Super Mario Maker 2 is like a side-scrolling trip down memory lane for Mario fans minus the kids yelling "are we there yet" in the back seat. The sequel not only tickles your creative fancies but also adds a bevy of fun features not present in the first game, such as a new story mode, even more tools and the Super Mario 3D World style. Admittedly, the 3D World portion is a bit limited and isn't quite as feature-complete as the other styles. If you love designing levels or want to check out the Super Mario Maker 2 community's crazy concoctions, however, this game will have you exclaiming "Mama Mia."
Super Neptunia RPG features great music, wonderful visuals and that kooky Neptunia storytelling and dialogue that fans of the series know and love. Unfortunately, the overall experience is taken down several notches by the gameplay, which features pretty basic platforming, a multitude of fetch quests and combat that could be more fleshed out. Newcomers will probably not want to nep to this particular beat but hardcore fans will still enjoy its very Neptunia-ish writing and dialogue
Dragon Quest Builders 2 takes the original’s solid formula and turns it into an even more enjoyable building exercise, thanks to new additions such as farming and combat sidekick Malroth. Existing elements from the previous game also get a lot of polish, with NPCs being more plentiful and more entertaining as well. Add a greatly improved narrative and DQB2 is an example of a sequel done, er, built right. If you loved the original or are pining for a Minecraft-style game with more action and storytelling, you’ll absolutely adore this one.
Like reincarnated divinity, SolSeraph tries to rekindle the flames of cult classic ActRaiser by merging side-scrolling action with town building. The result is an homage that recaptures some of the old magic, even if it doesn’t quite reach the lofty heights of its original predecessor. Some spots are admittedly rough and could use extra depth or polish. SolSeraph’s high points, however, remind you why the first game was so beloved among its fans and the Yuzo Koshiro soundtrack sounds heavenly. As such, I’d love to see Ace Team take another stab at the formula now that they’ve got this under their belt.
Citizens of Space is a fun old-school-style RPG with a nice recipe that improves on Citizens of Earth, but could’ve used a bit more time in the oven. The Paper Mario-style combat is a strong point, especially with the plethora of strategies you can use to mix things up. The alien and enemy designs are also interesting and look great visually. The game’s reliance on fetch quests and RNG encounters, however, can get taxing and its attempts at humor also can be hit or miss. Add some issues with glitches and you have a game that’s solid overall but doesn't quite reach its full potential.
Cadence of Hyrule is a unique take on a beloved franchise that combines old school Legend of Zelda with an indie vibe. The base action can be a bit too simple and exploration could be more fleshed out. Its unique rhythm mechanics, however, combined with its Zelda inspired look and sound just might make skeptics sing a different tune once they try it out. It could very well be music to your ears.
What is this strange familiar feeling that I’m experiencing, I wonder? Oh, that’s right, sore thumbs! As someone who counts the first two games as my favorite in the series, the new Samurai Shodown is a much welcome blast from the past. Don’t worry about the jump to 3D, either. This new iteration plays just like a SamSho game and looks great to boot. Folks who prefer later games in the series or more modern fighting games might not like the back-to-basics approach. If you pine for the golden age of fighting games when SNK and Capcom titles ruled the arcade scene, however, the new Samurai Shodown is bloody fun, pure and simple.
Part physics simulation, tower defense and Monty Python-esque historical satire, Rock of Ages 2: Bigger and Boulder finally rolls its way into the Switch. While the game remains fun and being able to take it on the road is great, the Switch version, unfortunately, suffers from a lack of local co-op. Thankfully, you can still play against others online but you might be better off getting it for other systems for the full experience.
Journey to the West meets Rayman in this reimagining of the classic Chinese tale. Unruly Heroes features gorgeous, fluid visuals and creative character designs that impress. Some of the tougher sections can feel a bit cheap and the lack of online co-op is a bummer. If you’re pining for a classic platformer with modern touches, however, this journey just might scratch that itch.
Dragon Star Varnir isn’t perfect. The narrative starts out pretty rough and the environs can also look dated at times. Despite those shortcomings, the storytelling also has powerful moments and forces you to mull over some tough choices. The witch designs are also neat and its dragon-devouring mechanic also has a bit of a Pokemon vibe to it that will make you want to catch ‘em all. Dragon Star Varnir may not provide the best of first impressions. Give it some time, however, and you might find a game that pleasantly surprises you in the end.
