features four unique versions of every region. Incredible use of the Game Boy Color’s hardware helps in this regard as well. The handheld was designed with making in-game colors pop and Oracle of Seasons– as an extremely late-life GBC game– stands out as one of the most vibrant titles in the system’s library. 

Each season has its own defining color palette– blue for winter, red for summer, green for spring, yellow for autumn– but there is always a wide range of colors on-screen. Winter matches its light blue with shades of white & gray; spring features an almost pastel color tone where gold & pink flowers bloom against soft shades of green; summer deepens most colors for a bolder effect; and autumn offsets its yellow with orange, red, and in some instances purple. Oracle of Seasons might very well have the best atmosphere on the Game Boy Color, each season stylized & recognizable with their own distinct tones. It’s a phenomenal presentation that outdoes OoS’ contemporaries. Seasons outright has better art direction than most early GBA games. 

The fact Oracle of Seasons commits to its premise in such a large overworld as strictly as it does is praiseworthy, but it’s even more impressive that there’s another world lurking underneath Holodrum. Subrosia is a bizarre underworld, easily the most eclectic setting in the franchise other than Termina (and in many respects more so.) Subrosians are culturally impolite, bathe in lava, and deal in Ore instead of Rupees. The Subrosian Market undersells a Heart Piece, volcanic eruptions are a welcome norm, and Link will be moving between Holodrum & Subrosia multiple times over the course of his journey. Players can even go on a date with a Subrosian girl, Rosa, that’s a clear play on his date with Marin from Link’s Awakening. Subrosia is so alien that it’s hard not to love every moment beneath Holodrum.

Beyond the four seasons and the dichotomy between Holodrum & Subrosia, what differentiates Oracle of Seasons most from Oracle of Ages is its focus on action. Seasons is a puzzle heavy game, but it lets combat drive the gameplay more often than not with a very action-centric tool kit. The Slingshot makes its 2D debut, replacing the Bow in the process, but its 250 seed capacity outdoes any of Link’s quivers. Its upgraded version, the Hyper Slingshot, even fires in three directions at once. The Roc’s Feather returns from Link’s Awakening to once again make jumping an important part of Link’s mobility. Not only is platforming far more frequent this time around– with the Ancient Ruins featuring quite a bit of jumping for a 2D dungeon– it upgrades into the Roc’s Cape which allows Link to glide.

The Boomerang now upgrades into a guided Magical Boomerang which players can control themselves; the Magnetic Gloves are ostensibly a better version of the Hookshot which can pull Link to & from magnetic sources, along with magnetizing certain baddies; and most enemies are designed with a combination of the sword & shield in mind. Oracle of Ages has its fair share of action as well, but not with quite the same focus as Oracle of Seasons.

In general, Seasons is a focused video game in the best ways possible. OoS always gives players a general direction to go in, but otherwise leaves Link to his own devices. There are little to no interruptions, and the gameplay loop emphasizes freedom in spite of the game’s linearity. There’s always something to do and you’re always making progress, whether that be narratively or checking in on some Gasha Nuts. The pace is perfectly suited for handheld gaming and quick burst play sessions. Only have a few minutes to play? Kill some enemies to trigger Maple. Got some time? Scope out the next dungeon and work towards saving Holodrum. 

There are also a number of side quests to round off gameplay. The main trading sequence ends with Link finding the Noble Sword in Holodrum’s Lost Woods; players can forge an Iron Shield in Subrosia by smelting red and blue ore together & bringing the refined ore to the Subrosian smithy; and Golden Beasts roam Holodrum, each appearing during a different season & in a set region. Once all four are defeated, Link can find an old man north of Horon Village who will give him the Red Ring– a ring which doubles the Sword’s attack at no expense to the player. 

All these side quests are worthwhile, especially since Oracle of Seasons is a bit on the tougher side when it comes to difficulty. Dungeons are very fast-paced, full of puzzles that are often deceptively simple. Dungeon items are used in increasingly clever ways, from traversing over bottomless pits with strategic use of the Magnetic Gloves to using the Hyper Slingshot to activate three statues at once. Notably, most bosses in Seasons are actually remixes of boss fights from the first Legend of Zelda

Aquamentus, Dodongo, Gohma, Digdogger, Manhandla, and Gleeok all return with a vengeance. Gleeok in particular puts up a serious fight, forcing Link on the offensive. Not only do players need to be quick enough to slice off Gleeok’s two heads before they can attack themselves back on, the dragon will persist as a skeleton for round 2. Explorer’s Crypt is a difficult enough dungeon where getting to the boss room with full health isn’t a guarantee, so Gleeok offers a surprising but welcome challenge as a result. 

