Rebirth is sure to be a more divisive and debated game than Remake was. But in this deep sea of an RPG, I was thrilled by the action and the tactics, brought to emotional highs and lows through its characters, and found myself with an even greater love of FF7, the original and this return, than I thought was possible.
No matter all this griping, nothing should take away from the most important thing: that this preserves three vitally important games from gaming history—in their original form—for at least another few years. The new art and controls can be switched off, meaning you’ve got those classic games on your latest console, and that’s not to be sniffed at. Every other aspect, however: sniff away.
Suicide Squad is a poster child for the kind of games that live between great and awful. While that might be enough for some, I can’t imagine the devs who worked hard on Suicide Squad (or publisher WB, who footed the bill for the game) wanted it all to end with what amounts to a shrug emoji. Yet, here we are. At least the shotguns are cool.
That knack of managing to evoke emotion with so many established storytelling conventions is what makes Granblue Fantasy Relink feel special. In a landscape full of attempts to rekindle nostalgia or capture the essence of yesteryear’s most memorable games, Cygames did one better. Relink isn’t interested in trying to recapture those feelings. It reminds me why they were special to begin with.
Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown is an exceptional Metroidvania that’s as accessible as it is punishing. It’s an impressive accomplishment, one that exemplifies how approachable doesn’t mean dumbed down. I’ve certainly had my fair share of frustrations during my multiple hours with it, but I’ve also come away from The Lost Crown feeling more excited about the genre than I have been in a long time.
The Last of Us Part II Remastered is the best way to play this truly excellent game, with sky-high stakes, stunning visuals, rewarding exploration, and phenomenally varied and thrilling combat. But to get the most out of it, you’ll probably need to have a stronger stomach than I do.
Since its release late last year, Epic has updated Lego Fortnite a few times to fix things and tweak settings. And the company is promising bigger updates in the future, which will likely be free, too. So one of the best Lego games ever made is going to only get bigger and better as time goes on. And all you have to do to play it is download Fortnite. 2024 is a weird year.
Alan Wake 2 is hardly some flawless masterpiece. It sometimes overindulges in easy jump scares, and while its narrative highs are very high, the momentum also flags from time to time. But I’d argue that it’s a game in which even the flaws contribute to its texture as a fresh and original experience, not a focus-tested product but a work that has a vision and really goes for it. You don’t need to be a writer for the struggles that Alan Wake and Saga Anderson face here to resonate with you. You just need to be a person who has ever looked inside yourself and faced doubt, fear, some deep uncertainty about your own value or your ability to handle the challenges ahead. And then done it anyway.
Even after completing everything there is to do in Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, I still feel the tug to return and hurl myself down the streets of its New York City one more time. Its serpentine comic-book drama and explosive set pieces might not stick with me for years to come, but I will forever hear the siren call of its bustling world and the effortless grace with which it pulled me through it.
Detective Pikachu Returns isn’t setting up a sequel, and while I’m glad to have some closure, I am sad to leave Ryme City. Sometimes I get tired of sending Pokémon out for battle to knock each other out, and I just want to go on adventures with Pikachu by my side. Detective Pikachu Returns is imperfect, but lets me revisit the Pokémon world I’d most like to live in. I hope, even if this is the end of Tim and Pikachu’s story, it’s not the end of The Pokémon Company doing interesting, off-the-wall adventure games that can look at this universe in fresh ways.
It’s nice, in 2023, to play a modern AAA open-world video game that doesn’t feel like a slog to work through. One which rewards stealth and non-lethal tactics, too. When I was finished with almost everything Mirage had to offer—after about 25 hours—I found myself hopeful that Ubisoft will continue making not just big “RPG” Assassin’s Creed games, but also smaller, stealthier entries, too.
There are benefits to embracing a game like that, playing catch in your mind with how often you’ve chosen wrong, and why. Putting so much value in your actions can make you feel like you really are alive. There are consequences to it, sure, but there’s also relief you identify as grief. Or, maybe, the weird, free Steam game is only a weird, free Steam game. Either way, I’ll be thinking about How Fish Is Made for a long time.
The thing I loved most about playing Cocoon is how often I found answers without even seeking them. It’s so keen to share its secrets with you that it works harder at creating the illusion of being lost or stuck than it does at actually trying to stump the player or leave them feeling stranded. Like a complex sequence of sleight-of-hand coin tricks, its overwhelming layers are only there to disorient you long enough that you feel surprised and delighted when the object is revealed again. And Cocoon’s tricks are ones I won’t soon forget.
In Starfield, many might see a time-tested, signature charm. Others might see a time-worn, laborious monotony. These are fair perspectives. A game this large is hard to distill into one set of strengths or one set of weaknesses. As in other Bethesda games before it, you’ll likely have to make your own fun here, but in giving us not just a swath of post-apocalyptic terrain or a fantasy realm but an entire galaxy to explore this time, Starfield makes all the flaws and shortcomings of its patchwork world all the more glaring.
El Paso, Elsewhere is both a badass shooter and a study of how people handle toxic relationships. It walks that tightrope and sticks the landing so strongly that I ended the game and immediately wanted to play it again. And I probably will, because James needs me to help him once again save himself and the world.
But it’s also still this. Scarlet and Violet already showed major signs of technical stress, and the bulging seams are even more apparent in The Teal Mask. As much as I enjoyed this DLC, it remains disappointing that some of Pokémon’s best stuff is being dragged down by a game engine that feels like it’s just a slight breeze away from falling apart.
Ultimately, those final moments are the ones I leave Eternights thinking about. Where often the game feels like it’s struggling to execute its own ideas, it’s clear that it at least has ideas. It gets in its own way with what feel like expected genre pressures to undermine itself, but it knows the emotions it wants the player to feel, and they aren’t as superfluous as the gags at characters’ expense it throws out along the way. It makes me hopeful about what this studio might make in the future, because while Eternights may be imperfect, it’s clearly made by a team that wants to create moments like this game’s finale, ideally supported by games that are fully deserving of them. It just needs to work on ironing out all the wrinkles that held this game back.
I’m over seeing girls’ cuteness being understood as their obedience—to social expectations, to men’s interpretation, whatever—and I don’t need Fae Farm following suit by serving us hollow chocolate bunnies, something easy to eat. Other modern cozy games have already demonstrated that the genre can handle emotional depth, and I prefer that to the worn-out Harvest Moon picnic blanket. We can wrap ourselves in something more prickly, life sims’ primarily female audience is certainly capable of complexity. Women like more than flowers and marriage. We contain multitudes. It’s not a big deal.