Digitally Downloaded's Reviews
Most of all, I love and adore the work that Kazushige Nojima has done with the narrative (especially the ending that, once again, challenges everything we assumed about the FFVII plot), and he further entrenches himself as arguably the most innovative and creative writer in JRPGs with Rebirth.
I had a lot of fun playing (or, more accurately, replaying) Mario Vs. Donkey Kong. It’s a brightly-coloured, wholesome good time, and the rare all-ages puzzle game that strikes the right balance between making sure that everyone that plays it feels smart, without being condescending about it. As much fun as it is, however, this is one of the most transient games that Nintendo has published in quite some time. You’ll play it, enjoy it, and very quickly forget about it because it is, ultimately, a remake of once of Nintendo’s most niche titles – a title that was niche for a very good reason.
It’s difficult to recommend Tomb Raider I-III Remastered as a thing that people should play. The games in the collection – especially the first one – are classics, though they’re not classics for the way they pushed gameplay or storytelling forward. They’re quite deficient in these areas. Tomb Raider is a classic because it helped redefine the nature of what a digital character could be. Sure, we had Mario and the Final Fantasy characters well before Tomb Raider, but those were closer to mascots. In Lara Croft we had a kind of human-proxy superstar for the first time. To many people, the gameplay didn’t matter. Not when rumours were spreading of nude codes for this new superstar.
The best art tells us something of relevance to the world around us. Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden is a dark and intense fantasy of ghosts, vengeance, and human resilience through the bleakest of nightmares. It’s unfortunate that it offers such a strong allegory to the real world, yet it does and that makes it all the more thought-provoking, however inadvertent it was for the developers. Thankfully it’s also exceptionally good to play, even as it challenges your intellect and moral core.
But redundant stats buried away in a menu I never had to really look at also don’t affect the quality of the game. Not only does Death Mark 2 tell an exceptional, authentic Japanese story of spirits, tragedy, sadism and mystery, but I’m struggling to think of a game that looks better on the Nintendo Switch. Especially if you’ve got an OLED model. Truly, Experience Inc. has the finest horror artists in the entire games industry, and it’s truly sad that only a few thousand people will ever be aware of that.
Konosuba was a fun project for PQube to localise. It – like the material it’s based on – is by no means classic, but it’s playful, and often laugh-out-loud funny, even if there are times that you wish you didn’t find it quite as amusing as you did.
I had fun with Yuuna and the Haunted Hot Springs The Thrilling Steamy Maze Kiwami, but then I am a hardcore fan of classical roguelikes. I still play Chocobo’s Mystery Dungeon every once in a while, and I am looking forward to the next Shiren the Wanderer a great deal. Given that the fan service is neither fun nor sexy enough and the game doesn’t do anything else to stand out within its niche, it’s not my favourite roguelike. But I don’t regret having played it by any means.
On one level I am sure that there will be people that appreciate that, after all this time, they finally have a Stargate SG1 game. I just can’t help but see it as a missed opportunity on every level. Stargate was, at its core, a narrative-driven (not action) show about exploring the stars, meeting alien species and embracing science over religion. A more grounded take on Star Trek, basically. An isometric RPG in the vein of Disco Elysium would have certainly been harder to produce, but much more appropriate to the ideology and intent of Stargate than this stealth tactics title. It’s well-crafted and were it not carrying the license it would have been much easier to enjoy. Painted as it is, however, it’s far too dissonant and incoherent to be the celebration of the property that it needed to be.
I refuse to play mobile gatcha games (in part because I know that I’m the kind of personality that would get too hooked on a favourite one if I found one). However, I have always found Granblue Fantasy’s vision and promise particularly intriguing. The fighting game whet my appetite, but Granblue Fantasy Relink has been my first real exposure to the property. Not only are the characters, setting, lore and world building every bit as enjoyable as I hoped from all the promo material I’ve seen over the years, but for a “spin-off” this is a much better action RPG than I was anticipating. While eight years is no doubt longer than Cygames hoped to spend developing Granblue Fantasy Relink, the wait has been worth it and this is, potentially, the start of a very big new property that will rival the best that Bandai Namco, SEGA and Square Enix produce.
While I personally prefer the more textured narrative of Persona 4, the unrelenting focus and intensity of Persona 3 means that it still stands out as one of the greatest and most intelligent video game narratives. The developers haven’t done too much to mess with that (the decision to leave out a “post-game” chapter that was both technically unnecessary but yet well-regarded notwithstanding), and have otherwise focused on modernising both the look and flow of the game to make it the most enjoyable and “clean” version of Persona 3 yet. Persona has a habit of attracting purists, and I foresee the discourse around this remake being particularly volatile. However, personally, I’ll be over there looking forward to the inevitable announcement that Persona 4 will get this treatment too.
