Amy Kay Purcell
Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town is an enjoyable little farming romp; it's charming and calming, but doesn't quite capture the magic of some earlier installments. While slow load times, customization restrictions, and a few quality of life issues can make parts of your play a bit of a slog, the mines have returned, you can romance any eligible bachelor or bachelorette
Despite the deceptively silly name, Necrobarista is a surprisingly deep and moving narrative about loss, kindness, guilt, and the family you choose. Quirky, complex characters combined with an incredibly unique, unforgettable style and a killer soundtrack create a layered, captivating world full of secrets, spirits, robots, an underground fight club, and more than a few cups of really great coffee.
Final Fantasy VII Remake is more than just a remake. It stays true to the core elements of the original game, while also exploring, expanding, and breathing new life, depth, imagination, and personality into an already outstanding world and cast of characters.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons is easily the best Animal Crossing game to date. This life simulator is the most immersive, feature-filled, and customizable to date, having exponentially amplified all the charm and addicting qualities of New Leaf. A must have for any fan of the series, or anyone who simply needs a distraction from the current state of the real world.
There really is something undeniably charming about Pokémon Sword and Shield. While the plot itself is rather short, these games do a decent job of shaking up some of the tried-and-true mechanics in all the right ways. Max Raid battles, the open-world Wild Area, and improved social features make them surprisingly and subtly unique titles that are everything you'd expect from a Pokémon game, and occasionally, just a little bit more than you thought they would be.
Little Town Hero boasts a unique, strategic battle system that draws heavily on card game mechanics. Despite the fact that the story and art design seems to be aimed at a younger audience, combat is far too slow, strategic, and challenging to keep the attention of most kids. It's an interesting combination of traditional RPG storytelling with Heartstone-like mechanics and difficulty that's sure to captivate some, but will likely miss the mark for most.
The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening is everything a remake should be. It retains the nostalgia of the original game while celebrating it in an entirely new way. The map is small but dense, filled with side quests, interesting character designs, and a surprising moral dilemma. This charming, toy-like world is the perfect way to experience Koholint Island, regardless of it's your first visit or your 50th time washing ashore.
Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is a solid, no-frills, no-additions port of the original PS3 game of the same title. The first video game by Studio Ghibli has not only aged very well, but it also runs smoothly and quickly on the Switch, making it an ideal way to experience the whimsy, charm, and wonder of this fantastical world with Oliver, his friends, and his fearsome foes.
The premise of Graveyard Keeper is of the most unique of just about any sim game out there, and this no-frills Switch port makes it portable for the first time. There really isn't much that needs to be added impressively robust graveyard management game, but it would have been nice if the game took advantage of the Joy-Con rumble feature.
The Gardens Between was one of my favorite Switch games of 2019, and with its mobile release, it is now one of my favorite mobile titles. The Voxel agents have done a great job of optimizing sound, controls, and graphics, making the gameplay and story just as solid, if not a tiny bit better, on a cellphone than it was on the Switch.
My Time at Portia is a visually beautiful, charming game rich in story, lore, and personality; everything about it is made better by the jump to a portable console. While this version lacks voice acting and rumble integration, the portability and surprisingly decent load times make this a great way to discover all that Portia has to offer.
LongStory is a charming and innocent LGBTQ+ dating sim focused on conversations and relationships rather than just getting lucky. It's a little over the top, a little dramatic, and a little silly, just like middle school itself, and allows you to date almost every character in the game, or go the asexual route. It's a little heavy-handed at times, but otherwise a great way to pass time.
Legrand Legacy is a pretty but otherwise generic RPG. It's beautifully hand-drawn world gets lost beneath mountains of dialogue and a plot so weighed down by tropes that it barely stays afloat. It's a passable to good title, but none of its elements come together to create anything new, exciting, inspiring, or terribly memorable.
The First Tree tells an incredibly personal and melancholy story about the loss of a loved through the eyes of a fox within a dream world. Wandering through beautiful, abstract worlds, you learn the narrator's story as the fox searches for her missing kits. It has a surprising number of platformer elements, given the nature of the game, but doesn't distract from the beautiful story within this short exploration game.
Nairi: Tower of Shirin is a witty, cute, and quirky point-and-click adventure. Silly and slightly morbid, Nairi shines with unique characters, hand-drawn artwork, and challenging but fair puzzles. It is held back slightly by some confusing navigation, a few bugs, and the inability to save your progress, but this charming little gem is a must-play for fans of the genre.
The World Ends With You: Final Remix is a great port, so long as you keep it in handheld mode. Combining RPG storytelling with frantic cell phone game tapping, this funky, high-fashion game is still a surprisingly unique experience, but the Joy-con controls are simply not up to par. With a killer sound track, a surprisingly complex plot, and a whole lot to do after the credits roll, this DS title has more than stood the test of time.
Exorder is a very pretty little game which feels like a puzzle game masquerading as a turn-based strategy title. Controls are simple to a fault, and moving around the map left me frustrated every single battle. While the game has a great style, the bright colors and fun designs are made just a little more dull by the bland voice acting you'll be listening to before and after each battle.
Armello is a great addition to the Switch library, delivering a tabletop experience on the go. Beautiful to look at, this title boasts deep, engrossing mechanics for those who are willing to stick it out through the rather steep learning curve. While you won't be able to hop onto the couch and engage in local multiplayer with your friends, Armello helps make up for this with solid AI and an online multiplayer option.
Creed: Rise to Glory is an exhausting, sweaty, thrilling brawler title. It requires observation, reaction, and no small bit of stamina, as you read your opponent, dodge blows, create openings, and swing your way to victory. The story mode may be a little short and fragmented, but the PvP mode, allowing you to step into the ring with real people, more than makes up for it. It's brutal, it's highly responsive, making it the best VR boxing title, and one of the most addictive VR experiences I've encountered thus far.