Hello gentle readers, and welcome to the SwitchArcade Round-Up for January 30th, 2023. In today’s article, we start things off with a few reviews. Fire Emblem Engage takes center stage, with Demolish & Build Classic and Wonderland Nights serving as back-up dancers. There are a handful of new releases to check out including Trek to Yomi and Super Benbo Quest, and the usual lists of new sales and expiring discounts to sort through. Let’s get to work, shall we?
Reviews & Mini-Views
Fire Emblem Engage ($59.99)
I’m of two minds on Fire Emblem Engage. At the end of the day, this series is about the turn-based tactical battles. They’re better in this game than they have been since, I would say, Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest. The new Emblem mechanic is a real game changer, and I’m thrilled to see the return of the weapon triangle. Map designs are solid, and the enemy placements are better at putting pressure on you to go on the offense than most of the recent entries. If I were to grade this game on the mechanical side alone, it would easily be walking away with a better score than Three Houses.
But Fire Emblem isn’t just about the battles, and it’s in those other areas where Engage falls behind. It’s a game that is partly about delivering service to long-time fans of the series, to the point that you would almost think it was an anniversary release. Like many games of that sort, the plot suffers for the sake of shoe-horning in those references. Even at the best of times, Fire Emblem stories aren’t the most impressive of tales, but Engage‘s may well be the most meaningless and uninteresting yet.
On top of that, the characters are more poorly developed than the average Fire Emblem game, falling back on silly tropes even more than the norm. Most characters aren’t any deeper than their gimmick, and the conversations with them tend to go down the road of goofy antics rather than showing actual development. All of this is particularly disappointing after Three Houses did a relatively good job with its narrative elements, and those who come to these games looking for a good story are not going to be very pleased with Engage.
The ambitious and occasionally overbearing social elements of Three Houses have been pulled almost as far back as they could be. While there is still a hub area to go back to between battles, it’s mainly home to a bunch of bizarre minigames that confer entirely unnecessary rewards and aren’t all that enjoyable or amusing. I was one of those folks who found the monastery stuff in Fire Emblem Three Houses a bit too much of a distraction and frequently dull, but even I didn’t want them to rein it in this far. Apparently Intelligent Systems wanted to make a more focused experience this time, and I surely can’t argue against the emphasis resting entirely on the battles this time. I don’t know where the minigames factor into that focus, but here we are.
So yes, it all comes back around to those battles. Luckily, they’re really good. The Emblem system sees twelve classic characters coming back as partners for your characters, granting them access to weapons and abilities for a limited number of turns. It’s a lot of fun experimenting with who you want to pair with who, and having to decide when to pop your Emblem state for the best effect is a welcome additional layer of strategy and tension in battles. And yes, it’s good to see old faces like Lyndis and Ike again. Taking advantage of the returning weapon triangle system gives you more of an advantage than ever, so you have to consider who you send after which enemies.
I also want to applaud the inclusion of the Maddening difficulty from the get-go this time rather than adding it as DLC. While only a small number of players are likely to want to play Fire Emblem Engage this way, it really does underline just how well-designed the tactical elements of this game are. I certainly wouldn’t recommend it to first-timers, but if you’re looking for some extra bite you will be happy with how thoughtfully Maddening mode has been implemented this time. It’s worth the second trip, and in some sense the story being extremely skippable is almost a benefit for such an approach.
As far as the presentation goes, I think it’s terrific. I know some people don’t like how colorful and bright some of the characters look, particularly the two-toned design of the lead, but I kind of dig how pop it is after the far more staid approach of Three Houses. One of the cool things about the Fire Emblem series is in how it isn’t afraid to change up its visual design, and Engage certainly shows us a new side of the series. From a technical standpoint, this looks and runs a lot better than Three Houses did. Intelligent Systems seems to have handled development itself this time, which may explain why the scope of it is smaller, but what it does it does very well. Battle animations look fantastic, and the Mika Pikazo character art translates to 3D surprisingly well. Add in a solid soundtrack and some strong voice acting and there isn’t much to complain about in terms of how the game looks and sounds.
Fire Emblem Engage is a more single-minded entry in the series than we’ve seen in a while. A lot of the things people may have loved about Three Houses don’t return here, and the battles are left to carry the load. The more focused design is by choice and I respect that, but it didn’t mean the characters and story had to be as diminished as they are. It’s fortunate that the battle mechanics ratchet things up this time, with the new Emblem system and the returning weapon triangle adding compelling strategic layers. Fans of the tactical aspect at the core of Fire Emblem will find a lot to like, but it’s a shame that the overall package isn’t as strong.
