It did not take eagle-eyed gamers much time to spot something very interesting on the Switch dashboard HAMSTER used for the Famitsu broadcast that revealed the upcoming Arcade Archive Punch-Out!! is arriving next week. Not one but two as-yet-unannounced ACA title icons where clearly visible earlier today, and both belong to two true ’80’s video game franchises. Spoilers ahead!
UPL’s 1984 Ninja-Kid kick-started the whole Ninja JaJaMaru-kun series that would go to delight gamers at home thanks to several 8-bit entries for both Famicom and Game Boy and even a single Super Famicom entry all by the hands of Jaleco. A charming yet hardcore platformer that, despite being three decades old and long-surpassed by its own sequel, still retains its own addictive qualities.
One year later, Nichibutsu’s 1985 Terra Cresta changed the landscapes for shmup generations to come. Ditching the single-screen nature of the original Moon Cresta, this revered shmup brought TATE scrolling action to arcades and later to Famicom owners at home, thanks to an incredibly faithful conversion. Instead of weapon power-ups, you could actually collect other ships that provided fire-power upgrades and even the ability to fly in different formations. A revolutionary shmup that also still plays brilliantly today.
No word on when these two classics will be arriving, but no doubt they’ll fall into HAMSTER’s weekly release schedule nicely.
An exciting leak into the future of the Switch Arcade Archives series! Will you be picking up any of these two?
More fuel has been added to the rumours surrounding the release date of LEGO The Incredibles on Nintendo Switch, with a new listing on Amazon Canada stating a release date of 15 June with a price tag of CAN $79.99 (£44). So is this a legit date or just placeholder?
June has indeed been used as a placeholder date in the past, but the specific date leads us to suspect it might be the real deal, especially when you consider The Incredibles 2 will hit cinemas worldwide the day before on the 14th June. LEGO games tied to a current film tend to launch around the same time (such as LEGO Jurassic World, which launched within a day of its film counterpart).
So what do YOU think? Is the LEGO version of The Incredibles bound to touch down this summer, is it another baseless rumour? Have your say, people…
In advance of the Forza Racing Championship (ForzaRC) 2018 season start on April 2, we’re kicking things off with the ForzaRC 2018 Pre-Season Invitational presented by IMSA on March 24 in Seattle, WA, home of Turn 10 Studios. We’ve invited some of the best drivers and teams in the world to compete and set the stage for a season of exhilarating races. The Pre-Season Invitational will include traditional, Individual competition and for the first time in ForzaRC history, Team competition. The Pre-Season Invitational will showcase the best drivers in the world and give fans an early look at the drivers to follow in the upcoming ForzaRC 2018 season. Starting Saturday, March 24 at 10 a.m. PDT, players can tune in to the Pre-Season Invitational on our Mixer stream at watch.forzarc.com to catch all of the action live, win awesome in-game rewards and even influence the day’s races through in-stream voting.
In addition to ForzaRC’s all-star lineup of on-air talent, we’re welcoming legendary motorsport broadcaster John Hindhaugh to the desk for the Pre-Season Invitational. Hindhaugh, whose voice is heard throughout the 2018 IMSA season, will join us on the livestream as a guest caster. You’ll also get a view of the #73 Park Place Motorsports Porsche GT3 R GTD and we’ll chat with David Kolkmann, fresh off a run from the 12 Hours of Sebring. Also joining us for the Invitational is Ben Williams, vice president of The Online Racing Association (TORA), one of the premier competitive racing organizations within the Forza Motorsport community.
Voting & Rewards
Tune in to the Invitational livestream at watch.forzarc.com and you’ll have the chance to directly impact which IMSA cars and tracks are used during the event. Will you choose day or night? Sunshine or rain? The Aston Martin or the Audi? The choice is yours (and the rest of chat) to make!
Getting to choose the conditions for the drivers not enough? Anyone tuning in during the livestream will also have the chance to unlock awesome in-game rewards for both Forza Motorsport 7 and Forza Horizon 3. Just log into your Microsoft account and participate in the in-stream quests to unlock a variety of in-game gear, including the limited edition ForzaRC driver suit and livery for Forza Motorsport 7!
Compete in ForzaRC 2018
Interested in joining the competition in ForzaRC 2018? Just head over to ForzaRC.com to register and start racing when Series 1 of the 2018 season starts on April 2!
