Hello gentle readers, and welcome to the SwitchArcade Round-Up for October 17th, 2023. We’ve got another handful of reviews for you today. Our pal Mikhail takes a look at Saltsea Chronicles and Chants of Sennaar, while I’ve got my opinions settled on Detective Pikachu Returns and Front Mission 2: Remake. After that, we’ve got several new releases to look at, with the biggest of the bunch being Sonic Superstars. Finally, the lists of new and outgoing sales. There’s a nice Bethesda sale in there, with Quake II at a new low price. Let’s get to it!
Reviews & Mini-Views
Saltsea Chronicles ($24.99)
Towards the end of each year, it feels like there are too many new games coming out, and too little time to play them all, let alone write about them. Saltsea Chronicles from Die Gute Fabrik (Mutazione), is a game I wasn’t sure I would play around launch, but I’m glad I got around to it. In Saltsea Chronicles, instead of playing one specific character, you control a crew, investigate mysteries, make decisions, and interact with some colorful personalities across different locations with a very interesting story.
Since Saltsea Chronicles is a story-focused experience, I don’t want to spoil anything, but I will say that games like this make me appreciate how varied storytelling can be in games more than anything else. I loved how varied things got as I made different decisions on my playthroughs across Steam and Nintendo Switch. There are topics here that will make you question things in real life, or at least they did for me, and those are the stories that stick with me long after finishing games.
Visually, Saltsea Chronicles is superlative. It feels like the perfect blend of a storybook aesthetic with a modern elegant artstyle. I love the character designs, typography, and interface. It is equal parts responsive and functional while looking gorgeous.
On the audio side, Saltsea Chronicles is definitely a game worth experiencing with headphones. It has music by Eli Rainsberry who scored A Monster’s Expedition, which happens to be one of my favorite puzzle games ever. There is a lovely mix of upbeat tunes, ethereal songs, and more. The team working on Saltsea Chronicles made sure every aspect of it was top tier.
I played Saltsea Chronicles on Steam Deck and Switch, and the latter only has one minor issue. Some scene transitions aren’t as smooth, and there are minor visual issues with some borders. This is nitpicking really, because everything else is excellent. The Steam Deck version, which is Verified by Valve, doesn’t have these issues, but the screen itself isn’t as nice as the Switch. Combined with great touch screen support on Switch, Saltsea Chronicles feels perfect on Nintendo’s hybrid system. I also hope it eventually comes to iPad because this feels perfect on a portable.
Saltsea Chronicles surprised me constantly. Not only does it look gorgeous and feel perfect on Switch, it is a game I see myself returning to often, and I hope it gets a physical release. I liked Mutazione quite a bit from Die Gute Fabrik, but Saltsea Chronicles is just superb. I know adventure games like this aren’t for everyone, but this feels laser focused on my taste, and it delivered. –Mikhail Madnani
SwitchArcade Score: 5/5
Chants of Sennaar ($19.99)
I never got around to playing Chants of Sennaar or its demo around launch despite high praise from a lot of folks. Fast forward to today, it has blown me away. Chants of Sennaar is what I’d imagine you get if you merged gorgeous art with linguistics and puzzles. Rundisc’s newest manages to make you feel equal parts smart and stupid along the ride, and it manages to be quite meaty for a game in this genre.
Right from the get go, Chants of Sennaar manages to impress with its striking colorful aesthetic, animation work, and puzzle design. The demo will give you a good taste of what it has to offer, but the developers really knocked this one out of the park. If you enjoyed games like Heaven’s Vault or even Fez, I feel like Chants of Sennaar is a game you absolutely need to play immediately.
At first, the glyph and deciphering felt a bit weird, but a few puzzles in, and I was hooked. The implementation is really good, and it made me hope for a port to iPad in the future. I’d definitely have enjoyed Chants of Sennaar more with full touch support. It unfortunately lacks that on Switch.
Alongside the visuals which make me want an artbook and a nice physical edition, Chants of Sennaar‘s score is sublime. It makes me regret not playing the game sooner. If you don’t like puzzle games or the demo, I still urge you to check out the soundtrack.
I love a lot of Chants of Sennaar, but it has some elements that didn’t work as well. I dislike stealth sections in most games, and hated them in the first Spider-Man game from Insomniac. While the stealth in Chants of Sennaar isn’t as annoying, it didn’t feel right with the rest of the game. I don’t really have any other complaints. Even the puzzles that felt a bit too vague for me, managed to have me think about the game and come back later to solve them fairly quickly.
