SwitchArcade Round-Up: ‘Psikyo Shooting Stars Alpha’ Review, Mini-Views Including ‘Heroland’ and ‘THOTH’, New Releases, Sales, and More

Hello gentle readers, and welcome to the SwitchArcade Round-Up for January 28th, 2020. In today’s article, I’ve got a review of the recent Psikyo shoot-em-up collection from NIS America, Mini-Views of a handful of titles including THOTH and Heroland, a slice of news, summaries of today’s new releases including Kentucky Route Zero: TV Edition, and all those lovely sales you enjoy digging through. Yes, it’s a stuffed crust today, friends. Let’s dig in!
The Next Maximus Cup Event Hits ‘Tetris 99’ This Weekend

Thursday January 01, 1970

It’s been a bit since the last Maximus Cup event in Tetris 99, but the next one has been set for this coming weekend. Kicking off on Thursday night and running until Monday night, the 11th Maximus Cup tasks players with accumulating as many event points as possible. The higher you place in each round, the more points you’ll earn. When the dust settles, the 999 players with the highest accumulated event points will be awarded 999 Gold Points to use on the Nintendo eShop.  Just… keep in mind that 999 Gold Points is about ten bucks, so it’s probably not worth spending 20 hours of your life trying to earn that prize, you know?
Psikyo Shooting Stars Alpha ($39.99)

Thursday January 01, 1970

The Nintendo Switch is home to a wide variety of shoot-em-ups old and new. Pretty much every major shoot-em-up developer has at least one of its games on the system, with the notable exception of Cave. Particularly well-represented is Psikyo (pronounced Sye-Kyoh), a Japanese shoot-em-up developer who shone brightly in its brief time on this world. Founded in 1992 by former members of Video System who had worked on the Aero Fighters series, Psikyo was one of the main proponents of the bullet-hell style of shooter. By the time the company closed in 2005, it had turned out about a dozen-and-a-half shooters of varying degrees of quality.
Twelve of Psikyo’s games have been released digitally on the eShop, with physical collections in various configurations made available in Asian countries. NIS America is following in the footsteps of those releases with two volumes collecting the titles. The first, Psikyo Shooting Stars Alpha, collects the three Strikers 1945 games along with Dragon Blaze, Sol Divide, and Zero Gunner 2-. These are the exact same games already available on the eShop in digital form, so if you already own those the only real benefit to picking this collection up is to have them all in one handy launcher. With the games going for eight bucks each on the eShop, you’re basically getting six games for the price of five.

Thursday January 01, 1970

The question, then, is whether or not you want at least five of these six games. If not, you’d save money by buying the ones you want individually. The Strikers trilogy is brilliant and should be of interest to any fan of vertical shooters. Dragon Blaze switches to a fantasy setting but otherwise offers up a similar brand of action. The other two games are a bit different. Sol Divide is a rather odd horizontal shooter with some melee elements, and Zero Gunner 2- is a flawed port of a quirky omnidirectional Dreamcast shooter. Your mileage will vary with these two.
Then there’s the matter of the ports themselves. While the games are collected together into one launcher, they’re really only tied together with a title screen where you select the game you want to play. Each game has its own set of options, and you shouldn’t expect much in the way of extras like other retro compilations sometimes offer. These Switch ports also suffer from heavier-than-usual input lag, something that casual players probably won’t notice too much but will drive veteran players absolutely mad. Again, these are exactly the same as the existing eShop versions, warts and all.

If you’re a fan of bullet-hell shoot-em-ups and want to grab a bunch of Psikyo’s classics in one fell swoop, you’ll probably be satisfied with Psikyo Shooting Stars Alpha. Just be aware that the input lag isn’t ideal and a couple of the games in the set are a bit odd. If you’re only looking to grab one of these two collections, I’d personally probably give the nod to the upcoming Bravo set for its overall better selection of titles, but I can’t deny that the Strikers games and Dragon Blaze are extremely hot in their own right. I’m not sure this should be anyone’s first choice when dipping into this genre on Switch, but for those looking to fill out their libraries, there’s quite a bit to enjoy here.
SwitchArcade Score: 3.5/5
Heroland ($39.99)

Sometimes I find a game whose premise I absolutely love but whose execution of said premise leaves something to be desired. Regrettably, Heroland is one such game. You’re an employee of a theme park that promises guests the “hero experience” and need to take them on a tour that delivers on their dreams. You have to lead these wacky characters safely through the park’s many attractions. Certainly an unusual idea for an RPG, and I dig it. Heck yeah, let’s talk about the commodification of valorous experiences in a world without much real danger. Unfortunately, the game gets repetitive and tiresome pretty quickly. It’s a shame because the satire is on point and the writing is sharp, but none of that can save the game from the doldrums of having to re-run dungeons to get your levels to where they need to be in order to move forward. Still, you may be swayed by its quirky charms.
SwitchArcade Score: 3/5
Ember ($19.99)

