I was worried both of these games would only be considered good from a historic standpoint, that they would be celebrated solely due to their longstanding absence outside of Japan. But thankfully, both Famicom Detective Club games stand on their own even thirty years after their initial release. These are two beautiful, gripping games that show the timelessness of a well-written mystery.
Like I said at the top of this review, your enjoyment of Balan Wonderworld is going to depend on your tolerance for primitive 3D level design. Strip away the unnecessary costumes and their poorly implemented management system - and fire those Balan's Bouts into the sun - and you might have a nice throwback to a more experimental time of platform gaming, one that would be easier to recommend. But sadly, you can't just strip those elements away. They're here, and they're ruining what is otherwise an enjoyable rewind to the golden era of the mascot platformer.
I get that my complaints probably sound like I'm nitpicking the game, and maybe I am asking too much of a budget title, but really, these issues illustrate that despite the fact Pioneers of Olive Town marks the silver anniversary of the franchise, the developer didn't really go out of its way to make this entry something special. This is a safe and standard Story of Seasons game. It doesn't rock the boat, it doesn't try anything groundbreaking like when Marvelous released Rune Factory to mark the franchise's tenth anniversary; it's just more of what we've seen before with a few small twists on the formula.
So much about A-Train: All Aboard! Tourism is neat that I wish I could more strongly recommend it. At the very least, I'd love to force people who don't think public transportation is worth investing in to play it so they see what an adequate rail system can do for their community. Because this does make a good argument for expanding public transit, it's just that its antiquated user interface and woeful tutorial and manual mean very few people will bother listening to what it has to say.
Ultimately, Gnosia is worth playing through to the end thanks to its strong narrative. The story goes in unexpected directions, and the revelations I learned along the way were compelling enough to push me past my frustrations. Make no mistake, I wanted to give up on this game multiple times. But every time I considered quitting, I'd start one last loop that would pull me right back in because all of the elements were in place for another bit of tasty narrative to reveal itself.
Taxi Chaos is fine in short bursts if you want to chase high scores, but for $30 to $35 depending on your platform, there just isn't enough content here to recommend this. Especially considering you can still buy Crazy Taxi on Xbox Live for a third of the price.
Gal*Gun Returns is a pretty decent remaster of a so-so game barring a few issues. I don't think anybody is going to walk away from it arguing it's the best in the series, but it's worthwhile for fans who've wanted to see where this franchise got its start. And if you're anything like me, it'll make you appreciate what's come after it all the more.
The worst thing I can say about Calico is that it's undeveloped. While the entire experience can be described as relaxing, running the cat café isn't all that interesting and most of the tasks you'll complete for island residents boil down to the same two or three objective types. Anytime you're doing something other than those two activities, it's rather aimless. While its basic premise doesn't have a strong enough foundation to carry the experience, Calico manages to luck out in that its undeveloped nature and general wonkiness add to its charm rather than subtract from it. The "cute factor" does a lot of heavy lifting, and I could almost argue a lot of the design elements here "think outside the box," but I worry I'd be giving too much credit to a game that's just not entirely well-made.
Though her visit to this island paradise was over long before I wanted it to be, it was a trip I am happy I was able to take. It's the type of experience that can restore one's vigor and effect change in us long after we've watched the credits roll. Alba: A Wildlife Adventure reminds us all of how easy it can be to change our world for the better, and after the year that was 2020, it's a reminder all of us can use.