Despite not feeling good about the way this collection has released, and the collection itself feeling like a cash-in more than a celebration of Wonder Boy, there are some excellent games present in Wonder Boy Anniversary Collection. While the two best games in the package have excellent modern remakes, playing the rest of these games is worthwhile, as is seeing the original versions of these classics. This isn’t a release for every player, certainly, but if you’ve yet to check out the series, Wonder Boy Anniversary Collection offers a thorough introduction.
The Pathless is still a beautiful, well-designed game on the Switch. If this is the only platform you have available to play it on, it’s still well worth your time and an easy recommendation. Players who have other options may want to consider them as performance is an occasional issue here, and the DualSense implementation on the PS5 is some of the best on the system, but I still enjoyed revisiting The Pathless.
Fire Emblem Engage is a clear step backward for a great series. While the strategy gameplay at the core of it is perhaps the series’ best, everything else here feels weaker. I still enjoyed my time with the game, ultimately thanks to its gameplay which is some of the best in the genre, but after how great Three Houses with, it’s hard not to come away from Engage disappointed.
The Excavation of Hob’s Barrow doesn’t do anything new for the adventure game genre, but its outstanding atmosphere and well-executed gameplay should interest any fan of the genre who doesn’t mind a story that isn’t afraid to go to some rather horrifying places. Make sure to check it out.
Even as it nears its fifteenth anniversary, Persona 4 Golden is still one of the best RPGs ever made and an absolute must-play for fans of the genre or really anyone who has spent all of these years wondering what the big deal is. This isn’t a case of having to choose style or substance. Persona 4 Golden has more of both than you can fit in a hollow bear suit. Don’t let it pass you by.
Most of Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth holds up exceptionally well, in fact. Even 23 years after its initial release, this is still an excellent game. Sure, there are some minor issues, like awkward platforming, that wouldn’t have been good 23 years ago either, but for the most part, they’re minor issues that don’t take away from a game with fascinating mechanics that are still unique after all these years. If you’re a fan of RPGs and haven’t played Valkyrie Profile, don’t wait 23 years as I did. Make sure to check it out.
Breakers Collection is bare bones because there’s not a lot to the Breakers games. They’re mostly fine-fighting games with some balance issues, which stood out on the Neo Geo in the 90s but struggle to do so in 2023 on modern platforms. The new content helps but isn’t enough to make a collection which is barely a collection appealing. I’m glad to see them get a home release because I’m for keeping all games accessible, but they’re not titles I expect to return to regularly, and I expect most fighting game fans will feel the same.
Even with flaws, and a few too many mechanics for me to truly get lost in, I had a surprising amount of fun with The Knight Witch. I wouldn’t have thought that a bullet hell SHMUP could fit so smoothly into a Metroidvania, but that aspect of the game worked for me. While its story and characters didn’t connect as strongly as I’d have liked, it has enough personality that players looking for an interesting take on the genre should consider it.
Perhaps it’s time I stopped rewarding 2K every year for simply putting out another game. While I still have fun with the same modes I’ve been playing for twenty years, I don’t need a new version of this game to do so, and neither do you. The core gameplay is still very good, albeit stuck several years in the past, but everything around it is awful. The modes I still enjoy feel like they’re buried further in the menus every year. It feels like the only way to enjoy NBA 2K23 in a nonexploitive way is to avoid all the parts of it that its creators want you to play. I don’t see this strange dynamic ending soon, so players will continue to have to decide if being the only basketball game around is enough reason to pick it up each year.
Despite presentation that leaves something to be desired, Marvel’s Midnight Suns packs a ton of interesting strategy into its adventure, and smart writing around the edges helps to offset a main story that feels quite generic. Midnight Suns might be a flawed game in some ways, but I also couldn’t put it down, and it’s the rare game that made me truly want to run around collecting everything. Anyone who loves strategy games or Marvel should absolutely check it out.
