Astral Chain is an ambitious game that gives players almost too many options. Whether you decide to stick to the captivating storyline or want to fill up your photo album with pictures of your Neuron co-workers or decide to clean up the streets of all that pesky Red Shift (that only you can see), you'll easily lose yourself in the beautiful world of the game. Astral Chain pushes the boundaries of what an action game can be, but it doesn't get so experimental that it loses sight of its goal -- which is to present an intriguing and layered story while giving players lots of horrifying monsters to kill.
Once the dust settles from the controversies stirred up over the summer, Pokemon Sword and Shield will be looked upon by fans fondly. This is a great Pokemon game, one that, at times, pushes up against its self-imposed limitations and teases a new path for the Pokemon franchise. The real question coming out of Pokemon Sword and Shield is whether the Pokemon Company will build upon the newest innovations seen in the game and strive to keep the Pokemon franchise exciting and relevant, or if they'll just retreat to familiarity and disappoint a fanbase looking for reasons to keep playing for decades to come. Pokemon Sword and Shield is a half-step forward for the Pokemon franchise — we'll see if they put the other step forward with their next set of games, which could be critical to keeping some of its more jaded fans.
Under normal circumstances, it would be hard to recommend a game like Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team GX to anyone who doesn't have a lot of time to kill. After all, the Pokemon Mystery Dungeon series was the perfect sort of game to help kids pass 30 minutes on a school bus. But, these aren't normal times and a lot of people have recently found themselves stuck indoors with a bunch of extra time on their hands. If you've burned out on Pokemon Sword and Shield and are looking for a not-too-challenging experience to help get through self-isolation and social distancing, Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team GX might be the sort of game you need. It plays on nostalgia of the past and the general adorableness of the Pokemon franchise, and it's not the worst way to spend a boring afternoon.
Nintendo describes Clubhouse Games as "eclectic" in their official description of the game on their website, and honestly, that's the best description of the game that I could come up with. Clubhouse Games looks good but lacks any real substance beyond its large catalog of games, many of which offer little more than the most basic of strategies. It's as if Nintendo decided to collect free games put out for Windows 98 and then give them an HD render, offering some idle amusement. Once Clubhouse Games gets discounted (and I'm sure that it won't be long), it might be worth the price tag, but I wouldn't invest in a full-price version right out of the gate.
If you are a fan of the Ghosts 'n Goblins franchise, you'll love Ghosts 'n Goblins Resurrection. This is not a "casual" game by any stretch, but it does provide a challenging experience that has been mostly forgotten in a more modern style of video games. Making it through even the first stage is an accomplishment and successfully completing the game will leave you with the same feeling of invincibility that you felt when you beat a game on hard more as a kid.
If you are a Monster Hunter veteran, I see no reason why you won't love Monster Hunter Rise. The game is basically a refined version of Monster Hunter World with some new gimmicks and a new aesthetic. For those looking to jump into Monster Hunter for the first time, Monster Hunter Rise is still a lot of fun. You won't necessarily understand everything right out of the gate, but you likely will over time as you hunt more and more monsters. All in all, this is a strong action RPG for the Nintendo Switch and has the potential to eat up tons of your time.
New Pokemon Snap could very well be the next "chill" hit for Nintendo in the vein of last year's Animal Crossing: New Horizons. The game itself has very low stakes, but there's still lots to explore and find, and it should be a great distraction for players over the rest of the spring and summer. New Pokemon Snap is an impressive re-debut for the Pokemon Snap franchise and should hopefully give Nintendo and The Pokemon Company motivation to make additional Pokemon Snap games. Less than a quarter of all Pokemon species is represented in New Pokemon Snap, so there is certainly room for more exploration, more discovery, and more photos in the future.
Biomutant isn't a terrible game -- the fighting and crafting systems are both top-notch and give players a ton of choice. But while the world of Biomutant is hauntingly beautiful, the game lacks any sort of narrative substance or character. If you're looking for a strong story or even a weak story, Biomutant will leave you unsatisfied. However, if you enjoy exploration for the sake of exploration, then you'll probably lose yourself in Biomutant.
At its best, Dark Alliance reminds me a bit of the classic arcade game Gauntlet. Those games were a blast to play with friends but were a frustrating experience when attempting to run solo. I have enjoyed every minute of Dark Alliance that I played with other players, whether it was with friends or random online companions. However, the single-player experience of Dark Alliance was miserable, at best, and should be avoided by anyone who wishes to have a fondness for the game.
