Putting together a list of the 100 best Playstation games of all time is no easy task but the crew here at Goomba Stomp have been working around the clock to get it done. We are almost at the finish line but before we reveal our number one pick, we still have 39 other entries to get through. Here is a list of our top 40 Playstation games released exclusively for a Sony console.
Top 40 Playstation Games of All Time
40 – Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner
Few mech games have matched the organic controls and the cinematically-calculated-yet-frenzied action of Konami’s Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner (first released for the PS2) – the third and final game in the short-lived but highly praised Zone of the Enders series – which spawned three games, an hour-long OVA and an anime series, all within the span of just three years.
As a result of being created, produced and overseen by Hideo Kojima, and featuring art direction by Metal Gear’s Yoji Shinkawa, the Zone of the Enders series is intrinsically tied to the Sons of Liberty-era of Metal Gear, and 2nd Runner probably exhibits that same spirit more than any other game in the entire series. The same kind of subversion of genre, of trying out ambitious gameplay ideas, pushing the limits of the PS2’s hardware, it’s all there. Zapping enemies, selecting multiple targets to blast them into oblivion, and close quarters hand-to-hand melee, it’s simply the best realization of how a mech out of an anime should feel to control.
The game’s heavy reliance on dialogue, and its ambition to act out as a cheesy anime is, however, a pain to get through. To put it frankly, the voice acting downright sucks, on a hilarious level. If you thought MGS2’s “We’ve managed to avoid drowning” was a doozy, then boy, are you in for a treat. It’s something that makes what should be an easily accessible experience, an intro to mecha even, a bit of an embarrassment. What’s crazier is that the game has received two remasters since its initial release, and both times, the option to switch to the less obnoxious Japanese voice acting is missing.
But, if you can through the cringe-inducing cutscenes, you’re in for one of the most fun gameplay experiences of your life. Not a bad trade-off, I’d say. (Maxwell N)
39 – Xenosaga Trilogy
The Xeno games of Tetsuya Takahashi and Soraya Saga have always been outliers in the world of RPGs, and the Xenosaga trilogy on PS2 is certainly no exception.
An insanely ambitious and incredibly dense trio of games, the Xenosaga team had the audacity to plan out a six-part magnum opus of time, space, religion, philosophy, and dreams before the first game was even released. Though they may have overshot a bit (only three of the games would see release) Xenosaga still stands as one of the most awe-inspiring, uncompromising visions in gaming history.
This is a game that has romantic tension between a scientist and the android who murdered her boyfriend. This is a game where a psychopathic sadist molests a little girl for information in a scene that couldn’t be released in North America without censorship. This is a game where a robot stood in for the crucified Christ in a multi-layered dream sequence. And all of that was just in the first game.
Xenosaga isn’t just a trilogy of games, it’s an honest to God experience. Diving into this world is a serious investment in a time when gamers have never been more back-logged, but there has never, ever been anything quite like this series in the history of gaming. The fact that the closest thing I can find to compare to the density of the mythology of these games would be either Mass Effect or Metal Gear Solid should tell you something about the company these games keep. (Mike Worby)
38 – Kingdom Hearts
Disney and Square’s whimsical, console-hopping, action-RPG series all began here. Mixing dozens of Disney movies, the Final Fantasy series, and a heap of Star Wars, just because, Kingdom Hearts introduces players to a universe of colorful characters, varied worlds and really hard bosses.
Kingdom Hearts marks the long-time Final Fantasy character designer Tetsuya Nomura’s first time as a director. The gameplay is solid, with plenty of customizable abilities and cool magic attacks, combined with the constant introduction of guest characters from the Disney worlds, who each have their own abilities. As its recent HD remaster proves, the game also has a great aesthetic that – while not cel-shaded like other cartoon-based games – holds up even if the other graphics technology doesn’t.
The core narrative of Sora leaving home to find his friends has never been as simply endearing as it was in this first installment before the series’ original characters started to outshine the Disney and Final Fantasy ones. It’s easy to forget that Maleficent, the deliciously terrifying villain from Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, is the antagonist of much of this first game.
It may not have the flashy battles of the second game or the inevitably tragic events of Birth by Sleep, but the original Kingdom Hearts has positives all of its own. For one, it is the only game in the series with a plot that makes a lick of sense. (Mitchell Akhurst)
37 – Okami
Okami is a near masterpiece of video game design with stunning ink-and-watercolor visuals and a brisk story that saves its best twists for its final act. Set sometime in classical Japanese history, the game combines several Japanese myths, legends and folklore to tell the story of how the land was saved from darkness by the Shinto sun goddess, named Amaterasu. Okami’s greatest stroke of genius is Amaterasu herself, who takes the form of a white wolf, and its distinct cel-shaded visual style. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better-looking game for the PlayStation 2 coupled with an epic tale strung together by several awe-inspiring parables and colourful, characters who’ll linger in your memory long after you’ve completed your quest.
Okami takes its cues from the Legend of Zelda series in particular and achieves similarly outstanding results. This is a dazzling, enchanting, and gorgeously drawn fairy tale that will leave gamers a little more curious and fascinated by the world around them. Okami is an amazing work, filled with a visual intelligence that’s meticulously composed and obscenely clever – yet its breadth and heart give it an appeal that should touch gamers of all ages. (Ricky D)
36 – Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception
Uncharted 3 is one of the best action adventure games of all time, but it had the rotten luck of following Uncharted 2 – the best action adventure game of all time in the minds of many. The theory around Naughty Dog HQ is that Uncharted 3 is the best game in the franchise (prior to the release of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End) and that if the game had swapped places with Uncharted 2: Among Thieves and released first, people would hold it in higher regard.
The logic is perfectly sound – Uncharted 3 does what Uncharted 2 does but generally bigger and better and with more explosions. Perhaps the game falters in the pacing department when compared to the second game, but in most other regards it’s a noticeable, if not massive, progression. But while the gargantuan leap in quality from the first game in the series to the second wasn’t repeated when moving on to the third, Drake’s Deception just being another great Uncharted game isn’t anything to worry about now, is it?
