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Hugh Likes Video Games: SteamWorld Quest

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Steamworld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech
Developed by Image and Form Games
Published by Thunderful
Played on Nintendo Switch

The Skinny: A lighthearted but mechanically deep card-RPG sort of set in the SteamWorld Universe.

Each SteamWorld title is a little different. From the dungeon diving of SteamWorld Dig to the Tactical gunplay of SteamWorld Heist, each is a charming and innovative little gem of a game. The latest game in the series, SteamWorld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech, builds on that reputation.
A fantasy RPG, SteamWorld Quest is framed as a storybook being read in the main SteamWorld post-post-apocalypse setting. Like its predecessors, this game is short but deeply engaging. The hand-drawn art style and the snarky writing work well. There are lots of little sight gags and clever bits that only really work if as a fantasy story told in a world of steampunk robots. This seems counter intuitive until you meet the first mini-boss, a black knight with a birdcage for a head.
The card-based RPG combat, which are stylized punchcards, naturally, has a good balance of randomness as strategy. Each character has a deck of eight cards which represent attacks, spells, buffs, and healing. Characters also manage items, weapons, and equipment. In combat, you have a hand of cards pulled from all three decks, and play three cards a turn. Three cards from the same character creates a combo, with a variety of special effects. During combat, you have to build up steam by playing low level cards. More powerful abilities cost steam, so you have to balance your decks to be able to play better cards. As a veteran RPG player, I found it pretty intuitive, with a lot of depth and options over the five playable characters.
At around twenty hours, the game isn’t very long for an RPG but you can go back to previous chapters to grind for items, experience, and money, or to find hidden secrets. The story isn’t very complicated, but it is filled with charm and clever little references to games like Final Fantasy IV and other old-school RPGs.
SteamWorld Quest is a lighthearted but perfectly executed take on the card RPG. It’s available for PC and from the Nintendo Switch eshop.
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Hugh Likes Video Games: Gato Roboto

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Gato Roboto
Published by Devolver Digital
Developed by Doinksoft
Played on Nintendo Switch

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The Skinny: More Like Meowtroid, am I right?

Gato Roboto is an indie Metroid clone that lets you play as a cat in power armor. That is really all there is to it, and all you need to know to know if this is a game for you or not. The graphics have a black and white game boy-style look reminiscent of rouge-like shooter Downwell. This extends to the collectables, which are simply either health pickups or swappable palates for the visuals. The animations are quite cute and expressive, though. I love the way main character Kiki hops out of her humanoid mech and perches on its gun arm.
The game controls well, with a pleasant sensation of weigh when in the mech, and an option to explore tighter passages by getting out of the suit. Kiki the cat can also climb walls and reach places on her own that she can’t in the suit, with the tradeoff being that she can’t attack or defend herself, giving the game a nice mix of action and stealth gameplay.
The game doesn’t make you keep track of ammunition and save spots are rather generous, which streamlines the game. Traversal is pretty easy once you get the hang of the mechanics, but that’s balanced by some punishing boss encounters.
All in all, Gato Roboto is a short but satisfying little metroidvania with memorable and adorable characters. It’s available from Steam or Nintendo Switch eShop.
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Hugh Likes Video Games: Castlevania Anniversary Collection

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Castlevania Anniversary Collection
Published by Konami
Played on Nintendo Switch

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The Skinny: A bare-bones but cheap and well-emulated collection of vampire-slaying classics.

Regular readers of Hugh Likes Video Games will know that I like me some vampire killing, and I was saddened by Konami’s decision to move away from making new games. This collection of eight retro games isn’t a full reverse course, but it’s still a welcome development.
The $20 digital-only collection is a grab bag of the first eight games of the series, from the ubiquitous NES titles to the obscure Kid Dracula, which was never released in the U.S. The collection features games for the Nintendo Entertainment System, Gameboy, Super Nintendo, and Sega Genesis.
This digital collection is pretty bare-bones compared to a lot of recent collections and retro devices like the NES Classic. While it does have a single save state for each game and a playback feature, along with a few different display options, that’s about it. There’s no rewind function, and the menu is very basic.
The emulation itself feels spot-on, and is as just as smooth, and in the case of the two Game Boy entries, just as clunky as you remember. The games look and feel great on the Switch in handheld mode. It also includes a digital book that serves as a manual, but has few interesting production art and interviews.
The Castlevania Anniversary Collection is a mixed bag of titles that is a bit ephemeral, but the low price point makes this greatest hits collection a steal for classic Castlevania fans. The collection is available from the PS4, X-Box One, and Switch online stores, as well as Steam.
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Hugh Likes Video Games: Final Fantasy X Remaster

