Must Plays | The Banner Saga

The Banner Saga looks like the Oregon Trail by way of Fire Emblem. As is often the case with such an odd amalgamation, I didn’t realize this is a thing I wanted until the moment I laid eyes on it. Like, four years ago.  Originally announced for PCs and tablets, The Banner Saga was a game I admired from afar, being as I’m not one to play on either platform, but one that I had always hoped would land on something I do play on.

Enter the independent gaming machine of choice, the Switch.

The Banner Saga follows a caravan of soldiers that are on a journey to end an apocalypse that’s being brought on by a spiteful race called the Dredge. As they travel forth, situations and events arise that call for everything from isometric tactical skirmishes to making hard decisions about how your party moves forward from things like hunger and disease. Just to drive the desolation home, most of the game takes place on a Norse-inspired world filled with snowy bluffs and constant cold.

The idea is that you’re less interested in the happenings of a single character and are more worried about your caravan as a whole. Like the Oregon Trail, I imagine you’ll feel the sting of losing people, disappointing folks or just plain being stuck in a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you don’t situation. It’s not a tone often touched in video games in general, so when you do see it in something like the Banner Saga, I tend to take notice. Likewise, the strategic combat looks deceivingly simple, but the impact of your decisions will be felt possibly through the entire trilogy. I used to be one of those people who played Fire Emblem on casual because I was afraid to lose anybody, but here it feels necessary to let people go for the sake of a more impactful story.

Even though the Banner Saga weaves its tale during the potential end of the world, the subtle somberness of taking a few out into it to save the many is an interesting one. I’m also keen on the idea that what happens in this game will carry over to its sequel and so forth; it feels like something worth investing in. There may be something more serious than dysentery on the horizon of the Banner Saga.


I am Setsuna Journal, Vol. 4: A Full Life

As I mentioned before, I don’t think I am Setsuna is going to break any boundaries as far as RPG design goes, but four chapters in I’ve been all but reassured that that is in fact the case. I’ve probably also stated that I’m perfectly OK with that. I was consumed with an unbridled love for role-playing games in the 16-bit era and am content with games that hearken back to those design tropes more so than newer games. I am Setsuna treads familiar territory on purpose, and I’m now to the point of the game where that notion has settled with me and I’m along for the rest of the ride.

As suspected, Kir does join the party after this chapter. His village is settled by what the game calls rare-bloods, which apparently means they’re somewhere in between humanity and monsters, but what really means is they are people with furry ears and tails and magic abilities. They’ve somehow discovered that they a) have a short lifespan compared to other beings and b) if they dilute their magical power they live longer. Not a very fully formed conceit, but at the clip this game goes at it’s not at all surprising. Regardless, Kir opts to reach his full potential by taking back his power from a giant crystal and you have to defend him in a gauntlet of battles. It surprisingly did not end with a boss battle at the end, instead giving you a respite and dropping a giant mecha on you when you got back to the village instead.

This battle is worth talking about for two reasons. The first is that Kir comes back to town filled with energy and a cockiness to him, ready to prove to the chieftain his worth. I got caught up in the moment and, after watching him kick all kinds of butt during a cut scene, put him in my immediate party to do battle with the time-manipulating robot. Only…he just had a fire spell. And a wand with a paltry amount of attack power. He wasn’t a complete waste of a slot, but I would have rather put Setsuna or Aeterna in at the very least. The other thing I found interesting is that when you finish off the boss, he blows up and about takes your party out. It’s a dick move I know I’ve seen before in other games, which would have infuriated me had it actually killed anybody and they didn’t gain any experience points from it. Luckily it was only an irritant and not a detriment.

I am Setsuna is quick to funnel you off to the next story beat and area, but I’m at the point where I’m ready to hang back and do some proper grinding. A lot of my enjoyment of these types of games comes from not just building up my levels and gear, but to experiment with party members and their abilities. The battle system in Setsuna isn’t particularly revelatory, but it is engaging. It seems as if a lot of thought went into abilities, combos and triggering a momentum mode, but the game isn’t going to force you to discover or learn any of it unless you do so on your own. And I want to.

So, a little bit of grinding is in order before I climb the next literal mountain to the next area.


Developer: Tokyo RPG Factory

Publisher: Square Enix

Released on: March 3rd, 2017

Must Plays | Super Smash Bros.

If I’m being honest, at first I thought it would be hard to write about a teaser trailer for Super Smash Bros. because really, other than knowing it’s on Switch and that the Inklings have a spot on the roster, there isn’t really much to go on. The series is an institution at my house at this point, but Nintendo and whoever is developing it isn’t going to tinker with the formula to the point of breaking it. Well, unless you’re into the competitive aspect of it; but I’m here for the unmitigated love of all things Nintendo so the minutia of it all escapes me. My point being, the core of Super Smash Bros. won’t change dramatically.

Rather, I’m going to do with this post what most people will: use it as a speculative piece that encapsulates my hopes and dreams that will summarily be dashed should I let my expectations get too high. Luckily I’m a very rational person so that’s not likely to happen, I’ll just be content with whatever they have up their sleeve and play copious amounts of it with any friends and family that might be within my vicinity.

As to whether this is a port or not, I think it’s the latter. My hope is that now that Nintendo doesn’t have to divide its attention between two different platforms they can make an uncompromised game. That’s not to say the 3DS version of Super Smash Bros. was bad, rather they had to leave characters out and split the stages up to make sure both it and the Wii U version has their own personality. While the new modes added to both were fun, I’m really hoping they bring back a wild crossover single player campaign similar to the Subspace Emissary from Brawl that hewed somewhere between platformer and fighter. With Nintendo being able to focus on one title, I expect them to blow it up with modes regardless.