Oracle of Seasons deserves a bit of credit for having one of the harder final bosses in the series, as well. Onox doesn’t have much in the way of personality, but he’s a tough boss to put down. His second form requires Link to use the Spin Attack to deal damage while making sure he doesn’t hit Din in the process, and Onox’s dragon form is a gauntlet of dodging, jumping, & surviving long enough to finally kill the General of Darkness. Players are bound to die once or twice, but the final dungeon is short enough where getting back to Onox takes no time at all. 

If Oracle of Seasons has one glaring flaw, however, it’s the story. The script reads like a massive step back coming off the heels of Link’s Awakening, Ocarina of Time, and especially Majora’s Mask. Link is summoned to aid the Oracle Din, already a seasoned hero and implied to be the same Link from A Link to the Past, but very little time is spent fleshing out Din as a character & giving players a reason to care about her. Her role is more akin to Zelda in A Link to the Past than Marin in Link’s Awakening. Similarly, Onox is an undercooked villain who shows up to kidnap Din and does nothing for the rest of the story. Of course, this light story stems from Seasons’ origin as a remake of The Legend of Zelda

Early press of the game– when it was still going by the name Acorn of the Tree of Mystery– indicates that the story was originally set in Hyrule and the seasons went out of order when Ganon kidnapped Princess Zelda, the guardian of both the Triforce of Power & the four seasons. Hyrule was changed to Holodrum, Ganon became Onox, Zelda turned to Din, and the eight fragments of the Triforce presumably became the eight Essences of Nature. While underwhelming, the plot’s structure if nothing else makes sense. 

It’s worth pointing out that Oracle of Seasons seems to recognize that story is its weakness and lets the gameplay drive the experience. Unlike Oracle of Ages which takes its plot seriously and has a clear thematic arc, Seasons really is just a remix of Zelda 1’s plot. Which is perfect for the kind of game OoS ultimately is: a fast-paced, action-packed adventure through an ever-changing world. When played as a precursor to Ages instead of its ending, Seasons’ story comes off comparatively better. The stakes aren’t that high or defined, but that’s more than okay for the first half of an adventure that spans two full-length games. 

In a departure for the franchise, Oracle of Seasons actually features a proper post-game, marking the first time any Zelda acknowledges that the main threat is over. NPCs will comment on how they haven’t seen Link in a while, the weather has stabilized as spring has set in Holodrum, and you’re free to wrap up any side quests left unfinished. This is especially noteworthy because players can link their progress from Seasons over into Ages and transfer any rings they have on hand. 

An epilogue makes for a charming send-off to one of the most charming games on the Game Boy Color. Oracle of Seasons underwent a strange development, intended to be little more than a suped-up remake of the original Legend of Zelda. Instead, Flagship ended up developing one of the finest games on the GBC– a vibrant adventure filled with personality and some of the best action on the handheld. Oracle of Seasons isn’t just one half of a greater game; it’s a classic Zelda in its own right.

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Games

PAX Online: ’30XX’ and ‘Cris Tales’

Our coverage of PAX Online continues with a Mega Man-inspired roguelike and a charming, time-hopping RPG adventure.

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30XX and Cris Tales

Our coverage of PAX Online continues with a Mega Man-inspired roguelike and a charming, time-hopping RPG adventure.

30XX

30XX

Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, Switch, and Steam
Release: TBA

I’ve already given some of my thoughts on 30XX back when I took it for a spin at PAX East. To catch those who didn’t see that report up to speed, 30XX is a 2D side-scrolling roguelike with a hi-bit art style and gameplay reminiscent of many Mega Man games. It’s generally more forgiving than Mega Man in the sense that there’s a distinct lack of instant-death spikes and pits, but the tradeoff is that when you do die that’s the end and you have to start the whole game over from the start. Classic roguelike rules for ya.

