If you’ve been keeping up with Square Enix’s mobile releases, you probably have SaGa opinions by now. The series, which had always had a spotty localization record, went dormant in the West for a long time following the 2005 release of Romancing Saga: Minstrel Song on the PlayStation 2. I can only assume the Western release of Romancing SaGa 2 ($17.99) did better than expected, as we’ve received a veritable flood of SaGa releases since. All of those games have seen global releases regardless of their original localization status, meaning that we have just about the entire series available on mobile. And now fate has brought us here, back to Romancing SaGa: Minstrel Song ($24.99).
As I’ve said more than a few times in the past, the NEOGEO was generally known for a couple of genres more than anything else. Fighting games, of course. And thanks to Metal Slug and to a lesser extent Shock Troopers, it’s also known for run-and-gun action. It’s just how things shook out given the developer talent and arcade zeitgeist of the era. But since it was mainly arcade hardware, it did have its fair share of shoot-em-ups. When pressed to list the best of the bunch on the console, a few names tend to come up. Blazing Star. Aero Fighters 2. Viewpoint. Twinkle Star Sprites. And this game, Pulstar ($3.99).
The NEOGEO is generally characterized by, with only a few notable exceptions, fighting games and Metal Slug. Within a couple of years of its launch, the vast majority of the output on the console seemed to be mining (quite successfully) a few particular types of games. To be fair, such was the state of arcades by the mid-1990s. If you weren’t making a fighting game, a licensed beat-em-up, a shoot-em-up, or a puzzle game, you were rowing against the current.
Marvel Snap is a really good card game. On the one hand, you could say that isn’t all that surprising. Ben Brode is one of the minds behind it, and you might remember him as the lead designer of Hearthstone. Four years ago he and some of his colleagues dipped out from Blizzard and set off to do their own thing, and that turned out to be Marvel Snap. The pedigree is there. These folks clearly know how to make a good card game, so of course they went and made another good card game.
It’s been seven years since Aquiris’ outstanding arcade racer Horizon Chase (Free) arrived on the App Store. Since then, the game has been on a tour of its own, hitting a variety of other platforms and constantly adding new content to enjoy. About a month ago, we finally got a sequel when Horizon Chase 2 () roared onto the Apple Arcade service in anticipation of a wider release in 2023. I’ve been playing the wheels off the game since then, and I figured I’d write up a review in case anyone needs a nudge.
Shovel Knight first released a little over eight years ago, and thanks to a bevy of updates and cameos it feels like the character has never really left the spotlight. Still, if we count all of the updates to the main game as simply being part of that game, Shovel Knight Dig is just the third game in the series. This is also the first game in the series to hit mobile, which was roughly the last active platform on the planet without a Shovel Knight game on it. This comes to the platform through Apple Arcade, so if you want to play the game you know what you have to do.
A few months back, Video System’s Aero Fighters 2 ($3.99) arrived on the mobile Arcade Archives. I found it was a good fit for mobile play in my review, and gave it a hearty recommendation. At the time I noted that it probably wouldn’t be long before Aero Fighters 3 ($3.99) rolled in and, well, here we are. Originally released just over a year after the previous game in the series, Aero Fighters 3 is certainly a more confident game than its predecessor, but is it better?
If I can tie a common thread between all of the NEOGEO’s most popular games, that thread would be named “games you can enjoy playing with a friend”. Some of those games, like Metal Slug and Sengoku 3, were cooperative in nature. Others, like King of Fighters and Samurai Shodown, were competitive games. Some genres lend themselves more naturally to one style or another, of course. Cooperative beat-em-ups make sense. Competitive one-on-one fighters are another natural fit. Twinkle Star Sprites ($3.99) is a rare shoot-em-up that chooses violence between its players, and that’s exactly what makes it so great.
For our younger readers out there, it’s a bit hard to explain just how hot mutants were in the 1990s. Between Marvel’s X-Men hitting soaring heights and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles slicing and dicing their way into the hearts of kids everywhere, there was no better time to have genetic anomalies. It seemed like every company with mutant characters were pushing them forward, and every company without them was making their own. Just the word ‘mutant’ itself was enough to draw attention. So it was perhaps no surprise when SNK introduced Mutation Nation ($3.99) in 1992 for its NEGOGEO system. A beat-em-up filled to the brim with mutants to battle? Sure, why not?