Chris "Atom" DeAngelus
At the end of the day, Voice of Cards: The Beasts of Burden is the same basic game as the last two, only with a different story. It really doesn't do anything to break the mold except be incredibly dark and depressing. If you found yourself enjoying the last two games, then you'll almost certainly enjoy this one, but if any of the previous game's flaws dragged down things, then you probably won't change your mind here. It's a nice, low-budget JRPG with some interesting story beats, but the consistent flaws between games have started to wear out their welcome.
I like Pac-Man World: Re-Pac, and I think it's a great example that games don't need to be genre-defining to be fun, especially at its discount price. You have to go in knowing what you're expecting, and back in the days of Blockbuster Video, it's the game you might have completed over a weekend rental. In a vacuum, it's a fun, charming time. If your time or money is limited, you'd be better off with a title that offers more content.
Blind Fate is a game with great ideas but doesn't live up to them. The combat system is a lot of fun, but the title does everything it can to not let it shine. Outside of the combat, you're left with a predictable story, dull levels, and a boatload of QTEs. I can see a sequel that polishes up some of the mechanics that feel half-baked, but at the end of the day, Blind Fate doesn't really do anything that stands out.
Steelrising is sort of an average Soulsborne game. The fascinating aesthetic doesn't hide the fact that it's repeating the same sort of things we've seen in a lot of other games, and it can't manage to carve out its own identity. That doesn't mean it is a bad title; the combat is largely fun, and there are enough little things to discover to keep you moving forward. Steelrising might help to scratch the post-Elden Ring itch, but otherwise, it's best for those who are looking for another Soulsborne to play.
Circus Electrique is a great example of how being a "clone" doesn't mean being boring or bad. You can trace the game's roots back to Darkest Dungeon, but it has enough of its own charm and style to make it a worthwhile experience on its own merits. It's more linear and less punishing, which has the potential to make it fair and more accessible than its darker predecessor. I was engaged from start to finish, so it's well worth your time if you're looking for something to scratch the classic Darkest Dungeon itch or if you really like the circus aesthetic.
Digimon Survive is an interesting experiment that largely succeeds in taking a beloved children's franchise and giving it a darker tone without completely losing what made it so beloved in the first place. The story is largely engaging and has enough twists and turns to keep things moving forward at a comfortable pace. The gameplay is enjoyable but unexceptional, but the story is the main draw. If you're a fan of Digimon, then Survive is absolutely worth your time. Even casual JRPG fans will likely find the story to be worth a look.
That leads to The Last of Us Part I being both the best version of the game and also extremely difficult to recommend unless money is not a concern. The Last of Us has aged well enough that you don't lose a ton playing the Remastered version, unlike the similar remake Demon's Souls, which took a cult PS3 game that many people had never played and gave it a modern updated release. If you're willing to wait for a price drop or sale, Part I becomes far more appealing because it is a wonderful improvement to an already impressive game. Aside from cost, there's no reason to go back to the older versions, and The Last of Us remains one of the best games in the Sony library.
SD Gundam Battle Alliance does some things that I really enjoy and some things that I really don't. If you're a fan of the franchise, the crossovers will tickle your fancy. The chance to take some of your favorite machines into battle against one another will hold some appeal, but the overall grindy nature of the game can drag down the fan service elements. It's a fun enough game for die-hard fans of Gundam, but without that love to carry you, it's unlikely this title will catch your interest.
Overall, Soul Hackers 2 is a good - but not great - entry into the franchise. I had quite a lot of fun with it, and I think the cast is one of my favorites in the SMT games, but it has a "low-budget" feel that is difficult to escape, and the Soul Matrix concept feels lackluster. It has a good combat system, fun character customization, and everything I'd expect from a SMT spin-off. For some fans, I'd imagine that the change from the franchise norm will feel refreshing.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3 was a huge delight to me, easily taking the top spot in my favorite Xenoblade games. It hits so many marks that its flaws can be considered minimal. The cast is likeable, the gameplay is fun and engaging, the world is great to explore, and it is one of the best JRPGs I've ever played. While not flawless, the flaws it does have are forgivable or potentially patched, and you certainly get your money's worth. JRPG fans should absolutely give Xenoblade 3 a try, as it's a pure delight.