To catch every minute of this action-packed event showcasing some of the best driving skills in the world, tune in tomorrow, March 24, at 10 a.m. PDT on watch.forzarc.com. For more information including Individual and Team competitions, head over to ForzaRC.com and follow us on Twitter for the latest news and updates. We hope to see you there!
It was only last year that the OJO – the projector designed to take your Switch games and give them the cinema treatment – pulled off a super successful crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo, bringing in a crazy $270,966 (that’s 687% of its goal amount). And now it’s just done it again in Japan.
The Japanese crowdfunding site Makuake was the chosen platform, and it’s already met 532% of its target amount with well over a month to go. As of writing, the current figure stands at 1,640,200 yen, which amounts to around £11,022 ($15,581). Looks like OJO is doing alright for itself in the bank balance department.
According to Indiegogo, the OJO is due to ship next month, so if you backed it in December 2017, you might be getting your very own Switch-centric projector in April.
Have you invested in an OJO? Thinking of picking one up, or is it a bit overrated as a concept? Share your take below…
Things have been quiet on the retro Nintendo front after the release of Arcade Archives Super Mario Bros. VS, but that silence is now coming to an end with a bang. A right hook bang probably since HAMSTER is releasing the original Punch-Out!! on the 30th March on the Switch eShop!
This double-screen monstrosity is not your NES Punch-Out!!, but a whole different beast. Released in 1983 it introduced (video game) boxing legends Glass Joe, Piston Hurricane, Bald Bull and (Metallica unrelated) Mr Sandman. Complete with digitised speech that keeps encouraging you to not only win, but keep pouring in those quarters as well.
Perhaps one of the lesser known facts about this game is that music composing duties where assigned to one Koji Kondo. We reckon he did quite all-right for himself…
Will you be taking the punches next week when this bona fide piece of Nintendo history arrives on the Switch eShop? Let us know in the comments below…
Nintendo loves it some oddball ideas, but could one of its next games have a real cake-based premise? If a rating on the International Age Rating Coalition is to be believed, Ninty is breaking out a new signature bake. The listing has the name EclairCity, with Nintendo down as both publisher and the ‘production company’. Is that the sound of our collective bellies rumbling?
No platform is stated, so this could be anything from a Nintendo Switch title to something aimed at the mobile market, but it could mean we’re going to be getting a brand new IP for Nintendo in the future. Interestingly, the game – which was rated on 16th December, 2017 – was given a ‘PG/Mild Violence’ rating, so maybe it won’t all be icing and cupcakes in EclairCity…
Let the theories commence. What could EclairCity mean? Could be nothing? Share you thoughts with the community in the comments section below…
Originally given out as a physical pre-order bonus for the Japanese Detective Pikachu release in 2016, Detective Pikachu: Episode 0 – Eevee’s Case is a short book that acts as a prequel chapter to the events in the main game.
Available for a limited time only, an English language (and other European languages) eBook version is now available from the Apple iBooks Store, Rakuten Kobo eBook store, and the Amazon Kindle Store for free. If you’re wanting to check it out for yourself, remember that the book will only be available from today until 15th May.
We suspect a fair few of you will be receiving your copies of the game today, so this might be a nice little starter before you dig in to your adventure. If you want even more to read about the game – and learn whether or not it might be for you in the process – you can also check out our Detective Pikachu review.
While the ‘J’ in ‘JRPG’ ostensibly stands for ‘Japanese’, it refers to a style of role-playing game rather than country of origin; strong, often linear stories and turn-based combat are the calling cards of the genre, and Western-made games such as Child Of Light and Cosmic Star Heroine follow its conventions just as much as classic Japanese examples a la Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest. That’s also the case with Earthlock, from Norwegian developer Snowcastle Games. After a successful 2014 Kickstarter run that saw Earthlock: Festival Of Magic release on Wii U (among other platforms), this significantly updated version has landed on the Switch. A love letter to the genre, it plays like a thoughtfully modern take on PS1-era Square adventures, and will be a real treat for JRPG fans.
