If you want some idea of how seriously M2 takes its art, consider this. During development of the Darius Cozmic Collection, which brings together all the '2D' entries of Taito's legendary side-scrolling shmup series for Nintendo Switch, someone noticed the screws being used in the instruction panels that furnish the screen weren't quite right. So they tasked someone to pop down to the nearest game centre with an original Darius cabinet to get photos of the real deal.
Left Alive is the second new release this week that reminds me of a PS2 game, although perhaps the comparisons this time around aren't so favourable. Devil May Cry 5 is a full-blooded return that reimagines Capcom's action formula and delivers it with the muscle and aplomb of the current generation. Left Alive, meanwhile, takes some fairly rusty, more contemporary mechanics and smothers them in the janky wrappings of a mid-tier PS2 game. It's a flaky, barely functioning stealth game that's almost entirely awful. I kind of love it.
Style is everything, and Devil May Cry 5 has it in spades. It's in the blithe way rakish new character V holds a book of poetry and reads from it in the middle of battle. It's in the adolescent aggression that flows through the attacks of Nero, the character who was front and centre in the last numbered entry finally coming into his own here. It's in the swagger of Dante - oh that sweet, sweet swagger - who brings along every trick he's learned in the series' long history alongside a few new ones. It's an outrageously broad vocabulary of punishment that Devil May Cry 5 boasts.
Chunk. It's a hard quality to nail down, though it's something imperative to the best action games. It's also something you've either got or you haven't - and Devil Engine, the new horizontal 2D shmup that's just come to the Switch, has it in spades.
It is with great pleasure, a brimming heart and the jittery edge of someone whose adrenaline has been depleted over the course of several late night sessions that I can report this: Trials is back.
Now this is hardcore. After the 2017 detour of Dirt 4, an accessible and noble experiment in procedural track generation that nevertheless felt like it had gone too far in blunting the edges of the sport it simulated, this is a return to deep, satisfying driving with serious bite. To call Dirt Rally 2.0 a return to form would be underselling it a little; Dirt Rally was arguably Codemasters' first true sim, and in my mind the absolute pinnacle of the racing studio's achievements. This refines and improves that formula in smart, notable ways, for a markedly better game.
Kid's TV shows, you've no doubt discussed with friends while waiting for someone to come back from the all-night garage with a packet of french fancies and a fresh packet of skins, can be kind of sinister. Not just your straight-up, in your face Chocky sinister either; beneath the primary colours and blunt language of many a show there's the feeling that something's not quite right.
You know Suda51, of course. The self-styled punk developer of Tokyo's Grasshopper Manufacture, Goichi Suda's been the driving force behind offbeat classics such as Flower, Sun and Rain, Killer7 and No More Heroes. You might not know, though, that 2007's No More Heroes marked the last time he helmed a project - and this spin-off from that spunky, stylish series sees his return to the director's chair after well over a decade.
Where, exactly, to start with a game like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate? Maybe it's in one of the 74-strong roster of fighters, such as newcomer Isabelle, who has the same propensity for getting shit done here as she does in her native Animal Crossing series. She's savage, a flurry of toy hammers and candy umbrellas plus a fishing rod used to reel in her opponents, and for her final trick she calls in the muscle, summoning Nook and co who immediately construct their town hall over your poor foe.
Milestone's a funny little developer, hovering indefinitely somewhere above or just below adequacy as it churns out game after game. Ride 3 is its fifth title this year (fifth!) and the latest instalment in a series that started as recently as 2015. Back then it was a noble if limited attempt to give bike enthusiasts their own Gran Turismo; a spirited run through some of the most storied machinery on two wheels that made a few too many compromises along the way. I liked it a fair amount back then, though clearly there was still some work to be done for Milestone to make good on the premise.
It's one of those cute ironies that Rockstar Games, most famous for the virtual cityscapes of the Grand Theft Auto series, would create what many consider its masterpiece when working with the dust and dirt of the wilds. When it launched in 2010, the open-world western Red Dead Redemption was as refreshing as a chill blast of mountain air: a bucolic, melancholy counterpoint to the madcap urban caricature of GTA. And so it's fitting that the sequel, Red Dead Redemption 2, makes its greatest strides in its world.
