- Devil May Cry 3
- Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty
- Mother 3
Despite featuring what's arguably the best combat system in the series, Bayonetta 3 is nothing short of disappointing. Bayonetta's core gameplay is outstanding, weaving fluid controls together with incredible weapon variety and tons of fun mechanics to play around with. The combo potential is high and battles just feel great to play… as Bayonetta. An unforgivable amount of playtime is dedicated to newcomer Viola, stealth segments that make poor use of Jeanne, and relentless gimmick stages that wear out their welcome immediately. Tossing in mediocre level design, lacklustre performance, and a flavourless story that panders towards the current multiverse craze, and it's clear PlatinumGames have lost their touch when it comes to the Umbran Witch. Bayonetta 3 is simply pitiful.
Ace Angler: Fishing Spirits combines the Zen of fishing with an arcade-esque gameplay loop that'll keep players coming back for more. Not every game mode is a hit - with Shark Fever and Ace Angler Party standing out as duds - but Ace Angler+, Legend of the Poisoned Seas, and the core gameplay loop more than make up for it. There is a massive variety of fish to catch, with several different stages and Rods to unlock as well. The actual fishing mechanics aren't explained too well in-game, but they're intuitive no matter the control scheme. Load times are on the long side and the gacha elements needed for unlockables aren't exactly welcome, but they're not deal-breakers, either. At the end of the day, it's just fun to sit back and experience a more action-packed take on fishing. Ace Angler: Fishing Spirits offers fishy fun for everyone.
The Delicious Last Course lives up to its name by bringing Cuphead to a truly magnificent conclusion. The DLC is packed with a generous amount of content that'll keep players coming back for more. Ms. Chalice's play style is enough to add hours of replay value on its own, but the fact she's rounded out by over half a dozen new bosses, unique parry challenges, new weapons to play around with, and a lengthy side quest dedicated to upgrading a charm makes it even better. Inkwell Isle Four is small, but the DLC makes the most of its space and doesn't restrict new content to the one setting. Every weapon, charm, and even Ms. Chalice herself can be used in the three main Isles once they're unlocked. With so much quality content on tap, Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course sets a new standard for DLC.
SYNTHETIK: Ultimate is a wonderful roguelike that's been utterly ruined by its Switch port. What should be one of the best games on the Nintendo Switch is instead emblematic of everything wrong with the eShop. Frame rate dips, technical hiccups, and game breaking glitches tear down all the goodwill this game establishes. When there's no such thing as quality assurance, amazing games release in unplayable states. SYNTHETIK: Ultimate should be played, just not on Nintendo Switch.
Short, sweet, and essentially a Sega Mega Drive shoot 'em up developed for modern audiences, Sky Racket is a fantastic throwback to 16-bit gaming. Emphasising mechanical mastery and pattern memorisation, the core design is philosophically in-line with the era it's throwing back to - a sight for sore eyes, considering so many indies never take their inspiration beyond the surface level. The main campaign admittedly could have benefited from more stages, but optional challenges and multiplayer do add replay value. With a title as strong as Sky Racket opening its gameography, Double Dash Studios has a bright future ahead of it.
One of the Nintendo Wii's definitive classics has finally made its way over to the Nintendo Switch. Bolstered by smooth 60fps gameplay and swift load times, No More Heroes is better than ever. Travis Touchdown's ascent to the #1 ranked assassin is as hilarious as it is sincerely gripping, and the core combat never lets up - offering an engaging challenge that follows a tight difficulty curve. Santa Destroy as an open world is uneventful, but it features design sensibilities that aren't seen nowadays while almost serving as a parody of its era (without ever feeling grating). From gameplay to story, No More Heroes is nothing short of marvellous.
