Severed

I put off playing Severed for years because I thought it would be a game too gruesome for me to enjoy. While DrinkBox has made a title that is thematically dark, Severed sidesteps excessive gore with its artistic direction. You’re cutting off monster limbs and eating brains, but Severed manages not to be sickening even while it is disturbing. The story of Sasha trying to find her family in a hellish dimension is about learning what it means to be human, and how to process grief. Interesting and powerful, Severed is a game you owe it to yourself to play.

The Haunted Island: A Frog Detective Game

The Haunted Island is the first Frog Detective there, and it’s short and silly. It’s up to you, the number two best detective, to find the ghost haunting Martin’s island. You talk to a variety of cute characters and trade a bunch of questionable items around in classic point-and-click style to solve the mystery. There’s also a dance contest. You can complete The Haunted Island in under an hour, and while the dialogue gets some chuckles, the game lacks substance. The first Frog Detective game is clearly an introduction for the second, rather than a title standing on its own.

Final Fantasy IV: The After Years

Did you ever want a sequel to Final Fantasy IV, a title that was a complete story in and of itself? Well, you got it anyway with The After Years. An unnecessary title that treads the same plot points as the original (a relatively typical fantasy story in its own right), The After Years adds nothing to the world of Final Fantasy IV. The episodic format also fails to deliver, making some sections too difficult with the limited party match-ups. The After Years is ultimately a Final Fantasy title that no one asked for, and isn’t worth buying and playing.

Milky Way Prince: The Vampire Star

Messy. Very few games portray the messiness of a toxic and abusive relationship, but Milky Way Prince: The Vampire Star is one that does, as painful as it is to play. The writing accurately shows the intensity and instability of a mutually unhealthy relationship, with no clear distinction of one person being the victim, and the other abuser. It’s tough to get through, but also a visual novel that you should play. People on the outside looking in fail to understand the cycles of pain and love these relationships go through, so perhaps Milky Way Prince can provide some insight.

Mega Man X: Command Mission

This Mega Man X spin-off is an RPG, and it’s surprisingly competent one at that. While the story and battle system aren’t likely to blow any minds, it’s all very serviceable, although the ending leaves a bit to be desired. Command Mission surely can’t be canonical, so those in it for the lore don’t have a reason to play it, really. Honestly, Command Mission is just here, not really bringing anything new to the table, but also not particularly bad or offensive. It sits in the middle of the X series pack, so you can take it or leave it.

Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2

Despite being extremely similar to the first game, Curse of the Moon 2 fails to hit the high notes of its predecessor. The new characters don’t play as well as the original cast, making things feel unbalanced and level navigation difficult. On Veteran Mode, there are no checkpoints at the bosses, and given that bosses require memorization to defeat, the lack of them feels like a cheap way to raise the difficulty. Levels are long and full of bottomless pits, which make getting knocked back on taking damage insufferable. Go ahead and stick with the original game–COTM2 doesn’t cut it.

Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon

Did you want to play Castlevania III, but intimidated by the old-school archaic nature of it? You’re not alone, and Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon is an updated and improved twist on the classic Konami title. Switch between four characters and work your way through retro-inspired levels and bosses. It’s a blast to the past but modernized so you don’t go insane. Levels require skill and planning to get through, but you’re not likely to get completely stuck. While CotM was a spin-off of Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, I’d argue that this title is better than the mainline game.

Fire Emblem Heroes

Fire Emblem Heroes is the mobile gacha title with SRPG-lite elements and all sorts of characters to recruit. Gacha games are cash cows for most companies, and FEH is no exception. Thankfully, buried under the hundreds of character JPGs is a competent and fun SRPG gameplay… even if it sometimes forces you to get rare units to survive. For a mobile title, FEH is easy to pick up, but the insidious microtransactions are always there, so it’s not great for those with addictive personalities. But still, the core gameplay is fun and worth booting up from time to time.

Fire Emblem Warriors

Fire Emblem Warriors, as the name implies, is a mash-up of the SRPG series and the Dynasty Warriors series. You’ll cut down hundreds of nameless foes, but you’ll need to still be careful of strategy and the weapon triangle to get through without casualties. As long as you turn off permadeath, it’s good fun, but FE’s typical permadeath doesn’t work in a series that’s about mostly mindless slaying. It’s good fun and has a lot of content, but if you don’t like DW titles, no amount of light strategy will make Fire Emblem Warriors fun to you.

Fire Emblem: Three Houses

I was worried about Three Houses when it was announced. Fates wasn’t great, and Three Houses also had branching paths to deal with. However, those fears were put to rest once it came out. Being a professor teaching a bunch of students also played to the narrative’s advantage, making you care about your house once the time skip comes up and everything hits the fan. Gameplay-wise, 3H offers a lot of the same Fire Emblem mechanics but with important refinements to the formula. Normal was too easy by the end, but otherwise, a solid return to form for the series.