Battlefield 5 is a mess. It's the glitchiest, most technically troubled DICE's sandbox multiplayer has been since the infamous launch of Battlefield 4, and even the launch itself is all over the place. Here's a game that's not out for paying punters until later this month. Or it's out today, if you're willing to pay a little bit more. Or, if you'd rather not pay for the whole thing, it's been out for a week for EA Access subscribers. Or maybe a bit over a week, if you're an EA Access Premier subscriber. Of course.
Back in 2008, video games could be more than a little bit weird. Nintendo's DS had hit its stride, and before the iOS goldrush truly began, there was a brief window where, it seemed, anything went. It was a wildlands full of outlandish, often brilliant games - none more so, I think, than Square Enix's The World Ends With You.
Want to feel old? Maybe cast a glance over what Mega Man looks like today - or feel how all that muscle memory that held together those older games has atrophied to nothing as you struggle through the almighty challenge posed by this, Capcom's internally-developed revival of its legendary series that arrives a fashionable 12 months late to Mega Man's 30th anniversary. There might be an all-new look to Mega Man, the harsh pixel edges of old buffed out and a dash of cartoon colour injected into its world, but that doesn't mean the challenge has been smoothed off. This is a game that will make your fingers bleed, if you let it, and it takes great pride in doing so.
How long has it been since the last unabashed, bluntly straightforward and no frills arcade racer? So much time has passed it may as well have been 2002's V-Rally 3, the last instalment of a series that's getting an unlikely revival in this, the latest outing from Parisian racing specialists Kylotonn. V-Rally 4 is a nostalgia trip of a game - not least for some of its development team who worked on the original games - and one that harks back to a bygone, if not necessarily better, era.
Did we really used to live like this? Going back to the last generation of Capcom's long-running series having spent the best part of 100 hours with all the mod cons of this year's Monster Hunter: World can be a galling experience. It's a bit like being in The 1900 House as you marvel at all the inconveniences and quirks that people used to contend with on a daily basis. Did you really have to carry multiple whetstones with you to keep your weapon sharp? Why am I having to repeat so much for multiplayer quests? And where are my beloved scoutflies?
You don't really play a Dragon Quest game for surprises. This is a series built on tradition - and on traditions that you can trace back some 32 years - so it's always going to be angling towards a more traditional brand of role-playing game. Indeed, Dragon Quest 11: Echoes of an Elusive Age - which marks the first mainline release for a new game in Square Enix's long-running series in the west for almost a decade - makes a virtue of that. There's no DLC. There's no online. There are no expansion packs or future amendments planned, and almost certainly no patches that might alter the story or introduce whole new chapters. This is a resolutely, almost aggressively old-fashioned game, one that feels like it's stepped out fresh from another era entirely.
A strange one indeed, this. Rebellion's efforts tend to be admirably direct in their titling - Zombie Army, Sniper Elite, Rogue Warrior, all games that serve up exactly what it says on the tin - and so it is with Strange Brigade, an all-new IP that is more than a little odd. What if the Zombie Army formula was transposed from the fuzzy VHS of a straight-to-video schlocky spin on World War 2 to the high-spirited world of 30s serials? What if Indiana Jones, but with a Pathé voiceover and a heavy dose of colonial derring do washing over that sense of innocent adventure? Best not linger on that last point too long - it seems that not many at Rebellion have, anyway.
Strip a modern F1 car of all of its sponsorship decals, goes the well-worn saying I've been guilty of bandying around myself, and you'd be hard pushed to tell any two models apart. So strictly defined is the modern rule-set, so homogeneous the designs, that underneath that lick of lurid paint every car is almost exactly the same - and it's an accusation you could well level at F1 2018, the 10th mainline outing of Codemasters' official take on the sport, and one of its most gently iterative outings yet.
The concept of retro gaming can be a fuzzy business at times, but here's something that comes with a laser focus; a 2D fighter that harks back to that small handful of games released on the Neo Geo Pocket, SNK's beautiful late-90s handheld. Cardboard Robot's Pocket Rumble has finally emerged from a prolonged development on another handsome handheld, Nintendo's Switch, and it's a most curious exercise.
It has been, you sense, a bit of a rough ride for Bugbear Entertainment. Wreckfest, which has finally left Early Access, is only the talented Finnish developer's second game within the last decade - and the other, sadly, was Ridge Racer Unbounded, a brilliantly muscular racer that might have earned itself a place alongside close contemporaries such as Split/Second and Blur if it wasn't for the baggage that the Ridge Racer name weighed it down with. All the while the Flatout series that made the studio's name veered into disrepute (even if Kylotonn did restore a little pride with last year's outing), and Wreckfest itself has never really had it easy either, birthed from a failed Kickstarter and seeing several false starts across its four years in Early Access.
