Nonetheless, I had a very enjoyable time with the game. It’s like the “dark side” alternative to Port Royale 4 from a couple of years ago. In that title, you were incentivised to play the “nice guy” and exploit the Caribbean’s resources in establishing trade routes that lined your pockets with gold. In Tortuga, you’re taking all that back (for yourself, not because you’re a Robin Hood), and it acts like the other side of a coin that, combined, does a great job of encapsulating one of the most dynamic, dangerous, and fascinating periods of world history.
If you land within the niche it’s targetting, it’s difficult not to love Risen, warts and all. Piranha Bytes has, throughout its history, been really quite effective at capturing an “X-factor” that elevates its games to be something more than the sum of its parts. These are games made by people that love RPGs, for people that love RPGs, and while they’re not of the same scope or refined as something that comes from a BioWare or Bethesda, they are made by people who have clearly played so many sessions of Dungeons & Dragons. They know how to keep an RPG fan playing on, and Risen is an excellent example of that. I’m very glad it had a release on Nintendo Switch, finally got to play it (even if I needed to source it from overseas).
It’s not the longest game, at about ten hours depending on how quickly you puzzle through it. However, there’s a haunting quality to Hob’s Barrow that will stay with you long after you finish playing. It’s a fine example of literary and gothic horror being brought to the video game medium, and that’s something I’ve been asking for more of in video games for quite some time now.
The action combat system in Sisters VS Sisters is a disappointment, and while it’s not so bad that it will prevent you from finishing the game, it is incredible that the developers at Idea Factory don’t just stick to a turn-based system where they are able to deliver a something of a much higher standard. However, combat has always been the secondary consideration with this series, and Sisters VS Sisters is in many ways a return to form in everything that matters to it. The satire is sharp and relevant. The characters are entertaining and endearing, and despite the sheer number of Neptunia games that have been released by now, Sisters VS Sisters finds a way to meaningfully contribute to and build on what has come before.
Again, it’s important to understand that this isn’t a criticism of The Last Of Us. The game achieves what it sets out to achieve, admirably. However, as someone that enjoys poetry, philosophy, and layered meanings within texts that look beyond the literal story, I personally look to something like Persona 4 Golden. This is my kind of narrative and experience, and indeed, Persona 4 Golden is one of the best we’ve ever seen in this approach to storytelling. It’s a true masterpiece, and now it’s on your Nintendo Switch.
It’s unfortunate that Lone Ruin came about two years after the jokes about every indie doing a pixel roguelike became exhausting. It’s well-made and undeniably entertaining, but there’s so much competition in this space and the developers didn’t seem overly concerned with doing something that would actually differentiate their game. So yes. This is a mechanically very solid production that I can recommend to people that like difficult action roguelikes. Unfortunately, I’ll also likely forget about it by the time the next one of these comes along, and that’s probably sometime next week.
I had a wonderful time with One Piece Odyssey. The best way to summarise it is as a breezy, easy-playing JRPG that you can knock off over several weeks and a few solid sessions. The developers have crafted something blissfully over-the-top and funny, and done One Piece a grand homage to celebrate its 25th year. At the same time, they very cleverly figured out how to make a 25-year-old anime as entertaining for newcomers and those not familiar with Luffy and the crew as it is for those who have watched every single episode. That is some incredible work.
Perhaps the most appropriate way to describe the Toy Soldiers HD experience in 2023 is “quaint”. Essentially, you’re playing a defunct and superseded genre, blended with ancient action mechanics, more than 10 years old. There has been no meaningful effort to do much more than upscale the visuals. Therefore, what you’ve got here is something that has its charms, but is archaic on every level. Toy Soldiers was never good enough to be a “classic”, so you don’t even get to enjoy the retro nostalgia that comes from early-era PS3/Xbox 360 games now. It’s just dated.
The point here is that even I can enjoy this game, and I am most certainly not the target market for Marvel. What Firaxis has done is truly impressive, in taking a property that is known for big, dumb action and turning it into a genuinely interesting and furious tactics RPG. Those who are still convinced that Marvel stories are worthwhile will probably enjoy the story and application of characters, too. This means that this is going to be even more worthwhile for them. However, I do think that everyone, regardless of how invested you are in Disney’s content goldmine, will find something to appreciate about this one.
