Mario + Rabbids: Sparks Of Hope

Still, even if it falters in tone, suffers in plot, and punctually loses itself in putting quantity above quality in battles, Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope is a worthy sequel to one of the Nintendo Switch’s most unexpectedly engaging titles. And it would not be exaggerated to claim it surpasses the original in pretty much every regard. The exploration that felt tacked on is now complete as well as fulfilling; the world is a sight to behold; the music is lushly enchanting; the scope of the quest feels absolutely huge, with a meaty critical path of epic proportions and optional content that occasionally falters but that ultimately delivers more often than it does not; the role-playing elements power an incredible degree of customization; and its battle system remains an interesting mixture of strategic thinking and movement-based antics that are extremely satisfying to pull off. Given all of that, this crazy pet project of Davide Soliani once again proves again that courage and absurd ideas have a place in mainstream gaming; and though projects of the kind may be doubted or mocked at first, if love and competence join forces to make them materialize in style, audiences are sure to give in and happily flock to these games.

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No Man’s Sky

Some may say that compared to the incomprehensible scale of the game, its problems are as insignificant as humans are when standing in front of the universe’s nigh infinity. It is a fair statement, but enjoying No Man’s Sky is ultimately not a matter of overcoming punctual issues; it is actually dependent on whether or not one will embrace a kind of gameplay that depends on emergent goals. Because, sure, there is a relatively meaty main quest in the package, but mostly it will be up to players to choose their path in the cosmos and engage with the dozens of mechanics at their own pace. Therefore, if the concept of virtually inhabiting and wandering through an immensity filled with procedurally generated beauty sounds appealing, then No Man’s Sky, in its updated state, is an excellent realization of that concept. If, however, one sees excessive freedom as a synonym for aimlessness, then the game will be a technical achievement that will not hold much interest.

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Nier: Automata

Nier: Automata, then, is a bold project that does not completely land the tricks it tries to pull off. Its premise is nigh irresistible: a game that joins the flashy action of PlatinumGames, the underlying role-playing elements of a Square Enix classic, and a unique philosophical tale told through a daring structure coming from the mind of a director who is known to push the envelope. Augmented by a refreshing visual style and a historically excellent soundtrack, these variables amount to the type of package that gives fuel to the argument of videogames as art. Nier: Automata is one of the most prominent examples of that notion, because while entertaining in gameplay, it also forces its audience to engage with its layers of meaning in very intriguing ways, being a tale whose home had to be in an interactive medium. Sadly, when aiming for those heights, the title achieves its thematic ambitions at the cost of sheer fun. Therefore, it does not hit the mark entirely; but to those who will be dragged by its grasp, moved by its questions, and interested in its structural oddity, it will sure feel like the experience of a lifetime.

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Resident Evil 4

Perhaps Resident Evil 4 did not even need to go so far out of its way in order to reinvent the franchise’s gameplay. Maybe the title could have gotten away just fine by neatly replicating, with better visuals, what its predecessors had done. But the bottom line is that the bold decision to throw a considerable dose of action into the series’ well-established survival horror formula paid massive dividends, and thanks to that, the game is a rare case of a property that essentially defined a genre also finding a way to reinvent it significantly. However, ultimately, Resident Evil 4 is not great simply due to how it takes a big leap and lands successfully; it is excellent because whether it is daring players to shoot up the place or challenging them to face the impending horror on screen, it is always coming up with engaging scenarios as well as generating an immeasurable level of tension.

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Tunic

Due to its bold cryptic nature, it is possible that Tunic will cause some players to occasionally wish the game were a bit clearer in one or two points. But overall, this is a masterclass of design. In a context where a few franchises and developers are smartly recognizing that their audiences want to be left alone to engage in quests of exploration and discovery, Tunic takes that concept to its extreme by having players figure out nearly everything, from where they must go next to the intricacies of basic mechanics. On its own, that idea should already be thoroughly enticing to many, but Tunic amplifies the thrill of it all by turning that process into clever puzzle-solving seamlessly integrated into a journey that matches a The Legend of Zelda overworld with progression, exploration, and combat that carry a firm Dark Souls stamp. The result is one of the finest efforts ever produced by the indie scene, and an adventure with the capacity to trigger a nearly unparalleled joy of discovery.

