James Paley


270 games reviewed
75.5 average score
75 median score
44.1% of games recommended
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Feb 22, 2024

This Final Fantasy VII project is a massive undertaking of an impossible scale. A single release stretched into three games? Preposterous. And yet, so far the team is totally nailing it. The first game was a smash hit, and Rebirth runs laps around it in almost every way.

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Feb 14, 2024

The puzzles in this game are clever, well-constructed, and satisfying to solve. At the same time, the platforming can be frustrating. The jump mechanics take some getting used to, and the controls don’t have that Mario feel. But this too is a sort of puzzle to solve. You’ve got to learn the basics all over again, in a way. Once I accepted this, Mario vs Donkey Kong really opened up for me. I took my failures in stride. I pushed for perfection whenever possible. Soon enough I was having a great time. For longtime Mario fans new to this series, this new paradigm might take some adjustment. But I assure you, this investment of time and effort is worth it.

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87 / 100 - Persona 3 Reload
Jan 30, 2024

I loved this game when it first released on the PS2. It felt almost too cool for console gaming, too crisp for the era in question. Even now, Reload carries a timeless charm that keeps me engaged. The battle system has been polished, the visuals are totally overhauled, and the game is bigger than ever. There’s pacing problems to be sure, and the gameplay loop isn’t for everyone. Plus, fans of certain versions will find this edition somewhat lacking in features. But maybe that’s okay? I’d rather judge this game on what it is, rather than what it isn’t. And Persona 3 Reload is an excellent evolution of a PS2 classic that fans new and old will almost certainly love.

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Jan 13, 2024

Ultimately, I wanted to like this game more than I actually did. The pacing is excellent, the systems are deceptively deep, and the interface is well-crafted. Plus, your consequences for failure are expertly balanced, giving you a lot of freedom to fail. On the other hand, the constant repetition is exhausting. It feels like the roguelike treadmill set to a dead sprint. And while you’re forgiven for failure, you’re also not pointed to success. I had to poke, prod, and muddle my way to any sort of goal. You can absolutely succeed, but the road to that point is a long and meandering one. If you’re looking for a unique take on Chinese history, you’re in luck! But be warned: many pitfalls and dead ends await you.

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While I had a good time with The Teal Mask, The Indigo Disk was a marked improvement. You’ve got more Pokemon to catch, tougher battles to win, and more to do. On top of that, the story told in the two releases wraps up in a satisfying, well-crafted way. I still wish the clothing options were more robust, to be sure. And the game still doesn’t always run great. But it got me playing Pokemon Violet again, and I’m going to keep doing so. There’s more Legendaries to scoop up, after all. If you’re looking for more from the latest Pokemon game, the Area Zero DLC has some serious bang for your buck.

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Final Fantasy XVI is crammed with narrative momentum. Which is amazing, until it’s time to do things like sidequests and DLC. Then the guillotine of the climax hangs over your head, impatient and sharp. In other words, it’s hard for me to get as invested in the DLC as I’d like. The combat is terrific, the new dungeon is beautiful, but it feels like I’m spinning my wheels. At the same time, I’ll take any excuse to spend more time with this game. Echoes of The Fallen is a great addition to a perfect Final Fantasy Experience.

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60 / 100 - Custom Mech Wars
Dec 12, 2023

Custom Mech Wars is all about construction and experimentation. There’s a dense system for putting mechs together, and all of it feels friendly and approachable. You have a ton of options, a lot of freedom, and multiple ways to test things out. But that’s sort of where the good times dry up. The campaign is crazy boring otherwise, and the multiplayer options are equally threadbare. If you can get a good group together for playing online, you might find more fun than I did. But on your own, Custom Mech Wars has limited appeal. If you’ve got a lot of mechs in your heart begging to be built, you’re in for a good time. Otherwise I can’t really recommend this game.

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80 / 100 - SteamWorld Build
Dec 4, 2023

At first, this game seems simpler than most city builders. After playing through it, the right word is approachable. You’re eased into things with straightforward systems and limited units. Then things escalate, slow and steady. By the end, without realizing it, you’ve built a complex settlement full of moving parts and balanced resource ecosystems. I wish certain things like population breakdowns were more robust, but I still loved this game. For a deceptively deep city builder, you’ll want to check out SteamWorld Build.

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Much like the movies, the Jurassic Park Classic Games Collection takes a couple good ideas and stretches them way out. If you’re a diehard fan, you might have a great time diving into each iteration of Alan Grant’s murder safari. For me, these games were mostly penance. My childhood fixation was used as leverage, cracking open the door to let in this hodgepodge of mediocre slurry. Unless you’re an absolute freak for the Jurassic Park franchise, I can’t in good conscience recommend this collection of games.

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90 / 100 - Super Mario RPG
Nov 15, 2023

Super Mario RPG is so faithful to the original that calling it a remake feels disingenuous. The game is more of a top-to-bottom remaster.

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Nov 1, 2023

While I’m impressed by the technical tricks, WarioWare is just… really funny. It’s awesome fun making a fool of yourself in front of friends and loved ones. It’s even better dragging them into the mix. The variety of games is delightful, and the various poses are well-crafted. But they’re also funny. Honestly, if you take away nothing else from this review, my job is still done. WarioWare: Move It! is a hilarious good time and you’d be a fool to let it pass you by. Though this season is crammed with excellent games, the latest WarioWare title is perfect for that party-style vibe.

