Oct 04
By Matt Gander In Features, Retro No Comments

While far from being a failure of Amstrad GX4000 proportions, the NES wasn’t exactly a runaway success in Europe. The 8-bit cassette-based formats, with their inexpensive software, offered better value for money and a similar assortment of games. The SEGA Master System was performing well off the back of its arcade conversions, too, and this was even before a certain hedgehog showed up.

The Super Nintendo was a different story, however. When it arrived in the UK in 1992 the 8-bit formats were starting to look incredibly outdated. Moreover, Sonic the Hedgehog had sent sales of the Mega Drive skyrocketing, cementing the fact that Japanese systems – and their expensive £50+ cartridges – were the future of gaming.

After several months of pre-launch hype, which can be partly attributed to glowing reviews of the Japanese launch software in CVG and Mean Machines, the SNES made its European debut in April 1992 alongside a strong line-up of system showcases.

Super Mario World was the plumber’s biggest and best adventure yet, and the pseudo 3D (Mode 7) effects in F-Zero and Pilotwings looked amazing, far beyond what the Mega Drive was capable of. We dare say F-Zero even looked better than anything the Mega CD had to offer.

Once arcade juggernaut Street Fighter II arrived, all eyes were on the SNES. 1993’s Street Fighter II: Turbo bundle, released just in time for Christmas, was incredibly popular. The Super Mario All-Stars bundle – which saw the system drop to £99.99 – was another popular Christmas wish-list item, backed by TV adverts starring the late Rik Mayall.

The announcement of the SNES Mini was met with even more excitement than Nintendo’s reveal of the NES Mini. This appears to be down to one main reason – whereas the NES failed to capture the hearts and minds of gamers over here, most European gamers have very fond memories of the SNES.

This was the system that saw Nintendo at their most competitive, using such games as Street Fighter II, Super Mario Kart, Star Fox and Donkey Kong Country to demonstrate that the SNES was far superior to anything else out there. In fact, the advanced graphics of DKC, Killer Instinct and Super Mario RPG helped the system to even fight off the threat of the Jaguar, 3DO, and the SEGA 32X.

The SNES also introduced a whole generation to the wonderful world of JRPGs – Squaresoft released hit after hit, and Nintendo’s own RPGs are still held in high regard. The SNES Mini includes 1994’s EarthBound, a delightfully goofy role-player with an equally outlandish musical score. It was overlooked upon release and never made it to Europe until a Wii U VC appearance in 2013. Those who haven’t played it before are in for a treat.

The same can also be said for the Square-developed Super Mario RPG, which likewise managed to elude European shores (until a Wii VC release in 2008).

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Oct 02
By Matt Gander In UK Charts No Comments

EA eases us into October with FIFA 18 riding the UK chart high, pushing Destiny 2 to #2 in the process.

Chart-Track reports 60% of FIFA 18’s sales were on PS4 (up from 53% last year, thanks to hardware bundling), and that the PS4/XO versions alone accounted for 97% of sales.

Proving what a colossal seller FIFA is, the individual formats chart reveals that both the Xbox 360 and Switch still versions managed to break the top ten.

FIFA 18 on Switch also managed to take no.1 in the Switch chart.

FIFA 18 hardware bundling shows surprise results elsewhere in the chart – Forza Horizon 3 is back at #3, just days before Forza 7’s launch, while Halo 5 re-enters at #11.

Going back to the top ten, Project Cars 2 only fell a few positions during its second week on sale, falling to #7.

PES 2018 and Pokken Tournament DX both depart the top ten meanwhile, now at #12 and #14 respectively. Marvel Vs. Capcom: Infinite had a bad week too, dropping to #30.

Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony was the only other top 40 entrant, arriving at #36, although One Piece: Unlimited World Red did manage to make #14 in the Switch chart.

Sep 29
By Matt Gander In Reviews No Comments

Despite the immense popularity of such games as Golden Axe, Streets of Rage, and Final Fight in the ‘90s, modern-day scrolling beat’em ups tend to come and go without fanfare. Even Double Dragon IV, released on PS4 and Switch earlier this year, failed to generate anything resembling a buzz and that was once the biggest name in side-scrolling brawling.

