I don’t know what has been in the water at Square Enix the last few years, but I’m happy for it. The 8-bit and 16-bit Final Fantasy games can only be re-released and/or remade so many times, I suppose. We’ve received localizations of classic games I never thought we would see like Romancing SaGa 2 and Romancing SaGa 3. We’ve seen the latest SaGa, SaGa Scarlet Grace, get a release on new platforms and in new regions. Even the classic Game Boy games that kicked off the SaGa series (unbeknownst to those of us in the West at the time) got reissued on the Nintendo Switch. And now things come full circle, after a fashion. SaGa Frontier Remastered ($24.99) sees the very first game in the series that was localized under its original title make a return, hopefully to a warmer reception than last time.
Some games are good. Really good, even, and you know you’ll play them for hours and hours. Other games maybe need a bit of work, a bit of spit & polish, and they could be good. Then there are some games I really want to love and enjoy and recommend but, for one reason or another, I just… can’t. Dungeon of the Endless ($7.99) is one of those. Not because it’s bad, but because it just… doesn’t capture my attention, can’t keep me coming back for run after run, even after months of not playing. It’s not immediately obvious why, either—the art is gorgeous, the soundtrack is good, and the minute to minute gameplay is quite enjoyable too. So what is it? Why, despite owning the game on three different platforms and trying to get into it dozens of times, does it consistently fail to draw me in, push me to really dig in to strategies, and finally beat the game? The answer, I’ve come to find, is simple: The post-run reward loop that gets you to come back for one more floor, to experiment with that thing you just unlocked, or to see if tweaking your strategy just so makes the difference, just… isn’t there.
Following this pattern, it would seem logical to think that Final Fantasy 8 would arrive in 2016. Well, we did get a Final Fantasy game that year, but it was the rather impressive port of Final Fantasy 9. Unlike the previous game, this felt like it was rebuilt for the hardware. Perhaps that was the hold-up with Final Fantasy 8? At the time, I thought we’d see the eighth game arrive in 2017. Instead, we got the original title Final Fantasy Dimensions 2. Hm, maybe in 2018? No, that ended up being Final Fantasy 15 Pocket Edition. Oh, I see! 2019 is the 20th anniversary of Final Fantasy 8! Square Enix, you sly dogs. But no, no such luck on mobile that year. It did come to other platforms. Perhaps it was just a bit behind on mobile?
Dracula. A classic book of desire, and triumph over a great evil. It is not, however, the focus of this review. No, it is merely the inspiration for a board game, one of mystery and deduction, predator and prey. A game that will, without doubt, find its audience with a digital port. What game, you wonder? Why, dear reader mine, none but the Fury of Dracula ($4.99).
Image & Form’s SteamWorld franchise began back with SteamWorld Tower Defense which was a DSiware title. The franchise finally had a breakthrough hit with SteamWorld Dig that was released on Nintendo 3DS before seeing multiple ports following. Since then, the Swedish studio released two of my favourite indie games of all time with SteamWorld Dig 2 and SteamWorld Heist so I had high expectations when I played SteamWorld Quest on Nintendo Switch.
Fortunately, the talent behind a game is generally more important than any branding. Igarashi wanted to make another Metroidvania, and fans enthusiastically obliged when he went to Kickstarter to find the funding for it. A lot of stories like that have disappointing or even terrible endings, but Igarashi’s Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night ($9.99) seems to have largely gone as everyone hoped. A few bumps on the road, to be sure. It was originally set for a 2017 release but ended up coming in 2019 instead. A few of the planned versions were canceled thanks to the platforms being on their way out. The Switch version launched in a rather miserable state. A few planned features had to be changed.
While a shop simulator and a dungeon crawler are distinctly different, they are both RPGs, and it isn’t surprising that they blend together well. In a dungeon crawler you will frequently find junk items that serve no purpose other than to fill your all-too-limited inventory, forcing a decision between holding them until later for some coin or discarding them now in hopes of filling that space with something more useful. Some dungeon crawlers will allow you to turn those junk items into enchantments, or gems, or perhaps even crafting them into better equipment. Others try to limit or completely remove the trash with filters, or automatically smelting it down… but, inevitably, some gets through.
After a long wait, Forager from HopFrog and Humble Games finally hit mobile this month by way of an iOS port done by BlitWorks, bringing the crafting survival idle hybrid experience that players on PC and consoles have been enjoying for a while now. BlitWorks does fantastic ports to consoles and I had high expectations for Forager on iOS going in once I learned that the port was done by them. I initially played Forager on both PC and Nintendo Switch and had fun despite the lack of updates on Nintendo Switch initially when I put in close to 60 hours across both platforms. When Forager finally hit Xbox One, a major update hit Switch and PS4 bringing it up to speed with PC, but that update was and still is buggy.
The fantastic tactical RPG XCOM Enemy Unknown surprised a lot of people when it hit iOS a long time ago not just because of the port but also the price point. Fast forward to today and the full sequel has arrived on iOS devices in the form of XCOM 2 Collection ($24.99) as a premium and very demanding release.
One of the cool things about covering one beat for a really long time is in watching developers improve in leaps and bounds over the years. When Valorware first brought 9th Dawn to mobile a whopping seven years ago, it was an impressive throwback to an era of RPGs where the graphics were limited but the worlds seemed nearly limitless. 9th Dawn II ($1.99) arrived a few years later, polishing some rough edges and expanding the possibilities of the world it put in your pocket. Now here in the cursed year of 2020, 9th Dawn III ($9.99) arrives. So many things have changed, but one thing remains the same: the 9th Dawn games are really hard to put down once you get into them.