Cosmic Star Heroine
Nintendo Switch – 2018
Cosmic Star Heroine is a throwback to the 16-bit era of JRPGs (most notably Chrono Trigger) and is packed full of pop culture Easter eggs and references. The game-play is solid, with each character having their own set of abilities but the balance can feel off. Some characters are definitely a lot more useful than others and Alyssa can become almost broken late game. Graphically, the game looks nice but there are some bits that look weak. Probably the best example of this is the characters’ pictures in the menu. There is some exploration to be had, especially with uncovering secret bosses, and there are a variety of side mission to complete. However, the game isn’t long but it’s well paced so you never really notice. Overall, the game is impressive considering how small the development team was.
Die Hard Arcade
Sega Saturn – 1996
Die Hard Arcade can be summed up in one acronym – WTF. It’s a short, fun and sometimes hilarious (not intentionally I’d imagine) game. Like most arcade beat-’em ups the game can be easily beaten in one sitting. The game looks decent, it’s nothing special but it certainly has aged better than most from this generation. The voice-acting is cheesy. The plot is nonsense. Yet, the game is incredibly enjoyable to play in both single player and multiplayer. The game’s difficulty really depends on you as with the Deep Scan mini-game, you can rack up as many continues as you want.
Torment: Tides of Numenera
Xbox One – 2017
Torment: Tides of Numenera was my first experience with this particular type of Role-Playing game. A spiritual successor to Planescape: Torment (which I’ve never played), the game gives you a variety of ways to solve problems. On my play-through, I took a more pacifist route, avoiding combat where possible. The game is heavily narrative driven (a concept familiar to fans of this genre) and as such, your actions can have an impact on certain characters epilogues. Visually, the game has an isometric view but the locations are breathtaking (and one in particular is disgusting). Game-play wise, it’s really up to you. In combat, you are placed in a “Crisis Mode” and must move your characters around a small map. “Crisis Mode” relies heavily on strategy so you have to carefully think out your actions first.
Team Sonic Racing
Xbox One – 2019
Working as a team is the name of the game (literally!) and this is a mechanic you have to master in order to get through the game. Building on the foundation of the All-Stars series, Team Sonic Racing is a solid driving game. The drifting feels natural and the AI controlled teammates are actually decent. They’ll offer you items to help you climb up the rankings, something which you should reciprocate when you’re in the lead. Working together and performing tricks helps to build up your “Ultimate” meter, which you can use to turn a race in your favour. The tracks are inventive (although not as inventive as those in Transformed) and the Story Mode is a blast to play through. You can also customize your car with items gotten using Mod Pods.
Mass Effect Andromeda
Xbox One – 2017
A lot has been documented about Mass Effect Andromeda’s facial animations and the bugs that plague the game (I once saw someone fall through a bench while they were asleep) but these are things that I took in my stride. Perhaps the harshest criticism I can level at Andromeda is that I found it boring. The game is built on exploration but to encourage this, it has a mountain of side quests. A lot of these side quests boil down to fetch quests, which is a pity because some can be quite interesting and help flesh out the characters but they feel lost. Visually, the backgrounds look amazing and the planets are incredibly diverse. In terms of combat, it feels like a step back. Gone are the cover mechanics but the jet-pack does add a new dimension to battles. At is core, Andromeda has an intriguing story that’s lost in a sea of Additional Tasks.
Mass Effect 3
Xbox 360 – 2012
Mass Effect 3 probably gets the harshest criticism out of the original trilogy. Sure, the ending is dodgy (so dodgy they had to release a free DLC to fix it) and in the end your choices in the series feel worthless but there is an excellent game here. The game-play is probably the best in the series, the side missions bring back old favourites and add to the War Council’s strength, and being chased by the Reapers if you spend too long scanning an area is terrifying. Graphically everything looks crisp and the music helps to add atmosphere, especially in a lot of the more important scenes.
Mass Effect 2
Xbox 360 – 2010
The second game took everything Mass Effect did and made it better. Combat? Better. Mako? Gone. Kaiden? Dead (at least in my play-through). The combat has been seriously upgraded but still requires strategy. The ability to import your character from the first game is an excellent feature that allows your choices to affect this game. Your companions are a lot more interesting this time around and each comes with their own loyalty mission. The suicide mission’s outcome depends on the decisions you make and if you bother to upgrade the ship. This game is probably the high point of the series.
Xbox 360 – 2007
Mass Effect as a role-playing game is excellent, as a third person shooter it’s decent. The story follows the adventures of Commander Shepard as he attempts to stop Saren. The game has a ton of side quests, some of which can influence events later in the game (and the series as a whole). The cover-based combat does encourage strategy, especially against the tougher enemies later on. The game does have some flaws. Texture pop up is frequent, the Mako exploration is boring and Kaiden clearly doesn’t have enough ibuprofen.
PlayStation – 1999
Grandia is a JRPG with an interesting battle mechanic. You character moves in to position for an attack automatically. Using strategy, you can cancel enemy attacks or group them together to hit them with area spells. The game has two different forms of leveling up – the traditional experience system and an experience system that levels up weapons/ spells depending on your use. This creates an interesting set-up as you’ll need to level up different spells and weapons to unlock late game ones. Certain abilities and spells also require a combination of weapon experience or magic experience, so you’re encouraged to mix it up. The story has take control of Justin as he sets out on his adventure. You’ll meet a lovable cast of characters along the way and be drawn in to an intriguing story. You can’t back track after you’ve completed an area, so make sure you explore everywhere. Sadly, like most PlayStation games the voice acting isn’t great.
Mystic Quest Legend
Super Nintendo – 1992
The first thing you’ll probably notice is that the name doesn’t match up with the box art on the right. Well, there are two reasons for this. First, the game was called Mystic Quest Legend here and second, I couldn’t find the Mystic Quest Legend box in English so I used the US one. So with that laziness out of the way, let’s talk about this 16-bit JRPG. It’s very basic, and I mean basic. The World map has been replaced with a simple grid that you move around before entering a town or dungeon. You ever have two party members and your guest is often leveled above your main character when they join. The weapon choice is significantly reduced from what you’d expect in a JRPG but they do have unique abilities to help you explore more areas. Overall, the game is enjoyable and very welcoming to new JRPG players but if you want a bit more, you’re better off with Final Fantasy VI or Chrono Trigger.