Having played Chants of Sennaar mainly on Switch, I also checked it out on Steam Deck. Playing both in handheld mode, Chants of Sennaar’s colors pop on the OLED screen, and it runs well there. The one area Chants of Sennaar excels on Steam Deck, is in touch support. When you tap the screen, it treats it like a mouse click, and you can get away with this as touchscreen support for tapping to move, interacting with things, and more. I really hope the game is patched with proper touch support on Switch. Barring that, I recommend it on both platforms.
What a game. This year has been superb almost non stop for great games, but Chants of Sennaar, like Cocoon, is mindblowing. While the stealth elements in Chants of Sennaar are annoying, everything else is amazing. If you have even the remotest interest in unique puzzle games, I urge you to at least try the demo. Chants of Sennaar is a work of art in its design, aesthetic, and experience. -Mikhail Madnani
SwitchArcade Score: 4.5/5
Detective Pikachu Returns ($49.99)
This, frankly speaking, is a tough game to review. Look, I like Pokemon games as much as the next person in their mid-forties does. The brand is huge with kids, but it frequently has cross-over appeal with older audiences for a variety of reasons. Some adults grew up with it and have nostalgic affection for Pokemon. Some just enjoy the varied, unique, and relativley high-quality games that sometimes come out of the IP. Others enjoy the more relaxed pace and lower difficulty that many of the games offer. As a grown-up who enjoys most Pokemon games, I can fully understand the feeling of being an adult and wanting to have a good time with a new Pokemon game.
That said, I try not to ever lose sight of the fact that the main audience for Pokemon is, and should be, kids. My generation has taken so many of our toys with us instead of passing them on to the next generation, and I don’t think that’s great. I’d rather let today’s kids stay as the focus for this series, and if the developers can appeal to old guys like me on top of that, then that is fantastic.
I’m saying all of this because I think for adults, Detective Pikachu Returns just isn’t very good. The writing remains sharp and satisfying, and the basic concept of a coffee-addicted gumshoe Pikachu going around solving crimes is still great. I can even look past the fact that the bones of this story were fully spoiled by a major Hollywood movie four years ago. But this game feels more than anything like an introduction to adventure games. It’s very straightforward and simple, and the puzzles are trivial to solve. While the dialogue is well-written, the plot itself is predictable and kind of boring. The original game had a pretty nice presentation for a Nintendo 3DS game, but with little in the way of advancement this sequel comes across very modest on the Nintendo Switch.
If you look at this game from an adult’s perspective (and judging by the demographics of our site it’s highly likely anyone reading this is one), then I don’t think you’re going to think much of it. Sure it’s amusing, but that only counts for so much. On the other hand, if we look at this from the point of view of a child Pokemon fan, I think it fares better. Detective Pikachu is a funny hero, and Tim is a good point-of-view character. The plot is easily digestible but has a lot of exciting situations. The sparse, relatively small areas are easy to parse. The puzzles are at the right difficulty level for a young player to cut their teeth on. Its dozen hours of gameplay is substantial but not too long. So yes, for kids? I think this is good. Not great, but good. They’ll have a fun time with Detective Pikachu Returns.
While the idea of a smart-talking Pikachu who solves crimes is one that I think almost everyone can get behind, Detective Pikachu Returns is a game with narrower appeal. If you loved the first game and can accept that this is essentially a 3DS follow-up that fell between the couch cushions for a half-decade, you might enjoy this. If you have a Pokemon-loving kid, I think they’ll get a kick out of this entry-level adventure. Otherwise, this is harder to recommend to anyone with even the smallest amount of experience with the genre. Not everything aimed at a younger audience is going to work for us big kids, and I regrettably think this is one such case.
SwitchArcade Score: 3.5/5
Front Mission 2: Remake ($34.99)
Square Enix’s Front Mission series of tactical turn-based RPGs has had an off-and-on localization record over the years. The first game to release overseas was Front Mission 3 on the PlayStation. It was a modest success, which led to Front Mission 4 on the PlayStation 2 making the hop over as well. That game didn’t do very well at all in the West, which is likely why Front Mission 5 didn’t make it to Western PlayStation 2 owners. Square Enix decided to give it another shot with the Nintendo DS port of the PlayStation remake of the first game, Front Mission 1st. I have to assume that also didn’t go well, because after that the only Front Mission things we saw were weird spin-offs that also face-planted.
