#Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest
- 4/5 - Faithful to the original and just as polished. DKC2 is considerably more difficult than the original, to the point where the hardest parts of DKC1 look like a cakewalk in comparison. Sometimes, the difficulty verges on straight-up BS. Level design is considerably more vertical in this entry, and this is enhanced with the added mobility of Dixie Kong who, while a tad slower than Diddy, has the invaluable glide ability.
- 3/5 - A solid Sonic entry, and a flawless PC port by Christian Whitehead. More in line with Sonic 1 & 2 than 3 & Knuckles. Has some really impressive animations and sprite work, as well as the best music in any Sonic game.
#Castlevania: Rondo of Blood
- 3/5 - The prequel to Symphony of the Night, Rondo of Blood is the final "classic" Castlevania title before the series ventured into the exploration-focused Metroidvania design. Not to be confused with Dracula X, Rondo of Blood is very similar to Super Castlevania IV although with a few notable improvements and extra features, including multiple playable characters, branching paths that lead to unlockable levels, and fully animated cutscenes. Maria is much more fun to play and less rigid than Richter, although that comes at the cost of making the game a bit too easy at times.
#Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
- 4/5 - An imperfect classic, I can clearly see how many of SOTN's flaws were overlooked on release and for years following its release. It is one of the most influential games of all time, and is far more ambitious than most of its contemporaries. Some of the best spritework I've ever seen.
#Super Castlevania IV
- 3/5 - Unparalleled atmosphere meets antiquated platforming. Castlevania 4 suffers from a lot of the same platforming woes of other games of its era; in an age where Super Mario Bros. is the single most popular game of all time, how could you not have platforming in your videogame? Although C4 is far less stiff than its predecessors, it can't be denied that the platforming is still clunky. Simon moves as gracefully as a bag of sand. You can't jump while on stairs. You fall directly through stairs. For some reason, inputting left + up will still move you up the stairs even if "up the stairs" means going right. Putting all of this aside, Castlevania set the bar for action platformers at the time, and its music, visuals, and gothic flair have aged remarkably well.
#Sonic & Knuckles
- 3/5 - What was supposed to be the second half of Sonic 3 ends up feeling like a collection of cuts that didn't quite make it instead of an equal half. S&K starts out pretty strong, but starts to falter as the game struggles to the finish line. Some bosses are questionable (the first phase of that last boss?) as usual in Sonic games. Knuckles is a great joy to control and makes level traversal far more interesting. My suggestion to newcomers is to just start with the Knuckles campaign.
#Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together (Classic Review)
- 5/5 - The gold standard of tactical role-playing games, and the Matsuno/Sakamoto/Yoshida trifecta in full force -- masterclass art direction, music, and combat design. Branching story paths and multiple endings that are radically different, where team composition and story choices have real and dire consequences. PSP remake highly recommended.
#Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island (Classic Review)
- 5/5 - About as perfect as 2D platformers get, with arguably the best level design seen in a Nintendo game. Everything here is Miyamoto/Tezuka/Kondo at their absolute peak. Plain masterpiece.
#Hagane: The Final Conflict
- 2/5 - Fantastic combat and art direction. Frustratingly imprecise and tedious platforming, which unfortunately, makes up for most of this game's challenge. Most of the bosses, while fun, are far too easy. Recommended if you absolutely love punching your TV.
#Brutal DOOM (Ultimate DOOM)
- 3/5 - A ridiculously fun mod and twist on the original DOOM Engine games. I played most of Ultimate DOOM with the Brutal DOOM mod using GZDoom. While I loved almost all of the new additions, the level design of DOOM 1 has not aged the greatest. Having been designed with aiming restricted to a single axis of motion, most of the levels feel frustratingly flat when compared to modern shooters. Even with auto-aim turned off, I found it surprisingly easy to mow down enemies until their HP levels got comically high in what felt like artificial difficulty hikes. Otherwise, highly recommended.
