Lost Judgment is an amazing game with a relevant, compelling story, memorable characters, gorgeous locales and an impressive soundtrack. Combat is incredibly fluid and fun, and there is an absolute truckload of things to do. It has its pitfalls, but the good so far outweighs the bad and I can’t help but place this in my Game of the Year contender list. It’s a shame the future of this series is in limbo, but I can only hope we get to see some more adventures of Yagami and Co. for years to come.
Famicom Detective Club: The Missing Heir is a solid, enjoyable mystery to play. I loved exploring Myoujin Village and learning about the cast, or swapping between the orchestrated arrangement and original chiptune songs. The game is also a time capsule into Nintendo’s past and the early days of graphic adventures on console, and has aged remarkably well. I sort of wish they’d included the original version of the game, if only for comparison’s sake, but having the music is a nice touch. The game even comes with a Music Mode you unlock after completing it. It’s a nice touch. Will this title wow veteran visual novel and graphic adventure aficionados? Not really. But for its place in the genre’s history, I think it’s worth a shot.
There is a lot to love about Nocturne. The story is relevant and timeless, the characters engaging. The Vortex World of post-apocalyptic Tokyo is eerily beautiful, the dungeons varied. The voice acting is all around pretty solid (I played using the Japanese cast, since I prefer original language to dubs). Even the game’s vaunted difficulty, for all the anguish and frustration it caused, has its own charms. Some of the game design choices feel distinctly of their era and returning to them 20 years on feels archaic and cumbersome, but despite those flaws, Nocturne stands the test of time and remains one of gaming’s best RPGs. You owe it to yourself to play it if you haven’t before, and to revisit it if you have. The HD remaster is a fantastic addition to the SMT library.
Ryte – The Eye of Atlantis is a perfectly okay game hampered by janky physics and technical issues. When the game leans into its Atlantean subject, it’s the best part of the experience, but unfortunately, it’s few and far between. The music is good and I liked the attention to detail in the locations, I just wanted more from them. The French voice acting is fine, but the English was stiff and amateur at best. If you like Greco-Roman architecture or are big into Atlantean lore, you could pick the game up on sale, but at $19.99 USD, it has too many technical issues to recommend over other VR puzzle games out there.
I really, really loved my time with ALTDEUS. Gorgeous character designs, fantastic voice work, compelling narrative and memorable characters all coalesced into the best gaming experience I’ve had this year. Science-fiction is one of my favorite genres because of how often it asks difficult questions about our relationships with the world and others in it, and ALTDEUS provided that in spades. Love, grief, obsession, self-loathing, sacrifice – it’s all here in one neat package. The use of VR technology to tell this story was also a boon. There’s nothing specific to the narrative that requires it be a VR title, but how that narrative is presented really took advantage of the immersive qualities VR can provide. Watching Noa’s concerts, embracing another character, fighting giant monsters – I don’t think any of it would have felt as impactful had it not been front and center. It also helped me better relate to Chloe’s emotional journey, because I saw the world literally through her eyes. What a fantastic use of the medium, and a must-play for any VR player.
Moss is a great game, not only for VR but in general. Quill and the characters she meets are charming, and the storybook nature of this tale are a great hook. The story itself is nothing especially groundbreaking, but it’s well-written, and I love the presentation. The only other animal protagonist I’ve found as endearing as Quill is Trico from The Last Guardian, and that is high praise. I love her. Please give me all the merchandise of her. My biggest complaint is, simply, that the game ends so soon! You can easily finish Moss in about three to five hours, depending on how determined you are to find all the hidden items across the game’s seven chapters, and each chapter is an easily-digestible 20-30 minutes. Since the puzzles always have the same solutions, there isn’t a lot of replayability, but that didn’t stop me from thoroughly enjoying the time I spent with the game and its DLC. This is a must-play for anyone interested in VR and a great showcase for the medium’s strengths.
Overall though, Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity is a fun, engaging hack-and-slash take on the world and characters of Breath of the Wild, and I very much enjoyed my time with the game, sans fighting with the camera. While the restrictions placed on exploration and travel did occasionally make me long for the freedom of the game’s more open world counterpart, it was still beautiful in its own right, with a wonderful soundtrack, fun, memorable characters, and a predictable but sometimes surprisingly moving story. I will always be happy when I get to see Zelda’s struggles and accomplishments, and this game provided that in a delightful package.
Everyone wants to be the hero of their own story. Whether it’s taking care of loved ones, overcoming hardship, or grasping for a dream, I can think of no one who isn’t seeking some sort of place in this world. To say 2020 has been a bit rough for a whole lot of people would be an understatement, and Ichiban Kasuga was definitely the hero I needed this year. His strong heart, unwavering resolve, and unconditional love for those most important to him were the sort of positivity I craved. He would have been my favorite protagonist of all the games I played this year regardless, but he shone extra brightly in the darkness, and I adore him all the more for it. Ichiban’s struggles and triumphs were relatable and heartbreaking and beautiful, all at once, and helped propel his game not only to Game of the Year status, but also ousted Yakuza 5 from its pedestal as favorite game in the series. Ichiban is the hero everyone deserves, and I think his absolute banger of an anthem puts it best: “You may have nothing, yet you’ve got the bravery to go forth and lead a wonderful life.”
Little Witch Academia: VR Broom Racing is a fun little title that takes advantage of virtual reality’s ability to break physical boundaries to provide an engaging flight simulation. The animation and acting help bring these quirky characters to life in an immersive episode that has a rather predictable story but still sticks the landing thanks to wearing its heart on its sleeve. If you’re into VR, this is a great title to grab.
In the roughly 15 hours I spent with No Straight Roads, I got to experience a fun ride with a lot of things to say about the music industry, fan entitlement, the ways artists deal with both the positive and negative aspects of fame and creativity, and the messiness of trying to fix a broken system. In their quest to overthrow NSR and bring back rock, Mayday and Zuke also trod on those who genuinely enjoyed the EDM they were hearing, and were on their way to instating rock as the law of the land. Would that make them better than NSR, or just as bad? How much room do we allow for differing voices? When does one voice become so overwhelmingly strong – either through popularity, force, or a combination – that it silences others? And how do artists deal with balancing their personal creative wants with appeasing those who love their creations? When do the fans dictate the creativity rather than the artist? NSR has something to say about each of these – some more coherently than others – and even if I don’t agree with its conclusions in all cases, it sure made a for a fun argument along the way.