I honestly don’t know where to begin. Bravely Default was one of the most anticipated JRPGs in years. I remember everyone playing the demo and progress would carry across into the main game. It’s good at luring you into a false sense of familiarity. You might think this is a typical JRPG with the only need to balance physical and magical attacks. There are over a dozen jobs in this game and they are crucial to getting through the many, and I mean many, dozens of bosses. Bravely Default is mostly a boss rush game with a few dungeons put in between to level you up.
The game starts out like any other typical JRPG. You have to solve a worldwide calamity, you are in a small town, you can visit shops, and you learn the ropes of the game. The main bulk of combat lies in Braving and Defaulting which allows you to borrow or save up turns. This is the key strategy this entire game and it takes trial and error to really learn when to do each of these during boss fights. You can bank up to three turns or borrow up to three. If you borrow turns in the negative you forfeit that many turns moving forward. This is great if you’re powerful and want to get the battle over with or need to heal everyone fast. In combination with the right jobs and equipment, you can overpower many foes. Half of the jobs are locked away behind optional “asterisk” bosses while some are acquired during the story. The jobs are well balanced ranging between offensive and defensive types with supporting roles as well. The downside to this many jobs is the trial and error of knowing what jobs are best against what bosses. There are 14 levels per job and they don’t level up super fast. You learn more job abilities as you level up as well.
It’s important to balance your party. You don’t want all offensive characters with none supporting you unless you’re insanely powerful. The goal of the first third of the game is to awaken four elemental crystals with four guardians you have to beat to get to them. These dungeons are full of red chests with items and equipment, but some dungeons and areas have locked blue chests which can’t be accessed until toward the end of the game. They contain some of the best equipment. There are save points usually before each major boss, and you can visit many towns to rest, and buy magic, armor, weapons, accessories, and items. The game consists of a large map that slowly opens up to you and eventually, you get a ship that can travel the entire map.
Now, I have to address the infamous final third act. These are chapters 5-8. Without spoiling anything you have to endure these chapters to see the true ending. You can skip this repetitive nightmare by breaking a crystal (I don’t want to spoil more) and ending the game there. I sucked it up and endured cleansing the same crystals 20 times (literally 20) to see this ending. This is one of those things that makes me really have JRPGs. We could have just gotten a cutscene explaining what happens during these acts instead of literally repeating the same dungeons and bosses 20 freaking times. It was insanely boring and I wound up listening to music to distract me from the frustration. A lot of gamers will most likely just quit the game here or end it early with a false ending.
On top of these repetitive chapters, you can also repeat the optional “asterisk” bosses multiple times to level up your jobs. If you missed these asterisks during the first four chapters you can get these jobs later on, but the bosses are leveled to you. The benefit of getting them as they come up early on is you can level past them and make the fights easier. If you already have all the jobs you can just use these bosses to grind XP. There are some options to ease the burden a bit which helped a lot. You can actually turn random battles off or increase them. This is great for exploring a dungeon fully and then leveling up near a save or near the entrance. I really loved this feature and used it a lot. You can also reduce the difficulty down to easy any time or increase it. These options help push JRPGs into a more modern feeling and setting.
With all of that said the graphics are pretty and the music is great if repetitive. The same world map and dungeon songs will repeat a lot, but they aren’t bad songs. The English voice acting is horrendous so I suggest the Japanese audio, and the story, while it does have a nice twist in the third act, isn’t worth the extra dozen or so hours it will take to get through that third act to get the true ending. It’s awful, boring, frustrating, tedious, and just plain not fun, and I can’t forgive the game for this. No matter how good the rest of the game might be, or how unique the combat is, this third act is abhorrent and an obvious excuse to pad game time. I really hate, I mean hate, JRPGs that do this. It doesn’t add anything to the game that a cut scene couldn’t solve. Shame on Square Enix for this.
On a side note, there is some StreetPass integration. You can pass buddies off to each other to summon during battles for extra help. You also have a village you can build to forge some of the better equipment in the game and this requires more helpers to reduce the countdown timer. I never really used these features much, and if you don’t use StreetPass you’re going to miss out on some content.
Overall, I’m not the biggest JRPG fan so others will like this more than I did, but that third act is unforgivable. I also felt there were too many jobs and the game’s difficulty is through the roof. Towards the end of the game, you need to be doing close to the 9,999 damage limit to finish the game. To really finish this game and see everything that’s here you will most likely need to hit the 99-level max at some point. This is an insanely hardcore JRPG and the casual Final Fantasy fans will probably quit during chapter 2 like I did when the game was first released. You will need to sink a good 100 hours just to see everything in the game including the bonus final dungeon that grants you the best stuff in the game to finish off the optional boss. While the graphics, music, and overall aesthetic of the game is pleasing this is a hate-it-or-love-it type of game.
Paris. A thief by night and regular Joe by day. A strange symbol your father left you. An Anti-Christ that has risen from the grave. This all sounds like an epic recipe for some crazy National Treasure sequel, and honestly, this kind of feels like an anime version of that movie. You play Phantom R and are trying to uncover an ancient mystery that your dad left you as a small boy while stopping the evil Napoleon Bonaparte himself from taking over Paris.
The story really takes itself too seriously for how silly the plot is. During the 5 hours you will spend with this game I honestly felt no attachment to the characters or story. They’re very cookie-cutter and don’t really develop any type of personality. The spotty voice acting doesn’t help either. There are a lot of characters for such a short game and many of them only get a few seconds of screen time to shout at you and that’s about it. It’s a very forgettable game, not just in the story. The visuals are your bog-standard anime-style graphics. The game plays like a rhythm version of Professor Layton on top of all that.
