So I return to the caveats. If you’re a fan of the series, and you can respect the audacity of these decade-old ideas, Nier Replicant is the best appetizer yet for whatever main course Square Enix will inevitably serve in the future. But for newcomers or casual fans, the caveat stands: Nier Replicant is worth the time, but only if you have plenty of time to spend.
Rivals is quite charming and, at only an hour or two long, doesn’t wear out its welcome. If Return of the Obra Dinn is the chart-topping hit of this growing little genre, Rivals is the local garage band album that gets a glowing write-up in the alt-weekly: small, messy, lovable. Rivals is seemingly built with one audience in mind: older weirdos like me who don’t mind a little more Wilco-style music in their detective games.
But Streets of Rage, as a series, is a time capsule from a different, simpler era. While it's blunt and repetitive, it also manifests a relaxing social space with ease. Call it video games as loitering. The music is as good as it's ever been in the series. The stages and characters are beautiful, reimagining the original trilogy's '90s locales and punk-inspired band of baddies in a way that stands up to those games without scarring modern eyes. The action itself is so simple that you can get lost in a conversation about, well, anything as you play.