The malleable quality of Fire Emblem's weapons-triangle and pairing systems make them a natural fit for the hack n' slash genre. Even when I could barely tell what was going on on the crowded battlefield and my troops were a little too codependent, I enjoyed directing the action and jumping in to be part of the carnage. And while Fire Emblem Warriors makes poor use of the Fire Emblem universe's story and history, we still get traces of the relationships between the characters that make it memorable.
On the battlefield, Fire Emblem Echoes: Shades of Valentia is a delightful look into the simpler combat of Fire Emblem's past. Elsewhere, it carefully guides the series forward into new territory. There's not as much depth as I expect from this series, but whether I was exploring 3D forests, shrines, and caves in a series first, or learning first hand why Fire Emblem's early entries are considered a formidable challenge, it was usually good old-fashioned fun.
Nier: Automata is a crazy, beautiful, and highly entertaining journey full of nutty ideas and awesome gameplay. It may not include the most sensical story or compelling characters, but its frenzied combat -- coupled with beautiful visuals and a stunning soundtrack – make it too much fun to pass up.
Tales of Berseria is a surprisingly strong showing for this long-running series. Its tragic story of broken people fighting on the wrong side of history makes it utterly compelling, and its well-tuned combat more than makes up for its lack of interesting environments. Simply put, this is a tale to heartbreaking to miss, or to forget.
World of Final Fantasy is a humorous adventure that is just too cute for words, but its combat and exploration aren’t diverse enough to support a campaign nearly as long as this one. However, I did enjoy it for a long time - more than 30 hours - before it wore out its welcome.
In a lot of ways, Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE is a lot like the industry it’s poking fun at: it’s colorful, loud, shallow, and entertaining. Even when it threatened to bore or frustrate me into quitting with pointless loading screens and weak puzzle solving, it always drew me back in with its dazzling combat and catchy music. The story and characters may not have a lot of depth or sophistication, but it has style and charm, and I’m a big fan of that.
Fire Emblem: Revelation is an excellent final act to the Fates storyline. Its balance of difficulty and accessibility means that both veteran players and newcomers can enjoy it without feeling bored or overwhelmed, and its story starts slowly, but quickly becomes a worthy finale to this tactical trilogy.
Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright is a fantastic balance of tactical challenge and accessibility. Even after I finished the story, I found myself returning to the battlefield again and again to unlock more conversations between friends and test my army's might against Nohr's finest. I'm addicted to Fire Emblem Fates, and that's fine by me.
For a few hours at least, Final Fantasy Explorers is a charming little adventure that's fun to play alone with your monster buddies or with real-life friends. But repetitive quests, the lack of a serious challenge until late in the story and a poor travel system eventually broke the charm spell that Explorers had cast upon me.
Tales of Zestiria doesn't deviate too far from its competent predecessors, but it's not a carbon copy, either. It may have linear dungeons and a less-than-stellar story, but it's open-world exploration, enjoyable customization, and flashy new Armitization feature are enough for it to stand on its own.
Even with a few stories left unresolved and a lack of new loot to drive me to explore its relatively narrow world, it was great saying goodbye to my friends and getting a sneak peek at what might yet be ahead for the denizens of Thedas.
Etrian Odyssey is a meaty adventure with dozens of dungeon floors and bone-crushing challenges to overcome with its competent turn-based combat. The story isn't perfect, but I was happily kept busy with exploring the world, battling bosses, and feeding the hungry citizens of my hubtown.
Story of Seasons' kept me occupied for well over 30 hours, and even then I could have kept playing until the cows came home. It took awhile for the interesting options for running my farm and business to open up, but the mix of strategy and good old-fashioned simulation made it all worthwhile. It may not have the prestigious Harvest Moon name, but Story of Seasons is definitely the bees' knees.