Monochrome Mobius: Rights and Wrongs is full of interesting nuggets of narrative revelations for fans of the long-running Utawarerumono visual novel series, but its pacing problems and lacking quality make it much less suitable for newcomers than it should be.
Everyone has had their edgelord phase, whether they want to admit it or not. Slayers X: Terminal Aftermath: Vengance of the Slayer is an explosion and poop-joke filled journey through those memories, and I loved it. Zayn is crude, and weird, and narcissistic, and way too easy to relate to - he's a reflection of a dorky teenage past, brought to the surface via a fast, fierce, and unforgettable shooter experience.
There are so many expectations to live up to after delivering the first Oxenfree, but Oxenfree II charts its own course, delivering something unlike Night School Studio's previous games. It has sharper horror, more inventive storytelling, and a variety of systems to keep you engaged through hours of slow and somber small-town exploration.
Atelier Marie Remake is simultaneously a return to form and a fresh step forward for the Atelier series. It's incredible to experience the roots of this series, and as sad as I am about the barebones storytelling, the shifted focus to time-management and calendar events gives the game an addictive farm-simulator vibe that kept me glued to it for hours. I'm excited to see how ideas from this remake come forward to inspire whatever this series has in store for us next.
The Legend of Heroes: Trails into Reverie is a crossover epic over a decade in the making - and it sticks the landing so well. Longtime fans of the franchise are in for an almost overwhelming level of callbacks, story conclusions, and narrative fanservice. In-between all of that, the endless Reverie Corridor provides an addictive way to dig just as deep into the combat mechanics as the story digs into the furthest reaches of Trails lore. This is a massive ending to a massive saga, and as long as you've kept up with every entry so far, you're guaranteed to enjoy it.
Raiden III might be not be the most iconic entry in the original series, but the Raiden III x MIKADO MANIAX re-release deserves to be the most iconic entry in their remasters. With a load of unforgettable OST remixes tied to an addictive score-based unlockables system, this is a shmup worth coming back to time and time again.
Monster Menu: The Scavenger's Cookbook is a dish that aims to bring together various ideas from dungeon-crawling JRPGs, roguelikes, and cooking games, but only a few satisfying flavours from each of those emerge. Only JRPG addicts with a trained palette will be able to find the enjoyment here to warrant digging into the entire dish.
OTXO puts a roguelike spin on the familiar Hotline Miami murderfest formula, but it doesn't quite nail the landing. While moment-to-moment combat is fast and flashy and unforgiving, there isn't enough care put into the roguelike structure of the experience to make new runs feel justified or exciting.
Like the first two games, Fairy Fencer F: Refrain Chord is flawed, tonally inconsistent, and a massively repetitive grind. Re-treading this story for the third time and jump to an entirely different and less enjoyable gameplay system has made it even harder to recommend this game in spite of it's flaws. There is charm, and there are moments, and diehard Compile Heart fans might be able to push through and enjoy them, but I suspect that the people this game will truly speak to are few and far between.
The Mega Man Battle Network series was a huge part of my childhood, but now I get to appreciate these card-collection tactical RPGs from a whole new perspective. While some of these entries are mostly fun nostalgia trips, most of them hold up just as well today, and the restored content from the Patch Cards alongside the robust online functionality make this collection the definitive way to experience the series.
Every Atelier Ryza entry has been the best Atelier game yet, and Atelier Ryza 3 is no exception. It's the perfect final chapter for fans of Ryza and her story, but it's also the most polished and expansive exploration of the core ideals of the franchise we've seen yet – alchemy feels natural, exploration feels natural, and combat is a delightful adrenaline rush. It's sad to see my favourite tomboy alchemist go away, but if this game is any indication, the Atelier series will only get even better from here.
Labyrinth of Galleria: The Moon Society is a game like no other. The art is incredible, and the gameplay perfectly blends simple combat with exhaustive customization. Above all else, the story is an unforgettable and unmatched journey that absolutely blew me away. This is one of NIS America's best games, and probably the best dungeon crawling RPG you'll ever play.
Trails to Azure is The Legend of Heroes at its best. With some of the most enjoyable characters, jaw-dropping events and immersive world-building of the entire franchise, it's clear why this Crossbell duology has been held in such high acclaim by fans for so long. If you've struggled for ages to find the right time to get into Legend of Heroes, your wait is over - start here with Trails from Zero and Trails to Azure.
Fatal Frame: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse doesn't set out to reinvent the franchise or radicalize what it means to be a Fatal Frame game, but with updated visuals and modernised controls, it does a great job of making an entry in the series from 2008 effortlessly feel like a modern, current-gen debut. The slow and sometimes repetitive pacing of the game will not be for everyone, and some long-winded animations and awkward loading-waits only serve to make that pacing even more of a slog, but if you have the patience for that, you're in for a solid Japanese horror experience that will keep you guessing until the credits roll.
Theatrhythm Final Bar Line is a labor of love that is worthy of loving back - it's game packed to the brim with iconic songs, unforgettable characters, and fun excuses to revisit and collect them all. Accessibility options, versatile difficulty levels, and simple yet addicting multiplayer help make a great package even greater. Any Final Fantasy fan owes it to themselves to dive into this game and take a musical trip down memory lane.
Neptunia: Sisters VS Sisters has some fun ideas and absolutely beautiful visuals, but with an incredibly flawed combat system that fails to learn from its predecessors, we're ultimately left with another clunky spinoff that fails to move the needle for the franchise. There's so much room for exploring new, exciting, and impactful ideas in the world of Neptunia, but Neptunia: Sisters VS Sisters is adamant in taking another step sideways rather than pushing the series forward.
One Piece Odyssey is the ultimate adventure for a diehard One Piece fan. It's touching to be able to revisit the people and places making up some of the series most iconic story arcs in a way that feels rich and immersive rather than skimmed-through and streamlined. Some quirks in the overworld exploration and a few combat design flaws might make this a but of an unpolished RPG on paper, but if you've spent the last two decades with Luffy and his crew, then the shine and charm of One Piece Odyssey is undeniable.
Evil West is an old-school banger, a reminder of the quick and sharp fun that action games can deliver. It has some flaws here and there, but the meat of the game is fast-paced and endlessly entertaining combat. Smacking vampires into clouds of red mist with a giant lightning gauntlet is something that every video game needs.