For a very long time, the game now known as Trials of Mana ($23.99) was the fish that got away for Western players. The first game in the Mana series, now known as Adventures of Mana, made it over under the title Final Fantasy Adventure. The second came over as Secret of Mana. But due to a variety of factors, the third game just didn’t happen at the time. Even the typically resourceful fan translation community had a bit of trouble with the game for a while. Later Mana games made it out overseas virtually without fail, leaving the third chapter as something of an oddity.
Following its debut back in 2019 on Nintendo Switch and PC, Baba Is You has slowly become one of my favourite puzzle games of all time alongside The Witness. Many indie games debut on PC and sometimes consoles before they come to mobile and I gave up on Baba Is You ever hitting mobile considering I didn’t really see any discussion of more ports and figured we would see PS4 and Xbox versions before anything on mobile. After last week’s surprise release, Baba Is You ($6.99) from Hempuli is now on iOS and Android in addition to PC and Nintendo Switch platforms and this new port is just about everything I hoped for in a mobile conversion but it is lacking in one key area.
Look, I don’t make the rules. If inkle releases a new game, I’m there. The folks at inkle have a fantastic knack for making narrative adventures that feel so much bigger than the confines of their designs, and Overboard! ($5.99) is no exception. It’s the classic murder mystery set-up: a passenger ship is making its way across the ocean on the way to New York. The night before the ship is set to arrive in port, one of the people on board is killed. Will the murderer be caught, or will they get away with their hideous crime? That’s up to you, but not in the way you might think.
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.
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?
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.
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.