SwitchArcade Score: 4/5
Demolish & Build Classic ($14.99)
This really should have been an easy win. People love breaking things. The PC version this game is based on is years old by this point and really shouldn’t be too tough to get running nicely on the Switch. But no, this is another disaster from Ultimate Games. You’re the operator of a demolition and construction company, and you’ll take on jobs that see you moving around a handful of connected open world maps. Completing jobs gets you money, and you can reinvest that money into new equipment and such. A solid enough premise. Shame the execution botches things so much.
The technical performance here is wholly unacceptable. The framerate starts chopping the minute you start looking around even the emptiest of areas. Even moderately busy sections drop to a headache-inducing framerate. Driving is deeply unpleasant, with textures loading in late and choppy movement despite how empty the maps are. Collision detection is fussy and it’s easy to get your vehicles stuck in places you can’t get them out of, forcing you to respawn them. The usual UI problem rears its head here, with tiny text that is hard to read on the handheld screen and menus that were clearly built to be navigated with a mouse. The game also doesn’t do a great job of teaching you how to do anything, making for a frustrating initial experience. Even once you know what you’re doing, the game has too many issues to get much joy from it.
Demolish & Build Classic is another in a too-long series of PC ports that don’t do enough to optimize or adjust the experience for the Switch. There’s a good idea at its core, but significant performance issues, fiddly collision detection, and a clumsy UI keep it from achieving the promise of that idea.
SwitchArcade Score: 2/5
Wonderland Nights: White Rabbit’s Diary ($6.99)
Wonderland Nights has an interesting idea behind it, but it perhaps doesn’t do enough to obfuscate the mechanical nature of what it asks of you. You play as the White Rabbit, and your job is to assign guests to various events on each day of a gathering of royalty in Wonderland. Each day a vote is held on a particular issue, and who you put together in which place will help determine the outcome. On top of that, putting certain people together will reveal secrets about them and perhaps even unravel new plot elements. At the end of the gathering, you’ll be given one of a large number of endings based on what happened. You can then start again and try to use the knowledge you have gained to tilt the results of the next game in your favor.
At the start of the day, you simply assign the twelve different characters to the six different activities as you see fit. You have a notebook that starts out basically empty but as you discover things over the course of playthroughs will fill out with useful information. After assigning everyone to events, you’ll watch them all play out. The writing itself is alright, but the voice acting is frankly atrocious and drags the narrative down with it. Some of it sounds like it was recorded in a bathroom, everyone sounds like they’re rushing through their lines, and no one sounds very interested in what they’re doing. That’s unfortunate because without the narrative supporting it, this game is just a process of trial and error until you hit the desired result.
The overall plot of Wonderland Nights is reasonably interesting, but the stunningly poor voice acting and simple gameplay mechanics make it hard to stick with long enough to reveal that whole story. It reminds me a lot of one of those old flash games where you combined various items to see the results, playing over and over again until you got the ending you were after. The art has a unique and striking style, but the rest of the presentation is quite weak. It’s a mildly amusing game to poke at, but it could have been a lot better.
SwitchArcade Score: 3/5
Trek To Yomi ($19.99)
A side-scrolling action game that is clearly inspired by the films of Akira Kurosawa, Trek to Yomi certainly has a striking presentation. It’s been out on other platforms for a while, so it’s hardly an unknown quantity. The consensus seems to be that it is a decent, brief cinematic experience that has a few flaws keeping it from being all it can be. What we don’t know is how the game has made the transition to the Switch, a question I’ll answer with a review fairly soon.
Super Benbo Quest: Turbo Deluxe ($10.00)
This is a weird action-platformer that is trying its hardest to be as odd as possible. And it largely succeeds at that. Noteworthy for apparently being banned from Steam for changing its name to all kinds of bizarre things. I think you could call it a piece of art, though whether that makes for a fun game or not is an exercise best left to the reader.
Capybara Madness ($6.99)
Weakfish has a 3D platform adventure that leans heavily on ragdoll physics, similar to the likes of Human Fall Flat. At least to my eye, this game really seems to be trying to hit that game’s vibe. Not necessarily a bad thing, mind you. There are fifteen maps in this one and if you like clowning on weird physics and solving puzzles in unexpected ways, you might find this worth looking into.
(North American eShop, US Prices)
If I can only point out one thing in the list of new sales today, it would be Radiant Silvergun at an absolutely bonkers price of just twelve American dollars. If you loved Ikaruga or just like shooters in general, you need to add that game to your library post-haste. There isn’t too much catching my eye in the outbox, but do make sure you have a look through both lists yourself to be safe.