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Pikmin 2

Yet, despite the fact Pikmin 2 is a blatant improvement over its prequel in multiple areas, the quality of the experience is ultimately defined by the dungeon-crawling gameplay it brings into the formula, since most of the quest’s running time will be spent in procedurally generated caves. If their premise sounds appealing, then these occasionally brutal challenges that dare players to walk into a sequence of floors with an army of Pikmin and make it to the end without losing too many creatures and being forced to retreat should pave the way for a delightful journey. However, if the exploration of natural outdoor environments and the more organic vibe that prevailed in the original come off as better, then Pikmin 2 could be seen a minor misstep. Still, regardless of one’s stance, the fact of the matter is that there is a lot of enjoyment to be found in the package; the difference only lies in how much frustration one will have to deal with.

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Pikmin

Vicious in how it depicts the merciless spirit of nature and charming in how it covers it all up with cute colorful painting, Pikmin is a creative victory. Simply put, there is nothing quite like it, and its mixture of action, exploration, and army-management is so unique that pinning it to a genre is nigh impossible. What is truly important, though, is that it is a thoroughly engaging package which challenges players to multitask, plan, and skillfully use a horde of little creatures to overcome obstacles as well as bring down foes that tend to outsize the heroes by a very comfortable margin. And even if problems do exist in how the Pikmin occasionally act, in how the quest’s time limit may turn some gamers off, and in how the project’s scope verges on being too small, the formula created here is by all means a winner, and in its first outing it already emerged as an incredibly fulfilling experience.

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Battalion Wars

Because of the problems it presents, some may look at Battalion Wars as a bit of a misfire. After all, while Advance Wars, the property from which it came, represents one of the peaks of the strategy genre, this console spin-off is good but not spectacular. Yet, the fact it dared to translate that portable experience to a console while greatly altering the gameplay to a point that it lands on a different niche altogether is not just commendable, but also responsible for generating a very interesting product. The mixture between action and strategy it unearths is thoroughly unique, and in a setting where managing platoons of different units and skillfully shooting up the place with the appropriate type of weapon are both key to victory, the game comes across nicely designed scenarios that are worthy of the Advance Wars stamp in how they present challenge, replayability, and the need for careful planning. Therefore, even if the complex nature of what it tries to do contains obstacles the game does not totally overcome, the result is still worth checking out, since the experience that can be found here is not available anywhere else.

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Duck Tales

As the first fruit of a collaboration that would go on to yield bright platformers and adventure games, Duck Tales was a very positive sign of what was to come. With it, Capcom used the wisdom of its talented development team to turn a famous Disney property into a very engaging gaming experience, and it is not hard to understand why the title not only succeeded in its time, but also remained beloved long after that era. After all, rather than settling for a competent but forgettable design, the studio perfectly translated the cartoon’s charm to pixels while sprinkling it with refreshing gameplay ideas. The result is one of the NES’ finest hours and a project that would go on to serve as an example for anyone trying to use popular television and movie characters as the inspiration for a game.

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Xenoblade Chronicles 3

Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is quite simply one of the most ambitious projects to ever come out of Nintendo’s pipeline. With it, Monolith Soft further solidifies its property as one of the biggest representatives of the genre, taking almost everything that made its two predecessors feel magnificent to new heights. The world is not just the biggest one yet, but it is also intricately designed; the art style is vivid yet sober, achieving an immaculate level of quality; the plot’s tone is alluringly bleak; the customization options are unbelievably deep; the cutscenes are abundant, brilliantly directed, and greatly dramatic; the protagonists are the best in the saga by a very large margin; and the full-fledged nature of the more than one hundred sidequests threatens to set a new very high standard for the industry as a whole. As such, Xenoblade Chronicles 3 safely qualifies as one of the best RPGs of all time, and its mixture of exploration, battling, and questing goes straight to the history books to serve as a blueprint for the future of the genre.

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