The Penny Arcade Expo in Seattle is one of the biggest expositions of gaming on the planet, and we were there, hunting out the best Nintendo-related games for your viewing pleasure. The only stipulations were that it couldn’t have already been released before PAX, and it had to be officially announced for Nintendo Switch. This is Nintendo Life, after all.
And sorry to all the devs who told us their game would "probably" come to Switch. If we had a dollar for every time we were told that, we could shut the site down tomorrow and retire to the Bahamas. Ahem.
By the way, before we launch into this feature, it's worth noting that we've already covered Dragon Quest XI: S, Moving Out, Shovel Knight Dig, Sayonara Wild Hearts, Overland and Streets of Rage 4 in stand-alone previews.
Super Meat Boy Forever - Team Meat, Release: Early 2020
If you go to the bottom of Super Meat Boy’s website, there is a FAQ that fields some pretty pointed questions for a video game about meat. Is this a sequel to the original indie sensation “Super Meat Boy”? (Yes.) What’s different? Well, it’s an auto-running game, whereas the original was a pure platformer. It also only uses two buttons. “Two buttons? That sounds dumb!” Well, that one is more of a comment than a question, but you get the idea; Super Meat Boy Forever, due out next year and releasing on the Nintendo Switch, has a lot to live up to in the minds of fans.
The craziest thing about this game is not even that they decided to make it a procedurally generated auto-runner. What’s really crazy – and we had to actually fact-check this to make sure – is that Super Meat Boy came out almost nine years ago. Team Meat is now slightly bigger than its original two creators, though only Tommy Refenes remains from the two. When asked about the time gap, Refenes is quick to point to “life” as the main culprit, with the sequel receiving only intermittent development at best until 2017.
But we're here to tell you that we've played Super Meat Boy Forever, and scepticism be damned, the auto-running mechanic works brilliantly. Visually, the game looks largely the same, but something about the game’s quickened pace grabbed us in a way even the original didn’t. After beating a level in the original, we felt like we needed to take a vacation, but Forever’s pacing made us feel like we could keep taking on all comers.
After dominating the first world, Refenes set me up on an advanced world that had all kinds of tricky elements, like appearing and disappearing blocks, lasers, frustrating sticky bombs, and much more. We could barely put it down! The little guy is back, and stop asking questions; Meat Boy seems to be in great hands with the sequel.
Windjammers 2 - DotEmu / Release date: Early 2020
I wrote that Moving Out was the most fun game I played at PAX, but Windjammers 2 was definitely (and surprisingly) a close second. For those of us without an encyclopedic knowledge of obscure NEO-GEO games from the mid-nineties, Windjammers was basically Pong mixed with ultimate frisbee, a top-down arcade game where two people try to throw a frisbee into a net without letting it fly into their own. The first person to 12 points wins the game, and first to two games wins the match. To get the job done, you get an arsenal of ridiculous power moves and a small cast of eccentric, sporty characters.
Now, 15 years later, out of the blue comes Windjammers 2. Against all logic, the game is finishing up a prolonged development time that publisher DotEmu insists was necessary to refine every single detail that made the original such a cult classic. Each map is a tiny bit different, and every hand-drawn character of the eight we could pick from sat on a spectrum between powerful and quick. Go with the ultra fast, feisty girl, or the big, tough macho man? For us, we picked someone near the middle before our match with one DotEmu team member who described himself as “not very good”. Definitely false modesty, but after learning the ropes, we managed to slam our frisbee into the net just a bit more than him to claim our victory.
What followed after him was another team member, this time the artist, and after a close match-up, we came away victorious again. Naturally, this escalated to a developer on the team who called himself “the best Windjammers 2 player in the world”. We were confident we could win with all the skills we'd accumulated in the past half hour, especially after he picked the 100% power character. He’s so slow. Of course we were wrong, and finally our reign was over after he showed us how deep the mechanics of this frisbee toss game really were.
Crown or not, we can’t wait to pick this extremely addictive game up when it comes out later this year. We're still thinking about how we could have beaten him.
Luigi’s Mansion 3 - Nintendo / Release Date: October 31st, 2019
Behind closed doors, Nintendo showed off a new section of Luigi’s Mansion 3 to reporters, Nintendo’s upcoming adventure game starring their adventuring green plumber, Luigi.
If this is your very first time on a Nintendo enthusiast website, the hook of this game, which is strategically releasing this Halloween, is you’re exploring a haunted mansion sucking up ghosts, Ghostbusters-style. In this third game in the series, you go about busting ghosts by ascending a comically tall hotel with radically different floors stacked on top of each other. The floor we played at PAX was overrun by wild grass and exotic flowers. An enormous beanstalk magically sprouted up between a spiralling staircase, and off Luigi went.