Earthlock takes place in Umbra, a world bearing the scars of past catastrophe and an imbalance of ‘amri’, a magical energy. After a brief playable in situ introduction, you’ll begin your journey in earnest as Amon, a young scavenger living with his uncle in the town of Zaber. A routine mission gone awry turns Amon’s world on its head and sends him spiralling into conflict with empires, and it’s your job to guide him – along with an ever-growing cast of characters – on his journey to save his family, and ultimately, Umbra.
It’s an enjoyable tale that shows strong parallels to Final Fantasy IX, especially in its six playable party members. The characters – from a kindly ‘hogbunny’ named Gnart and capable military captain Ive to Taika, her loyal dog – are interesting and likable, and we quickly become invested in seeing their stories through. The writing can be oddly hit-or-miss; dialogue ranges from excellent to just okay, and there’s little linguistic coherence among invented place names and terms. Still, it’s an entertaining narrative, and its strong characters kept us interested throughout.
In terms of its gameplay, Earthlock builds off of a solid JRPG base: you’ll move your party of adventurers through a traversable overworld, entering cities, towns, and villages to progress the plot, pick-up quests, and refuel, in-between exploring monster-ridden dungeons and fighting turn-based battles with enemies and occasional bosses. It’s a classic formula, but a big part of what makes Earthlock so fun is that it improves on the genre’s conventions in tangible, modern ways.
In battle, for instance, Earthlock introduces several new wrinkles on the standard turn-based template. Before initiating combat, you can gather multiple enemies to fight by getting within range and then giving them the run-around as you pick up additional adversaries, Pied Piper-style, for EXP bonuses. Once you get into battle, you’ll find that each character has multiple ‘Stances’, which enable them to access different skills. Switching Stances costs a turn, but can be well worth it; Amon’s Stances allow for either melee combat and thieving or long-range elemental attacks, for instance, while Ive can switch between setting strategic traps and slinging arrows from crossbow.
Instead of consuming an MP meter, every action in battle uses one or more yellow squares of energy, which replenish at a certain rate for each character every turn. This system – recalling the one used in Final Fantasy: The Four Heroes Of Light – is appealingly simple, and also means you won’t be stuck backtracking to top up MP in the middle of exploration, which keeps the pace snappy and fun. The controls in battle are also worth mentioning; you’ll use the left analog stick to quick-select between different ‘submenus’ – with no menus involved – and the face buttons to dial in different actions within each of those. It’s quick and streamlined, and before long you’ll end up with muscle memory to pull off specific combos and strategies with ease.
In addition to their on skills and attacks, your characters also benefit from party dynamics in the Pair system. Pairing off party members lets them level up their bond, as well as gain access to a shared meter in battle. When it fills – by attacking in concert – either member of the twosome can use their ‘Super Stance’, a Limit Break-like special move that can be activated on command. Not only is this a great way to save up some extra power for bosses and challenging battles, it’s also a fun way to encourage mixing up your party formations, and experimenting with all the combinations on offer.
Outside of battle, you can customise how your characters progress through the Talent Board system, which lets you personalise their stats, skills, and abilities. Like the Sphere Grid in Final Fantasy X, it’s couched in the guise of a puzzle-like system, where you’ll need to connect different nodes as you place them on the board in order to activate their effects. All this adds up to a combat system that feels fun and fresh throughout; you’ll learn new strategies and skills at a good pace, and varying the Pairs in your party allows for plenty of experimentation as you go.
Beyond the combat, Earthlock also adds thoughtful new touches to the overworld exploration. There’s an excellent focus on gardening, for instance; you’ll find different seeds on your travels, and be able to plant them in various patches and plots around the world. By making sure each plant is watered according to its needs (by keeping a micro-game meter correctly balanced), you’ll be able to harvest rewards: ingredients for crafting items, weapons, and more.
Each character also has a special role to play in the overworld through their unique field abilities. Amon can find useful items in scrapheaps, for example, while Gnart can forage through flower fields. It’s a nice touch that helps underscore the importance of every member of your party, and gives a practical reason to switch which character you control – made delightfully simple by the satisfying shortcut of pressing the ‘L’ button and swinging the analog stick.
Along with Earthlock’s modern take on JRPG gameplay, it brings a similarly thoughtfully updated look. Its gorgeous, lived-in environments recall the busy prerendered backgrounds of Final Fantasy IX – including treasure chests hidden in nooks and crannies obscured from camera-view – and it’s both an immediately appealing aesthetic and an impressive in-engine achievement. They’re backdrops just begging to be explored, and with unique settings that go beyond desert and forest tropes; one of the first dungeons you’ll comb through takes the form of a partially-submerged mansion in the process of being reclaimed by the swamp it was built on.