Drake’s Deception delves into Nathan’s past more than ever before for the series, and for the first time gives Uncharted a villain that has a little more to bring to the party than the stock baddies of the first two games. The globe-trotting adventure Drake once again finds himself offset by the return of fan-favorite characters and spectacular set-pieces before settling down for a third act showdown in the desert that frequently delights, once again proving that Naughty Dog are the masters of their craft. (John Cal McCormick)
35 – Silent Hill 3
Released in 2003, Silent Hill 3 built upon the mechanical improvements made in Silent Hill 2 and served as a direct narrative sequel to the events of the first game in the series. Following Heather Mason, the adopted daughter of the original protagonist Harry Mason, the game tells a more straightforward story of mystery and revenge. Although the basic plot can be understood without prior knowledge of the series, the nuance and depth of the story cannot truly be appreciated without the emotional investment that was built during the original Silent Hill.
Beginning with a dream sequence that promptly murders the player, the third game in the franchise showcases its rapidly sped up pace, introducing the nightmarish terrors, that took a decent chunk of time to reach in the preceding games, in a matter of minutes. However, the story doesn’t suffer from this, as it keeps the focus on a smaller, but equally memorable, selection of characters such as Claudia Wolf, the cult’s leader, and main antagonist, and the mysterious Detective Douglass Cartland.
Team Silent’s new game engine allows for smoother running and more detailed environments than ever before, featuring more responsive controls and dynamic lighting. Combat is increasingly difficult this time around, as enemies such as the Closer take many hits to kill and often gang up on the player, but to compensate for this, there is a much more diverse selection of weapons. Uzis, stun guns and knives are spread out somewhat more liberally than previous games, while more ridiculous items such as the Beam Saber and Heather Beam serve as bonus content once the game is finished normally.
To make up for having fewer endings, players are allowed to choose from multiple difficulties, which make combat and puzzles more challenging and unlock several different costumes for Heather. With stronger level design, a streamlined story and improved controls, Silent Hill 3 stands as a worthy sequel to a horror classic that offers its own unique perspective in the series. (Matt Bruzzano)
34 – Ratchet and Clank
In any previous generation, the teaming up of a furry, space cat hero and a diminutive robot would have meant a cutesy mascot platforming game. But by the time the PlayStation 2 had rolled around, the very idea of the mascot platformer was on the way out. Mario was still flying the flag for Nintendo, but Sonic was about to go multiplatform, Crash Bandicoot was struggling, and Microsoft had, erm, Blinx the Cat doing whatever he did. At first glance, Ratchet and Clank seemed poised to wind up next to Spyro the Dragon and Croc in the cute platformers vault, but getting your hands on a controller and sitting down to play the game proved that Insomniac had something a little more substantial up their sleeves than the cute aesthetic of the game implied.
While the gun play in Ratchet and Clank was a little rough around the edges in the first installment, and wouldn’t truly be refined until the third game in the series, the brilliance of the idea was evident right from the start. Take a couple of heroic cartoon characters, give them a planet-destroying megalomaniacal villain to go up against, and present them with an arsenal of ridiculous weaponry to do the job. By the time you were turning enemies into sheep with the Sheepinator, or sucking up enemies and using them as bullets to destroy bigger baddies with the Suck Cannon, it became obvious that Ratchet and Clank was a different breed of 3D platformer. (John Cal McCormick)
33 – Tekken 3
Although the third installment in the popular Tekken fighting game series was originally released in arcades in March 1997, it was the 1998 PlayStation port that really put it on the map. When the Tekken series debuted on Sony’s home console, it was hailed as one of the best fighting games alongside the Dreamcast version of Soul Calibur. Decades later, many gamers will still place Tekken 3 on such a list, and with good reason.
Not only does each character have over 100 unique moves and combos, but Tekken 3 broke new ground by placing a huge emphasis on the third axis, making sidestepping every bit as important as blocking in terms of defense. The tight mechanics and huge roster would have been worth the price tag alone, yet Namco added a full Final Fight-style campaign and a ton of bonus features to keep gamers busy. Tekken 3 is widely regarded as the best game in the franchise, and in my opinion, one of the ten best fighting games ever made. How could we not include it? (Ricky D)
32 – Final Fantasy VIII
First things first, let’s just get this out of the way: not everyone is crazy about Final Fantasy VIII. Among the usual complaints thrown at it are the fact that its battle and junction systems can be leveraged to the point of making the game a cakewalk, and that the switch to drawing magic and only holding a certain amount of spells, instead of the standard MP system, was a huge mistake.
There’s a case to be made for both points, but Final Fantasy VIII is still a fantastic game in spite of these perceived flaws. Featuring one of the tightest, best narratives in the series and a very likable sextuplet of main characters, Final Fantasy VIII gets you caught up in its story of sorcerers and time travel right from the opening moments of its stunning cinematic sword fight between rivals Squall and Seifer.
Boasting incredibly cinematic direction, an insane attention to detail and some of the coolest weapons and limit breaks the series has ever seen, there’s plenty to love about Final Fantasy VIII, and it certainly doesn’t hurt that it also has the most awesome and epic boss battle the series has ever seen during the jaw-dropping finale.
A true classic in every sense of the word, Final Fantasy VIII succeeds in a lot of ways because it’s so different, and its these differences that still make it stand out in the series even 17 years after its original release. (Mike Worby)
31 – Grand Theft Auto III
Is there a purer motive than revenge? Grand Theft Auto III kicks off with the protagonist named Claude and his girlfriend Catalina in the middle of a bank heist. All is going well until Catalina decides to put a bullet in her companion and leaves him for dead. Unfortunately for her, Claude not only survives but also manages to escape police custody, allowing him to embark on his quest for vengeance. Left with few options and even fewer allies, Claude finds himself working as a thug for the Mafia.
From there, the player interacts with other major criminal organizations, including the Yakuza and Columbian Cartel; using them, betraying them, and eventually eliminating them, all along the path to ultimately finding his ex, and putting her eight feet under. GTA III may not have the robust plot and more complex characters featured in later games in the series, but the simplicity and satisfaction of Claude’s story are still as enjoyable now in 2016 as it was back in 2001.