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Final Fantasy X Remaster
Published by Square Enix
Played on the Nintendo Switch

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The Skinny: The classic PS2 JRPG returns for the Switch, packaged with its quirky sequel

Final Fantasy X is one of the big high watermark JRPGs, the sort of game that doesn’t get made anymore, but is consistently being remastered and made available for digital rerelease. So when it came out for the Switch packaged with its sequel, I picked up a copy, to see how well it holds up nearly twenty years later.
Final Fantasy X is the story of Tidus, a star athlete magically transported from his utopian city of Zanarkand, and Yuna, a young summoner embarking on a pilgrimage. Ten years ago, Yuna and Tidus’s fathers fought and defeated a giant monster called ‘Sin,’ which constantly destroys the world, and cannot be killed by conventional means. Sin has returned, and the two youths find themselves on the same path their father’s took ten years before. Can they find a way to break the cycle, or will they be just another sacrifice?
The game plays without problems on the Switch, and looks gorgeous. I noticed some slowdown during cutscenes, and the sharp HD display makes the transition between pre-rendered and real-time rendered graphics more pronounced an jarring. I played almost exclusively in handheld mode, and it worked great.
The gameplay is just as strategic and engaging as I remembered, and while some of the voice acting and animation have noticeably aged, It’s still notable as the first steps Square took with this level of production.
The game also includes a code for the complete edition of Final Fantasy X-2, the games goofy, power-pop inspired sequel. I may review it later in a second blog post, but for now, I’ll say that it loads fine, and plays about as well as I remember, but after pouring eighty hours into the first installment, I am ready for a break.
You can find Final Fantasy X / X-2 Remaster from your local electronics shop, or digitally from the Playstation, Switch or X-Box online stores.
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Hugh Likes Video Games: Wargroove

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Wargroove
Developed and Published by Chucklefish
Played on Nintendo Switch
https://wargroove.com
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The Skinny: A turn-based strategy game with retro style and retro difficulty to match, but with some interesting innovations under the hood.

Wargroove is a strategy game with old school charm, and gameplay to match. On the surface, it takes most of its design and style from Nintendo’s ‘Wars’ series of games. These only came to the US as the Advance Wars titles, and have been absent for a decade, but they made a big impression on developer Chucklefish. If that name is familiar, they also published ConcernedApe’s well-loved Harvest Moon update, Stardew Valley.
Gameplay works like Advance Wars. Players take turns moving their units and capturing buildings to provide income, which lets them buy new units. The goal of each match is to either the enemy stronghold or defeat the enemy Commander, powerful units that each has a unique special ability, called a ‘groove.’ These each do something a bit different, from healing allies in a range, to creating new units, to attacks that do extra damage. They are a fun addition to the Wars formula, and are one of the ways the game really stands out. Also, one of the commanders is an adorable golden retriever, who is a very good boy.
The other way Wargroove differentiates itself is in its plethora of content and game modes. In addition to the standard single-player Campaign and multiplayer battles, the game offers an Arcade mode in which you can take each Commander through a series of five quick battles, a Puzzle mode, and even an impressive set of creation tools. The game lets players not just create maps, but also entire campaigns and cutscenes, and trade them freely through the game’s online modes. I haven’t been able to dive too deeply into it yet, but it is very cool and is supporting a new creative community.
Wargroove faithfully recreates the best of the turn-based strategy genre, but it also has the same flaws. Matches are long, and with two armies starting at opposite ends of a map and slowly building, they can take a while to get going. Also, this game is difficult. Updates have created more options for novice players, but you can still sink a lot of time into a map only to have to start all over again when the last wave of enemies gets a shot in on your Commander.
Wargroove is a charming and occasionally frustrating strategy game with old school feel and old school difficulty. If you’re up for the challenge, you can snag a copy from Steam or your choice of major console eshops.
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Hugh Likes Video Games Retro: The Final Fantasy Legend

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The Final Fantasy Legend
Published by Square Soft
Game Boy, 1989/1990

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The Skinny: An early RPG about eating your enemies and hitting gods with chainsaws.