#Donkey Kong Country (Classic Review)
- 5/5 - Donkey Kong Country is not a perfect game, but it nears perfection so often, I can't help but heap mountains of praise on it. The pre-rendered sprites have aged remarkably well, due in part to some impeccable character and level design by Rare & co. Despite rumors that Miyamoto was bitter about DKC and Rare's handling of his beloved franchise, the opposite is actually true; Miyamoto played a crucial role in DKC's production and gave his blessings to the British development studio. And you can tell -- Donkey Kong Country is distinctively a Nintendo platformer. The soundtrack by David Wise is also an ambient/synthwave masterpiece.
#Sonic the Hedgehog 3
- 4/5 - 2D Sonic at its best on the Genesis. The level design guides the player and actually encourages exploration and for the player to slow down. Roller coaster sections are less frustrating and filled with much less cheap deaths & enemy placements. Level transitions are a great addition, and the OST is significantly better than the previous two entries.
#Sonic the Hedgehog 2
- 3/5 - While it suffers from a lot of the same issues as its predecessor, Sonic 2 is much more accessible, entertaining, and diverse than the original. The levels are much more forgiving and receptive to players who just wanna "go fast." The OST is also significantly improved. A couple of awful levels (Sky Chase Zone) and boring (easy) bosses. Multiplayer is a welcome addition, if not, barebones.
#Sonic the Hedgehog
- 2/5 - Sonic the Hedgehog contradicts itself regularly. Sonic is supposed to go fast, but the screen is so tiny, this results in the player regularly running into spikes or enemies, or a gap where you fall to your death. Fine, Sonic wants me to slow down for some precise platforming. Or maybe not.. because Sonic controls so slippery and the jumping is floaty as all hell. The music is also all over the place. There are probably three good tracks on here, while the rest ranges from forgettable to downright obnoxious. This game has not aged well, to say the least.
#Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective
- 4/5 - A story-driven puzzle/adventure detective story that weaves together themes of mystery, poltergeist, time travel, and the love between owners and their pets. Surprisingly heartfelt for a goofy, anime detective story, but about as contrived and convoluted as you'd expect from the director of the Phoenix Wright games. All of the puzzles (with the exception of 2 of them...) are clever and satisfying to solve. The characters are all distinct and likable in their own respects. The ending -- while it certainly threw me for a loop -- made me want to hug my cat.
- 3/5 - I know I'll be tarred and feathered for this -- I honestly believe this game to be one of the most overrated games of the 16-bit era. I commend Treasure for the spectacle and exhilirating gunplay of Gunstar Heroes, not to mention the fantastic visuals and music. But this game is greatly hindered by a frustrating control scheme, and weird imprecise inputs. The levels are laid out Megaman-style, but vary greatly in difficulty. Some of the boss fights and level checkpoints are just flat out unfair. Better enjoyed with a second player.
- 4/5 - DOOM is pure video game. Great fun, good challenge, nice visuals, cool music. Some sections are confusingly long-winded, and some of the platforming can feel unnecessary. Otherwise, a perfect revival of a classic.
#Divinity: Original Sin 2
- 4/5 - Divinity: Original Sin 2 is a flawed game, but it's a game that wears its flaws on its sleeve. The first chapter can be a slog, and the amount of players in your party affect the experience greatly. Combat, while difficult from the onset, lures you into a false sense of security midway through the game before the difficulty curve spikes in the penultimate chapter to the point where you're wondering if you can even finish the game. So while DOS2 is still a messy, unbalanced, unforgiving Eurogame like its predecessors, its polish, clever gameplay, and sheer ambition make it shine above other modern RPGs.
#Mega Man X2
- 3/5 - A good follow-up to the influential Mega Man X, albeit, as formulaic as you'd expect from a Mega Man game. What makes X2 more interesting than the original is the addition of the mid-air dash ability, which dramatically changes X's mobility and thus the pace and approach for every boss fight. Highly recommended.