While GTA III’s narrative can be described as simple, the game’s design is anything but. From its mission structure to its open world and how the player interacts with their environment, Grand Theft Auto III changed the way games were played. DMA Design (now known as Rockstar North) did not pioneer the concept of open world design, nor are they credited with creating the first sandbox-style experience with a living and breathing world to explore. GTA III was able to take these elements and combine them with such nuance and scale that it single-handedly ushered in the age of the 3D open-world sandbox game.
By giving the player a massive open world to explore at their leisure, allowing the player to interact and traverse the landscape via multiple modes of transport, and offering a huge amount of story-based missions, GTA III changed the way developers would look at game design moving forward. Seen as a monumental achievement, Grand Theft Auto III is considered to be one of the most influential video games ever created, right up there with the likes of Doom and Super Mario Bros. (Matt De Azevedo)
30 – Marvel’s Spider-Man
Nearly five years after the release of the PlayStation 4, Sony doesn’t seem to be slowing down one bit in giving gamers worldwide reason after reason to buy this generation’s best-selling console. If not for God of War and Monster Hunter World, the PS4 is once again a must-have system for anyone wanting to play Sony’s exclusive titles thanks to the amazing job Insomniac Games did on Marvel’s Spider-Man. It may not be groundbreaking like God of War but, at its best, Spider-Man might just be the finest superhero video game ever made, and one of the most enjoyable games I played this year.
Swinging about the richly detailed open-world recreation of Manhattan is an absolute blast and it helps that the game does such a great job at maintaining an urgent tone, since there’s never a moment that doesn’t go by in which you don’t have something important to do. If Spidey’s cell phone isn’t ringing, there’s always something to keep your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man busy. As you progress, you’ll unlock new abilities and new power suits that not only open up the game more but help keep everything fresh and exciting.
Seriously, the traversal system in Spider-Man is a joy and it gets better the further you progress in the story. Furthermore, Spider-Man is also one of the best looking games of 2018. From the day and night cycle to the photo mode to the gorgeous cutscenes, there’s always a reason to stop and snap a screenshot. Everything from the city design, various costumes, cinematography, and CG effects is top-notch – not to mention, John Paesano’s music is absolutely fantastic as well.
Where the game shines most is its story. Boasting six entertaining villains, a deep emotional focus and a finale that may leave some players in tears, Spider-Man is hands down the best Spider-Man story (outside the comics) since Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2. Last, but not least, the epic boss battles in Spider-Man rival most action scenes in Marvel movies and the added little touches such as Spidey’s Twitter feed, various side quests, and multiple Easter Eggs keep players coming back for more and more. There’s a reason why Spider-Man’s platinum completion rate is insane. The game is hard to put down and begs players to explore every nook and cranny. All in all, this game is a blockbuster with both a heart and a brain. (Ricky D)
29 – Horizon Zero Dawn
Before Horizon Zero Dawn was revealed at Sony’s best-of-all-time 2015 E3 presser, it’s hard to imagine many people being too excited at the prospect of an open world game from the studio that had done little but create Killzone titles for various PlayStation consoles since 2004. You’d think the reveal of a Final Fantasy VII remake, Shenmue III, and the news that The Last Guardian was actually a real game that might be released one day would overshadow anything else that happened during Sony’s blockbuster conference, but Horizon Zero Dawn looked so impressive in its debut showing that people couldn’t stop talking about it.
And it’s easy to see why. Talk about elevator pitches. How’s this? A woman who appears to live in the stone age but also in the future has to fight robot dinosaurs using a hi-tech bow and arrow. You had me at robot dinosaurs.
Horizon Zero Dawn tells a wonderful sci-fi yarn in a world full of interesting characters, but it’s the combat that truly steals the show. Heroine Aloy must defeat dangerous, robotic dinosaurs using an array of arrows, bombs, and traps, and the thrill of taking down an enormous, hulking, metallic beast never gets old. Each creature approaches combat in a different way, and so the strategy you’ll need differs, from using trip wires to fell a herd so you can easily pick off the stragglers, to dislodging a rocket launcher off the back of behemoth to use against it in battle.
Horizon only really stumbles in the human-on-human combat, which feels a little like an afterthought and never comes close to the thrill of battling the robototic creatures that roam the world. Horizon Zero Dawn is an exhilarating first entry into what will undoubtedly, in time, become one of PlayStation’s stalwart franchises for the PS5 and perhaps beyond. (John Cal McCormick)
28 – Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater came out of nowhere to revolutionize gaming in 1999. It set a pretty high standard for the genre, and sports games in general. It made Tony Hawk a household name and set in stone a franchise that would last longer than it should have – and while Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater hasn’t aged particularly well, it’s still the second best in the series, surpassed only by the third entry.
Neversoft hit the ball out of the park with the very first game and packaged it with a killer soundtrack and an all-star roster to boot. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater was the reason why my friends and I all purchased a PlayStation that year. It made gaming “cool” and there was no other game I sunk more hours into on my PS1. (Ricky D)
27 – Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
After the massive cliffhanger ending of Sons of Liberty, Hideo Kojima had a lot of options when deciding where the Metal Gear series would go next. After the Raiden fiasco, fans were expecting some sort of trolling from Kojima, and something was clearly amiss when Snake Eater was eventually shown at E3 2003. The playable character went by the name ‘Snake’, and he certainly looked and sounded like the iconic hero, but signs pointed to the game taking place in the 1960s.
Some fans theorized that the footage shown in the trailer was simply Solid Snake doing a VR Mission set in the past, but others put two and two together and realized MGS3‘s Snake was a different character altogether. Taking the series back to its roots, in MGS3 players would take up the role of Naked Snake, the man who would eventually become known as ‘Big Boss’, with the events of the game not only pre-dating the two previous Metal Gear Solid titles but also taking place chronologically before the original Metal Gear games.
Originally planned as a PlayStation 3 game, Kojima had lofty expectations. He wasn’t sure if the hardware available at the time would be able to handle the lush jungle setting he’d imagined for the game, but with the PS3 still years off, he took the gamble and went for it on the PS2, and it paid off in spades. Previous titles had Snake limited to indoor environments and tight corridors, but Snake Eater opened up a whole new can of worms. The game’s excellent and more open level design – in combination with new additions such as interchangeable camouflage and the requirement to hunt for food – took the series to all new heights.
