Tevi has a great layout of biomes and a deep customization system that quickly allows you to customize and prioritize playstyles. Its boss fights are compelling, varied, and quick-paced with great gimmicks, and while its story and worldbuilding are forgettable, its character interactions help outweigh the faults. With an amusing love for waffles, a sharp wit, and a curious mind, Tevi has the makings of a truly memorable game protagonist fans will want to keep around.
Star Ocean: The Second Story R is a product of its time as both a hardcore-adjacent PS1-era JRPG and as a host to several problematic romance mechanics. Its plot is exciting yet generic and is wildly insistent about how certain characters should end up together. But beyond that, you'll find a brilliant and modular character stat-building system, glorious battles, some fabulous character portrait art, and a wonderful 32-bit-inspired world for you to explore.
Everything, down to the puzzles, feels appropriately placed. That's before even acknowledging the gorgeous cast of actors involved in the project and the truly compelling story that unfolds for Alan as well as Saga, who each gain an interesting presence in Bright Falls and the world beyond. It doesn't feel like the most satisfying combat, and it's rather easy to beat, but this is also exactly what I wanted and more from an Alan Wake sequel. It is also the best original horror game of 2023 by a wide margin, and a damn fine video game overall.
In many ways, Cities Skylines 2 is addictive, but the word 'addictive' should be taken subjectively. The game has good addictive potential, like the runner's high after intense exercise or a delicious cup of coffee. But it also has bad addictive potential, like a narcotic, as you grind through the performance issues because you know it'll get good again soon, and you know your rig can totally handle it, as you promise to your friends.
Hellboy: Web of Wyrd is full of style and runs perfectly stable as is typical of roguelite games. However, unlike the greatest games from this increasingly popular genre, it lacks enough of a hook to have players wanting to experiment with its mechanics. While the story can be entertaining, it's nothing too special.
Starfield is the most potent value proposition for Game Pass, being the killer app for the subscription service. It is also the best, most ambitious game in the Xbox Game Studios library to date. It would not be a stretch to say this could be one of the most ambitious games ever made, and that it followed through with many of those goals with relatively low compromise.
Years and several Soulslike games later, FromSoftware revisits another of its iconic franchises and mostly soars with awesome visuals and combat. While difficulty is always going to be a factor in these games, the sudden challenge spikes will alienate those who lack the patience for finding the right build.
Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp isn't a perfect title on its own merits, but it's addictive, stylish, and fun. The wonderful characters make up for an uninteresting and predictable plot. It'd be great to see more Advance Wars and other Wars titles make their way over to the system, but adding matchmaking for online play would be a must.
It's essential to remember that just a little over 10 years ago, Fire Emblem Awakening saved the franchise and brought it to the mainstream. Now, in the present, Fire Emblem Engage represents a series that now no longer needs saving. It's a series that has blockbuster appeal, with people eagerly anticipating every announcement. Fire Emblem is Forever, and I'm overjoyed to see friends and colleagues take to it so passionately, something I didn't think would happen.
Persona 4 Golden is an essential experience not only for JRPG fans, but people who appreciate a strong narrative with an endearing supporting cast of characters, along with a tight battle system that feels as modern as its iconic sequel. The poignancy of your interactions with the characters will resonate on a deep level with you, and will more than likely warm or break your heart on more than one occasion. It's exciting that modern players get to enjoy this, and if you're a Game Pass subscriber, this is a must-play.
Marvel's Midnight Suns has fantastic card-based combat, something it shares in common with Marvel Snap, along with excellent social features and deeply fascinating Marvel lore. It can engross you for dozens of hours with brilliantly layered, unique gameplay featuring just enough variety to make each battle run differently. But this doesn't mask its fatal flaws, namely some game-breaking bugs that'll prevent you from finishing a game with a clearly established ending.
Scorn is a special experience for anybody looking to have their expectations subverted for what a good horror game can be. It is a gory, surreal, provocative dive into difficult or even taboo topics, and is wonderfully crafted, and near perfectly optimized. The game's themes and visuals are challenging and extremely mature, but executed with great subtlety. The game is a technical marvel and concise as any horror game should be, so as to not overstay its welcome.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is the strongest JRPG in the modern Nintendo catalog, and is among the greatest games on the Nintendo Switch, and can potentially stand the test of time when considered among other platforms and generations as well. It's a complex, emotional journey, where you and the characters will confront challenging themes and philosophical ideas, and see them through to their respective cathartic conclusions.
While the game has problems typical of many JRPGs, it also has iconic qualities - a subversive, resonant plot that overturns expectations of how a typical heroic journey progresses, and presents us with fallible protagonists who encounter and experience human loss in different ways. This is a refreshing take on a genre usually populated with idealistic heroes and ultimately happy endings, featuring a memorable battle system and killer soundtrack.
Sonic Origins is an essential collection not only for any franchise fan with current or last-gen gaming hardware but also for anybody who appreciates tight gameplay with a banger soundtrack. Sonic is the ultimate "Animal With an Attitude" mascot still having major games released to this day, and while the franchise has had a tarnished reputation due to sub-par releases lately, it remains plucky and pushes forward, never losing sight of its roots.