Part 9! I got it done in a week again. As usual, this is a mixture of full summaries and first impressions. That’s the best I can do.
Table of Contents – Si to Sw- 21 games
Silver Falls – 3 Down Stars
Silver Falls – Undertakers
Snow Moto Racing 3D
Space Defender – Battle Infinity
SpeedX 3D: Hyper Edition
Stack ’em High
SteamWorld Dig 2
Steel Empire [Genesis remake]
Strike Force Foxx
Summer Carnival ’92 RECCA [NES Virtual Console]
Super Destronaut 3D
Super Strike Beach Volleyball
Sweet Memories: Blackjack
Sword of Hope II, The [Game Boy Virtual Console]
Swords & Soldiers 3D
Siesta Fiesta – Published by Mojo Bones in 2014. This game is a Breakout-style blockbreaking ball and paddle game, but unlike most in the genre it is a sidescroller. Each level auto-scrolls along to the right, and you move your paddle, which is a bed, bouncing a ball up into the air to break blocks, collect things, and activate point orbs on the screen. If you hit A with the right timing you can bounce the ball higher into the air. The only other side-scrolling blockbreaking game I can think of that I’ve played is Jinks for the Atari 7800. That game is a total mess, but this one is okay. I don’t know that I’d go above okay, but it can be moderately fun at least. The visuals here are nicely done, with a cartoony art style that works well, decent stereoscopic 3d depth in this sprite-based game, and alright controls.
The game uses the analog stick for control. I’d recommend this game higher if it had a touch-based control option, but sadly it does not; no analog stick can match a dial, mouse, or pointer for this kind of game. Ah well. The analog controls are not the most responsive, but they’re certainly good enough. Your goal in each stage is to get as many points as you can. In classic mobile (or indie 3DS) game fashion, there are three medals to earn on each level, depending on whether you can reach the score targets for the bronze, silver, or gold medals. This game isn’t the most exciting, with sometimes slow gameplay and controls, but it looks nice, plays fine, and has a slightly original take on this classic genre. If you like blockbreaking games like I do, maybe pick it up. Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.
Silver Falls – 3 Down Stars – New Nintendo 3DS required. Developed and published by Sungrand in 2020. Silver Falls is a series of games by a single Austrailian developer. (Despite this, due to how Nintendo is for 3DS and Wii U game releases, some of the games are American eshop exclusives.) This game is the first release in the series. I can describe it but not review it in detail, I just haven’t played this fairly complex game to cover it in the depth it deserves, unfortunately. The games in this series are all horror-ish-game themed in some way, but other than that vary widely from platformer to action-adventure to survival horror. This first game is a fairly impressive one tech-wise: it’s a relatively late-release indie 3DS game with full, good-looking stereoscopic 3d, polygonal 3d graphics, interesting design, and plenty of gameplay systems. Does it all come together in a polished sense, no, of course not; it’s asking a lot for a mostly one-person team to do that in a fairly big-scale game like this one.
But what 3 Down Stars does accomplish is impressive even if it’s not my kind of game at all. This is a survival horror game of sorts, clearly inspired by atmospheric horror games like Silent Hill. The game has three playable characters that you will switch between, creepy environments to explore, and okay, gun-based combat. The game does make use of both analog sticks on this system, which is unfortunate since I hate that stupid right analog nub and you need it here for the camera, but this is a slow-paced enough game that it mostly works. As expected for a game like this you have limited ammo so only fight when you have to. This game is often heavier on atmosphere than combat, but you will definitely need to fight sometimes. Expect to slowly walk around environments looking for stuff quite a bit, as you try to figure out where to go and what to do. You will need to switch between characters as some areas can only be accessed by certain characters, and it is not always obvious why, for instance, you can’t enter a door, but it may be because a different character needs to open it. Okay.
As for saving, once in the game proper the game autosaves when you go between areas, but that is infrequent and you need to play a long section at the beginning of the game before it will save your progress. You need a lot more save options in a handheld game than you have here. Beyond that, though, the survival horror game has almost never interested me all that much — Eternal Darkness is the one big exception for that for me, that game is one of my all-time favorites — but this one is more average for the genre, I think. Even so, this game is definitely interesting in theory and is something I keep meaning to put some real time into. The game got mediocre reviews, but it did launch fairly buggy; those bugs have since been fixed, so if you pick it up now it will be a much smoother experience. Pick it up. Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.
Silver Falls – Undertakers – Developed and published by Sungrand in 2021. This second 3DS Silver Falls game is a dramatically smaller production than the original one. While putting the big-title effort into a just-released Wii U eshop game, Silver Falls: White Inside Its Umbra, the developer also made several smaller 3DS games, with this one first. This game is an Atari 2600-style overhead action-adventure game inspired by the gameplay of titles like Indiana Jones for the 2600 and such. You cannot save in this game, in an unbelievably obnoxious and awful design decision you will see in a whole bunch of Silver Falls games, unfortunately. I find these games interesting but absolutely hate not being allowed to save in a game. Anyway, in this game you play as a boy in the early 1970s. Strange, awful things suddenly seem to be happening, and you need to stay alive and, presumably, eventually save the day.
As I said this is an Atari 2600-style game, so it has extremely chunky pixel-art graphics. The visuals are okay but somewhat average for this style. This is an overhead game where you go from screen to screen, talking to people, finding items, and figuring out where to use them. You can only carry one item at a time and the world is pretty good-sized though, so what to do may not be immediately apparent. I like having more direction than this game gives you, you need to figure it out. The design here is very much in keeping with its inspiration, just with way more text and graphics and such than a pre-crash game could have fit in their tiny cartridge sizes, though, so it fits its concept, it’s just not my favorite kind of design. There is also a Wii U port of this game that released recently. It’s got the 3DS game and a new multiplayer mode that takes advantage of the Wii U Gamepad. Wii U and 3DS digital exclusive.