Keeping up with tradition, Kojima would eventually release an enhanced edition of the game, known as Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence. This version came with some additional content, but unlike the enhanced editions of previous titles, Subsistence also changed the base game dramatically by dropping the fixed camera angles and incorporating a fully 3D user-controlled camera. The new camera setup allowed for unparalleled control, and in combination with the already solid gameplay mechanics, MGS3 is seen by many as the high point in stealth game design.
From the unforgettable boss fight with The End to the tragic story of The Boss and everything in-between, Metal Gear Solid 3 is not only a mechanical masterpiece but also a landmark when it comes to video game narrative and character development. (Matt De Azevedo)
26 – Persona 3
Persona 3 features one of the most startlingly effective images in the history of gaming. In order to release the heroic avatars that reside within them, the protagonists of Persona 3 must shoot themselves in the head with a special gun named an Evoker. While these guns shoot magical bullets and don’t pose any risk of splattering the walls with teenage grey matter, the visual is shocking and evocative regardless.
But the game isn’t just shock value alone. Persona 3 is a robust JRPG that is one part dungeon crawler, and one part dating sim. By day, you go to school, socialize and build up a network of friends and associates. By night, you hunt magical creatures known as shadows in an otherworldly tower block. Reaching milestones in your friendships and bettering your abilities in school directly influences your ability in battle, and so the two seemingly disparate gameplay elements end up working together in tandem in a system that is both familiar and fresh. (John Cal McCormick)
25 – Valkyria Chronicles
A neutral land caught between two warring factions, the nation of Gallia finds itself being invaded by the Imperial Alliance as they attempt to seize the Gallian’s cache of valuable ore. Inhabitants of the border city of Bruhl are forced to take up arms in order to defend their land. Outnumbered and outmatched, the town watch’s captain, Alicia Melchiott, and Welkin Gunther, the son of a legendary soldier, are forced to retreat to the Gallian capital where they join the militia and embark on a quest to defend their home.
Valkyria Chronicles is set in a fictional continent called Europa and tells a story which is clearly inspired by the real-life events of World War II. An absolutely beautiful game to behold, Valkyria Chronicles uses an art style which makes the game seem like a watercolor painting come to life, but the beauty of the visuals is starkly contrasted by heavy plot elements. The game isn’t afraid to touch upon very real issues, such as racism and the far-reaching effects war has on both those directly involved and those unfortunate enough to be caught up in its wave of destruction. Valkyria Chronicles is far from a historical reenactment, however, as the game has a heavy dose of supernatural powers and outlandish characters. Valkyria Chronicles does a fantastic job of meshing real-world issues with crazy anime tropes and succeeds in creating a grounded yet over-the-top adventure that will have players feeling the entire gamut of emotions.
Mechanically speaking, Valkyria Chronicles is a joy to experience. It’s predominantly a Tactical-RPG, akin to XCOM and Fire Emblem, but Sega opted to ditch the classic isometric view and grid-based combat typically associated with the sub-genre, and instead went with a surprisingly well done 3rd person shooter perspective. Characters are free to move anywhere in the 3D space, only limited by their movement meter. The game features different classes which all have different weapon types, and each individual character has their own personality traits and attributes. As with other Tactical-RPGs, positioning and spatial awareness is key to overcoming your foes. Valkyria Chronicles truly shines when it comes to its mission structure and level design, as the game constantly provides interesting objectives and challenging scenarios.
Comparable to legends of the genre such as Final Fantasy Tactics and Tactics Ogre, Valkyria Chronicles is simply a must-play for any and all fans of tactics-based role-playing games. (Matt De Azevedo)
24 – Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
Looking back, it’s hard to decide what the best Grand Theft Auto game is. Grand Theft Auto V has sold over 100 million copies, is one of the most financially successful entertainment products of all time (with over $6 billion in worldwide revenue) and has given gamers new content every year since its release. Grand Theft Auto 3 is considered one of the most influential games of all time, showing what an open-world game could offer, while Grant Theft Auto Vice is fondly remembered for its setting, story, soundtrack and cinematic influences such as Miami Vice and Scarface.
Meanwhile, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas improved on the formula of its predecessor by featuring a fully-realized character to play with along with an enormous cast of talented celebrity voice actors to help bring the story to life. It features a massive world with an endless list of things to do, and at the time of its release featured the deepest, most detailed environment of any game in the series by expanding the map from a city to an entire state.
While the majority of our staff have fond memories of playing the previous two titles as kids, that amount of nostalgia can’t overshadow just how superior Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas was at the time and regardless if you think San Andreas is the best in the franchise or not, there is no denying that it is a spectacular feat and set a benchmark against which all other open world games would be judged moving forward. (Ricky D)
23 – Katamari Damacy
If there’s one edge that Sony has over Microsoft and Nintendo, the variety of games available for their consoles is probably it. Whether it’s throwing money at games like The Last Guardian for years without just canceling it, or allowing something as ridiculous as Vib Ribbon to get made, Sony consoles have never been short of a crazy idea or two. Few games, however, can hope to be much crazier than Katamari Damacy.
You play a character known as the prince who must rebuild the stars in the sky after the king accidentally wipes them all out. How do you do that? Why, by rolling a sticky ball around and picking up bits and pieces off the floor until your ball is big enough to constitute a star, of course.
Once you’ve come to grips with the controls, the game becomes a riot, as you roll over everything from pens, to dogs, to old grandmothers and eventually cars and buildings. It’s a thrill to take a tiny ball and grow it into something that can roll over cows or buses, and the anarchic sense of humor prevalent in the game is contagious. Grab a couple of beers and invite a few friends over and a good time will be had by all. (John Cal McCormick)
22 – Resident Evil
Resident Evil is credited with bringing the survival horror genre to the masses and ushering in a golden age of truly terrifying video games. Originally conceived as a remake of Capcom’s earlier horror-themed game Sweet Home, Shinji Mikami, took gameplay design cues from Alone in the Dark and established a formula that has proven a success time and time again.
