Poison Control has some of my favourite art and character designs from any game this year, but that isn't anywhere near enough to carry the entire experience. The dual-character combat system is a fresh and stylish idea, but it isn't executed very well. Clunky movement and repetitive combat end up holding back this otherwise stylish and unique new game from Nippon Ichi Software.
The Ancient Gods Part 2 is an insanely fun ending to the saga of the Doom Slayer. While the narrative aspect of the DLC is a little underwhelming, what really matters is that I got to fight two high-speed buffed Marauders at once. Doom Eternal rocks.
Neptunia Virtual Stars is a great new direction for the series. It's weird and unexpected, but it's a breath of fresh-air compared to the familiar territory the last few games have been treading. There's a massive amount of love for vtuber culture in this game and it helps lift up the fun and refreshing story. It's a shame that the combat couldn't reach the same highs as the rest of the game, but while it's a major wrinkle, it doesn't ruin the entire experience. Any hardcore vtuber fan needs to play this game, and some clunky combat won't change that.
Ys IX: Monstrum Nox is the most ambitious Ys game to date, delivering a larger focus on narrative and a much more involved and organic world to explore. The game stumbles under its ambitions a bit, with a slow opening chapter and a consistently struggling framerate. Despite those issues, though, this is easily one of the best entries in the long-running franchise, and while veteran fans will get a lot out of the callbacks sprinkled throughout the game, newcomers are still in for one of the best action RPGs of the year.
Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy is a significant shift for the series, being the first-ever direct sequel with a returning protagonist in all of Atelier. While this isn't a perfect entry point for newcomers, Atelier Ryza 2 builds on every aspect of the previous game flawlessly. Even with some minor hiccups, the immersive exploration systems and addictive combat are top-notch. The gorgeous visuals and comfy music are just as much of a delight, but the best piece of the puzzle is the relatable narrative about growth and friendship that I won't soon forget. A highlight of the Atelier series, and an absolute must-play.
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.