It’s easy to wonder if this game’s sequel will be even more grandiose, if it will have Link go the cosmic route of Nintendo’s plumber mascot Mario and end up in outer space. Maybe we’ll get to see him jump off of the moon before gradually descending upon Hyrule yet again. If so, one can only hope that more than just the path back down to Zelda’s kingdom will be littered with truly novel, go-for-broke creative highs of the sort that not just Super Mario Galaxy and its sequel rode, but earlier Legend of Zelda games as well. Because balancing tradition with innovation doesn’t make a game like Tears of the Kingdom, or any other for that matter, soar if the most transparent thing about it is how it chooses to ride in on another’s coattails.
There’s a decent amount of strategy that’s required in order to accomplish any of the investigation’s objectives in a limited amount of turns, but these end up constituting such a low amount of the game’s playtime that you’re left wishing for a better balance between Process of Elimination’s non-interactive sections and the far too scarce interactive segments. The game is an absurdist lark, with a few potent howlers and some delirious plotting, but also one that never quite compensates for the overwhelming amount of text that it forces you to read.
While Trails to Azure’s barrier to entry is quite high for those who’ve never played a Trails game—and even if you’ve played Trails from Zero, there’s still a mind-numbing amount of new lore here to keep up with—the game’s still worth the plunge. You’ll be lost in the dark for a few hours, and probably for several more after that, but few JRPGs in recent memory can boast gameplay mechanics this dynamic or storytelling abilities as accomplished.
With Mask of the Lunar Eclipse, you must take the good it offers along with its regressive design in order to even begin to ride its eerie wavelength. Which, for what it’s worth, is an exceptionally uncanny ride that never puts on the breaks long enough for boredom to ever set in, as even its wildest swings result in some considerably discomforting set pieces (the funeral-themed room inhabited by the hostile spirit Kageri Sendou and her maleficent doll Watashi, while a tad on the nose in its design, is a disturbing highlight). This may not be a game that was made for these modern times, but for those willing to put up with its old-school frustrations, it’s also one that will certainly keep you up at night and stick in your subconscious for weeks to come.
What makes Fire Emblem Engage especially frustrating is that, even for all of its glaring issues, there’s an undeniable joy in successfully conquering a difficult battalion through a mixture of skill, luck, and good timing. That, or spamming a series of well-placed special moves and calling it a day. But since the infrastructure around these battles is so lacking, this latest entry in Intelligent Systems’s long-standing series amounts to not much more than a glorified chess match, albeit one with a few more fire-spewing dragons running around to spice things up.
It’s astonishing how a game as clearly unpolished as this could be allowed onto the market, especially once you consider that it’s representing a media franchise that’s made approximately 92 billion dollars to date. (The easy answer is that this is yet another example of a major release being rushed out to meet an approaching holiday deadline, where quality greatly suffers in the name of convenience, but that’s a story for another time.) If players choose to squint their eyes and push on through—and, hopefully, don’t clip into the ground or encounter any game-breaking glitches that will force them to restart their save file—then that old Pokémon charm might still be an adequate reason to give Pokémon Violet a pass. But before the franchise can ever truly hope to redefine itself in the future, Game Freak desperately needs to iron out the issues that are currently holding Pokémon back by at least two console generations.
All that said, there’s still a solid-enough idea at the center of Sonic Frontiers that could possibly make for a great game in the future, which is more than could be said of infamous stinkers like Sonic Unleashed or Sonic Lost World. If a sequel could provide players with the same type of freedom that Sonic’s been afforded—and, perhaps, if it could stay in the incubation chamber a little longer until proper gestation—then Sega’s blue hedgehog might get to soar to new heights.