Setting aside spin-offs, that means up until now we’ve received Front Mission 1 (via 1st), Front Mission 3, and Front Mission 4 in the West. Since the setting of all of the games is the same, those two missing chapters feel a bit vexing. Well, thanks to Forever Entertainment, we can now plug one of those holes. Front Mission 2: Remake brings that original PlayStation game to the whole world, complete with a number of upgrades and improvements. This feels like a different case from Forever’s remake of 1st, since Front Mission 2 was already in 3D and suffered from a number of technical issues related to the console it was on. So while we’ve still got things like loading times and some 3D models that could probably look better, I think it’s better on all those technical counts than the original game.
That said, Forever has done essentially the same thing here that it did with the previous Front Mission remake. It is extremely faithful to the original in almost every possible respect beyond the visuals, and that means you’re dealing with a less-than-elegant UI, a very rigid difficulty level, and a lot of complicated systems that aren’t necessarily adequately explained. This is Front Mission 2, as it was, as it is. You’re either up for it or you’re not. I like this series a fair bit even if it sometimes drives me up the wall with how strict the solutions to its stages can be. Fans of Front Mission 3 in particular will want to give this a shot, because a lot of what you probably like about that game can trace its roots to this one.
One thing I do want to call out is the English localization. For the first game’s remake, Forever had a pre-existing script to work from. For this game, the publisher had to make its own localizations, and I’m sorry to say the English one is rather poor. It reads like a machine translation, and given how challenging some of the topics and events are in Front Mission 2, it’s just not good enough. The broad strokes are comprehensible enough, but when it comes to anything that requires nuance, you’re going to have to do an extra step of translation in your brain. Hopefully this can be improved via patches, but I’m not going to hold my breath.
I don’t think Front Mission 2: Remake is a spectacular remake of the original game, but it’s not a bad one either. It’s on the good side of that line. The game itself is very enjoyable for those with the right mindset, though it hasn’t seen any mechanical changes here and feels very much its age as a result. The biggest fly in the ointment is the iffy English localization, which takes a game with an outstanding story and almost mulches its challenging plot. Still, it’s nice to have this game officially available in English at all, and the technical improvements over the original are very much appreciated.
SwitchArcade Score: 3.5/5
Sonic Superstars ($59.99)
One of Sonic’s creators returns to the series he helped establish with this new 2D (but rendered in 3D) Sonic. This time, you can play with friends via local or online multiplayer. Thus far, reviews of other versions of the game seem solid if not spectacular, with the multiplayer component getting some mixed responses. I haven’t had a chance to try the final Switch version yet, and by the looks of it no one else has either. I’d imagine it’s fine outside of some loading times (it’s a Unity game), but if you’re the cautious sort you might want to wait to hear how the port fares before jumping in.
Skull Island: Rise of Kong ($39.99)
This is a third-person action-adventure where you play as a young Kong, trying to avenge the death of your parents. You’ll have to explore Skull Island, battle the local creatures, track down collectibles, and gain the power to defeat Gaw. Look, I’ll be frank here: this is about on par with the average Game Mill licensed game, and that means you should keep your expectations very low. If you’re going to proceed at all, do so with the utmost caution.
Vlad Circus: Descend into Madness ($19.99)
A survival horror game with a dark psychological theme. Set in the 1920s, a freak circus has burned to the ground and former clown Oliver Mills has been invited along with his former co-workers to try to bring it back. Ol’ Ollie isn’t exactly in a good state of mind, and the events of the night ahead of him threaten to push him over the edge. This one looks quite promising, provided you’re into the whole horror thing.
A Boy and His Blob: Retro Collection ($9.99)
Created by David Crane of Pitfall fame, A Boy and His Blob is one of those games that I feel was well-regarded back in the day but isn’t thought of as fondly nowadays. What’s the truth? Well, now you have a way to find out for yourself. This collection contains the original NES game, the Game Boy sequel/spin-off, and the Japanese versions of both if you feel like deciphering wordplay in another language. The wrapper comes courtesy of Limited Run Games and its Carbon Engine, with all the usual features that go with it.
