SwitchArcade Round-Up: ‘Brigandine’ and ‘Ultracore’ Review, Mini-Views Featuring ‘Star Wars Episode I Racer’, Plus New Releases and Sales

Hello gentle readers, and welcome to the SwitchArcade Round-Up for June 29th, 2020. In today’s article, we’ve got two full reviews: the grand strategy RPG Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia, and the blast from the alternate past Ultracore. There are a couple of Mini-Views to check out as well, along with summaries of the latest releases and a list of fresh sales to dig into. Plenty to see, so let’s get going!

Reviews

Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia ($49.99)

Everything about Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia is so odd to me. Its publisher, Happinet, has been around for decades but has rarely had anything to do with video games. It’s a sequel to a one-off PlayStation release from 22 years ago, one that while good didn’t have a whole ton of people clamoring for a follow-up. It’s developed by Matrix Software, who haven’t done much more than ports for the last several years. The scenario for it was written by Kenji Terada, who wrote the first three Final Fantasy games but has done very little work in video games since he wrote and directed 2003’s Batman: Dark Tomorrow. Why this? Why these people? Why now? And why is it so darned good?

Mechanically speaking, the new Brigandine is so much like the old one that you could almost consider it a remake in that respect. It’s a game of grand strategy, like Risk, but with a healthy dose of RPG elements and a tactical turn-based combat system. It also has a solid story backing it, involving six different factions vying for power. Each faction has its own leader and starting generals, and you’ll recruit more as you go by completing quests. You’ll want to play through the game with all of them to get the full picture. Outside of battles, it reminds me a lot of SEGA’s Saturn classic Dragon Force. Inside battles, it’s quite close to games like Fire Emblem or Final Fantasy Tactics.

The scenario is completely new here, as is the setting and cast. So if you were hoping for some kind of direct follow-up to the original game in that sense, you’re out of luck. I think the self-contained approach was the right way to go, though. If people actually had to track down the original game to get the proper set-up for the story, things would get ugly. Getting to know each of the factions and their leader is really enjoyable, especially as you play through more factions and start to see people from other angles. Perhaps not the stuff of legends, but for a game of this sort I think Brigandine delivers a solid plot that will keep you engaged on a narrative level while the mechanics work their way into your heart.

Ultimately, it’s the satisfying gameplay that wins the day. You’re given just enough strategic options and choices to make each playthrough feel fresh. Watching your units rise up through the job classes along the branches you choose just feels good. The battles can feel a little slow at times, but each one is of enough importance to the overall campaign that it never feels like wasted time. Slowly taking over the map, one fight at a time, and knocking out your opponents one by one is immensely enjoyable. That’s what this genre is all about, and Brigandine nails it.

Presentation-wise, I’m less thrilled with the game. The music is good enough but I can’t see any of it resonated with me strongly. The character illustrations are excellent, but the actual in-battle graphics use 3D models that don’t convey a whole a lot of charm. The designs of some of the summoned monsters that aide you and your opponents in battle are a bit plain. Sure, a game like this doesn’t need to wow you with its looks, but it’s always nice when one does. It’s really all I can pick at in a game I liked an awful lot.

If you’re looking for another chunky strategy game for your Switch, look no further than Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia. You don’t even have to take my word for it. There’s a demo in the eShop that more or less gets the point of the game across. Personally, I was caught completely off-guard by how much fun this game is. I hope it’s the first of many such successes for Happinet should it choose to spend more time in the video game waters.

SwitchArcade Score: 4.5/5

Ultracore ($22.99)

Ultracore put me through a rollercoaster of feelings. When I first started playing it, I felt like I was playing a dollar-store Turrican. After a while, I really started getting into it. There’s a nice balance between shooting action, platforming, and exploration here, and it really brings back memories of an era of the past that I’m rather fond of. Then I started hitting some of the cheaper level sections, and I became angry at the game for its stubborn adherence to certain outdated features. After letting it stew for a bit and coming back to it, I came to embrace its intent and ended up very much appreciating it.

This is a game from not only another time, but from a design ethos that has by and large gone extinct. It makes exactly one concession to the modern age, and it’s one that I definitely appreciate. You can use the second stick on your controller to shoot in a variety of directions. You don’t have to do things that way, mind you. If you want to play it as designed, you’re more than welcome to. It’s a much harder game that way, and one that might be more familiar to those who spent many an evening warmed by the glow of their Amiga monitor. But I tried it both ways, and I don’t think I’ll ever go back from that second-stick aiming.

