Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris takes forever to get moving. By the time the training wheels come off, players will likely have switched off in frustration. Pacing is a big issue for the first half of the game, with hours spent in unskippable cutscenes or repetitive tutorials before the best features become available. There is a decent game locked away behind the multiple missteps and technical issues, and if you've got the requisite patience and high regard for the source material, there are things to like - most notably the smooth, engaging combat. The problem is that getting to it feels like work rather than play.
There is a lot to love about Let's Build a Zoo. Players can get stuck into the minute details of managing their own zoo or they can take a more relaxed approach to building an animal empire, but the amount of freedom is really what makes this game stand out among other management sims on the market. The sheer variety of animals on offer and the charming visuals make up for the monotonous music and sparse tutorials. This is a solid choice for players who are looking for something fun to play at a bargain price.
Despite its shortcomings, The DioField Chronicle is still a solid tactical RPG experience with enough JRPG tropes to interest fans of both genres. The unique gameplay provides plenty of challenge, though it can require a lot of grinding to keep pace with the difficulty curve. The art style is beautiful both in and out of combat but the characters and plot fail to live up to the same standard. In this case, its ambition outstretched its means and it fell just short of where it wanted to be.
Prinny Presents NIS Classics Volume 3 offers two early and accessible works from one of the most prolific and unique video game developers in the business. La Pucelle: Ragnarok and Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure are both ambitious titles that pushed the boundaries of the tactical RPG genre at the time, so it is a delight to see them get a chance to shine on a modern console. Both games come with some graphical upgrades, but the core gameplay and experience remain the same. If you can get past some of the dated mechanics and visuals, we'd say it's worth taking a punt and diving into another slice of gaming history.
Digimon Survive is one of the best visual novels to come out so far this year, with plenty of heart and tension to carry you through to the final act. Fans looking for an engaging story with well-written and presented characters that deal with life-and-death situations will enjoy the ride, while players focused on the combat will probably find that the game comes up short. Despite its sluggish, padded start, Digimon Survive is well worth the long wait.
The game leans into the classic JRPG trope of starting slow, forcing you to sit through multiple long cutscenes before the world opens up for you. It doesn’t quite reach the limits of my patience, but there are multiple stretches of at least 20 minutes where I never even touched the controller. The world-building is good and I’m excited to play with these characters. I just wish the game didn’t take so long to let me get there.
Coromon takes aim at one of the greatest series of all time and, while it isn't any threat to Pokémon's worldwide domination, it is a charming and fun nostalgia trip for fans. Excessive grinding and a story that takes its time to get going mar what is otherwise a worthwhile journey, but if you're a fan of old-school Pokémon, that shouldn't put you off investigating this title up. Whether you're a new trainer or you've been catching 'em all for years now, Coromon has something for you to enjoy.
XEL takes many of its cues from the Zelda franchise, with combat and puzzles that keep things interesting throughout as well as a charming, fun cast of characters. However, technical glitches in the Switch version make it difficult to enjoy at launch. There is the potential for a great game in here, possibly after a hefty patch to fix some of the bugs, but despite its obvious promise it fails to live up to its potential in its current state.
Rabbids: Party of Legends is a fun, polished party game that can soak up a few hours if you have enough people willing to jump in and out. The visuals feel unique within the Rabbids franchise while still capturing the charm and personality fans will expect. The slow progression of unlocking new games in Party Mode, the lack of online play, and the fact that the game is almost unplayable in Tabletop Mode hold this title back from being truly worth the asking price, though.
AI: The Somnium Files – nirvanA Initiative is one of the most interesting visual novels we've played through in a while. The murder mystery at its heart is brought to life by some great writing and quirky characters alongside the satisfyingly integrated, beautifully balanced Psync puzzle elements. Even with some minor control issues, there is a lot to love in this game even if you never picked up the original. Highly recommended if you're even a little bit curious.
Between multiple endings that can be unlocked depending on what quests you complete and more difficult game modes for those who like a punishing challenge, there is a lot to each playthrough of Lost Ruins that will keep players coming back. Though the overall combat can be a little repetitive, there is enough exploration and weapon variety to ensure that there will be a combat style to suit you. If you're a fan of Metroidvania or survival titles, or very attractive pixel art, there is a lot to enjoy here, but the challenge can be unbalanced at times.
