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Reviews

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.

System: Switch
Release date: November 20, 2020
Developer: Koei Tecmo / Omega Force
Publisher: Nintendo


In true Musou/Warriors fashion, the original Hyrule Warriors was Koei Tecmo’s take on a completely original story that introduced new characters like Lana, Cia, and Linkle and saw a darker, more mature take on the Zelda IP. Omega Force used the studio’s hack-and-slash prowess to give us one of the most intense and action-oriented Zelda titles to date, and now the follow-up takes us back – way back – to long before the Calamity plagued Hyrule in the timeline of Breath of the Wild. The game brings with it the usual Musou greatness Omega Force is known for while featuring Breath of the Wild’s aesthetic and storyline instead of the more stylized Musou approach that we saw with the original Hyrule Warriors.

System: Switch
Release date: December 3, 2020
Developer: Ubisoft
Publisher: Ubisoft


If there’s anything Ubisoft should be commended for, it’s the company’s ambition to constantly create new IP and expand them into ongoing franchises. Ubisoft is one of the few publishers out there that has a steady output from numerous in-house studios that tend to push new ideas forward with a wide array of properties. Immortals Fenyx Rising – which debuted as Gods & Monsters in 2019 – continues that trend with an open-world game featuring an experience that’s equal parts wholesome and dramatic, humorous yet tumultuous, and adventurous and inviting. It fine tunes the open-world experience and makes everything feel worthwhile and seamless, cutting the bloat other games in the genre tend to find themselves suffering from. Immortals Fenyx Rising provides a beautiful world within the Golden Isles that feels like a breath of fresh air.

System: Switch
Release date: November 10, 2020
Developer: Edelweiss
Publisher: XSEED / Marvelous


Farming simulation has had an interesting history ever since Harvest Moon popularized it way back in the 90s. I was always fascinated by the idea of simulators in general, but it wasn’t until recent years when I started to really feel like the genre started to accommodate more types of players and creativity really started to help drive the genre forward. Games like Dragon Quest Builders, Summer in Mara, and Rune Factory give players much more to do than waking up at 6 AM to check the mail and grab some fresh fish and carrots. These kinds of titled helped players like myself ease into the gameplay while also offering a sense of adventure alongside the more serene moments of farming and relaxation. Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin continues this trend of implementing a new way to play and acquiring the materials you need to build a future in a newfound land. It’s as wholesome as it is adventurous, all while providing an immense amount of fun in a unique experience that delves into the love of rice – one of the world’s biggest commodities – as well as Japanese folklore to further exude a beautiful fantasy setting.

System: Switch
Release date: November 3, 2020
Developer: WayForward
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment


The last time Bakugan saw any sort of video game outside of mobile devices was back in 2011 with Rise of the Resistance on DS. Almost nine years later, to the dot, the series is back with Champions of Vestroia. I don’t think Bakugan ever had that sort of grip or longevity something like Yu-Gi-Oh! or even Beyblade has, but it’s gathered enough of a following to warrant continued support of the property so many years later, especially now with the new Switch game. The anime continues on with Bakugan: Armored Aliance following a sort of “reboot” with Battle Planet prior to that, so Champions of Vestroia just adds to a big push from SEGA Toys and Spin Master for the series to return to the forefront where it once sat as Property of the Year in 2009.