Spyro Reignited Trilogy

Featuring a lackluster beginning in Spyro the Dragon, a much improved sequel in Ripto’s Rage, and one of the era’s most expansive takes on the genre in Year of the Dragon, Spyro Reignited Trilogy ends up being a mixed bag that provides an interesting look at how the franchise went from a naive shot at 3-D platforming to a fully realized concept that was able to stand up to the likes of Banjo-Kazooie, Mario, Crash, Donkey Kong, and Rayman. To further accentuate the contrast between its good and bad aspects, even the best two titles of the package stumble on crucial matters like controls, loading screens, and frustrating design choices. Nonetheless, Spyro Reignited Trilogy is a worthy purchase to anyone who either has fond memories of the dragon or to those that have no nostalgia regarding the hero but that crave for a rebirth of the 3-D platforming genre. In the case of the first group, they will be happy to see classics that were a key part of their childhood be resurrected with so much care for visuals and music. Meanwhile, gamers that fall into the second category will discover at least two flawed but entertaining gems that prove that even if mascots are a relic of the past and 3-D platformers are far from having the importance they once held, the gameplay style still holds up quite nicely.

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Little Nightmares II

Little Nightmares II does little to expand on what was established by its predecessor, hence coming off as a much lighter breath of originality; furthermore, it inherits many of that game’s problems, including trial-and-error patterns as well as a short length. However, its horror is so gripping; its atmosphere is so tense; its monsters are so grotesque; its gameplay is so engaging in its simplicity; and the violent moments it contains are so unexpectedly brutal that it is impossible not to be hooked. Little Nightmares II, like its title implies, is a disturbing sequence of small self-contained horrors that unfold in multiple locations. They make players wish looking away was possible, but the fact their lives are on the line means they have to keep starring at the utter unfolding horror. Likewise, they cause one to hope unplugging and waking up from the bad dreams were a possibility, but the desire to get to the bottom of the title’s ridiculously well-constructed lore and world will simply not allow the cowardly way out to be taken. As such, the only option is to keep on digging deeper and deeper, facing the horrific situations contained within as they come up and delighting at the fact that, despite residual issues, the world has been given a second glimpse into the rotten fairy-tale storybook which houses the universe of Little Nightmares.

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Soul Searching

Soul is a movie that, through death, steps in to look for meaning in life. As it turns out, it does not find a big answer; in fact, it has no answer at all to offer. What it shows, instead, is that – as far as our earthly perception goes – human existence is nothing but a sequence of usually small events whose significance and power will be lost on those who are either looking too hard for a purpose or working excessively towards a goal without ever giving themselves a chance to stop and smell the roses. As it happened in Inside Out, it is possible to question whether the message is understandable to kids; additionally, and coming off as pure flaws, it can be pointed out that Soul uses a couple of plot devices that feel too forced in order to make some of its major events unfold and that the conclusion it comes to is kind of cliche. What cannot be denied, however, is that it surprises and succeeds in sending its message in a way that is original, delicate, unexpected, powerful, and beautiful. In other words, it fits right in the Pixar tradition of touching animations that ought to enchant children and, even if for just a few days, make adults contemplate their lives from a different – and better – angle.

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Immortals Fenyx Rising

Despite ultimately being a more compact version of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, problems like these indicate that Immortals Fenyx Rising is biting off more than it can chew. Or maybe, in the end, the shortcomings that punctuate it serve to show that a little bit of extra development time would have allowed plenty of opportunities for some of its ideas to mature into a more full-fledged state. Nonetheless, the game comes out of its daunting endeavor – the one of replicating the experience provided by one of the greatest adventures of all time – with pretty good results, overall unsurprisingly falling far below the quality threshold of its source of inspiration but at the same time being able to outdo it slightly in a couple of aspects. Immortals Fenyx Rising is not Breath of the Wild, but it is fun, charming, challenging, and clever. It imitates Nintendo’s untouchable franchise more effectively than nearly all of those that attempted such lunacy before it, and due to that it is the perfect slice of The Legend of Zelda goodness for fans to endure the long winters that usually separate the main releases of the franchise. More than a side-dish, however, Ubisoft’s effort is simply a very good game on its own right, for even though it copies much more than it creates, its formula is just impossible to resist and its approach towards Greek mythology is undeniably quite well-done.