South of the Circle is the equivalent of a good book. It's fun to sit down, experience, relax, and have the story drift over you. It isn't particularly interactive, and the ending feels a little unsatisfying, but beyond that, it's well told and well executed. You shouldn't pick it up if you're looking to decide who lives or who dies. You get to experience the story as it is told, with a few button prompts for flavor. If that sounds good to you, then you'll enjoy South of the Circle.
Live A Live is the ideal way to experience a cult classic game. It maintains or improves on everything that made the original game distinct while polishing it enough that some of the more dated design elements don't detract from the whole. It's a weird, quirky, and distinct JRPG that to this day is unlike anything else on the market. It won't be for everyone, but if you're a fan of JRPGs, then you owe it to yourself to give it a shot. What other game can you have a cowboy team up with a caveman and the pilot of a giant robot?
As Dusk Falls is a fun little entry into the multiplayer movie-game genre. It's neat to see a crime thriller as opposed to a horror movie and that alone lends it some charm. Unfortunately, the second half of the story meanders and is more disconnected than the first half, but it still is worth experiencing at least once. It doesn't quite stick the landing as hard as you'd hope, but it has a lot of potential as a party game.
Deadcraft is a standard survival game with zombies and a budget price tag. If the idea interests you, then you'll probably get a good amount of fun out of the game, but if you're on the fence, it doesn't do anything to reel you in. If you really want a new survival game to sink your teeth into, Deadcraft might scratch that itch until a bigger title comes along, but if you're new to the genre, there are plenty of alternatives.
Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes is an interesting "what if?" direction for the franchise. It genuinely feels like an alternate universe take on Three Houses with action combat, rather than feeling like a mere license. The core gameplay is a lot of fun but becomes one-note as you get more powerful, but it's not enough to sour the experience. Overall, it's a good Warriors game and a big improvement over the first Fire Emblem Warriors.
There's a lot of potential in Fobia: St. Dinfna Hotel, and it has some moments of excellence. Unfortunately, the lackluster visuals, weirdly unfriendly UI, and general awkwardness drag it down. It's a fine game to play if you want to scratch the survival-horror itch and you've already gone through a lot of other titles, but it doesn't do enough to distinguish itself. I'd be deeply interested to see a more polished and refined sequel because the potential doesn't shine through as well as it should.
Overall, Gordian Quest is fun deck-builder that's similar to a Griftlands-style campaign that's absolutely packed with content. It goes all-in on the RPG elements, which is both its greatest strength and biggest flaw. It's not as addictive as some of the strongest games in the genre, but it's still fun to play. I wish the developers had trimmed off some of the fat, but since they didn't, it means that you're getting a game with tons of content for a very reasonable price.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge is exactly the game it promised to be: a heartfelt, funny, clever and incredibly fun tribute to a classic beat-'em-up and the cartoon on which it was based. The old-fashioned version of the Turtles might seem a bit odd to kids who are used to the more modern versions, but even they should have a ton of fun beating the heck out of the Foot Clan with their favorite of the timeless terrapins. If you feel nostalgia for Turtles in Time, then Shredder's Revenge is made for you, and I'm darn glad it is.
Neon White is an absolute delight of a speed-running game. It's easy to pick up and play, and it has enough bite that you need to master how to shave off a few seconds from your time to proceed. More importantly, it feels really good to do so. The plot is fun, if not groundbreaking, and the likeable characters keep you invested. Aside from some backtracking that I wasn't fond of, Neon White hits all the marks and hits them well. Just be prepared to start playing and discover that eight hours have flown by.
Metal Max Xeno Reborn feels like a wasted effort. There is a lot of potential that Reborn brings to the surface, but ultimately, it's not the game that it needs to be. If you're a Metal Max fan hoping for an improvement over Xeno classic, then you'll technically get what you're looking for, but it's still not as good as earlier games in the franchise. If the idea really appeals to you, then you'll get some fun out of it, but otherwise, it's just tough to justify a purchase.