Silver Falls – Ghoul Busters – Developed and published by Sungrand in 2022. This Silver Falls game is quite different from the two above: it is a 2d side-scrolling platformer. Or, rather, a mixture of 2d and 2.5d, as the game has a lot of rotating and moving stereoscopic 3d objects in its side-view worlds. As the name hints, this game has monochromatic green and black Game Boy-styled graphics, though with a much higher resolution than the GB has, and mostly traditional platformer game design. As a platformer fan, it’s probably no surprise that I like this game a lot more than the two above it. The graphics have a nice cartoony look to them, and the game controls alright. You can play as two boys in this game, one of whom has a stronger melee attack and the other a weaker ranged attack. Unlike many other Silver Falls titles, this one actually has a full, proper save system — beat a level and the game autosaves this. The main menu has a level select where you can start from any level you have reached. That’s great, because this game is pretty hard. Control in Ghoul Busters is responsive but jumps are extremely high and floaty. You will constantly be making blind jumps here, and there are bottomless pits all over.
Fortunately, you have infinite lives from the last checkpoint you touched. That modern convention makes this game be just very difficult and frustrating, instead of impossible. The first level is only a moderate challenge, as you shoot badguys and jump between platforms, but then you start dealing with things like long stretches of platforms with rotating instant-death spikes on them while other foes lurk on screen above and things get difficult. You do have a health bar and can take five hits, but spikes kill you instantly. Your other controls are jump and attack. Additionally, you have items on the lower screen. If you double tap an item icon the boy you’re not using will toss it up onto the upper screen near where you are standing. You also can buy items in between levels with the coins you collect in each stage. Additionally if you collect three special pickups in a level you get an additional item. Oh, and this is another 3DS game with touch-only menus despite having mostly button controls. It’s always odd to see.
On the whole, this game is very difficult, but it is well made. You get used to the floaty controls, and the green-and-black graphics look nice. I definitely find this game fun. If you get one Silver Falls game, make it this one. Also available digitally on the Nintendo Switch, though this version is better since the game makes great use of stereoscopic 3d backgrounds and moving objects.
In addition to these games, there have been two more Silver Falls games released very recently. One, Silver Falls: Guardians and Metal Extractors, released in September but was soon removed from sale because of bugs. It finally got a fixed relaunch just a few days ago. I only got it after the relaunch and it’s a fairly substantial 3d survival horror title, so I can’t say much about it yet other than that it exists and you might want to pick it up. It does require the New 3DS, and is a return to the stereoscopic 3d survival horror gameplay of the first game, 3 Down Stars. And the surely last 3DS release, Silver Falls: Deathly Delusion Destroyers, isn’t even out yet, it releases any day now. Yeah, that game won’t be on sale for long, given that the store shuts down later this month… but at least it got released! In DDD you hold the 3DS sideways, so it doesn’t use stereoscopic 3D despite its title, but with two different games included in the purchase, one of which seems to have more RPG-like gameplay, it’s interestingly different from the other Silver Falls games yet again. And Sungrand released two Wii U games recently as well, one an enhanced port of Silver Falls Undertakers (coverd above) and the other a Wii U exclusive, White Inside Its Umbra, a full-scale survival horror game exclusive to Wii U. Getting so many games released so quickly took Sungrand dedication and I respect that regardless of whether the games are my favorite kinds of games or not. Each one is unique and original and unlike the others, none are just more of the same. The guy originally wanted to release seven games on Wii U and 3DS over the systems’ last year, and ended up releasing five. Not bad.
Slime Slayer – New Nintendo 3DS required. Published and developed by Famous Games in 2019. Slime Slayer is a very basic FPS, though you don’t shoot, you slash. In this game you play as a warrior fighting slimes. Each stage plays out in a tiny little arena. You’ve got to pick up the sword, kill the slimes, and get to the door before time runs out. The slimes will not attack you or fight back, and will die in one hit, so it’s kind of mean to kill all of them but that’s what you are here to do. The game does present some challenge, though, because the time limits are tight. Slime locations in each stage are randomly generated, and the maps probably are as well. The game is broken up into worlds each of four levels, Super Mario Bros. style. As in that game the last level of each world has a castle visual theme. The number of slimes in each level matches the world number, so you kill one per stage in world one, two in world two, and such. If you walk into a slime or run out of time you lose health, and once you run out of health the game is over.
The graphics are simple, with very pixelated environments and 90 degree corners, like Wolfenstein 3D but less detailed, but I think it works for what this game is doing. Also it does have nice use of stereoscopic 3d. The controls use the analog stick for movement and the A button for picking up or swinging the sword. There is a target sight in the center of the screen which turns red when you are within attack range of a slime. The d-pad doesn’t do anything and the only way to pause is to suspend the game or close the system, start does nothing. I don’t think the game saves anything or has a high score table or anything, either, which is unfortunate. Even so, with fast-paced gameplay and decent controls, Slime Slayer is a fun diversion. Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.
Snow Moto Racing 3D – Published and developed by Zordix in 2013. Other than the stereoscopic 3d visuals, this racing game is extremely average. This is the kind of game that on an older system might have gotten a budget physical release, but on the 3DS ended up being download-only. That’s too bad given that the shop is about to be shut down; though we aren’t losing ALL that much by not having access to buying this game, it’s still something people put effort into making and can be amusing for a little while at least. But anyway, Snow Moto Racing 3D is a snowmobile racing game. The game has a decent number of tracks in several cups. You start out with only a single snowmobile to race on, but can unlock a few more, one should unlock each time you beat a cup, though I couldn’t get this to work, the game would say I unlocked another machine but I still wouldn’t be able to switch. Ah well.
