Heather Johnson Yu
- Final Fantasy X
- Katamari Damacy
Fate/Samurai Remnant is a must-play for fans of the Fate franchise and worth checking out for anyone who loves a good anime-style game. I can’t say it’ll win over all musou fans due to its focus on storytelling slowing the pacing, but I suspect it may convince those who typically shy away from musou games to give it a second look. In the very least, Fate/Samurai Remnant has a cool premise with fun characters that develop and grow as the story progresses, so if you’ve already had your eye on this one, you shouldn’t be disappointed.
Moonstone Island is easily going to become the favorite game of many. When people rattle off games they’ve dumped an insane amount of hours into, Moonstone Island will fall somewhere between Stardew Valley and Potion Permit. While I do think there are a few aspects that are objectively holding it back (and a few that are subjectively distracting), the fixes to those issues are a few quality of life updates away. At the end of the day, Moonstone Island has done more than given players a chance at capturing cute creatures — it’s given them a chance to capture pure magical whimsy.
Kentucky Route Zero TV Edition is like a Michelin meal — rich, decadent, experimental, yet still somehow recognizable but best enjoyed in small portions. I can easily see how the critically-acclaimed Kentucky Route Zero could become someone’s favorite game, so it stands to reason that Kentucky Route Zero TV Edition would be another success after the episodic original’s completion. Although I suspect Kentucky Route Zero is best experienced on the PC, Kentucky Route Zero TV Edition is still a must-play even if you’ve already enjoyed the original. And if you haven’t yet played this digital masterpiece, well… consider getting lost in Kentucky Route Zero TV Edition.
Virgo Versus The Zodiac does a fantastic job of creating a world run by the western zodiac signs filled with their personalities, experiences, and dreams. It has gorgeous visuals with phenomenal music (seriously, that soundtrack SLAPS) and tongue-in-cheek writing with moments of seriousness befitting the story. While I wish the combat had been deeper or had more variety, it didn’t stop me from enjoying this nod to classic turn-based RPGs at all. If you’re ready to undertake the holiest of quests and usher in the Golden Age, Virgo Versus The Zodiac demands you take up arms and smite those who would stand in your way.
Samba de Amigo: Party Central is an easy sell for Samba De Amigo fans, but it’s also a must-buy for anyone who enjoys rhythm games. It’s got that fast-paced quirky gameplay to keep novelty-seekers on their toes with a tracklist that pretty much anyone will find familiar. Its single-player campaign is challenging while its multiplayer mode amuses — especially that World Party mode where the last monkey standing takes all. Whether you’re a long-time fan of the franchise or testing out your maracas for the first time, Samba de Amigo: Party Central will keep you shaking for hours.
Crime O’Clock’s unique spin on the hidden objects game genre is worthy of note and should be praised for its creativity; unfortunately, it delivery gets in the way of an otherwise mechanically fascinating experience. The first couple of levels will interest hidden objects fans, but the last few will lose them entirely. Had Crime O’Clock allowed its story to unfold naturally and ramp the difficulty up gradually, giving players the freedom to explore these full and vibrant worlds on their own, I suspect Crime O’Clock would have received higher marks. Alas, Crime O’Clock instead serves as a reminder that a great concept can be bogged down by itself if not allowed to flourish properly.
Deconstructeam’s five years spent on The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood has resulted in one of the most ingenious games ever made; if you’re into tarot, I know you’ll agree with this assessment. From its aesthetics to its mechanics, from its story to its impact, The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood is a one-of-a-kind experience made with love by video game artisans. Don’t let The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood’s understated beauty and vibes fool you — it’s easily in my top 5 games this year and is clear GOTY material, and if you’re ready to ponder the mysteries of a cosmic witch coven, I’m certain it’ll be one of your favorites too.
Fuga: Melodies of Steel was an incredible experience, and Fuga: Melodies of Steel 2 provides more depth and character development on top it. The enhanced mechanics and gameplay based off player feedback finessed Fuga: Melodies of Steel 2 into a smoother, better-paced title — one that would be a mistake to miss. If you’ve wanted a fresh take on turn-based strategy featuring addicting combat and rewarding character dynamics and development, Fuga: Melodies of Steel 2 is ready for action.
Sludge Life 2 is another gaming triumph given to us by the delightfully deranged team behind the first iteration. Everything about Sludge Life 2 builds upon the amazing original, its wacky humor and over the top narrative pushing new boundaries while staying totally on brand. Sludge Life 2 had some big, muddy shoes to full, but it did so with cleverness and competence. If you want a uniquely unhinged gaming experience, Sludge Life 2 is ripe for tagging.
Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective was a fantastic DS remaster candidate for several reasons, including its acclaim and low reliance on the top DS screen. It stands to reason that a modern console and PC refresh would be met with excitement from both fans of the original and those who never got to play it the first time around, but to say that expectations were exceeded would be an understatement. If you’re even remotely curious about the title or want to see how 3/DS remasters should be done, it’s really no mystery that you should pick up Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective.
Dave the Diver was crafted by video game visionaries with a pure love of fun. I have never seen a game jampack so much into one seemingly tiny title and somehow make it all work with the clarity of something smaller in scope. Dave the Diver doesn’t just deserve your attention, it demands it, and if you’ve been waiting for your sign to dive into this addicting game, I’m telling you now it’s time to take the plunge.
Process of Elimination was full of surprises in more ways than one. Its twists and turns make for a great murder mystery that visual novel fans will want to sink their teeth into, but the comically brief tutorial of the investigative segments may lock players out of the entire experience. If you’re twiddling your thumbs waiting for another Danganronpa title and have 10 – 15 hours to kill, Process of Elimination issues this challenge: don’t get eliminated!
Volcano Princess is definitely one of the more addictingly fun games I’ve played in recent memory. It has that same “one more turn” kind of feel that got me hooked on the likes of Civilization and other strategy games of its caliber. Although I wish there had been more effort put into the English localization because the story deserves to shine as much as the rest of the game, the clunky translation didn’t stop me from pouring 40+ hours into it. If you’re looking for a very sweet but surprisingly deep (and absolutely addicting) experience, Volcano Princess could use your careful guidance to reach its full potential.
There’s no denying that Stranger of Paradise Final Fantasy Origin has its unintentionally awkward moments when it comes to the story, but at its core it’s a solid experience from both a gameplay standpoint and in terms of how it links back to the entire Final Fantasy universe. In fact, fans of the franchise will certainly be blindsided by nostalgia when it comes to music and settings, so I encourage newcomers to the series to try a few of the mainline entries first if they want to get the most out of this one. As for me, I found myself enjoying Stranger of Paradise Final Fantasy Origin in the same way that I enjoyed Final Fantasy X-2: preferring combat to story. Simply put, as long as you set your expectations accordingly, you’ll have a good time.
Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus & Butterfly may not change much from the first game, but that’s because it doesn’t have to. Perfection was already achieved the first cup around — the second cup tastes just as good. With that being said, the new faces and teas bring a unique flavor to the table, and we’re all the richer for their inclusion. If you’re ready for a cup of something warm to go along with relaxing lo-fi beats and thoughtful conversation, Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus & Butterfly has a seat at the bar with your name on it.
I’m not sure if I’ve ever played a game like Smile for Me before; I’m equally certain I don’t want to play another one like it ever again. My skin has not stopped crawling since putting down the controller, and I know there are some key moments from Smile for Me that will randomly haunt me for years to come. For a game that isn’t scary, Smile for Me is incredibly creepy in all the right ways; with that being said, it’s somehow still alluring — even welcoming. If you’ve chanced upon a frowny face in the mirror recently and believe a smile will cure what ails you, consider checking into the Habitat — Smile for Me might do the trick (for better or worse)!
Melon Journey: Bittersweet Memories is reminiscent of the wacky RPGs of yesteryear that captured our hearts as children with its cute aesthetics and humorous writing, but it also surprisingly delves into some more serious material. Although I wish I had been able to better grasp the intricacies of its storyline, the overall picture was painted in well enough and the throwaway NPC lines were entertaining enough in their own right. If you miss the silliness of retro RPGs and need a dose of nostalgia juice, Melon Journey: Bittersweet Memories invites you to take a melon-flavored sip.
Road 96 Mile 0 takes familiar elements from Road 96 and Lost in Harmony and impressively incorporates them fairly seamlessly. Although I did feel that the exploration portions could have benefitted from some variety in gameplay, the music-running portions definitely picked up the slack. If anything, Road 96 Mile 0 excels in its ability to showcase two best friends struggling against an unfair world while still trying to be regular teenagers. Whether or not they remain friends is for players to decide.
Loretta is dark, gritty, and depressing. It’s a tale of a woman repeatedly failed and betrayed by those she should have been able to trust, her back to the wall with limited options. Depending on decisions made, Loretta is also a tale of hope, even if its best ending still delivers noir notes. My only regret with Loretta is not playing it sooner, so if you find this game calling your name, don’t wait a moment longer.
Mr. Saitou is a short but sweet romp through the universe of Rakuen, a silly little homecoming to a wonderfully whimsical world. Although it’s not as emotional as the first game, it’s not trying to be; with that being said, I still shed a few tears during the two hours I spent with it. If you listen to Mr. Saitou and set your expectations accordingly, you’ll emotionally relate to the realistic struggles of adult life while feeling healed by the cheerful innocence childhood has to offer. In the very least, Mr. Saitou offers a brief return to the world of Rakuen and the feeling of being hugged by a game.