The first game in the series may seem dated, but the simple premise and duplicitous puzzle box mansion hold up incredibly well twenty years later. For those who love the series’ puzzle elements, the original is unparalleled. The opening sequence sets up a campy tone with unintentionally hilarious voice acting, but once you’re knee deep in the mansion, things become unbearably tense. Resident Evil requires patience, and what makes the game so good is the slow burn. It’s punishing at times, so proceed with caution. (Ricky da Conceicao)
21 – Chrono Cross
A lot of people aren’t necessarily crazy about Chrono Cross, and in a lot of ways, their feelings are totally understandable. More of a spiritual successor than an actual sequel, Chrono Cross is only tangentially connected to its beloved forebear, Chrono Trigger, and for folks who thought they’d be time-hopping again with Crono and co, Chrono Cross‘ more low-key take of moving back and forth between alternate dimensions would certainly have been jarring.
That said, though, Cross came packed to the brim with plenty of charm all its own. Its story, which centered around the repercussions of the events from Trigger, followed a cast of dozens as they unraveled the mysteries of the alternate timeline, and in particular, why your main character happens to be dead in that world. Of course, the small scope of the adventure spins wildly out of control (as these things are wont to do) and soon you’re passing the frozen void of life and death, and even meeting up with fate itself.
It’s a thorough, involving and fantastic adventure and one that deserves to be played by more people to this day. Chrono Cross may not have the enduring legacy of some of Square’s other PSX RPGs but it’s a wonderfully designed game and well worth your time if you’re a Chrono Trigger fan, plus it has easily one of the best soundtracks of all time. Give it a go, you won’t be disappointed. (Mike Worby)
‘Final Fantasy VIII’: A Beloved Black Sheep
If the the general operative way to make a sequel to a massive success like Final Fantasy VII would be to give people more of the same, only bigger and better, Squaresoft opted for something of a different approach.
When Final Fantasy VII emerged on the scene back in 1997, it changed the way gamers looked at, and experienced, JRPGs. With its flashy cutscenes, cool aesthetic and myriad of anime badasses, Final Fantasy VII pulled off the seemingly impossible task of making RPGs cool. It also gave RPGs a breath of fresh air, exposing them to the mainstream and earning them a much bigger slice of the gaming industry. Then came Final Fantasy VIII.
If the the general operative way to make a sequel to a massive success like Final Fantasy VII would be to give people more of the same, only bigger and better, Squaresoft opted for something of a different approach. In fact, Final Fantasy VIII was so wildly different from its predecessor that it wouldn’t be stretch to call them polar opposites.
Where FFVII took place in a world that was dark, moody and foreboding, FFVIII was bright, colorful and drenched in sunlight. Where VII began in the desolate slums of a fascist, dystopian nightmare, VIII opened in the sort of beautifully-rendered, futuristic facility that would be right at home in paradise. Though Final Fantasy VI and VII were separated by an entire hardware generation, there similar venues of dark steampunk and darker cyberpunk make them far more comparable in terms of their look and feel then VII and VIII.
The characters were just as distinctly different. There were no caped monster men or gun-armed maniacs here, just 6 high school students of relatively similar age, build and disposition. From the magic system to the way experience was garnered, from the way that weapons were upgraded to the method with which players earned money, Final Fantasy VIII re-did literally everything VII had built, right from the ground up.
This comparison goes a long way toward explaining Final Fantasy VIII and its strangely disjointed place in the series. Where VI, VII, IX and X are all fondly and widely remembered, VIII is more stridently beloved by a small group of loyalists. Despite its strong reviews and fantastic sales, Final Fantasy VIII found itself slipping further and further from the series’ limelight as the years passed by.
Now, however, with the release of Final Fantasy VIII Remastered, the black sheep of the mainline Final Fantasy franchise has gained a new lease on life. As one of the last of the golden age titles in the series to finally reach a mass market rerelease, FFVIII finally has a chance to redeem itself from years of teasing and jibes about its confounding junction system and endlessly plot-twisting time compression storyline.
Getting down to brass tacks, there was indeed a LOT to learn from the outset. Critics of the game are absolutely right in one respect: this game is complicated. If that weren’t readily apparent, the seemingly never-ending stream of tutorials that unfold over the course of the games first 10 hours oughta clue you in real quick. How to junction a GF, how to draw magic, how to junction magic, how to switch junctions, etc. You’ll be reading the word junction so much, you’ll think you’re watching an educational special.
With that said, though, once you’d finally mastered the many idiosyncratic elements of the junction system, you’d never felt more powerful in your life. Junctioning Ultima to strength, Full-Life to HP, and casting some Aura magic could make short work of just about any threat the game threw at you, and that’s just one of dozens of strategies that the malleable junction system provided players with. As Quistis points out early on, junctioning a status effect like blind or sleep to your elemental attack attribute could render seemingly insurmountable enemies relatively harmless in one fell stroke.
Of course, the complex nature of such a system could not be overstated. If anyone were to read this who hadn’t played the game, I’m sure it would come across as absolute jibberish. That’s part of the charm of Final Fantasy VIII though: like many a beloved cult classic, this game is as uncompromising and unabashedly against the grain as a sequel we might get from the likes of David Lynch.
The same goes for the magic system. While drawing magic from draw points and enemies is initially confusing, the amount of freedom it gives the player to stock up on spells and utilize them for a myriad of purposes was utterly earth-shattering. The fact that entire GFs (Guardian Forces) could be missed just because the player forgot to check the draw options on a particular boss was the kind of kick in the general genital region that made a game like Final Fantasy VIII worth going back to at least once more after completion.
Upgrading weapons with collected materials was also very different. No more just buying the next awesome sword from a new vendor, the player would instead need to find a Weapons Monthly issue for the information on the upgrade, and then mine the respective materials needed to improve their weapon. Finally, the SeeD salary system ranked and evaluated the player as they made their way through the game. No more earning a shower of gil just for offing a few enemies, if you weren’t representing the SeeDs and Gardens in an optimal fashion, your pay would suffer as a result.
Outside of gameplay, these wild 180 degree turns continued in Final Fantasy VIII‘s plotline. Following the hard science fiction bent of the story of FFVIII could be a task in and of itself. A game that ostensibly begins with high school mercenaries being dispatched to aid rogue organizations around the world eventually evolves into an endless battle across space and time with a sorceress from the future. Meanwhile, some of the most seemingly important plot points in the game, such as Squall’s parentage, or the party’s connection with Laguna and company, are resolved only in the background. Players looking to piece together the many disparate elements of this story will have to put on their Dark Souls helmets and do a bit of individual exploration if they want answers.