Once you get into a race, you will find these snowmobiles, driving on snow, to be incredibly good at sticking to the ground. Do you find the slidey controls of snowmobile racing games like SnoCross (PS1/N64) or EA’s for PS1 and PS2 frustrating? Well, good news, you won’t be doing much sliding here. Yeah, these controls are about as unrealistic as can be given that snow is, well, a bit slippery most of the time. Heh. The controls don’t feel all that great, either; this game is okay to control, nothing more. Beyond that, most tracks in this game have a main track on which you go at full speed, and off-track side areas where you go more slowly. Some areas or tracks are open and let you go anywhere at full speed, but this is a checkpoint racing game so you’ll need to go as directly as possible to the next checkpoint anyway. The tracks have some variety, with snowfields, frozen lakes, and more. There are also jumps to go over and everything looks nice in the games’ stereoscopic 3d.
You also have a turbo meter, filled by checkpoints (each one fills 1/8th of the meter) and by pickups. Those pickups are a bit odd though, because they don’t respawn. That’s right, once you grab them they’re gone and won’t be there for the later laps. That is how turbo works in, say, Hydro Thunder and Arctic Thunder, but those games are mostly point-to-point, while this is a lap-based racing game. And if you collect a turbo while the meter is full, it collects it anyway and does nothing, you lost that potential boost. It’s a bit annoying. Other than turbos though you don’t really have many means of gaining ground in this game, which means that once the races get more difficult, as they will by the second or third cup, you will probably have a hard time of winning. There are no weapons here, the turbo function is highly limited, there isn’t really a drifting system, and the controls are not incredibly tight and responsive, so I’m not sure what I should be doing to finish faster. I’m sure there is something, probably mostly about sticking to the best racing line or such, but I decided to stop playing instead.
This game overall is below average and I probably don’t recommend it unless it goes on sale again before the store shuts down. It’s not a bad game though, just very mediocre. I like that this indie game tries to be a full-on stereoscopic 3d racing game, and for cheap it’s worth a look for that reason, I just wish the execution was a bit better. I think that this game is a Nintendo 3DS exclusive, though there was an iOS Snow Moto Racing game released several years before this one. This may be a conversion of that game, I’m not sure. A third title would release on Switch, PC, and PS4 several years later.
Space Defender – Battle Infinity – Developed and published by Denzvla Estudio in 2018. Sleep-inducing is probably the best way to describe this tedious bore of a game. This game is in the bottom tier of 3DS games, as bad as the worst titles on the format. The visuals and controls are fine, but the game makes multiple awful design decisions which totally ruin it. Space Defender is a vertically scrolling shooter. That’s a genre I like, but not here. First though, this is another one of those titles where the menu system is mostly touch-only — buttons are only used for closing the tutorial/story text screens. That’s great, but the game is buttons-only, a combination which continues to make no sense to me. The controls are analog or digital, depending on which one you use, but there isn’t a touch option. The controls don’t feel great. But the gameplay is the problem here, not the menus. The visuals are decent, though. This game has no stereoscopic 3d, sadly, but does have nicely rendered backgrounds and menus. Unfortunately, those backgrounds will repeat over and over without variation, each level is basically identical. The game has quite a few levels, too, all basically identical.
The main problems with this game revolve around the gameplay, though, if you can stay awake. In each level, you fly upwards until you reach a certain score target. You have three different weapons, though only can use one initially and only get the others much later. Each is mapped to a different button. YOU HAVE LIMITED AMMO. In a shmup. I think that deserves all-caps. So, do NOT hold down fire, but instead only shoot when lined up with a foe. Don’t worry too much though, you’ll have plenty of ammo if you do that and should end every level with more ammo than you started with, because ammo and point pickups will also come down the screen, in addition to enemies. The levels are entirely randomized, with no predesigned content. At certain point totals you get one, then two, then three stars. Once you get the third star the level ends instantly. There are no bosses or anything.
That’s far from the worst of it, though. Through level four in the first of three worlds, which is as far as I’ve gotten, I have so far seen ONE enemy type. One. It is a small bloblike enemy which stands still in space, slowly shooting at you if you move in line with it. It only appears to move because you’re flying towards it, but otherwise they do not move. They can only hit you if you get in line with them because their shots, as with your first weapon, fires in a straight line. You will need to shoot enemies to be able to get enough points to complete the stages, though, so you will need to line up with them. Fortunately avoiding their very slow, straight, one-shot-at-a-time fire is easy. If you do get hit due to iffy collision detection or such, you will use a shield or life if you have one. If you run out you will get thrown out of the level and need to start over from tbe beginning. The game does save how much ammo you have left, though, so if you used it up you might want to go play the first level again since it usually starts out with a bunch of ammo pickups.
The game also has a shop where you can buy lives and ammo, though the ammo here is ludicrously expensive at 100 moneys for 5 bullets. That’s the same amount of money as a life costs, for the number of bullets in one bullet pickup that drop down the screen all the time anyway! I don’t know how they messed up the economy here so badly, but it is. If you want lives, though, buy those. I haven’t even gotten to the worst thing about this game, though, and that is its pacing. Most levels are slow, slow, SLOW. Thirty seconds might go by with nothing happening other than a few ammo or point pickups sloooowly moving down the screen towards you. Of course, even when enemies do appear they are just about the most underwhelming foes imaginable in this genre considering that they don’t do anything other than sit in place and very slowly shoot at you, but that’s better than nothing. Even if later on in the game the title introduces more interesting enemies, though, you’d have to get through all of this to get there and there’s no way that it’s worth it. Oh, and one last thing: the background graphics in the levels appear OVER the screen, obscuring your view of your ship, enemy bullets, and such. This game is just wonderfully designed. Avoid this game at all costs. This feels like an attempt to make the slowest-playing, most boring shmup ever programmed. If that was the goal they succeeded. This same developer has also made three endless runner games on the 3DS. I haven’t bought them yet but I somehow doubt they’re good. Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive. There is also a Space Defender game for Wii U.
