Tightly designed to a fault, the game's rigid structure works well to present eight different perspectives. From the way each of the characters' unique skills make exploration and combat engaging to the wonderful rhythm of the thoughtful turn-based battles, there are enough excellent ideas in Octopath Traveler that help to overlook some glaring flaws.
Though the stakes still feel too low at times, the game is focused examining the effect the war has on regular citizens, so being removed from the action at times makes sense. Trails of Cold Steel II ultimately tells a more complete and compelling story than the first game.
Trails of Cold Steel III is a fine sequel, although the game often seems to struggling beneath the weight of its growing cast of characters and intersecting stories. As a continuation, it’s a game strictly for existing fans, who’ll get a lot out of it even if they haven’t consumed every last tidbit of Trails content.
Final Fantasy XV is a flawed experiment that still has its charms. Though it's a shame to see a series that was once on the forefront of storytelling in RPGs completely lose the plot it absolutely nails the road trip feel and the relationships between the core cast of characters.
Though the story takes a while to get going, it does have the same charm I've come to expect from the franchise. It's more of the same, but it's a lot more and fans of the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon games should appreciate most of the new gameplay tweaks and a colossal range of dungeons to dive into.
Where Hero and Daughter really stands out is the gameplay, with a number of legitimately innovative systems. Though the portrayal of its female cast leaves something to be desired, each of the characters have a range of interesting skills to make use of in attempting to break the game in interesting ways.
Trillion executes its themes of family and sacrifice very well thanks to a cast of endearing characters, but as you might expect from a game based around a single boss fight, there's a lot of repetition. Those who don't want to spend hours staring at menus and tweaking characters' stats to even stand a chance in battle should stay away, but Trillion has plenty of challenge for those who do and the permadeath gives it much higher stakes.
The selling point of Disgaea is its uniqueness, so it loses out on a lot the second time around. It’s still fun to build up a team to ridiculous levels, set up crazy combo attacks and discover rare loot, but there’s not much to Disgaea 2 PC that really builds on the original. Although Disgaea fans will appreciate how much more postgame content is in store, some of the changes like the felony system and the weaker story and cast make the game worse. Make no mistake, Disgaea 2 PC is still a good game, but Nippon Ichi were so prolific during this time that there are far stronger games in their back catalogue to spend 50+ hours on
With its compelling cast and setting, I can see why Hakuoki got so popular, but by now there are better otome games out in English with more eye-catching art, less obtuse route requirements and heroines who aren’t quite as content to let everyone treat them like trash. Still, Kyoto Winds makes for a fun choose-your-own adventure tale; one playthrough is short, but there are a lot of different outcomes to explore.
Even when the story reaches its climax, it still feels like the Taranis team is just going through the motions, fighting through similar waves of machines while occasionally taking a break to plant tomatoes. Fuga certainly drags on, but at the same time it’s so conceptually unique and visually charming that it's easy to forgive some of its flaws.
Lost Dimension has an interesting premise that the character writing can’t quite support, although the unique, possibly unintended tone that paints Sho as a complete sociopath certainly doesn’t hurt. The tactical turn-based combat is competent and the changing traitors force players to experiment with different psychic abilities.
The strange structure and difficulty curve means that newcomers to this style of RPG might not make it much further than the tutorials. While there’s some fun Touhou flavour for the items and gear (I was pleasantly surprised when a status effect temporarily turned everything into creepy “yukkuri” heads), it never really elevates the game from being more than another Mystery Dungeon clone.
The lack of cynicism makes The Longest Five Minutes a likeable enough journey into the past. The writing isn’t particularly funny or profound, but the game presents its story in a novel way that moves at a brisk pace and is backed up by a great musical score. That’s worthy of at least five minutes of fame.
The split release makes it feels like a collection of epilogues rather than the second half of a story and emphasises just how similar the routes are. The strengths of the original visual novel are still here: a large cast of samurai to pursue, plenty of action and plot twists if you're not there for the romance and some welcome glimpses at life in this interesting time period. If you can stomach parts of the story, it makes for a fascinating follow-up to Hakuoki: Kyoto Winds.
With some interesting combat mechanics and wide range of creatures to collect, The Lost Child makes for a passable, if not particularly compelling JRPG. Were it not for a dearth of dungeon crawlers on the Nintendo Switch, this is a tale you could easily skip.