This PAX Online demo was very similar to the one I played at East. I chose between the blaster Nina or swordsman Ace then I went on my merry way throughout the two levels. One key difference is that I did not start out with any specials this time around and my maximum health was much lower. This is probably in-line with what it would be like to start a new game completely fresh as opposed to some upgrades as the East demo had. As a result, I actually failed my first attempt at this demo.

That’s where the first additional aspect of this build came into play, though, in the form of global character progression. Beating bosses in 30XX not only grants you a new weapon ability but also a currency called Memoria. Memoria can be spent at a shop in-between playthroughs to obtain permanent upgrades for Nina and Ace for every subsequent attempt. The pickings were rather slim for the demo, such as increased health and energy, but a wider variety is promised for the full release, and if anything it’s exceptionally clear how useful they’ll be to fully clear the game’s ten planned stages in one go. I also await the inevitable “no upgrade” runs that will assuredly come out of this, though.

30XX

The other neat addition to this demo is Entropy conditions, which are essentially modifiers. You can make it to where shop items cost more Nut currency to purchase per run, impose a time limit, and/or increase the amount of HP enemies have. Enabling these options also increases rewards gained from runs, adding a nice risk vs. reward factor that will probably keep things engaging even after you master the game’s earlier stages. More Entropy conditions are promised to be added into the full game that will allow you to fine-tune your experience even further.

The one concern I have for 30XX at this point is the number of dead ends I encountered with no reward to show for it. This is probably a result of the procedurally generated nature of the game, but the number of times I thought I was so clever for platforming up to a hard-to-reach area only to be greeted by a wall was more than I cared for. This is the “30XX Very Pre-Alpha Demo”, though, so it’s a flaw that can still be fixed in future development and with everything else that is being done right so far — the tight platforming, varied progression, and delightful aesthetics — it’s not hard to be hopeful for 30XX‘s future.

Cris Tales

Cris Tales

Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, Switch, Steam, and Stadia
Release: Nov 17th, 2020

I went into the Cris Tales demo after hearing nothing but its name in passing here and there. After finishing the demo, I’d recommend you do the same. If you’re a fan of turn-based RPG’s just download the demo and see it for yourself.

Cris Tales managed to constantly surprise and delight me throughout the entirety of its 45-minute long demo, firstly being the visuals. Playing through the game is like watching stained-glass art come to life with its hyper-stylized character designs that emphasize general shapes rather than specific details and environments chock-full of geometrical sharp edges. I was in awe from the word “Go”.

The story follows Crisbell, a chipper young orphan girl who spends her time happily doing chores for the orphanage and her dearest Mother Superior. After chasing a dapper young frog to a church, Crisbell inadvertently awakens the powers of Time Crystals hosed there and gains the power to see both the past and future at the same time. This manifests as the screen fractures into thirds with the left side showing the past, the middle the present, and the right the future at all times.

It was a trick that took a minute or two to register with me, but once it did I immediately set about traipsing all about the town I had just chased the frog through in order to see how it has and will change. It was a positively fascinating experience that put a big stupid grin on my face the entire time.

Crisbell can use this knowledge of that past and future to make decisions in the present such as locating a missing potion label or creating a concoction that will prevent wood from rotting and leading to dilapidated houses. Choosing which house to restore is also an irreversible choice that will lead to different outcomes depending.

Cris Tales

Time manipulation also plays a major part in Cris Tales‘ turn-based combat in extremely novel and creative ways. Enemies attack Crisbell and co from both the left and the right, and you can attack them with your standard RPG basic attacks and skills. Enemies on the left side, however, can be forcibly sent to the past while enemies on the right to the future by expending Crystal Points. This means reverting a big brawny goblin into a harmless little child or aging it into an elder that can barely move.

That’s not all, though. Douse an armored enemy in water then send them to the future to cause it to rust and shatter their defense. Poison an enemy that has already been sent to the past then brings them back to the present to force them to take all that poison damage at once. Plant a damaging mandragora that would normally take a few turns to sprout then send it to the future to cause it to sprout instantly. These are the examples demonstrated in the demo but it’s abundantly clear that this is only the tip of the creative iceberg. It’s genuinely thrilling to imagine all the possibilities such a system is capable of. The best part is that we won’t have to wait long to find out as Cris Tales launches on all major platforms in just two months.

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Game Reviews

‘AVICII Invector Encore Edition’ Review: Rhythm and Melancholy

‘AVICII Invector: Encore Edition’ is a music and rhythm game perfect for newcomers and fans of the genre.