Beyond that, Ultracore is entirely faithful to its time and place. You have a limited number of lives and continues. When you clear a stage, you are given an absurdly long password. Make a note of it, as it’s the only way to resume from the last level you reached. Annoying? Yes, very. There are five levels here, but each one is quite large and has a number of sub-sections. Bosses and mid-bosses come along fairly frequently, with tons of hit points and simple patterns. Cheap deaths abound. Enemies coming from directions you couldn’t possibly anticipate, instant death floors you couldn’t see before jumping, crushing walls that will splatter you if you’re so much as a pixel off of where you need to be, and secrets that pretty much require you to hug every wall you see all mark this as the mid-90s European side-scroller that it is.

That said, lives and health are in sufficient abundance that you should be able to muddle your way through once you understand all of the game’s tricks and traps. You have plenty of firepower, with an ever-expanding arsenal that you can make use of provided you’ve got enough ammo. Finding secrets is fun, and all those stupid enemies that crowd you go kaboom really nicely. You can even jump on the heads of enemies to do damage and get a little extra height, Mario-style. You’ll need that in the first stage, by the way. And there are definitely some clever bits of level design here. It can be a bit troublesome at times finding where to go and what to do, and the rather bland visual themes of the stages doesn’t help in that regard, but that’s how these games tended to go.

Now, don’t just look at that review score and think that you should dive into Ultracore without care. This game has a lot of nonsense you’ll have to put up with. A lot. It will make you angry. Furious at times, even. It’s unfair almost as often as it’s fair. The whole password thing is beyond stupid, particularly since the developers went as far as to add twin-stick shooting controls. There are vital mechanics that will never, ever be explained to you that you’ll nevertheless need in order to progress. You will hate Ultracore. And then maybe, after a while, you’ll love it. I don’t know. There’s a flavor here that isn’t easy to come by anymore, and while I know a lot of people aren’t going to be all that into it, I really did come to like it.

SwitchArcade Score: 4/5

Mini-Views

Star Wars Episode I Racer ($14.99)

Releases like this can be a little hard to judge on a conventional review scale. In its day and on its original platform, Star Wars Episode I Racer was an above-average racer that served as one of the few bright spots in the hubbub of the disappointing first installment in the Prequel Trilogy. Here and now? It’s fast, and it certainly has its charms. It may be trite to say, but for better or worse they really do not make them like this anymore. Long tracks with tons of short cuts and pure arcade-style racing make this a pleasant relic from another time, but the simple visuals, low-quality sound, and poor opponent AI do their best to remind you that you’re playing something from another millennium. Great for Star Wars fans and the nostalgic; perhaps less so for everyone else.

SwitchArcade Score: 3.5/5

HexON ($0.99)

QUByte prices its puzzle games so low that it’s hard to say no as long as they’re competently-made. And HexON is indeed competently-made. It’s a variant on those classic puzzles where you’re given a bunch of pieces of different shapes and colors and need to fit them onto board. You can rotate the pieces around, of course. It starts off fairly simple but as it gets deeper into its 40 stages things get a lot more complicated. The presentation is quite plain and the gameplay has nothing new to offer, but if you’re into this type of puzzle you will absolutely get your dollar’s worth.

SwitchArcade Score: 3/5

New Releases

Quell Zen ($7.99)

The latest and seemingly last installment in the Quell series of puzzlers from Fallen Tree Games. This one hit mobile a few years ago, just in case it’s tickling your memory. It was fine back in 2016, and it’s fine now. The idea is to guide raindrops through each stage’s tricky layout, gathering up all of the pearls. You know, just as it was in the previous Quell games. There’s a sort-of Japanese theme to the presentation here, and it works reasonably well. There are tons of levels included, so if you get into what it’s laying down there’s plenty here to enjoy. I find it gets really frustrating in places, and in spite of how it pitches itself I don’t think it’s terribly relaxing at all. Pretty fun to gnaw on now and then, but chill? Not unless your idea of chill is murderous rage at your own intellectual inadequacies.

eCrossminton ($14.99)

I’ll confess that I have never heard of the sport of crossminton. I’m assuming it’s a spin-off of badminton, but that’s about as much as I know. That said, it’s always nice to see more niche sports getting video game representation. Is eCrossminton a good take on the sport? Well, I’m not the one to say. But your fifteen bucks gets you singles and doubles matches, more than 20 characters based on real players from all around the world, and some mini-games. Up to four players can join in locally. This is actually fully licensed by the ICO, which is apparently the International Crossminton Organization. You wouldn’t expect that given the price, but there you go.

