With its tough-but-fair combat, timeless storybook visuals, and unique furry fantasy, Tails of Iron is one of the year’s most distinctive RPG experiences. The intentionally subdued pace and challenging nature will definitely test the impatient, but anyone looking for a knuckle-cracking slugger, powered by a tale of valor and vengeance, will find Odd Bug Studio’s sophomore effort washes down like a fine flask of Bug Juice. Rest well, Redgi, your friends have done your memory proud.
F.I.S.T.: Forged in Shadow Torch is an exemplary action-adventure, packed full of heartfelt detail and design, daubed in a grimy-yet-absorbing aesthetic, and powered with punchy, satisfying combat. While some of its elements will be over-familiar to genre fans, the originalities still shine through, resulting in a brilliant-looking, great-playing metroidvania that will delight players, whether they have a fluffy tail or otherwise. Heed my words: It’s most definitely wabbit season.
While Cris Tales offers a stirring adventure — packed full of wit and character — numerous mechanical shortcomings frequently put the brakes on its excitable spirit. A victim of unfulfilled ambition, Cris Tales doesn’t quite deliver on its clever premise or its chrono-combat. There’s no denying the passion and talent of the developers, however, manifested in stunning visuals and a wonderful cast. Cris Tales will definitely ostracize some players, but those with a little patience may see past its flaws to embrace its heartfelt homage to gaming’s bygone era.
An exercise in design excellence, Death’s Door recognizes and capitalizes on its strengths to deliver a smart, creative, and thoroughly engaging adventure, painted with wonderful visual strokes and peppered with witty, thoughtful commentary on life, death, and how we spend the hours in-between. Sporting polish beyond its budget and ambition beyond its scale, Death’s Door is one of the year’s best releases, and a must-play for adventure fans everywhere. Don’t fear the Reaper.
Cotton Reboot! is a very pretty and highly enjoyable remake of one of the shmup genre’s most pioneering cute ’em ups — as endearing today as it has ever been while featuring surprisingly deep mechanics for score attack fanatics. It’s a shame a threadbare package, a subjectively high price, and distracting visual issues frequently threaten to spoil the party. For dedicated shmup heads, however, Cotton Reboot is an enjoyable blast from the past that comfortably paves the way for the sweet series’ incoming revival.
Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX is a visually gorgeous upgrade to a very rose-tinted release. While the flaws of the original game remain laid bare, Jankenteam accentuates the positives, reimagining one of console gaming’s earliest universes with stunning artwork, great animation, and a sophisticated score. New players will struggle with dated and baffling design choices, but those who hold tight the carefree afternoons of the Sega Master System will find a delightful trip down memory lane awaits.
15 years on, Ultimate Showdown finds Virtua Fighter 5 just as engaging as it ever was, maintaining its long-held reputation as one of the genre’s classiest and most enduring fighters. Woeful single-player content and receding features prevent the package from achieving its full potential but, despite its flaws, Ultimate Showdown costs little, looks good, and plays great. A welcome return to one of gaming’s most distinguished rings.
Kaze and the Wild Masks is an unashamed blast from the past, for better or worse. PixelHive's love letter to 16-bit gaming surmounts budgetary and design shortcomings with a compelling challenge, luscious visuals, and an evocative soundtrack, all punctuated by a solid underdog spirit. Kaze's polished but formulaic gameplay will not be to everyone's taste, but for those who long for the halcyon days when the platformer was king, it's most definitely wabbit season.
Capcom Arcade Stadium is a nostalgic look at a time when stained space carpets and deafening cacophonies were all the rage, performing admirably in its role at offering classic thrills in portable form. The lack of online multiplayer is disappointing, and the package will never feel truly complete until certain titles break free from licensing limbo, but as a way to while away lazy afternoons or dull commutes, CAS is worth its weight in credits.
Werewolf: The Apocalypse - Earthblood proudly wears the reverence for White Wolf's lore on its furry sleeve, with a dark-but-interesting universe and a fierce pro-environment/anti-capitalist message. But behind its wild, bloody carnage and well-meant intentions lies a dated and sorely repetitive stealth adventure that, among its contemporaries, fails to stand out from the pack.