In fact, Earthlock’s presentation in general is quite impressive; beyond the backgrounds, the character models look lovely, and animations – from battle stances and attacks to kicking open treasure chests – are smooth and full of personality. Enemy designs are imaginative and fun, and the whole experience feels wonderfully polished and clean. The orchestral score provides an excellent audio backdrop as well, with an impressive variety of memorable melodies.
For as good a job as Earthlock does feeling like a truly modern JRPG, however, there are some disappointing archaisms that really stick out; most notably, an antiquated save system that’s limited to designated points, with only one or two in each dungeon/town. Not being able to save mid-dungeon is arguably a design feature in many RPGs, but Earthlock’s implementation feels overly restrictive, and is a particular issue in a (potentially) portable adventure. Another unfortunate throwback to the 32-bit era: loading screens are frequent and long enough to annoy, popping up between rooms and in other common transitions. Their persistent presence breaks up the flow, and can start to grate in longer sessions.
Finally, Earthlock also feels like a real blast from the past – think N64 – in its implementation of rumble. Rather than providing subtle force feedback with the Switch’s HD Rumble, it instead just turns the motors on full blast, sometimes for seconds at a time. It’s bone-shaking and awful (especially disappointing after seeing RPGs like Golf Story integrate HD Rumble into the genre in thoughtful ways), but it can thankfully be turned off.
An indie adventure with a lush world, fun characters, and enjoyable battles, Earthlock brings the soul of PS1-era JRPGs to the Switch with excellent results. Inconsistent dialogue and notable load times are among its few missteps, but as a package, it captures the appeal of the epoch wonderfully. If you’re looking for a fresh-feeling JRPG that still calls back to the classics, this is a lovely choice.
Twitch Plays – where a community of viewers on the popular streaming platform use in-chat commands to control a game – have been growing in popularity for years, with both Zelda and Pokémon getting the gameplay by committee treatment over the years (among many others). Now it’s the turn of Kirby Star Allies, and the game is live right now.
Community Controller is the page broadcasting this one, so if you’re into playing Kirby Star Allies really slowly with a bunch of other semi-vicarious players, then head on over and see if you can help Kirby and co with their latest adventure.
Will you be logging on to give Kirby on Twitch a go? Are you still playing from the comfort of your own Switch? Drop a comment below…
As far as indies are concerned, Nintendo has enjoyed something of a mixed relationship over the years. Back on the Wii, the company’s policies regarding development partners (such as insisting that every dev have a registered office) didn’t help it secure support, but during the Wii U and 3DS era the doors opened up – some might even say they opened too far, as there was a lot of shovel-ware to wade through.
Fast forward to the present and Nintendo’s relationship with indies arguably hasn’t been better – and that’s in spite of the fact that the company has introduced stricter guidelines when it comes to approving indies for eShop development.
Speaking to Kotaku, Nintendo’s Damon Baker explained the company’s current stance:
I think the best way to explain it is, over the last year we have been evolving past what was initially more of a curated content position to now a curated partnership position. So part of the pitch process for new developers or new publishers who come on board with Switch is to not just pitch us a brand new game or a brand new concept, but to use that opportunity to prove their background, their aptitude as a developer and whether they’re going to be able to navigate through what can be a complicated process of going through the development cycle, and certification, and all of that. So that’s part of our evaluation.
I can’t really disclose all of our guidelines, but I can tell you that those partners that are able to instill a level of trust and confidence in us that they’re going to be very capable of getting through the development process and are knowledgeable about bringing content out on consoles, those are the ones that are resonating in terms of bringing that content out and it doing well on the system. Some of those developers do have a negative reaction or are bummed because we haven’t opened up the door to hobbyists or students at this time. But one day, we may. We may be going towards that direction. But for now, we’re still staying the course in terms of a closed dev environment for Switch.
While the Switch eShop still has its fair share of stinkers, the quality bar does seem to have been lifted when compared to the Wii U and 3DS days. Do you think Nintendo’s approach is the right one? Let us know with a comment.