SpeedX 3D: Hyper Edition – Published by Gamelion in 2013. SpeedX? More like SlowX. MediumX? Anyway, SpeedX: Hyper Edition is an endless driving game, in the futuristic racing auto-driving genre which also contains games like the AiRace series. This game is ground-based instead of flight-based, but otherwise is very much one of that kind of game, just not as good as the AiRace games. It’s alright, though. In this first-person-view game you drive forwards, starting out somewhat slowly, and slowly increase speed the longer you survive. This game is a sequel to the original SpeedX, and changes things by having a hyper button on X which significantly increases your speed. If you hold down turbo you can explode if you overheat, though, so watch out and don’t have too much fun. The analog controls are a bit slow but work okay. Otherwise, the only other thing to know are the shield pickups. If you pass over blinking squares you get a shield, and you can hold up to four. Shields protect you from dying if a block hits you. If you go off the course or hit a block when out of shields, though, that’s game over. The game keeps track of your best score, but doesn’t have a full score table or online leaderboards or anything.
I do like the games’ visual design. SpeedX 3D has very simple visuals, with a grid-based track which isn’t just flat but also can curve into a tube, F-Zero X-style, and obstacles which are stationary or moving cubes or rectangular solids. The ground and obstacle blocks are all flat-shaded or wireframe. It’s a simple but nice look and the game has streoscopic 3d. As for the gameplay though, while it can be fun, I feel like the game wants you to go a bit too slowly. Turbo’s dangerous and will get you killed. And indeed, that’s probably my main issue with the game: if often feels like you lose at random because of some obstacle you didn’t see. Sometimes I can see the block that apparently hit me, but other times I have no idea why the game decided my run was over. Try again. Even so, SpeedX 3D: Hyper Edition is okay. If the controls were more responsive and faster to react and the speed faster I’d like it a bit more, but as it is it’s probably average. I kind of like this game despite my criticism of it, but it is average. Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.
Sssnakes – Published by EnjoyUp and developed by Software Scribes in 2016. Just as its name suggests, Sssnakes is, indeed, a clone of Nokia’s classic phone game Snake. Just as in Snake, you play as a snake in a top-down area, collecting a bunch of items. Every time you grab an item a section is added to the end of your snake, making it longer. If the head of your snake runs into a wall, enemy, or your own tail, you lose a life. Three deaths and it’s game over. This is a classic snake game but with some new obstacles beyond the original, and plays okay. The controls are delayed, though, since this is a tile-based game. You will turn at the next tile the snake passes through, not right when you press the button. This delay is hard to get used to and definitely holds this game back. Other than that this is a fine title, with a decent number of levels each with different layouts and a difficulty curve that adds more enemies and obstacles the more levels you get to. You will eventually face enemy snakes and one-way gates, for example. You can’t save your progress, though it does keep track of your best score. Games are short enough that this isn’t a major limitation.
In addition to the main arcade mode there is also a Score Attack mode. Here you choose a level and play just that level for points. The game records your best score and also has online high score tables for Score Attack mode, a pretty nice touch. Once you get used to the controls, Sssnakes is a good time. It’s simple but I do like it. Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.
Stack ’em High – New Nintendo 3DS required. Published by Starsign and developed by SIMS in 2017. In this highly frustrating puzzle game, 3d objects of various types fall from the sky, and you direct where they are dropping from in an effort to try to keep enough of them on a platform so that they pile up high enough to complete the stage. Each stage has a quite limited number of objects that drop. The challenge is, you have no control over anything in this game other than rotating the camera with the sticks or buttons and choosing the drop point with the stylus, and those objects that drop, which vary from stage to stage, have … very unrealistic … physics. Everything feels incredibly light, and the things will fall off of the little platforms with the lightest tap. So yeah, this game is very annoying to play, as you try to stack up these things which resist stacking due to their physics. This game has a decent idea, but I don’t find it all that fun to play and gave up at the third puzzle. I don’t think I will be back very often. Still, this game isn’t BAD, just hard. Puzzle game fans might want to give it a look. Otherwise skip it. Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.
NOTE: I’m not covering the DSi here, and will not before its purchasing is shut down along with the 3DS at the end of this month, but the first SteamWorld game is a DSiWare game, SteamWorld Tower Defense. It is one of the few DSi games I have played extensively, and it’s pretty good. I love tower defense games, and this is a solid one. The game is short but extremely difficult. I got to the last level but never managed to beat it because of how tough the game gets. Still, I certainly recommend picking it up while you can. Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.
SteamWorld Dig – Developed and published by Image & Form in 2013. This popular sidescrolling platform-action game is pretty good! Yes, this game deserves the hype it got. The game is well made all around, with good graphics, music, controls, and gameplay. The game is 2d, but makes good use of stereoscopic 3d depth and it looks great. You play as a robot cowboy in a version of the Wild West fully populated by robots. For plot reasons you end up mining in this small town, digging deep in the dirt underneath the town looking for treasure, and danger, the space below. You can walk with the d-pad (the game does not support analog movement), jump and use items with the face buttons, and switch items with the shoulder buttons. You also can wall jump, a critical maneuver for getting back up the shafts you dig.
Watch out as you explore, though, because you have limited lamp fuel. You don’t want to get stuck deep down with no light. Some of your items use water as well, you’ll need to watch that meter also. And you have limited inventory space for pickups anyway, so this game is all about going down, digging, getting stuff, finding new areas, returning to the surface to sell your stuff and buy things, and repeating the process. You can chat to a few people, or robots, rather, on the surface as well. It’s a great game that’s good in all aspects, from graphics to gameplay.