Select New Games on Sale
Circa Infinite Ultimate ($1.99 from $10.99 until 2/4)
Nirvana Deluxe Edition ($1.99 from $7.49 until 2/4)
Tcheco in the Castle of Lucio ($1.99 from $4.99 until 2/4)
Galaxy Shooter ($1.99 from $4.99 until 2/4)
Glyph ($1.99 from $9.99 until 2/4)
Instant Tennis ($2.48 from $9.95 until 2/6)
OlliOlli World ($17.99 from $29.99 until 2/6)
Superliminal ($9.99 from $19.99 until 2/6)
The Outer Worlds ($19.798 from $59.99 until 2/6)
Borderlands Legendary Collection ($9.99 from $49.99 until 2/6)
Borderlands GotY Edition ($9.89 from $29.99 until 2/6)
Borderlands Handsome Collection ($9.99 from $39.99 until 2/6)
XCOM 2 Collection ($7.49 from $49.99 until 2/6)
BioShock Remastered ($7.99 from $19.99 until 2/6)
BioShock 2 Remastered ($7.99 from $19.99 until 2/6)
BioShock Infinite CE ($7.99 from $19.99 until 2/6)
BioShock The Collection ($9.99 from $49.99 until 2/6)
PGA Tour 2K21 ($14.99 from $59.99 until 2/6)
Tales from the Borderlands ($14.99 from $24.99 until 2/6)
New Tales from the Borderlands ($19.99 from $39.99 until 2/6)
Carnival Games ($7.99 from $39.99 until 2/6)
L.A. Noire ($24.99 from $49.99 until 2/6)
Sid Meier’s Civ VI ($5.99 from $29.99 until 2/6)
Sid Meier’s Civ VI Platinum ($14.99 from $49.99 until 2/6)
NBA 2K23 ($23.99 from $59.99 until 2/6)
All-Star Fruit Racing ($5.99 from $19.99 until 2/7)
EA Sports FIFA 23 Legacy Edition ($19.99 from $39.99 until 2/7)
Among Us ($3.50 from $5.00 until 2/10)
Radiant Silvergun ($11.99 from $19.99 until 2/10)
SUPERHOT ($12.49 from $24.99 until 2/10)
Dungeons of Dreadrock ($2.50 from $10.00 until 2/13)
Postal Redux ($3.49 from $9.99 until 2/14)
Spirit Roots ($1.99 from $6.99 until 2/14)
Bud Spencer & Terence Hill: S&B ($3.39 from $19.99 until 2/14)
Car Parking Club ($6.49 from $12.99 until 2/17)
Silenced: The House ($2.99 from $4.99 until 2/17)
35MM ($5.99 from $9.99 until 2/17)
Amazing Superhero Squad ($4.19 from $6.99 until 2/17)
Behind Closed Doors ($2.99 from $4.99 until 2/17)
Oddworld: Soulstorm ($34.99 from $49.99 until 2/17)
Hillbilly Doomsday ($2.99 from $4.99 until 2/17)
Smashy Road: Wanted 2 ($1.99 from $7.99 until 2/17)
Wonderland Nights: White Rabbit’s Diary ($5.59 from $6.99 until 2/17)
Witchcrafty ($5.99 from $9.99 until 2/17)
.cat ($1.99 from $9.99 until 2/18)
.dog ($1.99 from $9.99 until 2/19)
Sales Ending Tomorrow, Tuesday, January 31st
Boreal Tenebrae ($1.99 from $6.99 until 1/31)
Chalk Gardens ($1.99 from $5.99 until 1/31)
Crash Drive 3 ($1.99 from $19.99 until 1/31)
Disney Dreamlight Valley Deluxe ($34.99 from $49.99 until 1/31)
Fe ($4.99 from $19.99 until 1/31)
Floppy Knights ($13.99 from $19.99 until 1/31)
Fluffy Horde ($1.99 from $9.99 until 1/31)
Fury Unleashed ($4.99 from $19.99 until 1/31)
Garden Story ($11.99 from $19.99 until 1/31)
Inukari CoD ($1.99 from $7.99 until 1/31)
It’s Kooky ($1.99 from $9.99 until 1/31)
Legendary Eleven ($1.99 from $9.99 until 1/31)
Lost in Random ($5.99 from $29.99 until 1/31)
Monster Destroyer ($2.06 from $7.13 until 1/31)
Need for Speed Hot Pursuit ($7.99 from $39.99 until 1/31)
P.3 ($1.99 from $4.99 until 1/31)
Plants vs Zombies BfN CE ($7.99 from $39.99 until 1/31)
Quell Zen ($1.99 from $7.99 until 1/31)
Space Tail: EJLH ($13.99 from $19.99 until 1/31)
Super Mega Baseball 3 ($13.49 from $44.99 until 1/31)
That’s all for today, friends. We’ll be back tomorrow with more reviews, more new releases, more sales, and perhaps some news. I had a pretty nice weekend, and actually managed to spend some quality time with my family for once. It’s great how rested that can make one feel. But it’s the start of the week and that means back to the ol’ grind. I hope you all have a marvelous Monday, and as always, thanks for reading!