Once you get a hold of your character and can explore the map you will be presented with still backgrounds on the bottom screen like in Professor Layton. You then tap away ferociously until stuff happens. You can collect two hidden presents per screen for golden coins that are used to buy aids during mini-games. Some screens will have secrets such as notes that need to be found to find a secret music page, soundtrack CD, or objects that produce sounds that are needed to build the master instrument. These hidden items eventually unlock hidden chapters, but I honestly didn’t care enough for any of the characters to learn any backstory here from said chapters.
The meat of the game is the rhythm sections and these are fairly simplistic, but frustrating in nature. In most rhythm games you can get good at it by following the beat of the song. In this game, you don’t ride the entire beat like in most rhythm games. Small sections are cut out with button presses. For example, you do a sequence with A or B buttons like A-B-B-A-B and that section follows the beat of the song. This would be fine if the entire game wasn’t a Simon Says game disguised as a rhythm game. You have to listen to a sequence of notes and repeat them regardless of the beat of the song. I wound up failing many mini-games because I wanted to naturally tap or press buttons in time with the beat, but just mashing the buttons worked. Increased difficulty means more prompts to remember and they sometimes play so fast that it’s almost impossible to remember the sequence on the first try.
While I praise the game for giving a variety of mini-game types they do repeat very often. The games usually require you to tap two buttons or swipe on the screen in certain directions. That’s it. In between the rhythm games are mini-game puzzles that are fairly easy and offer no challenge. There are a few Simon Says ones in here too, but the sequence is remembered so if you mess up you just start at the last note you messed up on. That offers no challenge and allows you to basically mash all the buttons and not care about the order. While I could find a groove with some rhythm mini-games there were many that I just couldn’t get into or kept messing up on and didn’t understand why.
Overall, Rhythm Thief is a Simon Says game disguised as a rhythm game. There’s no true rhythm here outside of repeating every pattern in time with a beat. I could do that without a beat. The increased difficulty isn’t about more complicated songs, but just increased speed and more prompts in a shorter time frame. That’s not challenging just frustrating. The story is nonsensical and takes itself too seriously with characters that are one note and don’t have any time to build a personality to care for. While the visuals are nice it feels way too much like a cousin to Professor Layton and not its own thing.
The 8-bit era of Atari was before my time. I started the next generation with the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo as a young toddler. I still respect and have enjoyed iterations and ports of Atari 8-bit games over the years. What hasn’t been done well is anything outside of bundles of seemingly random collections. They’re nearly countless at this point and have spanned to nearly every console imaginable. Atari anniversary collections, various Atari-themed packs, and various retro packages with fancy UIs or presentations. However, no single retro package has been as cohesive or beautifully created as Atari 50. Even Sega’s recent Genesis Collection with its retro 90’s bedroom and bookshelf display can’t beat this.
The entire game is presented like an interactive history lesson. You go through four timelines. Atari’s origin story and their arcade routes. You get to see photos, printouts, commercials, and interviews with various Atari developers and industry veterans such as Tim Schafer (Psychonauts) and Cliff Bleszinski (Gears of War). These are presented in chronological order. A game is presented when its release comes up in the timeline. Some games have cover art, photos, and even comics underneath them to view. As you advance in the timeline you get a feeling like you’re playing an interactive museum tour. There are no fancy 3D menus or anything, but the clean and simple UI works well. There are a few surprises peppered in like unreleased prototypes and Digital Eclipse’s own recreations of iconic games like Yar’s Revenge and Haunted House.
As you advance to the home console and PC timeline things get more interesting. You will eventually get to Atari 5200 and 7800 games which are a bit more advanced. You will also get to play a few PC games for the Atari home computers. Then you will finish up in the 90s with the Atari Lynx and Jaguar. Sadly, there aren’t many games in this timeline, and the biggest issue with this entire game is the lack of third-party titles. You only get to play Atari-published and own games. That’s very limiting, and while I understand this is Atari’s own history there are many games that helped make their systems great outside of internal developers. The few Jaguar games range from Cybermorph to Tempest 2000 and Missle Command 3D. They aren’t great, but interesting to dive into. That’s another thing about this whole collection. Very few games are fun to play longer than five minutes. Some are pretty clunky and bad. This isn’t a “greatest of” collection which I really appreciate. You will most likely go back to the more fun games like Missle Command, Centipede, Millepede, Tempest, or their latest versions in this game. You get special bezels, backgrounds, overlays, and control options for every game as well. You can also select various modes and some games support save states which is cool. You also get a digital view of every manual for the game including the arcade operator’s manuals. They didn’t leave anything out.
By the time I spent around 5 hours in the game, I got to the end of the timelines. You can go back and play any game in the library view and pick your favorites. These games run really well and look great, but many gamers who didn’t grow up in the 80s will probably find this nothing more than a history lesson. Even more, will find pretty much every game boring or uninteresting. However, that’s not a knock to the games, but just a warning to younger audiences. Anyone younger than 30-35 will most likely not find this game interesting or fun. If you have a curiosity about Atari’s history or games then this is the best place to get that. If you have an itch for trying out 8-bit games or want to go back without emulating anything then this will give you nearly 100 games. I also appreciate how few ports and copies of the same game are in here. Each game was hand-picked and placed with relevancy.
Overall, Atari 50 is one of the best retro packages you can ever play. Telling an entire developer’s history with games placed in their correct time slots and even including unreleased games and reimaginings of some is just fantastic. The videos are entertaining and interesting and you will learn a lot. There are so many details added from commercials, print ads, posters, manuals, customizable controls, save states, and more. It’s a complete and cohesive package for Atari lovers out there. Just be warned that there are no third-party games and less of the 90s stuff.