The way the game focused on love as an essential motivation is also unique to the series. Though there had been love stories in Final Fantasy games prior to this, they never offered this much depth and emotion. Essentially the central character arc of the game, that of Squall Leonhart, is that of a damaged, emotionally bereft man opening up and learning to love again after suffering loss in the form of childhood traumas. The importance of this focus cannot be overstated. Final Fantasy VIII is a love story first and foremost, and anyone who might doubt that prospect need look no further than the keyart that accompanies the title sequence.
This focus on love, and its healing power, offers Squall perhaps the most fascinating character arc of any in the Final Fantasy franchise. Ostensibly a cold, apathetic loner at the outset, Squall transforms over the course of the story into a man who’s willing to throw caution to the wind if it means saving his friends or his love. Take, for example, the sequence toward the end of the game wherein Squall hurtles himself into the depths of space to save Rinoa, with absolutely no plan on how he might make his return. His love is so important to who he is, and what it has made him, that he would rather die than let it go.
The defining moment for this character, Squall, is unimaginable to players who first meet him sulking and brooding his way through the little monologue snippets that play in his mind. Even in the middle of the story, he opts to send Zell to save Rinoa from a potentially fatal fall, only going himself when there appears to be no other option. This gradual arc from stoic and closed off to open and supportive is still fascinating over 20 years later, and one of the key charms of Final Fantasy VIII.
Back in the fold and better than ever after 2 decades, Final Fantasy VIII Remastered has given the beloved black sheep of the Final Fantasy family a new lease on life, and a second chance to redefine its legacy. Whether it’s your first time venturing into this mad little piece of fiction or you’re coming back for the 10th replay, there’s never been a better, or more convenient, way to experience this one of a kind story.
‘Dragon Quest’: A One of a Kind RPG
Even as time moves further away from May 27, 1986, Dragon Quest doesn’t feel dated. It certainly shows its age, but it has an elegance that only the best of games can boast. Even today, Dragon Quest is one of a kind.
The original Dragon Quest on the NES can be an incredibly difficult game to revisit. As the game that more or less set the foundation for all future JRPGs, Dragon Quest naturally feels primitive in comparison. Grinding is an outright necessity, there are next to no boss fights, and dungeons emphasize maze-like exploration over puzzle solving. The game’s initial Japanese release even used a password system to maintain progress. It wouldn’t be until the game was localized as Dragon Warrior in the west where it would gain a proper save system. In spite of all this, the first Dragon Quest has a certain charm unlike anything else on the NES.
Dragon Quest, plain and simple, isn’t like other RPGs— even of its era. Combat has little depth beyond “attack and sometimes heal;” there’s no party system with the player instead exploring the world entirely on their own; and virtually every single area on the world map is open to the player as soon as they start the game. Dragon Quest doesn’t follow traditional JRPG rules, but there were no set rules on how to make a Famicom RPG in 1986. That Dragon Quest opts for a smaller scoped solo adventure allows players to better immerse themselves into the role of the Hero, if nothing else.
Which is something Dragon Quest pulls off better than both The Legend of Zelda and Final Fantasy. Even though players can name him, Link has a distinct enough design where he truly does feel like his own character. On the flipside, while the Warriors of Light are genuine blank slates, the fact they function as a group of four instead of a single character means that NPCs never directly speak to the player— only the party.
With Dragon Quest, however, the Hero is a blank slate who’s roped into dialogue at virtually every turn. NPCs aren’t monologuing into thin air, they’re talking to the player. The player is railroaded into saving the princess, but they can choose to side with the final boss at the end of the game for no reason other than pure curiosity. The story’s only real main arc revolves around the player proving their lineage as the descendant of a legendary hero. Dragon Quest caters itself towards the player’s experience in every sense.
This is a detail that translates right into the main script and helps give Alefgard a real personality. The King explicitly mentions his disappointment with the Hero when he dies in combat. The same characters who praise the hero for being Erdrick’s descendant lambast him if players dare speak to them without proof. The Hero physically needs to carry the princess back to the castle after rescuing her, but there’s unique dialogue after defeating the final boss while still holding her.
In many ways, these little distinctions are necessary for Dragon Quest to thrive. As an RPG, it’s far too simple for its own good. While Sleep does end up adding a layer of strategy to mid-game combat, the majority of the game will be spent mashing the Attack command at enemies. Not only because spells are best saved for when needed, but because of how important a role grinding plays. At the same time, it’s not as if Dragon Quest’s constant grinding is inherently a bad thing.
While yes, grinding is more often than not a way to pad out a game with filler, there’s a therapeutic quality to grinding in Dragon Quest. It’s low maintenance with just enough thrills where it can be quite a zen experience. It’s certainly time consuming, but it’s time spent grounding the player in Alefgard. Given how small the map is, it’s more than likely for players to gain an intimate understanding of the overworld in a single playthrough. Usually, RPG overworlds are large enough where most won’t even humor learning the overall geography, but Dragon Quest makes it simple.
And almost necessary considering how much backtracking there can be. To its credit, though, it’s the good kind of backtracking dictated more or less by players. Although moving further and further away from the starting castle triggers stronger enemies to appear, the player really can go just about anywhere right at the beginning of the game. Enemies will massacre them with little to no effort, but it’s not difficult to find the three major relics in any order. It’s even possible to hold off saving the princess until the very end of the game.
This is also to say nothing of what Dragon Quest offers from a pure gameplay experience. While battles are incredibly simple, stat numbers are grounded to the point where every little point of damage makes a difference. There’s a thrill to underestimating an Axe Knight, barely surviving, and then landing a critical hit that kills him in one swoop. The occasional Goldman and Metal Slime go a long way in adding a level of excitement to the Dragon Quest grind. If it’s going to be mandatory, why shouldn’t it be potentially interesting?
Battles are made even better by Dragon Quest’s dynamic first person perspective. Upon entering a random battle, a new in-game window pops up depicting an enemy with a lush background behind them. Toriyama’s art design is already a massive boon to the game’s aesthetic, but depicting backgrounds in-battle helps better present Alefgard as an actual, living world— something very few NES RPGs went through the effort of doing.
