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Pokemon Presents, Reviews Featuring ‘Shiren the Wanderer’, Plus Today’s Releases and Sales – TouchArcade


Hello gentle readers, and welcome to the SwitchArcade Round-Up for February 27th, 2024. We’re approaching the end of the month, and it’s looking like we’re going out with a bang. Some decent games in the new releases today, but before we get to that we have to deal with the Pokemon Presents. Oh, and I’ve prepared a bit of a rambling review of Shiren the Wanderer: The Mystery Dungeon of Serpentcoil Island. After that, we get around to those new games, and then finish up with our usual lists of new and outgoing sales.

News

Wow, How About That Pokemon Presents?

Gosh, what an action-packed thirteen-ish minutes that was! All those… all those Pokemon games! And such! Okay, look. I’m writing this six hours before the Pokemon Presents airs, and you’re reading this some time after. This is always weird. But the video should be posted above, and we’ll catch up on the news tomorrow.

Reviews & Mini-Views

Shiren the Wanderer: The Mystery Dungeon of Serpentcoil Island ($59.99)

I always have a bit of trouble writing a review for a game that I did a preview of a near-finished build for. Not much has changed with Shiren the Wanderer: The Mystery Dungeon of Serpentcoil Island since I previewed it late last year. Some performance issues have been ironed out, but otherwise this is the same game I was gushing over before. Let’s see, what did I say then? “I can’t wait to pick up where I left off with it when the game releases next year.” And indeed I could not, which means I was on top of this game when it released here in Japan a month ago. I’ve been playing the English version as well since the nice folks at Spike Chunsoft sent it over, and that means I’ve been playing a whole lot of Shiren recently.

I should probably mention that this isn’t anything particularly new for me. I can’t say I’ve been into the Shiren series from the start, but I have been pretty deep into it since SEGA offered up the Western market its first taste via the DS remake of the original game. I picked up the Western Wii release of Shiren 3, and went back and got the other Japan-only games on the Super NES, Game Boy, and Nintendo 64. I played the DS games that followed, and have played and enjoyed every release of the fifth game, Shiren the Wanderer: The Tower of Fortune and the Dice of Fate. I can’t get enough of these games, and I often find myself going back to all of them, old and new.

What makes them so compelling sits at the core of the series, and it’s heavily present in this new installment as well. I think the Shiren games sit at the perfect midway point between the often obtuse, difficult to approach “hardcore” roguelikes and the relatively gentle modern roguelite. It’s very easy to get into a Shiren game. It speaks a lot of the same language as console RPGs and strategy games, and its need to be mapped to a controller means it can’t go nearly as far into the weeds as something like, say, Nethack. Not that there is anything wrong with such roguelikes; they’re quite great in their own right. But I can understand how people are reluctant to try them, and I think Shiren can sidestep a lot of those potential issues with its more user-friendly set-up.

At the same time, Shiren is a franchise that refuses to give up its teeth. Keep in mind that the original game in the series dates all the way back to 1995, with the game that directly spawned it coming a couple years earlier even. Roguelikes weren’t terribly popular then, especially on consoles. No one had even conjured up anything resembling a roguelite, and the closest thing to such a concept was still a couple of years away. There was no template here, nothing but a strong desire to bring the tension and thrills of roguelikes to platforms ill-suited to such things. For every concession it makes, it similarly refuses to pull punches. You can spend tens of hours building up to your eventual successful run, and even then you’re one bad bounce of the ball away from losing it all.

I can understand how that would sound horrible, but it’s precisely that threat of losing so much that makes the Shiren games so interesting. It can be devastating when you lose some equipment you’ve been working on, but when things go completely awry and you somehow manage to survive? There’s no other feeling like that in gaming. That’s the power of the traditional roguelike, and its console form is no less potent. And when you’ve finally learned about all the potential tricks, have built up your items and gear, have figured out how to mitigate any bizarre risks along the way, and finally finish the game? Phew. Phew. Just… it’s video games, people. It’s pure video games.

I’m talking about the core of the Shiren series because one of the goals of Shiren the Wanderer: The Mystery Dungeon of Serpentcoil Island is to carve off some of the extra systems that have built up over the last two installments. It’s going for a “less is more” approach, and while I certainly enjoy the complexities of the fourth and fifth games in the series, there’s something rather refreshing about this one. It doesn’t give up any of the advances in terms of making the game play more smoothly that have been built up over the years, but applies them to a far more focused affair. I think it’s a solid move at this stage of the franchise’s life, and I don’t think the game feels any lesser for it. The day/night cycle was neat! The equipment system from the last couple of games gave you a lot to chew on! But I’m okay moving on from those things for now. There’s still plenty to contend with here.

With enough patience and tenacity, Serpentcoil is a very beatable game. And once you’ve done that, you’ll find some interesting post-game dungeons to tackle. There are also alternate routes that you can try out. And of course, the many random elements of the game mean that no two playthroughs will go down exactly the same way anyway. I really mean that, too. This isn’t just about a few level chunks being rearranged. Shiren is a game that delights in keeping you from getting your hands on everything you need. It will, however, give you a few things now and then. Inevitably, you’ll have to accept that you must learn to use what you have on hand and hope you can hammer out an escape with whatever it is. The wide variety of items, monsters, and interactions between elements make every run a genuinely interesting story of its own. You’ll be surprised at what can work, and how things can affect each other.

