Mario Strikers: Battle League boasts excellent gameplay mechanics as well as item-based hijinks that make it feel more like a survival game at times. Online options are also much improved, including the ability to create your own Strikers Clubs for competing and earning rewards. The focus on competitive online play, however, has made the game less of a compelling offline experience due to a lack of a true campaign as well as various other modes. It’s still a blast when played with friends or online rivals. For folks playing solo by themselves, however, Battle League can be a lonely experience.
Monster Hunter Rise: Sunbreak further builds on the new mechanics introduced by Rise with an assortment of new skills as well as several quality-of-life improvements that further improve the overall Monster Hunter experience. Add the introduction of AI hunting partners — a first in the series — and you have a nice assortment of new things that further move the series forward. The absence of Rampage Mode in Master Rank does make it feel like features have been taken out. The endgame could also be a bit more fleshed out. A great campaign experience combined with excellent combat mechanics, however, makes Sunbreak another worthy addition to the franchise.
Touken Ranbu Warriors mixes the classic one vs. 1,000 hack-and-slash Warriors gameplay with the beautiful boys of the Touken Ranbu franchise. The use of investigations helps break the monotony of the Warriors-style gameplay a bit and the time-traveling element adds a twist to the history-based narrative often used in games set in Japan’s warring states period. Although it doesn’t exactly introduce groundbreaking changes to the formula, it’s a solid take on Warriors gameplay for fans of the classic hack-and-slash games and the Touken Ranbu franchise.
Nintendo Switch Sports is a modern take on one of Nintendo’s beloved classis from the Wii era, complete with the motion controls and burning muscle soreness that veterans of the series know very well. The game boasts improved visuals compared to its predecessors and playing with or against other people remains a hoot. Limiting multiplayer to docked mode is a bit of a bummer, though, especially since playing solo feels like a more lonely and less fulfilling experience. It’s a game best enjoyed with others for sure.
Crystar gets a Switch port following its earlier release on the PS4 and PC, giving you one more avenue to cry on the go. Crystar is actually one of those cases where a game boasts a strong and compelling story that’s unfortunately saddled with action gameplay that’s OK at best. Folks who prioritize top-notch combat mechanics and don’t particularly care for storytelling might want to look elsewhere. If you love games with a strong narrative and interesting characters, however, Crystar is definitely worth a trip to Purgatory despite its faults.
Kirby and the Forgotten Land shakes up the traditional Kirby formula by fully bringing it into the third dimension while adding some fun new mechanics into the mix. Despite the switch to 3D — pun so totally intended — it still feels like a Kirby game for longtime fans. The length is a bit short and the game could also be more challenging. Those are minor gripes, however, as the game adds some much-needed freshness to the franchise while maintaining the charm that Kirby fans know and love.
Atelier Sophie 2 continues to build on the Atelier franchise’s solid foundation and the result is another excellent game in the series. Granted the game can admittedly be grindy and repetitive at times. With its likable cast, addicting gameplay loop, touching narrative and feel-good charm, however, Atelier Sophie 2 is another welcome addition to the franchise, whether you’re a newcomer or a veteran who waited seven years for this surprise sequel.
Ghostwire: Tokyo boasts a great premise and concept but ultimately serves up a more typical game experience that doesn’t quite reach its initial lofty expectations. That being said, it’s a good iteration of the classic sandbox formula and also has great potential as a series. I’m actually looking forward to Tango Gameworks further building on this as Ghostwire: Tokyo sets up a solid foundation for its yokai-meets-urban-jungle formula.
Elden Ring remains a compelling experience thanks to its incredible breadth and scope combined with its excellent combat and litany of options for curating your own unique journey. Is it a massive change from the Dark Souls formula? Honestly, you can name it Dark Souls 4 and it would actually fit quite well. At the same time, it represents the best iteration of the Souls formula to date as well as the potential of the series moving forward. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m dying to hop back and play it again.