What would happen if you combined Resident Evil with Silent Hill? Probably a game with crazy enemies, creepy music, inventory management, and tank controls. Well, that’s exactly what Signalis is. It combines the best of PS1 horror and shoves it into a nice retro package with great controls and animations. Developer Rose Engine might be a bit on the nose with its inspirations, but it does do a good job of making it feel more modern with a retro flair.
The weakest part of the game is its story. I will get that right out of the gate. While most PS1-era horror titles had convoluted and messy stories that usually made no sense or were open for player interpretation, Signalis is very cryptic, but the overall journey has a twist ending that is pretty eyebrow-raising. It will leave you stunned a bit and is a great payoff outside of almost no world-building or lore to get into. You get the occasional note similar to Resident Evil that tells a little snippet of what happened just before the current event. See, you’re some sort of AI controller robot in some dystopian German world. That’s all I really got out of the story and the few cut-scenes peppered throughout the game.
Just like the horror games that inspired Signalis you have limited inventory space, very little ammo for your weapons, fewer healing items, and lots of backtracking. I will praise Rose Engine for making backtracking in Signalis less painful than games of the PS1 era. There is a good map system that even marks puzzles that require items. The final area of the game has no map, but you will learn to remember landmarks. The level design in Signalis is fantastic. A game with a lot of backtracking needs good landmarks so you remember where every room is. If you are familiar with the 32-bit era of horror games this style of progression won’t bother you. There were some puzzles that had me write stuff down (math puzzles) or take photos of diagrams. You get a radio about halfway through the game and you can use the frequencies to help solve puzzles. I will admit that inventory management is a little too tight here. You only get 6 inventory slots and there are no upgrades in this game. I wish I had at least eight. I constantly had to leave healing items and ammo behind to dump puzzle items and backtrack a couple of times. At least in my first playthrough, I was able to preserve quite a bit of ammo. I didn’t even end up using two of the weapons. You can easily run from most enemies which I recommend later on when you enter rooms with four or more enemies.
You can only shoot enemies while standing still. There is an aim button that auto-locks and you can fire. Enemies will fall down and you have to stomp on them to temporarily kill them. Yes, after the first area, you get thermite which will permanently burn enemies and keep them from rising. This is why I recommend only killing enemies in main corridors that require you to frequent them often. Most rooms are a one-time entrance. You run in, grab everything, and leave. Rooms with puzzles and save rooms don’t have enemies so this helps. Just like games of this genre, you will eventually unlock shortcut doors to get back to the main puzzle areas or save rooms which help cut down on a little bit of the backtracking.
Enemies themselves are very Silent Hill-like. Almost exact copies. There are EULR enemies which look exactly like the Bubble Head Nurses from Silent Hill 2. The STCR enemies look like the Closer enemies from Silent Hill 3 or the Siam from Homecoming. Everything aesthetic and atmosphere-wise is very close to Silent Hill. Even the music is similar. The entire game looks similar to the Otherworld from Silent Hill as well. I have to say I like it a lot. We need more Silent Hill and this is the closest you will get. There’s a little cyberpunk infusion with the AI robots and dystopian world. It’s a great fusion and I couldn’t get enough of it.
I didn’t find much of the game frustrating. Puzzles are fairly straightforward. You may have to look up one or two, but the solutions were mostly right in front of me and I just didn’t see it. There are only two boss fights in the game and they are pretty fun, but not very challenging. The challenge in the game’s combat arises from getting swarmed. As long as you run you will always be safe. Enemies usually have to stop to swing and unless you’re backed into a corner you won’t get hit. The variety of weapons helps and you can store everything in your save room chests and go back to get what you need. I did finish the game with plenty of healing items and ammo. I can’t express enough how much running helps in this game. There were occasional rooms that needed my flashlight too.
Overall, Signalis nails the feeling and atmosphere of Resident Evil and Silent Hill. The monster designs are great, the music is haunting, and the level design is done in such a way that memorizing the layout of an area isn’t that hard which is key for games that need a lot of backtracking. Puzzles aren’t insanely vague or obtuse, and it’s obvious what items go where once you find both. I just wish there were more than six inventory slots. It just adds artificial fluff to the play time by constantly having to go back to your storage chest and dump off items. I also wish the overall story and world-building were better. The game is only about 6 hours long so there isn’t much time or room for character or world-building anyways. Thankfully the atmosphere, enemy design, tight controls, and well-designed areas are all nailed down tight. This is easily the best retro horror game to be released in the last couple of decades.
Infinity Blade was a big deal when it was released. It was the Dark Souls of mobile games at the time before Dark Souls even came out. Chair Entertainment started a revolution that many tried to copy and failed. It was a rogue-lite that had you dying over and over to only use the gold and XP you acquired to level up and get further each time. Some consider it a repetitive grind, but others feel it makes them want to get further and further and find the chiseling of progression addictive. Rage of the Gladiator tries this and doesn’t do any of it very well. Forget a story, it’s pretty much nonexistent outside of a few stills with text.
There are ten bosses to fight through. Each one does more damage, has faster moves, and more of them. Despite this sense of progression in difficulty, the game is very easy. You have to dodge left or right in first person, jump, and then swing your sword left or right, and even kick when you successfully dodge. You can get a max of a 5-hit combo in unless you use a special move before that fifth hit. There’s no strategy involved, and I only died one time during my entire play-through. Moves are easy to predict and rather slow. The repetition gets worse when you have to win three rounds per boss. That’s 30 rounds in total before unlocking the medium difficulty. Yeah, you work your way up through hard, but the moves are just faster and one or two more are thrown in. You also take more damage.
