Shin Megami Tensei 5 is a punishing delight. It revels in its classic approach to combat and exploration, brought to life with a battered and broken vision of our world as it teeters on the edge of extinction. JRPGs of the modern era are often content to hold our hands and guide us through each new journey, but Atlus decides to punch us in the gut, steal our wallet, and sprint away as we try desperately to catch up. As I’ve said time and time again, this isn’t a game for everyone, but those who gel with its specific brand of masochism will find something very special indeed.
This is a game that understands the importance of fighting back against fascism and taking a stand as part of your own personal revolution, yet it’s often held back by gameplay that wants to distance itself from that idea as you fawn over cute puppies and fire off outlandish grenade launchers. Yet it’s still a start, and a bold step forward for a company that has long sat on the fence of political discussion. If you’re after more Far Cry, this delivers and pushes the formula forward into exciting new territory.
Death Stranding remains a bizarre masterpiece on PS5, and the director’s cut only further cements that reputation with a number of worthwhile new ideas that enhance the act of delivering packages across a picturesque landscape of nothingness. The story of Sam Porter Bridges is overblown and wondrous, taking hold of you and refusing to let go as you’re dragged into an adventure that takes the medium to places it has never been before. It’s mindless self-indulgence of the highest order, and it’s rare to see a game deliver upon its overarching ambition in such a bold, uncompromising way in the modern era. For that very reason, it deserves to be celebrated.
True Colors makes each moment matter as it forms the identity of a woman I came to care for and relate to in ways that few games have managed to achieve. This brings me back to the sibling bond between Alex and Gabe, and how it feels like a virtual replacement for the bond between myself and the brother I wasn’t able to bid farewell to. I had that chance here, and I can’t describe how much that means to me. Without being overly poetic or needlessly saccharine, I’m glad more games are engaging with how we can learn, grow, and love as human beings, and the rewards that come with accepting such hardships along the way. Life is Strange: True Colors truly is something special.
I love WarioWare: Get it Together for bringing this charming series back into the limelight. It introduces a bunch of excellent new microgames and a huge selection of returning characters I was so happy to see, yet the short campaign and lacking amount of extras can make the overall package feel underwhelming. Unless you’ve loved the series for decades, this one might be hard to recommend until the game is subject to a discount or two.
Ghost of Tsushima: Director’s Cut is the best version of an accomplished open world adventure with great characters, excellent combat, and a setting that is constantly inviting to explore. While the base game falters in its storytelling, the Iki Island expansion manages to tell a nuanced story of parental influence and the challenge of moving on from the past in spite of your personal allegiances. It’s the most human Jin Sakai has ever been, yet the brief campaign and emphasis on familiar busywork hold it back from potential greatness. If you didn’t like the game before, this won’t change your mind, but fans will find a lot of added brilliance to dig into here alongside a narrative journey well worth taking.
Much like the real world, everyone’s hopes and dreams are different, and it’s this uniqueness that makes them so undeniably beautiful. It’s a poetic struggle, and stopping to appreciate the instances of silence on a road filled with tragedy and heartbreak helps Road 96 feel like something I’ve never played before. Road 96 feels like an experience created by a studio that understands the fragility of the world we exist in, seeking to project these issues onto a fictional world where comparing them with our own is all too easy. Subtlety isn’t the objective here, and by pulling no punches, this game manages to say something well worth listening to.
NEO: The World Ends With You is the sequel we’ve been waiting for. While its new cast of characters have a lofty legacy to live up to, they manage to cement themselves as equally memorable even if their own journey begins to intersect with one we know so well. Combat falls victim to repetition, yet the ideas that surround it are substantial enough that such flaws are easy to forgive. If you’re after a vast JRPG adventure, it’s time to surrender yourself to the underground and never look back. TWEWY is back, and I hope it’s here to stay.
Those looking for an easygoing yet surprisingly deep JRPG will be taken with Monster Hunter Stories 2, even if some of its more notable flaws are harder to forgive. But once you look past those, you’re left with a wondrous little adventure with an engaging battle system, lovable characters, and an emotionally resonant narrative that sunk its claws in far deeper than I ever expected it to. If you’ve never been able to vibe with the mainline games, give this one a punt.
If you’re after an anime-infused action romp in a similar vein to Akira or Sword Art Online, Scarlet Nexus is almost certainly worth a punt. However, there are a few caveats. Combat is excellent yet not without its flaws, while the story being told and characters you encounter don’t have nearly enough depth to feel emotionally resonant. The potential for something brilliant is here, but much like Code Vein before it, this is a game that seems determined to stop itself from achieving something truly special.