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.
Still, despite those issues, Ape Out is simply an outstanding and utterly enjoyable experience. The moment I became that big, angry monkey, I was glued to the screen and never wanted the action to end. The music dropped my jaw, the visuals made my eyes go wide, and the addictive gameplay kept me entranced until I reached the final level. The ape is truly out, my friends.
Arcade Spirits is a successful experiment in creating an inclusive and immersive visual novel experience, it just needs to nail the "novel" part of that experience. Yet, for as flawed as the line-to-line writing of Arcade Spirits can be, I still found myself really enjoying the overall story of the game. Arcade Spirits already won a lot of points with me for being a relatively bite-sized adventure, but I also loved the cast of characters and the casual nature of the entire experience. Unfortunately, a lot of rough writing and dialogue in the game keeps me from truly loving it.
Compile Heart set out to prove they could do something different by making Death end re;Quest, and they absolutely succeeded. Unfortunately, the interesting ideas at the heart of the game are undone by the groan-inducing and lengthy dialogue that often tries too hard to be taken seriously. Edgy writing aside, Death end re;Quest has marvellous gameplay that kept me glued to my controller. It's a strong package for JRPG fans, but you might end up wanting to use that skip button during cutscenes.
Crossover games are nothing new to Bandai Namco or Shonen Jump, so it surprises and disappoints me to see that none of the good aspects or successful mechanics of these previous games made their way into Jump Force at all. Jump Force is a visual mess, It lacks the fun and charm that a wild crossover like this should embrace, and It's just a technical mess from top to bottom. Jump Force is a huge celebration of some of the most iconic manga in history, but it fails to do any of them justice.
My favorite gaming experiences are the ones that elicit a pure and physical response from me. Whether it's a horror game making me clench my cheeks or a story-driven game dropping my jaw and pulling a tear from my eye, those kinds of experiences are the ones that stick with me the most. With Pikuniku, I was smiling and laughing throughout the entire thing, and too few games get that kind of response out of me. Pikuniku is a treasure of a game, and I can't wait to see more from this team.
Senran Kagura Burst Re:Newal is a breath of fresh air after the fumbles of the last few games in the series. I got on board with this franchise for the unique characters and addictive combat, and this game has both of those things in spades. It's a treat to see the origins of the cast redone on home console, but if you've never played a single game in the series before, Burst Re:Newal is the best this franchise has to offer for you.