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The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is ultimately the blueprint for all modern RPGs that seek to evolve while remaining true to the genre’s traditions. Even though the size of its overworld is certainly important for that success and Bethesda’s achievement in building it cannot be overlooked, this is – when it is all said and done – not an adventure that thrives solely because it takes place in a huge explorable landscape, but because it employs such scenario impressively well: using it to construct an alternative reality that other than incredibly deep also happens to be stunningly believable. Behind all of those positive characteristics lies the title’s true major victory: the freedom it puts in the hands of players. After all, if the intent of role-playing games is to allow the participants to choose their own paths and be whoever it is they feel like, then The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is the true realization of that ideal. From flawless hero to dirty criminal, all options are on the table, and even if this is a quest vaguely centered on the fight against a particularly evil dragon, the journey contained here can take whatever form those who are in control choose to give to it.

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Super Monkey Ball 2

It is through such means that Super Monkey Ball 2 is able to write the book on how it is possible to successfully transport a simple gameplay format from arcades to homes. The game does not forget its origins; in fact, it thrives so deeply in those roots that it dedicates one of its three main modes to a progression style that is strongly based on an arcade staple: having to clear a long chain of challenges with a limited number of lives. At the same time, however, it executes the necessary transformations to make its experience worthy of a console, constructing a solid solo adventure and one of the system’s best multiplayer offerings, which achieves variety by looking away from the franchise’s traditional spectrum of monkeys in balls rolling through crazy stages. And like that, with its core always firmly centered on gameplay that is so ridiculously simple it shuns the use of buttons, Super Monkey Ball 2 manages to be challenging, flexible, fun, addictive, and packed with fantastic content.

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Guacamelee 2

In its mixture of light, yet engaging, Metroidvania level design with combats that nod to the beat ’em up genre and platforming segments that demand both skill and precision, Guacamelee 2 follows on the footsteps of its predecessor towards bringing a very unique take on a genre that is often visited by indie developers. And in that context, its references to Mexican culture – which walk hand in hand with the wrestling-themed spirit of its battles, heroes, and world – end up being the finishing touch; a final layer of charm that makes the adventure of Juan as lovable as it is challenging. Thanks to those qualities, Guacamelee 2 is an excellent addition to the Nintendo Switch library, and even though it is true that it suffers a bit from not doing enough new things to create separation in relation to its predecessor, the game is ideal to those who want more of the same. And whether they tackle the quest alone or alongside another three friends, fans of the original are bound to have a good time.

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Super Mario 64

The transplant of an established and highly popular gameplay format from the world of two dimensions in which it had so greatly thrived to the then mostly unexplored universe of three dimensions had no blueprint, no instruction booklet, and no materialized result of considerable value. The company headed into uncharted territory and rather than coming out of it with an experience that was enjoyable yet immature, as it would have been expected, they emerged out of the fog of the unknown with a gem so polished and fully developed that its controls, structure, and content would, more than serve as the base to everything that was to come, be copied and pasted multiple times across more than a decade. It is one of those grand feats that at the time when it was performed already seemed to be a pretty big deal, but that in hindsight looks a whole lot like the material of some sort of legend that is too absurd to be true. Yet, Super Mario 64 exists as proof that it happened, and, to top it all off, it remains as purely fun as it was upon release.

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Super Mario World

Super Mario World may not be as groundbreaking as its immediate predecessor; after all, Super Mario Bros. 3 marked the moment when the franchise’s gameplay reached its fully matured state, and moments such as those are very hard to come by. Nevertheless, the game succeeds in taking massive steps towards further developing the framework that was already in place. The Super Nintendo’s superior hardware allowed the creation of more intricate levels that pushed the boundaries of what a stage of the franchise could contain; the introduction of Yoshi not only brought forth a new charming character, but also expanded the series’ gameplay considerably; and the complex construction of the title’s overworld, greatly aided by the various secret exits that its courses held, gave the adventure a level of freedom and exploration that had yet to be touched upon by the platforming genre. Through those means, Super Mario World succeeds in giving muscle to a structure that had apparently already reached its peak, proving that unlikely improvements that are made to products that seemingly cannot be further polished are sometimes just as impressive as the discovery of new territory.

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Dark Souls

Sure, Dark Souls is quite hard, but it keeps players coming back for more regardless of how much it drives them to the edge of breaking, and such a balance is only possible because the game thrives with such intensity in so many areas: its combat is simple, but stunningly clever in how it turns even the most basic battles into affairs that require calculation; the design of its labyrinthine world is unparalleled; its lore is mysterious and alluring; its atmosphere is heavy and gripping; its lack of linearity is daunting; and even its smallest details hold originality, as matters such as death, punishment, as well as saving are approached from unique angles. The conclusion is that Dark Souls is not yet another great game that only happens to be extra famous because it is very tough. Dark Souls is a game that sets high standards of its own in various fields, and although difficulty and learning curve are among them, they are far from being the only ones; in fact, they might be the least important of the bunch.

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