You can buy weapons, shields, armor, mana, and health potions, acquire passive and offensive abilities and increase stats. You win gold after each match and earn one measly XP per match. Yes, it’s a complete grind and this is leftover from this being a mobile game. At the end of the tenth boss, I was only able to buy two new weapons, a single shield, and an armor piece. You can use gold to buy XP, but this system is in favor of grinding or slowing you down enough to make you buy this stuff via microtransactions, but these aren’t on the 3DS version. So, instead of rebalancing the game, they kept the grind in.
This would be fine if the game was as epic or good-looking as something like Infinity Blade. Instead, we get generic Greek mythology bosses, a ninja, and a Chinese martial arts master, and that’s about it. Medium and Hard difficulties have one additional boss at the end, but they’re not exciting. However, the animations are stiff, the visuals are ugly, and everything is just on repeat forever. There’s no strategy involved in the fights or even how to go about your attacks. Instead of adding a parry system that allows you to counter an attack you just dodge. There are a few attacks that can be paired, but it’s only on a few of the bosses. It would even be cool to change up the background, but instead, it’s the same Roman arena forever.
Overall, Rage of the Gladiator is a repetitive, boring, easy, and weak attempt at a genre that has been done better and to death. There’s no rebalancing of the shop or winnings so you’re grinding as if you can buy these things to advance quicker. The bosses are uninteresting and boring, the game is ugly and drab, and there’s no story to speak of. Shoving a mobile game onto the 3DS was a bad move and it shows here.
As time goes on I’ve learned to appreciate engaging casual games that don’t require intense focus. Small adventure games that only take a few hours to beat, relaxing puzzle games that don’t really have an ending, and anything in between are fun to enjoy and veg out on. It’s the same effect for me as binge-watching a show. A Little to the Left tries to be that. It has engaging puzzles and serotonin-squirting organization puzzles along with cute visuals, but it does come with issues.
The game’s puzzles start out fairly simple. There are around 75 puzzles in the main game with 365 daily puzzles. Puzzles start out with just straightening photos on a wall, putting cat toys in a basket, arranging a dinner set, aligning colored pencils in a certain order, stacking rugs, etc. These first dozen puzzles are relaxing and really give you a taste of what this game could be. Yes, I said could be as the game quickly ramps up the abstractness, and even with a full-on guide and accessible hint system in the game it still doesn’t make sense. The arrangement puzzles are the absolute worst. These are abstract shapes that don’t snap together but instead are arranged in a specific pattern. The patterns usually make no sense since the pieces are so far apart. These puzzles will frustrate most players and lead you into a false sense of relaxation and simple organization and stacking.
That’s not to say I don’t like a challenge. One puzzle has you sliding a mirror to the left and right and arranging the objects according to the reflection. Another has you stacking cat food cans in colored columns that match. These puzzles were enjoyable. My favorite was the organization puzzles. Put all the junk in the correct cubbies. That’s a lot of fun with the process of elimination. Sadly, there are only about four of those puzzles and I wanted more. The difficulty is all over the place, but it’s the artificial difficulty. The puzzles are just so obscure sometimes that most people may quit the game.
I also found the snapping system pretty broken. Sometimes you place an object in the right spot and it will snap into place and make a faint ding sound. However, abstract pattern puzzles require two symmetrical objects in the same spot in the scene before they will snap into place. This hinders progress as there are no tactile hints that you are making progress. There is a hint system that shows you the solution by erasing and uncovering. This was nice as I would try to just erase one part and still be able to solve the rest on my own. However, even the hints sometimes make zero sense.
Thankfully, you can still move on with the “Let It Be” system that skips the puzzle for you. There are some puzzles that have two or more solutions such as sorting from highest to shortest, then by color, and then by matching an image on the same object. While the first solution may seem easy to spot the additional solutions can be insanely abstract and obscure. I really tried to solve as many as I could on my own, but in the end, I solved maybe a quarter of the puzzles by myself. There were just too many that were frustrating or I felt I wasn’t making any progress. Some were just me overthinking the puzzle, but some were just poorly designed.
The visuals are cute. It has a pastel minimalistic look. Lots of colored pencils, charcoal, and watercolor art designs. The music is great and relaxing to listen to in the background it’s just too bad the game isn’t as relaxing. In the end, A Little to the Left is misleading in its first dozen puzzles and quickly ramps up the abstractness and obscurity too much requiring too many puzzles to be skipped. The most enjoyable ones are too few. This isn’t a bad game at all. There are fun puzzles peppered throughout the bad ones, and the overall cat aesthetic is enjoyable with great music.
There were quite a few great Switch exclusives this year with even a few third-party ones popping up. Nintendo has had 5 consecutive years of greatness on the Switch with fantastic exclusives year after year. It doesn’t seem like Nintendo is slowing down either.
Bayonetta is finally back. After a long hiatus and rumblings of cancellations she made her debut on Switch. It didn’t disappoint. Fantastic visuals, advancements in every system, bombastic set pieces, and fun characters. It was well worth the wait.
A Plague Tale: Innocencewas a massive surprise hit for me. I didn’t expect much from it coming from an unknown indie studio. It seemed pretty and that’s about it. I was shocked at the fantastic acting, gripping story, well-designed enemy encounters, and unique combat system. Requiem does what sequels normally do. Improve in some areas and step backward in others. While it’s not as shockingly impressive as the first game it does deliver an even better story with insanely good acting and a couple of new characters. Amelia, Hugo, Beatrice, and Lucas are still trying to cure Hugo’s Macula and stop the plague from spreading further. A lot more details arise and we learn the true origin of the Macula and Hugo’s fate.
