No More Heroes is a game that sounds like it could be fun, and then on closer examination, looks bizarrely empty, full of padding, and shallow in terms of story depth. However, when you actually experience it, you’re left with an experience that experiments with just how much it can employ the concept of “less is more.” It’s got a down to earth yet absurdist narrative that is incredibly rewarding with an extremely cool and satisfying combat system providing an unstoppable feeling.
No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle has some great gameplay moments, even though it misses the mark on what the original did so well. The adventure hosts some great boss fights, a responsive combat system, and an unlockable difficulty mode that makes the entire experience even more enjoyable with the addition of a kick-ass soundtrack. Still, it remains in the shadow of its predecessor. It’s less goofy and more absurd and ends up being a heavy-handed retelling to correct the original’s plot. If this weren’t a sequel, I would have been praising it far more, but it spends most of its time desperately struggling to figure out what its own identity is.
Kingdom Hearts: Memory of Melody is an incredibly charming game that finally brings the stellar array of music from the series into the spotlight. Its various options and modes allow any Kingdom Hearts fan to enjoy, but it doesn't completely make up for some of the missing tracks. Still, the memories that these songs hold are represented brilliantly by a competent and addictive rhythm system that you'd be hard-pressed not to love.
Pokemon Sword and Shield: The Crown Tundra isn’t exactly big on the story, but the way it focuses on exploration encapsulates Pokemon’s pure essence. It’s about exploring new places, making new discoveries, hunting down monumental beings, and doing it all with friends. Combine this with the Isle of Armor, and I feel this DLC is well worth the admission price.
Iwaihime plays the long con with its narrative and convinces readers that it’s not the unique horror thriller they were promised. However, that all changes when it shows its hand, and you are taken through some gripping story scenarios that will send several chills up your spine. This worked well with the game’s presentation, aesthetic, and blend of romance and horror. I couldn’t recommend this more.
Re:Turn: One Way Trip is a standout indie horror adventure that absolutely understands atmosphere and pacing. The narrative gets a bit flimsy in some areas due to a lacking supporting cast, but it ends up nailing important gameplay systems that will make you swear to never ever aboard a ghost train in your life.
Robotics;Notes Elite gives us a visual novel experience full of compelling characters, immersive systems, and excellent pacing that rivals the best the genre offers. It’s both dramatic and impactful, and not afraid to have fun with its cast as it balances its story beats expertly.
Milky Way Prince: The Vampire Star uses an experimental visual style to tell a story about a topic that is very tough to talk about. While it exceeds in conveying these themes, it feels empty and pushy. All of the actual content in the game is condensed into the first few hours, and then there’s really nothing more to it. I enjoyed the artistic approach and themes, but the execution makes it tough to recommend.
Buried Stars came out of nowhere but it has become one of my favorite visual novels of this year. The titles’ fantastic presentation paired with the gripping narrative creates a unique experience within the genre. The localization can seem flat at times, but this is well worth the time of any adventure fan.