Sales

(North American eShop, US Prices)

As usual, a bunch of new discounts popped up over the weekend. Some of them are the usual suspects, others are launch sales for new releases, and a special few are the rarer sort. Like RollerCoaster Tycoon Adventures, which doesn’t show up in these lists very often. Xenon Racer has been here before, but that discount is certainly an enticing one. Animal Fight Club is, I think, on sale for the first time since its launch. Nothing worth worrying about too much in the outbox, but feel free to check it anyway.

Select New Games on Sale

RollerCoaster Tycoon Adventures ($19.99 from $49.99 until 7/10)
Xenon Racer ($4.99 from $29.99 until 7/13)
Animal Fight Club ($2.59 from $3.99 until 7/6)
Fobia ($0.99 from $9.99 until 7/10)
Headliner: NoviNews ($8.39 from $13.99 until 7/6)
Silk ($4.41 from $12.99 until 7/3)
Twister Road ($0.99 from $4.99 until 7/12)
Curious Cases ($3.99 from $4.99 until 7/10)
Escape First ($3.99 from $4.99 until 7/10)
The Experiment: Escape Room ($3.19 from $3.99 until 7/10)
Kakuro Magic ($0.99 from $2.99 until 7/16)
Animal Up! ($0.99 from $2.99 until 7/16)
A Summer with the Shiba Inu ($7.99 from $9.99 until 7/13)
Spirit Roots ($1.99 from $6.99 until 7/14)
Mushroom Quest ($0.35 from $2.99 until 7/6)


Aborigenus ($1.24 from $4.99 until 7/6)
Diabolic ($1.49 from $4.99 until 7/6)
Never Again ($10.49 from $13.99 until 7/5)
NecroWorm ($0.49 from $4.99 until 7/18)
Pocket Mini Golf ($0.99 from $1.99 until 7/17)
Archaica: Path of Light ($4.99 from $14.99 until 7/13)
Urban Flow ($11.24 from $14.99 until 7/17)
Baobabs Mausoleum Ep.1 ($4.19 from $5.99 until 7/4)
Baobabs Mausoleum Ep.2 ($4.89 from $6.99 until 7/4)
Baobabs Mausoleum Ep.3 ($4.19 from $5.99 until 7/4)
Black the Fall ($4.49 from $14.99 until 7/10)
Hexologic ($1.49 from $2.99 until 7/10)
Quest Hunter ($9.99 from $19.99 until 7/6)
Milkmaid of the Milky Way ($2.99 from $5.99 until 7/2)
Eternum Ex ($9.09 from $12.99 until 7/4)
Crazy Strike Bowling EX ($2.49 from $9.99 until 7/18)
Bleep Bloop ($2.79 from $3.99 until 7/4)

Sales Ending Tomorrow, Tuesday, June 30th

8-Ball Pocket ($1.97 from $5.99 until 6/30)
Black Rainbow ($6.99 from $9.99 until 6/30)
FunBox Party ($0.39 from $3.99 until 6/30)
Island Maze ($1.49 from $2.99 until 6/30)
Julie’s Sweets ($3.99 from $9.99 until 6/30)
Legendary Fishing ($4.99 from $29.99 until 6/30)
Pixel Gladiator ($1.49 from $6.99 until 6/30)
Skull Rogue ($1.49 from $14.99 until 6/30)
Swaps & Traps ($0.44 from $8.99 until 6/30)
The Drama Queen Murder ($2.49 from $9.99 until 6/30)
The House of Da Vinci ($6.99 from $9.99 until 6/30)
ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove! ($7.49 from $14.99 until 6/30)

That’s all for today, friends. We’ll be back tomorrow with a look at the latest releases including Trails of Cold Steel III, along with whatever news and sales come along. There may also be another review or Mini-View, depending as usual on how much time I’ve got. We’ll see what comes when it comes. I hope you all have a great Monday, and as always, thanks for reading!