The other fun thing to do is to ponder who might make the cut as a new fighter, so I’m going to give you my list in an order of likelihood. It’s worth pointing out that I think Nintendo is going to shake up the move sets for a lot of returning characters, which is going to either please or infuriate folks depending on which side of the e-sports fence you reside on. There have been enough games in the series that it’s worth doing just to give things a fresh coat of paint. In the teaser Link was obviously wearing his Breath of the Wild garb, so I’d like to see his moves reflect that new direction. And honestly, if you want the old school Link you could just lean on the Toon one, which would make for a good differentiator. I can also see Mario with Cappy, Detective Pikachu, Luigi with a Poltergust, a new Zelda and Yarn Yoshi among other shifts.

Without further ado though, here’s my wish list of characters for Super Smash Bros. on Switch.


Spring Man/Ribbon Girl – This seems like the safest bet to make. Granted ARMS didn’t light the world on fire like Nintendo hoped, they are very endearing characters and come straight from a fighting game, so translating it to Smash Bros. wouldn’t be much of a stretch (get it!?).

Ridley – He’s been requested enough that I think Nintendo will buckle to pressure and finally include Samus’s arch-nemesis. The whole “he’s too big to be a fighter” angle sounded like a serious cop-out, one that can and should be remedied. Whereas Little Mac was a low to the ground fighter, Ridley could easily take the high road. Plus, Metroid needs more love anyways.

Decidueye – Decidueye is kind of a shot in the dark, not because I don’t think it’s suited for Smash Bros. (it did make an appearance in Pokken Tournament), but because it could be interchanged with any of the latest Pokemon from Sun and Moon. I can see Nintendo opting to retire Greninja or Lucario for something newer, again to keep things fresh.

Ice Climbers – Remember when I was talking about no compromises? It’s Popo and Nana’s time to shine once again.

Captain Toad – The time is nigh. Not just because I love the good Captain, but because out of the stable of Mario characters out there, it’s weird that no mushroom-capped character has been playable beyond being a buffer for Peach. People want Ridley, but I humbly say that we need Toad.


Cranky Kong – Much like Metroid, I think the Kong family needs more love, so nothing would bring a smile to my face more than a literal curmudgeon swinging his cane off his porch at some young’uns. He could pogo, pop people in the head and put them to sleep with his diatribes. With the re-release of Tropical Freeze this might be an opportunity to seize.

Mike – Wait, who’s Mike!? He’s the yo-yo wielding kid from StarTropics, that’s who! Another popular theme with Nintendo is to bring back archaic characters and shine the spotlight on them as sort of a deep cut. See: Pit from Kid Icarus and Marth from Fire Emblem. I would also like to see him attached to a new game in general, but at the very least they could acknowledge the NES late bloomer in some capacity.

Shovel Knight – One has to be thinking of what crazy third-party characters can join the brigade, so for my money I would guess the blue shoveler would make his way in. Sure, his games have appeared on every system under the sun, but I feel like he’s most known for being at home with Nintendo. More so than Cloud, at the very least.

Rex/Pyra – My first thought was to include a newer Fire Emblem character, but I think there are too many as it is and I also think the craze for the series in general has died down a bit anyways. Rather, I’d like to see Xenoblade Chronicles 2 protagonists Rex and Pyra pull an Ice Climbers and combine in a unique and interest way. Perhaps like Rosalina and Luma, Rex’s effectiveness could go down if somebody took out Pyra.

Steve – This seems unlikely at first blush, but if Nintendo was going to push Super Smash Bros. to a younger set, Steve from Minecraft would be a huge addition. I wouldn’t put it out of the realm of possibility simply because there’s been more than one occasion where a Microsoft employee thought having some of their characters (i.e. Master Chief, Banjo-Kazooie) in the game would be a good idea and with the game being on Nintendo systems anyways there’s no reason not to have a little synergy.


King Hippo – My short list of requests that are never gonna happen will unsurprisingly stem from my unnatural love for Captain N. I have an affinity for every character in that show, but some of them are just better suited for Smash Bros. than others. Case in point – King Hippo. He could be made interesting by not even being able to jump, instead having a small but strong reach. Not wholly unsimilar to Balrog in Street Fighter II. He’d be unique, at the very least.

Eggplant Wizard – Our annoying but feeble henchman to Medusa would have the most obvious smash ball move out of anybody, but I want to see everybody’s legs sticking out of that slightly gross tasting purple vegetable. Everybody!

Simon Belmont – Out of anybody else on my “no way” list, Simon is the most deserving of a spot. From the NES to the Super Nintendo he was a pillar for Nintendo. Konami did get Solid Snake in there at one point, but I feel like Simon is more ubiquitous to the platform than he was. Unfortunately he’s been cast aside for different characters in Castlevania in general, but my heart of hearts tells me that the whip-toting vampire killer would make a wonderful and diverse choice for Super Smash Bros.

Dragonborn – With Nintendo finally buddying up with Bethesda, it’d be kind of neat to see one of their characters bopping around with the Big N Elite. He/she would likely have a more rounded move set than say a Fire Emblem character and the powers inherent to the character could add some versatility. The Dragonborn could be replaced with the Solaire of Astora from Dark Souls because why the hell not!?