Sunday, 7 July 2013

Mighty Switch Force 2 Review


I’ve come a long way from where I stand when it came to the matter of cute female protagonists. I’m sure that’s not how you wanted this review to start, but I really want to point this out for my own sake. For the longest time I could remember, I was very anti-anime. Particularly with the moe style. The moe style oddly exemplified this sort of cute female character that I speak of. By god did I hate it. The wide-eyed expressions, the agonizing high-pitched voices and the grating sense that people enjoy it to such disgusting lengths. This really coincided with my hatred of unnecessary fanservice since it too shared the similar traits that moe did. And really, that hatred is what spawned me to believe that the general art style of anime, which consisted of exaggeration in an artistic and voice-acting sense, having the creator wave metaphorical keys above the audience as if that would entertain them and huge pupils, was merely just a cesspool that has harbored the two things that I despised the most about the medium. In turn, that shut me off from a great deal of games, particularly the ones that looked the most “kawaii desu ne~”. Then FLCL came by and snapped me out of my anger, although I still didn’t stand much of the cliches that were present, and I soon started to warm up to anime and the prospect of the cute female protagonist. Granted I didn’t go to buying anything moe, because I still didn’t like it but it was for other reasons.

Truth be told, even though I was okay with no longer hating the archetype of that character I didn’t find much incentive to carry it out to perhaps enjoying something that embodied that characteristic. I was more okay seeing it whenever it popped up anywhere, but I wasn’t eagerly seeking it out. I guess it wasn’t so much of the character that became relevant more so the actual content. Then came a game on the 3DS called Mighty Switch Force, which was created by Wayforward. It had Patricia Wagon, a cop who maybe in the graphical design didn’t look as adorable as she would in the art that would appear as you progressed though the game but certainly had a chirpy attitude accentuated in the dialogue and it also had some freaking good gameplay to boot. Hell, I might even go so far to say that it would be one of my top favorite games for being able to fully 180 my perception of the character archetype as well as having a creative gaming mechanic behind it. Truly, I appreciated what this game was capable of doing and I eagerly anticipated the continuation of her delightful journey. Lo and behold, a sequel came about and I downloaded it once I saw a fit opportunity to do so.

So, if you want to know the story of Mighty Switch Force 2, you have to play through the first game because I’m not giving out any spoilers as to the gripping and complex tale that is continued in this epic continuation! Actually I’m kidding. This series of games is one of those early video game industry deals where the concern isn’t so much trying to hamfist themes and existential revelations into its plot but rather making a simple, enjoyable experience. In this instance, you’re no longer a policewoman searching for the Hooligan Sisters and bringing them to justice but rather a firefighter whose saving damsels in distress whilst extinguishing fires. It’s a good thing they keep the main character a female otherwise we’d be having something making a hissy-fit in the distance. Plus, maybe it’s just me, but I think that having Patty Wagon saving dames is hilarious, especially when you listen to some of her dialogue.

Hosing the girls you’re saving is probably the most adorable thing ev-WHAT AM I SAYING?!

You start in a stage select screen and begin on a level or “incident’ where you save the gals and get in your robot to fly off to the next incident. The gameplay consists of two sole factors. The first is the platforming which consists of jumping around from place to place and shooting enemies with your fire hose. The second one, which is what makes this game unique is the switch function. When you press a button, Patty’s siren goes off and you switch around specific platforms. This mechanic is basically what ensures life or death in the game. You have to know when to press the button and which platforms will switch when you do this. Sometimes you have to do it really fast because you require a quick jump. This can also be helpful for getting rid of enemies since if they get caught in the way, they smash on the screen and make it looked cracked and then fade away. There are special blocks that work with the switch function such as blocks that can propel you to an area if you stand where they would be and then press the switch button to activate them. There’s also blocks that if you stand of them, they are unaffected by the switch and can be linked to other blocks. The addition to this game from its predecessor is that there are factors that require water. There’s fires you have to put out, enemies that burst when you fill them up with water, mud blocks that disintegrate when you spray water on them and grills that you can temporarily extinguish. I think the random fires on the stages are forcing the mechanic a bit, but since the hose makes for pushing those larger enemies away easier, I don’t mind that much. It’s very simple and very addicting so you don’t have to get so caught up in re-teaching it to yourself if you haven’t played in a while.

I don’t know whose expression is the more hilarious one…

The sound and art direction in this game is great. The effects are clear and crisp and fit to the overall feel of the game. The graphics fit very well into the burning situation that we’ve come across, particularly in the last lever where it almost feels like you’re in a Vietnam flashback. Patty’s voice sounds as happy as ever, in fact I think it’s happier than before. Mainly when you select them from your 3DS. It also emotes a bit more but I think that’s also do to the dialog. I’m not sure if that’s incredibly relevant in the appeal you’ll get from a more gameplay-centric game, but I enjoy it. The soundtrack is also phenomenal. They got Jake Kaufman to do the OST again and he rocked it again. The title music sounds much more bombastic and daring, the select music is much more bouncy and laid-back, the tally screen music is catchy as hell and the final level music is just magnificent! The credits is also pretty good, even if its cheesy as hell. Go ahead and download it, he has up and you can pay whatever you want. It’d be nice to give him a bit of money as a donation, he’s a very talented music-maker.

It’s worth noting that this game has only 16 levels. It would make it somewhat short, and I guess that’s true, but the game’s relatively cheap as far as games go so you do get your money’s worth. Plus, they’re not as easy as you’d think. Aside from the puzzles that you have to complete, you also have a time limit. You’re not really punished if you don’t meet the deadline, but if you’re like me and you don’t like to feel like a chump, you’ll try desperately to do it under said time limit. That takes a lot of time, to be honest. Not only are there times where you feel that you died by some idiotic error, but once you do manage to complete after countless trial and error, you still manage to do it over the time limit. I’d say that it’s near impossible, but I’ve managed to reach the limit after much repetition so it’s more a matter of determination, memorization and skill more so that cheapness. As hard as the game gets, you do get that feeling that if you died it wasn’t by a trick set in but rather your own fault. Sometimes it could be the panic of the moment, other times its a miscalculation. The game never seems to pull anything devious off if you focus on what you’re doing. The final boss fight was generally challenging and it did sort of fit to the game’s theme. Not like the other boss in the last game which seemed a bit unfitting to the idea. I was thinking it was gonna be some giant robot handled by the sisters, but the fight with that boss was fun so I can’t complain too much. The payoff from completing the game is basically the awesome credits song and being able to play as Patty in a more casual outfit a la Metroid, only a tad more dignified/reasonable. If you really want to challenge yourself, you can try getting all of the babies in each incident and kicking them to safety. Yes, you literally kick babies to safety. Oh, how quirky your video game logic can be Mighty Switch Force.

This is one of those rare times I’m okay with a game where you can kick babies

Mighty Switch Force 2 is a great sequel to a wonderful game. It built up from the last game and did enough to add to the original. The music and art style helped to make it stand out as more of its own thematic feel, which made the game feel more interesting. I would have liked a little more implementation of the firefighter mechanic to truly take it to a new level and experiment some more, but I can understand why it choose a more basic approach. Besides, I like the original’s gameplay and how it stuck to a basic mechanic. I don’t know how it would work if they try to make a third game revolving around the hospital to complete the public service trifecta, but if they do, I eagerly anticipate the antics that follow with Patty Wagon. I highly recommend the game to anyone that likes easy-to-get gameplay and addicting puzzles.

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