198X | Review | Switch - TheFamicast.com: Japan-based Nintendo Podcasts, Videos & Reviews!


Wednesday, January 22, 2020

198X | Review | Switch

by Danny Bivens

1980s arcade action and a tale of growing up all in one package.
198X is a true love letter to the 1980s and gaming. Not only that, but the game also aims to tell a story that we are all familiar with - the pains (and sometimes awkwardness) of growing up. Developer Hi-Bit Studios put together games within a game here with the package consisting of a beat ‘em up, racing, an old school RPG, a ninja action game and a shoot ‘em up. But how does it all play, look and feel on the Switch?

198X takes place in the burbs outside of “The City” starring  “Kid.” Kid is a high schooler dealing with the pains of growing up and trying to fit in in 198X. By happenstance, Kid comes across an arcade and finds the lure of gaming as a way to escape the doldrums of life. A majority of the experience in 198X will be taking you through the five previously mentioned arcade games, but what you get in between are some pretty heavy story beats that most gamers can relate to. To top of the story, each of these scenes are beautifully animated with some awesome sprite work. It’s truly a visual treat. The game also features voice acting and an amazing soundtrack here, too.
As for the arcade games, they are all very simple to get in to but offer a decent amount of challenge. The beat ‘em up section takes obvious influence from the genres best and brightest. You can jump, kick, throws and even a special spin kick. Controls are pretty tight and responsive here. Enemies aren’t overly difficult and the pacing of this section of the game felt just right. As with other titles in the genre, you can rest easy - you can still find cheeseburgers in garbage cans and the like to replenish your health. Visually, the chunky sprites look great and animate really smoothly.
The racing arcade game looks absolutely fantastic. You start in a desert area while racing towards a city on the horizon. The further you get, the closer you get to the city, changing the visuals drastically. Controls are also very easy to get the hang of here - you have a button for gas, brakes and obviously can steer with the control pad or stick. Running against the clock, you have to navigate through traffic and curves to reach checkpoints. Pretty standard stuff, but it all feels and looks amazing.
The RPG puts you in a maze where your goal is to reach and defeat three dragons. Along the way, you’ll encounter a variety of enemies that are trying to keep you away from said dragons. Battles themselves give you four options - Slash, Hack, Beam and Heal. Each enemy type and color have certain weaknesses. The more you play, you figure out which attacks work best on the enemies. Even if you die, you start right back at the beginning of the maze with your previous paths revealed on a small map. Even if you’re finding it tough to get past certain enemies, you will be leveling up and learning what works against your foes, so you will eventually be powerful enough to get through. The whole package here feels, again, awesome and the big sprites are creepy and yet fitting for this portion of the adventure.
The shoot ‘em up puts Kid into a horizontal scrolling shooter. There’s a basic shot, but also the ability to charge the shot to deal out more damage. Various pick ups that boost things like speed and fire power are also spread throughout the stages. You have three lives per run and can take several hits before being blown to smithereens. Once all three lives are spent, you’ll have to start over again from the start of this particular game. Ship sprites here are also very detailed, colorful and look great. There is also a good variety of enemy types which keep you on your toes. While I really enjoyed this addition to the overall game, I did find it to be the most challenging of them all. It’s tough, but fair, though.
Perhaps my favorite of the arcade games had to be the Ninja Game. Here, you control a masked character that is constantly moving forward slicing through a variety of enemies. You have a basic attack, a slide and a jump. On top of taking out the enemies, you’ll also have to keep your eye on the environment which also serves as an enemy of sorts. Pits, spikes and spears can all wreck you pretty quickly if you aren’t paying attention or aren’t quick enough with your reactions. There are several levels in this arcade game that vary visually and that all ramp up at a pretty fair rate. The animations here are top notch, too. You can feel every slice and wince in pain with every mistake you make, especially the fatal ones. Fortunately even if your health is depleted completely, you are put back into the game quickly, starting from the most recent check point/start of the level. There is a ton of challenge and fun to be had here.

198X on the Switch is a real treat. The included five old school games are blast to play, the sprite work is amazing and the music is fantastic. While it’s true that the 1980s aesthetics are going to appeal greatly to players who grew up in the era, they won’t necessarily be lost on younger gamers. The underlying story revolving around the difficulties of growing up can easily appeal to anyone here, too. It should be noted that the game is a little on the short side with one complete play through taking a little under two hours. This isn’t it for 198X, though, as this is only part one of a five part series. Regardless, if you like tight gameplay, great art design with a touch of narrative, you definitely should give 198X a shot no matter what platform you play it on.

Final Score: 8.5

Review code provided by publisher. 

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