Harvestella isn’t trying to innovate anything. It’s a cozy throwback JRPG that stands apart by having a heavier emphasis on life sim elements. But it’s a story driven action JRG at its core, not a farming sim. Harvest Moon fans will probably be disappointed by its lack of farming mechanic depth, but fans of classic JRPGs who don’t normally love life sim games might really love it. Anyone who really enjoyed Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin, or the multi-gameplay-style of the ActRaiser games should really take note.
Tactics Ogre: Reborn is an insanely high-quality remaster. There are so many improvements, including gameplay additions, menu expansion, display clarity, improved graphics, orchestrated music, and fully-voiced dialogue. This remaster isn’t a cheap cash-in. It’s the quality level of remaster that all others should aspire to. The only complaints I can make about the game is that the story and gameplay are dense, and won’t be for everyone. Every tactical RPG fan needs to play Tactics Ogre: Reborn. And for strategy JRPG fans, Tactics Ogre: Reborn is good enough that it might be the exception when saying you’re not a fan of the genre.
If the only console you own is a Switch, then Aeterna Noctis is a very good Metroidvania. I’d put it a tier lower than the best of the best in the genre, but still better than most, because of its excellent gameplay. If you own a PS5, Xbox, or PC, then the Switch should be the last version you play. The camera is too zoomed-out for handheld mode, and the framerate is very choppy compared to the other smooth versions. I wish I could also report on how the PS4 and Xbox One versions compared to the next gen versions. They were all planned for the same release day, and ended up taking another year to become available, so I would assume they are all downgrades that had to be quality compromised.
In conclusion, Ultra Kaiju Monster Rancher is only for Monster Rancher and Ultraman fans. If you’re not familiar with both, a lot of the humor will mean nothing. Monster Rancher 1 & 2 DX is a better starting point for the Monster Rancher series, despite the added online combat in Ultra Kaiju Monster Rancher. But the other reason that I have a hard time recommending Ultra Kaiju Monster Rancher is that it’s almost a full-priced game. This is a shallow, repetitive game, and one that I’d imagine 95% of people who play it will only spend a small amount of time with. I would have an easier time suggesting the curious check it out if it was budget-priced. But as it stands, Ultra Kaiju Monster Rancher is only for people who want more Monster Rancher, or love 60s Ultraman.
If you’re a fan of exploration and puzzle-based adventure games, then playing Tunic is a no-brainer. While it does have elements of Souls games, it has more elements from The Legend of Zelda series and lots of elements from other genres as well. What makes Tunic unique is the way it gives the player items and abilities, without fully explaining them at first, and allowing the player to experiment while exploring its world. Retro players who love cryptic NES titles of yesteryear take note, this might be a GOTY contender for you.
If you are a fan of JRPGs, then playing Voice of Cards: The Beasts of Burden is a no-brainer. The new monster-catching mechanic is very addictive. And the Yoko Taro story twists alone are worth the price of admission. Fans of the Voice of Cards series will find The Beasts of Burden to be darker, more episodic, and more streamlined. None of those are bad things, they just differentiate The Beasts of Burden from the other games in the series, and keep things fresh enough, without changing the core game mechanics too much. I loved this game, and if you’re a fan of old-school JRPGs, you probably will too.
Inscryption appears to be a very niche roguelite deck-building card game. But it turns into so much more. It’s a must play for anyone who is a fan of experimental videogame storytelling. Anyone remotely curious, who enjoys a great mystery, should also play without hesitation. This is the highest review score I’ve given in a while, and I wasn’t drawn to the base gameplay at all. Inscryption is a special game, and a wholly unique experience. It’s going to be remembered as a benchmark of videogame storytelling years from now. I could not be more shocked or impressed.
Fans of the anime will still want to play Made in Abyss: Binary Star Falling into Darkness, but do so with caution. The main draw for new fans will be exploring the abyss and seeing all its layers. There’s just a lot of garbage to sift through to get to the good stuff.
Cursed to Golf is a great idea for a game. It’s a very difficult 2D golf game with precise controls. Although it’s a Roguelike, I enjoyed it less like I enjoyed Hades, and more like I enjoyed Super Meat Boy. I just can’t believe there are no multiplayer options! And there are some bugs that need fixing. Playing Cursed to Golf was great fun for a few hours, but as a single-player-only experience, I’m not sure how many players will be captivated long enough to try to conquer all 18 holes.
