The Legend Of Zelda: Link’s Awakening

By finally being freed from the tiny screen to which it was confined for more than two decades, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening reveals to the world that it has always been a far bigger game than its appearance let on. In a way, some may rightfully claim they were already aware of that fact. After all, back on the days of the Game Boy, it was clear that this was a title that broke the pattern exhibited by franchises that were transported to a handheld setting: where most of them visibly shrunk to unsatisfying sizes, this was an adventure that felt almost as big as its already ambitious console sibling. Yet, on the Switch, that reality becomes more blatant than ever, and The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening uses an exquisitely colorful visual, a basic – to modern standards – but engaging approach to dungeon design, and a whimsical tropical world with a simple touching story embedded in mystery to prove its worth as a major quest of both the past and the present.

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Mark Of The Ninja

Within the framework of a sidescrolling platformer, Mark of the Ninja unearths stealth gameplay that is layered, varied, engaging, and thrilling. Carried by the flexibility of its protagonist, the natural behavior of its enemies, and the intricacy of its levels, it dares players to think strategically and act swiftly. Boosted by its detailed mechanics involving noise and lines of sight, it uses a simple format to create complex situations that reveal a very high degree of care. At last, augmented by satisfying optional content that challenges without ever generating frustration, it allows anyone to take a shot at mastering the art of being a ninja. The result is a stealth experience of rare quality that ought to deeply please fans of the genre and that might even be able to pull some nonbelievers into its grasp.

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Sports Story

As such, Sports Story is not disappointing simply due to how it is marred by multiple technical problems; the game fails to live up to what was expected of it because in bugs as well as in gameplay it comes off as an unfinished sequel to one of the Nintendo Switch’s best indie titles. If on one hand it provides an adventure that mixes questing with sports in clever engaging ways that top what its fantastic predecessor had achieved, on the other hand it massively fails in using the multiple activities it embraces to create exciting competitions that match those offered by Golf Story, hence essentially not properly exploring the mechanics it built. It is a weird duality whose causes are tough to explain, as they could have originated from a lack of manpower to materialize a bold concept, the failure to understand what made the prequel so incredible, or overblown expectations. Regardless of the reason, however, Sports Story is a very mixed bag that will remain a decent but very flawed product even after most of its bugs have been sorted out.

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Pokémon Scarlet And Violet

Nevertheless, even if Pokémon Scarlet and Violet are enticing in their open-world format, alluring in how they boast the always addictive formula of the franchise, and significant in the load of content they carry, the overall feeling these games produce is mixed. Because while it may be true that their free-roaming nature is something fans of the franchise had been craving for since the handheld era, the state in which that concept materializes here is not ideal, and it is bound to remain as such. After all, although patches might fix some of the more flagrant technical problems, many of them are likely to remain; additionally, more gravely, the design issues that hold Pokémon Scarlet and Violet back from greatness are definitive, because the shallowness of Paldea, the dullness of some specific activities, and the lack of challenge that plagues the main quest are not going away. As such, these are games that definitely check the box of bringing the Pokémon franchise to the open-world realm, but they fail to take advantage of that opportunity to truly transform the property.

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Bayonetta 3

Therefore, while it contains a good number of gimmicks that hold it back from being as good as it could have been, Bayonetta 3 is not only incredibly satisfying, but also a wild ride that feels like the franchise’s boldest and biggest entry yet. After all, in this installment, the property is neither debuting nor being rescued from the brink of nothingness: it is firing on all cylinders as well as receiving the financial and creative backing that a series of its caliber deserves. With those parameters in place, Bayonetta 3 occasionally stumbles on its ambitions; however, when it hits the mark, which fortunately happens very often, it generates uncanny doses of amusement and ridiculousness. Consequently, even if its flaws may stop one from dubbing it the best Bayonetta game, this third chapter is still one of the best and most stylish examples of the hack and slash genre.

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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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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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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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