It’s not often we see a Game of the Year contender so early in the year, but here we are. Final Fantasy VII Rebirth is an unforgettable follow-up to one of the finest remakes ever produced. Deftly building upon the rock-solid foundation of its predecessor, it evolves the combat and progression systems in subtle yet exciting ways while setting you loose in a massive world that you’ll want to explore to the fullest. With countless activities to keep you busy and a gripping story that will leave both Final Fantasy VII veterans and newcomers alike on the edge of their seats, Final Fantasy VII Rebirth is an unmissable adventure. If you only buy one RPG this year, make it this one.
While Like A Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name undoubtedly suffers due to its smaller scale and a heavy reliance on the Akame Network to pad out its 12-hour story, there’s no denying how good it feels to see the Dragon of Dojima back in action – especially with the grab bag of gadgets he has at his disposal. And while this spin-off’s story is over a bit too soon, Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio’s penchant for spinning a compelling narrative shines through, showing Kiryu at his most vulnerable and setting the stage for what’s sure to be a momentous follow-up when Like A Dragon: Infinite Wealth launches next January.
More than just a cynical cash-in, RoboCop: Rogue City does an excellent job bucking the trend of mediocre movie tie-ins to give fans something spectacular. It’s a bloody and visceral love letter to 80s action herodom that leans hard into its source material and even builds upon themes only touched upon in the films. Add a satisfying amount of content in the form of a robust skill tree and a wealth of side missions, and you have a game that no RoboCop fan should miss.
Gastro Force attempts to play to old-school gamers’ nostalgia with its lo-fi visuals and classic maze shooter gameplay. Unfortunately, it’s hard to imagine even the biggest fans of retro FPSs will have the intestinal fortitude to stomach its mercilessly repetitive campaign, especially when there are so many better boomer shooters available.
Ion Fury: Aftershock‘s road to release was long and, at times, seemed uncertain. Now, after numerous delays, I’m happy to report that this expansion was well worth the wait. Developer Voidpoint and 3D Realms have succeeded in delivering fans an explosive, feature-rich update with tons of stages to explore, new enemies to butcher, and a sleek new ride to help them get around its cyberpunk world. Throw in a soul-crushing new difficulty setting and an arranged mode that breathes new life into the original release, and there’s never been a better time to step into Bombshell’s combat boots and gib some techno cultists.
If you were already a fan of the original release, you won’t be disappointed with the boatload of content Treachery In Beatdown City: Ultra Remix offers. From the updated arsenal of moves it puts at your fingertips, added areas to explore, and even more tongue-in-cheek storytelling that plays on current events and 90s video game nostalgia in equal measure, there’s a lot to like here. But fresh content and some witty writing can only carry a game so far. And while I love many of the ideas behind Treachery In Beatdown City, this update doesn’t do quite enough to keep its pixelated brand of pugilism from growing stale far too soon.
It’s clear The 7th Guest VR is a labor of love made by true fans of the original game. Its puzzles are brilliant, its production values are top-notch, and it perfectly strikes that balance between creepiness and campiness that made the 1993 original such a hit. It’s just a shame that while exploring these familiar locales in VR is a nostalgic treat, the finicky controls and some questionable design choices occasionally rear their heads like fiendish phantoms to hurt the experience. However, if you can overlook these shortcomings or are a die-hard fan of the series, you’ll find The 7th Guest VR to be one hauntingly good time.
While it’s over all too soon, if you grew up in the 16-bit era and love retro games, you owe it to yourself to give Pixel Ripped 1995 a try. And with the PSVR2 version’s improved visual fidelity and superb controls, there’s never been a better time to do so. Pixel Ripped 1995 is escapism at its finest, a nostalgic love letter to classic gaming that will transport you back to a simpler time. If that sounds up your alley, then don’t hesitate to add the game to your PSVR2 library.
While I do feel its balancing could have used some work, and the overly busy visuals can sometimes make the action indecipherable, Jets’nGuns 2 is tough to put down once it gets its hooks in you and you learn to look past its occasional shortcomings. With its excellent presentation and an upgrade system that encourages experimentation and careful planning, this one’s easy to recommend to shmup junkies looking for a challenge.
With its bite-sized stages and mostly braindead enemies, CrossFire: Sierra Squad might disappoint players hoping to find the closest thing to Call of Duty in VR. However, that doesn’t mean you should write it off completely. If you’re looking for a solid arcade shooter with a wide variety of weapons to wield and lots of replay value, CrossFire: Sierra Squad is a solid addition to your PSVR2 library. And if you can find a friend to enlist with, you’re bound to have some fun ridding the world of terrorists, one bullet at a time.
