Nintendo, the century-old behemoth of the games industry, is known for slick production, cartoon visuals, and traditional adventures. In an increasingly bloated market, gamers also turn to Nintendo for simpler, straightforward storytelling and mechanics-focused design. Even the Switch has taken off thanks to its simplicity and appealing configuration, and third-party developers are slowly returning to Nintendo to take advantage of that popularity.
With that in mind, here are the most interesting titles hitting the Nintendo Switch in August.
Writing anything new about gaming’s oft-ridiculed but perplexingly popular Sonic the Hedgehog series seems near impossible. Love it? Hate it? Used to like it, hate what it became? Just dislike it? Warmed up to it? No matter the perspective one takes, there will be a thousand reasons to take another, and thousands more who wish you felt more like they do. Actually, that makes Sonic a rather accurate microcosm of the Internet…
In any case, Sonic Mania is a 2017 title that resembles, in many key ways, the original Sonic trilogy released in the early 1990s. The game’s sprites are nostalgically similar to Sonic 2 and 3, several of its levels are remakes of classics, and even the playable characters are stripped back to the three from the original games. Developers Headcannon, PagodaWest, and lead programmer Christian Whitehead are all committed to making a tribute to the best of 2D Sonic, while still making a game for modern audiences. The animation is more detailed, the music is more expansive, and the level designs flow much better than the games they are inspired by.
Will Sonic Mania‘s mix of modern techniques and nostalgia attract the audience SEGA hopes for? Or will the allure fizzle out fast, and please only the most devoted fans, the way plenty of other Sonic games have? In just two weeks, fans of Sonic and mascot-platformers will find out for themselves.
Sonic Mania runs onto the Nintendo Switch, as well as Windows PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One on August 15.
MARIO+RABBIDS KINGDOM BATTLE
No one would have believed but for the evidence of their own eyes, before this year’s E3, that Ubisoft was working on a tactical-RPG crossover between its and Nintendo’s biggest franchises. The good ship Mario+Rabbids was leaky as anything, but even with the pieces plain to see, gamers were surprised when the title was eventually revealed.
The Rabbids, although an enormous property for Ubisoft, is not particularly popular in the English-speaking world—let alone with hardcore gamers. Still, something about the E3 presentation just worked. Having Shigeru Miyamoto show up on stage certainly helped, but once the feed switched to actual play, having the creator of Mario on board was entirely justified. From the best graphics on the Nintendo Switch so far (with apologies to Super Mario Odyssey) to crunchy turn-based battles, heavily inspired by XCOM and Fire Emblem, Mario+Rabbids became the surprise hit of the show.
The game boasts almost too many positives to count: the soundtrack by Rare alumnus Grant Kirkhope, a Disgaea-like system that allows characters to jump on one another to extend their movement, a beautifully rendered Mushroom Kingdom that has been twisted by the arrival of the meddlesome Rabbids, and even light exploration and puzzles outside of battle. Ubisoft has also included smaller touches that enhance the ‘Nintendoness’ of the title, such as a subtle tilt-shift effect that makes the world appear like a playable diorama.
No one would have believed in the possibility of the project, yet Mario+Rabbids is coming in just a few weeks. Single-player gamers of all stripes will want to keep an eye out, but for Nintendo Switch owners eager to play the next big RPG, the game is a must-buy.
Mario+Rabbids Kingdom Battle comes to Nintendo Switch on August 29.
AZURE STRIKER GUNVOLT and AXIOM VERGE
How can a game possibly follow a brand new, triple-A Nintendo crossover like Mario+Rabbids? By serving an entirely different need in fans’ hearts: a retro platformer. Both the Azure Striker Gunvolt series and Axiom Verge are heading to Nintendo Switch in August, making for three excellent games in total.
Switch owners might already know of Gunvolt, thanks to the smaller and even more retro-styled release of Mighty Gunvolt Burst earlier in the year. But where Burst is flat-out Mega Man, Azure Striker Gunvolt and its sequel are closer to the Mega Man X sub-series, only with their serial numbers filed off. These titles are not simply fan games, either: developer IntiCreates was formed by ex-Capcom staff, who previously worked on many Mega Man titles throughout the 2000s, making Gunvolt the most official continuation extant.
Compared with their little brother Burst, the Azure Striker Gunvolt games are more big-screen friendly, with high-bit graphics and impressive special effects. Whether or not prospective buyers have a history with the genre, the flashy, high-octane action makes the Gunvolt games well worth playing for those who have not already caught them on other consoles or PC.
At the opposite end of the platformer spectrum, Axiom Verge is a Metroid-like. (Note the lack of ‘-vania’: it really is that much like Metroid). Here, “like Metroid” means slow, lonely exploration; advanced weaponry; backtracking through item gates; a cadre of unsettling enemies; and an electro synth soundtrack that goes from moody or nearly silent, to heart-pumping when it needs to be.
Fans of Epic’s Shadow Complex or Ori and the Blind Forest will find plenty to enjoy in Axiom Verge‘s tight grasp of the fundamentals of the genre, while nostalgic Nintendo fans will love the graphical style that sits somewhere between 8 and 16-bit, but always seems familiar.
Azure Striker Gunvolt and its sequel come to Nintendo Switch on August 31, and Axiom Verge: Multiverse Edition is scheduled for release at an unspecified date in August.
Not many other games are currently scheduled for Nintendo Switch in August, but this is likely to change as smaller titles are revealed week-by-week. Why not comment below and share which of the other big releases this month you hope to see coming to the Nintendo Switch soon? See you again for the single-player Nintendo games of September!