The Switch took over PAX West. Aside from the multiple people playing it while slumped on bean bags or waiting in the endless line to try Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, many games at the show were on Nintendo’s premier platform either exclusively or semi-exclusively. And of those games, two carved out their own spot as promising prospects for the console’s couch competitive scene: Samurai Gunn 2 and Killer Queen Black. Both are drastically different but showed their potential to be the Switch’s next best local multiplayer titles.
Samurai Gunn 2: A Tunn of Funn
Samurai Gunn 2 looks remarkably like its predecessor. And it should since it has the same basic setup: four players all try to murder each other in an 8-bit arena with swords and bullets. The first to 10 kills wins. It’s simple and still a blast.
And the sequel is attempting to inject some depth into the formula while not tampering with its signature simplicity. Dashing is a new move that uses the same resource as the bullets. Making players choose between bullets or dashes lends a bit of tactical depth to the game without sacrificing its pick-up-and-play nature. Adam Robezzoli, one of the developers on Samurai Gunn 2, explained why eight-way dashing is such a big deal.
“In the first game, it was always more optimal to use your sword at close range because it would deflect a bullet back,” he explained. “At long range, you should always use your bullet, but close range was always the sword. And that’s bad game design if there is ever an optimal strategy.”
Because you can dash through swords but not bullets and since swords can still deflect bullets, it adds more possible strategic scenarios to the core game. For new players, dashing is a good way to close the gap, escape danger, or get the jump on an enemy. But, according to Robezzoli, it gets deeper as you delve more into the game.
“Since dashing and shooting bullets are using up this resource, you have to remember ‘Do I have some left? Does my opponent has some left? Do I let them know if I have any left? Do they think I have some left?’ There are all these mind games that can now take place,” he said.
Even though Samurai Gunn 2 is appropriately a multiplayer-focused game, it also now has a solo or cooperative campaign. It uses the same mechanics as its frantic multiplayer—one-hit kills with swords and bullets—and channels those systems into linear Hotline Miami-like levels.
Clearing stages requires perfection and the multiplayer-ready controls are able to support such a heavy burden. Stages can end in seconds if your blade is as quick as your reflexes. But if not, the quick restarts will get you back into the action with almost zero downtime. Even though we’ll have to wait for the full game to see how it keeps solo play fresh, Robezzoli described how this mode fleshes out the game and also gives new players a chance to kick some ass.
“We want people to have a lot to do when they’re playing multiplayer or by themselves too,” he said. “Samurai Gunn is also a very fast-paced, intense game and I think some people can be like ‘I’m not good at games. I don’t want to play with a bunch of people.’ One-player is cool because you get to have that feeling of going around and just slashing and chopping off heads.”
The game even has a built-in graphic novel for those seeking more story. Samurai Gunn creator Beau Blyth gave complete creative control to artist Valentin Seiche, who is behind the 100 or so page comic book. They were both creatively feeding off each other and ended up feeling pressured to outdo each other. This friendly “competition” ended up compelling the developers to make Samurai Gunn 2.
Killer Queen Black: Back in Black
And while Samurai Gunn 2’s similarities to the first game may cause you to feel like you’ve seen it before, you may have actually seen Killer Queen before. This competitive arcade game came out in 2013 but is seeing new life on the Switch with Killer Queen Black. Announced at E3 2018, this new port has been remade for new platform and different audience. These changes, combined with the core gameplay, make the game look it will bee be one of the Switch’s best multiplayer games.
Killer Queen Black pits two teams of four against each other. Each squad has three little bug dudes and one titular Killer Queen. There are three different ways to win: Military, Economic, and, of course, Snail. Killing the opposing team’s Killer Queen three times results in a Military win, throwing enough berries into the holes at your base is an Economic victory, and riding the snail to your side of the screen is the way to end the round, Snail style.
These three methods of winning are all unique from one other but cleverly woven together. Your Queen can aggressively guard the snail rider, but that puts her at risk. Riding the snail in the background is helpful if you’re being ignored, but you could be neglecting your team in the process. Berries can be used to upgrade your little bug man, although that gives your team one less little fruit to win with.
Thinking with these high-level strategies in mind doesn’t undercut how simple the game is to pick up and play. Almost anyone can understand jumping, attacking, and picking up berries and those simple actions can help out almost any team. While a little less aggressive than Samurai Gunn 2, it has a simple enough gameplay loop to be accessible while still maintaining a satisfying level of depth.
The game has even been adapted for the home console market. Teams have one less player, the Warrior class has a few new weapons, there are six new maps, online play, arenas are smaller, and the characters are actually a bit bigger than on the arcade version. Since people might be crowding around a smaller screen, character models had to stick out more to compensate.
This also meant that four players wouldn’t make the screen as crowded and the possibility of people having four controllers is a nice but welcome side effect. Developer Liquidbit’s Founder and CEO Matt Tesch described how all of these differences change up the Switch version while still being faithful to the original arcade game.
“Arcade players will notice that it’s a bit faster, but not in a chaotic way,” explained Tesch. “The same win conditions apply, but strategies may be executed differently because of the weapon system. Specific weapons work well for various situations. Couple that with six new maps, online play in any configuration, various weapons, and the ability to throw the berries creates a game firmly rooted in the arcade but unique in its own right.”
Nintendo was excited to bring the game to the Switch, promptly getting the team dev kits and other resources as soon as it could. It was the beginning of an “incredible relationship,” and that relationship matters, but the Switch just felt like a good home for the game according to Tesch.
“I’m sure you have heard this a million times before, but it just feels right on the Switch,” he said. “Additionally, we wanted to take advantage of the LAN mode on the Switch to enable eight player local play at home with two Switches and the portability of the console really appealed to us in that regard.”
It’s fitting that Samurai Gunn 2 and Killer Queen Black will most likely both be competing for your time on the Switch. Not only do both seem like fantastic, simple games that will take advantage of the communal soul of the console but they’re also launching near each other. Killer Queen Black is releasing at a nebulous time “this winter” while Samurai Gunn 2 is supposed to come out early next year. It may be a bloody competition but it looks like Switch owners will be the true winners in the end.