What Nintendo wanted to show off that day was not just the mind-boggling physics of a million pieces of grass that all individually react to suction, but the two-player co-op mode. Players can hop in at any time and take the role of “Goo-igi”, a slimy, gummy-bear-esque version of the main character that can do things like walk over spikes and fall through pipes. Goo-igi is normally restricted behind a button press, but you can also hand him off via another Joy-Con or controller.
Luigi’s Mansion 3 is a methodical puzzler, pacing players through micro-challenges, room by room, and an extra person didn’t really detract from that vibe. In fact, while it took a pinch away from the lonely atmosphere to have some other Luigi on the screen with us, double-teaming a room helped halved what we had to do with our own controller while effectively freeing us up to play around a little more liberally. In one room, Goo-igi (controlled by our helpful Nintendo rep) helped us poke around the room while we sucked up ghosts. In another, he fell below the screen to take care of a puzzle section while we stayed up top to collect all the money. Luigi’s Mansion is a great single-player game, and it's not a shabby multi-player one, either.
Also, shout out to the room with the buzzsaw, which allowed us to cut up every single thing in the room in extremely precise ways to whatever degree we wanted. Yes, Luigi’s Mansion 3 might actually employ the most impressively “pointless” physics-based gameplay since Half-Life 2. (That’s a sentence we never thought we’d write.)
Blasphemous - Team 17 / Release Date: Out Now
Blasphemous is a vile, grotesque, fantastical Metroid-vania that leans much heavier on the Castlevania half of that portmanteau. This is taken from its website, because we're not really sure how to describe what’s happening in it properly:
You will play as The Penitent One, a sole survivor of the massacre of the ‘Silent Sorrow’. Exploring the nightmarish world of Cvstodia and unlocking its hellish secrets, only you can free it from a twisted fate and reach the origin of your torment.
What that doesn’t tell you is that while it is demented, it also features a gorgeous pixel style that harkens back to the Super Nintendo and Genesis era in perfect homage. And speaking of Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts, let it be known that it is extremely embarrassing to try and professionally demo a title when you keep dying over and over again in front of the publisher. Aren’t we supposed to be good at video games? Wow, is Blasphemous tough. You will come to savour each and every checkpoint you manage to crawl up to and trigger.
This game is a retro gamer’s dream that’s proud of its nightmares. Given Blasphemous’ complex enemies, custom weapon loadout, unlockable skill trees, and a non-linear maze for a map, fans of the Symphony of the Night formula would be crazy to pass this one up. Just make sure you aren’t squeamish, and that you’ve got a lot of time on your hands.
Since we played the game at PAX, it has actually been released. You can read our review of Blasphemous here.
World of Horror - Ysbryd Games / Release Date: 2019
This one surprised us, and not just for the jump scares. This point-and-click adventure game is inspired by famous horror manga artist Junji Ito and H.P. Lovecraft, and if that isn’t enough to get you through the door, the fact that it’s described as “1bit cosmic horror made by one dude in MS Paint” should do the trick.
World of Horror is absolutely striking, from the multiple two-tone colour palettes you can choose from, to the deeply elaborate 2D animations, to the unnerving and offbeat music that sounds like it’s being churned through a 56k modem. It plays from the perspective of running off an old Mac IIe, or some similarly antiquated piece of hardware, and each and every hand-drawn Microsoft Paint animation is so disarmingly elaborate that we had to ask lead (and only) developer Pawel “Panstasz” Kozminski if he cringed when he saw people click through the screens super quickly. (He said he’s used to it.)
The way the game works is that you’re dropped into a mystery horror novella, one of at least a dozen or more the game has to offer. The game is a little roguelite RPG, and leaves you to navigate varying locals and interact with people and creatures you’re probably not going to get along with for very long. In our play-through, we were dropped into a prototypical haunted mansion, took a bath, found strangers in the lobby, discovered a dead body, later found that the body went missing, and without spoiling too much, were left with an unsettling battle encounter to finish up.
The set up to this game is enthralling. The menu system and controls are... a little clunky. Or maybe we just didn’t understand them, but at the very least, they were far from intuitive. We also beat our story in some 10-15 minutes, so your overall mileage may vary when World of Horror gets its first wide release later this year. Nevertheless, earmark this one, because you’ve got to see this game in action.
N1RV Ann-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action - Sukeban Games / Release Date: 2020
Of all the things to come from my PAX trip, spending 20 minutes with Fernando Damas, lead writer and programmer of VA-11 HALL-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action, and talking about why his characters are all so large-chested was pretty low on our list of expectations. Let’s back up a little bit, though.
