Paper Mario: The Origami King

There are blatant improvements to the story, but the development of the script feels undercooked at several points; there is a lot of great design to be found in the exploration of the overworld, but there is an unnecessary simplicity restricting what Mario can do; and there may even be value to be extracted out of its puzzle-based battle system, but combats are so straightforward, easy, and pointless that it feels like they are there more as an obligation than as an actual creative decision. The result is an enjoyable, charming, and funny adventure game whose remaining RPG gameplay comes off as empty and unnecessary, and stuck in this uncomfortable position of not fully committing to any of the facets that it tries to embrace, The Origami King could have never matched the golden days of the franchise. However, for what it is worth, the game is the saga’s best entry to be released ever since it began to move away from its glorious and distant start.

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Civilization VI

It is such cyclical nature that leads to the popular one-more-turn syndrome, a famous condition that makes entries of the franchise frequently impossible to put down. There is always something about to happen, and behind one achievement there is sure to be yet another moment of glorious human progress to be unlocked; in victory and in defeat, then, Civilization VI is incredibly fulfilling. Given the enormous concept it sets out to turn into a game, the saga is probably eternally destined to punctually be too large for its own good and to feature a fabric of mechanics too vast to be entirely balanced. However, Civilization VI is so engaging that it is hard to think the evolution of society throughout thousands of years could be represented in a way that is as alluring, complete, and fun.

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Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling

By looking closely at Bug Fables, one can notice that there are punctual cracks on its surface that reveal its nature as an independent effort that is tackling a rather large scope. But other than being justified, given it is actively trying to emulate a gameplay experience of a rather large caliber, its ambition is also greatly fruitful, because it undeniably yields a product whose quality matches – and in some areas even surpasses – that of the material that inspired it: the first two Paper Mario games. In some ways, Bug Fables does not feel like a copy that is too close for comfort or even a homage. The end result is far closer, instead, to a continuation of what was left behind fifteen years before its release, because although it obviously exhibits neither the firepower nor the creative wildness a direct sequel to The Thousand-Year Door would have, it dares to build on what was standing nevertheless. And what fans get is not a mere nod of recognition to a past that is lost, but a picking up of the torch that proves the fire still burns and that it can become even stronger.

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Shantae And The Seven Sirens

Saying Shantae and the Seven Sirens is very flawed would be a mistake, because no component of the game comes off as lackluster or problematic. What it truly lacks is a bright spark of creativity to elevate it further. However, in spite of that absence, the quest it contains remains enjoyable throughout the way, and the whole package is recommended to anyone looking for a lighter – but still very big in scope – take on the Metroidvania genre, one that sprinkles a maze-like world with drops of straightforward action-platforming and adventure. Shantae and the Seven Sirens is a very welcome return to form by one of the independent scene’s most beloved franchises. And even if it has some catching up to do to match the best efforts of its genre, there is no denying that the change it brings to the table is as pleasant to experience as the knowledge that the half-genie is back to doing what she knows best; that is, unlocking the secrets of a big labyrinth while talking to characters, executing trading sequences, going through dungeons, and bringing down foes with her signature hair whip.

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Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Animal Crossing: New Horizons walks on a tightrope whose existence is utterly unlikely. One will have a hard time finding, in the entirety of the Nintendo canon that existed prior to its release, a title that can extract as many hours out of players that go into it. Simultaneously, even though a time-consuming nature is often reserved to games that appeal to few, Animal Crossing: New Horizons carries an allure that is universal. The usual premise of living and taking care of a little virtual village filled with lovely characters has been expanded to the concept of developing a barren deserted island into a charming little town floating in the middle of the ocean. It is a process that takes weeks, progresses slowly, requires patience, and features a great deal of grinding. But it is also a journey that lets players perform tasks at their own pace and, thanks to the marvelous customization powers included in New Horizons, exercise their creativity freely and without any pressure, carefully building a personal virtual paradise that has the potential to keep producing joy for a good number of years. Such is the magic of Animal Crossing.