Like its predecessor, FAR: Changing Tides serves up a poignant journey through a lonely apocalyptic landscape with a bigger ship, a bigger world and a bigger scope overall. At the same time, it still retains that same claustrophobic feel and charm while serving up all sorts of environmental puzzles for you to solve. The extra mechanics can admittedly be frustrating to deal with at times as you find yourself juggling many things at once and it also doesn’t quite have the same sense of newness for veterans of the first game. Overall, however, FAR: Changing Tides is the kind of game that makes you wonder and also makes you think, which is a credit to the compelling atmosphere that it deftly provides.
If your main focus is a highly polished, big-budget arrangement with lots of action — and there’s nothing wrong with that — this game will likely be underwhelming for you. But if your priorities lie in story, a more nuanced perspective and an experience beyond just the game within a game, then The Cruel King and the Great Hero is worth picking up.
Monark is a game that boasts a solid foundation with some really good ideas and fun combat. It’s lack of polish, however, means this game is likely destined to be more of a cult favorite as opposed to a big hit. It’s a shame as the story alone is worth the journey. If you like an old-school 3D JRPG with interesting gameplay and don’t mind budget visuals, Monark is one ego trip worth indulging in.
The King of Fighters XV builds on the solid foundation set by its predecessor after the series’ 3D visual overhaul. The graphics and netcode are much improved from KOF 14 while the base mechanics feel like the familiar King of Fighters gameplay that fans know and love. Admittedly, the game is more an evolution than a revolution for the franchise. At the same time, KOF 14 was quite good so any improvement makes an already great game even better.
Looks aren't everything in Pokemon Legends: Arceus, which does a great job in pushing the series forward while showing a willingness to take risks and step outside of the series’ comfort zone. It’s still rough around the edges and could use some more polish. That being said, it’s an exciting teaser for what’s to come and should have many fans looking forward to what Pokemon has in store next.
Shin Megami Tensei V marks another excellent addition to the franchise thanks to an addictive demon collecting mechanic, a plethora of subquests and collectibles to find, and challenging battles that keep you on your toes. It can be overly grindy and the visuals can look dated at times. Its streamlined mechanics and a new character progression and skill system, however, helps keep things fresh while also keeping the core mechanics that SMTV fans have come to love. It's not Persona 5. And that's a good thing.
Playing Steel Assault is like being teleported back to a time when Sega was doing what Nintendon’t and blast processing was at its heyday. From its pixel-perfect visuals to its retro 2D action mechanics, Steel Assault is akin to video game comfort food for anyone weaned on the golden age of 8-bit and 16-bit gaming. The game is on the short side and the lack of co-op and post-game unlockables hurt replay value. If you’re itching for some classic twitch gaming, though, Steel Assault is like a blast from the past.
Overall, Far Cry 6 still feels like a Far Cry game once the sheen of the new additions wears off. You still go from point to point to expand your area of operation while also ultimately taking down Castillo’s top leaders for each region. There is also a lot to do for folks who like to really explore every nook and cranny of an open world. In that sense, Far Cry 6 is more of an evolution of the familiar Far Cry formula as opposed to a revolution, no pun intended.
Like meeting an old friend that you haven’t seen in a while, Metroid Dread marks a great return to the franchise’s classic form. From the series’ trademark tension and corridor-based exploration to its hectic 2D action, Metroid Dread checks a lot of the boxes for old-school fans while also introducing its tried and true formula to a new generation of gamers. Here’s hoping this reunion with classic Samus won’t be the last.
After bringing back Sakura Wars, Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania gives me hope that more classic titles are due for a revival from Sega. With more than 300 courses from three classic Super Monkey Ball games, Banana Mania is just as crazy and challenging as I remember. The feel isn’t quite as snappy as the classic games. But it’s still Monkey Ball and I’m glad to see the franchise swing back into action, not just for old fans but a new generation as well.
Even as gaming trumps the movie industry from a financial standpoint, there’s still a notion among certain circles that video games are for kids and man-children and shouldn’t be taken seriously. Games such as Lost Judgment, however, make a case for games as a serious art form thanks to an almost manic attention to detail and willingness to tackle uncomfortable yet real issues. It’s not perfect and its social takes can be inelegant or even seem misguided at times. At the same, it also shows that gaming isn’t all fun and games and can be serious business.