One very big change this time around is the move to 3D, which mostly amounts to a cosmetic change. The game still plays the same way you might remember, but it can move the camera around for some dramatic bits here and there. Despite the change, this is still recognizably Shiren. It feels like the Switch is struggling a little here and there with the game, though we’ve certainly suffered far worse on the platform. Do I like it better than the detailed 2D sprites in the last release? I mean, it has its moments. I really dig some of more cinematic bits. I don’t prefer the general look, but it’s good enough at evoking its predecessors that it isn’t distracting either.

It was always up in the air as to whether or not Spike Chunsoft could get back in the Shiren groove after so long without a new entry, but Shiren the Wanderer: The Mystery Dungeon of Serpentcoil Island shows that the developer still understands the beating heart of this long-running franchise. It’s a game that embraces where it comes from, and while that means it might still turn some players off, I think the best thing Shiren can be in this modern rogue-wild world is true to itself. A fantastic game, and I hope this is the start of a whole new chapter for Shiren.

SwitchArcade Score: 4.5/5

New Releases

Shiren the Wanderer: The Mystery Dungeon of Serpentcoil Island ($59.99)

Shiren is back in the first fully new entry in the series since… 2010. Wow, that’s quite the absence. I mean, yes, we had some great enhanced ports of that 2010 game to tide us over, but here’s the full-course dinner we’ve been waiting for. This installment goes back to basics in a lot of ways, but the UI and gameplay is more smooth and refined than ever. A truly excellent game, one worthy of attention from any fans of roguelikes.

Piczle Cross: Story of Seasons ($9.99)

Nonogram puzzles are fun enough on their own, but they’re even more enjoyable when they use a familiar theme. For Piczle Cross‘ first cross-over, it has mashed up with Story of Seasons. Farming plus puzzle solving? Sure, that’s nice. You get more than three hundred and fifty puzzles to work through, including five large collage puzzles. As you complete puzzles, you’ll fill out your almanac with more than a hundred pages of information about the people, places, and things from the Story of Seasons series.

Sympathy Kiss ($49.99)

Who’s up for a little office romance story? That’s what Sympathy Kiss offers, following the tale of a woman who has been assigned to help the team behind a failing mobile news app. They’ve got one last chance to turn things around, and it won’t be easy. I sure nope no one gets distracted by any smooching or anything! You actually have to balance your work and romance during the game carefully if you want to come to the better endings. We’ll have a review of this one soon.

Spear Master ($9.99)

This is pretty much a riff on Pang/Buster Bros., but with extra systems built on to the bubble-popping action. Up to four players can get in on this one via local multiplayer. It looks decent enough, and it’s not like Pang fans get to eat all that often these days. Might be worth a punt if you count yourself in that number.

The Bin Bunch

Sandstorm Strike Force ($9.99)

Sales

(North American eShop, US Prices)

Not too much going on here today, but we do have new low prices for Haiku, the Robot and Tiny Troopers Global Ops. Over in the outbox, some puzzle games! And other things. I’ll let you check both lists, as neither one is particularly lengthy.

Select New Sales

Tron: Identity ($11.99 from $14.99 until 3/4)
Choo-Choo Charles ($15.99 from $19.99 until 3/5)
Crowded Mysteries ($1.99 from $3.99 until 3/11)
Wrestling Empire ($9.99 from $19.99 until 3/11)
Haiku, the Robot ($10.99 from $19.99 until 3/11)
Pill Baby ($2.00 from $10.00 until 3/12)
Tin Hearts ($15.99 from $19.99 until 3/12)
The Last Worker ($9.99 from $19.99 until 3/12)
Tiny Troopers Global Ops ($9.99 from $19.99 until 3/12)
Extreme Bike X ($1.99 from $7.10 until 3/18)
Hyper Drone X ($1.99 from $8.59 until 3/18)
Desktop Basketball ($3.99 from $8.00 until 3/18)
World Spin ($1.99 from $5.00 until 3/18)
Dark Dungeon Warrior ($1.99 from $8.00 until 3/18)
Big Ball Sports ($3.99 from $14.99 until 3/18)
Work It Out! Job Challenge ($1.99 from $12.72 until 3/18)
Undead Battle Royale ($1.99 from $9.00 until 3/18)

Sales Ending Tomorrow, February 28th

A Monster’s Expedition ($14.99 from $24.99 until 2/28)
Bonfire Peaks ($11.99 from $19.99 until 2/28)
Bonfire Peaks Complete ($20.99 from $29.99 until 2/28)
Children of Morta ($5.49 from $21.99 until 2/28)
Death Road to Canada ($4.49 from $14.99 until 2/28)
Draknek & Friends Puzzle Bundle ($37.49 from $74.99 until 2/28)
Dying Light: Definitive Edition ($9.99 from $49.99 until 2/28)
Floppy Knights ($7.99 from $19.99 until 2/28)
Fur Squadron ($3.84 from $6.99 until 2/28)
Garden Story ($7.99 from $19.99 until 2/28)
Patrick’s Parabox ($15.99 from $19.99 until 2/28)
Steve Jackson’s Sorcery ($9.99 from $24.99 until 2/28)
The Rumble Fish 2 ($14.99 from $29.99 until 2/28)
The World Next Door ($2.99 from $9.99 until 2/28)

That’s all for today, friends. We’ll be back tomorrow with more new releases, more sales, more reviews, and more news. Of course, all of this is resting on me not being hospitalized following the conclusion of my latest treatment tomorrow morning. If that happens… we will not be back tomorrow! But we will be back eventually. I hope you all have a great Tuesday, and as always, thanks for reading!

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