Reviews Featuring ‘Rakuen’ and ‘LUNARK’, Plus the Latest Releases and Sales – TouchArcade
Hello gentle readers, and welcome to the SwitchArcade Round-Up for April 10th, 2023. In today’s article, we kick off the week with three reviews. Rakuen: Deluxe Edition is here to make you sob uncontrollably, LUNARK will take you to the past’s future, and GrimGrimoire OnceMore is ready for one more try. After that, we look at the new releases that popped up over the weekend. They aren’t too hot. Finally, sales. Everyone loves those sales lists, and they are here as they always are. Let’s get to it!
Reviews & Mini-Views
Rakuen: Deluxe Edition ($24.99)
I don’t know who decided we needed an infusion of games that make you bawl like a hungry baby in the last few months, but here we are with another one. Rakuen: Deluxe Edition contains a port of 2017’s Rakuen, the newly-released spin-off Mr. Saitou, and a collection of short animated movies set in the game’s world. The first of the bunch is the star of the show, having earned considerable acclaim on other platforms. The other two items round out the package nicely even if they’re not quite as substantial.
Rakuen is a narrative-heavy adventure game that was originally built in RPG Maker, similar to things like To the Moon or, I suppose, Corpse Party. You’ll walk around and talk to various characters, solve some puzzles, and explore a handful of locations. It was created by Laura Shigihara, who you’ll likely know from her many musical contributions to games like Plants vs Zombies, Deltarune, and the aforementioned To the Moon. She also contributed a song to Meg’s Monster, which was the last game to make me ugly-cry. Hmm. Laura, I’m on to you. You’re in cahoots with Big Tissue, I know it.
You play as an unnamed boy who is in the hospital and clearly not for a short stay. His mother likes to read to him from a storybook called Rakuen, and an incident one night involving the book leads to him discovering a whole other world. In that world, a forest spirit is sleeping. He can only be awoken by playing a special song, whose components can only be found by helping out some of the locals. It’s said that he can grant wishes, and the boy clearly has one in mind. Each of the characters you have to help forms something of a mini-episode within the greater narrative. Oh, and all of the characters in that other world seem to be counterparts of other residents and workers at the hospital, and their troubles seem to mirror theirs as well.
None of these tales have what I would call happy endings, but through your efforts some measure of relief, catharsis, or closure can be reached. Whether it be serving tea to flower blossom creatures on behalf of a fishperson or fixing a music box for an ill-mannered bear, the boy is willing to do whatever it takes to help people out. He’s accompanied almost all the time by his mother, who not only serves a narrative duty but also allows the player to get a hint if they need one. Most of the puzzles just involve bringing items from here to there, but some of them are more involved and feel like the kinds of things you’d see in an old Resident Evil game. It feels like the game eases off on the puzzles in the back half of its story, but that’s just as well. By then I was fully hooked into the story and just wanted to see how it ended.
While the game has many strengths, I would say its strongest elements are its characters and setting. The hospital ward is appropriately drab, with its residents doing what little they can to find some light in the darkness. The fantasy world is colorful, energetic, and full of bright and cheery characters. Neither space is particularly large, but both feel impressively alive. Even minor characters get a little bit of time to shine, and the major characters become very familiar in a hurry. It’s hard not to get attached to all of them, especially as you guide them through their issues.
To talk too much more about the story would spoil it, and it really is one you should experience on your own. It’s an emotional roller coaster, but it earns its beats properly by laying the foundations for everything that happens. The soundtrack is of course fantastic, and while the graphics aren’t the most impressive around they look really good for what they are. It only takes six or so hours to play through, but it truly is marvelous stuff. A real must-play, so long as you feel okay with going through the wringer.
The other included game, Mr. Saitou, has similarly interesting characters and writing, but it has very different goals in mind. It’s more of a silly slice-of-life adventure within the same setting, and taken that way it’s fine. Nothing I would insist people play, but if you enjoyed Rakuen and want to see more of that world it will certainly give you that. It’s alright as an extra, as are the animated shorts.
Rakuen: Deluxe Edition has a few different things to offer, with the titular Rakuen being the star of the show. It’s a bittersweet, deeply emotional story set in a rich, well-realized setting and it’s absolutely unforgettable. The visuals may be simple but they more than serve the purpose, and the soundtrack is outstanding. The other included items in this package are more like nice bonuses, but they are certainly quite welcome. If you enjoy a good yarn, grab a box of tissues and settle in with this over an evening or two.
