Mighty Switch Force: Hyper Drive Edition (Wii U eShop): “2D Platforming Bliss”

When it comes to retro-style games, WayForward Technologies has always excelled in providing gamers with unique and memorable experiences. Many remember WayForward with their cult classic franchise, Shantae, while others know them for their recently released Double Dragon Neon, Silent Hill: Book of Memories or my personal favorite title of theirs, Bloodrayne: Betrayal (which was ranked in my Top 10 PSN/XBLA Downloadable Titles article). While WayForward isn’t an exclusive platform developer by any means, they’ve always had a fond reputation of releasing their titles on Nintendo platforms and their most recent, Mighty Switch Force: Hyper Drive Edition, continues that trend. Taking their successful 3DS eShop title that released almost a year ago, WayForward has gone back and completely remastered the game in time for the Wii U’s release. However, is it a good fit for the Wii U and should owners of the 3DS version purchase this as well?

Mighty Switch Force: Hyper Drive Edition is a 2D action/platformer at heart; One which starts off with a simple, yet unique premise. You’ll control Patricia Wagon, a robot officer who’s trying to track down and arrest the escaped blonde bomb-shell convicts. Equipped with a simple blaster and your trusty “switch” helmet, you’ll have to platform your way through 16 incidents, as well as five additional bonus incidents. Gameplay wise, you’ll traverse the levels capturing the five convicts scattered around the area and then escape with your robot cop sidekick (or as I called him, Robocop). While platforming, you’ll notice blocks that are faded into the background. With the simple press of a button, you can switch the blocks to appear in the foreground and utilize them to make your way through the area. However, this simple concept will soon become a real test of your platforming skills, as you’ll have to master switching the blocks from foreground to background on the fly. Sometimes you’ll have to be mid-jump when transitioning this. Later on, you’ll need to be absolutely precise in timing the button pressing so that the background block doesn’t smash your character against the screen when transitioning to the foreground.

It wouldn’t be a WayForward game if their platforming and overall gameplay didn’t ramp up dramatically in difficulty as you advance and their testament still stands here. You’ll get three hearts to get through an area, of which enemies, spikes, or accidentally smashing yourself against the screen when switching a block can take a heart away. There are heart discs that enemies can drop or are laying around the area so there’s a chance to revitalize yourself when needed. There are also checkpoints in each area but that’s only if you get smashed on screen or touch the spikes where they actually come into effect. If you lose all three hearts, you’ll have to repeat the level from the beginning. Luckily, a majority of the incidents are only a few minutes long, with the exception of the bonus levels and the final level, Incident 16. These ones are much more intensive and provide more of an endurance in terms of how much longer you’ll need to survive the insane platforming.

While the escaped convicts won’t do anything to resist arrest (other than be in locations that require your platforming skills), there are creatures that can harm you. Enemies can vary from little flying creatures that lock-on to you as you approach them, to walking bombs, to a robotic dinosaur-type enemy that charges at you, and to a heavily armored spiky-shelled robot. However, every enemy won’t be dealt with directly with your blaster. While the flying creatures and walking bombs can be shot at easily, the robotic dinosaur-type enemies will require you to either shoot them from behind or trick them into running into a switch block and then launch them into the screen. Same goes for the spiky-shelled creatures. They can only be defeated by tricking them into a block and smashing them against the screen. To make them even more interesting, WayForward made enemies essential into advancing your way through an area. For example, you may need to have bombs walk up to a large rocky block and shoot them when they’re near it to clear the way. You may need to utilize specific switch blocks that launch objects to guide enemies to a certain area to clear a path, or smash them against a screen to open a locked door. It’s these moments that really provide a grand sense of satisfaction and open up your mind into more creative ways to advance through a stage.

Visually, WayForward has always been known for having a mastery with 2D sprites and Mighty Switch Force: Hyper Drive Edition continues to showcase the stunning talent their studio has. All the sprites and backgrounds from the 3DS version have been completely redrawn from scratch to provide a true HD quality to them. Everything here looks ultra-crisp, clean and vibrant, whether you’re playing on the TV or on your GamePad. The entire game runs equally as smooth with not a single hitch either. Jake Kaufman returns to provide yet another great soundtrack for a WayForward title. Providing a little bit of techno, dubstep and retro sounding tracks, Mighty Switch Force has a really catchy soundtrack that’ll be stuck in your head even when you’re not playing the game. “Stop! In the name of the law!” may sound cheesy when Patricia delivers the line, but it’s so campy, it’s good.

While the game doesn’t take a terribly long time to beat, hardcore players can attempt to tackle the “Par” times for every incident. These will take the utmost perfection and memorization to complete and if you do beat the times, you should be very proud of yourself. These are not for the feint of heart. Upon completing the final stage is when you’ll earn the five bonus missions. However, if you go back and replay any completed stage after beating the game, you’ll get a more powerful blaster that can blast through any enemies in your path, as well as destroy blocks that were previously only breakable from bombs. It’s a cool addition and one that’ll most certainly help achieving the Par times on the stages. As a side-note, I do appreciate that WayForward is the first developer to choose a more unique name for their community on the Miiverse. Instead of just calling it “Mighty Switch Force: Hyper Drive Edition Community”, they’ve opted to call it “Mighty Switch Force HD Headquarters”. It’s a subtle detail but a noteworthy one that needs to be mentioned.

Simply put, Mighty Switch Force: Hyper Drive Edition is 2D platforming bliss. WayForward knows their 2D games and continues to excel in this department. While this edition may not exactly add enough content to warrant a new purchase for those who own the 3DS version, the new visuals really do make the game pop-out on both the GamePad and TV. If you’ve never played the 3DS version and like your 2D platformers, then by all means pick this up now. It may be a short game, but it’s also just so gratifying to play thanks to the brilliant level designs, unique “switch” mechanic, beautiful visuals and incredibly catchy soundtrack. Seeing the visuals and talent WayForward continues to showcase, it’s time to get excited for a Shantae release on the Wii U.

Overall Score: 9.0 out of 10 = BUY IT!

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A special thank you to WayForward for providing us a review copy of Mighty Switch Force: Hyper Drive Edition!