There's a lot to love about Yakuza 0, but it's going to take me a while to work my way to the story's finale. The endless brawling turns the whole thing into a real chore, I'm afraid. But I will say that as tired as I've already become of the constant beatdowns, the story and general self-confidence of the game makes me want to power through.
Playing The Last Guardian reminds me a lot of playing Half-Life games: The actual moment-to-moment of working my way through the game involves an enormous amount of frustration and annoyance... but when I look back at it, all I see are the happy memories of the experience. That's due in large part to the incredible design of Trico, and also to the spectacular emotive ending. Make no mistake, though, you will want to tear your hair out throughout your journey with Trico... but patient players will find the payoff justifies the suffering.
Super Mario Maker for 3DS comes pretty close to being a perfect portable adaptation of an incredible Wii U game. It certainly works a lot better than previous ports had led me to expect! That said, the absence of one of the original game's most important elements truly diminishes this conversion. The new format and new pre-baked content go a long way toward making up for the loss... but while this version is worth owning for the 100 (!) new levels alone, it's still not the definitive Super Mario Maker.
Pokémon Sun and Moon's trek through Alola is the most engaging campaign the series has offered in a long time. Not everything on Sun and Moon's plate is perfect – Z-Moves feel underwhelming, and you're still going to commit the overwhelming majority of the Pokémon you catch to PC Box Hell – but this is one tropical getaway that's worth every penny.
Make no mistake: Some of Color Splash is best-in-class material. But some of it is just awful. As much as I'd like to be able to give it an unqualified endorsement, I really can't. The excellent visuals, music, structure, and writing sit at odds with the toilsome combat system and the addition of far too many gimmicks and gotchas. The game is as irritating as it is inspiring — and while there's much to love here, be aware that finding it requires slogging through some truly rocky moments.
Striking an almost perfect balance between RPG and construction game, Dragon Quest: Builders manages to hold fast to the best parts of the series whose name it bears while creating a guided, structured format for the Minecraft concept. The end result works brilliantly, with top-notch visuals, music, and writing that help drive home the appeal. There's room for improvement here... but not much.
Though more of an expansion than a standalone release in spirit, Apocalypse's narrative superfluity is made up for by the considerable refinements it contains over its direct predecessor. Whether or not you'll enjoy its plot and its emphasis on partner characters comes down to personal taste, but on the whole it's an engrossing and addictive role-playing experience... even if it can feel a little familiar at times.
Does beauty alone justify a game? Can the novelty of swimming through majestic oceans teeming with life overcome an otherwise fairly by-the-numbers experience that never quite achieves the creative heights it so earnestly aspires to? I suppose that's down to the player, but as much as I wanted to love Abzû, the end result fell just short of brilliance. It's worth playing for the incredible presentation, but don't expect something profoundly new here.
This may be an entry in a highly specialized and generally unfriendly genre, but you'll be hard-pressed to find a better example of the type. Heartless, demanding, infuriating, yet seemingly boundless in the depth of its content and mechanics, the latest Shiren the Wanderer adventure wraps taxing game design in just-one-more replay appeal. Think of it as the Wolverine of console roguelikes: It's the best there is at what it does, and what it does isn't very nice.