Lost Judgment is nothing short of stunning. It's tightly-packed narrative never fails to enthrall, while its gameplay systems make navigating to each of its engrossing narrative beats an exciting experience in its own right. While Judgment felt a bit more like a proof of concept for how a Yakuza spin-off could be done, its sequel is evidence there needs to be more. Lost Judgment is a defining release from Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio, one of 2021's best games, and the rare sequel that preserves its series' identity while improving on nearly every element of its predecessor.
What Obsidian has here is a reinvention of narrative gaming, however, and one that asks a question of the player everyone should at least attempt answering. Whether or not the question is too inscrutable doesn't really matter - it's how Andreas, and the player, responds. Pentiment is the kind of masterwork that Andreas chases early in the game, and it's equally as flawed, biased, subjective, and captivating as the pieces he's inspired by. Play it and decide for yourself whether it's worthy of that kind of comparison. That's the point.
If it's time to move on from the Tears of the Kingdom Hyrule that's now spanned two games, it hasn't overstayed its welcome. The memories this game is capable of creating just because of its ambitious systems mean that no two players will ever have the same experience - except that of joy, and the excitement that comes with unknown possibilities. Anyone worried that there would be some fatal flaw that came to ruin what seemed to be a can't-miss Switch launch can now rest easy. Tears of the Kingdom is a monumental achievement, and it's going to be talked about relentlessly for years to come.
Anyone who previously thought about giving Like A Dragon a try will want to start here. It may be a lot to catch up on at first, but it's well worth it. For those already invested, it's hard to overstate just how important a landmark this is for the Like A Dragon series - a true passing of the torch, finally, and a game worthy of succeeding the action-based legend that preceded it. 2024 is picking up exactly where 2023, and Like A Dragon: Infinite Wealth is a game of the year contender and a tremendously high bar for the rest of the year to follow.
Tacoma‘s simple premise expands into something much larger, and it invites each of us to examine what it means to be human, and how we might pretend to be if we can't actually achieve that. There's a game there, underneath the questions it's asking, and it's a wonderful, technologically sound port. I'm not sure what else needs to be said about the achievement of Tacoma, because so many smart people have already discussed it at length when it was released on PC in 2017. All I can say is that is has aged well, attacks concepts like human will and capitalism on angles that seem fresh in 2018, and remains a must play for those willing to set aside a few hours of their time to experience some very fine, challenging work within the video game medium.
While these things keep the game from being perfect, however, they don't stop it from being great. Owlboy is a must-play platformer for fans of the genre and of gaming's history in general. It's also a truly wonderful revelation on the PS4, feeling right at home on the console in a way that made me briefly forget at times that the game was a port. Come for the charming art or the offer of some quick hits of nostalgia, but stay for the sublime storytelling and fluid gameplay.