Review by ohnoitschris
A well made way to play the oldest game on the newest platform.
So you've got a fancy new Nintendo Switch, capable of playing the very latest in gaming, and you want to play a board game that's about 1500 years old. Chess Ultra has you covered.
Even if you're not a fan of Chess, the trailer for this game is worth watching in just how epic they make Chess look. But the game itself? It's very well made. It features several fully-modeled locations to serve as backdrops. They add more than one would think, giving the game's environment particular vibes to help you focus. A luxurious studio apartment; a library; a museum; the biblical city of Gomorrah, looking like it came straight out of Hell - you know, all your favorites. There's also a small variety of styles and materials you can mix and match for your pieces, though I found that the checkers-style pieces were the only ones that, at a glance, were consistently unambiguous. The music fits well, with orchestral & classical background music that stays nicely in the background. No catchy or distracting tunes, which I highly appreciate for Chess.
The game itself plays perfectly. I've not once seen a crash, nor even a frame rate dip. In previews, you may have seen how the game features camera angles that don't exactly give a good view of the chessboard, however, there's an option to use an overhead camera. This is important, for it allows you to play in local multiplayer with your Switch flat on a table, much like a real chessboard. Every single control method the Switch features is available here, too: one joycon per player, or pro controllers, or even the all-important touch screen controls. If you have ever played Chess on a tablet computer, you'll know that's a very nice way to play when a real board is not available, and you can, in full, play just like that right here on Chess Ultra. Speaking of which, if ever you were in a situation where you just can't use a controller for some reason, Chess Ultra is entirely playable without one, throughout the entire game.
Online functionality? Of course. It works along the lines of a play-by-post system, allowing you to play against a random opponent online, or someone on your friend's list. No cross-platform support, though.
Now for some complaints: the tutorials are a little too quick and simple. Not that I'd expect them to include an entire Chess bible, but the tutorials really are awfully barebones. I wanted to know more about how to open, and the tutorial covers just a couple of ways. Meanwhile, there have been entire books written on opening theory alone. Did you know it's possible to win a game in just four moves by attacking the F7 pawn? That's interesting, though the game doesn't go into that at all. Not to mention, the easiest AI difficulty, out of many, still poses a hefty challenge that's too much for new players. When you lose, it lowers your ELO rating. This rating doesn't really matter, but it can be discouraging for new players. There's no way to turn it off, no way to practice without it, and even deleting your save file doesn't wipe it - you'll have to play under a different account to not have it ruin your main profile's score.
Overall, Chess Ultra is a terrific no-frills version of the classic game, but a bit inconsiderate to absolute noobs. Chess is a fascinating game with centuries of history, and I would love to see more people get into it. If this game had more emphasis on teaching, I'd be crying its praises from the rooftops - but as it stands, it's just a nice little way to play on the go, and that's about it. 4.0/5.
Rating: 4.0 - Great
Product Release: Chess Ultra (US, 11/02/17)
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