- Final Fantasy IX
- Persona 4 Golden
- The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Forspoken is vibrant, experimental, and undercooked all at once. It feels like a throwback to the Xbox 360-era of Square Enix games that were weird and experimental, like The Last Remnant and Infinite Undiscovery, only with a much bigger budget and flashier visuals. Its traversal and combat mechanics shine, but they’re trapped underneath a story and setting that feels painfully average and completely unwilling to engage with more challenging themes.
Crisis Core Reunion doesn’t alter the story of the original PSP game, but it lands somewhere between a remaster and a remake on account of its gorgeous graphical updates and gameplay improvements. That being said, the limitation of the original game being on a handheld still shines through, becoming obvious through the game’s simple structure that uses mostly small confined environments and linear pathways. For anyone coming from the tremendously ambitious Final Fantasy VII Remake, Crisis Core is going to feel remarkably limited. Still, the overwhelming positives of experiencing the Crisis Core story on modern consoles make its minor flaws totally forgivable.
Pentiment is a vibrant adventure that fully embraces its time period, artistic style, and sense of mystery. It’s methodical pacing and focus on dialogue won’t appeal to everyone, but Pentiment knows what it wants to be and does it exceptionally well.
Sonic Frontiers is a fascinating game, mostly because of how little it actually feels like the rest of the series. The game’s marketing has called it an “evolution” of the Sonic formula, and that’s certainly accurate, but it’s still hampered by some growing pains. Sublime exploration and intuitive mechanics constantly clash with Sonic Frontiers’ insistence on introducing mandatory mini-games and one-off gimmicks, many of which simply aren’t engaging.
There’s still a layer of jankiness the series can’t escape in terms of visuals and tropey writing. But the compelling characters and gameplay mechanics overshadow the rough edges. If this is the last Star Ocean game, Tri-Ace has gone out with a bang.
Like most hero shooters, the key to Gundam Evolution’s success is going to be how well Bandai Namco supports the game, and whether post-launch content can keep up a steady cadence of adding interesting new content. Still, Gundam Evolution has gotten the most important piece of the Overwatch formula right, making each hero feel distinct and providing interesting interactions between them. What that means is that Evolution should appeal to any fans of the genre, even those without any knowledge of Gundam whatsoever.
Trails From Zero is an exceptional JRPG that feels like it’s cut from the same cloth as the golden era of the genre when games like Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy VII were released. Its deep and complex narrative has a strong sense of mystery and isn’t afraid to dive into tough topics, all of which make the setting of Crossbell feel that much more realistic. An integral part of this experience is the translation work from the fan group The Geofront, and it’s easy to see how the success story of Trails From Zero could serve as a blueprint for bringing even more forgotten JRPGs to the West.
Splatoon 3 oozes charm and style at every level, and the level of polish here makes it better than ever. If Nintendo provides good post-launch support, it’s easy to see a time in the near-future when Splatoon 3 is the single best multiplayer experience on the Switch. Considering Splatoon 2 received support for nearly two years, and Nintendo has already revealed a roadmap for Splatoon 3, it seems likely that we’ll all be covered in paint for quite a few years to come.
After years of arena fighters and lackluster sequels, like New Gundam Breaker, Battle Alliance feels like the breath of fresh air the franchise needed in video games. It’s a love letter to one of the most prolific anime franchises out there, but even if you aren’t a Gundam fan there’s a great action RPG underneath, with a surprising amount of variety. Between its deceptively fun original story and dynamic combat, it’s absolutely a standout in the crowded market of anime games.
It’s been nine years since Saints Row 4, and this new entry feels like a back-to-basics reboot. But technical issues, bugs, and many more little frustrations conspire to make this a middling experience at launch. It’s unfortunate because when Saints Row fires on all cylinders, it’s an absolute blast with some truly lofty high points.