Root Double: Before Crime * After Days Xtend Edition is a stellar story full of incredible twists and well-explored themes. It's just a shame that it hits a few bumps as it gets to those moments. Mind-numbing exposition dumps, vague narrative decisions, and some inconsistent pacing sour the experience a fair bit. Even so, there's an incredibly memorable visual novel experience here as long as you've got the patience for some nagging issues.
Doom Eternal is one of my favourite games of this year, and Panic Button has outdone themselves in bringing this unforgettable FPS to the Nintendo Switch. There are some awkward nags like the clunky Joy-Con sticks and playing at 30fps that bring the experience down a bit, but I'm still beside myself over the fact that Doom Eternal manages to work on a Nintendo Switch. Is this the ultimate version of the game? Not by a long shot. But if you only have access to a Switch or you've been dying to bring this game on the go, you'll still have the time of your life.
Taiko no Tatsujin: Rhythmic Adventure Pack delivers an all-ages RPG adventure that I couldn't help but fall in love with. There are some clunky gameplay issues like awkward difficulty balancing and repetitive battle music, but at the end of the day, this is still one of the cutest and most creative music games I've ever played.
Does The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV have a great story that's a worthy capstone to a ten-year JRPG saga? No, it doesn't. As a standalone experience, it's an impenetrable mess of fizzled out character arcs and bloated cutscenes. Despite all that, Trails of Cold Steel IV has addictive gameplay, dope music, and gorgeous character designs. If you want a fun and grind-heavy JRPG with a wild amount of options and battles, but don't mind turning your brain off to ignore the story and glaze over poorly-written cutscenes, then this is one's for you.
Puyo Puyo Tetris 2 might be a hard sell if you already own the first game and aren't a die-hard fanatic. This release doesn't change up the entire formula but instead improves on nearly every aspect of the previous title with more characters, more modes, and a delightful new story mode. There are minor missteps like the half-baked Skill Battle mode, but the amount of addictive content on offer is still extremely impressive. If you never picked up Puyo Puyo Tetris, though, you owe it to yourself to grab this one.
Kingdom Hearts Melody of Memory could have easily been a simple rhythm game with nothing but a huge set of Kingdom Hearts songs going for it. The fact that it goes out of its way to emulate the visuals of the series and recaps major story moments elevates it to something more. It's a shame that the new story elements of the game are held off until the very end, and that Kairi isn't even a playable character despite being on the cover of the dang game. Those issues alongside a surprising amount of missing Kingdom Hearts 3 music and a tacked-on item system add some awkward wrinkles to an otherwise magical, musical, melodic nostalgia trip for Kingdom Hearts die-hards.
Was Uppers worth the years-long wait to be able to play it in English? Probably not. Even as a fan of the titles Honey Parade Studios puts out, there's something disappointing about the way Uppers is too scared to fully commit to the gritty, hot-blooded front that it puts up. By having one foot in there and another firmly planted in the same-old T&A antics of the studio, it fails at truly capturing either aesthetic successfully. It's still a fun brawler with satisfying combat, and it looks amazing on PC, but there are plenty of areas where it could be improved on.
Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin has a lot going for it, from a fun and quirky protagonist to snappy combat and gorgeous visuals. Above all else, though, it's one of the most immersive and rewarding farming experiences in gaming. To slowly toil through each step of the process and eventually reap your rewards is a delight, and even if the combat encounters can sometimes become a frustrating chore, the slow process of cultivating the rice harvest is always a treat.