My only major gripes with Blossom Tales II: The Minotaur Prince are highly subjective. It’s a game that needs to reach the kind of people who play mods of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, which provide the player with more challenging combat and puzzles. Blossom Tales II has a very good world map to explore, and its dungeon puzzles and combat are perfect. It starts like a game a parent would want to get their young daughter but becomes one that will impress any old-school Zelda fan who gives it some time. So give Blossom Tales II: The Minotaur Prince your time.
Despite the latter half of this review being mostly criticism, Arcade Paradise, at its core, is a very good management game, with tons of very well-parodied arcade games to play. The mix of genres works incredibly well. I really wish there was a version of Capcom Arcade Stadium in this style. Or an NES Remix. Arcade Paradise’s inauthentic aesthetic, and lack of polish bring it down. But anyone intrigued by the game’s premise should give it a try.
I loved Lost Epic. If a physical copy becomes available, I’m going to buy one. For anyone who is a fan of action RPGs, Metroidvanias, or the Vanillaware visual aesthetic, Lost Epic is a must-play. If the Developers can fix the poor in-game explanations to smooth out the beginning of a first playthrough, Lost Epic could easily go down as a genre classic.
F.I.S.T.: Forged in Shadow Torch is an excellent story-driven, combat-heavy Metroidvania. But the Nintendo Switch version is the worst version available. If the Switch is your only option to play the game on, it’s a great game at its core. But if you have access to either PlayStation, or a PC, their visual and performance quality greatly outweigh the Switch’s portability option.
Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – The Hinokami Chronicles is as good as it ever was. The Switch version doesn’t add anything for people who have the game on other systems. Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm fans, who might be excited for another similar game, should dial their content expectations way back. Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba fans don’t need their teeny narrative summarized, the way Naruto fans might’ve wanted theirs. Merging these two franchises wasn’t the right decision. It would’ve been the definition of “a renter” in the 90s.
To summarize, Persona 4 Arena Ultimax has the visual novel stories of both Persona 4 Arena games. As a result, it has the full roster of Ultimax, as well as all the character balancing. All the DLC from the original titles is included in this new release. This gorgeous anime fighter is easy to pick up, and difficult to master. It’s a ton of quality content for a budget price, which makes Persona 4 Arena Ultimax a must buy for all Persona and fighting game fans.
Rise of the Third Power is a 40 hour long, Super Nintendo throwback that shouldn’t be missed by genre fans. The only criticism I can really throw at the game is it lacks that special edge Squaresoft SNES RPGs had. Everything in Rise of the Third Power is well-done, it just doesn’t innovate. This keeps Rise of the Third Power from being an immediate classic. I loved my time with it. I actually loved it so much that I bought Stegosoft’s other JRPG, Ara Fell. While Rise of the Third Power won’t convert any non-JRPG fans, it will provide a wonderful journey to those of us already drinking that sweet JRPG Kool-Aid.
The Letter: A Horror Visual Novel is a very good story, with an excellent focus on character relationships. The story uses the structure of the visual novel genre to deepen its quality. This is what a visual novel should be. It doesn’t have the originality of genre classics like 428: Shibuya Scramble, Danganronpa, or the Ace Attorney series. But it is an easy recommendation for fans of the genre, who are looking for more.
The Disney Classic Games Collection is very thorough and fantastic. If you have any nostalgic love for these games, then this collection is the best way to play them, and if you’re a younger gamer, who is at all curious as to why some of us adults have a special place in our hearts for 90s 2D platformers, then this collection would be an excellent place to find out. Hopefully this release leads to future Disney Collections. My fingers are crossed for a Mickey Mouse bundle featuring the Magical Quest trilogy, Mickey Mania, the Castle and World of Illusion games, and the Japanese-only Mickey no Tokyo Disneyland Daibōken game. A kid can dream, right?
The combination of rumor, magazine publication, and CD trading is what made the Monster Rancher games special. It’s hard to recreate that kind of feeling today. But, Koei Tecmo did it very well. The only problem is that there’s not much content in the game, and without multiplayer capabilities, mileage doesn’t go very far. If I have any advice for anyone attempting to play this game, it’s to share this nostalgic story of how the game worked, and don’t just look up the stats of the best monsters on the internet. Play with some friends, use your favorite albums, and see what you get, because that is what makes Monster Rancher 1 & 2 DX unique. Monster Rancher 1 & 2 DX is an effective nostalgic novelty, but as a monster raising sim, it’s pretty meh.
But what a story these games have. I was so engaged when playing through Danganronpa Decadence. My predictions were wrong, and I was very impressed with the outcome. If you’re at all a fan of visual novels, mysteries, or anime aesthetics, then Danganronpa Decadence is a must play. It’s four games for the price of one, and I loved all of them.