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AVICII Invector Encore Edition Review

Developer: Hello There Games | Publisher: Wired Productions | Genre:  Rhythm | Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Steam | Reviewed on: Nintendo Switch


In terms of a pure adrenaline rush, nothing tops a well-designed rhythm game. Good rhythm games let players feel a euphoric sense of flow and even excitement. But the best the genre has to offer taps into the heart of music itself. AVICII Invector Encore Edition is a rhythm game perfect for newcomers to the genre but also works as a moving tribute.

I can’t tell where the journey will end
But I know where to start

Whether it’s tapping buttons in time with the beat, smashing feet on a dance pad, or moving an entire body in front of an IR camera, rhythm and music games have always been popular. AVICII Invector Encore Edition takes inspiration from music games that came before it but stands firmly on its own. It’s wonderfully accessible, truly a music game for anyone. From diehard fans of the rhythm game genre to people who are simply AVICII fans who also have a console, Invector checks a lot of boxes.

Levels across AVICII Invector play largely the same. The player picks a track and a difficulty level, and is off to the races. They control a slick spaceship moving forward along a track, and must tap or hold buttons as the ship passes over them. This “falling jewel” style has been popular from the Guitar Hero franchise and beyond, but Invector finds ways to make it feel unique. The art direction is breathtakingly stellar, taking players on far-out trips through cyberpunk-esque cities and crumbling pathways. There are even portions of each level where the player can steer their spaceship Star Fox-style through rings and around pillars to keep their point multiplier up.

Invector feels like it’s trying to affect as many sensory inputs as it can. Though Encore Edition is fully playable on handheld mode on Switch, Invector shines brightest on a big screen with a thumping sound system. The neighbors might get annoyed, but who would hear them complaining?

Tracks are divided up by worlds, with four to five tracks each. Worlds must be cleared sequentially, by scoring at least seventy-five percent on each level in that world. While this may sound initially restrictive, Encore Edition gives players access to two extra worlds with five tracks each right out of the gate, so players have plenty to play with at the start.

There are three difficulties available, and each mode offers a different experience. For players who just want to experience AVICII’s music in a low-stress way while enjoying amazing visuals and ambiance, Easy mode is the way to play. Anything above that amps the difficulty up significantly, with Hard mode escalating the required precision to an unbelievable degree. Building up a competitive high score can only be achieved by hitting multipliers and keeping a streak going. At higher difficulties, Invector feels challenging but exhilarating. Scoring above ninety percent on any difficulty mode above Easy feels extremely good, and the online leaderboards are the perfect place to boast about that achievement. During high level play, earning a high score feels transcendent.

Worlds and levels are strung together with brief, lightly-animated cutscenes. It’s a slim justification for a rhythm game, but they’re better than nothing and provide just enough context to keep things interesting. AVICII Invector is both visually and aurally pleasing, but even if the player isn’t a diehard fan of EDM or House music, there is plenty to love.

This world can seem cold and grey
But you and I are here today
And we won’t fade into darkness

AVICII Invector is a truly fantastic rhythm game. But it’s also more than that. It is impossible to play Invector and not feel a twinge of melancholy. The game is a tribute to a hard-working perfectionist, but the man behind the music had his demons. Though the visuals are enticing and the gameplay electric, it is difficult not to feel sad from the opening credits. It is to Invector‘s credit that all throughout, the game feels like a joyful celebration of Tim Bergling’s music. It is a worthy tribute to a man who revitalized and reinvigorated the EDM and House music scene.

At the end of the day, almost every aspect of AVICII Invector reflects a desire to connect. For players connected to the internet, global leaderboards are a great opportunity to share high scores. Invector is much more forgiving than Thumper or Rez or even anything in the Hatsune Miku catalog. Players can cruise through this game on Easy mode if they want, and they won’t be punished. The Encore Edition even includes a split-screen multiplayer, which is fantastically fun.

In his music, Bergling worked across genres to expand what pop music could look like. With Invector, music lovers and players of nearly any skill level can have a pleasing experience. In video games, that’s rare, and it should be celebrated.

According to publisher Wired Productions’ website, all music royalties from AVICII Invector Encore Edition will support suicide awareness through the Tim Bergling Foundation.

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