Super Mario 3D All-Stars is video games in 2020. It’s messy but deceptively ambitious. It’s confused about what it is, but there aren’t any good answers anyway. It was built in alien surroundings during a global disaster. The corporate machinations around it don’t make any practical sense. Nobody truly knows how it was made, but is an expert on how it was made. And yet if you’re the right person playing it at the right time, it’s magical. Now I have to score this. Mamma mia.
It turned out to be a pretty interesting combination of classic SMT systems, lots of nerdy skill tinkering and a story about adults fighting for a world very similar to our own and figuring out why along the way. Not bad for a series that can’t get its own name straight!
Metal Max Xeno Reborn is a totally fine game with awesome tank tinkering and a cool dog that straps a machine gun to its back and draws power from its bodily fluids. But if you’ve played the original Metal Max Xeno, you might be more confused than hyped. It’s more of the cool tank stuff, but a dramatic shift in style and tone that just makes the weird low budget JRPG feel like a weird low budget JRPG in a different way.
The Sickos need love every now and then. Capcom Fighting Collection is a weird, wonderful compilation that never would’ve existed ten years ago. And at the very least for the broader fighter audience, Red Earth is cool as hell and arguably worth the price of admission by itself.
Shredder’s Revenge feels like it was made by people just like me, for whom Turtles in Time was a formative experience. It’s like a tidal wave of nostalgia crashing into technological advancements, new ideas, evolved talent, reverence and a dash of ironic self-deprecation.
If you’re jonesing for some super niche JRPG grinding time, we definitely recommend Volume 2 if you can only get one. Makai Kingdom is a goofy romp that’s different enough from Disgaea to stand out, and Z.H.P. is just utterly unhinged in the best ways.
The writing team at Square Enix fed the 1987 Famicom classic Final Fantasy through a wood chipper running on a neural network forced to watch Army of Darkness more times than I did in high school. This game’s scenario popped out and it’s wild, awesome and hilarious.
So while some of the older game vibe hurts it some, there’s also a lot to this game that simply isn’t in other ArcSys or anime fighters. That helps this game retain its identity and stand as a must-play for Persona fans. Once rollback kicks in, there’s a good argument to be made for keeping Ultimax going for years to come.
Atelier Sophie 2 resulted from Gust dropping the first game in an alchemy pot and boosting its quality and traits. It’s an interesting dedication to a years-old Atelier, revisiting systems even if they seem “dated” compared to the Ryza games, but altering them to still bring some flavor and iteration to the table.
So that’s Monark, a game that really doesn’t do much for me. But at the same time it’s a fascinating game that wants to do things a little differently. You won’t play another JRPG operating like Monark anytime soon. Monark doesn’t hit the mark but it shows us there are folks in the industry taking these swings, even in historied spaces like JRPGs. And there’s a demo, so I sincerely reccommend giving that a whirl and seeing what you think.