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Sunshine Shuffle review

System: Switch
Release Date: May 31, 2023
Developer: Strange Scaffold
Publisher: Strange Scaffold

There’s a series of famous paintings from the late 1800’s and early 1900’s featuring dogs playing poker in various settings; there’s a good chance you’ve seen at least one of them represented in a TV show or movie over the years. Sunshine Shuffle, the latest game from eclectic indie developer Strange Scaffold, asks the question: what if these cute animals were actually retired criminals, and what if you got to play poker with them on a boat in the middle of the ocean?

Trinity Trigger review

System: Switch
Release date: April 25, 2023
Developer: FuRyu
Publisher: Marvelous / XSEED

Trinity Trigger is set in a world caught in an ongoing war between Order and Chaos, each with a chosen champion fated to fight one another to the death to choose a victor. Generally, one of the chosen ones is assassinated before the duel can begin, resulting in zero changes for the world as a whole, but a pretty grim fate for our protagonist who just so happens to be the Champion of Chaos. Opening up, the plotline of the game seems to thrust a very heavy burden on the player, but will it deliver on its hefty narrative, or will Trinity Trigger be just another hack-and-slash action RPG that falls to the wayside?

Bayonetta Origins review

System: Switch
Release Date: March 22, 2023
Developer: PlatinumGames
Publisher: Nintendo

With Bayonetta 3 having just released last October, it was unexpected, to say the least, when a new game in the form of Cereza and the Lost Demon was revealed so soon after. However, it was clear from the get-go that this wouldn’t be the typical experience fans have grown to know and love, and would instead delve into a more relaxed but still engaging tale of the character’s upbringing. Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon is a game that is surprising in more ways than one but is a pleasant gift to longtime fans of the franchise that gives Bayonetta a different, charming perspective with a gorgeous art direction and not once overstays its welcome. In some cases, despite being a spinoff, it could arguably be the best title the series has seen to date, and it’s a perfect place to jump into for those that have been hesitant to get acquainted with the Umbran Witch.

System: Switch
Release date: March 24, 2023
Developer: Gust
Publisher: Koei Tecmo

There’s no denying the staying power that the Atelier series has had since the 90s with its charismatic loveable characters and heartwarming stories and worlds. In 2019, however, the debut of Atelier Ryza brought a whole new wave of popularity and love for both the franchise and Ryza, and since then Koei Tecmo and Gust have capitalized on the success of the million seller with two new sequels that have seen just as much love and success. Now in 2023, Atelier Ryza becomes a trilogy with Alchemist of the End & The Secret Key with the biggest adventure yet, and it’s a grand spectacle that builds and refines on the formula once more for a seamless experience in feeling like an alchemist. Unfortunately, each time the game has been built on its successes and ambitions, it becomes a heavier load for the Switch to handle, and this time around the game is just too much of a technical powerhouse that Atelier – despite a perpetual bright future – seems like it may not be at home anymore on the hybrid system.

Have a Nice Death review

System: Switch
Release Date: March 22, 2023
Developer: Magic Design Studios
Publisher: Gearbox

Typically, when I’m craving some side-scrolling action, roguelike games aren’t my go-to. Simple procedurally generated levels, frustrating or unrewarding progression loops, and by-the-numbers combat have plagued my experiences in the genre, so I’m perhaps a bit more skeptical than others of run-based titles. Fortunately, Have a Nice Death is not only an exception to this trend, but also one of the tightest, most creative, and most satisfying roguelikes I’ve ever played. It’s an example of what a talented team with a strong vision can accomplish, and its fine-tuned concoction of charm and challenge resulted in constant fun.

Fatal Frame: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse review

System: Switch
Release Date: March 9, 2023
Developer: Koei Tecmo
Publisher: Nintendo

After a whopping 15 years, the fourth mainline entry in the Fatal Frame franchise is finally accessible for English-speaking players for the first time, and as such, the release of Fatal Frame: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse feels like something of an event for horror fans. These games have long been singular experiences, possessing a unique weight that is felt in each footstep, each click of a camera shutter, each piece of unsettling lore. I was excited to finally have a chance to experience this acclaimed piece of horror history on a modern platform, and to see why fans have been begging for a localization for so long. While I enjoyed unraveling the weaving, sinister story threads of Mask of the Lunar Eclipse and soaking in its atmosphere, the game’s unrefined pacing and desperate need for extra polish should make casual horror fans pause.

Paranormasight: The Seven Mysteries of Honjo review

System: Switch
Release Date: March 9, 2023
Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix

In the realm of horror, the genre has numerous ways to latch onto the viewer, player, or reader in ways that most other genres wouldn’t. That sense of mystery that comes from being unable to discern what it is that haunts piques a level of curiosity that keeps the one consuming the media involved and captivated, and Paranormasight: The Seven Mysteries of Honjo does an incredible job of getting players in an engrossing story that never overstays its welcome and gets to-the-point in a matter of minutes. On Switch, especially the OLED, the game shines despite its dark colors and atmosphere, and Square Enix has done a tremendous job in creating a unique visual novel that can be up there with the genre’s greats.

Session: Skate Sim review

System: Switch
Release date: March 9, 2023
Developer: Crea-ture Studios
Publisher: Nacon

For a lapsed real-world skateboarder like myself, Session: Skate Sim is a sobering reality check. Back in 2020, Activision’s Tony Hawk’s remake momentarily convinced me that I had the skills to recommit to the sport – that within a few weeks I’d be busting out Tre Flips with the best of them. If only I had been given access to Session: Skate Sim back then, so that I could be brought back down to earth and reminded of just how achingly difficult skateboarding really is. Upon casting your eye over Session for the first time, you may be fooled into thinking that it follows in the footsteps of EA’s Skate franchise. In reality this game is to Skate what actually going outside and skateboarding is to sitting on the couch and thinking about it. It’s incredibly hard. Session: Skate Sim comes to us Switch owners at the end of a long Early Access run on other platforms. Following years of iterative patches and improvements, the game has now reached its version 1.0 milestone. Unfortunately, the game we’ve been landed with feels anything but finished.

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Kirby's Return to Dream Land Deluxe review

System: Switch
Release Date: February 24, 2023
Developer: HAL Laboratory
Publisher: Nintendo

The original Wii launch of Kirby’s Return to Dream Land has always felt like a particularly important game for the franchise; at the time it released, it had been in development in some form for over a decade, after multiple attempts at creating a new mainline Kirby game never reached fruition. That’s a big part of the reason why Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe, a remaster of the 2011 original, feels like such a fitting way to wrap up the pink puffball’s 30th anniversary celebrations – it’s a testament to just how much the franchise has grown and evolved since then. But how well does this classic Kirby game hold up after all these years, and is the new content added into this remaster strong enough to justify a full-price rerelease?

Digimon World: Next Order review

System: Switch
Release date: February 22, 2023
Developer: Hyde
Publisher: Bandai Namco

Six years into the Switch’s lifecycle, it’s still the go-to destination for ports and bringing older, potentially forgotten games into a more modern setting and for a wider audience. Digimon World: Next Order adds itself to that list, giving it another chance to shine following the positive reception to Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth and Digimon Survive. With the Digimon World brand having been around since 1999 in Japan, Next Order brings the 2017 title from PlayStation 4 and PS Vita to a Nintendo system. Though Digimon has always been a flexible property and taken on almost every genre under the sun, Digimon World stood by as a fond memory for decades for fans, but Next Order in 2017 didn’t necessarily point the series or the property in the right direction. Now in 2022, we’re meant to revisit a game that, while fun, is just too subpar at best to really warrant paying full price all over again.

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