The lack of excitement for new scrolling beat’em ups seems to stem from the fact that the genre hasn’t evolved a great deal. Certainly not in the same way that RPGs, first-person shooters or adventure games have. They tend to stick to an overfamiliar formula – choose a character and then make your way to the right of the screen, picking up weapons and stopping to fight bad guys before taking on a boss. With a lack of surprises and innovation, there’s little cause for excitement.

Developer Paw Print Games seems to be aware that the genre has been stuck in a rut for a while, as the London-set Bloody Zombies (how’s that for a pun?) has a unique twist – PSVR support.

Headset wearers have camera control, allowing hidden paths and bonus pick-ups to be easily spotted. While accessible to all and sundry, these secrets are usually well hidden to those playing without a headset. A headset wearer on the team notably increases chances of survival, as you’ll need every extra health-pack and 1UP you can find. Button bashing won’t get you far here.

This is a demanding game, make no mistake. Fail to dodge enemy attacks and make use of special moves and combos, then chances are you’ll end up reaching a boss with just one life left. As good as dead, basically. Button bashing only cuts it during the opening stages – if you don’t have enemy attack patterns and the dodge manoeuvre licked after this point, you’re in for a rough time.

We’d even go as far to say that Bloody Zombies isn’t particularly fun without friends. There are far fewer zombies to deal with when playing on your lonesome, but even so, it’s no walk in the park (ignoring the fact that one stage is set in a kids’ playground).

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Sep 28
By Matt Gander In New Nintendo Downloads 1 Comment

Dock it like it’s hot – sixteen (!) new releases are imminent on the Switch eShop. So many titles, in fact, that some are bound to be overlooked. Time to sort the wheat from the chaff.

FIFA 18 (£54.99) and One Piece Unlimited World Red – Deluxe Edition (£54.99) are both available digitally and physically. Despite launching tomorrow, we’re still waiting on FIFA 18 reviews. It’s lacking some features from the PS4/Xbox One version – this much has been known for a while – but it’s still looking like a decent enough rendition.

Reviews of One Piece are starting to trickle through now, including a 7/10 from Nintendo Life. “The handful of extra quests and costumes included in this ‘Deluxe Edition’ probably won’t be enough to tempt anyone into double (or triple) dipping, but excellent visuals and drop-in co-op with single Joy Con controls make the Switch version a great place to jump in,” they said.

Here’s a rundown of the remaining fourteen titles:

Arcade Archives Mario Bros. – £6.29
After converting numerous NeoGeo games to Switch, HAMSTER gained the go-ahead to bring Nintendo’s arcade classics to Switch. First up is Arcade Archives Mario Bros, which apparent suits the Switch perfectly due to its focus on co-op play.

Golf Story – £13.49
An unlikely combination of a role-player and a typical 2D golf game, Golf Story has generated quite the buzz on Twitter this week, gaining comparisons with Earthbound, Undertale and the handheld Mario Golf entries.

Eurogamer gave it their recommendation earlier today. “[…]one of the finer games you’ll find on Nintendo’s Switch this year”, was their verdict.

Picross S – £7.19
Coming from the studio behind the 3DS’s ‘Picross e’ series, there’s little reason to doubt that this Switch rendition won’t be another chip off the ol’ block.

Deemo – £26.09
Mobile rhythm game Deemo makes the jump to Switch, some 10 million downloads later. New are tracks promised via free updates.

Conga Master Party! – £7.99
Rising Star’s 2D party game reportedly suffers from poor replayability and repetition, but still manages to provide some short-lived fun.

Binaries – £9.99
We reviewed the PS4 version of this physics-based 2D puzzler around a year ago. “It’s the significant challenge the game possesses that makes those victories all the sweeter,” we said before handing out an 8/10.

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Sep 26
By Matt Gander In This Week's Games No Comments

Few publishers dare to go mano-a-mano with FIFA 18 it seems, as there’s little in way of retail release this week. Having said that, we may see Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony and YO-KAI WATCH 2: Psychic Specters make the UK top 40 next Monday. Different demographics and all that.

On the download services there are a fair few games of note, including the eagerly awaited Cuphead – a game three years in the making. That’s joined by Ruiner, a gritty top-down cyberpunk shooter that’s generating a buzz on Twitter, and the PS4/PS Vita version of the wonderful SteamWorld Dig 2.

For Xbox owners feeling flush, Forza 7 is available from Friday via the £79.99 Ultimate Edition. Several car packs are thrown in, although the fact that the contents of the ‘Day One Car Pack’ are still yet to be revealed seems a little cheeky.

