Persona 4 Golden

I hate grinding in Persona 4 Golden. The walls of stats, buffs and effects make my eyes glaze over. I mindlessly make the number as big as possible and run around samey halls killing monsters until I reach the top floor, usually while listening to a podcast. But I love my friends. Spending time with the quirky cast of teens who took on a serial killer sending unsuspecting denizens of a rural Japanese town into the television will stick with me for a long time. With my podcast paused it’s time to make lifelong relationships with these teens and bear.

Moon: Remix RPG Adventure

Moon: Remix RPG Adventure is such a wonderful artifact, a vibe-y, cordial experience that does more for games about non-violence than many of the titles published in the twenty-three years since it’s release. Finding a non-violent solution to a problem has become a cliche design metric, often distilled to a dialog tree or similarly simplistic branching choice. Here we have the full thrust of the game geared towards saving the bodies and souls of so-called monsters. The adventure game pace may be a bother but Moon must now, with its availability and enchanting new translation, be considered vital RPG canon.

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.

Anodyne 2: Return to Dust

The first Anodyne was such a strong little title. Perhaps, it was too much bias of what made the first title sing that causes me to feel so uninspired by the second. Anodyne 2: Return to Dust has dungeons with thoughtful details, sharp composition, and grounding pixel art. However, they are accessible only through tedious, “zany” conversations held in the 3d overworld. Where the first game was withholding and aloof, this title is only too eager with its quirkiness. It’s not complex, it’s burdensome. One has to play Psychonauts in order to play Link’s Awakening. The chores ruin the treat.

Promesa

A journey through the eyes of an immigrant grandfather and the dialogue between him and his grandson, Promesa is an abstract and meaningful adventure that takes us from Italy to Argentina in a unique display of environmental storytelling that, while short and concise, it needs to be revisited several times to get the full picture. With a beautiful soundtrack full of nostalgia, an astounding work of illumination, and the realistic depiction of Argentinian architecture, this experience brings the calm of a peaceful and slow exploration through memories of love, youth, and the melancholy of a time that we didn’t live.

Super Mario Bros. 35

Mario Battle Royale.

Why not? it’s free.

Goomba, mushroom, goomba, goomba, koopa

Yeah, this feels familiar. Takes me back.

Koopa, goomba, goomba, goomba–heck yeah, fire flower

You know what? I’m pretty good at this.

Goomba, koopa, koopa, *shell combo!*, goomba, goomba, blooper–wait, what?

How’s everyone else doing? Wow, so many down already? I’ve got this.

Koopa, shell combo, goomba, goomba, parakoopa piranha plant cheep cheep blooper spiny–

Uh oh.

Goomba goomba koopa piranha plant spiny spiny blooper !?BOWSER?! Hammer bro !?BOWSER AGAIN?! koopa koopa hammer bro hammer bro hammer bro–

I. . . I won?

. . . I think I’ll go out on top.

Manifold Garden

This gravity-bending puzzler has some very good ideas and a few less good ones that turn it into an occasionally frustrating but immensely satisfying experience. I felt like I had to brute-force some of the puzzles, and I really didn’t like the Tetris blocks very much, but the majority of the puzzles were very clever. Its theme of rebuilding a corrupted world evokes Bastion and Monument Valley in the best way. The ending wears out its welcome a little bit but overall the game is tight enough to feel complete without padding itself. Manifold Garden is definitely worth your time.

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered is not perfect. It doesn’t improve upon the original’s multiplayer, the menu system is a bit clunky, and it’s in need of some quality of life features. Despite this, I couldn’t help but fall in love with the game. Cozy is the best word to describe FFCCR. It delivers gratifying exploration, an amazing soundtrack (I have a new fascination with the crumhorn), and a minimalist story with charming and sometimes melancholy themes of memories and family. FFCCR is a warm cup of hot chocolate while nestled in a blanket after a long day of work.

Final Fantasy XIII

Final Fantasy XIII is different, but different does not mean bad. It doesn’t want to be either FFVII or FFX, it wants to be Final Fantasy XIII, and I think it succeeds as its own game. Its battle system is more RTS than RPG, but I like that it made me think differently than I would for other Final Fantasy games. Not to mention the soundtrack has one of the best battle themes in the series as a whole, and dozens of other standout pieces. It is a different experience to others, yes, but a welcome difference to be sure.

Final Fantasy XII

In the vast land of Ivalice, an orphan, his childhood friend, a princess, a pirate, an exile, and a fallen knight meet while they make their way into a dangerous adventure, in order to unveil the truth behind a betrayal of the past and stop a devastating war. Presenting brand new gameplay and a fresh story with compelling characters, Final Fantasy XII marked a new chapter in the beloved franchise, with drastic changes and additions to the gameplay. New combat mechanics that shined through their dynamism and a well-polished growth system makes this game an entertaining if sometimes messy experience.