Amy Kay Purcell
There really is something undeniably charming about Pokémon Sword and Shield. While the plot itself is rather short, these games do a decent job of shaking up some of the tried-and-true mechanics in all the right ways. Max Raid battles, the open-world Wild Area, and improved social features make them surprisingly and subtly unique titles that are everything you'd expect from a Pokémon game, and occasionally, just a little bit more than you thought they would be.
Little Town Hero boasts a unique, strategic battle system that draws heavily on card game mechanics. Despite the fact that the story and art design seems to be aimed at a younger audience, combat is far too slow, strategic, and challenging to keep the attention of most kids. It's an interesting combination of traditional RPG storytelling with Heartstone-like mechanics and difficulty that's sure to captivate some, but will likely miss the mark for most.
The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening is everything a remake should be. It retains the nostalgia of the original game while celebrating it in an entirely new way. The map is small but dense, filled with side quests, interesting character designs, and a surprising moral dilemma. This charming, toy-like world is the perfect way to experience Koholint Island, regardless of it's your first visit or your 50th time washing ashore.
Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is a solid, no-frills, no-additions port of the original PS3 game of the same title. The first video game by Studio Ghibli has not only aged very well, but it also runs smoothly and quickly on the Switch, making it an ideal way to experience the whimsy, charm, and wonder of this fantastical world with Oliver, his friends, and his fearsome foes.
The premise of Graveyard Keeper is of the most unique of just about any sim game out there, and this no-frills Switch port makes it portable for the first time. There really isn't much that needs to be added impressively robust graveyard management game, but it would have been nice if the game took advantage of the Joy-Con rumble feature.
The Gardens Between was one of my favorite Switch games of 2019, and with its mobile release, it is now one of my favorite mobile titles. The Voxel agents have done a great job of optimizing sound, controls, and graphics, making the gameplay and story just as solid, if not a tiny bit better, on a cellphone than it was on the Switch.
My Time at Portia is a visually beautiful, charming game rich in story, lore, and personality; everything about it is made better by the jump to a portable console. While this version lacks voice acting and rumble integration, the portability and surprisingly decent load times make this a great way to discover all that Portia has to offer.
LongStory is a charming and innocent LGBTQ+ dating sim focused on conversations and relationships rather than just getting lucky. It's a little over the top, a little dramatic, and a little silly, just like middle school itself, and allows you to date almost every character in the game, or go the asexual route. It's a little heavy-handed at times, but otherwise a great way to pass time.
Legrand Legacy is a pretty but otherwise generic RPG. It's beautifully hand-drawn world gets lost beneath mountains of dialogue and a plot so weighed down by tropes that it barely stays afloat. It's a passable to good title, but none of its elements come together to create anything new, exciting, inspiring, or terribly memorable.
The First Tree tells an incredibly personal and melancholy story about the loss of a loved through the eyes of a fox within a dream world. Wandering through beautiful, abstract worlds, you learn the narrator's story as the fox searches for her missing kits. It has a surprising number of platformer elements, given the nature of the game, but doesn't distract from the beautiful story within this short exploration game.