Atelier Lulua: The Scion of Arland maintains the magic that this long-running JRPG series is known for. From relaxing gameplay to adorable characters, Atelier Lulua doesn't disappoint. Newcomers to the series might have some larger story beats go over their head, while long-time fans might be miffed at the fact that so few returning characters are playable in battle. Still, when it comes to the Atelier series, Lulua manages to blend the best of the new with the best of the old with incredibly successful results.
When it comes to visual novels, VA-11 Hall-A is king. Never before have I seen such a perfect balance of sharp writing, gorgeous visuals and downright delicious music that also manages to pack in hours of engagement without ever overstaying it's welcome. Furthermore, the combination of drink-mixing action and visual novel storytelling creates an addictive gameplay loop that makes the game even harder to put down once you pick it up. VA-11 Hall-A is a gem of creativity from the most unlikely of places, and I can't wait to see what the team has up their sleeve next.
Yuppie Psycho is a surreal and incredibly unique experience. By drawing most of it's inspiration from television and film, the game develops a unique aesthetic and world that feels unlike anything other video games have explored. Even though the in-game graphical style is a disappointment, the anime-inspired visuals in the rest of the game and the flawless soundtrack help create a truly tense and at times nightmarish atmosphere. Yuppie Psycho isn't without flaws, but it's a horror gem that is absolutely worth experiencing in spite of those flaws.
Moero Chronicle Hyper lives up to it's name. It is a hyper-actualized fantasy of sex and sex objects and sex acts and anything sex related. Unfortunately, in the pursuit of raunchiness, the game fails to deliver anything that's truly charming or engaging. Beyond some goofy monster designs, it's a terribly average game all around, hampered even further by a translation that desperately needed more time in the oven.
This game is the pinnacle of Mortal Kombat action. Fights are fluid, weighty, and gorgeous to look at. Unfortunately, that tightly-designed gameplay is bogged down by a grindy system of loot and consumables that only serves to artificially extend your playtime in the most tedious ways imaginable. There is so much heart and care put into this game, from the combat to the gorgeous visuals and memorable story, but that effort feels nullified by the desperate attempt to twist an iconic video game franchise into just another endlessly online service game.
Corpse Party: Sweet Sachiko's Hysteric Birthday Bash is an interesting divergence from the usual gory terror of the Corpse Party franchise. It's also a gargantuan crossover event that might leave players feeling lost or confused if they aren't caught up on every piece of Corpse Party media so far. Still, despite the somewhat daunting amount of catching up you'd have to do if you wanted to be totally in the loop, the latest Corpse Party is a wacky and absurd treat that any visual novel fan is sure to get a kick out of.
Nelke & the Legendary Alchemists is an intriguing take on the long-running JRPG series, but it just doesn't do a good job of crafting a management experience that feels rewarding or engaging. Even once you're used to the overwhelming menus and systems, it never feels like you're a part of the town you're building from behind the walls menus, charts and numbers. It was a treat to see previous Atelier characters interact and talk to each other, but that bit of fanservice doesn't make up for the lacking gameplay.
Assault Android Cactus+ is a masterclass in twin-stick shooting. The controls are simple, but the environments and enemy waves are complex and perfectly crafted. The huge variety of game modes and unlockables help give me a reason to keep coming back again and again. For a solo-player who loves some arcade action, or a group of friends looking for their next co-op challenge, Assault Android Cactus+ is a must buy.
Fate/Extella Link is a major step in the right direction for this Dynasty Warriors spinoff series. It takes the ideas of the original and executes them all even better than before. Unfortunately, the story still flounders a bit, putting too much focus on new hero Charlemagne and not enough on the beefy supporting cast, and it's still a little repetitive at times, but the new Skill systems help ease that monotony a lot. Fate/Extella Link is fun and flashy as hell, and even though it still has some issues and annoyances, it's guaranteed enjoyment for any Fate fan.
The Princess Guide is an adorable, energetic game. It has gorgeous art and fun, well-written characters. It's just marred by grinding through messy and poorly designed combat. The AI squad-mates that are so integral to the action have terrible AI that make it impossible to consistently coordinate any of their actions. There's massive heart and care put into the narrative and visual design of The Princess Guide, but that is weighed down by how frustrating it is to play the game.
Left Alive is an ambitious new development from Square Enix. Unfortunately, that ambition is squandered. The gameplay is dreadful, the enemy AI is broken, and the visuals are bland as all hell. Those issues are complemented by a boring story and a slew of audio and gameplay bugs that simply make Left Alive a failure on all fronts.
Sky Gamblers - Afterburner is the latest game from a studio that has spent 10 years churning out similar phone-only dogfighting games, and it absolutely shows. Every visual and 3D model in the game looks like something that would be running on a five year old iPhone. The story is simply...there, and has little care or thought put into it, but I can appreciate that the gameplay is successful, and the visual customisation is a fun touch, too. If you just want to get in a jet and shoot down some bogeys, Sky Gamblers - Afterburner is fine, but certainly not ideal.
Horizon Shift '81 is simple, stellar fun. The arcade shooter inspired gameplay puts a fun twist on the classic genre that provides hours of pure, flashy entertainment. Boss fights bring a fun, modern twist to the game, but could have used some sound effects in order to make them even stronger. Overall, if you've got a Switch and have the itch for some old-school arcade blast-em-up fun, Horizon Shift '81 is a great way to feed that craving.
Oniken does a few things right, but flounders when it comes to the most important parts of the experience. The visuals and audio of the game are a faithful and accurate tribute to the style of classic NES action games, sure. All of the artistic flair in the world can't help a game that simply isn't fun to play, though. Action in Oniken is consistently stiff and frustrating, and while boss encounters can provide brief moments of gratifying gameplay, only the most dedicated of action platformer fans will have the patience to reach those encounters.