At its core, VA-11 Hall-A is the rare cyberpunk story that has heart, and even goes so far as to give its female characters agency in their own lives. It’s a story where we, the player, take the backseat, and soak it all in. Just like a good book.
The game’s graceless combat was once tolerable. But as the game progressed, that fact faded into a distant memory. It became a common occurrence to find myself frantically flinging arrows at the speedier robots sprinting my way, while praying that the slower, stronger ones didn’t reach me in time for more tedious hack-and-slashing
Horizon Zero Dawn is disappointing. It has a story that I struggled to care about (complete with massive expository dumps—yay), a bland protagonist, and overtly repetitive and constraining missions that worked against its open world sensibilities. When Horizon Zero Dawn hit its rare strides—from its gloomy Cauldrons to traveling across its sprawling vistas—it only made me wish the rest of the game were as worthwhile.
We don't get games like Nier: Automata too often. And by that I mean games that simultaneously weave a deeply harrowing existentialist narrative, in addition to playing with our expectations on how we play games. There's nothing else around like Nier: Automata (except for maybe its predecessor). And in an industry that sometimes leans too heavily on sameness, it's wholly refreshing.
With the most bewitching tale the series has ever told and an incredibly likable cast that rises above their typical archetypes, Persona 5 sings a song of rebellion. Not just against the norm of JRPGs, but of society's oppressive grasp, inspiring its players to rise up as the Phantom Thieves would. In the end, in spite of its minor missteps, Persona 5 has the power to steal the hearts of longterm fans of the series and newcomers alike.
Full Throttle has a great cast of characters and atmosphere, but with its remaining irritating action and timed sequences, bland puzzles, and an unnecessary fresh paint job, the game carries its old flaws to a new generation, and ushers some new ones in as well. Luckily, with the seamless swap to its already-fantastic original pixel art (whose immense detail is commendable, even in 2017), clicking through Full Throttle's charming love letter to wheels is still pleasant.
While not the best game in either series, Puyo Puyo Tetris is still a great combination of two puzzle classics. Sometimes going together like peanut butter and jelly, other times more like peanut butter, and uh, something that doesn't go with peanut butter. All in all, a worthwhile addition to the slowly growing Switch library (or PS4 library, if spontaneous on-the-go multiplayer is not your jam).
By the end of What Remains of Edith Finch, I felt close to the Finch family. I felt close in a way that only games could articulate with their unique interactive language. I was a kid on a swing, trying to get as high as he can. I was a baby in a bathtub. I was a curious, hungry kid. What Remains of Edith Finch doesn't just tell you about the tragic history of the Finch family, it allows you to embody it.
Rime is a beautiful, beautiful game that manages to feel remarkably empty, even in the face of its earnest attempts. The aesthetic that breathes life into the island of Rime feels a bit too familiar, but it doesn't dampen its vast, ever-photographable horizons. Nonetheless, Rime is a light third-person adventure game with quiet puzzle solving, in a year where we haven't had much of those, which alone makes it a worthwhile respite.
On Tokyo 42's website, the developers boast the game as a beloved blend of Syndicate and Grand Theft Auto, and honestly, they couldn't be more wrong and right. It's both those games in spirit, but twists them into something wholly its own. Tokyo 42 is an isometric cyberpoppunk action-shooter with a city that's worth getting lost in.
Arms has a lot to love, and unfortunately, a lot to forget too. After a year of planned updates, I imagine the Arms we see a year from now will be a drastically different game. A more fuller one, at that. In the meantime though, while it has potential with its layers of depth, the core game simply doesn't have enough variety among its many arms and fighters to keep the experience feeling fresh for long.
Splatoon 2 doesn't add much to shake up the splat-paint-everywhere formula, but I wonder if it needs to at this point. Splatoon 2 is a much stronger game at launch than its original ever was through its whole lifespan, and for that, is easily one of the best games one can own on the Switch.
Pyre's strengths lie in a lot of things: its beautiful visuals, amazing score, multi-branching tale, gameplay that somehow marries the best of sports games and tactical RPGs. But it's wrapped in an expansive story that doesn't quite earn its keep over its many hours, and fails to flesh out the endearing characters you meet and spend time with all along the way. In the end though, Pyre's a quest worth taking if you're up for the challenge and the inevitable dread you'll feel when you lose sometimes.
Miitopia feels like a missed opportunity. It's a game that starts and ends strong, but falters in the many, many hours in-between. Its jokes and gags quickly grew stale, and its charm wore off quickly. And then it kept going, for dozens of hours on end. I imagine if players are on the hunt for a game that's slightly more complex than what they'd find in Street Pass plaza, Miitopia might be that game for them. For players hunting for more hilarious and unpredictable antics from Miis like they once saw from Tomodachi Life, it seems like that dream remains just that. A dream.
It's rare to see game worlds as intricately detailed as the one in the space station of Tacoma. Even with its mostly lackluster characters and a story that never quite sinks its hooks into you, it's a spacecation you'll want to make time for. Hell, in what other game can I set up and play a game of billiards by myself as panicked digital ghosts worry about their livelihood? None, really.
Sonic Mania is a brilliant return to form for the series' long-time away from traditional 2D games. Even if a few less remixed stages and more new zones would have been a nice change of pace, Sonic Mania's joyful level of ingenuity even in reimagining familiar sights is a testament to some of the franchise's best days.