PAX East, the East Coast’s largest video game industry convention, expanded from 3 to 4 days at the Boston Convention and Expo Center with a chilly Thursday start on April 5th.
With few major releases this year the floor was more staid than 2017’s event, which was shortly after the launch of the Nintendo Switch.
One year later the system still proves a major draw with crowds chanting “Nintendo!” during the mainstage 4-on-4 Splatoon 2 tournaments with live commentary, and a constantly at-capacity line of gamers eager to play the 2018 releases. PAX East was the first public playable Switch premier of several titles including Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido (6/8/2018), the platform holder’s only original title this outing (though Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze [5/4/2018] and Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition [5/18/2018] ports enjoy some improvements, especially graphics-wise)
The concept is straightforward: slide the cursor to match similar colored plates of sushi together in a battle against the opponent on the other side. Once a stack of plates has been collected, you can throw them to knock out the other player. The game is rapid and a round can be over in a few minutes. The dizzying pace is a bit frustrating when playing with joycons, but will be undoubtedly addictive to swipe in handheld play. It’s no wonder Sushi Striker will be simultaneously released on Switch and NIntendo 3DS.
The offerings at the Switch booth were heavy on ports and sequels, like Dark Souls Remastered (5/25/2018), Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes (unspecified 2018), and Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy (7/10/2018). Some proved that the Switch was a valid contender for heavier games like Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, which looked relatively good even with a slightly lower resolution and a 30 per second frame rate. The Switch is never going to have the same smooth play as PC or Playstation versions, but the portability makes up for these slight deficiencies.
SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy (Summer 2018), on the other hand, had bright shiny graphics that reminded me of a late 90s arcade cabinet game outside a movie theater, and heavily rewarded button mashing techniques. I know this, because there is no other way I would have beaten the other reviewer (though I did have better mastery of the dedicated Block button and the hard-to-time finishing attack). It was passably fun, but limited and basic for a fighter.
In addition to the collection of familiar titles that Nintendo knows to bet on, half of the booth was dedicated to the increasingly popular “Nindies”, Nintendo’s indie game market. On the Switch’s eShop, best-selling titles like Super Mario Odyssey are next to equally if not popular third party games like Overcooked. A few of the many offerings stood out for their familiarity as well as novelty. Lumines Remastered (Spring 2018) is an updated version of the popular PSP launch title of the same name.
The game play is nearly identical, and the soundtrack is just as fun. This is the kind of game that you can lose hours to, but really benefits from being on a portable due to the ease of starting/stopping play. It was a little difficult to play with the surrounding noise from the floor, as the disappearing bar that wipes away combos is timed to the music. Grab your headphones when leaving the house with this one.
The Nindie causing the most excitement was The Messenger from Devolver Digital and Sabotage.
A combo throwback of 8-bit and 16-bit styles, the side-scrolling time travel game was terribly fun and absolutely brought back memories of early titles like Strider and Ninja Gaiden. With challenging gameplay, weird bosses, and character progression capacities, this was another “oh look, it’s been 4 hours” type of game that the Nindie section desperately needs to round out its more casual and simple titles (though the tongue-in-cheek stick figure Western, West of Loathing by Asymmetric, is really made by its no-nonsense-but-actually-loads-of-nonsense design).
Nintendo brought a great combo of nostalgia and innovation this year. While not all games were able to show their full capabilities (SNK did not have all players available, and Wolfenstein has joycon abilities that were not on display), it made for a great taste of a 2018 slate full of titles sure to appease every type of gamer.