In concept, Voice of Cards is exciting: a small game from a major designer (Yoko Taro is the game's creative director), released with little fanfare. It offers a lean framework for other RPGs and narrative games to come. Ultimately, though, it's far less effective at its core goals than the games it draws from. Voice of Cards positions itself as a more intelligent, if leaner, classic JRPG. In practice, it is a hollow echo of what came before.
Still, every charm of Mario Party is here, in full force. It's silly, frivolous fun, a perfect way to waste away an evening with friends, local or online. That does sting a little, when one considers the $60 cost, and how much more it could have offered.
What pleasures Kena provides are intrinsic to most videogames: clicking buttons and finding trinkets. Eventually I did fall into that groove, but it was distracting, not compelling. When all the game's darkness dissipates into bright green, when all wounds can be healed with determination and kindness, when death itself is a collectible friend, it is difficult to feel that distraction was worth it.
I have nothing against those games, but it is wonderful to see something play with their vocabulary to make something fresh. While many games of its ilk rely on the broad strokes of fantasy, Black Book dares to be particular. It is all the richer for it.
Whatever profound or resonant thought about selfhood or nostalgia or the trauma of remembering is buried in summary, in lulling, tired melodies. Fundamentally, Kingdom Hearts recurs in the way capital recurs, pushing on despite its contradictions and always banking on something new. We deserve better stories than this, but now, more than ever, I know we won't find them here.