SwitchArcade Score: 4.5/5
This came up last week when I reviewed Xiaomei and the Flame Dragon’s Fist, but sometimes a game is very clearly aiming at trying to recreate an experience from a particular moment in time, and when reviewing them all I can really do is determine how successful they are at that. In the case of Lunark, that particular moment in time is somewhere around the early 1990s. The latest gaming hardware afforded considerably better visuals and audio compared to the 8-bit generation, and Jordan Mechner’s Prince of Persia offered an enticing look at how that new power could be used to create a cinematic experience the likes of which had rarely been seen before. Delphine’s Another World and Flashback built on these ideas further, and the Oddworld games from Oddworld Inhabitants brought them into a newer generation.
Lunark‘s eyes appear to be mainly fixed on Flashback, with its cyberpunk setting and more action-packed gameplay. And yes, it largely nails it. You’ve got a mysterious protagonist, a compelling story, lots of tricky platforming and puzzle challenges, and well-animated visuals. It also has the stiffness that usually comes with games of this type, making things a lot more deliberate and less immediately responsive than more modern action-adventure games. This can be very frustrating, particularly when enemies or tricky jumps are involved, but it is like this by design. While games generally didn’t move in this direction with good reason, there’s value in having a well-made new game in this style.
While I doubt Lunark will go down in history as one of the all-timers of cinematic platforming, it’s well-made enough that anyone who likes this underserved niche should check it out. The presentation is on point, the story and setting are intriguing, and the mechanics feel like a close cousin to Flashback. This flavor of game isn’t going to be for everyone, especially those lacking warm and fuzzies for the specific era it’s paying homage to, but the target it’s aimed at is going to have a blast with it.
SwitchArcade Score: 4/5
GrimGrimoire: OnceMore ($49.99)
I feel like GrimGrimoire was a case of a game that was in the wrong place at the wrong time. It was a 2D side-view real-time strategy game with a story structure not unlike that of a visual novel releasing on the PlayStation 2 in 2007, well after the new generation of consoles was launched and commanding the attention of most of the hardcore players that might have given it a shot. The reviews were decent but not great, and that seemed to have been its reception from those who did pick it up. Unsurprisingly, it was a commercial failure. It’s easy to see why someone would think it deserved another kick at the can, however, and that seems to be how NIS felt as we now have this spiffy redo of the game.
It really is an upgrade, too. The new additions here directly address some of the worst problems of the original game, adding a bit more complexity to the progression of your units and implementing a highly welcome fast-forward function. Some of GrimGrimoire‘s battles can run very long indeed, and being able to kick things into a speedier gear is great. The new skill trees fit into the game so snugly you would think they had been there from the get-go. Other improvements come in terms of presentation and the new Grand Magic, following the trend of other strategy games allowing players to rewind battles if needed. All of this makes a game that sometimes felt like a repetitive slog a lot snappier, though it doesn’t quite alleviate how samey things are at times.
The story is a strong point here, with a new recruit mage finding herself trapped in a time loop with a really bad ending. Each loop through, she carries her knowledge from previous runs and gets a little closer to finding a way to break the cycle. It’s good stuff. The battles are pure real-time strategy apart from the unusual viewpoint. Collect resources, use those resources to summon units, use those units to defeat the enemy, and interfere a bit when you can or need to. Competently made, and considering the developer used StarCraft as a North Star of sorts I suppose that isn’t too surprising.
Some RTS fans are going to find GrimGrimoire a little too tedious at times even with the great new features, while those looking to enjoy the excellent visuals and solid time loop yarn will have to come to grips with the strategic elements. Still, I think there’s a lot here worth digging into. I like to think the audience is more receptive to things like this than it was in the late 00s, and that perhaps GrimGrimoire will get its due at long last.
SwitchArcade Score: 4/5
Probably the best game among today’s releases, but don’t take that as major praise of any kind. This is a very rough RPG from someone who clearly has a lot of passion for a particular era of the genre. I have played a lot worse. If you feel like getting away from the usual suspects in this genre for a bit, you might enjoy your time here.
This is a pretty straightforward rage platformer with some charmingly bad art. It’s completely unfair and doesn’t make any pretenses otherwise. Play it if you want to have some laughs at just how brutally rude a game can be.
Mystic Warriors Battleground ($3.99)
Been a while since Gametry ducked its head in the door of the eShop, and I can’t say I’ve missed them. They’ve once again cobbled together some manner of Android template for release on the Switch, a fact made obvious by its lack of support for proper button controls. Save your four bucks for something better.