- 4/5 - A modern re-interpretation of Breakout/Arkanoid-type games. It's very, very fun.
#Sayonara Wild Hearts
- 1/5 - While the art and music complement each other nicely, Sayonara Wild Hearts feels like a videogame created by a music video director for the sole purpose of being featured in award show trailers and E3 show reels. It looks and sounds amazing, but at its best plays like an awful REZ ripoff, and at its worst (which makes up for most of the playtime) plays like an on-rails, QTE-laden, endless runner with flimsy rhythm game elements that ultimately don't really matter unless you really want to chase high scores. Perhaps this is a great game to show to friends and family who have passing interest in videogames, only for the fact that it's so flashy and visually appealing.
- 2/5 - Cool style, cool art, good job mimicking the psychological horror style made popular by games like Silent Hill. I get strong Yuri Norstein vibes. Story is pretty boring and uninteresting. Characters are not fleshed out enough to care about. Overall a decent, short adventure game experience.
- 2/5 - ABZU is a beautifully stylish visual experience. The gameplay, however, consists solely of opening doors, and it's as boring as it sounds. Character movement only begins to become fun during the last 15 minutes of this 1.5 hour journey.
- 3/5 - A very fun, and very short indie platformer/bullet-hell shmup. Bleed 2 continues in the tradition of the original with responsive controls and super fluid & hyperactive gameplay. The story mode can be completed in about an hour. Bleed 2's story mode is forgiving with checkpoints, so I recommend playing on the hardest difficulty. Nice retro graphics and a slick visual style, although with some questionable artistic decisions in regards to character design.
- 2/5 - Kirby's Adventure is a fantastic platformer that released near the end of the NES's lifecycle. It has great level design, sound design, gameplay, and arguably the best visuals & art design of any game on the NES -- they are so good, that this game still looks great to this day. However, the poor NES could barely handle the sheer amount of enemies and effects going on at once. As a result, if you're playing this on the NES or a cycle-accurate emulator (like Mesen), the game will suffer from horrendous slowdown which in turn causes button inputs to be dropped entirely, making the game massively frustrating at times, to flatout unplayable during the most chaotic sections. Kirby's Adventure was remade in 2002 for the Gameboy Advance as "Kirby: Nightmare in Dreamland" without the slowdown or performance issues. While I do prefer the visuals of the original NES game, I'd recommend the GBA remake based on my experience with the original. Or you might better off playing using a romhack or different emulator that solves the input-dropping issues (I used Mesen). If not for these performance issues, this game would be an easy 4/5.
- 4/5 - An excellent and much needed reimagining of Metroid II in the style of the GBA-era Metroid games (Zero Mission, Fusion). As a fangame, it near perfectly matches the official Nintendo titles in level design, bosses, and audio/visual values.
#Remnant: From the Ashes
- 3/5 - (Co-Op) A third-person shooter/RPG hybrid that is often associated with the "Souls-like" subgenre. I would only call Remnant a souls-like superficially. There are the equivalents of bonfires from Dark Souls/Demon's Souls; boss fights are preluded by fog doors and have multiple phases usually triggered by HP thresholds; you have a refillable health-regen item that you can upgrade with items found in the world. There are other smaller similarities, but otherwise, this game is completely different, with combat that is very standard, generic third-person shooter-fare (without a cover system, which was an odd exclusion in my opinion). Character builds are based on item/weapon bonuses & perks upgraded via "Trait" points. Bosses and environments are nowhere near the quality of Souls games. In particular, there are only 3 environments in this game, 2 of which are painfully underwhelming visually. Campaigns and Adventure modes are semi-procedurally generated with scalable difficulties. There is replay value here, however, this game is meant to be played co-op. Single-player is a bore.
