Review: Ninja Striker! (Switch eShop)

Ninjas. Just like John Cena you can’t see them, but they are always there. Hidden, in your pop culture, in your anime, in your video games, lurking over your shoulder reading this review right now. The ’80s and ’90s, a time when Ninjas were at the height of their western popularity may be last century old, but can Q-Cumber Factory Ninja Striker! Turn back time and instill the discipline needed to become a successful ninjutsu master? Proceed reading silently and strike true.

Profoundly rooted in ancient 8-bit ninja platforming discipline, the game controls could not be simpler. The D-pad moves your character around the screen. ‘B’ jumps and pressing it again will, of course, perform a double-jump. The ‘Y’ will unleash a homing attack in your target of choice, followed by devastating melee strikes. Last but not least, ‘A’ will allow you to perform your character of choice’s individual ‘shinobi action’. However, in a brilliant showcase of the ancient art of misdirection, the game insists you disregard to play it as a straightforward, classic platformer that, at first contact, it appears to be.

Once you select one of the four ninjas available at the start of your quest, you are dropped in the dojo stage. Here, you will learn how the true ninja tackles stages: not setting a single foot on the ground from start to finish. This can be achieved by using and abusing your ‘Y’ dash attack to string along as big a combo as possible, moving swiftly between enemies all the way to the stage exit balloon. 

Picking up coins along the way will add to your combo counter, but getting hit will not only take one heart from your energy bar but will also understandably reset your combo counter back to zero. Due to enemy positioning and stage design, you will soon forget that you could indeed play this as a classic platformer and will be doing your absolute best to keep dashing from one enemy to the next and put your combo number into the hundreds. Better yet: it’s truly rewarding when you do manage to pull it off with perfect combination of skill and button timing execution.

Besides the dojo, the main quest is divided into six distinct worlds, each of them made up of three regular stages and one world boss waiting for you on level four. New enemies are introduced at a nice pace along your journey and you will need to learn how to deal with their own individual attacks, number of hits it takes to put them down and best position to attack them from. It keeps the experience fresh and prepares you to take on the world bosses. 

These boss fights can sometimes be conquered by brute force (i.e. spamming ‘shinobi action’ at them) but true ninja masters will use them to show off their skills by properly attacking and evading to achieve perfect victories. Every single stage will rank you from none to three starts, with factors like time to completion, number of hits suffered and combo scores taking weight when determining your outcome. Your journey can be completed under one hour, but getting those perfect three stars on every level will probably set you back a few delightful months.

The playable ninja roster effectively gives you four different ways to play the game, with each character using their own ninja quirks to affect gameplay. The Ninja is a balanced character, with no real weakness nor exceeding strong points. His shinobi action is a spin attack that you can use for both attack and moving through the air in the direction of your next victim. The Kunoichi is one agile lady and while her attacks do slightly less damage, she more than makes up for it with her flurry of kunai shinobi action for long range combat. On the subject of reach, no ninja can do it better than the wielder of the Chain Sickle. 

This ninja uses his weapon to quickly get within reach of anything an entire single screen’s length away. Last and for the occasions when you really need to dish out a pounding, the Mega Man robo master reject Ninja Robot will deliver mighty hammer strikes to foes and is even able to hover by double-jumping. But since his power comes at the cost of speed, you’ll need to often use its shinobi action that turns him into a rocket. These four distinct characters offer excellent gameplay incentive to master the game four times instead of just giving it a single playthrough.

Both the aesthetics and sound departments are a straight homage to the Master System. If you ever played or owned Sega’s humble 8-bit console, you will be immediately taken back to those simpler days of big pixel, bright primary colours and cheerful chiptunes coming out from your television. But make no mistake, any Master System would possibly melt with the amount of on-screen action going on at most of the time you’re comboing your way to the end of a level. While ninjas may be strong, never underestimate the power of nostalgia. Q-Cumber Factory nailed this to perfection.

The path of the ninja is a solitary affair so you will find no multiplayer here of any sort. It is always a shame to see games on Switch that lack this options, leaving only yourself as your own worst enemy when trying to achieve those perfect three star ranks.

Conclusion

Ninja Striker! is the Sega Master System game of your dreams you never knew you needed on your Nintendo Switch. Easy to pick up, nearly impossible to master flawlessly and thus like a true ninja it will take some dedication and discipline while you keep coming back to its charming mains quest. In either docked or portable mode, for five minutes or two hours this is a pure combo/score chaser that will keep you hooked to the screen for generations of ninjas to come.