Arcade Spirits: The New Challengers is a very good game and an excellent stand-alone sequel to the original. It features a solid cast of characters and plenty of pizza bagel-related facts mixed in, but the thing that I found most exciting was the way the writing had evolved since the first one. This is an ambitious game, with a narrative design that takes risks at almost every corner. Once again, I find myself excited by both the world and the story on offer from the developers at Fiction Factory Games.
Seven Pirates H is not a title that wishes to be taken seriously. While there is a decent story and fun characters behind the fan service, the shallow combat can become tiresome after a few hours. It is fun and a lot of the humour lands, but the actual gameplay can be a bit threadbare. While the headline Booby Training mechanic is an interesting way to customise your party, it doesn't break up the monotony of the gameplay. This is a title that won't keep to occupied too long and is best enjoyed in in fits and starts, and very much within the privacy and comfort of one's own home.
Both of the games that make up Prinny Presents NIS Classics Volume 2 benefit from having a light-hearted approach to their story. With gameplay that doesn't feature too many surprises, the humorous writing and charming characters sand over the rough edges of these older RPGs. While we had a preference for the over-the-top antics and writing of Z.H.P. over Makai Kingdom, both games have plenty to offer both new and existing fans and showcase the humour that has made these and other NIS titles so enduring over the years.
Waifu Impact makes the mistake of assuming that the promise of fan service is enough to carry a game through its runtime, however short. This game takes the Fortnite formula, dips the character controls in digital treacle, strips it of the multiplayer aspect that makes that game fun, and doesn’t add anything worthwhile. It feels more like a proof of concept, with no story or characterisation to speak of. Most importantly, it just isn’t fun to play. Even for the low price from the eShop, the joke here wears thin within half an hour
Neptunia x Senran Kagura: Ninja Wars is a solid, fun hack-and-slash that doesn't take too long to finish and looks gorgeous while you're playing it, but it never reaches the heights of some of the classics from either franchise. What's here feels polished, but a lack of extra modes and features will be disappointing to fans of both series. Still, the game's charm lies in the Neptunia and Senran Kagura characters and their interactions, with writing that delivers great, unexpected punchlines that help give the game some focus. If you are a fan of either series, this is definitely worth playing despite its lack of depth. It just might be one to wait for a sale before picking up.
It took us around 10 hours to complete our first playthrough of Wife Quest, which is not a bad run considering the low entry price. There is a lot of personality and style on display here, and players who want to go for all the trophies in the game will have plenty to come back to. Save for a few small visual hiccups and the fact that the game's humour is often an acquired taste, there isn't really a lot to pick fault with here; it's fun, short, and well-balanced enough to keep it from ever becoming overwhelmingly difficult. While it's not quite in the same league as the likes of Hollow Knight and Axiom Verge, if you're a fan of Metroidvania titles, then Wife Quest is yet another title worth checking out on Switch.
Maglam Lord has a lot of potential, but you'll need to stick it out and try to squeeze some joy from its repetitive combat system and stale dungeon design. Along with its writing, an excellently drawn cast of characters - who can be recruited and romanced through the dating mechanic - offer shining moments in an otherwise unremarkable action-JRPG. The potential is certainly there for something special, and the game's visual cues for possible results of dialogue options removes much of the guesswork common in other games, but the execution falls flat in the combat department and holds back the enjoyable visual novel elements of this package from being as good as they could be.
Both Monster Rancher games are fun throwbacks and this package is a tribute to a series that arguably never got the love it deserved, especially in Europe. Retro gamers and those who enjoy finding hidden gems should definitely consider picking up Monster Rancher 1 & 2 DX for a taste of late-'90s non-Pokémon monster battling. Once you get your head around the unusual controls and the dated presentation, there's lots to like here - and it feels like nothing else released before or since. Go in expecting to make mistakes and stumble through some of the gameplay features and there is plenty of fun to be had.
Blue Reflection: Second Light improves on almost every aspect of the original, with a mystery that feels more personal as the characters become closer. The relationship between the girls as they seek to discover why they were brought to this strange world is the star of the show; though the combat is fun, it is always a vehicle to get you more story rather than the driving force of the game. Second Light is a fantastic-looking anime adventure that you'll love, so long as you can accept that combat isn't the focus.