- 3/5 - (Co-Op) A 2D metroidvania-lite action platformer with a distinct visual style influenced by Southeast Asian mythology. The character abilities are all rather generic for this brand of game, and the enemy variety is severely lacking. This game's primary gimmick is its mix of platforming with the polarity system and bullethell style of gameplay, pretty plainly lifted off Ikaruga. Overall the game is challenging enough to be satisfying, especially with another player. Note that online multiplayer suffers from noticeable input lag.
- 3/5 - A hack-n-slash/bullet hell boss rush with a French-anime art style that hearkens back to cyberpunk samurai cartoons you maybe watched as a kid. The mixture of parry-centric swordplay with bullet hell works very well and makes for some exhilirating combat. Some of the bosses have a few poorly designed phases, but overall, the game has good focus and delivers what it promises. The acid-house/synthwave electronic music also complements the gameplay fantastically. The writing and "cutscenes" are typical anime dreck.
#No Players Online
- 3/5 - An interesting (and free!) take on interactive horror that pays homage to first person shooters of the early 00s, and the all too common experience of revisiting a once beloved online multiplayer game, only to find that the servers are completely empty. The concept of haunted digital spaces inhabited by some tormented cyber entity is not a new one, but No Players Online does a great job of inspiring player curiosity and meta-commentary of just what this game actually is. "Completing" the game involves taking part in a kind of scavenger hunt ARG for clues, some of which involve downloading a completely different itch.io title to progress, and calling a phone number (that is now inactive, although the prerecorded message is now on Bandcamp).
- 2/5 - Another RPG Maker cult favorite that is unrelenting in fulfilling its author's vision. A tough one to place; uses the bog standard out-of-the-box RPG Maker turn-based combat, even keeping the included stock sound effects. The game is translated from French, and at times it felt the translator was leaning a little too heavy on a thesaurus (specifically for the Judge character). The visuals are particularly inspired, being highly surreal and carrying with them a street art-like quality that reminds me of the schizophrenic line art and harsh contrasting colors of Jet Grind Radio. Some confusing use of overly compressed public domain art. OFF seems to relish in its own weirdness a little too much at times, and the gameplay and puzzles suffer for it. An interesting exercise in world-building (which is fitting, given the game's plot).
- 3/5 - An RPG Maker modern classic. A horror game with a creepy atmosphere and multiple endings. Cute plot, and inconsistent visuals. Freeware.
- 2/5 - A game about swords and corporate greed. But mostly a cute indie game that minifies Majora's Mask time travel mechanic to a mere 60 seconds. The gimmick is stretched thin quickly and the game barely does it any justice aside from extract tedium from it. The monochrome graphics, while an obvious stylistic choice, are grating to look at. Decent chiptune music. Fortunately the game does not outstay its welcome.
- 4/5 - A fantastic modern platformer that is at times brutally unforgiving. The story presents a nice message but without much subtlety, and is sometimes excruciatingly on the nose. Great soundtrack.
#The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
- 5/5 - A landmark in open-world 3D game development. After over a decade of sticking to a proven formula, Nintendo took inspiration from the series' roots and reinvented the series whilst making bold innovations to the genre.
- 3/5 - A 2D adventure reminiscent of Limbo. Bleak, haunting presentation with glimpses of a more personal message, tied together with mediocre gameplay.
#Dragon Quest III (SNES)
- 2/5 - A classic 2D JRPG that influenced a decade of role-playing games to come. Charming dialogue and world-building, undercut by turn-based gameplay that has not aged well, and a ridiculous need for grind.
#The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
- 4/5 - Great dialogue, great graphics, great characterization. One of the most fleshed out open-world 3D games ever created.
#Resident Evil 2
- 4/5 - A successor to the legendary survival horror video game that hits all the marks and improves upon the gameplay of the original.
#Resident Evil 0
- 3/5 - A good rendition of the ol' Resident Evil formula with worthy visuals and level design. Some clunky new mechanics made its way into this game.
#Resident Evil HD Remaster
- 5/5 - The definitive way to play the greatest survival horror game of all time.