We may also see Battle Garegga Rev.2016, Lilith-M and Syndrome on the UK Xbox One Store before the week is out. It isn’t entirely clear what countries they’re launching in first.

New release showcase:

FIFA 18 – Multi

EA’s money making giant rolls back into town this week, available on just about every format going. The consensus is that it’s the best FIFA in years (the best since FIFA 12, Game Revolution claims) but there’s still room for improvement.

We’re still waiting on review of the Switch version. We’ve known for some time that it doesn’t have the same features as its current-gen counterparts. Hands-on-impressions were favourable enough, though. Switch support from EA hangs on this title, so hopefully it’ll do the business.

[Update] Nintendo Life awarded the Switch version 8/10 earlier today.

Will this be the last outing for last-gen consoles? Perhaps – the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions of PES 2018 failed to make a dent in the chart. It all depends on success on a global scale, really. The humble PS2 received FIFA games up until FIFA 14, thanks to sales in countries such as Brazil.

Reviews:
4.5/5 – GamesRadar: The best footballing package available, with myriad improvements – yet still unlikely to convert fans of the opposition.

8/10 – VideoGamer: Problems such as the defensive game feeling less important and the hinderance of set pieces are apparent, but the flashy graphics and sharp commentary are no longer the only reason to boot up EA’s football sim for a kick around. At long last, we have two quality football games on the market again.

8/10 – The Metro: The improvements are slight, but this is still the best FIFA has been in several years – in terms of gameplay as well as just presentation.

SteamWorld Dig 2 – PS4/PS Vita

After hitting the Switch last week, Image & Form’s dirt digging sequel arrives on PS4. It’s bigger, bolder, and brighter than the 2013 original, thanks to far more lavish production values. The gameplay loop of mining, selling, upgrading, and descending further into a secret-filled mine is simple yet compelling. And the fact that the hero has all-new abilities prevents it from a case of being more of thesame.

We awarded it a well-deserved 9/10 earlier this week. To quote ourselves: “For a third time in a row – with SteamWorld Heist being the second – Image & Form has managed to create something a hair’s breadth from perfection”

Cuphead – Xbox One

After more than a couple of delays and setbacks – and one huge shake-up to turn it from a boss rush experience to a run and gunner – Cuphead is finally out this Friday. With Xbox One exclusives thin on the ground, despite the Xbox One X just weeks away, it couldn’t have come at a better time.

We’ll update this round-up with a sampling of reviews once the embargo lifts.

[Update – the first reviews are now live]
Reviews:
5/5 – GamesRadar: ” If you’re partial to a tough-but-fair challenge, and you have even the slightest appreciation for the rich history of animated cartoons, you’ll be overjoyed by the wonderfully artistic adventure that is Cuphead”

4.5/5 – Windows Central: “The randomness on some boss fights will frustrate some, but patient, methodical gamers will relish the challenge, and enjoy the sense of accomplishment at the end of each huge battle”

8/10 – GameSpot: “It could benefit from a few tweaks, and two-player co-op doesn’t feel like the valuable addition you might imagine, but Cuphead remains a rare, unique game that truly stands out”

3/5 – Twinfinite: “If you’re in dire need of a real challenge, definitely give Cuphead your attention. However, if you’re not in any rush there’s no harm in waiting”

SNES Mini Classic

Nintendo’s latest nostalgia box bundles over twenty 16-bit hits together, including the never-officially-released Star Fox 2. Both first and third-party titles feature, including the likes of Mega Man X, Street Fighter 2 Turbo, Super Castlevania 4 and Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts. No Final Fight or Axley, but we’ll get over it.

While the £79.99 price tag puts it £30 higher than the NES Classic Mini – which sold out almost instantly – it does come with two controllers. We know it’s a cliché to say it, but we really do hope Nintendo produces enough stock to go around. We’ll chalk up something resembling a review after ours arrives.

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Sep 26
By Matt Gander In Reviews No Comments

To say SteamWorld Dig 2 is built on a sturdy foundation is an understatement. The original SWD was hard to fault without resorting to nit-picking. With this in mind, Swedish developer Image & Form must have found themselves in a fortunate position when it came to this sequel’s pre-production.

