A Switch is for life, not just for Zelda
A rundown of the best games for Nintendo's new console that aren't Breath of the Wild.
The Switch's launch line-up, so the story goes, was lacklustre; in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Nintendo delivered a surefire hit, but elsewhere the eccentric 1 2 Switch, the charming but slight Snipperclips and the puzzlingly priced Super Bomberman R made it feel like slim pickings.
So why have I not been left wanting for things to play in between epic Zelda sessions on the Switch?
It's against the consensus, but somehow the Nintendo Switch has acquired a handsome line-up in its opening weeks. There are curios, classics and revivals as well a real unsung gem. Nintendo seems to have upped its game when it comes to the curation of its eShop (though I'm not sure how the atrocious Vroom in the Night Sky got past quality control), and there's a decent selection of offbeat treats. Whisper it quietly, but the Switch has a fairly stellar line-up of games at the moment. Here's a pick of some of the best.
Overlooked, perhaps, for its mobile origins, and only really gaining any attention for being the Switch's first tablet-only game, it's worth getting over any preconceptions (and stomaching the fairly high asking price) for an outstanding rhythm action game from Taiwanese developers Rayark Games. It is expensive, but you are getting some 100 songs all beautifully presented and expertly tabulated. The execution here is spot-on, with Voez's moving lanes adding a neat crinkle into the rhythm action formula, and while its tracklist is far from familiar it's certainly a lot of fun - if you're into high energy J-Pop, that is. A perfect example of the kind of rhythm action madness that's the staple of Japanese game centres, this is the real unsung gem on the eShop right now.
Neo Geo Arcade Archive Series
Hamster's ports of Neo Geo classics have appeared on other platforms before, but they've found their true home on the Switch. There's a social side to the kind of arcade gaming that SNK excelled at in the 90s, so where better to showcase that than on such a delightfully social piece of hardware? Now you can burn through a handful of credits with a friend in Shock Troopers, or challenge allcomers in King of Fighters wherever you are (and the Joy-Con's four face buttons and analogue stick acquit themselves surprisingly well here). A recent slew of patches have ironed out early issues, so what you're looking at here are accurate emulations of some real arcade greats. If you're looking for where to start, King of Fighters '98 and Metal Slug 3 are the current pick of the bunch, and there's a fairly regular dripfeed of new games with Neo Turf Masters hitting the store this week. The campaign to get Windjammers on the Switch starts here...
It wouldn't be a console launch without a shiny new racing game, and developers Shin'en step admirably up to the plate here. Digital Foundry has already explained what makes Fast RMX - a remake of 2015 Wii U racer Fast Racing Neo - a showcase for the Switch's technological leap, and the beauty here is much more than skin deep. There's no shortage of futuristic racers modeled in the image of WipEout at the moment (indeed one of them, Redout, is already on its way to the Switch), but Fast RMX distinguishes itself by learning from the true master of the genre. This is as close to a remake of F-Zero GX as you can get without legal action being taken, though it does have some ideas of its own. The colour matching for boost pads adds another layer of intensity to an already rapid-fire racer, and this Switch outing is wonderfully generous too, packing in the hearty selection of tracks that the original acquired through DLC.
Blaster Master Zero
Inti Creates is no stranger to bold revivals after the brilliant Mega Man 9 and Mega Man 10, and now it's worked its magic on Sunsoft's much loved 1988 NES game Blaster Master. Neither a sequel or a remaster, this is instead a remake that leaves no stone unturned while remaining faithful to the original's charm; the visuals have been overhauled, the controls tweaked and scores of new secrets have been dispersed across the world. Digital Foundry's John Linneman recently provided an incredible deep dive which is worth watching if you want to get a handle on the series' patchy history. Blaster Master Zero, meanwhile, can stand proud in being one of the best that the series has to offer.
Puyo Puyo Tetris
Deep Silver is bringing Puyo Puyo Tetris over to the west towards the end of next month - marking the end of 13 years of exile for the Puyo Puyo series - but if you're really impatient you can pick it up now via the Japanese eShop. As an exercise in seeing how straightforward it is buying games from other regions it's worthwhile right now (you can buy Japanese or American eShop credit fairly easily online), and credit for Nintendo to making it so simple. Oh, and the game's not so bad either - colourfully presented with the brilliant cores of Puyo Puyo and Tetris making for an irresistible match, it's also another local multiplayer treat. A demo's also available if you're simply curious.
Yacht Club Games has continued chipping away at its own winning brand of 8-bit inspired action since Shovel Knight first released in 2014, and Treasure Trove is an epic compendium of its work. There are three campaigns here, and while it's arguable whether the two add-ons match the heights of the original there's certainly enough worthwhile to play through here to make this more than worthwhile. Oh, and there's a fourth on the way too, which is included as part of the package. Treasure Trove is a genuine embarrassment of riches.