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.
The developers succeed at making the game look and feel like Demon Slayer, but unfortunately that isn’t quite enough to make the game good enough for a universal recommendation. Hardcore fans will likely get a kick out of it, but for the more casual fans, this may be one to pick up on sale down the line.
Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot might not do much more than retelling the story of Dragon Ball, but it does that well enough that existing fans will find joy in exploring the world and fighting iconic villains from the franchise. Despite the lack of depth to its combat and a minor internet-based technical inconvenience to work around, the game saves itself by expanding on the already massive amount of Dragon Ball lore available and giving fans the slice-of-life moments we've so sorely needed. Non-fans won't find much to love here, but it's a more than serviceable retelling of an iconic story.
We're always fans of seeing lesser-known games in any genre get a bit of love and exposure to new players, and the two games in the NIS Classics Volume 1 collection both have a lot to offer tactics fans. Phantom Brave's combat system is unique among tactical RPGs and Soul Nomad's take on the hero's journey is still interesting 15 years after its PS2 release. However, both games feel even older than they are; the unattractive visuals and uneven voice acting of this compilation re-release aren't going to change anyone's mind who wasn't a fan before, nor prove attractive for a new audience.
Love Esquire is a straightforward and fun visual novel/dating sim with simple but effective design and gameplay, surprisingly strong production values, and a fantastic voice cast. This isn't a game trying to push the boundaries when it comes to inclusivity, but it is an enjoyable romp and a relatively 'safe' introduction to the genre for those unfamiliar with its tropes.
All this isn’t to say that the game isn’t worth playing. Whether you are a fan of the original or you are experiencing it for the first time, Skyward Sword HD is a Zelda game worth playing as much as any other. However, it doesn’t wipe away the issues that the original had completely. The various quality of life issues that are implemented in this version only serve to highlight the issues that plagued the original — and the fact that some of those issues require more than a simple “quick fix” provided by a remaster like this to resolve.
Poison Control's story is cliché-filled but fun, and the tongue-in-cheek dialogue carries the game far further than its gameplay could manage alone. The writing can only make up for shallow game mechanics to a point, though, and ultimately shallow gameplay is what lets this game down. Visual novel fans will likely find more to enjoy here, but there's simply not enough gameplay depth or variety for fans of shooters.
Root Film builds off of what its predecessor did well while managing to feel very distinct and more grown-up than Root Letter. The Switch version's portability makes it much easier to get those hours in than the PS4 version, but those who weren't fans of Root Letter or who are on the fence might want to wait until a sale or pick up the digital version of the game. For fans of murder mysteries, there are plenty of cases to get stuck into and rich locations to explore. We think it is worth the full price but can't blame people for being put off by the hefty price tag.
Between the surprisingly deep plot for such a simple game, the clever narrative explanation of the mechanics, and enough chaos going on in the discussions to keep you guessing, we had a lot of fun with this one. Gnosia's simple game mechanics and deceptively deep story make it a must-have for visual novel and murder mystery fans; it's just a shame that the music is so poor. Even so, if you give it a chance it's highly likely that you'll fall in love with each member of its diverse cast – just in time for them to kill you.
For me, the highest praise I can give Persona 5 Strikers is that it feels like a worthy sequel to one of the greatest RPGs of all time. Whether it’s the music, the visuals or the triumphant return of a near-flawless cast of characters, it has brought me incredible joy. Ryuji is still dumb and loyal as ever. Makoto is still scary and hot. Yusuke is still weird. And Futaba remains an adorable little gremlin to protect at all costs.
Overall, this is definitely a game for fans of the original. However, Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity still delivers the fun action of Dynasty Warriors is known for while looking and feeling like a true prequel to Breath of the Wild, which is not an easy feat.
Melody of Memory is a competent if simple rhythm game that serves as a solid recap of the series for existing fans, making it a worthwhile purchase if you’ve followed the escapades of Sora, Donald, and Goofy through the years. However, it does showcase how impenetrable the plot has become, but even seasoned fans will get enjoyment out of the confusion. Its what we’ve done all this time anyway, right?
Ghost of Tsushima may or may not be the game of the year for a lot of people. Between the stunning visuals, solid story and characters, and one of the best uses of the open world framework I’ve seen, it is a strong contender for me, even in a year that has included some fantastic releases.