Is there anything more wonderful in gaming than those rare moments where hardware and software come together in perfect unison? Call it synergy, if you must, but really it's some fantastical alchemy at work where both parts help elevate each other, until you've got something truly special. Back in 2004, Q Entertainment and producer Tetsuya Mizuguchi's Lumines offered up one of those moments, arriving in tandem with the PSP and becoming an unexpected highlight of the handheld's launch line-up.
For all the genteel imagery it evokes - crisp summer lawns, fresh strawberries and Cliff Richard singalongs - tennis can be a remarkably angry game. Kudos, then, to Mario Tennis Aces for getting you straight to the pure vitriol that spills forth when a fiercely contested point doesn't quite go your way, your racket breaking as an almost impossible-to-block shot tears through it, granting an instant win to your opponent. You cannot be serious.
In all the excitement around the Switch's first year, it's been easy to lose sight of what's been lost now that Nintendo has effectively brought its handheld and homebound hardware together. Handheld gaming, Nintendo-style, was never just about being able to take your games anywhere with you; it's about a subtly different philosophy of design, and a subtly different flavour of gaming.
Bacon cornflakes. That's what Gareth Wilson said of Blur as he pondered the reasons where it all went wrong for one of the last great arcade racers; how Bizarre Creations mashed together Mario Kart with authentic cars and a downbeat aesthetic for a concoction that plain confused most people. Onrush, the new game from the studio formed from the remains of Evolution Studios, seems to have thought to itself that bacon cornflakes isn't quite unique enough a concoction. How about tossing some eggs in, too? And then how about smothering it all in a sweet layer of strawberry jam?
Now this is more like it. Last May, still uncertain about the prospects of Nintendo's Switch, Capcom tentatively tested the waters with Ultra Street Fighter 2: The Final Challengers. The end result, though, felt more like a kick in the face; a bastardised version of Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo HD Remix, Capcom filled out the package with a suite of unwelcome extras in a clumsy attempt to justify the full-fat pricetag. People were upset at the unconvincing results, and you can understand perfectly well why. Street Fighter is more than just a game. It's a cult at times, a worldwide cultural phenomenon at others; a cornerstone of communities that bring people from around the globe together, or just the best place to play with a friend for an evening of bawdy brawling. Street Fighter matters.
Forget the name, first off - it's the only foot developer roll7 really puts wrong in this, the latest from the team behind OlliOlli, and perhaps the studio's most ambitious project to date. Laser League invites awkward comparisons to Rocket League, and given how this is also a straightforward yet deceptively deep multiplayer experience, it's too easy to dwell on that. To make that assumption is to miss the point, though, and it sells what roll7's concocted here more than a little short.
Someone who should know about these things once told me one of the secrets behind Nintendo's success when it comes to the brilliance of its games; every idea is interrogated by each team member to the point of exhaustion, until all you've got left is something approaching perfection. Take Splatoon's painting - what started off as blocks of tofu spreading ink evolved into rabbits then into squids, the ink going from first marking territory to then being able to speed up your progress and recharge your weapons and take down the opposition. A game of Splatoon is chaos, but it's held together by an order informed by meticulous design.
Poor old Donkey Kong. Despite having helped make Nintendo a key player in the world of video games in the 1981 arcade title bearing his own name, he's always been cast in Mario's shadow. I've often found it hard to fathom exactly why his character doesn't have quite the same appeal - it's a gorilla in a necktie, for heaven's sake! - but the apathy has snowballed over the years, so that when Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze came out some four years ago on the Wii U it was met in some quarters with little more than a shrug.
One of the many enduring myths in modern games is that Sega's a spent force, its days producing brash and brazen blockbusters well and truly behind it. Which is bunk, of course - it's just that for far too long we didn't get to see much of them over in the west. Yakuza is a behemoth of a series, a triple-A blast of whiskey-soaked madness and meticulous detail all delivered with that unmistakable Sega swagger. Ever wondered where the Sega of old you once loved ended up? Take a walk on the streets of Kamurocho, the series' thinly-disguised take on Shinjuku's Kabukicho district, and you'll find traces of it everywhere.