Even dungeons manage to be compelling in their simplicity. Players need to rely on torches early on to see anything inside of caves. The fact that light slowly dims over time can force players to rush for the exit as darkness creeps in around them. Dragon Quest is a game that’s more than comfortable leaving players to rot in a pitch black dungeon. It’s an RPG that emphasized the importance of preparation without needing to make it a constant game mechanic.
Healing magic ends up replacing herbs, Radiant makes torches useless, and Return ensures that players never need to waste an inventory slot on a Warp Wing. At the same time, healing magic is the most reliable way to heal so players might want to stock up on torches and Warp Wings anyways just to save MP. There isn’t much depth at play, but a fair bit of thought does go into the moment to moment gameplay.
At its core, Dragon Quest is a game that never out-stays its welcome. It’ll be a challenging title for fans of the genre to experience, but it’s one that can take players back to 1986, when Final Fantasy was still an entire year away and the JRPG genre was in its infancy. Dragon Quest doesn’t humor the player, but emotionally involves them in the world of the game. Even as time moves further away May 27, 1986, Dragon Quest doesn’t feel dated. It certainly shows its age, but it has an elegance that only the best of games can boast. Even today, Dragon Quest is one of a kind.
‘Mages of Mystralia’ and the Fear of the Bigger Fish
‘Mages of Mystralia’ challenges notion of the magic user as an Other, tasking players with determining the truth of its world for themselves.
Magic as a misunderstood disaster engine is pretty routine with our fantasy worldbuilding friends. Identifying cosmically gifted individuals as something Other exists within the narratives of the fantastic as everything from plot-relevant physical division (like the Circle in Dragon Age) to garden-variety bigotry (like the witch-boy in Overlord II, for the six people that remember that absolute unit of a tale). Some characters think magic is dangerous, others just think it’s cheating, but almost without exception the magic users of any established world are treated like people who walk into work with blood and gooey bits on their hands; maybe there’s a perfectly reasonable, innocent, non-murder explanation, but the safe bet is to assume they started their day by throwing unsuspecting virgins into equally unsuspecting volcanoes.
Which is fair, since Mages of Mystralia begins with the red-haired Zia yeeting out of the town of Greyleaf after accidentally setting her entire house on fire. Because Zia, obviously, is a mage, and in Mystralia, this is a very big problem.
In the Before Time [crashing thunder], there were Mage Kings, kings that were mages, and kings that had magic (the poison specifically for Kuzco, Kuzco’s poison). Those possessing this gift were whisked away from their tiny, little villages and raised in the castle to be heirs and guardians and suspicious viziers. Then the goblins came and started wrecking shop, and one squirrelly moron named Aetius (first — and probably last — of his name) went looking for the Celestial Magic that you’re uber-super-not supposed to touch. He touched it, kept touching it, went crazy, and set the country on fire, ruining magery for everybody else. A slightly less squirrelly dude called the Marquis (the only one to survive stopping Aetius), then took over and made magery and anybody who practices it illegal. All the existing mages were killed or banished, and new mages, if they were found, were nixed on the spot.
Making unchangeable personal qualities illegal doesn’t solve things, however, because once every decade magic wakes up in somebody anyway — and this time, that person is Zia. So, the magic wakes up, sets her house on fire, and the citizens of Greyleaf take it upon themselves to throw her out since the Marquis is far away and doesn’t care about them anymore.
And so, the adventure begins.
After getting booted, Zia makes her way to the mage village of Haven, and on the way finds this objectively evil book in what looks like an abandoned altar…pillar…gateway…thing. It’s been here for a hot minute before she picks it up; it starts talking to her and teaching spells that her magery mentor (named Mentor) tells her a few minutes later she shouldn’t have yet, but he’s sure it’s fine.
This is objectively evil book — it has a smoky black speech bubble and everything — teaches spells and gives all kinds of historical context for the places Zia goes while looking for ways to keep a solar eclipse from ending the world. In particular, he says something that encapsulates the theme of Mages of Mystralia: the word “spellcraft.” Zia corrects him and says, “You mean magery.” He responds: “Magery is a word used by people who are afraid of the Marquis and his men. Spellcraft better describes what mages do. You should call things by their real name.”
The book isn’t the only one to talk about this. At the very beginning of the game, Mentor is sitting on a log in front of a safe house in the woods, saying that he’s going to start teaching Zia spellcraft — and then immediately corrects himself to “magery,” because Zia hears “spellcraft” and kind of loses her mind. “Fine, magery, then if that word scares you less.”
“Spellcraft” is a heavily stigmatized word in the universe of Mages of Mystralia, and the different ways in which the book and Mentor react to it are important. Mentor resigns himself to Zia’s fear of it, while the objectively evil book is actively combating this attitude. These characters represent the two ways one can approach this kind of total exile. Mentor is from the older generation, the ones who saw the fall of the mage kings and who almost definitely knew mages who died in the initial purge. He is jaded and irritable, and twice in the first twenty minutes says to Zia, “Life is so easy, is it not?” when she gets antsy about using her magic.
The book, however, is older. The book represents a time when having mage-kings and actively roaming mage-guardians worked, letting players know that this system isn’t inherently flawed. Mage-kings used to be the reason people could walk freely in the valley at all; under the Marquis, the goblins run totally wild, and all the roads in and out of everywhere are unsafe. The book is calling things by their “real names,” as he remembers them, and wants to know why the modern language has shellacked all this new jargon over the truth. (Side-note, I have literally no reason to believe this evil book is male, but anyway…)
So, the objectively evil spellbook is thus far the only Socratic character in the story (which is fine, as you don’t need more than one). The purpose of a Socratic character is to be the voice of dissent in a story-world with which an audience is unfamiliar. While the book’s questions are rarely overt, his casual observations and concerns about the state of the world as it is and the world as he once knew it imply a hoard of information players don’t have — like the old quarry having flooded itself out of practical use in “[his] time,” and the seal table thing in the mage town of Haven having once been in the castle — and this inspires the player to ask questions of their own — like whether Celestial magic is truly an evil thing. It’s easy to fall into the bad-fantasy-novel trap of having everything a character tells you about the history of the land be the complete and unadulterated, non-propagandized truth; the book is our anchor against this type of narrative complacency.