I love the Pixel Pulp series due to the storytelling and art. So I definitely like the visual novel part. But I get so very frustrated with most of the mini-games. I’m in this weird place where I have to juggle which is more important to me, narrative or gameplay. And honestly, narrative will win out every single time. Bahnsen Knights is a curious, creepy celebration of the pulp fiction genre. I have really enjoyed seeing the developer grow over the three games in the Pixel Pulp series, and I cannot wait to see what it does next. I bet nobody will see it coming.
Tekken 8 is, without a doubt, a highly polished gemstone of a fighting game, and it offers players the opportunity to demonstrate some truly elite skills through the aggressive, offensive-first focus on the combat system. But outside of the overly serious, hardcore fighting game community, it’s difficult to see this capturing the imagination of many.
Another Code: Recollections is a “memory” that should be valued and now, thanks to this release, will avoid “fading” for some years to come yet. You can argue that it highlights fundamental weaknesses in puzzle and adventure games, where developers feel such an urgent need to make sure players don’t get stuck (and subsequently give up on the game) that they ensure the game basically plays itself. Recollections is certainly an easier experience than the games it is a remake of. But the real value of Cing’s cult masterpieces has been the stories they’ve told and the evocative and rich ambience of the storytelling environment, and the remake, here, builds on those qualities in a remarkable fashion.
The Monty Mole Collection isn’t extremely expensive, and that’s perhaps its saving grace, because examining its fare won’t set you back a lot. But in the shadow of far superior collections that genuinely pay homage to why retro gaming is so important to not only be preserved but played, this is definitely second-rate. Monty may or may not be innocent, but he deserved better than this.
Even if you love The Last Of Us 2. Even if you think it’s the Citizen Kane of video games. Even if you think that Shakespeare himself would have thrown in the towel after seeing this game, realising he could never compete with it as a storyteller, you must surely realise that a game that is four years old and is readily available on your current console doesn’t need the remaster. Surely you understand that this is a ridiculous excess, done purely to milk revenue out of fans, and that it’s particularly frustrating given that Sony is sitting on dozens of incredible properties. That it would rather leave all of them on ice and inaccessible to release this indulgence just isn’t acceptable.
I think I would have appreciated My Next Life as a Villainess so much more if I was an existing fan of the property. Otomate seems to have created something that is a fascinating observation of the otome genre and a very funny, character-driven “romance” story to go with it. Unfortunately, too much of that washed over my head. While I totally respect that developers of games can assume that players have read or seen something else first, and that their game is a continuation of an existing story, I would suggest that giving newcomers the option of a 10-minute summary to catch up first would be a helpful way for those of us coming in fresh to at least understand the basics before we’re thrown in the narrative deep end.
One might not end up being remembered as fondly as some other classics from the formative era of the visual novel genre (you’ll realise how good that pun is when you play the game for yourself), but it is nonetheless a worthy and surprisingly touching genre classic. Thanks to excellent modernisation, it has a high chance of finding an all-new audience now.
For all its warts, though, it’s also a genuinely interesting and intense mind puzzle. I have no doubt that Metro Quester will not sell as well as Kemco’s usual by-the-number SNES-era JRPG clones. It isn’t as instantly accessible or familiar. But if Kemco published more games like this it would be a publisher to respect and pay closer attention to. These kinds of quirky, different, and memorable experiences are what we need to see more of.
I’ve seen more than a few people express surprise that Terra Nil is a Devolver Digital-published work, and I’m really not sure what they understand about the company. This is a game that gently reinforces a fundamentally positive and progressive view of the world and does so by transgressing the status quo and challenging expectations of both genre and theme. That has always been Devolver’s MO, and Terra Nil is perhaps the most important and timely project in its catalogue to date.
Despite these criticisms, Age of Sigmar: Realms of Ruin gets the fundamentals right, and provides a highly effective and engaging streamlined RTS that feels like it a genuine effort to modernise the classic approach to the genre. The MOBA-like battle maps and focus on constantly-moving aggression might put those players off who enjoy a more defensive tactics, and the whole thing will be over way too early if you’re not prepared to get involved in the multiplayer, but no one can deny that this is a flashy and exciting skirmish-level Warhammer game that sits nicely within the broader library of grand strategy, RPG, and action titles that use the license these days.