- Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty
- Shadow of the Colossus
- Final Fantasy IX
Bloodrayne ReVamped is essentially an easier way to play the original 2002 game, staying true to the original vision of the title. The flaws stand out now more than ever, ranging from visuals to stiff mechanics. At the same time, many of the ideas from two decades ago age well enough to make the gameplay work even by today's standards.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Anniversary Edition continues to be exactly what makes Skyrim popular: a massive world to explore with tons of different ways to develop your Dragonborne. Outside of that, mods make an appearance and add a bit to the formula in their own way. Outside of that, this Skyrim is exactly as you remember, except it loads a bit faster and plays a lot smoother.
Neptunia x Senran Kagura Ninja Wars maintains the cheeky charms of both franchise, bringing in the fun, safe jokes and jabs at the gaming industry. However, it taxes that charm with the gameplay choices made at the end of the game. There's enough here to bring in longtime fans, and even some crossover fans between the franchises, but not many others will rally to this mashup.
Carrion presents you with an opportunity to take the reigns of an invading monster, and it delivers on all fronts with visceral gore and effects that translate vividly even through its pixelated style. The lack of a map combined with navigational and interaction clumsiness make for a more cumbersome Metroidvania formula, but the payoffs of gameplay and exploration outweigh the issues that Carrion presents.
Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water does some things well and misses the mark on others. It generates tension well, but it depends too much on the simplistic, yet rewarding camera-based combat. Either way, Maiden of Black Water offers something compelling for horror fans to dig into, as long as you can accept its shortcomings.
Sheepo shows a ton of potential and executes rather well. The two brothers who worked on this game should be proud of what they created. While the map and controls need a little more streamlining, Sheepo offers up a cool, passive option to the Metroidvania formula.
Chernobylite combines some cool ideas and implements them in a way that complements the story it wants to tell. Several issues stand in its way, with potential save corruption acting as the biggest road block. Once that issue gets patched out, the core experience will offer up something unique, even if many of its gameplay elements lack depth.
In Sound Mind attempts dark humor to great effect, but quickly falls back into basic first-person shooter gameplay tropes, leaving its original intentions behind. The game still plays well, and makes for an engaging puzzler and exploration game; it just doesn't maintain its horror vibe for very long.
NBA 2K22 does many things well, most of which has already been done well in the past. Exceptional, challenging gameplay keeps the strength of the game close to its chest, and NBA 2K22 offers an impressive spread of modes to complement that gameplay. Apart from a few misguided choices, the biggest crippling factor this year comes from how The City takes a good idea and stretches it way too thin. NBA 2K22 is great for hardcore fans of the franchise, but it doesn't leave the door open for many others.
Bandai Namco created something special here. Fast-paced, accessible combat meets a well-constructed narrative told with beautiful visuals, wonderful voice work, and an impeccable soundtrack. Even with its odd issue here and there, nothing stands in the way of Tales of Arise succeeding on all levels.
Tormented Souls creates an environment that's a blast to explore, and the puzzles it provides help to enhance the engagement the locations provide. However, too many shortcomings get in the way of what could be a solid nod to classics horror games. A handful of bad things can be ignored, but having voice work, enemy integrity, and an underdeveloped main character are too much to overlook. There's an appeal here, but it lacks refinement.
Yuoni takes the hide-and-seek formula and adds a few new concepts to it. Not everything works as well as the others, particularly the design of some of the common enemies and their movements. However, it makes some thoughtful creative choices and takes chances with them to make something that at least horror fans should try out. Yuoni is far from perfect, but it still holds its own merit.
Neo: The World Ends With You offers up something all its own while still keeping its roots in view. Some slow pacing and long-in-tooth writing doesn't keep Neo from being a delightful RPG. If the art style and music don't take you, then the combat and its mechanics will.
Improving on excellence, Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade takes the few shortcomings from the PS4 release and improves them. While Activity Card support is missing, alongside deep DualSense support, Intergrade cements itself as the best way to play the Final Fantasy VII Remake, bar none. If you missed out on the original release, now is the time to jump in.
Song of Horror is not the perfect return to old school horror, but it makes one hell of an impression. An adaptive adversary combined with fantastic ambience more than outweigh last gen character models, iffy voice work, and lengthy chapters. Protocol Games is onto something here, and horror fans must give it a go.
An RPG classic makes its way back to the front lines. Shin Megami Tensei 3: Nocturne HD Remaster has all the bells and whistles that came with the original fan favorite title. The minimal additions that come with this remaster do little to help or hurt the formula. Merciless difficulty drops the challenge too much to capture the game's magic, visuals only offer slight clean-up, and audio is still the same PS2 audio. While the game deserves better enhancements, getting Shin Megami Tensei 3: Nocturne in a more contemporary accessible form is still worth the price of admission.
The side scrolling side of Smelter has a lot going for it. It has a welcome execution that doesn't demand much effort and doesn't bog you down with much, even if it is overly simplistic. The tower defense side of Smelter contradicts this simplicity, however. Bad control choices coupled with halfhearted explanations makes it a hard sell for the entire package. Smelter has something unique, but that's nowhere near enough to warrant your time.
Astro Aqua Kitty adds some Metroidvania-lite elements to the shooter components of its predecessor, Aqua Kitty, and it's all the better for it. A few decisions keep this from being an instant classic, like similar-looking zones and limited locations for loadout swapping, but nothing inherently gets in the way of the good times that Astro Aqua Kitty puts in front of you.
Synergia is the product of a small team wanting to create something important. The story between Cila and Mara is heartfelt and worthwhile, leaving you wanting more in the best way. Despite the few HUD issues and occasional glanced-over narrative point, Synergia has the heart and soul worthy of a great visual novel.
Kaze and The Wild Masks is an instant classic in the side-scrolling genre. It's a simple, well-executed formula that channels tons of different inspirations while still holding true to its own vision. The gameplay is top-notch and offers everything a fan could want, from beautiful sprite work to collecting shiny objects. Consider this a must-own among the other great side scrollers.