Despite its solid upgrade system and the introduction of a few interesting ideas, like the Frost Grip and enemies that can be resurrected or supercharged by the anomaly, Daymare: 1994 Sandcastle’s severe lack of polish and unbelievably frustrating combat execution hold it back from ever realizing its full potential. And, more often than not, make for a game that feels like it’s constantly working against the player’s enjoyment. With a few patches to iron out some of its more glaring kinks, Daymare: 1994 Sandcastle could have been a solid survival horror title to snag at a discount. However, at least in its current state, this one’s impossible to recommend to all but the most desperate fans of the genre
As far as rail shooters go, Operation Wolf: First Mission VR is fun but forgettable. Developer VIRTUALLYZ Gaming undoubtedly deserves credit for capturing the feel and flow of the classic shooter series, but tedious boss battles, occasionally cumbersome controls, and an overall lack of polish keep it from ever reaching its full potential. If you’re a die-hard veteran of the series looking to scratch your itchy trigger finger, you’ll probably find a few hours’ worth of enjoyment here, but new recruits will likely want to wait for a sale before enlisting.
Despite these minor grievances, if Double Dragon IV left a bitter taste in your mouth and you’ve been waiting for the franchise to return to its former glory, it’s time to celebrate because the Lee boys are back and fighting fit. With its furious fisticuffs and a wealth of smart evolutions to the series’ established formula, Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons is a must-play for fans of the beat-’em-up genre.
If you’re looking for a bullet-hell shooter that demands pixel-perfect skills and pattern memorization, you’re not going to find that here. Dogfight: A Sausage Bomber Story is about as casual as a shoot-’em-up as you’ll likely come across. But don’t pass it up like you might a sad gas station roller dog languishing under a flickering heat lamp. With a beefy and satisfying upgrade system and spicy four-player co-op, it might just be a hit at your next gaming gathering. If you have three friends to bring along for the ride, there’s a good chance you’ll relish your time with Dogfight: A Sausage Bomber Story.
While its always-online nature can occasionally result in headaches, Diablo IV ultimately delivers exactly what fans of the franchise deserve: a meticulously crafted action RPG that’s great alone and even better with friends. With a sprawling world to immerse yourself in and near-limitless room for experimentation, thanks to its excellent progression system, Diablo IV is a worthy successor to Diablo III that shouldn’t be missed — and these are just the early days! I can’t wait to see where it goes from here.
With its interesting premise that blends time-looping mechanics and extensive relationship-building into Persona’s familiar formula, I went into Loop8: Summer of Gods expecting a summer to remember. It’s just a shame that none of these elements come together as cohesively as they could have, making for an uneven experience. With repetitive dialogue choices that feel mostly weightless, a quirky combat system, dungeon-crawling that comes across as tacked-on, and a severe lack of variety, don’t go canceling your summer plans for this one.
It may have taken more than three decades for Cannon Dancer to make its way to our living rooms, but it was totally worth the wait. If you’re a fan of Capcom’s Strider or classic 90s arcade games in general – especially ones with a meaty challenge – then you owe it to yourself to check it out.
With its unique twist on combat and a great sense of style, I went into Strayed Lights with high hopes. However, while its presentation and challenging parry-centric boss battles certainly shine brightly, its largely nonexistent story, a lack of enemy variety, and frequent crashes caused that light to fade well before the conclusion of its four-hour runtime. If you’re simply looking for a novel take on the action-adventure genre, maybe pick this one up once it goes on sale. For anyone else, Strayed Lights is tough to recommend.
If you’re looking for an adventure that will keep you busy, Afterimage will fit that bill quite nicely. A single playthrough will take you roughly 30 hours to complete. With such a sizable quest, heaps of hidden items to uncover, and multiple endings to unlock, dedicated players can expect the game to keep them busy for weeks on end. Not bad for a Kickstarted project from a tiny Shanghainese studio, right? To call Afterimage ambitious would be an understatement, to put it mildly. Despite its excessive backtracking and hard-to-follow story, Afterimage is hands-down the most enjoyable Metroidvania I’ve played since Hollow Knight. With an engrossing world to explore, superb combat, and a plethora of fun abilities to master, it’s a game that’s almost impossible to put down once it gets its hooks in you. Even if you feel like you’ve had your fill of Soulslike Metroidvanias in recent years, you owe it to yourself to make time for Afterimage.
If you’re a fan of Hotline Miami and roguelites, you owe it to yourself to add OTXO to your Steam library. While it’s true the busy visuals can occasionally lead to some frustrating deaths, and the soundtrack repeats itself a bit too often, these minor gripes are easy to overlook when you consider just how much the game does right. Offering punchy and gratifying combat, a meaty challenge, and an addicting progression system that makes each loop feel fresh and exciting as you experiment with its engrossing perk system, OTXO will kick your ass and leave you begging for more.