Hello gentle readers, and welcome to the SwitchArcade Round-Up for September 18th, 2023. It is the week of the Tokyo Game Show, and that means my schedule might go pear-shaped in the next few days. Just a little heads-up on that. Today we kick things off with a couple of reviews by yours truly, looking at Anonymous;Code from Mages and Spike Chunsoft along with Rune Factory 3 Special from Marvelous and XSEED. After that, we’ve got some new releases. One is Gloomhaven; let’s not talk about the rest much. Finally, the lists of new and expiring sales are here to close things out as usual. That’s the menu, so let’s dig in!
Reviews & Mini-Views
As someone who has generally enjoyed the Science Adventure series of visual novels from Mages, I can admit that the Science Adventure series has a bit of a problem. That problem’s name is Steins;Gate. There’s no question of its status as the breakout title in the series, and indeed its breakout status within the broader genre. And it earned that. It features a memorable cast of characters, a very strong plot, and manages to balance the little moments with the bigger ones in a virtually perfect balance as it slowly turns up the heat. The pacing is excellent, as the plot moves from the everyday life of some odd people to the playful excitement of their discovery, then into the sheer horror and unbridled tension when everything starts to go wrong.
Steins;Gate is a problem because none of the other entries in the series have managed to get the balance of those elements quite as right as it did. Chaos;Head‘s cast isn’t as strong, it’s short on the quieter moments, and the game often feels like a warm-up act in general. Robotics;Notes seems to spend too much time with the mundane and really feels like it drags as a result. Chaos;Child hit a lot of the right notes, but it’s probably a bit too slow of a burn for its own good. I should stress that all of the mentioned titles are very good and I’d recommend any in a heartbeat, but I think players who came into the series with Steins;Gate have had a hard time getting a repeat performance.
This is where I would love to say that Anonymous;Code pulls off that feat. Unfortunately, it can’t quite clear that bar either. It’s an exciting thrill ride of a story that hits the ground running and rarely lets up, and its brisk playtime almost feels like a direct reply to people who felt Chaos;Child was entirely too long. One way or another, you’ll likely have seen what it has to show you after around fifteen to sixteen hours. I think that is one of its advantages, but to achieve that it cuts some good meat along with the fat. It’s rather linear, so you won’t really be exploring a lot of alternate branches. The urgency that it kicks off with means there aren’t many quiet moments of normalcy with the cast, and that ends up hurting the investment you’ll have in their problems.
Like many of the Science Adventure games, Anonymous;Code rests a lot of its tension on the main character trying to save the people and things he deems important from a seemingly unstoppable force that threatens them. That desperation is somewhat diluted when the characters haven’t been given a chance to develop first. After meeting a mysterious girl named Momo, protagonist Pollon pretty much goes all-in on keeping her safe. Their relationship develops on the fly, but it’s a bit difficult to understand his motivations here in the same way we could understand, say, Rintaro moving heaven and Earth to keep Mayushii safe. Some of that is tied up by the time the story ends, but this cast just doesn’t gel the way the ones in Steins;Gate and Robotics;Notes did.
The main gimmick in Anonymous;Code is that the protagonist gains the ability to load saves. Yes, it’s very meta. He even uses the same save screen you use, with your saves sitting right there alongside his. This enables him to rewind time and play things out differently, effectively letting him cheat all manner of fates. This is also where your main input as the player comes in. You have to push the button to trigger the save loading at the right time, and if you fail you’ll be shuffled off to a bad end. It’s not quite a QTE, but it is implemented in a very clumsy way that makes it feel irritating more than anything. I understand the desire to have some form of interaction for the player, but if this was the best way the developer could think of to put it in, I’d rather it just have been automatic.
Okay, this review is coming off way too negative. Anonymous;Code has a lot of great elements to it. Its presentation is really good, with some exciting visual elements and an outstanding soundtrack. The story goes to some really wild places, and it does that usual Science Adventure thing of blending elements of reality with some completely bonkers science-fiction in a way that grounds things just enough to not lose you. The writing reads well, and once the game gets its hooks into you, it’s really hard to put down. It pulls themes and elements from all of the games that came before it and by the time it draws to a close you’ll likely find yourself unable to sleep for a day or two until you process it all.
If you’re looking for another game that will do for you what Steins;Gate did, I regret to say that I don’t think that will be Anonymous;Code. Once you get past that, this is a really slick visual novel that will take you on a sharply-written science-fiction adventure that will leave you twisted in knots. Its relatively speedy pace will appeal to many, and while its characters and central interactive aspect aren’t as good as one might hope, Anonymous;Code is still a superb story that is more than worth experiencing.