Class VII’s overachievers return for a different kind of lesson in The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II. The game hews closely to its predecessor’s style so it won’t feel as fresh but also should delight fans of the first game eager to see more of Class VII adventures and story. It’s also unapologetically old school whether it be its visual style or adherence to turn-based combat. At a time when more and more JRPGs are walking away from older conventions, it continues to be refreshing to see a well-done entry in the genre that celebrates them instead.
Persona meets Etrian Odyssey once again in Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth. Boasting a cast that spans Persona 3, Persona 4 and Persona 5, Q2 does a great job in creating a crossover that doesn’t feel like a bad reunion tour. Admittedly, the large dungeons combined with RNG encounters can feel like a slog at times. Its entertaining storytelling and fun turn-based combat, however, make it a great pickup for Persona fans. Even if I saw this one coming, I’m still quite glad that it’s here.
Adorable chibi characters stacked on top of each other like Japanese dango? Fast-paced, old-school 2D action with buttery animation and colorful visuals? Sign me up! Lapis x Labyrinth is a charming dungeon crawler that combines loot-based action with modern hand-drawn visuals that old-school gamers will appreciate. While the story feels tacked on and the grind can wear you down if the RNG gods decide not to smile upon you, Lapis x Labyrinth still checks off a lot of boxes that fans of hectic side-scrolling action appreciate. Check it out if you’re itching for some 2D looting action.
God's Trigger is a fast-paced, twin-stick action game that knows it is campy and kitschy and does not apologize for it. It's also unapologetically unforgiving, so you're likely going to die. A lot. At least you will as you try to learn the game's various nuances while facing enemy hordes. The gameplay could use some extra polish and the solo experience feels a tad lacking compared to multiplayer. If you're a fan of Hotline Miami, however, then this is the kind of angel or devil's food cake you'll want to get and eat, too.
Hold it! The original Ace Attorney hits the big(ger) screen as the Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy arrives on consoles and PC. The writing continues to hold up well even after all these years and the ability to play the original games on the TV is a treat. It would have been nice if more new features were added aside from the upgraded visuals. For those new to the series or Ace Attorney veterans who haven't played the games in years, however, I have no objections in recommending this particular trilogy.
Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain introduces some big changes to to the B movie-style shooting franchise, including universal weapon use among classes, streamlined gear acquisition and improved visuals. Some of the changes might not necessarily please some series veterans, especially when it comes to the lower enemy counts. It does make the game more accessible to newcomers, though, so this can be a good time to try the franchise out if you've never played EDF before.
Mortal Kombat 11 boasts what is arguably the best core fighting game experience in the series with a roster that spans the franchise's history. Its excellent fighting mechanics, top-notch visuals and exhaustive narrative, however, are stabbed in the back by the unforgiving grind for its unlockables — a grind that not only eats your time but also seemingly at your soul. It's quite unfortunate as this could have been the best Mortal Kombat game in my opinion. Its base foundation is that good. But the merciless grind can make you forget about that goodness after it constantly beats you down.
With more than 1,000 cards to unlock, a campaign mode and online battling, Super Dragon Ball Heroes World Mission can be a hoot for fans itching to play a Dragon Ball-themed card game. At the same time, its more streamlined battle system combined with its use of arcade mechanics in a card game also makes its fun levels drop to less than 9,000 for folks looking for a more traditional TCG experience a laYu-Gi-Oh or Magic the Gathering.
Kirby's Extra Epic Yarn brings back the unique, stringy platforming of the Wii original and then some, adding new mini-games and a harder difficulty mode to boot. Unfortunately, it also takes out the original's excellent co-op mode, which will be a bummer for folks who are hoping to play the game with friends and family once more. It's not a deal breaker, especially for folks who don't have interest in multiplayer. For people like me who had a blast with co-op in the Wii version, however, it just makes this rendition feel a little bit less epic.
The Division 2 might not walk like a traditional Tom Clancy game or quack like a traditional Tom Clancy game. But it's still a fun title that exemplifies a loot shooter done right. The story could admittedly be better fleshed out and it suffers from some bugs and hiccups here and there. At a time when some highly-anticipated game launches over-promise and under-deliver, however, it's nice to see a game that feels complete right off the bat.