Astral Chain is everything that’s right about Platinum, reflecting the fresh, quirky, gunslinging mentality that the studio displays in its best works. Part Bayonetta and part Pokemon with a heavy sprinkling of police sci-fi in between, Astral Chain is a breath of fresh air in an industry typically dominated by sequels and familiar formulas. Free time sections could be a bit more dialed down and the Legion combat can be a handful at times. Overall, though, Astral Chain marks a promising start to what will hopefully be a new franchise.
Contra is one of my favorite video game series of all time. Which makes giving Contra: Rogue Corps a low score extra painful for me. I really wanted this game to do well. But while it has some good ideas, they’re pretty much buried in an avalanche of poor gameplay decisions. From overheating guns to poor camera angles, playing Rogue Corps feels like you’re fighting the game a lot of times instead of the aliens inside it. I just hope it doesn’t spell the death knell for a franchise I love so much.
Daemon X Machina is a solid game that boasts a great foundation but could use just a bit more polish in some areas. While I appreciate that it at least tries to craft an intriguing narrative instead of just putting in a throwaway story, the dialogue is admittedly a bit rough around the edges. The game could also be grindy, particularly if you want to get the best gear. Even with its issues, however, the excellent core combat makes this game worth a look, especially if you’re a mech fan. Hopefully, it does well enough to warrant a sequel as I’d be interested in seeing what this team can do a second time with the solid foundation it has set.
Calling Code Vein a Dark Souls clone is a bit unfair as it certainly adds its own unique spin to the genre. It doesn’t quite nail the purposeful gameplay that’s perfected by Dark Souls and Bloodborne. At the same time, its anime-style visuals combined with its more free-form class swapping makes it a fresh alternative for folks hungry for more Soulsborne-style games. All in all, Code Vein is a solid first effort that establishes a promising franchise.
Nintendo could’ve just taken the easy way out with Link’s Awakening. Instead, it brought back a gaming classic by remaking it from the ground up while keeping all the wonderful things that made games such as the original a bonafide treat. The new look won’t be for everyone and the Switch struggles at times when there’s too much going on. But those are minor quibbles for a game that reminds us why the top-down Zelda games were so beloved in the first place. Link’s Awakening is a charming remake done oh-so right. One last tip: don’t steal anything. Seriously.
Knights and Bikes isn't perfect, but it makes up for its hiccups with charming visuals, two adorable protagonists and a moving story that reminds us of some of our deepest, strongest fears and insecurities as kids. At the same time, it also reminds us of a time when we were filled with youthful optimism and were positively certain that we would make a difference in the world around us, no matter how tough things get. After putting in time in the game, one thought comes to mind. I wanna ride my bike.
Death is never a comfortable topic. Oninaki, however, doesn't just address it but wholeheartedly runs with it. It doesn't always succeed but it does make you think about the meaning of mortality — perhaps a bit too much as people die left and right. The combat also could be a bit tighter and the story overstays its welcome a bit. Beautiful visuals compared with a haunting score, however, make the game a treat to behold. Here's hoping Tokyo RPG Factory further builds on this for their next new JRPG IP.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses marks another stellar entry in a beloved series that continues to find ways to keep the experience fresh even after three decades. From its improved presentation and solid voice acting to its deep combat system and compelling narrative, Three Houses serves up a lot of meat that fans of the long-running franchise will gobble up. The main character admittedly can feel wooden at times and the school life part peters out a bit toward the end. Nearly 30 years after its humble beginnings, however, Three Houses is proof that Fire Emblem's flame continues to burn brightly.
Monster Hunter World Iceborne builds on its excellent predecessor with a plethora of new and returning monsters as well as some fun new mechanics to boot. The Clutch Claw is an especially fun addition to the game while Guiding Lands helps flesh out the endgame for folks who felt World didn't do quite as good a job in that department. Admittedly, certain endgame aspects can be a bit too grindy and some of the side stuff like Lynian picture taking can be wonky at times. Overall, however, Iceborne proves to be a better Monster Hunter World for fans of the series.