The first third of the game takes place in the new town that Amelia and co. have settled down in. One thing I love about this series is there’s one thing that always lingers in your mind when playing. Lose all hope. Hope is something that doesn’t exist in this world. Amelia and Hugo are constantly betrayed in this game and it isn’t always apparent. You might think they finally settled down into a nice town or met nice people who will keep them safe and love them, but nope. Not in the world of A Plague Tale. There’s constant dread, pain, and death and it’s wonderfully portrayed thanks to the amazing acting on screen. I do want to mention that while the acting is amazing the facial animations are really lacking including lip-syncing being stiff. That’s a minor complaint, but overall the story is awesome and it has a satisfying ending.
That’s the game’s strongest point outside of its amazing visual presentation. The first game was well-loved for its well-crafted enemy encounters. Each area felt like a puzzle and it was the perfect difficulty. Not too hard, but not so easy that you would just run straight through. I always felt like I could figure out where to go and how to get around each enemy. It was so good that I played that game twice. Requiem adds a lot of new layers to the slingshot and alchemy that makes it a bit over-complicated. There are more elements added in such as being able to hold pots and a crossbow. The crossbow is obtained shortly after the halfway point, but you can add four different alchemic elements. Tar, fire, and rat-attracting crystals. This can make fumbling around to change your weapon and add the right alchemical property cumbersome on the fly. The tar can be used in pots to slow down enemies, but also set on fire with the slingshot fire. So this requires switching to the pot, and then tar, and then switching to the slingshot and equipping fire. I died a lot trying to fumble around and figure out what to do on the fly. This becomes infuriating during open combat events in which I had to restart one section nearly two dozen times because I ran out of materials and had to figure out how to preserve everything in the right order.
Guards come in more variety this time. There are helmeted guards which can’t be killed with the slingshot. These need to be avoided or taken out from behind which causes a lot of noise and the animation is very long. You will more than likely always be seen. You get to hold knives that are disposable and used to get you out in a pinch. There are guards with shields now that require being blinded with powder which is another element to flip through. Fire is still a big gameplay element here and you have rat sections that are also mixed with guards as well. I found these sections with rats more fun in this game because I could be more creative. You can put the guard’s flames out with the powder and watch the rats each them. Then there are puzzle sections with just the rats and these were the most fun I really enjoyed these sections, but there aren’t enough of them. Thankfully combat in the game is spread pretty far apart with entire chapters of just storytelling is thrown in between to give you a break.
It’s a shame the combat went from perfectly balanced to overly difficult and cumbersome. The puzzle sections use the new elements as well. There are now different types of fire you can start from haystacks that only last a few seconds to fire bolts that stick to wood objects. You have unique partner abilities such as Arnaud’s shield that bolts can stick to and Sophia’s crystal that can refract light. These are new changes I really liked and fit in. You can throw tar on flames to increase their brightness for a bit and spread light out more to solve puzzles and reach extra chests. This was the stuff I really enjoyed. Flipping through all these items and alchemy stuff during combat was just too much and hurt the already perfect flow from the previous game.
The last thing I want to touch on is the upgrade system. It’s been simplified and almost seems pointless now. You need tools and parts to upgrade, but they’re so rare and hard to come by that I barely upgraded a single skill to the max by the end of the game and this is a 15-hour game. It takes a new game plus to continue maxing out your skills, which can really help if you can get to them, but it takes so long that I never relied on these. Even if you found every hidden chest you wouldn’t be able to upgrade much.
With that said the pacing of the game is all over the place. Going from entire chapters of combat to entire chapters of walking around and letting the story play out. An hour or two would go by with no combat or puzzles, or you would get an entire hour of puzzle-solving with 10 minutes of combat. I also didn’t care for the open combat sections. This combat system isn’t designed for running around and taking enemies out in droves. The first game did this well by just letting you slingshot enemies. You now have to run around and fumble with the weapons and elements to decide which enemy needs what thing to take it down. It’s incredibly frustrating.
The game looks fantastic at least. This is the first “next-gen” game I think that’s been released so far. It’s not on previous generation consoles and sure as hell wouldn’t run on them. My 3080ti struggled at 1440p with maxed-out settings with DLSS turned on. It did dip down into the 40s at times. While it’s not perfectly optimized anyone outside of an RTX GPU won’t have a great time running this game. It really is a next-generation-looking game. I can’t stress enough how amazing the game looks. Beautiful vistas, lots of color, and tons of dark visuals as well. It’s a sight to behold.
With all that said, Requiem does a lot of good in the story and visuals department but falters when it comes to combat and pacing. I enjoyed the puzzles, and sections where you had to get through rats, but the open combat is infuriating, and fumbling through all the elements and weapons is too much for a stealth-focused game.
I really like the Persona and Shin Megami Tensei series, but they are insanely long and challenging. These are hardcore JRPGs not meant for casual players. Most won’t have the stamina needed to sit through 150+ hour games and the PlayStation trophy data shows that. Less than half of all Persona 5 players finished the game. Thankfully, for people like me, Atlus put me in an extra easy mode called Safety that let me finish my first-ever Persona game. I tried the third and fourth games several times and just couldn’t do it. While I eventually did well in battles, the games were too long. The story in Persona 5 is fantastic and there are plenty of great things about this game, but a few key issues may drive most players away even more casual JRPG fans.
The story is insanely deep and detailed. There are plenty of mysteries and twists and turns that kept me trucking on because I wanted to see what happened next. The characters are compelling, well-written, and very likable, however, you still need to like anime to enjoy the characters in this game. There are some typical anime tropes that leak in, but I think people who play JRPGs are already aware of this. Your character is Joker, a teenage boy wrongfully convicted of assaulting a high-profile individual for just trying to save a woman from harassment on the street. You end up living with someone who volunteered to take in a convict and watch over you so you can get rehabilitated. This game plays just like previous Persona games with a time limit, days going by, social rankings, and acquiring personas.
