Persona 5 Tactica impressed me by going well beyond my expectations. By merging traditional tactics RPG gameplay with ideas and concepts unique to the Persona series, it creates a fresh, exciting experience. When you bundle this creative foray into a new genre with a loveable cast of characters and an engaging narrative, you get one of the best games of 2023. If you loved Persona 5, pick this up. If you haven’t played Persona 5, do that, and then pick this up.
I’d recommend Like A Dragon Gaiden to any fan of the series, without hesitation. Of course, if you’re not caught up with the series then you’ll want to get up to the end of Yakuza: Like A Dragon before diving into Gaiden. This is definitely not a good entry point for the series, just in case you were wondering. With a grounded, cohesive narrative the game perfectly sets the stage for Infinite Wealth. It’s a joy to be back playing as Kiryu, and seeing him still growing as a character after all this time is incredibly rewarding. I enjoyed every moment of my time with Like A Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name and, barring some disappointment with the weaker than usual substories, I don’t have any real complaints. Another fantastic entry in a fantastic series.
Fashion Dreamer isn’t a perfect game, in fact it’s got quite a lot of issues. That said, I really enjoyed my time with it, and I plan on playing a whole lot more even after wrapping up my review. If you’re interested in fashion games, then you sort of have to pick this one up. There’s not much else like it out there nowadays. There are problems sure, but there’s also so much to love. The online social elements have been executed masterfully, and that should inject some real longevity to the game if the developers can address some of the quality of life concerns in the future. There is so much fun to be had, and so I do recommend Fashion Dreamer overall, just with the caveat that you’re going to rub up against some rough edges if you dive in.
Criminal Border 1st Offence (Liminal Border Part I) is a great introduction for the episodic series. I thoroughly enjoyed the 6 hours I spent with it. The narrative built to a strong conclusion that left me excited to pick up the next episode when it releases. I love the direction Purple Software took with the art style, giving the title a unique visual identity that fits well with its mature narrative. I’m looking forward to seeing more of Criminal Border and I hope it can deliver on the potential shown in this first episode.
In the end, Sword Art Online Last Recollection is a disappointment. The enticing promise of 45 playable characters is undercut by the monotony of combat, and the story is decently executed but entirely trite and predictable. This is the last entry in the Sword Art Online Gameverse, and I went in really wanting to love it. I’ve developed an appreciation for the game series over the years, in spite of its flaws. But I can’t find much appreciation at all for this. The game took me about forty hours to clear, and all I can say is that was about thirty hours too long. At least it's mercifully short compared to Alicization Lycoris. For diehard fans of the series perhaps it is worth picking up eventually, if only to see the journey through to the end. But for the majority of players who might be interested, I can’t recommend Sword Art Online Last Recollection. There was potential here, but it’s squandered. For the last entry in the series, this is no swan song. More like a goose gurgle.
I’ve had a brilliant time with Disgaea 7. Everything I’ve loved about the series is present here, wrapped up with a nice little bow. The effort made to refine elements from previous titles, and the new mechanical additions like the evil-gacha and jumbification, creates a fresh and fun experience. The personality and charm of the game’s characters is relentlessly compelling, and the comedic overtones keep the experience light and pacey. I can’t think of a better endorsement of Disgaea 7 than the fact that as soon as I’m done with this review I’ll be jumping right back into it.
Gears of Dragoon: Fragments of a New Era is a frustrating game. The narrative has some interesting ideas and worldbuilding, and it’s much better than the standard for eroRPGs. Unfortunately, the story isn’t really the focus here. Most of your time will be spent exploring the Dragonschaft, engaging with incredibly dull combat and progression. The mystique of the labyrinth is undermined by how boring it is to spend time in. The eroge elements are alright, but they’re definitely not worth the slog. I didn’t enjoy the majority of my time with Gears of Dragoon: Fragments of a New Era. I don’t think many people are likely to enjoy it. Whilst I was fairly engaged with the story, and the translation team did an excellent job with the script, it was constantly interrupted by the tedium of the gameplay. If you’re looking for a DRPG, there are many better options. If you’re looking for an eroRPG, there are many better options. Even if you’re looking for a solid story set in an interesting fantasy world, there are many better options.
I had a lovely time with Rune Factory 3 Special, and I think you would too. For those familiar with the series it’s another fantastic entry. For newcomers I think it serves as an excellent entry point, although with the caveat that there are some issues with direction and the learning curve. The game is elevated by a cast of charming characters, and much of the fun is found in events and interactions with the people of Sharance. The farming element is fun to dive into, and that little bit of additional complexity that Rune Factory adds makes it more fun to engage with than similar titles in my experience. If you appreciate cheap and cheerful combat, expansive crafting options, and delightful characters, then you should pick Rune Factory 3 Special up.
The Shell Part I: Inferno is a stunning experience. I was absolutely captured by the narrative and the themes it was drawing on and exploring. The writers know how to elicit some powerful emotion out of the reader, whether it be terror, grief, or occasionally relief. The music is masterfully crafted, lifting the entire experience beyond the already incredible high set by the narrative alone. The only significant negative for me is that tedium that sets in on additional playthroughs, but that feels like a minor gripe when weighed against everything I got out of The Shell. It’s worth playing through blind a few times over to experience the highs and lows of Reiji’s life as a detective, and then even though it’s difficult you have to get to the true ending to see The Shell deliver on everything it builds with its narrative.
If you’re here for romance I suspect you may be disappointed. There isn’t enough strength in the romantic writing for me to recommend it on that basis. Really Please Be Happy is more story than yuri. I was pleased and engaged by the experience but I do think it’s important to go in with the appropriate expectations. Please Be Happy is light, but it isn’t disposable. If you’re looking for a relaxed slice-of-life story with some thoughtful exploration of purpose and identity, with a small helping of romance, then I think Please Be Happy is a safe bet. If nothing else the wonderful art and music justify the price tag in my book.
So, should you give Dungeon Travelers 2: The Royal Library & the Monster Seal a shot? My general verdict is yes, but if you’re looking for a deep narrative to get immersed in and complex characters to explore, you’d be better off looking almost anywhere else. If you’re looking to ogle some anime girls with a thin veneer of deniability in the presence of gameplay, there are better options for you. But, if you’re looking for a well-crafted and engaging DRPG set against a serviceably fun story and world, with a panty shot thrown in every few hours to keep things fresh, congratulations. You are the target audience, Dungeon Travelers 2 sees you, it understands you, you are loved, you are valid. Go wild.