Under Night In-Birth II [Sys:Celes] does not reinvent the wheel so much as it refines it to its most effective form yet. That takes more effort than you'd expect – UNI2 is the culmination of a decade's worth of thoughtful design and carefully considered changes. Despite this, it effortlessly demonstrates why it's one of the strongest competitors on the fighting game market right now.
Elegance, finesse, style – whatever you want to call it, Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown has it. It sets the stage with familiar Prince of Persia elements while performing them in new ways. The production comes with a few stumbles, yet The Lost Crown always recovers with style, proving itself as a worthy heir to the elegance that this series represents.
For better and worse, Pokémon Scarlet & Pokémon Violet: The Hidden Treasure of Area Zero Part 2: The Indego Disk is more Pokémon Scarlet & Pokémon Violet. Your enjoyment of it will largely depend on how much jank you can still tolerate, but this DLC does some interesting things to spice up the game. Trainers will actually put up a fight, there are cool optional areas to explore, and there's of course a ton of returning Pokémon to catch. It's a very small step back to where we fell in love with the series, but still far from its heights.
Everything about Move It! feels like it should work, and when it does it's a lot of fun. The problem is that doesn't always work. Some rotten apples in the microgame selection and the Joy-Con hardware's awkward fit with the overall concept muddy up an otherwise good time. Given the discombobulating nature of WarioWare, some muddying can be acceptable up to a point, but Move It! occasionally crosses the line from being playfully antagonistic to frustrating for the wrong reasons.
Mario is known for surprising you with new ideas and strong game design. Super Mario Bros. Wonder contains both in spades. Although it executes on the element of surprise in a way I hesitate to call an outright innovation, it always supports the strengths of both the expected and unexpected.
Way of Wyrd's shadow-heavy visuals perfectly capture the Hellboy aesthetic. Sadly, the game lurking beneath those shadows suffers from unambitious design, inconsistent mechanics, and occasionally devastating bugs. Fun can still be found in the Wyrd, it's just harder to find than it should be.
Gravity Circuit (grapple) hooked me after I threw caution to the wind. First playthroughs inherently emphasize caution, which means that truly appreciating the game will take some time. If you're willing to put in the effort, you'll find a game that twists old ideas in a fresh and fun direction.
Loop8: Summer of Gods aspires to capture the human experience through a multitude of ambitious subsystems. Unfortunately, virtually none of these ideas make a meaningful impact on the game. The end result is a shallow, disjointed, and undeveloped experience. Rather than reflecting the nuances of our everyday lives, Loop8 most closely resembles the lives of aquarium fish.
Marble It Up! Ultra applies the theory of controlled chaos to platformer design. It doles out exciting moments and frustrations in relatively equal measure thanks to the ambiguous nature of its marble physics. This unique juxtaposition often proves likable even if it can occasionally be hard to love.
Double Dragon Gaiden focuses on replayability to its detriment. Solid combat mechanics give way to balance considerations made to justify all of the difficulty sliders and upgrade systems. If I had to pick between a game with a lot of "replayability" versus a game I simply like to play, the latter will win out every time. Double Dragon Gaiden isn't far off from being enjoyable on the merits of the gameplay alone, but it's far enough to consider going back to the dojo and polishing its Sou-Setsu-Ken technique.
Humanity is vast, clever, inventive, and eclectic. It constantly proposes new ideas that redefine the basic experience into a grand design of puzzle mechanics that are just as fun to experiment with as they are to think about. While its best-laid plans have some faults, it all works out in the end. You couldn't ask for a better reflection of humanity than Humanity.
Street Fighter 6 takes the series to the next stage with a wildly fun fighting system that emphasizes personal choice. Each mainline Street Fighter tends to define its era of fighting games in some way, and Street Fighter 6 confidently steps forward to that next era. From its battle system to its bevvy of modes such as World Tour, it dives deep into everything that makes fighting games great.
When you return to a return, you risk drowning in sentiment to the detriment of the experience. Instead, Return to Dream Land Deluxe skillfully channels its sentiments to refresh Kirby's legacy and add something new on top of it. It is perhaps the most Kirby game to ever Kirby, and there's nothing wrong with that.
Symphonia regenerated the traditional RPG structure with smartly designed battle mechanics and well-fleshed out cast of characters. It remains a favorite of mine to this day and I'm glad to get the opportunity to experience it again, even if this re-release can never truly recapture the original effect it had on me. The remaster translates the regenerative nature of Symphonia competently, but this is the kind of game that deserves a remaster that goes the extra mile.
Rather than being a game for people who miss the old school ninja platformers of yesteryear, Moonrider feels more like a game made for the people who miss the idea of them, rather than the games themselves. The game borrows liberally from its inspirations and combines them into a game that looks and plays the part just fine. It just doesn't push itself or the player on a level that will fully satisfy people who still regularly enjoy the games it takes from.
Valkyrie Profile uses the conventions of a dungeon crawler to highlight an aspect of games, and really humanity itself, that often goes understated. The path to our true calling is vague, confusing, and full of trial and error. If you're willing to persevere and think beyond the immediate path before you, however, you reach your full potential. You might like Valkyrie Profile, too!