I can't recommend Metal: Hellsinger enough. Its badass presentation, satisfying gunplay and genre-defining soundtrack prop up an otherwise solid rhythm game to new heights. Sure, the cracks that come from a limited budget and small team show here and there, but those cracks are so hair-thin that its ripping score and tight loop cover them up in style.
From kinetic combat to the occasional fun Easter egg, it gets so much about the genre right. Unfortunately, the game severely lags in the elements that most other games in the genre get right. If you've already burned through Sifu, TMNT: Shredder's Revenge, and Streets of Rage 4 and want another action game to tide you over until Bayonetta 3, Midnight Fight Express' richly-animated brawls will satisfy, though probably not as much as those before or after. However, if you're looking for over-the-top action that toes the line with comedy, interspersed with cheesy dialogue and twists pulled from an old pulp thriller, you owe it to yourself to play Midnight Fight Express.
The game itself is also incredibly fun. It presents a tight gameplay loop that's enthralling and welcoming for newcomers and refreshing for fans of the genre. Compare it to Smash all you want, but Multiversus seeks to innovate rather than imitate, and it does so with aplomb.
Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course is aptly named for a variety of reasons, each more on-the-nose than the last. Yes, the player is tasked with gathering ingredients for a special treat at the end, but more importantly, it lays out a smorgasbord of delightfully diverse boss fights that all (mostly) prove the quality that MDHR delivered in Cuphead five years ago was no fluke. Most importantly, each and every inch of this DLC is rich with stunning visuals that add layers upon layers of eye candy onto Cuphead’s already sumptuous art. Miss Chalice is icing on this layered, dense, satisfying cake, giving players a whole new way to approach the beloved boss-rush game. Bon appétit!
Rather than the triumphant return of a fan-favorite franchise, Battle League claims its slow season spot in Nintendo's calendar as just another sports game. If Mario Strikers saw a new release every year, there'd be a problem, but it's been well over a decade since the last entry in the series. Yes, it's more of the same, but when "the same" is so fun-and so hard to put down after just one match-more of the same is more than welcome, even if the game isn't as creative or ambitious as one might hope.
The Wii games felt so revolutionary because they did something deeply innovative with the medium. Switch Sports effectively does the opposite. It's still incredibly fun, especially if you're feeling nostalgic for the halcyon days of motion controls, but in trading content out for accuracy and immersion, it feels empty-even compared to games from 16 years ago.
Skywalker Saga is no different, and its unabashed enjoyment of Star Wars is infectious. Even as an un-lapsed fan, I felt my admiration and passion for this rich world surge the same way visiting Galaxy's Edge or a good episode of Clone Wars would. A simple beat-'em-up with a few puzzles and John Williams' masterful music doing a lot of the heavy lifting would be fine. Instead, Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga doesn't just go above and beyond to remind you why you should love Star Wars, but is a testament to how much the people who made it love Star Wars.
Its complex narrative and interpersonal relationships build a lived-in world that makes the player care about their decisions and feel the impacts therein. Poor performances from its one-dimensional heroes are sure to turn some off from what's otherwise an incredible narrative that twists politics and dramatic irony in ways few other games have. Though it might lean closer to a visual novel than a tactics game at times, the two occasionally disparate elements combine to create a game that goes beyond its individual parts.
Despite King of Fighters XV's quality-of-life shortcomings, there's no arguing that it's still a good fighting game. It's just as fast and entertaining as previous entries in the franchise and brings the series into a new era with vastly improved netcode, but it puts up so many barriers of entry that it's hard to recommend to newcomers to the genre or franchise.
Still, Pokémon Legends: Arceus turns over a new leaf for the Pokémon franchise. Not only does it prove that a new game doesn't need a hundred or so new Pokémon and a shiny new region to feel fresh, but it also shows that Game Freak and The Pokémon Company are actually willing to experiment within core Pokémon games. It defies fan skepticism to deliver a truly rare thing: an ambitious Pokémon game that realizes so many players' dreams of bringing everyone's favorite pocket-sized monsters to life in an open world.
Pocket Dungeon understands puzzle spinoffs in the same way that the original Shovel Knight and all of its DLC understands classic platformers from the NES. While its title is fittingly suggestive of just how small the whole game is, I have a feeling I'll be coming back for months until I move on to my next roguelike obsession.
Despite the comparisons it might draw to Shadow of the Colossus, Jet Set Radio or Hyper Light Drifter, Solar Ash delivers a wholly unique experience that combines a smooth, unparalleled sense of speed, incredible level design, and a gorgeous art style. Even if the same can't be said about its narrative or controls, Solar Ash skates in at the last minute to become one of the year's most interesting games.
The only real downside to these remakes is that anything that used the touch screen in the originals feels like an afterthought here. They're still the same amazing, if a little formulaic, Pokémon games they were back in the day. And we may not be the same people we were back then, but we can at least remember how it felt when we first visited Sinnoh as we make our return today.