N1RV Ann-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action is the upcoming sequel to VA-11 HALL-A, a text-based bartending game where you play the role of a busty yet shrinking violet bartender entertaining everyone who walks through your bar’s doors; the player learns how to mix drinks to exact specifications in the process. It’s a meditation on the lonely barstool life, the gameplay portion existing only in the alcohol mixing screen, with the meat of the experience residing in the stories from the carousel of thirsty characters.
Just as in the original title, the writing of N1RV Ann-A is alluring and pulpy, matching their over-the-top anime avatars. Unlike the first game, however, drink making is far more opened up, and gives you the ability to serve absolutely anything you want to the customer. Damas suggested you could serve, say, vinegar and mayonnaise, provided you want to withstand the reaction to giving someone such a thing. The hope is that with more agency, players will sculpt the script even more than in the original.
A curious choice is to take the sequel away from the dive bar in the future setting, this time to “an artificial island located in the Caribbean that's experiencing a big economic boom and breakthroughs with technological advances in environmental climate control.” Futurism runs through the heart of this series, though swapping out the sticky bar feel for a tropical paradise is a curious choice, and was vividly evident in the short encounter we had with the rich customer in the demo. And just as with the first game, poignancy runs through the writing, though hardly through the artwork.
We’ll keep our conversation with Damas private, though we'll share that, as fans of the series, we're publically anticipating this game’s 2020 release.
Kunai - TurtleBlaze / Release Date: TBD
The developers of Kunai hate the beginning of Metroid games.
In other words, they hate the part where you lose all your abilities before you set off in adventure. Kunai is a “reverse Metroid”, in that while your skillset does indeed still grow, it’s a game about overpowering your way through twisting, 2D maps.
The world of Kunai is one in which humans are gone and robots roam the Earth. You play as Tabby, some kind of tablet robot with arms and legs who breaks free of his confines and tries to find its purpose in artificial life. If the game wasn’t so violent, it’d be pretty cute. Tabby displays his emotions in emotive faces on his “face”, and every slice into metal enemies produces a satisfying flying of nuts and bolts. It’s a slick-looking game that uses a muted colour palette to fantastic effect.
Even slicker than the visuals are the controls. This is especially true when you gain the hookshot ability, and doubly so when you get the second hookshot ability, which you shoot out with the left and right triggers respectively. Tabby becomes like a little, ninja Spider-Man within a few minutes of starting the game, opening up a speed-runner’s paradise in the process. Sure, the levels a little cavernous, but the action is frantic and the map got a lot more twisty the more we played on. It’s still early in development, but don’t forget about Kunai when it eventually gets its release date on the Switch, especially if you’re a fan of action games.
Haven - The Game Bakers / Release Date: 2020
Haven is an ambitious game, you’ve gotta give it that. This fully 3D RPG adventure is about an adventuring couple in love who have escaped a planet together. They’re now living the van life, except their van is a spaceship and the highway is some sort of intergalactic blue portal… stuff. More importantly, central to this game’s core concept is that it’s meant to be played with two people, though we played it alone and it worked just fine that way. Yet as we played it, Haven’s potential as a co-op RPG had us grinning in our chair with the possibilities.
The very first thing that struck us about Haven is how great the voice acting is. To begin the game, you play as a detached camera floating throughout a small space ship, room to room, clicking on the two characters to explore their breakfast, toiletry, or evening routines. We had no problem believing these two were in love, and we were definitely rooting for them from the moment they hit the screen. Haven is a bit on the sexy side with its marketing materials, so it’s no surprise that you run headfirst into a lovemaking scene... before the power goes out and you have to soon leave the space ship.
The outside world is basically the overworld map of Haven, and it’s when you get to control the characters themselves. It plays a little bit like Journey in that we had to glide our two flying lovers into ground-dwelling veins of blue energy in order to refuel our ship, teaching us how to manoeuvre the outside world in the process. Though when we say it’s like Journey, what we mean is that the game is attempting to flow as seamlessly as that classic, though the camera and manoeuvring are still a bit rough around the edges at present.
Fighting, too, was something that the story threw at us late in the demo, where it presented us with two separate menus with four actions apiece that we had to perfectly time with one another in order to defeat encountered baddies. We have to admit, we were very bad at this, and only barely survived. Though we were a little frustrated with the main fighting mechanic, we could imagine how fun it would be to grow your skillset with another person on a second controller. (Game Bakers, may we suggest colour-coding the menu?)
Even still, we really love what Haven is going for. A co-op, narrative RPG with sassy, fully voiced characters is something we think would get a lot of love out of your two Joy-Cons. Truly, it’s a game about a couple for couples. We can’t wait to see how this one turns out when it releases in 2020.