River City Girls 2 does a lot right. With fantastic presentation, an incredibly exciting soundtrack, and tons of creativity and variety, all of the elements are here for a classic beat ‘em up. Poor performance, though, really brings the experience down, being an almost constant thorn in your side. It’s by no means unplayable, and I still had a fair amount of fun along the way, but this feels like a game that wasn’t ready to release yet. Hopefully, after a few patches, we’ll be talking about it being the great game it could be, but for now, know what you’re getting yourself into.
Despite some strange choices around online play and a story that failed to grab my interest, however, I had a great time with The Rumble Fish 2. It’s easy to pick up and play with fast-paced fights that are exactly what I look for in a fighting game. With interesting mechanics and a varied cast of interesting fighters, fans of the genre should absolutely give this throwback a shot.
Front Mission 1st: Remake often feels old but that’s no huge surprise. It is after all an old game. It released nearly 28 years ago. That it still mostly holds up as an excellent strategy RPG with an excellent story, interesting customization, and strategic combat, is impressive. While it may fall a bit short of what we’d hope for in a true remake, it remains a strong game worth the time of fans of the genre.
While playing EDENGATE: The Edge of Life has plenty of issues, I still enjoyed my couple of hours with it. Mia is an interesting protagonist, the atmosphere is strong, and it doesn’t overstay its welcome. This is a case where a game being short plays to its advantage. Considering the game’s low price, I’d recommend anyone interested in it give it a try.
At times the story of Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo can be interesting, but it never fully comes together. Succeeding neither as an homage to a great director’s work or on its own terms, it might be better served if it didn’t have the expectations its name provides, but that wouldn’t make it a great game. There are simply better adventure games more worth your time available this year.
A lot of Sonic Frontiers is still a mess, actually, and Sonic himself still doesn’t feel great. Those two things alone will keep a lot of players away, and I can’t blame them. Still, there’s something about Frontiers that no recent Sonic game can match. It’s ambitious, and its core gameplay loop actually works. It’s downright engaging. I spent a lot of my time with Sonic Frontiers having a ton of fun, even if there were just as many moments where I was frustrated and ready to be done with it. This isn’t a great game, but it’s one that should satisfy Sonic fans desperate for an interesting game starring their favorite blue blur, and for the first time in a long time, it feels like the series may have a sense of direction. There’s still work to be done to make it more than that, but this is a big step in the right direction.
Tactics Ogre: Reborn makes some changes to a classic, which meet with mixed success. Qualify of life changes like rewind and simplified class changes are very welcome, but the newly balanced battle system slows down battles that already felt on the slow side. Don’t be mistaken, though, the core game here is still one of the better strategy RPGs of its era, and it holds up in 2022. If you’re a fan of the genre and haven’t gotten the chance to check it out in the past, there’s no need to wait. Pick up Tactics Ogre: Reborn and get ready to lose fifty hours of your life.
Pentiment is one of the most interesting games I’ve played in 2022, going far beyond even what most RPGs can manage when it comes to player choice and consequence. Between its setting, its graphical style, and its fantastic story, Pentiment demands your attention.
Despite its issues, Somerville manages to offer a mostly enjoyable experience. The family bond forged in an opening scene, which is easily the highlight of Somerville, simply works and drove me through the game. I wanted to figure out what happened to my character’s family and see them together again, and that kept me going through a relatively short game. The strong atmosphere, which kept things visually interesting, and a soundtrack worthy of praise don’t hurt either. Unfortunately, with actual storytelling that doesn’t really work, busy areas which are hard to navigate, gameplay that doesn’t stand apart, and glitches that further weaken the experience, Somerville is hard to fully recommend. While fans of Playdead titles who can check it out on Game Pass or for a good price may find it worth the rather small-time commitment, other players should perhaps consider checking into the many similar games which simply execute this formula better.
I’ve never been a big fan of games that require you to invest huge amounts of time before they get good. Our time is valuable and while Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord does eventually get good, the uninteresting grind along the way and lifeless world didn’t do much to pull me back. Fans of the series will still have a great time and if you are willing to invest your time you’ll definitely be rewarded for it, but its frustrating to see so much potential for an even better game left unrealized.