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Oct 28, 2023

To be honest, I didn’t expect much from Mario Wonder. The 2D games tend to play it relatively safe, preferring to lean on nostalgia and mass appeal. Somehow I’ve been shocked at almost every turn. The visuals are consistently fresh and exciting. The mechanics blow the whole formula wide open. New powers, new skills, and new challenges had me immediately hooked. The soundtrack is mostly bangers by weight, just a hot mess of excellent music. Sure, the story is forgettable. I couldn’t tell you the name of your constant companion. He’s some sort of bug with a crown? And the bones of the 2D gameplay are well-preserved standards from several generations back. But the total package is an absolute blast. If you’ve been looking for a hot new Mario game, your prayers are answered. Super Mario Bros. Wonder is the best the series has been for years.

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Oct 4, 2023

Like the rest of the series, Disgaea 7 is a massive game. The combat and progression systems boast near-infinite depth. The writing is snappy and fun, the music is catchy, and the art style is extremely anime. On the other hand, those infinite systems are downright impenetrable. You need a very particular focus to wade through so many menus. And the grind is still monumental, no matter what sneaky tricks you employ. For fans of the series, Disgaea 7: Vows of the Virtueless is a series highlight. To all the new players, I say: Welcome! This will either be a joyless slog or the start of a brand new addiction.

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Oct 4, 2023

While I’ve made it clear that this game is meant for a younger audience, I still recognize its merits. The visuals are clean and crisp, even if the humans look a bit weird. Pikachu himself is a real bright spot, with more charm and personality than any other character. And if you’re a diehard Pokémon fan, there are a ton of them scattered throughout this story. But I can’t recommend this game to anyone reading this review. Rather, Detective Pikachu Returns will be a great fit for your kids. If you’re looking for a fun, approachable adventure they can dive into, this might be a pretty good choice.

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Sep 21, 2023

RPGs don’t always age well. Things like combat, exploration, and puzzle-solving can change drastically in a handful of years. The Baten Kaitos games hold up pretty well, all things considered. The visuals are great and the combat is excellent. The Remaster also does a great job of smoothing over certain rough patches. There’s a generous autosave system in place, for one thing. The modern combat upgrades also go a long way to making those slow battles feel faster. On the other hand, the story feels very by-the-numbers. I felt like I was running down a checklist of tropes within a few hours of the first game. But if card-based battle systems are your thing, this collection is a godsend. If nothing else, Baten Kaitos I&II provides a fascinating snapshot of a lost era of GameCube RPGs.

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Once again I ask, is the Pokemon Violet DLC worth buying? That depends. If you were hoping for a smoother framerate, you’ll be disappointed. The Teal Mask DLC runs just as well as the base game. If you want more Pokemon content, you’re in luck! There’s something like 100 old Pokemon being added to the total roster. There’s also new sidequests, new story content, and new items to acquire. The battles are challenging (by Pokemon standards), and there’s a wide variety of biomes within Kitakami to explore. For me, this was a perfect excuse to jump back into the game. But I recognize that I’m a hardcore fan of these games. Ultimately, that’s who Pokemon DLC is usually for. If you’re a fan, you’ll enjoy this extra content. Otherwise, you can leave this one be.

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70 / 100 - Eternights
Sep 11, 2023

There’s a lot of cool little ideas on display here. The combat system and the use of bonds is excellent. The dating sim sections are fun. Even the survival scavenging elements are a fun distraction. But they all feel insubstantial. Certain activities feel repetitive or limited. The progression path you follow with every teammate feels almost identical. Scavenging is the same thing every time. Even the fights fall into a predictable rhythm after a while. But I still had fun. I’m not sure if all these subgenres add up to a proper game. But I did enjoy the ride. If you’re looking for a pretty, Persona-style RPG, check out Eternights.

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Aug 30, 2023

Virgo is a fascinating character, navigating a big, bizarre world. Everyone you meet adds to the weird and wonderful flavor of things. The combat is engaging and unique, the premise is compelling, and the presentation is slick. On the other hand, it’s real easy to get lost. And without a rigorous saving routine, you might end up losing progress once in a while. But events you replay might not play out the same way, which is cool. I wasn’t sure what to expect with this game, but I ended up pleasantly surprised. If you’re looking for a new and unusual RPG, definitely check out Virgo Versus The Zodiac.

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Story Mode and Arcade Mode are fun enough, yes. It’s cool seeing the parade of classic stages and scenes, it’s cool fighting all the old enemies. And I love the music and visuals. It all comes together to make a delightful Turtles experience. But Survival Mode is the first time I’ve felt properly compelled to keep playing. It’s deeply frustrating at times, but not in a discouraging way. I want to get better! I want to improve my last run, I want to power up all the characters. If Shredder’s Revenge felt light, then Dimension Shellshock adds significant weight. I highly recommend picking up this DLC.

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Aug 21, 2023

I had a ton of fun with Immortals. The combat is snappy, explosive, and smooth. Everything looks amazing, just a colossal colorful assault on the senses at every turn. The puzzles are a pleasant distraction. The writing has its ups and downs, to be sure, but the story itself is a proper ride. I truly can’t get enough of the word Everwar. I could have used a bit less quipping in the dialogue, however. While the combat occasionally got frustrating, it’s nothing a little practice (and difficulty adjustment) can’t fix. Traversal is a good time, even if the dodge cooldown feels excessive. If your first-person shooters have felt too serious lately, take heart! Immortals of Aveum is a magic-soaked, colorful romp that grips hard and doesn’t let go.

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