SwitchArcade Score: 4.5/5
Rune Factory 3 Special ($39.99)
On the one hand, I’m always glad to see a game that was locked to a single platform find a new life via re-releases. Rune Factory 3 is where the series really started to hit its stride, and given how much the genre has exploded since Stardew Valley hit the scene, it would be a shame for one of its most obvious forebearers to require digging up a working Nintendo DS in order to play it. I would argue that the Rune Factory series predicted the current state of the genre even more than Harvest Moon did, with the action-RPG elements it made heavy use of now a fairly standard part of the farming sim field. The more of the series that is out there and easy to access for players, the better.
On the other hand, I’m not sure what the main selling point is for Rune Factory 3 Special beyond the desire to explore the history of the series. This is a surprisingly straightforward remake whose additions don’t amount to a whole lot. There’s a new difficulty level that might appeal to those who want a stiffer challenge, and the Newlywed Mode gives you some little epilogues with each of the bridal candidates. Visually everything looks a good bit cleaner, but it’s not a massive overhaul in terms of presentation. Which is to say, it looks like a DS game running at a higher resolution with some updated UI elements and a few tweaks here and there. Not bad, but certainly not up to some of the full-on remakes we’ve seen with the Story of Seasons games.
That isn’t to say there isn’t some charm to Rune Factory 3. The characters are quite personable, the world design is good, and the main plot is interesting to follow all the way to its end. It leans heavily on some old storytelling ideas, but the classics are classics for a reason. In terms of mechanics and systems, it holds up surprisingly well for a game from 2009. The towns feel like actual living places, albeit small ones, and there are lots of different ways to pass your in-game days. The dungeon exploration aspect, always Rune Factory‘s main differentiating factor, is fairly well-done here too. The combat system isn’t going to challenge Bloodborne or anything, but it gets the job done.
Still, it’s a bit hard to know who to recommend Rune Factory 3 Special to. General fans of the genre can find many better games to choose from simply due to how much of a sea change there has been since 2009 in this genre, and most of those choices are cheaper to boot. Those interested in playing a Rune Factory game would probably be better served checking out Rune Factory 4 Special or Rune Factory 5. That mainly leaves those who are interested in exploring the past, those who have devoured all of the other good farming games, and people with a lot of specific nostalgia for this entry. If you find yourself in one or more of those groups, then sure, you could do a lot worse than this.
SwitchArcade Score: 3.5/5
This is a turn-based dungeon crawling RPG based on the wildly acclaimed board game of the same name. Whether alone or with up to three other players via online multiplayer, you must explore the caves and forest of Gloomhaven. Build your party from a selection of seventeen different mercenaries, each with their own skills and tons of abilities to unlock and master. Additional DLC is available to expand the game, and there are bundles available alongside this stand-alone version if you want to jump right to the full package. So long as the port to the Switch didn’t mess anything up, this should be a must-have for many RPG fans. I haven’t had the opportunity to test the Switch version though, so I guess we’ll have to stay tuned.
The Bin Bunch
Truck Drag Racing Legends Simulator ($13.99)
Moto Racer 2044 Game Simulator ($9.99)
Hole Switch ($0.99)
(North American eShop, US Prices)
Let’s see what we have today. Some Team17 stuff, the Ori games, and a few other odds and ends. Alright, that’s all good. In the outbox, Plug-In Digital is ending its latest sale. Some decent titles there, especially at those bargain prices. Well, I’ll let you take a look at those lists yourself and sort out what you want and don’t want.