Yoku’s Island Express Will Post Itself Onto Nintendo Switch On 29th May

Looking to add a splash of light-hearted colour to your Switch now that the sun shining? Well, you’ll be pleased to know Team17 that the charming puzzle-platformer that is Yoku’s Island Express is heading to Nintendo Switch on 29th May 2018 priced at £15.99/€19.99/$19.99

Yoku the dung beetle has arrived on Mokumana Island to take over the role of postmaster and he’s ready for the easy life, soaking up the sun and delivering parcels on a tropical paradise! However, something is amiss on the island so Yoku will have to use his plucky pinball-like skills to save the day.

You can also sit back and enjoy a nice behind-the-scenes video on the making of the game and explore the creation and the unique mechanics of Yoku’s Island Express. Let us know what you think about this colourful platformer and if you’ll be picking it up come May…

Feature: It’s Time For Former Tetris Champion Steve Wozniak To Reclaim His Throne

There’s been a lot of news as of late about some famous high scores and the shaky stories behind them. While we’re on the topic, we thought it might be a good idea to take the headwinds and revisit another famous video game record, perhaps the most famous Nintendo-related scores ever.

In 1990 and 1991, Apple co-founder Steve “Woz” Wozniak submitted several high scores to Nintendo Power magazine for the Game Boy version of Tetris. He was featured three times; once via a letter which included photos and was duly printed in the reader mail section, once with a high score of 507,110 and once again with a score of 546,145 – this time with his name listed as Evets Kainzow (spell it backwards and you’ll get it).

The news of who Evets really was isn’t new. It made the rounds a few years back when Woz did a few interviews and disclosed the whole story. In short, Woz was so good that Nintendo Power only accepted and published his score once, and so to get listed again, he changed his name. Woz also disclosed his love of Tetris, and that he gifted Game Boys (which for many years had Tetris as the pack-in) when he’d meet with famous and influential people, including heads of state.

While that’s a great trip down Memory Lane, the story doesn’t end there. It’s very cool that such a well known person is such a passionate gamer with skills to boot, but what of that Tetris high score? Was it ever beaten? If so, when? We combed through Nintendo Power’s high score pages and found that Woz’s submission as Evets for 546,145 points was never actually bested – although someone came close and beat the 507,110 score that Woz submitted under his real name. In the mid-’90s, Nintendo Power changed the high score submission rules and offered challenges on specific games, rather than the chance to openly submit anything – so if anyone beat Woz after that, it was never recorded.

Fast forward to the new millennium and you’ll find that the Evets score actually stood for a long, long time. According to Twin Galaxies, the unquestioned, official, sacrosanct, universal, one and only high score registry, it took until 2005 for someone to beat the score set by Wozniak way back in 1990, which means that the Apple co-founder was world champ for over 15 years. 

To be fair to Twin Galaxies, they officially accept Woz’s score of 507,110; Evets Kainzow has no mention on the site. It most likely comes from the photographic evidence shown in Nintendo Power, combined with Woz’s celebrity factor. Steve Wozniak is currently ranked 8th in the world, and the current champion, Alex Holbrook, was crowned in 2017 with 752,668 points, backed up with video evidence of the score played on real hardware.

So, could Woz reach the top of the Tetris mountain again? We don’t see why not. As he states in his website post which is already a few years old, his best score was 702,000 and he wants to break the 750,000 marker. While there’s no proof of this score to verify it, 702,000 would move him up to third place, and a lucky handout from the gods of Tetris blocks could give him the top spot.

So we’re making the call right now to Steve Wozniak to get back in the game. Challenge the current high score and give game fans a new King of Kong-style battle to enjoy. We hope this little message does make its way to Woz, because whether he could break the current score or not, it would be interesting to see a comeback by someone so well known. 

If you’d like to see all of this information played out in video form, check out the video below. It features nostalgic scans of Nintendo Power as well as a few old commercials that showed how Nintendo tried positioning Tetris and the Game Boy as something for adults to enjoy. Among those adults you’ll see playing Tetris are of course Woz, but also Nester’s mother and one former leader of the Free World, who got his Game Boy from Woz personally.

Rumour: Ultra Shinies Could Be Set To Glitter And Twinkle In A Pokémon Game Near You

If you’re like us, there’s always that constant hope your time with Pokémon GO will lead to a super rare Shiny Pokémon. With their unusual colour schemes and patterns, these little critters are highly collectible and are number one on any seasoned trainer’s radar. But could the even rarer Ultra Shiny be ready to join the Poké fray in the near future? A recent trademark suggests it might be.