The game will introduce things to you throughout the entire game, and I mean throughout. 40 hours in I was still getting tutorial messages. The game is an incredibly slow burn. I didn’t get to do any battling until the fifth or sixth hour. This was all story and world-building, introducing the idea of personas, your purpose, and your back story, and showing you how to go about the day-to-day. The game is mostly dialog, to be honest. Out of the 80 hours, it took me to finish the game maybe 25 of that was actually exploring the dungeons and fighting. There is a lot of character-building and slice-of-life stuff in here. You also have a time limit to finish every palace which is the main dungeon in the game.
When you’re not battling you are living your everyday life. You need to go to school and the day is broken up into sections such as early morning which is reserved for dialog you hear on the train going to school, talking to friends at the train station, etc. Morning and afternoon are reserved for things happening at school during the week or random quizzes that you can answer to increase your social stats. These stats are knowledge, proficiency, charm, kindness, and guts. These are needed to finish confidant arcs and max out that persona category so you can get stat boosts when using that type of persona. These stats can be increased by doing certain activities like watching movies, playing games, doing chores, and other everyday activities. It’s important to use your downtime for increasing these stats as the game is balanced by not just level grinding, but having these extra stats for each persona type.
After school time is reserved for doing things around the city such as said activities and getting together to enter Momentos which is a secondary dungeon with a few dozen levels that you need to descend to complete requests from people. In the end, it’s required to descend fully for the final dungeon, but before that it’s optional. I recommend doing these late-game so you can just barrel through the levels by the end. The evening is reserved for nighttime activities and jobs even to earn more money. After the activity, the evening is done you advance to the next day and do this all over. Some days are interrupted by story elements, scripted scenes, and other events. It’s important to hang out with confidants when you get texts from them to advance their persona ranking. These are where the side stories for each character are held. They can be long-cut scenes too. Usually, you get 30 odd days between each major palace to fill the time. This time period can take hours to finish.
When you do actually battle Persona is based on finding the weaknesses of enemies. This can be both good and bad. If you find the weakness you get one more turn. This can be elemental or physical. The downside is that the entire game can be over if you don’t find these quickly. It’s trial and error as to finding the weakness and some just don’t have one. You waste precious turns trying to figure this out and it can make some boss fights grueling. You can save within these palaces and return to the real world to buy items and increase your persona rankings more, but if you don’t find the treasure and beat the boss by the deadline it’s game over. I’ve always hated this about the series and it makes the game more difficult and frustrating than it needs to be. You can capture personas by talking to them when they’re weak in battle. If successful they will join your ranks. It’s important to keep a good variety of personas leveled up and acquire new ones with better skills. You can fuse and itemize them in the Velvet Room as well as sacrifice weaker ones to strengthen others.
While you can use multiple personas your party members are stuck with one. Every few levels they will gain new abilities for their personas and you have a limited number of slots so it’s important to keep them balanced. Inside these palaces, you can acquire items, treasures to sell, and powerful equipment that you can buy in the airsoft shop. These palaces are huge with multiple levels and can take hours to complete. I played the game on safety difficulty so I could beat each palace in a single sitting, but if you need to level grind and fuse personas you could take the entire time limit. Each palace is a different theme and they look cool, but the weak puzzles and labyrinthine halls of some of them are really annoying. Enemies walk around in real-time and because you are thieves you can get behind cover and dash around them stealthily or take them head-on. Some palaces are a really confusing mess and I found some just went on for too long.
Those are your two main parts of the game. Battling in Momentos or palaces and living your everyday life to increase social stats and play mini-games. I personally don’t like the trial and error of exploiting weaknesses to win each fight. The graphics are decent, while stylistically they look great with lots of flash and color, but technically it looks like a typical JRPG and borderline last generation and not too much of a step up from the PS3 version. While it seems there is a lot to do in the game there actually isn’t. You’re so focused on visiting confidants and maxing out social stats in the real world that it feels like a chore after a while. You have to realize there are nearly 250 in-game days you have to get through on top of the palaces and momentos. The game just feels like it never ends. 80 hours to finish safety difficulties and it can take 150-200 hours for higher difficulties. I had to dedicate every free minute I had over the last three weeks to finishing this game and not playing any other games in between. I wish there was a warning at the beginning of the game letting players know how long the game can take on average or even put it somewhere on an official source of info for the game. I have played and bought many JRPGs not realizing just how long they take to beat.
Overall, I don’t want to talk too much about the story because I can easily spoil something. The Phantom Thieves and trying to change the hearts of criminals is a great story. It can be very dark at times talking bout child exploitation, abuse, murder, money laundering, and many other crimes. It’s a dark game and I felt it had a very memorable story, but it takes way too long to tell it. Many will balk at the trial and error of weakness exploitation to win battles, insane amounts of grinding, and the constant need to micro-manage your personas to get a well-balanced always leveled-up arsenal might seem like too much. That doesn’t include dozens upon dozens of hours of reading dialog and watching cut scenes. I recommend this only to the hardest-core of JRPG fans. This game is not to be taken lightly. While I complain about some of these things fans of this genre embrace it and that’s okay, but for only around 40% of players to have finished the game says something about the length.
We all love a good scare, right? Horror games are some of gaming’s greatest past times. Usually booming in October, horror games from the past and present are played all around the world. The problem is, there just aren’t a lot of them made, and the best ones are far and few between. Usually, this is a great time to dig up old classics rather than trudge through recent crap. While the PS1/PS2 era was the golden age of horror games, the HD era, or the seventh generation of consoles, struggled and was probably the most anemic when it came to horror games, especially the good ones. There’s a reason why some of the rarest and most coveted physical games are horror. It’s the genre that’s been the least explored and not done well enough most of the time. If you can look past clunky controls and awkward gameplay most retro horror games do provide good scares, atmosphere, creepy monsters, and good visuals. I’ve compiled a list of the best and the worst.
