Once in a while, you come across a game that surprises you in the most pleasant ways. Monster Hunter Stories 2 went above and beyond my expectations for the sequel with its wonderful visuals as well as a story with plenty of heart, poignancy as well as some good old fun thrown in between. It’s obvious that a great amount of effort was put in this game and it shows. Given how the first game underperformed, Monster Hunter Stories 2 is a game that shouldn’t have been made. Thank goodness that it was.
New Pokemon Snap is a worthy follow-up to the N64 original that oozes charm and good vibes. From its lush and colorful visuals to its simple yet addicting photography-based gameplay, there’s certainly a lot to like in this creative “shooter.” Parts of it can feel repetitive and some side quests can feel like a grind. The lack of co-op play is also a bummer. While it isn’t picture-perfect, however, New Pokemon Snap remains a wonderful addition to the franchise.
R-Type Final 2 is a solid attempt at bringing back the classic series to more modern times. The R9 itself plays very well and boss fights can be hot and hectic. The level design, however, can be hit or miss and the lack of adequate separation from the background and foreground can lead to some unexpected deaths. That being said, R-Type 2 feels like an R-Type game, even if it might not necessarily look like one at times. If you’re looking for an old-school style shmup that provides a tough challenge, you’ll want to pick this one up.
Neptunia Virtual Stars serves up the same zany storytelling that you’ve come to expect from the series mixed with third-person shooting and hack-and-slash action. While the gameplay shows flashes of promise, the overall experience is stymied by the game’s basic level design, uneven difficulty and poor AI for whichever partner you are not controlling. While the game might be a pass for most, it might still be worth getting for hardcore Neptunia fans for the dialogue alone, which remains hilariously on point.
Persona 5 Strikers can be a bit complicated to rate, particularly for folks who love Warriors games but don’t like Persona games or folks who love Persona games but don’t like Warriors games. I can honestly see its fusion of mechanics from both franchises either pleasing or alienating either fan base, whether it be its chunky story or the addition of sneaking mechanics in a Warriors game. If you happen to like Warriors games and Persona 5, however, Persona 5 Strikers is the kind of game that just might steal your heart.
Capcom could have easily just mailed it in when it came to creating a new Monster Hunter game for the Switch. Monster Hunter Rise, however, goes above and beyond expectations by serving up a visual and technical masterpiece on Nintendo’s hybrid portable console. Rise builds on the new gameplay foundation introduced by Monster Hunter World while adding even more features and quality-of-life improvements. My only wish was that it had more content as the game felt a bit short.
Bowser’s Fury is a short but sweet addition to the classic Wii U title that adds one angry Koopa king and a more open-world approach to the game. Whether it’s worth re-buying 3D World once again depends on how much you value four extra hours of new gameplay — perhaps a few more extra if you try to get every hidden collectible. For Mario fans who have never experienced the original Wii U game, however, getting Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury is pretty much a no-brainer.
Franklin Roosevelt once famously said that we have nothing to fear but fear itself. Then again, he was never chased by the oversized head of a giant schoolmarm with a serpentine neck. It’s just one example of the many surprises that Little Nightmares II has in store for players who wander into its bizarre and melancholic world. If you love creepy adventure thrillers with puzzle platforming to boot, this is one nightmare you’d want to tuck into.
It’s time for some alchemical romance once again as Atelier Ryza 2 builds on the positive elements of its predecessor while also addressing previous issues. A skill tree helps make crafting more intuitive while improved map design and new field actions make exploration seem like an actual adventure. Combat is also more enjoyable thanks to even more opportunities to chain actions. Side quests can be fetchy and the game still has its share of chores that feel like busywork. Overall, though, Atelier Ryza 2 is an improved and polished follow-up that’s even better than the original.
All in all, Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity is a great addition to the Warriors franchise thanks to its more fleshed out combat as well as an addicting weapon skill system that can drain hours from players if they get hooked. Divine Beast combat is a bit of a mixed bag and old problems remain such as co-op being limited to local multiplayer. An intriguing storyline, however, combined with fun combat, a bevy of things to do and the ability to play as Hyrule’s legendary champions make Age of Calamity one of the best entries into the “musou” series to date.