I had a lot of fun with Ember when it hit mobile a few years back. It’s now available on your Switch for twice the price and with a lot heavier competition, but it still manages to deliver a somewhat satisfying if a bit unexciting classic CRPG experience. At first blush you may take this as a Diablo-style hack-and-slash dungeon crawler but Ember actually tries to deliver the full-fat RPG experience. How successful it is at reaching its ambitions is debatable, but the harshest thing I can really say about it is that it’s just a bit bland in most respects. If you’ve exhausted the more noteworthy examples of the genre on Switch and are looking for something to scratch the itch, Ember will fill your belly. Not much more than that, but that’s how it goes sometimes.
SwitchArcade Score: 3.5/5
THOTH ($4.99)

This is a surprisingly fun twin-stick shooter with a minimalist vibe to it. You play through a bunch of levels that are set in cramped arenas with various kinds of enemies. The trick is that you move more slowly while you’re shooting, so you need to let up on shooting to make a get-away every now and then. The enemies will often recover if you stop shooting them, however, so you need to be very careful about all of this. It’s a tough game that only gets tougher as you go, and I rather like it overall. Definitely worth a fiver if you like challenging action games.
SwitchArcade Score: 4/5
140 ($4.99)

This rhythm-based platformer offers up some solid kicks and a good level of challenge, but I ultimately found the whole thing a bit too familiar to get too enamored with it. To be fair, this game is several years old and likely predates quite a few of the games that I’ve played that are causing this reaction, but it is what it is. It’s very lively and colorful and I could definitely see some falling in love with its well-paced one hour or so of hypnotic action. The boss battles are definite highlights. Overall, I enjoyed 140 but I wasn’t thrilled with it. If you think it looks cool, I’d say give it a shot. You’ll probably enjoy yourself well enough for the price.
SwitchArcade Score: 3/5
New Releases
Kentucky Route Zero: TV Edition ($24.99)

SwitchArcade Highlight!
Cardboard Computer’s outstanding years-in-the-making adventure comes to Nintendo Switch in its full glory. This TV Edition includes all five episodes along with all of the interludes, giving you the complete experience in one shot. Follow the story of a truck driver named Conway as he travels the rather unique Route Zero in Kentucky to make one last delivery. This is primarily a narrative-driven adventure, so don’t expect much in the way of puzzles or anything. But the story and the characters you meet are absolutely unforgettable. Don’t miss it!
Actual Sunlight ($10.00)

SwitchArcade Highlight!
If you have room for another narrative game today, albeit a short and somewhat heavy one, Actual Sunlight is also worth checking out. This one came out ages ago on other platforms and you don’t have to look hard to find people saying good things about it. It follows a man who suffers heavily from depression and deals with topics such as social isolation and suicidal ideation. It is a very uncomfortable experience, so I wouldn’t go into it if you’re feeling down yourself. But there’s something quite fascinating about how raw and real it feels, and for those who may be struggling to understand depression, it may give you some insight into what it feels like to live with such a condition.
It Came From Space And Ate Our Brains ($14.99)

Okay, enough talky, time for some shooty. This is an arena-style top-down shooter, and yes there sure are plenty of these on the Switch these days. What sets this one apart? Eh, not much, but it’s pretty fun anyway. Fend off hordes of alien brain-munchers with your arsenal of deadly and colorful weapons. Grab a few friends and enjoy some local co-op in six different campaign missions. It’s nothing fancy by any means, but it works. If you’re looking for another fun arena shooter to play with your buds, you could do a lot worse than this one.
I’m still rebuilding my sales database, so the outbox will be sitting out for one more day. Do not hesitate if there’s something on sale you’re interested in, in other words. As for today’s sales, there’s a humdinger of a deal on the popular Serial Cleaner along with an assortment of other somewhat familiar faces and a couple of upcoming releases. Nothing worth getting too excited over, but if you’ve got coins to spend, I’m sure you’ll find something to spend them on.
Select New Games on Sale

Serial Cleaner ($1.49 from $14.99 until 2/11)
Space Ribbon ($0.99 from $4.99 until 2/16)
Santa Tracker ($0.89 from $2.99 until 2/16)
Golf Peaks ($2.99 from $4.99 until 2/16)
Crazy Zen Mini Golf ($1.49 from $4.99 until 2/16)
Midnight Evil ($0.99 from $9.99 until 2/4)
Marooners ($12.74 from $14.99 until 2/7)
Crash Drive 2 ($7.64 from $8.99 until 2/7)
The Bridge ($1.49 from $9.99 until 2/10)
Tumblestone ($2.24 from $14.99 until 2/9)
Real Drift Racing ($2.49 from $4.99 until 2/16)
That’s it for today, friends. Tomorrow we’ll have a couple of new releases to check out, some news stuff, and whatever sales happen to come along. There may also be a review or some Mini-Views depending on how much time I have. At any rate, I hope you all have a terrific Tuesday, and as always, thanks for reading!