The Legend of Heroes: Trails to Azure takes everything positive from its predecessor and raises the stakes significantly. It takes beloved characters, fleshes them out further and pays off every single thread it dangles throughout the two titles. It is so ambitious with its plot and delivers it effortlessly. Combat is fun, engaging and highly customisable. The Crossbell Arc deserves to be mentioned alongside the titans of the genre. If you are a JRPG fan and you’ve got the time to play them, these titles should be mandatory.
Chained Echoes is an incredibly passionate love letter to 16-32 bit era JRPGs, but it also knows when to try new things and add modern conveniences. Its battle system is one of the best in the genre, and feels genuinely revolutionary. I was slightly underwhelmed by the game’s rushed final act and a couple of party members but Chained Echoes is a great game and is absolutely worth your time if you’re a fan of the genre.
Supermassive Games’ The Devil in Me lays some new ideas for the Dark Pictures franchise’s future. While well-intentioned, the implementation of these new gameplay ideas isn’t quite there yet. Lacklustre new mechanics and a bloated runtime do more harm than good. The Devil in Me would’ve been better off as a shorter, more refined experience. Great visuals, a solid cast, and a fun slasher premise can only take it so far.
Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed is a clear love letter to a much-beloved franchise, and it’s IllFonic’s most polished product to date. It’s a great multiplayer title that takes the core gameplay of Prop Hunt and spins it into something all of its own. While it’s unclear how the game will grow and evolve with time, what’s presented in the base package is a ton of fun to play, both as a Ghostbuster and a Ghost. That said, while bots are a nice inclusion, they’re not a substitute for real players.
The Legend of Heroes: Trails from Zero is a truly special JRPG. Its focus on characters and worldbuilding set up a smaller, far more personal story. Its highly customisable skill system meant that combat never felt stale. I haven’t felt this way about a JRPG in a long time, and I cannot wait to catch up with Crossbell and its cast of characters again when the sequel launches in 2023. It’s not just one of my favourite games of 2022; it’s among my favourite games of all time.
Acme Gamestudio has delivered an incredible debut with Asterigos: Curse of the Stars. If like me, you’ve been suffering from Souls-like burnout, this might be the game for you. It’s gorgeous to look at, constantly engaging and an absolute joy to play. Asterigos is not just one of the best indie games I’ve played this year, but one of the best, most complete games I’ve played in a long time, indie or otherwise. It’s an outstanding, honest-to-goodness adventure made with love, sincerity and attention to detail. It is incredible; play it.
A satisfying game play loop is the strongest aspect of Made in Abyss: Binary Star Falling into Darkness. Resource management and balancing your character’s needs gives the game a risk vs reward angle that makes it feel more like a survival game than an action RPG. There are issues – frequent texture pop in and a lacklustre story being the most severe – but despite them, Made in Abyss: Binary Star Falling into Darkness is a rewarding experience.
Cursed to Golf is a fun arcade sports game, but its roguelike elements don’t stack up well with other entries in the genre. Its long run times hurt my experience, making failure often more annoying than something to learn from. Its cute art, simple but fun mechanics, and challenge kept me enjoying Cursed to Golf to its end, but it’s lacking that addictive element that I look for in roguelikes that keep me coming back.
Digimon Survive is a solid blend of Visual Novel and Tactics RPG. It has great moments, but Survive’s combat encounters lack any real depth or challenge to keep them engaging over its runtime. Its story, however, remains interesting enough to push it along, even if it hits its peaks early on. A little more variety could’ve pushed Digimon Survive from good to great.
A genuine diamond in the rough kind of game. Sword and Fairy: Together Forever constantly had my attention with varied gameplay, diverse and gorgeous locations, fantastic pacing and some genuinely touching character moments. If not for a handful of technical issues and a wonky but still understandable translation: Sword and Fairy: Together Forever would’ve scored higher. I loved it, regardless.
It’s by no means a bad game, but Yurukill just never manages to hit the same heights as its contemporaries. There’s solid groundwork here for a sequel, it has its unique selling point in the shmup sections, and the puzzles are mostly fun. I wanted to love it, but its story didn’t come together in a satisfying way and too many mechanics felt half-baked or redundant.
Excellent writing, an incredible number of choices with consequences that genuinely impact the whole journey, and a ton of replay value, Steve Jackson’s Sorcery! – The Complete Collection is an absolute treat of an RPG, and if you love the genre, you should play it. The only black marks on it were the menu navigation and the bugs I experienced, but they weren’t enough to make me not want to recommend it.
It’ll scratch an itch for a niche subset of JRPG fans, but its almost complete lack of an engaging narrative or characters, alongside repetitive areas, means Metal Max Xeno Reborn left me very underwhelmed. If not for its systems-heavy combat mechanics and solid Monster Hunter-esque gameplay loop, there would be very little here for me to recommend.