Spotted by eagle-eyed Twitter user @Pokexperto, the Japanese trademark was submitted by Game Freak and Creatures – a phrase that just happens to roughly translate into ‘Ultra Shiny’. Of course, there’s no official statement to go along with this, and could well be Game Freak simply covering bases by acquiring the trademark as a fail safe, but considering the continued popularity of the hit mobile game, expanding into Ultra Shinies does seem a logical next step. It could even be something to do with the purportedly eight-gen-centered Switch Pokemon game?

What do you think? Are Ultra Shinies going to appear in Pokémon GO, Pokémon on Switch or something completely different? 

Review: Arcade Archives Punch-Out!! (Switch eShop)

Fisticuffs were always a perfect subject for video games. However how to properly deliver the experience was a technical challenge due to limited technology the 80’s, with previous efforts opting for a side or top view of the in-ring action. Nintendo tackled this issue in Punch-Out!! by allowing players to control their pugilist from a third-person perspective with a cleverly designed wireframe torso enabling a better view of your opponent across the screen.

The controls are clean and simple to pick up: ‘A’ delivers a right-hand hook while ‘Y’ does the same for your left hand. Holding ‘down’ while pressing either button will deliver a body blow instead of going for the face. Pressing ‘up’ will raise your guard to protect your face and you can weave left and right by pressing either direction. Hit your adversary enough times while not getting hit yourself and you’ll fill up the bar on top of the ring screen – you’ll then be able to unlock the ‘X’ button, delivering devastating uppercuts that are the fastest way to bring your opponent to the mat. While some of weaker opponents might stay down after the first knock down, to win most of the times you will need to make them fall three times. Of course, your adversaries can take you out the same way. You will feel right at home if you ever played any other game of the series.

Even in this first entry in the franchise, it is actually your unique and ‘bigger than life’ opponents that steal the spotlight. On your way to becoming ‘World Video Boxing Champion’ you will face Glass Joe, Piston Hurricane, Bald Bull, Kid Quick, Pizza Pasta and the current champion Mr. Sandman. Each is a sort of ‘puzzle’ you need to ‘solve’ by paying attention to their moves and their ‘tells’ (during the initial loop, the eyes flash yellow when they are about to attack) and acting to block or counter the best way you deem fit. 

If you are familiar with some of those names, know that the strategies you picked up from other games will work here. You can still take down Glass Joe blindfolded and with one hand only while a perfectly timed gut punch at the charging Bald Bull will send him down to an immediate knock down. It might be a shorter roster than future entries, but the same trademark satisfying learning experience is still present.

Graphics were state of the art by 1983 standards with big, detailed sprites bringing your opponents to life and there was even space left to hide Donkey Kong inside the audience. The music is mostly made up of earworm-friendly jingles composed by newcomer Koji Kondo, already taking the first steps to become one of the world’s biggest renowned video game composers of today. Most impressive of all is the constant speech. Every match is narrated by a synthesised narrator whose colour commentary successfully manages to elevate the on-screen action to new heights and remains an impressive feat.

The original arcade used a unique layout that stacked two monitors on top of each other. The top one shows character portraits, round and time information along with the player’s score while the proper boxing action happens on the bottom one. HAMSTER solved this layout issued by simply putting the monitors side-by-side if you are playing in regular 16:9 landscape mode. It might take a little time to adjust to just having to keep up with one half the screen, but it is the only solution to properly emulate this one without resorting to having two very tiny screens on top of each other. You can, however, chose to play this in TATE mode, rotating either your Switch in portable mode or your TV/monitor to an upright position in order to get as close as possible to the real 1984 experience.

Like other HAMSTER releases the emulation wrapper gives you the chance to customize your experience, providing access to DIP switch settings and optional screen filters. When you are done playing by your lonesome you can test your video boxing skills against the world with the ever popular ‘Caravan mode’ and challenge the online leaderboards.

Conclusion

Punch-Out!! is not only a nostalgic slice of Nintendo’s arcade history, it just so happens to be one of the most enjoyable boxing games ever made, laying down the entire foundation not only for the whole series but for several other games adopting the ‘behind the boxer’ viewpoint. Over three decades later, it is still a joy to pick up and play, still proving to be extremely rewarding when you finally figure out your opponent’s ‘tell’ and proceed to take them to the floor. Until Pato Box steps in the ring, there is no other boxing alternative on the system and despite being content wise lacking when set side-by-side with later entries in the series, the core gameplay loop still delivers the goods. Short, sweet and straight to the point, just like Mr. Sandman’s right uppercut.