American McGee is well known for his dark interpretation of the Alice in Wonderland series. The first game, American McGee’s Alice, was clunky mechanically but was a visual treat. The same goes for the sequel. It’s a gorgeous game with a lot of dark themes dealing with mental illness. The enemies are fantastically designed and the levels themselves are living art. Despite the incredibly repetitive gameplay, this one is a blast to play through.
A lot of people didn’t like Homecoming due to its more action-oriented combat, but I actually quite liked it. I feel it was the last good Silent Hill game in the series and it still retains the creepy atmosphere and insane creature design. The haunting music is still present as well. While it’s not as tense as the original trilogy, Homecoming does have better combat despite it being the wrong focus here. This was the first game in the series that was part of the jump to the next generation. The next game in the series, Downpour, would be considered the worst in the series, and I personally hated it. These would be the last games in the series to date.
Metro 2033 and Last Light, these were some of the best horror games to grace the seventh generation of consoles. While they played and looked best on PC, the console versions still looked great and did a good job giving us scares. The post-apocalyptic horror series had an intriguing story and tense atmosphere along with crazy creature designs. The final game in the trilogy, Exodus, would be on the next-generation systems and receive mixed reviews.
While not inherently designed to give you nightmares, Shadows has a lot of horror elements in its design such as creepy enemies and an overall atmosphere of dread. It’s more of a comedy horror title, but it has tons of style that help make swallowing the shallow substance a bit easier. It’s also not very good-looking, on a technical basis, but the art is awesome. Most of Suda 51’s games were one-shots and never saw sequels. SotD never saw high enough sales even if he wanted to do a sequel. To date, it hasn’t seen a remaster, remake, or port.
Condemned: Criminal Origins really showed us what next-generation visuals could look like. The E3 2006 demo blew me away and it was one of the reasons I got an Xbox 360. This was one of the few games that looked the part and really pushed the industry into a new era of HD visuals. It’s a game that can be replayed many times and you will always have a fun experience. It’s too bad the series is dead because Monolith nailed the atmosphere here. The game is intense with crazy melee combat and incredibly dark and haunting levels. Crazy bums coming out of nowhere breathing and panting and trying to attack you in dark hallways is something else. The sequel, Bloodshot, was great but focused more on combat and less on the atmosphere, so it’s not quite as scary. It was also the nail in the coffin as due to the poor sales of the sequel Sega shuttered the series for good. To date, the series hasn’t seen a remaster, remake, or port of any kind.
Dante’s Inferno is one of the best hack and slash games ever made, but EA was bound to make sure you didn’t know that. It didn’t get much attention or was considered just another God of War rip-off. While the game was short, it had incredibly responsive and fun combat, an interesting protagonist, and insanely gory and adult-themed levels. It’s just too bad the story wasn’t fleshed out enough. What’s here is a fun 4-5 hour game that you won’t find anywhere else. Sadly, the game’s low sales sealed its fate to have no sequel, caused Visceral to shutter, and hasn’t seen a port, remaster, or remake to date.
Specifically speaking about the first two games, BioShock had a crazy dark atmosphere and some creepy enemies and horror that kind of just oozed everywhere. There was no jump scares or downright frightening scenes, but you always had a sense of dread and fear and that’s really hard to pull off in games. The game was more about psychological horror and isolation and it sure pulled it off mostly the best in the first game. Surprisingly, the entire trilogy was released during this generation and would receive barely passable ports later on as the BioShock Collection.
While Dead Space 3 was mostly about the action and less about horror, the first two games were damn scary. I would consider them one of the scariest games I have ever played. Jump scares aside, there was a constant foreboding presence of something lurking around every corner and the Necromorphs are some of the greatest video game enemies of all time. This was peak horror during the HD era. Another trilogy that saw its ending in the same generation cycle. The series would stall here and the first game would receive a remake two generation cycles later.
Deadly Premonition is the perfect game of it’s so bad it’s good. The gameplay is dated and feels like a PS1 game, the graphics are terrible, and the voice acting is awful, but the writing and overall atmosphere the game presents are well done and memorable. It really feels like a PS2 game that was quickly ported over to next-gen consoles without any improvements in mind. It can be scary in the sense that its trippy Japanese horror weirdness will freak you out more than scare you. This is one of the few games you should stomach the terrible design for the weirdness. It’s worth it. It would get a sequel in the next generation, but not look like it and would be poorly received
Oh man, this one brings me back. The first game was very scary with crazy The Ring girl vibes that were all the rage in the early 2000s. The gunplay was genuinely solid and you needed a NASA PC to run it back in the day, but forget about understanding the story. The second game had some really scary elements, but was more action-oriented and had less of a mid-2000s PC shooter Half-Life 2 style vibe to it. The third game, well, just isn’t scary at all. Another trilogy that was released all in the same console cycle. While the first game was a port and was released during the PS2/Xbox era, the entire trilogy would never see a remake or remaster.
The Resident Evil series really took off after the previous generation. This generation would see the most action-focused games yet. Resident Evil 5, 6, and Operation Raccoon City were the main releases. There was also an HD port of the 3DS exclusive Revelations as well as Revelations 2 as a sequel. Some would consider this the weakest run the series had only to go back to its roots in the next generation cycle starting with Resident Evil VII. The games also weren’t very scary around this time. They were just too action-focused and didn’t have the nuanced scares and puzzles as before. Revelations would be the only sub-series to feel scary or have any tension at all. Operation Raccoon City would be lauded as the worst game in the series.