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Monster Boy And The Cursed Kingdom

Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom is, ultimately, a phenomenal revival that went through one crooked path in order to become reality, making its existence as much of a victory as its stunning quality. Materializing as a product that balances indie trends with respect for the tradition and spirit of the franchise to which it belongs, the game is a marvel that is difficult to qualify, as it uses the full extent of its long quest to explore a surprising myriad of mechanics and gameplay styles, succeeding in all of them with the same level of competence. As such, whether it is in action, in platforming, in shooting, in exploring, or in puzzle-solving, the game will please all sorts of audiences, conquering the hearts of those who were around to see the saga peak and then disappear, as well as drawing in a group of gamers who were never aware of the Wonder Boy property. Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom achieves that status because it is relentlessly inventive and impossibly charming. And surrounded by numerous contemporaries who have explored the same genre, it is able to qualify as one of the very best.

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Pokémon Sword and Shield

In spite of the massive pile of disappointments that they are bound to bring to those who are familiar with the saga, it is simply impossible not to recommend Pokémon Sword and Shield. The features they present, whether new or old, are flawed in multiple ways, and numerous of those problems are considerably aggravated by how – as the first versions built from scratch over the power of a home console – the games simply do not take advantage of the jump to either expand their ambitions or get rid of old vices that should have been eliminated a while ago. Notwithstanding those sometimes infuriating stumbles, Pokémon Sword and Shield stand both thanks to a formula whose capacity to hook has not been even slightly eroded and nice punctual evolutions that enhance the overall experience; yet, with so much retreading and standing still, one cannot help but worry which way the franchise is going if the trend is not reverted.

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The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

It is, ultimately, an extreme attention to detail that transforms The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt into a masterclass in world-building; and it is the value brought by all elements that contribute to that aspect of the game that makes it possible to overlook some of its flaws. The title prevails and goes down in history as an effort that is brutally focused in the construction of a universe; and in the midst of dark matters involving both humans and monsters, Wild Hunt is able to muster touches of sweetness, such as genuine romance, amusingly dry humor, strong friendships, and extravagant situations that border on the cartoonish. The fact of the matter is that The Witcher 3 is so big that it has got it all: adventure, horror, drama, misery, joy, shock, and ambiguous morality. It is a world that parallels the real one in various ways; not just because it often puts players in situations in which a completely happy outcome is just not possible, but also due to how it devotes so much energy to such numerous details that it feels alive and organic to a point that has only ever been met by few other games.

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Ni No Kuni: Wrath Of The White Witch

In spite of how it is both the game’s visual presentation and the presence of Studio Ghibli that ought to attract many players towards Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, that audience is likely to quickly discover there is far more to the title than those two elements. Even if firmly grounded on some of the genre’s traditions, it is an RPG that puts considerable effort into not falling victim to them, and it succeeds in that regard via a charming battle system boosted by thousands of party-building possibilities, the character development it unearths in the interactions between its two worlds, and – most of all – in the fantastic synergy between the hearts of its plot and spirit, which gives support to an adventure that delicately merges fantasy with reality; humor with tragedy; despair with hope; and what is violent enough to bring devastation with that is pure enough to deliver restoration.

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Luigi’s Mansion 3

As it stands, Luigi’s Mansion 3 is bound to go down as turning point, for it feels like the precise moment when a franchise that was once seen as a secondary property showed it had the absolute right to exist alongside the biggest brands of the company responsible for its creation. In all regards, it leaves absolutely nothing to be desired when compared to its most popular and critically acclaimed peers. It has music and, especially, visuals that confirm it was a project in which a lot of money was invested; it has a scope that, locked within the confines of a hotel, is able to evoke values of grandeur that are usually reserved to adventures that are much more expansive; and it fills up its considerable size with quality gameplay that continuously surprises through the entirety of its length. It is, by all means, a gaming epic; one that, true to the nature of its protagonist, is built with unexpected tools like a vacuum cleaner, a doppelganger made of jelly, and tons of charmingly funny horror.

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