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.
Move over, Uncle Ben. There’s a new rice god in town. Sakuna of Rice and Ruin lets you have your grains and eat them too by serving up a nice heaping of action alongside one of the most detailed and meticulous systems for rice farming that you’ll ever see in a game. Admittedly, the agriculture side can feel like work sometimes and gameplay can become a bit repetitive as you go through multiple years. Its uncanny attention to detail and refreshing take on the farming genre, however, makes Sakuna a game worth adding to your daily diet.
Despite not being as big a fan of sports games like I used to be, EA’s NHL series is the one I still have a soft spot for among the ongoing crop of sports titles. I just like its balance of fun gameplay and how it doesn’t shamelessly abuse microtransactions like other more popular sports games out there. For NHL 21, the series brings in a more fleshed out Be A Pro mode as well as more intuitive movement on the ice. The minimal improvements to franchise mode, however, combined with the lack of key fan-requested features such as shared rosters make NHL 21 feel incomplete. All in all, it’s still one of the better, more consumer-friendly sports games out there. At the same time, I also feel that it could still be much better.
Kirby Fighters 2 is a family-friendly game that serves as a great introduction to the genre, especially for younger children. Content is a bit on the sparse side, however, and will leave you wanting more. And for folks who want more technical combat from their fighting games, the simple mechanics of Kirby Fighters 2 likely won’t hold their attention for long. If you’re a big Kirby fan or want a cute and accessible game to play with your family, however, Kirby Fighters 2 is still worth biting into, especially given its affordable price.
Death end re;Quest 2 serves up an experience that can be described as bloody interesting — literally. The game doesn’t shy away from disturbing imagery as well as portraying uncomfortable topics such as abuse, bullying and violence. The combat system, meanwhile, combines classic turned-based RPG battling with pinball physics, resulting in a unique experience. The game can admittedly be rough around the edges and it won’t be for everyone. If you like Idea Factory’s offbeat titles, however, Death end re;Quest 2 is another solid addition.
Just when you think you know the answers, 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim changes the questions as you’re left guessing with how its sci-fi mystery unfolds. Admittedly, the game’s non-traditional narrative approach can be confusing and its reliance on popular science fiction themes can also make it feel derivative at first. Stick with it, however, and you just might find an unexpected treat. Add some fun giant robot tactical combat to the mix and 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim actually lets you have your peach tart and eat it, too.
As someone who remembers playing the original Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles, I’m surprised about how well the game holds up after more than a decade and a half. Admittedly, some aspects of its visuals and mechanics feel dated and schlepping around on bucket duty can be a pain. Overall, however, the game remains fun to play, especially when doing so with other people thanks to its new online features and crossplay. Pick up the free "Lite" edition if you want to try it out first.
Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris boasts one of the most fun combat systems I’ve seen in a SAO game to date, replete with a nice selection of weapon types and playstyles to boot. It’s just unfortunate how that fun combat is gated behind an unevenly paced narrative that tends to overstay its welcome at times — and I’m a proponent for more storytelling in games. The game won’t be for everyone. Folks who are willing to break through its wall of text, however, will find some great action hidden behind all that exposition.