I played the PC version of Cuphead. The game is also available on XBox One.
It’s been a long road for Cuphead, an ambitious indie title that is the first project coming from developers Studio MDHR. Announced all the way back in 2014, it’s clear that a lot of work went into perfecting this game’s presentation, to the point where it may very well be one of the most beautiful 2D games ever conceived. The hand-drawn style perfectly evokes the most surreal elements of cartoons from the 1930s, and it doesn’t ever compromise on perfectly delivering this style.
Even more surprising than the visuals, however, is that the game that lies under the hood is not your typical indie platformer. The game unfolds much more like a boss rush, one that can be as exhausting as it is exhilarating. This is pretty niche stuff. Not all may truly enjoy the uncompromising difficulty of this game, but I found it to be pleasant, and this gameplay really makes this title stand out when compared to other indie platformers.
I have really fond memories of Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, the first game in the Mario RPG side-series of games. It was a spiritual successor to the previous Mario RPG titles, Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars and Paper Mario. What set this game apart from the previous titles was the wacky dialogue and gag-filled humor, elements which made it quite the refreshing take on the turn-based JRPG genre.
Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga + Bowser’s Minions on the 3DS is a remaster that feels a little strange to me. While it looks beautiful–easily on par with its contemporary iterations Dream Team and Paper Jam–the gameplay feels exactly like it did back in 2003. As a JRPG, Superstar Saga on the 3DS can be refreshing in its simplicity, while simultaneously feeling quite a bit dated in some respects.
There was a level in Metroid: Samus Returns where you constantly have to wade around in water, which limits your jumps and slows you down. It was really annoying, and removed the mobility that really defines this Metroid game. Then, partway through, I find the Gravity Suit upgrade, which lets you move around in water unhindered. Now, I felt powerful. The rooms that were giving me trouble previously were now a piece of cake. This is the positive feedback loop that is the mark of a great Metroid title.
Samus Returns,–a remake/reimagining of the second game in the series, Metroid II: Return of Samus–is a monster of a game. It’s been more than a decade since the release of the last side-scrolling Metroid, and I didn’t realize how much I missed it until I got my hands on this game. I’ll admit that when it was first announced, I was a little bummed that this game was coming to the 3DS and not the Switch, but if I have to pull out my 3DS again, at least it’s for a damn good game.
When people talk about the 2D iterations of The Legend of Zelda, the clear standout that most people think of is the SNES title, A Link to the Past. That game is often credited for making Nintendo’s epic adventure series into what it is today. However, one title whose contribution is often forgotten is the fourth entry in the series, Link’s Awakening. Beginning life as a Game Boy port of A Link to the Past, it quickly developed its own identity and became something more.
It was the first game in the series to really focus on the surrealism and strangeness that would later come to define some of the best games in the series, such as Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask. The dreamlike scenario, goofy characters and cameos from other Nintendo games set this far apart from the other Zelda games. Even today, it feels like a much more understated and intimate experience than its SNES counterpart, befitting of its home on Nintendo’s old handheld. Full spoilers for a 20+ year old game will follow.
If there’s a game that I certainly wasn’t expecting to gush over this year, it’s Sonic Mania. Sure, the original 2D Sonic the Hedgehog games are awesome, but it’s not like Sega hasn’t tried to capitalize on fan nostalgia for these classic games before. Sonic the Hedgehog 4, which came out in two parts in 2010 and 2012, was fun, but it lacked the soul and creativity of the original games. That game was the New Super Mario Bros. of the Sonic series, simply providing retro style stages without thinking out of the box.
Sonic Mania, however, is different. This game feels like a celebration, treating the history of Sonic with a care and reverence that previous games have missed. Mania has it all: obscure references to older games, beautiful sprite artwork, creative set pieces, great music, perfect platforming physics, but most of all, fantastic level design. Mania successfully takes the baton from the Genesis titles, and ends up evolving into what could very well be the best Sonic game ever produced, period.
Mighty Gunvolt Burst is the sequel to 2014’s Mighty Gunvolt, a short crossover between the good Azure Striker Gunvolt games, and the not-so-good Mighty No. 9. I never played the original Mighty Gunvolt, but I can vouch for this game being a good throwback to the classic Mega Man games. Developed by Inti Games, the developers behind the excellent Mega Man Zero series on the GBA, Burst elegantly packs enough nostalgia for those who crave a new Mega Man game, while carrying enough unique ideas to set it apart.
The first Splatoon on the Wii U was a pleasant surprise at the time. On the Wii U, a console that was lacking in “fresh” games, as it will, it was thrilling to see a game that was so original, deep and fun as that game was. On top of that, Splatoon‘s popularity made it an obvious choice for a quick sequel on Nintendo’s new Switch system. So, does Splatoon 2‘s obvious similarities to the first game make it lack the freshness of the first game, or does it still wow with its squiddy goodness?
Well, fortunately, Splatoon 2, for the most part, is good. It takes the excellent foundation of the first game, and builds upon it to deliver a game that is doubtlessly better than what came before. While there are no huge changes from the original, there are big additions and smaller changes that make this more than worth the purchase for any returning squid, and a must-purchase for any new fish out there.