The younger players amongst us should have no trouble picking up and enjoying some Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice. It’s geared toward younger kids, and maybe as a 32-year-old man with nostalgia brain, I want to try something a bit more. It feels short with only a handful of hours to work through each stage, many of the stages feel the same, and while the platforming isn’t bad, it’s like a small piece of candy: It’s gone quickly, no matter how nice it might taste. The game is somewhere between the classic franchise titles and the modern ones, but it holds truer to the originals, and y’know, that’s a good enough start.
As far as remakes go, Square Enix shows time and time again how to do it right, and Dragon Quest VII for 3DS might be their best DQ revamp yet—a massive adventure packed with stories and characters, traveling across time and magical realms to plunge through volcanoes, caves, and underground lairs. I don’t see this appealing to a large audience who isn’t already fans of either the genre or the Dragon Quest series, but there’s nothing wrong with an old-school romp through swamps and slaying the hordes of palette-swapped enemies in the fields. Chicken soup for the gamer’s soul, y’know?
I can see this being a fun distraction for fans of online competition, but I worry it could be “too Japanese” for a Western audience to take seriously, even from NIS. It’s not really “bad” or anything; it’s just too niche for its own good. I found some enjoyment in it, but after a few times playing through the story, it felt more tedious than anything. There’s not enough here to make me want to strive for greatness. Maybe if the devs had strived for it first, I would’ve stayed glued to my controller a bit longer.
Aside from some faulty matchmaking, the package is a fighting game worth playing. It looks good enough and runs smoothly, and even when lagging, the online play is nice and clean. And it doesn’t bring anything new to the table (besides Nakaruru from Samurai Showdown in her console KoF debut, along with one or two other new faces), but everything it’s doing is being done right. Finally, King of Fighters is beginning to summon that feel SNK had harnessed generations ago, and it feels damn good. It’s going to have to innovate further to reclaim its crown, but at least it’s back in the court.
For the few things it does right, like some variation in the mission structure and a control scheme that makes sense (even in a hurty way), it's just not that good. For a series that has worked so hard to make a great solo experience, even—especially—in its first-person outings, it’s incredibly unbalanced with a difficulty spike I don’t think I’ve ever experienced before. And not in a challenging way, but in a “yup, I need multiple other people to cover me/back me up” way. Some of us enjoy playing FPS titles by ourselves sometimes, and I don’t want to feel relegated to a small handful of missions I might be able to work through on my own. Scaling the difficulty has been done since this genre began, so why it’s being bypassed now I have no clue.
At its heart, this is a game for the masochist players who, like me, keep trying to reach just one level further. Sure, we’ll be slaughtered, and there’s little we can do to fully prepare for every enemy that finds our soon-to-be-rotting corpses on the battlefield. But there’s something still cute about how dangerous an overpowered shadowy beast can be. I literally cheered when I survived my first night cycle (and was immediately slain in the daytime), but then I started back up again from the beginning, no progress having been made. This genre is almost a fetish for certain players, and this game presents as fervent an example as any can be. And that’s honestly its downfall, because it’s otherwise a good kind of challenging. I just wish it could feel like there was no way to get “good” at the game itself. You know, make it more "fun" instead of an instrument of pain tolerance.
As far as old-style RPGs go, I Am Setsuna was worth looking forward to after the showing at E3 this year, and just as worth playing. All of the little elements to the nostalgia part of my brain have been tickled, and at parts of the story I was nearly ready to shed a tear or two. I don’t know how much this will appeal to younger gamers grown up on more sophisticated role-playing titles, JRPG or otherwise, but for anyone who can appreciate the legends Square (not Square Enix as much) put out generations ago, this won’t just scratch your back—it will tuck you into bed, safe and sound, just like the end of a good story should be.
It doesn’t offer the same personality and smile as Thomas Was Alone, but it’s lovely in the almost zen-like way that easy-to-grasp controls and a lack of direct pressure can create. Sure, it’s not difficult, nor is it as personality-driven as other HAL games like Kirby, but it’s a similar, simple charm. Even for the average puzzle-solving blockhead.
Doesn’t mean I think it’s worth a full price tag purchase, but fans of the Joestars should find enjoyment in it. Everybody else, consult and test with your Bizarre Adventure-loving friend before dropping any coin on Eyes of Heaven.
While I do remember shouting, without irony, "I despise this game" during the crazy difficulty swings, looking as critically as possible it's not a terrible way of spending a few hours. (Though for reference, I haven't used that many taboo words in short, angry bursts since I learned the words being used.) If you're a fan of the show or manga, you'll surely find something to like in Burning Blood. If you're only a casual fan or have a friend who is, after some adjustments to the battle system, you should have some fun as well. Just remember that the story is an exercise in abuse: it'll give you a win before pushing your face in the dirt, and not always in the fun, big-kid-who-doesn't-know-their-own-strength kind of way.