As you explore, you will find that some areas in the depths are already open, some are made of unbreakable rock, and some are rocks you can break through with your drill. Some drillable blocks have gems and such in them that you can put in your inventory to sell on the surface. There are also enemies here and there, sometimes in open spaces scattered around the underground, but most of the more severe danger comes from the sub-areas. This isn’t just one big open underground to explore, it is a segmented one with a series of caverns to explore, each accessed by passages. The game knows that as you get farther from the surface getting back up takes longer, though, so there are several additional ways to get back to the surface, including unlockable portals to deeper points and teleport items you can buy and leave on the ground for an instant warp. You will need the help though, because it is easy to die and this game gets challenging once you get a bit farther in.
Overall, SteamWorld Dig is a must-play game. This game has fantastic, very responsive controls, great visual design, and fun and compelling gameplay. There is certainly some repetition to its main gameplay loop, but exploring down there is always fun so I think it works great just as it is. The game is on multiple platforms, but the 3DS version is the best one since it has a nice minimap on the lower screen that helps you navigate and has really nice stereoscopic 3d. Buy this game. Also released on Xbox One, Wii U, PlayStation Vita, Google Stadia, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and PC / Mac / Linux (Steam).
SteamWorld Heist – Developed and published by Image & Form in 2015. For their second 3DS game, Image & Form mixed things up and, instead of being a platformer, made a strategy game. This game is still a sidescroller set in the SteamWorld universe, with similarly fantastic visuals and audio presentation to all of the other SteamWorld titles, but the gameplay is different from Dig. It’s just as great, though. This time you play as a group of pirates and the game mostly takes place in ships, so it looks different from the dusty deserts and mines of the Dig games. This game is simple to learn, and yet has plenty of depth. You control a team of robots. You can move the camera around with the analog stick, and the character movement cursor with the d-pad. If you move next to cover a character will automatically take cover. Again, this is a side-scrolling strategy game, a somewhat rare thing, but it works great. The upper screen shows the main view, and the lower screen images you can touch to change characters, choose a weapon, or pause. The center has a smaller map of the area.
Once you choose a weapon by touching its icon, the d-pad changes from controlling movement to controlling aim, and up or down rotate your aim. Your shots can bounce off walls and such with many guns, which is pretty cool. A firing line shows where the shot will go and how much damage it will do. The game does a great job of balancing simplicity with depth, as you don’t need to open menus to open doors or go up ladders or anything, just move onto them and your character will do the right action for that spot. You can move within a certain range, shown with an orangish color, and still fire or shoot in that same turn. If you move farther, shown with a blue color, you can move but not attack that turn. This can be fine if you get behind cover, but objects like barrels have their own health bars, so that cover you’re using won’t be there forever. So the game has simple gameplay in some respects, but there is still plenty of strategy with where you should move to, which attacks to use, and more.
In between missions you can get new weapons to equip, and there are hats to collect as well. There is plenty of content here and as with all SteamWorld games there is plenty of challenge; none of these games are easy. This is a fantastic game with great graphics, nice stereoscopic 3d depth for its sprite-based art, and very well thought through gameplay that you’ll probably get hooked to. The 3DS version of this game released first and the game is perfectly suited for the system so pick it up while you can. I like the Dig games quite a bit, but this one might be the best of the three. Later on the game was also released on Wii U, PC/Mac/Linux (Steam), Nintendo Switch, iOS, Stadia (RIP), and Amazon Luna. The 3DS version is a digital exclusive. This game has a DLC addon on 3DS as well, so buy that too. It is a $5 purchase with some new missions. If more than one were planned they didn’t release, though, unfortunately.
SteamWorld Dig 2 – Developed and published by Image & Form in 2017. This digging-focused platformer is very similar to the first one, just with a new character and story and some gameplay improvements. This time you play as a female robot who was a side character in the first game. It’s set in the same robotic Wild West setting all the SteamWorld games share, but in a new place; you’re in a city this time, digging into the mines below. Again, the gameplay is very much the same as the first one just with a few mechanical improvements. You have new items at your disposal this time and some new moves making traversal more varied and interesting. You’ve got a gun that can blast away ground a distance in front of you, a grappling hook, and more!
The game is just as tough as its predecessor, but once again the difficulty is balanced very well, so you will want to keep coming back. The graphics and game design are great yet again, and the controls are spot-on. This game has very good art, great graphics, and better gameplay than the first one. There is a bit more story, too. What more is there to say, though? SteamWorld Dig 2 takes the first game and imrpoves on it across the board. Make sure to buy it while you can, as again this 3DS version is probably the best for its stereoscopic 3d and useful map and inventory information on the lower screen. This game is great and is a must-play. Also released on PC / Mac / Linux (Steam), PlayStation 4, Google Stadia, Xbox One, and PlayStation Vita.
Steel Empire [Genesis remake] – Published by Teyon and developed by Mebius in 2014. Steel Empire is a nice port of a Genesis classic. As with the original version, this game is a horizontal scrolling shmup with a steampunk theme. You play as either a biplane or a small blimp. Just as with the original, the concept and theme here are great, and the stereoscopic overhaul this version gives the graphics looks quite nice. I don’t love the gameplay quite as much as its style, but it is certainly good. This game is NOT a one-hit-you-die game; instead, you have a health bar. So, it’s not quite as tightly designed as many shmups, since it is designed for you to take damage. It works. I covered the Genesis version back in my Genesis Game Opinion Summaries list, so see that for my thoughts on the original version. Enemies come from both directions in this game, so you can fire in both directions with different buttons, which is a nice feature. You will need to pay attention to not get hit from behind, though. Apart from the slightly improved graphics, nice use of stereoscopic 3d depth, and save feature that lets you continue from any level you have reached and saves your high scores, this is the exact same game as before. It’s a good shooter with solid controls, a great theme, and decent to good levels. I don’t think it’s in the top tier of Genesis shmups, but it’s a good solid game well worth playing. This is one of the better shmups on 3DS for sure. This remake is 3DS digital exclusive.
