Penguin Wars (Switch)

Back in the mid 80’s, there was an arcade game called Penguin Wars.  But it was only released in Japan.  However, it proved to be fairly popular there because it was ported to several home consoles, including the Famicom (Japanese NES) and MSX.  I think the only version that made it overseas was the Game Boy one.  In the old game, you play as a bunch of different animals (including a penguin) as you rolled balls across a table to your opponent and tried to avoid and toss back balls your opponent sent to you.  It was like a cross between dodgeball, air hockey, and table tennis.  Actually it most reminds me of a dodgeball variant game I played in elementary school P.E. called “Sock it to Me.”  Anyway, now Penguin Wars is back and better than ever with a modern downloadable take on the Switch.

Gameplay remains pretty much the same except they added an energy meter and a special attack meter, kind of like a fighting game.  You can press a button to toss balls, one button to dash, one to throw a charged shot, and one for your special attack.  When you hit your opponent with a ball, they’ll lose some energy.  Whoever has the most amount of energy by the end of the time limit, wins.  But there are quicker ways to win, too.  If you can make your opponent lose all their energy, you’ll win before the round is over.  Try and get all the balls to their side without any on yours, and all the balls will attack them and take out a large chunk, if not all, of their energy.

There are many different kinds of balls that add variety to the gameplay.  For instance, spiked balls will take off a ton of energy.  Bombs will explode if left on one side for too long, and if they explode on your side, you’ll automatically lose!  There are many other obstacles to watch out for, too.  As you toss balls, you’ll fill up an attack meter.  When it’s full, you can execute a special attack that’s different for each character.  Some attacks include a shield to reflect back balls, super fast balls, and more!

The main mode of play is Story Mode.  In this one you play as Riley, the penguin from the first game.  He’s gone through a lot of training since then and now he’s all buff and cool, and he tricked out his truck that folds out into the Penguin Wars playing field.  In each world he’ll challenge opponents and bosses.  The bosses will join you and you can play as them once you defeat them.  As you win, you’ll earn money and candy.  Candy can be used to level up your stats, like ball speed, power, defense, and agility.  Use money to buy special moves and balls to customize your look.

There is also an endless mode where you battle characters and see how far you can get until you lose.  And a local two-player mode where you can challenge a friend via split screen or a neat option where you put the Switch screen on the floor and view the table overhead, kind of like a tabletop arcade game.  You can also play online, but I couldn’t find anyone to play with.  Probably because the game has been out in Japan for two years now, and not enough people in the US have this game yet.  Come on folks, I wanna play this game online with you!  Get it now!

For fans of obscure cute Japanese games like this one, Penguin Wars also has some interesting DLC.  You can download extra characters to play as in all the modes except Story, and they are four characters from Hebereke.  Who the heck is that, you might ask.  Well, Hebereke and friends kind of look like demented Sanrio Hello Kitty characters, and they starred in a Metroid styled 2-D platformer on the Famicom, as well as a few puzzle games in the 16-bit era.  Their first game was going to come over here under the name Ufouria, but it was only released in Europe, although you could download it on the Wii Virtual Console.  Pretty interesting if you ask me.

Really the only problems I had with Penguin Wars are very minor.  It gets a little hard in the last worlds of Story Mode, the gameplay can get a little repetitive, and the initial loading time when you start is a bit long.  But other than that I just loved this game.  The graphics are bright and colorful, the music is funky, it’s a heck of a lot of fun, and it has that quirky Japanese vibe that I just love in games.  If you like that kind of stuff, too, I’d highly recommend this one.

Kid Factor:

Penguin Wars is rated E for Everyone with an ESRB descriptor of Mild Cartoon Violence.  But it’s just silly and cartoony.  If you get hit by a ball, you might get knocked down for a second with swirly dizzy eyes.  And if a bomb explodes, you’ll bounce around the screen for a bit like a plush toy.  Reading skill is helpful for the text, but not necessary just to play.  I think kids of all ages will enjoy this one.

2 Responses to “Penguin Wars (Switch)”

  1. I love the graphics.

  2. I really want Penguin Wars to be a RTS or tower defense. I need more of those.

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