The Final Fantasy Legend launched in Japan as Makai Toushi SaGa in 1989 and came to the U.S. in 1990 for the Game Boy. It was given the name change to appeal to fans of Final Fantasy, which came out on the NES earlier that year. While the games were considered separate series in Japan, they do share some thematic similarities. Both games task you to create a party of four adventurers and battle four Elemental-themed monsters for control of magical crystals, here called “Spheres.”
But these spheres actually have a purpose besides serving as a quest’s macguffin. Each sphere unlocks a door to a tower rising to the heavens that is said to lead to Paradise. Defeating each beast lets you progress a little further in the tower, leading to new worlds, and new monsters to fight.
Helmed by Final Fantasy II designer Akitoshi Kawazu, FF Legend ditches the Dungeons and Dragons-esque Class and Level systems of other 8-bit JRPGs in favor of something more experimental. Players can choose between three different character types: Humans, Mutants, and Monsters. Furthermore, Humans and Mutants are divided into two genders with slightly altered starting stats. Each class progresses differently. Humans don’t have access to magic, but can increase their HP and stats by buying and using special potions. Mutants’ stats increase based on their actions in battle, like in a more streamlined version of the system in FFII, and also receive new abilities that change randomly. Monsters are the same as the various enemies you fight in the overworld, and can progress by eating the meat left behind by defeated foes. But the system for this is complicated and unpredictable. Eating the meat of a weaker monster will drop you back to a less powerful form.
While this system can be a bit unintuitive and frustrating, once you figure out where you’re going, it’s much more streamlined than the grind-heavy rpgs of the era. While the monochrome graphics and story are a bit pared down for the hand-held system’s limited capacity, Final Fantasy Legend does some legitimately amazing storytelling for its day. By limiting the areas to tiny ‘worlds’ along a tower, the game both provides a string of new experiences, and uses story rather than a level system to give the player a sense of progression. And as slight as these experiences are, there’s something about them that feels groundbreaking and takes the sorts of risks that I usually associate with later Square Soft games like Final Fantasy VI.
You start out visiting castles and questing for kings, but by the end of the adventure, you’ll find yourself zooming through ruined cityscapes on your flying motorcycle. And there are a bunch of little hidden side worlds you can visit as well, from a ‘hell’ where petitioners willingly undergo tortures to try and purify themselves to a poignant scene in a nuclear bomb shelter, This is where the game gives the best little punches, and I wish there had been more of these side worlds.
While it may be hard to go back to for modern gamers, replaying this now 30-year old rpg gave me a solid hit of nostalgia. Final Fantasy Legend’s design choices had a lasting impact on Square’s development, from the disparate world structure of Kingdom Hearts to the isoteric Sphere Grid of Final Fantasy X. It’s well worth tracking down a copy if you’ve never played it.
The Final Fantasy Legend hasn’t been rereleased digitally anywhere, but it’s a pretty easy cartridge to track down, if you have a game boy or game boy advance to play it on.

Hugh Likes Video Games: Tetris 99

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Tetris 99
Published by Nintendo
Developed by Akira
Played on Nintendo Switch

The Skinny: A fast and furious Battle Royale game I’m actually good at.

Tetris 99 is a new, free multiplayer version of the venerable puzzle game available for the Nintendo Switch. But the twist is, you aren’t playing against your friends, but 98 strangers in a fast-paced elimination competition in the style of Battle Royale games like PUBG and Fortnite.
Play options are barebones, with the option to enter battle, look at your stats, or change your control scheme slightly. The game starts out as straightforward Tetris. Shapes composed of four colorful blocks drop from the ceiling, and it is your job to arrange them into lines, which disappear. If the pile of lines reaches the top of your screen, you’re out. The multiplayer twist is that if you eliminate more than one line at a time, you’ll send those extra lines to another player to have them appear as ‘garbage blocks’ in their play area. In Tetris 99, you can choose who you want to attack with the analog sticks and control the falling pieces with the directional buttons.
This version feels very different from traditional Tetris, tying the challenge not to maintaining a long run with ever increasing difficulty, but to weathering the random storms of garbage blocks that come in unpredictably. It’s also very short. Matches take only a few minutes, depending on skill and luck, and it’s easy to get back into the next one, leading to a strong impulse to play just one more match.
As someone who was an expert back in the days of Game Boy, but hasn’t played too much Tetris since, I wished the game gave me more information about how it tracks my stats, and had more options for controls. Currently, it uses the analog sticks to control who you are attacking and the directional buttons to control your pieces, with no way to switch between the two. But those are minor quibbles for a fun, addictive little free game that is doing more to justify the cost of Nintendo’s Online Service than anything else on the platform.
You can download Tetris 99 for free from the Nintendo Switch estore.
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