Strike Force Foxx – Published by Big John Games in 2014. Strike Force Foxx is a Choplifter clone. Just like in that classic, you control a helicopter in a side-scrolling level and need to find and rescue the hostages in each stage in order to proceed. In some levels you also need to destroy a certain number of enemies. The game also has a bit of plot in between levels to give it a bit more character. This game has 2.5d graphics with some stereoscopic 3d depth. It looks okay. Just like in Choplifter, your helicopter can face right, left, or straight on, so you can either fly quickly one way or the other while shooting at a diagonal angle, or shooting straight down at enemies below you. The straight on orientation is also best for picking up the hostages. You can only carry six hostages at a time so you’ll need to go back and forth to your base. If too many hostages die or you run out of health you lose, but you can just try again, you have infinite continues and the game saves your progress.
As with so many indie 3DS games, this game has a three-star system as well. Depending on your score at the end of a level you’ll get up to three stars. You can use those stars, and also the money you made from beating the level, to buy some upgrades for your copter. There aren’t a lot of upgrades, but it does give you something to work for. Strike Force Foxx is a completely playable game, with okay graphics, alright controls, and a decent amount of content. It can be fun, I’ve always liked Choplifter. It’s not anything special and isn’t up to the level of the best real Choplifter games, but Choplifter games are uncommon these days, so despite that this somewhat average effort is worth a look for anyone with a fondness for Choplifter as I do. Get it if you like this kind of game, it’s a decent one. I’d call this game above average. Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.
SubaraCity – Published by CIRCLE and developed by Flyhigh Works in 2017. This simple mobile port block-dropping puzzle game is the game in this update that I have played the most. Yes, really, I got quite addicted to SubaraCity and still play it sometimes. This is a city-building blockdropping puzzle game, essentially. The game plays in a regular Tetris-styled puzzle game well, and blocks of various colors fall from above. These blocks each have a different building on them. If you touch a multi-tile group of blocks of the same color they will combine into one larger building on the tile you touched. Once you’ve combined enough buildings together they will max out and become a white apartment building. These buildings cannot be moved around or combined with the regular colored houses, so they take up space in the quite limited play area. You start with two undo or delete building moves available, and get one more every hundred years (turns), plus more if you build large enough special buildings; more on those later. You can also earn these, as I will explain. Undo/deletes are very important, and allow you to get rid of a block that’s keeping you from combining others you need. Using them wisely is critical, you only start with a few and won’t get all that many more.
The basic concept of the game is to go as long as you can, combining houses into their maxed-out forms until you have no plays left. Plan ahead with which colors you combine so that you don’t block off colors in places where you can’t get to that tile again unless you really, really have to. The beginning of the game is key because this is the time when it’s easiest to get a whole lot of the white buildings, as I’m pretty sure that as the years pass the game starts throwing harder and harder drop patterns at you. Once you are stuck and have no plays, it’s time to click on one of those white buildings and combine them into a monument building. The number of connected white buildings will determine which monument building you end up with, the more the better. I’ve gotten most of the monument buildings but not all of them because the last few are pretty insane, you’d basically need to have almost the entire screen full of white buildings. That would require some crazy-good luck. Monument buildings can be destroyed with undo/deletes, but otherwise permanently take away tile of your play area. They cannot be combined together, you can only combine the white buildings into monuments.
However, if you delete a regular or monument building you lose the population that lived in that building, which is bad because your score is the population of your city. So, only do that if really, really necessary. Eventually though you will run out of moves, and once you cannot combine any tiles and have no delete/undos left the game is over. There is a high score table showing your biggest cities, though sadly it does not separate or mark easy from normal difficulty, which is kind of lame; it really should not combine the two, the easy mode is dramatically easier from normal. Still, it’s a nice score table which gives different ranks for cities of different sizes. In addition to regular endless mode play in either regular or easy modes, this game also has Achievement-style characters to unlock. Each unlocks when you meet a certain building goal, and once unlocked you will see those characters on the field during play. I’ve unlocked all but five of them. Having this is nice since it gives you something to play for beyond score. There is a viewer showing all of the buildings that you have unlocked and showing how many white buildings you’d need to combine to get the rest of them as well. For the lower-level buildings you can switch between two different visual style for each building, for either a newer or older look. Overall this is a great and very addictive title that I highly recommend. It is also on other platforms, but this is a great version with ideal controls for this kind of game. Buy it while you can. Also released, digital-only, on Nintendo Switch, PC (Steam), iOS, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. I’d rather play it here on the 3DS, I prefer stylus controls for this kind of game.
Summer Carnival ’92 RECCA [NES Virtual Console] – Published by Kaga Create and developed by Kid in 2013. Recca is perhaps the NES’s most impressive shmup, on a technical level. Or at least, it is certainly the closest thing to a bullet-hell game on the NES, or, rather, the Famicom, since this game didn’t get a US release until this digital 3DS version. This extremely fast-paced shooter is a crazy game for the original Nintendo, with enemies zooming in and shooting at you as quickly as the hardware can handle. This emulated port runs exactly like the original thing, except for being on a small screen this time, and with a savestate option.