I've enjoyed my experience in Pokemon Unite, and I feel that the core 5v5 matches are definitely something that players can sink a lot of hours into. The gameplay is a bit more forgiving than League of Legends to newcomers, but you'll still have to work to figure out how to master a particular Pokemon's skills and fit them into a wider team strategy. The pay-to-win criticisms lobbied by the fans are valid and are concerning given the Pokemon franchise's younger demographic. If Tencent can tweak their revenue strategy to make it so that players don't need to pay money in a free-to-play game in order to compete, than Pokemon Unite should have a long shelflife and could be Nintendo's first successful foray into the MOBA competitive scene.
Tales of Arise is a fun game, but one with a bit of tonal disparity to it. One moment, you'll be searching for owls wearing goofy accessories on behalf of the owl king, and then next you'll watch in horror as a town of people is literally liquified before your eyes. As long as you try not to think too much about the stifling and nearly overwhelming amount of horror the characters have been put through, you'll likely feel like you got your money's worth of this very long and winding game. Even with some of its over-the-top plot points, this is definitely one of the better games I've played in 2021 and should be enjoyed by both newcomers to the franchise and veterans alike.
Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl are good remakes of an inherently flawed Pokemon game. The games lean a little hard into recapturing the experience of the originals, which is a detriment and somewhat negates the fantastic visual and quality-of-life improvements.
Pokemon Legends: Arceus is easily the strongest Pokemon game made in recent memory and should provide unforgettable memories that rival the first time a player first encountered a favorite Pokemon or conquered their first Pokemon Champion fight. It's a must-buy Pokemon game destined to land on many "top games of the year" lists and should bring countless new and lapsed fans to the franchise.
Dynasty Warriors 9: Empires is a niche version of an already divisive game and provides very little innovation to the musou formula. It honestly feels like a half-baked game, as if developer Koei Temco felt the need to keep the Empires spinoff line of games going simply because it has done it in the past. There are better musou games out there and better strategy games out there, and I honestly can't recommend this game to fans of either type of game. Ultimately, Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires won't hold your interest for any extended period of time unless you're already a fan of the franchise.
Triangle Strategy is a very solid tactical game that rewards smart decisions. The conviction system that drives the story reminds me of the older Ultima games, and I appreciate that positioning is as important as a character's abilities during combat. While Triangle Strategy suffers from some of the same issues as Octopath Traveler in terms of its slow pace, the game is still a worthy successor to the likes of Final Fantasy Tactics. This is a game that you'll want to pour hours into, even if some of those hours are eaten up by cutscenes and monologues.
In its quest to be the "definitive" LEGO Star Wars game, LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga tries to do too much and suffers as a result. While the game offers players a variety of different game modes and level types, there's nothing that it truly excels in. The puzzles are OK, the vehicles are OK, the missions are OK, and the story set pieces are good but not great. Honestly, if not for the fact that the game still has that crucial LEGO Star Wars charm and humor, a lot of players would probably be very frustrated with the game experience. Even with its lack of polish, I enjoyed LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga because I love Star Wars and I love building LEGO sets. But people who don't share that passion won't get as much enjoyment from this flawed experience as I did.
Ultimately, Mario Strikers: Battle League reminded me a bit of last year's Mario Golf: Super Rush. Both games offer a fun core gameplay experience but are ultimately very thin in terms of content which hinders their replayability. If you don't have a dedicated group who wants to play Battle League on the regular, the game could end up collecting dust on the shelf. Next Level Games has promised additional roster updates and other content releases after release, so hopefully the game grows into a more robust experience after a few months.
While I've joked while playing that Xenoblade Chronicles 3 was a great series of cutscenes with some fighting in between, the game gets away with its glut of cutaways because the story is quite good. Sure, people can see some of the twists coming from a mile away, but the core mystery is so intriguing and weird that you really want to keep playing to figure out just what the heck is going on.
Cult of the Lamb has the potential to be one of the next big indie hits. The cute art style and comparisons to Hades and Animal Crossing: New Horizons will draw potential players in, but the game truly stands alone as its own experience with an intriguing story, a haunting score, and a world that grows more and more alive the longer you stay in it. The blend of gameplay styles also addresses some of the criticisms of both the roguelike genre and the farm management genres – runs are deliberately shorter so players can spend more time at the homestead, but the homestead isn't so much of a resource sink that players will feel they need to spend all their time cleaning up their camp instead of killing enemy cultists. Cult of the Lamb expertly balances a number of different mechanics, themes, and gameplay styles to create a fiendishly good time, making this game a hauntingly fun escape.