There are so many “retro homage” JRPGs these days that I tend to approach them with caution. Even when they’re made well, they rarely live up to the standards of the games that inspired them. Chained Echoes not only meets that standard but, were this released back on the SNES when Final Fantasy IV, V, and VI were flying high, people would have considered them comparable. It’s more than a homage. It’s a genuine and powerful contribution to the genre.
As accessible as I’ve ever seen serious strategy gaming, Knights of Honor is still strategically interesting, gorgeous to look at, and still offers plenty of challenge. It hasn’t been compromised in any significant way for the sake of accessibility, and really, this is just a very good example of a publisher finding a genuine and worthy niche to occupy within a very mature and saturated genre.
I’m critical of Siralim Ultimate, but only because after four games I would have liked to see some effort by the developer to do something with the series, and all that seems to happen is that the team keeps adding more stuff to it, in the areas that it was already perfectly well-serviced. Siralim didn’t simply need more stuff. What it needed was refinement; to take a great idea and polish it into something absolutely incredible. Siralim Ultimate is a hugely entertaining time sink, but it is still, yet again, just a good idea in the need of polishing.
After being disappointed with Paradox Paradigm I am thrilled that Lover Pretend was a big bounce back to form, both in my perception of Otomate, and the localiser, Aksys. While the first impression is that this one is going to make incest a core theme and that’s going to be simply plain unpleasant for (almost) anyone, the good news is that it soon settles down into a rather comfortable reflection on celebrity, the filmmaking process, and, of course, romance.
Musings over fan service aside, Samurai Maiden is wildly entertaining B-grade fun. Like many of D3 Publisher’s other most notable titles, it rolls with its trashiness and embraces B-grade aesthetics and tone in totality. It doesn’t take itself seriously (at all), and doesn’t aspire to be anything more than a genre piece, made for people that probably already knew if this was for them from the first batch of screenshots. The fact it actually plays nicely to go with its fun theme is the icing on the cake. These kinds of games are becoming less and less common, for reasons that are best left to opinion pieces elsewhere. The point is, we need to enjoy stuff like Samurai Maiden when we get the opportunity to, because when they’re done as well as this, they’re a riot, and it would be tragic to see these kinds of games disappear.
It’s a pity that Dragon Quest Treasures is going to be overlooked as a spinoff dumped into the market late in the year, because there’s still in here that the entire industry could learn from. The way that the developers have clearly built an open world around the concept and adventure, rather than the other way around, makes Treasures one of the most meaningfully enjoyable open world experiences this side of the Yakuza series. Yes, the combat is a misfire, but the opportunity to go chill out with and go on grand treasure-hunting expeditions with your favourite Akira Toriyama creations is always going to be irresistable, and this is one of the better opportunities to do just that.
I can see now why Crisis Core is considered one of the best PSP titles and one of the finest Final Fantasy games ever made. It has been “blown up” and remastered for the PlayStation 5 to the point that it looks and feels like a native title, and has a rich and emotionally impactful narrative that, being entirely honest here, was well beyond what I was expecting. This is another feather in the cap for Square Enix, which has had one of its finest years ever.
As good as it looks, though, The Callisto Protocol is bad horror that has nothing meaningful to say and struggles to have a single original moment within it. I know that there are people out there saying that the game was “rushed out” to meet a deadline of “releasing before the Dead Space remake”… and perhaps it was! That might explain the performance issues on other platforms. However, that’s not really the problem with it. What lets this game down is that the core theme is broken to its foundations, and even if it ran perfectly at all times, in a best-case scenario, all polish would have ever done is ensure that it was entertaining enough to play. It was never going to be a horror experience that anyone remembers, even five years from now.
But it’s just not a great game and it doesn’t bring anything new or interesting to the genre. A character that we could get behind, some interesting level quirks, or some humour would have been enough. Instead, all Super Kiwi 64 trades on is the fact that it’s a nostalgic platformer for people that have fond memories of Banjo-Kazooie and are really that desperate for something new in that very specific genre to play. And people that don’t mind a vastly inferior experience just for that moment of nostalgic rush.