This one’s a keeper; the best sRPGs are maddeningly complex while allowing for deceptively simple—but effective—strategies, and Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia ticks both boxes. The gameplay here is unabashedly old-school, and while that can cause some combat encounters (and with them, the overall campaign) to drag on, I continually found myself going back for more.
I decided to track down an original PS2 copy and alternate between the two versions, first playing through the original game before jumping back to the PC version I’m reviewing to get an idea of what’s similar and different. There have undoubtedly been improvements, but there have also been some unnecessary and arguably questionable changes that hardcore purists will find aggravating because of how they alter the gameplay (which is to say nothing of how they contribute to two major difficulty spikes). The original version of Destroy All Humans! was deeply flawed, however, and the remake’s quality-of-life features easily make it the definitive version.
I haven’t made any secret of my disappointment with Fire Emblem entries after Fire Emblem Awakening—even the much lauded Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest is utter garbage in my opinion—but while Fire Emblem: Three Houses indulges in many of the same questionable design decisions, it’s also a significantly better game thanks to its restraint. Where Fire Emblem Awakening paid homage to the series’ characters, Three Houses pays homage to the mechanics that serve as its heartbeat, relegating the fluff to the sidelines.
As someone who has no experience with the series but a large amount of experience with roguelites and other genres represented in Dungeon of the Endless‘ mashup of features, I genuinely expected to love it given how much praise exists for it out in the wild. Instead, the journey evoked unpleasant memories of SYMMETRY—a game all about finding the one approach that works and then never being challenged again—only differentiating itself through its merciless RNG cruelty and unlockables that require oodles of grinding.
ITTA isn’t a bad game by any stretch of the imagination, but I also can’t offer up anything more than a tepid endorsement given all of the trouble I had with its bugginess, reluctance to share information about how the mechanics work behind the scenes, and an odd difficulty curve that ensures that the final boss is more difficult than the very first one you face. ITTA has its strengths, however, such as generous hitboxes and invincibility frames that make it possible to breeze through some fights despite it never being entirely clear which part of your character’s sprite actually takes damage.
This is the first game attached to Square-Enix that’s genuinely impressed me in over 8 years; the amount of detail put into translating the art into something totally different but nevertheless nostalgic is mind-boggling, and it’s possibly more impressive that the team behind this knew which things could be changed/replaced without undermining the entire project. Trials of Mana is how remakes should be done.
Shantae and the Seven Sirens isn’t just a return to form for a series that’s shown a proclivity for unexpected experimentation. Much like how its characters begin the game vacationing on a tropical island that’s hosting a half-genie festival, the game serves as a lighthearted and much-needed break from 2020’s unceasing assault on everything good and decent.
Fort Triumph is a miserable, uninteresting slog until you manage to level up a team of characters, which makes one wonder why their deaths are even an option in the first place. I can’t help but wonder how the devs squandered their time in early access. Why did it take so long to release something so rough?