As someone who was ready for a light shakeup after playing all three previous games (which were very similar for having released decades apart), I have to say...I'm not loving the new stuff so far, after about an hour of play.
The visuals are a more generic cutesy style than the more striking, surreal styles of previous games, especially the Super Famicom original. The story is nice and light but doesn't add much of anything to the experience. The ingredients and cooking are so superfluous to the core gameplay that they feel pointless.
And maybe worst of all the open world just feels like an excuse to make the player retread ground. Especially since the game is still mission-based, and several of the 25+ missions I've played are carbon copies of earlier missions, or at least feel like it. I was ready to embrace the more sandboxy nature of the level design, but the game really doesn't give you much reason to explore, and essentially punishes you for doing so because anywhere you go besides the mission goal just means more backtracking later.
Luckily the core rubberband-grappling hook control is as loose and deep as ever, so getting around is still engaging enough. So while a lot of this game feels like subtraction by addition, it's still definitely fun enough to pick up and play so far. I just can't help but compare it to the other three games in the series and feel a bit let down that all the changes seem to be mostly for the worse thus far, if also not amounting to much either way.
One unexpected surprise is that you can play as Curly Brace, from Cave Story. She controls exactly like Kawase, but she has a rifle that can stun enemies with a few shots, and also by shooting downward you can slow her descent and boost her jump. She has her own story missions that seem to mirror Kawase's, so that's nice I suppose.
Anyone else planning to pick this up despite my lukewarm impressions and the $40 price tag?