UK Schools Want To Bring The Cardboard Creativity Of Nintendo Labo Into The Classroom

Could Nintendo Labo and Nintendo Switch be the tools to help bring a new dimension to education? We’ve pondered that very same question on Nintendo Life, and now it seems some schools here in the United Kingdom see some real potential for the cardboard creations of Ninty’s latest project.

According to a report by GamesIndustry.Biz, Nintendo has been, “approached by several schools about getting Labo in front of their pupils.” We don’t know yet how many schools this refers to, or whether such a move would be enough to bring the UK Department of Education into the conversation, but it’s an incredibly exciting prospect nonetheless. After all, Switch has long held the potential to segue into education in a way no other console has been able to. From the basic engineering principles of building each kit, to promoting coding principles in the Toy-Con Garage, Labo could properly open the door for video games in schools.

So what do you think about the potential of using Nintendo Labo in schools? Does it have the potential to educate as much as does the power to entertain? Let us know what you make of it in the comments below…

Runbow Isn’t Quite Ready To Dash Onto Switch, Needs A Few More Weeks In Training

Party game Runbow has been delayed on Switch, it has been revealed.

Publisher Headup Games and developer 13AM have released a joint statement apologising for the delay, which has been made “in order to further optimise the game’s performance”.

The delay impacts both the Switch and PS4 versions of the game, and may also push back the release of the retail version, entitled Runbow Deluxe Edition. No solid release date has been revealed.

Here’s a portion of the PR statement:

The colorful racing chaos of award-winning party game Runbow will be postponed for some weeks in order to further optimize the game’s performance.

Headup Games and 13AM Games deeply apologize to everyone who’s already looking forward excitedly to play it, but in order to feature the highest quality possible, Runbow needed to be delayed for PlayStation®Store and Nintendo eShop. But rest assured – it’s just a matter of weeks. You will get the newest date, as soon as it is set.

The same may apply to the retail Runbow Deluxe Edition, due to the digital shift this date will probably shift back a bit as well. The Deluxe Edition will include all DLCs and nice physical goodies.

Let us know what you make of this delay by posting a comment below.

Neo Geo Shooter Ghost Pilots Touches Down On Switch Next Week

HAMSTER has once again broken up its prolific Neo Geo fighting game streak with some shmup action next week as Ghost Pilots soars down onto the eShop on April 26th.

This 1991 vertical scrolling shooter was very much a case of SNK going “Look, we can do it too!” at Capcom’s 194X series and served as a truly effective hardware showcase for the platform. 

The distinguishing ‘hook’ for this one is that you actually get to fly bulky seaplanes instead of the more common WW2 fighters. They still shoot and drop screen-clearing bombs like the others, though.

To fly these seaplanes will cost you $7.99 / €6.99 / £6.29. Will you be adding another classic shmup to your digital arcade library next week?

[via japanesenintendo.com]

Rejoice, Fortnite Fans: Switch Battle Royale Title Crazy Justice Is Shaping Up Nicely

Everything is “Battle Royale this” and Battle Royale that” these days. It’s enough to get even the most ardent Nintendo fan down, purely because the Switch is the only console which doesn’t have a Battle Royale game at present.

That’s not likely to be the case for much longer as Black Riddles Studios is aiming to bring the genre kicking and screaming to Nintendo’s system with Crazy Justice, which – as we reported not so long ago – is likely to be the next best thing to having Fortnite on your Switch.

The developer has released a series of videos which show off the unique aspects of the Switch version, such as touchscreen support and motion aiming. Cross-play is promised for the game, so you’ll be able to compete with Xbox One and PC owners. Sony isn’t playing ball at present, but the studio is open to including PS4 cross-play if that changes.

Crazy Justice has already blasted past its initial goal of $30,000 on crowdfunding platform Fig, and several stretch goals have already been met. Let us know if you’ve pledged your support to this title with a comment.

Seek The Truth As The Futuristic Mystery Of State Of Mind Heads To Switch This August

We’ve known about State of Mind – a futuristic thriller from German studio Daedalic Entertainment – for some time now, having reported on its reveal way back in January 2017. Well, we’re pleased to confirm the interactive neo-noir adventure will be heading to Nintendo Switch in August.

You’ll take on the role of journalist Richard Nolan (as well as five additional playable characters) as you attempt to unravel a global conspiracy in a society of ubiquitous digitalism, surveillance and transhumanism. Explore a world with a rich and unique visual style, combining realistic environments with low-poly characters. Oh, and use dexterity, deduction and research to reconstruct Richard’s past.

State of Mind hits Nintendo Switch in August – check out the new trailer above. Let us know whether this dystopian thriller will be making its way onto your handheld…