With few criticisms and complaints to rectify, they were presumably free to focus on improving every aspect that made the original a joy to play.

So, how do you improve on something remarkably close to perfection? Simply double down on the good stuff. It’s immediately apparent that production values are far more lavish, boasting sharper, more richly detailed visuals, and ambient lighting. The storyline is more heartfelt too, with robotic cowpoke Dorothy (Dot) out to discover the whereabouts of Rusty, the likeable lead from the original SWD. She’s soon joined by Fen, a powerful glowing orb of light who’s rather fond of destruction. But in a good way – excavating is Dorothy’s forte, after all.

A lead on Rusty’s whereabouts brings Dot to El Machino, a mountain town sitting directly under a sprawling complex of mines and caves. After being hit by a mysterious earthquake the mine is back to being clogged with dirt, and no time is wasted getting back into the swing of digging and drilling for riches.

Dot starts her quest to track down Rusty with an assortment of crude but effective mining equipment. That’s to say, it’s slightly more advanced than the tech Rusty started out with. As such, the opening hour feels like far less of a slog. Dot later gains the kind of upgrades that Rusty could have only dreamed of, lending a whole new set of skills.

Upgrades and new items unlock at such a rapid rate that it’s uncommon not to return to the mine without a bigger backpack, improved pickaxe or similar. This adds a wonderful sense of progression, almost making self-improvement the central theme.

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Sep 25
By Matt Gander In UK Charts No Comments

This week’s UK chart includes a couple of surprises. Firstly though, here’s something that doesn’t come as a shock – Destiny 2 sits astride the UK top 40 for the third week running.

This means Activision has spent 11 weeks at no.1 in total, split across a trio of titles – Destiny 2, Crash Bandicoot, and Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare.

With the almighty FIFA 18 out Friday, chances are Destiny 2 won’t take the top spot for a fourth week.

Project Cars 2 put in a strong showing, arriving at #2. The original took no.1 on release, with 35% of its lifetime sales generated on day one. While it’s reasonable to assume Slightly Mad Studios hasn’t been as fortunate second time around, debuting at #2 is still something to be proud of.

Nintendo’s Pokkén Tournament DX made #5. More surprisingly, Pokémon Gold and Silver both managed to make top 40 appearances, with the code-in-a-box retail releases taking #18 and #21. Eurogamer notes that if sales were combined, they would have entered the top ten. Not bad going at all.

Capcom’s Marvel Vs Capcom: Infinite had to settle for #12. We imagine Capcom had it pegged for the top five, at the very least. The fighter has been up against a fan backlash, due to ugly art direction and a slim character roster.

Dishonored: Death of the Outsider and Metroid: Samus Returns both depart the top ten on their second week of release meanwhile, falling to #6 and (scrolls down…) #35. Poor Samus.

On the other hand, Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is enjoying a resurgence – it’s up from #33 to #13 this week thanks to supermarket price promotions.

Sep 21
By Matt Gander In New Nintendo Downloads No Comments

In the absence of a Virtual Console service for Switch, the Wii U continues to receive the occasional retro re-release or two. This week it’s the turn of Konami’s 2D shooter Detana Twin Bee (£6.29), an early entry in the Pop’n TwinBee series. Fun fact: it was given the name Bells & Whistles in the west.

The Wii U gets another shooter this week, in the form of Super Ultra Star Shooter (£1.79). The price tag definitely reflects the more than apparent low budget – it looks worryingly simplistic.

The same can also be said for RCMADIAX’s GUIDE THE GHOST! (£1.39) on 3DS. We had to do a double take when checking the screenshots for this one – it looks like it would be more at home on the Magnavox Odyssey. We aren’t even overexaggerating for comic effect – look for yourself.

After arriving on Switch last week procedurally generated platformer 36 Fragments of Midnight (£2.69) makes the jump to 3DS. Nintendo Life reports of a fleeting 15min competition time, which is a little hard to swallow even with the cheapy cheap price tag.

Onto bigger and better things we go. On Switch, two new fighting games are vying for your time and money. Reviewers claim that Pokkén Tournament DX (£49.99) is lacking in content but it’s a perfect fit for the Switch regardless due to its pick-up-and-play nature. The simple controls apparently transfer to JoyCon play perfectly. Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 (£54.99) has been tailored for the Switch too, gaining a host of new features such as wireless battles for up to six consoles.

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