Nightshade Ninja Warrior ($2.99)
And here’s another one from Gametry, this time a platformer that uses a silhouette art style in a likely effort to hide a complete lack of artistic skill by anyone at the publisher. Another probable Android template due to the requirement for touch controls. Another one to leave in the bin, in my opinion.
Gangster Life: Criminal Untold, Cars, Theft, Police ($4.99)
Leave it to VG-Games to make the Grand Theft Auto Definitive Edition releases look like pure spun gold.
(North American eShop, US Prices)
A tiny list, but there are a few games in there that I really like. Dorfromantik is super-chill, Brok the InvestiGator is really unique, and Dungeons of Dreadrock is always a good time. The outbox has some good stuff in it too, so make sure you give that list a look as well. Most of it will be back around again before too long, but you never know for sure.
Select New Games on Sale
Deep Space Shooter ($2.79 from $3.99 until 4/15)
Dungeons of Dreadrock ($2.48 from $10.00 until 4/17)
Brok the InvestiGator ($19.99 from $24.99 until 4/17)
The Diabolical Trilogy ($5.99 from $19.99 until 4/17)
even if TEMPEST ($34.99 from $49.99 until 4/18)
Devastator ($1.99 from $6.99 until 4/21)
SongPop Party ($4.99 from $19.99 until 4/21)
Loot Box Simulator Crimson Fire ($1.99 from $2.99 until 4/24)
Loot Box Simulator HotDA ($1.99 from $2.99 until 4/24)
Theatre of Sorrows ($1.99 from $9.99 until 4/28)
Super Cute Alien’s Adventure ($8.99 from $9.99 until 4/28)
Espacio Cosmic Light-Seeker ($1.99 from $3.49 until 4/28)
Dorfromantik ($13.49 from $14.99 until 4/29)
BIT.TRIP Collection ($3.79 from $9.99 until 4/30)
Mechstermination Force ($2.15 from $11.99 until 4/30)
Gunman Clive HD Collection ($1.99 from $4.99 until 4/30)
Super Punch Patrol ($1.99 from $4.99 until 4/30)
Sales Ending Tomorrow, Tuesday, April 11th
Alan Wake Remastered ($20.09 from $29.99 until 4/11)
Cyjin The Cyborg Ninja ($4.99 from $9.99 until 4/11)
Destropolis ($2.39 from $5.99 until 4/11)
Flippin Kaktus ($4.89 from $11.99 until 4/11)
Garden Story ($9.99 from $19.99 until 4/11)
Golden Force ($3.99 from $19.99 until 4/11)
Ken Follett’s the Pillars of the Earth ($14.99 from $19.99 until 4/11)
Make War ($1.99 from $9.99 until 4/11)
Mars Horizon ($6.59 from $19.99 until 4/11)
Master Spy ($4.99 from $9.99 until 4/11)
Minit ($1.99 from $9.99 until 4/11)
Murder By Numbers ($4.49 from $14.99 until 4/11)
Nova-111 ($3.99 from $9.99 until 4/11)
Okinawa Rush ($3.99 from $19.99 until 4/11)
One True Hero ($7.49 from $14.99 until 4/11)
PC Building Simulator ($3.99 from $19.99 until 4/11)
Picklock ($1.99 from $7.99 until 4/11)
Pirates: All Aboard ($1.99 from $5.99 until 4/11)
Primal Light ($7.49 from $14.99 until 4/11)
Railgrade ($14.99 from $19.99 until 4/11)
Siralim 3 ($11.24 from $14.99 until 4/11)
Siralim Ultimate ($14.99 from $19.99 until 4/11)
Splashy Cube ($1.99 from $4.99 until 4/11)
Steve Jackson’s Sorcery ($12.49 from $24.99 until 4/11)
Tanuki Justice ($2.99 from $14.99 until 4/11)
TOHU ($7.49 from $14.99 until 4/11)
Wallachia Reign of Dracula ($2.99 from $14.99 until 4/11)
Will You Snail? ($5.99 from $14.99 until 4/11)
That’s all for today, friends. We’ll be back tomorrow with more new releases, more sales, more reviews, and perhaps a spot of news. I have a dentist appointment tomorrow morning, but I imagine it will all work out okay for the article. So yes, see you tomorrow. I hope you all have a magnificent Monday, and as always, thanks for reading!