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Nintendo Switch eShop dominated by ’90s throwbacks this week

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An homage to Sonic the Hedgehog and Metroidvanias lead the charge, plus one of the year’s best indies

A ninja jumps over a lava pit in The Messenger Sabotage/Devolver Digital

Nintendo already teased a number of new game releases earlier this week, as part of a showcase highlighting some of the best “Nindies” heading to Switch over the next year. Some of those are already on the eShop this week — like Into the Breach, a beautiful strategy game and one of 2018’s critical darlings — and they’re joined by several other small titles worth your attention.

That includes two games that wear their influences proudly. The Messenger, out today, is built on the familiar Ninja Gaiden formula from the NES-era — before deviating from that genre to follow the Metroidvania schema instead. Combined with its visuals, The Messenger is a love letter to two of the most popular, old-school styles of gameplay. But, as we noted in our review, the switch from traditional action combat to the recently revitalized Metroidvania-style play makes this ninja adventure game far more interesting than its initial veneer suggests.

Freedom Planet, meanwhile, may have been something you’ve played before. The platformer launched first on Windows PC back in 2014, with ports to other systems steadily launching over the years since. But the Switch version comes at an interesting time. Developer GalaxyTrail, which funded Freedom Planet through Kickstarter, originally built Freedom Planet as a more straightforward take on a classic Sega Genesis game: Sonic the Hedgehog. But the developer moved away from producing a fangame and instead introduced original art and characters into what remained a Genesis-style platformer.

With pulls from the classic Treasure-developed shoot-em-ups as well, Freedom Planet felt like a refreshing return of a nostalgic era. In 2014, this felt especially revelatory to some reviewers, who maligned the modern Sonic the Hedgehog games. Cut to 2017, however, when Sega released Sonic Mania, the first Sonic game in ages that captured the magic of those older Genesis games. Does Freedom Planet still stand out now that there’s a true Sonic successor out there? It’ll be interesting to see how it plays on Switch as a result.

The rest of the list has some other good picks: There’s Mini Metro, which has been regularly honored for its fantastic puzzles and art design; and another nostalgic game, The VideoKid, which looks like Back to the Future with the endless runner-esque gameplay of the classic Paperboy.

The full lineup is below.