Recca is a fantastic, and very difficult, shooter, but it is accessible since your shots destroy enemy shots, so you can survive things that you otherwise wouldn’t. Also, if you stop shooting you will build up a bomb-like attack in a large ball in front of your ship which blocks enemy fire from the front. Using bombs at the right times is key. Also the game has a simple powerup system and this isn’t a full-on bullet-hell game as would become popular several years after its release, just a fast-paced shooter with a lot of bullets. This game has absolutely no slowdown, which is amazing. This is as fast-paced a classic shooter as you’ll find. It does have constant flicker, but you’ll get used to it. And when you die you will have a chance on your next life, because there are lots of powerups to grab. Recca is a masterpiece for its console and this re-release is fantastic because the actual cartridge is very expensive and uncommon; the game only had a limited release. Definitely buy this, it’s cheap and even if you probably won’t get more than a level or two in without quite a bit of replay, with the fast pace, constant action, and great visuals and enemy patterns it’s a very fun time even if I’m not getting far into it.
And all of that is why it’s so frustrating that this 3DS version is the only re-release Recca has ever had! Why couldn’t it at least also have released on the Wii U? This game is fantastic, but it’s better on a big screen; the sprites on the 3DS are visible, but small. It’s definitely an easier game to play on a TV, where you can see all of those small sprites more clearly. I hope that Recca gets another re-release soon on modern platforms, it’s both a technical showcase and a very good game. This game has a reputation of being only for serious shmup diehards, but I think anyone with any interest in shooters should play it. You might be surprised at how much fun it is. Buy this game, now. Also available physically on the NES (in Japan only). That release is rare and very expensive. Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.
Super Destronaut 3D – New Nintendo 3DS required. Published and developed by Petite Games in 2017. Do you like Space Invaders? It’s pretty fun. So, this developer had a very original idea: how about … I make a game that’s a lot like Space Invaders, but with newer graphics but worse controls and design? … sorry, I am probably being too harsh, but this game is indeed a Space Invaders-style static-screen shooter. You are on the bottom of the screen and move left and right, shooting up at the rows of enemies above who move left and right while they shoot at you. The game diverges from Space Invaders here, though, as the enemies don’t move down the screen towards you adn don’t speed up as you kill more of them within a wave. Instead, they shoot bullets at you in various different patterns, so you will need to do more bullet-dodging as you would in Space Invaders since this game has no shields to hide behind.
The game has three modes. Classic gives you three lives to try to get through as many waves as you can. Time Attack starts you with 30 seconds, and you must clear the wave within that time. If you get hit you lose 10 seconds, and if you compelte a wave you get some time back. Trying to kill the enemies quickly is a nice challenge. And last, in Hardcore mode you die in one hit. See how far you can get in what is otherwise Classic mode. The game has simple chunky-pixel sprite art graphics, but I like the art design here, it looks nice. There is a bit of stereoscopic 3d; even though the background is solid black, the sprites to pop out some. Still, with such basic gameplay, there isn’t much reason to actually play this title. It’s not awful or anything, what is here works, it’s just very basic and bland.
I like classic arcade games, but the classic-style game here isn’t anywhere near as good as a better pre-crash-era game, it’s too bland. The enemies often take multiple hits to kill so the pacing is slow, the controls, which have both digital and analog support, are fine but not anything special, and you’re missing the thrill of having to shoot that last alien before it closes in on you that Space Invaders does so well. This game tries to have more bullet-dodging instead, but this is far from a bullet-hell game, it’s classic… but not one of the better classic shooters. Despite its issues though, I did have some fun trying to stay alive in this game. I did play Super Destronaut 3D enough to get a decent score, so something kept me coming back for a little while, but this game is average at best. If it’s on sale and you love shooters perhaps check it out, but probably skip this one. Also released, digital-only, on PC / Mac / Linux (Steam) and Wii U.
Super Strike Beach Volleyball – Published by Natsume and developed by Arc System Works in 2016. Essentially part of the same series as the Family series of very simple sports games on WiiWare, this very simple volleyball games has the same characters from the game, renamed at least in this US release, now playing volleyball. So there are eight playable characters, one of each gender for four age categories from young to old. The game has solid stereoscopic 3d graphics. The game is a 2-on-2 team game, as beach volleyball generally is. This game plays on the slow side, perhaps to make it accessible to younger players, but otherwise is an okay volleyball game. You move with teh stick, jump with B, and hit with A. If recieving the ball, first one teammate hits it up with A, then the other can spike it by jumping with B where it’s landing and hitting A with the right timing to hit the ball hard towards the other side. Indicators on the screen show where the ball is going to land, and an indicator appears showing the best timing for smashes, so this game is fairly easy to learn and play. You can move the indicator showing where you’re going to hit the ball to with the stick, though you have VERY little time to do this so all you can really do is adjust it slightly, not fully choose your target location. The ball in this game moves tediously slowly, but not quite slowly enough to fully let you aim shots.
For modes, there is a tournament mode where you play against a bunch of other teams and get points for winning matches that you can spend upgrading your characters’ stats, a single match mode where you choose teams and a court and play, and an endless challenge mode where you see how many other teams you can defeat without losing. The main game mode isn’t the longest, but it’s a decent featureset for a cheap downloadable title like this. Super Strike Beach Volleyball is, overall, mediocre, with slow ball movement and very simple play, but it can be amusing in short play sessions. There are better volleyball games out there, but there are also worse ones. Still, for being so slow paced, with how the ball just hangs in the air for so long on almost every hit and for having so little time on each strike to adjust where you are hitting the ball to, I can’t recommend this game. It’s kind of poor. Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.