Select New Games on Sale
Satazius NEXT ($2.79 from $6.99 until 9/23)
Wolflame ($2.79 from $6.99 until 9/23)
Gigantic Army ($3.59 from $8.99 until 9/23)
Armed 7 DX ($2.79 from $6.99 until 9/23)
Finding Teddy 2: DE ($3.99 from $9.99 until 9/23)
Guns of Mercy Rangers Edition ($3.59 from $8.99 until 9/23)
Guns N’ Runs ($4.79 from $11.99 until 9/23)
Verdict Guilty ($3.59 from $8.99 until 9/23)
Alice Sisters ($2.39 from $5.99 until 9/23)
1997 ($4.99 from $9.99 until 9/24)
Metallic Child ($17.99 from $29.99 until 10/1)
Blasphemous ($7.49 from $24.99 until 10/1)
The Serpent Rogue ($4.99 from $19.99 until 10/1)
Batora ($16.24 from $24.99 until 10/1)
Yoku’s Island Express ($3.99 from $19.99 until 10/1)
Going Under ($4.99 from $19.99 until 10/1)
Would You Like to Run an Idol Cafe? 3 ($6.69 from $9.99 until 10/2)
Waifu Space Conquest ($3.34 from $4.99 until 10/2)
The Library of Babel ($11.39 from $18.99 until 10/2)
LIT: Bend the Light ($4.40 from $8.00 until 10/5)
In My Shadow ($5.40 from $12.00 until 10/5)
Secrets of Light and Shadow ($9.75 from $15.00 until 10/5)
Ori & the Blind Forest ($9.99 from $19.99 until 10/6)
Ori & the Will of the Wisps ($14.99 from $29.99 until 10/6)
Castle of the Underdogs ($4.99 from $9.99 until 10/6)
Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion ($5.09 from $14.99 until 10/6)
Bite the Bullet ($2.99 from $14.99 until 10/6)
Super Brawl Rush ($3.99 from $4.99 until 10/6)
Sakura MMO Extra ($7.99 from $9.99 until 10/6)
Blue Fire ($6.79 from $19.99 until 10/6)
Super Night Riders ($2.49 from $4.99 until 10/7)
Sales Ending Tomorrow, Tuesday, September 19th
Ashwalkers ($9.99 from $19.99 until 9/19)
Astria Ascending ($19.99 from $39.99 until 9/19)
Astrologaster ($4.49 from $9.99 until 9/19)
Before I Forget ($4.79 from $7.99 until 9/19)
Cassiodora ($11.89 from $16.99 until 9/19)
Catlateral Damage Remeowstered ($4.99 from $14.99 until 9/19)
Children of Zodiarcs ($4.49 from $17.99 until 9/19)
Chroma Squad ($3.74 from $14.99 until 9/19)
Double Kick Heroes ($9.89 from $21.99 until 9/19)
Dungeon of Naheulbeuk: Amulet of Chaos ($19.99 from $39.99 until 9/19)
Elypse ($15.99 from $19.99 until 9/19)
Foretales ($14.99 from $19.99 until 9/19)
Formula Retro Racing ($11.99 from $14.99 until 9/19)
Formula Retro Racing World Tour ($4.99 from $19.99 until 9/19)
Galaxy of Pen & Paper +1 ($4.37 from $12.49 until 9/19)
Ghost of a Tale ($9.99 from $24.99 until 9/19)
Gravity Circuit ($17.59 from $21.99 until 9/19)
Guild of Ascension ($8.49 from $16.99 until 9/19)
Healer’s Quest ($6.74 from $14.99 until 9/19)
Homebody ($9.99 from $19.99 until 9/19)
Instant Sports ($5.24 from $14.99 until 9/19)
Instant Sports Plus ($17.49 from $24.99 until 9/19)
Instant Sports Summer Games ($6.99 from $19.99 until 9/19)
Instant Sports Winter Games ($13.74 from $24.99 until 9/19)
Iris and the Giant ($5.99 from $14.99 until 9/19)
Letters: A Written Adventure ($9.74 from $14.99 until 9/19)
Linelight ($3.99 from $9.99 until 9/19)
Lonesome Village ($13.99 from $19.99 until 9/19)
Mana Spark ($1.99 from $9.99 until 9/19)
OMNIMUS ($7.79 from $9.99 until 9/19)
Out of Space: Couch Edition ($3.49 from $9.99 until 9/19)
PictoQuest ($2.49 from $9.99 until 9/19)
Piczle Cross Adventure ($2.49 from $9.99 until 9/19)
Quest Hunter ($5.99 from $29.99 until 9/19)
Ruggnar ($9.09 from $13.99 until 9/19)
Run: The World In-Between ($6.49 from $9.99 until 9/19)
Santa Tracker ($1.99 from $2.99 until 9/19)
ScourgeBringer ($6.79 from $16.99 until 9/19)
Souldiers ($12.99 from $19.99 until 9/19)
They Always Run ($12.99 from $19.99 until 9/19)
Unidentified Falling Objects ($9.99 from $14.99 until 9/19)
Vernal Edge ($16.49 from $21.99 until 9/19)
That’s all for today, friends. We’ll be back tomorrow with more new releases, more sales, more reviews, and perhaps some news. I’m just lining up all my appointments and such for Tokyo Game Show right now and, most importantly, trying to decide where to eat my post-show dinner. You have to think carefully about the important decisions. I hope you all have a marvelous Monday, and as always, thanks for reading!