The Last of Us would be considered one of the best horror games ever made. It was wildly praised and made waves throughout the gaming industry receiving awards and praise from all angles. The tense stealth scenes with the Clickers were awesome. These monsters are some of the creepiest and eerie creatures ever made for a horror game. This wasn’t just another zombie game. It would receive a sequel in the following generation as well as some of the most controversial decisions ever for a game. It would also receive a full remake and remaster.
Released at the tale end of the HD era of gaming, Outlast never saw a port to consoles until the next generation. It was damn scary. This small indie game made waves and became one of the top streaming games of all time. The tense atmosphere and overall great design, in general, made Outlast terrifying. The sequel would be released several years later on PC and consoles as well as a port of the first game released about a year later.
Amnesia was probably the top-streamed video game of the year in 2010. Game streaming was new and scare reactions reached the charts on YouTube. There hadn’t been many really scary games during this generation. It was all action-focused and multiplayer-focused to generate sales. That’s why this indie game was released on PC only at the time. It had interesting puzzles and enemies you couldn’t fight. It wouldn’t receive a port until many years later and two-generation cycles later. The sequels A Machine for Pigs and Rebirth would be poorly received, and I personally didn’t like them that much either.
The STALKER series wouldn’t sell well at first but would gain a huge cult following. The entire trilogy was released around the mid-life of the HD era and was exclusive to PC. It’s rough around the edges, but a huge following of modders would improve the game and it wouldn’t be until two generations later when a true sequel would be released. The game never saw a port to consoles and for a reason. The engine is already poorly optimized on PC and wouldn’t do well on consoles. It would be a huge undertaking to port the entire trilogy and it would be hard to market.
Alien Isolation wasn’t technically developed for HD consoles, but mostly for PC and next-generation systems. It came out right as the next generation was coming in and the HD versions were quickly forgotten. Isolation is considered the best game in the Alien series and one of the best horror games of the last couple of decades. It captures the 80s aesthetic of the movies and tells a great story while being terrifying. I still haven’t completed it to this day because of how scary it actually is.
The original horror trilogy, Penumbra, was developed by Frictional Games who would later go on to make the Amnesia series. This was released for PC only and never received a console port. It was a less talked about indie series that was loved among horror fans, but indie PC games didn’t receive the same spotlight that they do now. Console gamers didn’t care unless they were ported. Penumbra is a slow-paced, puzzle-focused horror series all about adventure and discovery. It’s creepy, full of psychological horror, and is a must-play for any horror fan.
While this is stretching it a bit, The Evil Within was mostly meant for next-generation consoles and PC. It played and looked nice on PS3 and Xbox 360, but those weren’t the intended systems. This was Shinji Mikami’s next opus and was definitely creepy and had some good elements, but was too action focused and unbalanced and the story made no sense. Some say that’s the charm of survival horror games. There’s a bit of jank that’s needed. I personally just thought this game was okay despite the amazing monster designs. A sequel would later come out, but not sell as well.
This is one of my favorite horror games of all time. It has a great story, memorable characters, and a great combat system that plays off of light and darkness. I’ve replayed this game many times and it wasn’t an instant hit for Microsoft. The sales were slow and it wasn’t appreciated until much later. It received a PC port and a recent remaster. It’s a must-play for any horror fan.
Siren: Blood Curse
It was a surprise to see a niche and obscure horror title return to PS3. Siren didn’t sell or review well but is considered a cult classic and part of the classic survival horror era. Blood Curse was a digital-only episodic release that had some great scares and an overall fun adventure. Sadly, only Japan received a physical release.
Oh man, where do I start? My favorite horror series was butchered with this release. I rented this from GameFly and had to follow a guide through most of the game. It was a confusing convoluted mess and felt like a chore to play. It wasn’t scary, wasn’t fun, and was the worst game in the whole series.
While the movies were quite enjoyable despite their flaws, the games were just awful. They weren’t as gruesome as the movies and played it too safe. Pretty much every bad conventional video game flaw was present here. Awful voice acting, terrible graphics, bad puzzles, and poor level design.
Easily considered one of the worst games of the HD era there was no redeeming value in this game. There was nothing you could overlook. There wasn’t any “it’s so bad it’s kind of charming” to this game either. It was just a disaster and an unplayable mess. It wasn’t scary, it felt like it was trying to be several games at once, it looked bad, it played even worse, and wasn’t any fun despite all the hype leading up to release.
Aliens: Colonial Marines
This game needs no introduction. It’s been covered by every “worst of” and “most controversial” video game on YouTube out there. Its history has been extensively documented. From broken AI to awful visuals, and just a completely unfinished and broken game. It’s also considered one of the worst games ever made. It’s a stark contrast to Alien Isolation.
I had the displeasure of actually finishing this game when it came out. I was hoping it was going to be a great reboot of a classic horror series. I followed the developer’s diaries all the way through the release and played it without reading any reviews. The game is pretty bad. It’s one of the worst games of the HD era. It was just an awful chore and a mess of a game. It wasn’t fun. It wasn’t scary. It was just plain bad.
Probably one of the worst games ever made. This was a small indie game that was supposed to be full of suspense and horror, but instead, it’s a chore of a game with awful controls and graphics. The game was also poorly optimized and suffered terrible framerate issues. The story made no sense, and overall, it was just a stupid and lazy game.
I was so excited about this game, and every time I think about or have to write about it break’s my heart. I absolutely love Clive Barker’s work and had it since I was a young teen. I fawned after the figures from Todd McFarlane and loved the characters in his movies. Undying was also a cult classic. The game was just trying to do too much at once. It had cramped level design, awful performance, dated visuals, and just felt like a chore. The only thing it had going for it was the art design. It’s one of the worst games I’ve ever played and one of the saddest scars of the HD era.