Time has been kind to Primordia with the past decade only highlighting just how unique, surreal, and grippingly atmospheric Wormwood Studios' inaugural title actually was and still is. While playing a point-and-click with a controller will never be as fluid as using a mouse and keyboard, the control scheme translates relatively well to Nintendo Switch and the ability to quickly check everything that can be interacted with on-screen all but removes the need for random examination. Wormwood's storytelling in particular deserves praise for blending surreal lore and a horrific premise together into an engaging narrative with multiple endings. Every bit of world-building just makes the plot richer and better contextualises gameplay. Wadjet Eye Games have done point-and-click fans a favour by porting Primordia over to Switch. Don't miss out on one of the genre's highest highs.
Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection is a double-edged Dragon Sword. On one hand, it's hard to overlook the omission of both Black titles. On the other hand, the Sigma duology and Razor's Edge make for a compelling, if at times uneven, action trilogy. What the first Sigma loses from puzzles, platforming, and exploration, it makes up for with streamlined set pieces that highlight combat above all else. Sigma 2 lacks almost all the style that defined Ninja Gaiden II, but it's undeniably a smoother experience that challenges a different set of skills than its predecessor. Razor's Edge is the clear weak link of the bunch on a design level, but the mechanics are incredibly fun to experiment with. It may not be the ideal compilation for hardcore franchise fans, but Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection is a great entrypoint for new fans and a solid trilogy in its own right.
Collection of SaGa: Final Fantasy Legend doesn't do much to spruce up its titles beyond a turbo mode, but the original SaGa trilogy consists of three of Game Boy's most creative, and player driven JRPGs - all of which with their own unique identity. Legend is rough around the edges and almost has a beta quality, but its simplicity towards character customisation makes it very easy to start up a quick playthrough. Legend II expands on its predecessor everywhere it counts, featuring dynamic leveling, and a genuinely bizarre world with a lot of heart. Legend III is a conventional RPG comparatively, but it features enough oddities (nuanced character transformations and time travel) to even out into the most beginner-friendly entry in the collection. SaGa as a franchise prioritises smart battling at all times, and player driven party progression. This collection is a solid entry point into the series, and an even better dive into one of Game Boy's best trilogies.
While far from bad, Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot + A New Power Awakens is a hard sell for anyone who is not already a fan of the series. Even then, franchise diehards will likely notice the changes and omissions in adaptation to the point of annoyance. Combat also leaves much to be desired, lacking in depth and devoid of real strategy more often than not. At the same time, overworld exploration is surprisingly relaxing, side content outside of side quests is engaging, and the story mode does make for an enjoyable way to revisit Dragon Ball Z thanks to stellar cutscene direction. Those who connect with the gameplay will also be delighted at the sheer amount of content available, from the three DLC packs to new playable characters. Kakarot is a Dragon Ball love letter that often forgets to be an action RPG, but never loses the unique charm that has defined the series.
Although Sam & Max: Beyond Time and Space doesn't hit the same highs as Save the World or Hit the Road, Skunkape Games has managed to offer up yet another compelling remaster. Purists are bound to baulk at some of the changes, but nothing is to the point where Season Two outright suffers. If nothing else, Beyond Time and Space is a better remaster than its predecessor, which bodes quite well for Sam & Max. Telltale has come a long way since the mid-2000s, but Sam & Max: Beyond Time and Space Remastered radiates a sense of style, charm, and ingenuity the studio lost with time.
Battlefield 2042 is nothing short of a rip-off, and screams of EA trying to see what they can get away with this generation. Overpriced, yet devoid of the content to justify its next-gen premium, it will leave franchise fans feeling insulted. Make no mistake, anyone looking to get into Battlefield should look elsewhere, or risk letting a lacklustre first impression sour their perception of what is otherwise one of the most premiere first-person shooters in the genre - which frankly just makes 2042's lack of content, lack of a campaign, and lack of polish all the more frustrating. Battlefield's legacy deserves better than EA squandering DICE's potential by launching a major title in a clearly unfinished state. Battlefield 2042 is a beta masquerading as a AAA release.