Sweet Memories: Blackjack – Published by CIRCLE in 2012. In this mediocre card game you play blackjack against anime girls, mostly high school girls. You never see your character but presumably you’re playing as some boy in their school. This isn’t a game with much of a plot, it’s mostly just a basic blackjack simulator with anime girls. As a note, the girls in this game are always fully clothed, this isn’t that kind of game. You play this game with the 3DS rotated sideways. An image of the girl appears on the upper (lefthand) screen, and the play window with the cards and such on the right (touch) screen. You play with the stylus. The game has no stereoscopic 3d, but considering that you hold the system sideways there isn’t much that could be done, I don’t think the 3d effect would work correctly. The 3d models of the girls are well made at least.
There are two modes. In Normal mode you play against your selected opponent, initially only one girl but also others at specific times of the day or if you have accomplished their unlock conditions. This mode keeps track of your total winnings and your goal is to win blackjack rounds against these girls over and over and over and over until you unlock more stuff. You choose how much to bet before each round. The manual says that there are three levels of your relationship to the main girl, and getting ???? coins after ???? games played will level you up. I’ve played hundreds of rounds and aren’t anywhere near level two so yeah this game wants you to play blackjack a whole lot to get anywhere in its very minimal plot. I, probably like most people, are not interested enough in this incredibly repetitive game to want to do that.
In the Score mode, you play a shorter game, initially against the first girl. Once one person reaches 1000 points they win. The winner of each round gets 100 points, though you can choose two options, Plus Game if you want the winner to gain 100 points and the loser to lose 100, or Minus Game if you want the winner to get nothing and the loser to lose 100. This mode is how you unlock other girls to play against, if you do the specific things the manual tells you, such as play 1000 rounds, beat Kasumi 8 times in a row, etc. Additionally, the other five girls, not the main one who will appear anytime, only appear at certain times of the day, real time. None of the other five will appear between 10pm and 5am. The main girl changes costumes and locations depending on time of day, as well. This system is conceptually interesting, but is kind of annoying in practice because if you’re often playing the game at the same time you won’t see the other characters. And why do multiple characters only appear from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday? How annoying.
As for the gameplay, it’s blackjack. I generally have absolutely no interest in casino games, real or digital, but blackjack does have a little bit of strategy so it’s okay I guess. It’s not something which is going to hold my interest for anywhere near long enough to get very far in this incredibly repetitive game, but it’s okay. And yeah, this is a blackjack game. You are given a few cards, and need to choose to keep them or drop them and whether to add more cards as you try to add up to 21. The gameplay is fine but given how simple it is I would hope it would be. The main game mode does change backgrounds depending on the real-world time of day, but this is kind of annoying because if you’re often playing at the same time you’ll never see the other areas. I don’t like that. Overall there isn’t much reason to buy this game, probably don’t bother. Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.
The Sword of Hope II (Game Boy Virtual Console) – Published and developed by Kemco in 2012. The original Game Boy version released in Japan in 1992 and the US in 1996. Sword of Hope II is a first-person RPG. This may be a Kemco game, but this is classic Kemco, not their modenr mobile-focused stuff. Unlike, say, Wizardry or Etrian Odyssey, however, in this game each screen is a single location, connected to other locations as in an adventure game or such. You can’t rotate in place to face different directions, each location is what it is and moving any direction goes to a new location. The view of your location is tiny, as most of the screen is dedicated to stats, a text info box, and other displays.
For the most part, this is a fairly conventional JRPG, with a heroic quest for our lone hero to embark on, standard turn-based battles, and the like. In each location you also might find items or things to speak to or interact with for puzzles and such. The main thing holding this game back for me is that there is no in-game map, so you MUST draw one yourself, or print one from the internet. You will need a map in order to get anywhere in this game. Sword of Hope II is a classic, and if you can get into it this game is definitely good, but know that this is a classic first-person RPG and you will need to be prepared for that. Originally released on Game Boy. If you want this game digitally the 3DS is the only way.
Swords & Soldiers 3D – Published and developed by Two Tribes in 2014. This is a simple strategy game. The idea here is that you’re basically playing a side-scrolling RTS where you have no control over your units, and no economy or town building. Instead, all that you do is build units that then automatically walk forward and fight, and use special ability spells and such that you can directly affect the world. You can also choose which way your soldiers go at some points when they hit branching paths in some stages. In order to win, you need to get soldiers from the left side of the stage to the right and capture the enemy’s base there. The game is fun, but probably a bit too simple. As much as I love strategy games and RTSes, I just don’t feel like there is enough for the player to do here. A lot of the time this game plays itself while all you do is just occasionally build a soldier. It’s incredibly stripped-down, and that makes it accessible, but I thought that it also makes it kind of boring. This game does have nice cartoony art design and stereoscopic 3d visuals, as the title suggests, but I mostly lost interest after a few levels. I’d rather have more actual gameplay in my strategy games than you find here. Still, it’s good I guess. This game was released on multiple platforms and is similar across versions. Also available digitally on the Wii U (as Swords & Soldiers HD). The HD version was released, all digital-only I believe, on PC / Mac / Linux (Steam), PlayStation 3, Nintendo Switch, Nintendo Wii U, Wii (WiiWare), iOS, and Android.
The best games in this update:
Summer Carnival ’92 RECCA [NES Virtual Console]
Also pretty good:
SteamWorld Dig 2
Swords & Soldiers 3D
Steel Empire [Genesis remake]
Silver Falls – Ghoul Busters
Silver Falls – Undertakers
Strike Force Foxx
SpeedX 3D: Hyper Edition
Sword of Hope II [Game Boy Virtual Console]
Super Destronaut 3D
Sweet Memories: Blackjack
Smash Cat Heroes
Silver Falls – 3 Down Stars
Snow Moto Racing 3D
Subpar to Bad:
Super Strike Beach Volleyball (for being slow)
Stack ’em High
Space Defender: Battle Infinity