Castaway of Steel ($4.99)
I’m probably going to be moving Aldora’s visual novels to the bins from now on, because these just don’t feel like they have much quality to them at all. The art is pretty poor, the writing is dry, and the stories are generic mush. This one sees you as a castaway on an island that is more than it seems.
The Bin Bunch
ToyBox Puzzle ($3.99)
The Love – Date Simulator with Girls ($13.99)
Silent Paws: Winter Quest ($4.99)
(North American eShop, US Prices)
Look, a Bethesda sale! Quake II for four lousy bucks! Go load up on good stuff. Beyond that, we’ve got sales on Venba, the Kingdom games that are not Eighties, and a few other odds and ends. Over in the outbox, it’s the real end of the latest Activision sale. My finger slipped yesterday. Anyway, check both of those lists carefully.
Select New Games on Sale
Venba ($12.74 from $14.99 until 10/24)
Kingdom: Two Crowns ($4.99 from $19.99 until 10/30)
Kingdom: New Lands ($2.99 from $14.99 until 10/30)
Evoland: Legendary Edition ($4.99 from $19.99 until 10/30)
Northgard ($9.79 from $34.99 until 10/30)
Strike Team Gladius ($5.99 from $9.99 until 10/30)
Magicians’ Chase: Missing Curry Recipe ($3.59 from $8.99 until 10/31)
TES V: Skyrim ($29.99 from $59.99 until 11/1)
TES V: Skyrim Anniversary Upgrade ($15.99 from $19.99 until 11/1)
TES V: Skyrim Anniversary Edition ($34.99 from $69.99 until 11/1)
Wolfenstein II: TNC ($5.99 from $39.99 until 11/1)
Wolfenstein: Youngblood ($5.99 from $19.99 until 11/1)
Wolfenstein: Youngblood Deluxe ($7.49 from $29.99 until 11/1)
DOOM 1993 ($1.99 from $4.99 until 11/1)
DOOM II Classic ($1.99 from $4.99 until 11/1)
DOOM 64 ($1.99 from $4.99 until 11/1)
DOOM 3 ($3.99 from $9.99 until 11/1)
DOOM 2016 ($9.99 from $39.99 until 11/1)
DOOM Slayers Collection ($19.99 from $49.99 until 11/1)
DOOM Eternal ($15.99 from $39.99 until 11/1)
DOOM Eternal: The Ancient Gods Part 1 DLC ($7.99 from $19.99 until 11/1)
DOOM Eternal: The Ancient Gods Part 2 DLC ($7.99 from $19.99 until 11/1)
DOOM Eternal: The Ancient Gods Exp. Pass ($11.99 from $29.99 until 11/1)
DOOM Eternal Deluxe Edition ($27.99 from $69.99 until 11/1)
Quake ($3.99 from $9.99 until 11/1)
Quake II ($3.99 from $9.99 until 11/1)
i.game Hong Kong Mahjong ($6.16 from $7.70 until 11/1)
Dungeons 3: Nintendo Switch Edition ($31.99 from $39.99 until 11/1)
Jet Kave Adventure ($1.99 from $19.99 until 11/6)
Summer in Mara ($9.99 from $19.99 until 11/6)
Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara ($13.99 from $19.99 until 11/6)
Sales Ending Tomorrow, Wednesday, October 18th
Blizzard Arcade Collection ($9.99 from $19.99 until 10/18)
Crash Bandicoot Quadrilogy Bundle ($27.99 from $69.99 until 10/18)
Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled NO Edition ($20.99 from $59.99 until 10/18)
Diablo Prime Evil Collection ($19.79 from $59.99 until 10/18)
Fusion Shift ($2.09 from $3.49 until 10/18)
Mangavania ($2.99 from $4.99 until 10/18)
Swordbreaker Origins ($5.99 from $9.99 until 10/18)
The Companion ($1.99 from $19.99 until 10/18)
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 DE ($19.99 from $49.99 until 10/18)
Weeping Willow: Detective Visual Novel ($2.99 from $4.99 until 10/18)
That’s all for today, friends. We’ll be back tomorrow with even more reviews, plus a couple of new releases, some sales, and maybe some news. I had to resurrect my old non-OLED Switch so that my wife would have her own unit to play Suika Game on. She’s been logging in absolute hours on the game. Get that out worldwide already! I hope you all have a great Tuesday, and as always, thanks for reading!