Exit the Gungeon does a charming job at taking the original's core gameplay loop, and flipping it on its head, but the follow up is more glorified mini-game than it is spin-off. The controls are mechanically tight, and the emphasis on dodge rolling compliments the vertical level design well, but losing the dungeon crawling that defined Enter the Gungeon (and subsequently the thrill of finding secrets) is a tremendous loss. An emphasis on RNG also makes it difficult to enjoy the gunplay, as most weapons gone as soon as they appear. Exit the Gungeon may have Enter the Gungeon's chaos, but it lacks its soul.
Moody, thought provoking, and chillingly beautiful at times, Strangeland, is a bizarre take on the point-and-click genre that will stick with players long after the credits roll. The story itself is dense with a script layered in symbolism, but never so obtuse where the uninformed can't get by. Thematically, much of the plot centres around the self - self-acceptance, self-doubt, self-destruction, and self-actualization - along with the pursuit of identity. Puzzles lean into the hostile aesthetic to provide a fair degree of challenge, while hints are always available. It all makes for a well-paced, well realized journey that doesn't outstay its welcome. Strangeland is a short adventure, but one of the finest entries in the genre.
It's as shocking as it is baffling that Nicalis blocked Galati's patch considering just how much better Save me Mr Tako: Definitive Edition is over the original release. A host of quality of life additions shine a spotlight on what was always a compelling adventure, albeit one bogged down in out of place design philosophies. The revamped difficulty curve makes stages far more engaging - lending them a flow that was previously missing - and the new hint system keeps progress moving at a steady pace. Save me Mr Tako may style itself like a typical Game Boy platformer, but it goes beyond mere homage and reaches genuine greatness.
NEO: The World Ends with You is a good RPG in its own right, but it does not live up to its predecessor's legacy. Combat eventually opens up to become chaotically fun and the series' sense of style is as fresh as ever, but the story leaves a lot to be desired. Beyond spotty pacing at times, the script lacks the strong character focus that defined the original. There's too much focus on world building and epic plotting instead of the intimacy that made TWEWY compelling to begin with. The fact that Final Remix's A New Day epilogue plays such a foundational role in the narrative doesn't exactly help matters either. NEO: The World Ends with You has a frantic battle system that only gets better, but the story is sure to disappoint.
Between the steep difficulty curve and unconventional story, Shin Megami Tensei III won't appeal to everyone - but those who can stomach strategizing through even random battles while reading between the script's lines will be rewarded with an outstanding RPG. Tokyo's warped state post-Conception leads to a hostile atmosphere that's carried all the way to the credits, and dungeons are elaborately designed and make use of consistently fresh gimmicks. Multiple endings keep the story replayable, with Hard Mode offering series veterans even more challenge. There's nuance to every aspect of gameplay, from the Press Turn battle system to Demon fusion and recruitment. As true in 2021 as it was in 2003, Shin Megami Tensei III Nocturne HD Remaster is nothing short of a must-play RPG.
NieR Replicant 1.22 is an outstanding remake and an excellent action RPG in its own right. Combat is fast paced, focused, and well varied between three distinct weapon types and eight magic spells. Dungeons appear simple but their design is deceptively clever, and they carry a Legend of Zelda-esque charm to them. The visuals are greatly improved from the original, from character models to background details. Bosses are downright bombastic, masterfully juggling tense battles with visceral set pieces. The story is simply beautiful, making brilliant use of music to amplify already deeply emotional storytelling. Above all else, Replicant plays into concepts only possible in a video game - leading to a genuinely unforgettable experience. If you only play one game this year, make it NieR Replicant 1.22.
Newcomers risk drowning in a sea of references, while franchise veterans are bound to be put off by more cut-scenes than the series is known for, but Ys IX: Monstrum Nox is an astonishingly addictive action-RPG that just gets better as it goes on. A rough opening and choppy plotting undersell a genuinely gripping mystery that reflects on Adol's history as an adventure, culminating in an incredible last act. Falcom's dungeon design is the best it's been in years and the numerous gameplay additions made to combat bring the Seven Engine close to capturing the same highs that defined the Napishtim era. Monstrum Nox may not live up to its narrative potential, but Ys IX's gameplay only leaves one thing to be desired: more.