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Reviews

System: Switch
Release date: February 26, 2021
Developer: Square Enix / Claytechworks
Publisher: Nintendo


It’s hard for me to reflect on the 3DS without thinking about the fond memories I’ve had playing Bravely Default, spending over 150 hours to fully complete everything the game had to offer – from getting all jobs and characters to max levels, to seeing credits roll, completing all dungeons and sidequests, and just about everything until my cartridge became no more than a paperweight by the end of it all. It was a part of the genre I had so deeply missed, and while I love the innovation and how far role-playing games have comes since the days of Final Fantasy Adventures and Chrono Trigger, sometimes you can’t help but “go back to the basics” to a simpler time where you could strategize more, form a party of warriors and mages, and go on a fantastical adventure. Now with the power of Unreal Engine 4, Bravely Default II looks as beautiful as ever, as your party of four shines in battle with a more 3D-esque approach compared to its predecessors, yet still retaining its artistic integrity and stunning environmental design. The series’ Switch debut is a massive leap forward for the series on both a mechanical and technical level, even if there are some tweaks made this time around that may or may not be questionable to those who have played the entries before it.

System: Switch
Release date: February 25, 2021
Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom


Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection makes one thing immediately clear: it hates you. As the current-generation revival of Capcom’s infamously brutal series of action platformers, Resurrection is just as punishing as the games before it. It delights in throwing obscene amounts of hellish enemies at you from every angle, requiring deft platforming and lightning-fast reflexes – not to mention unshakeable endurance – to make it to the end of every level. The game does make a handful of modern additions, including the advent of much-needed difficulty options, but Resurrection remains a hardcore Ghosts ‘n Goblins game to the core. It’s sure to satisfy longtime series fans, but anyone hoping for a more modern design sensibility might need to take their boxers elsewhere.

System: Switch
Release date: February 23, 2021
Developer: Koei Tecmo / Omega Force
Publisher: Atlus


Less than a month after the Switch launched in March 2017, Atlus and P-Studio released the critically acclaimed RPG Persona 5 on PlayStation platforms – and since then, fans of the franchise have been begging the powers that be for a Switch release of the high school simulator/interdimensional dungeon-crawler. That has yet to happen, but the launch of Persona 5 Strikers is perhaps the next best thing – a sequel that shares the iconic characters and sense of style of Persona 5, but featuring an entirely new story and style of gameplay that’s even faster and flashier than the original game. Strikers is an excellent action game with an engaging narrative that is sure to captivate any fan of the franchise – but newcomers to Persona may have a hard time jumping in without playing the original.

System: Switch
Release date: February 11, 2021
Developer: Tarsier Studios
Publisher: Bandai Namco


Little Nightmares quickly became a much beloved hit among fans of horror and side-scrolling adventure gameplay, beautifully melding this sense of intense atmosphere with some of the most innovative and unique environmental designs the medium has seen. It had everything it needed to be, well, nightmare fuel, and capitalized on that artistically. Its big draw-back, however, was simply how short it was. Thankfully, Tarsier Studios went on to develop DLC in a perfectly priced package that expanded the game up to three additional hours, putting us in the shoes of The Runaway Kid as they too tried to escape from The Maw. Now with the release of Little Nightmares II, feedback was taken to heart and Tarsier Studios has made a bigger and better adventure, emphasizing more so the nightmare portion of its name with a stellar experience that gives everything I wanted the first time around, and goes even further with its disturbing themes and atmosphere that, with excellent sound design, brings together a must-play horror package.

System: Switch
Release date: February 12, 2021
Developer: Inti Creates
Publisher: PQube


The House of Dead, but with high schoolers. Time Crisis, but with teens. However one might try and describe it, there’s no getting around the fact that Gal Gun Returns is a very niche title – in a nutshell, it’s a rail shooter/dating-sim hybrid where you play as a high-school boy who must fend off swarms of desiring anime girls, all while pursuing the love interest of your choice. If that description makes you feel uncomfortable, then this game is decidedly not for you – but for those looking for a lighthearted, promiscuous romp through a Japanese high school, Gal Gun Returns is a competent but unremarkable experience.

System: Switch
Release date: February 4, 2021
Developer: The Game Bakers
Publisher: The Game Bakers


Playing Haven, a game about two lovers surviving in space together, often feels like dancing. Whether the game’s protagonists are careening across floating islands, fighting corrupted wildlife or engaging each other in conversation, almost every component of Haven’s gameplay has a rhythm to it that makes the experience feel like a spectacle. While it suffers from occasionally tedious systems and a bloated structure, Haven’s focused story, striking presentation, and innovative combat make it of the most unique third-person games I’ve played recently – despite some technical issues.

System: Switch
Release date: January 26, 2021
Developer: Gust
Publisher: Koei Tecmo


Our beautiful and charming resident concocter of potions and alchemy returns in a follow up to the most successful entry in Koei Tecmo’s long-running Atelier franchise, which sees alchemists go on fantastical adventures of self-discovery and wonder as they achieve their goals in heartwarming tales. Nearly 25 years later, the series is bigger than ever and one of its most popular protagonists, Ryza, returns with her own sequel. Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy builds upon the foundation of what made the original such a hit with both old and new fans alike, and while it still doesn’t necessarily do anything to reinvent the wheel or push the genre or technical limits of hardware, the game continues to do what the franchise does best: provide us with wholesome adventures in a relaxing JRPG setting with a cast you can’t help but love and grow with.

System: Switch
Release date: December 22, 2020
Developer: Modus Games
Publisher: Modus Games


Override 2: Super Mech League is a simple game built on a simple concept: it’s all about the visceral joy of destroying everything around you in a giant mech suit. As a party-style fighting game where up to four players duke it out as gigantic robots, it offers a wide variety of gameplay modes and a large roster of fighters. It ticks off all the boxes for a decent multiplayer brawler, but the question remains: does it pack a mechanical punch that keeps players coming pack for hours on end, or does its gameplay ultimately feel robotic?

System: Switch
Release date: December 3, 2020
Developer: Toge Productions, Mojiken Studio
Publisher: Chorus Worldwide Games


It needs to be said right away that When the Past was Around is one of the most beautiful and evocative experiences I’ve had in quite some time. It’s games like these that I usually love to close a year off with, just as I did previously with Gris. These types of titles these go beyond a narrative being told and go straight for the heart, and, much like Gris, convey a lot by saying very little. When the Past was Around is a game that lets the art and your actions do the talking as your 20-something character goes through love, loss, and heartbreak, as well as the trials and tribulations of life and how we face them. It has a little something we can all connect to, and finding and utilizing these puzzles to face our issues – much like how we solve problems in our own lives – become complex only when they need to or if we don’t look deeper. When the Past was Around almost feels like an interactive metaphor, but does so in a gorgeous way that accentuates its stunning art style, relaxing yet thought-provoking gameplay, and café-like vibes that make it feel like a real joy to play from beginning to end despite its heavy themes.

System: Switch
Release date: December 3, 2020
Developer: Bandai Namco
Publisher: Bandai Namco


If you’ve ever longed to control a pair of sentient taiko drums and fight alongside Marie Antoinette to prevent the space-time continuum from collapsing on itself, then the Taiko no Tatsujin: Rhythmic Adventure games were custom-made for you. Once exclusive to the 3DS in Japan, Bandai Namco has now brought its role playing taiko adventures to the west for the first time. Taiko rhythm gameplay and RPG mechanics might seem like an odd blend at first blush, so a major question naturally arises: are these roleplaying spinoffs an offbeat adventure, or do they stick to a solid rhythm? Let’s strike up a drum line and find out.