The book functions as Zia’s anchor as well; alone, she wouldn’t think to ask these questions. The people she meets who know she’s a mage — and who fear her because of it — believe that magic is dangerous, and to keep themselves safe, the Valley just can’t have any magic in it at all. Zia was raised by these people; she grew up believing the same thing. Now that Zia is in the thick of it, she has to look further into it; but they don’t, because they are satisfied with the answers they already have. Their terror of mages stems from physical insecurity and an unwillingness to trust people with inherently more power over the world than they’ll ever possess, even in theory. The fastest way to solve that problem at the time was to get rid of the offending power. That way, their ‘side’ (non-mages) would be the biggest fish in the ocean. There would be nothing left — in theory — capable of scaring them.
The turning point of Mages of Mystralia happens when the Marquis dies in the most suspicious fire ever. The Chancellor says, “A mage did it” and decides to find all the ones they let go the first time in order to kill them properly now. The first place to be attacked is Zia’s home village, Greyleaf.
This incident is the turning point not because it’s where the status quo gets paved over, but because public opinion begins to turn in Zia’s favor. The Marquis is dead, and the Chancellor — who was the voice of the Marquis and a man in whom the public had great trust — is becoming as dangerous as mages had ever been. Aetius had to be stopped not because of his Celestial magic, but because he was using it to burn villages to the ground; now the Chancellor is doing the exact same thing. The only difference is the Chancellor is using the army instead of magic.
The most eye-opening thing Zia learns, however, is that the fear of mages was not entirely organic, but orchestrated by a single person. The Chancellor, we discover, is a mage. His goal is to exact revenge on the mages of Haven who exiled him for trying to master magic he was not ready for — Celestial magic, just like Aetius. Does this mean, then, that mages are evil? If the last two people to burn down the Valley were mages, surely magic must be the problem. Yet it is not, precisely because Zia also a mage. If both the hero and the villain are mages, the only difference between them is who they are as people.
Mages of Mystralia is Zia’s journey — not only to love her new self, but in learning that, to quote The Blacklist of all things: “the line of good and evil runs through us all,” and the world is never as simple as we think. Mages aren’t inherently evil, and non-mages aren’t inherently good. We are presented with mages who are good and mages who are evil; we are shown people who fear the player, and people who do not. The Chancellor is a mage who hurts people; Zia, Mentor, and everyone in Haven are mages who save them. The world is full of evidence to something, but whatever that might be, Zia and the book have to find out what’s really true for themselves.
“You will not always find the answers you seek,” says the Enchanter in Haven, “but you will always grow stronger, seeking them.”
‘Creature In The Well’ Review: Dungeon Crawling Pinballing
‘Creature in the Well’ is a unique blend of genres, and an absolute must-try for audiences of both the pinball and puzzle games.
A top-down, pinball-inspired, hack-and-slash dungeon crawler? That certainly may be a genre combination never done before. But in reflection to the sciences of chemistry, sometimes grouping elements into a mixture can create something that is definitively unique and distinguishable from its initial ingredients. Creature In The Well is a whole new breed of game design — by blending various genres, developer Flight School has created one of the most distinctive and satisfying puzzle games in recent years. The closest comparison you can probably make is if Hyper Light Drifter collided with a classic pinball cabinet and Breakout.
Acquiring a New Beat
Creature in the Well tasks the final remaining BOT-C unit in a mysterious world to venture into the desert mountain that lies in wait next to the imprisoned city of Mirage, a land captured by a deadly sandstorm. Inside the mountain rests an ancient facility in need of power; but there’s also a fearsome creature who stuck in a state of despair. It is the bot’s job to reboot the machine, stop the monster, and save the city of Mirage from the never-ending storm that shrouds the land.
Although it may sound like a hack-and-slash dungeon crawler, Creature In The Well is not a test of strength against all odds; it’s a quest of knowledge that utilizes timed actions. The BOT-C unit is not on a bloodlust to its goal; it’s in a fight for survival through various puzzles that demonstrate adaptability. The game is a test against the active mind.
After obtaining a sword and learning quicker means of movement through dashing, it would be easy to assume that fighting comes next. However, the reality of the situation is that the BOT-C unit’s sword and secondary weapon are never swung directly at an opponent — not once throughout the entire journey. Instead, weapons are used as flippers in a sort of active pinball game, continuously knocking around orbs of energy at various machines that will grant voltage. This energy must be spent to open hydraulic doors throughout each dungeon that block progress, but it can also be used to upgrade the BOT-C unit’s gear via a blacksmith, or to find upgrades secretly scattered behind different pathways. The more thoroughly a dungeon is explored, the more voltage there is to claim from conquering puzzles of higher difficulty.
The environment then ends up becoming the greatest threat, as there are no true enemies to wield weapons against. A variety of projectiles can cause damage, forcing players to move around. Well-placed shots and timely swings are the keys to progression, and the only way of reaching the endgame. Adapting and using creative ways to solve puzzles is the foundation of Creature In The Well. Mastering Breakout and Pong-like movements for multiple projectiles at the same time is the recipe for success.
Creature In The Well makes magnificent use of the Unreal Engine, showcasing a nightly overcast atmosphere with a bleak, dark color palette, but it also manages to remain bright and colorful thanks to the illuminating projectile lights and flashy animations. This ultimately amounts to a game that is not only satisfying to play, but satisfying to watch. It’s a distinct art style that is welcoming to the eyes rather than a confusingly chaotic bunch of unrecognizable firefights.
Creature in the Well urges players to progressively think smarter as they traverse the eight vastly different dungeons. Each puzzle room slowly improves upon the last, as the game consistently and smartly reuses mechanics while introducing new gimmicks to accommodate the metronome-action movements. These gimmicks can range from the way in which energy orbs damage to adding new obstacles like electrical flooring or spiraling death traps.
Puzzles can progressively become more and more challenging, but most are either not mandatory or don’t need to be completed immediately, as there are branching paths and enough energy to skip some roadblocks. This ultimately comes off as a negative or positive aspect depending on the individual player, as puzzle difficulty drastically changes depending on the order in which dungeons are played. Creature In The Well’s lack of a recommended dungeon order might make you work harder in the early-game, which results in a rather carefree late-game that sees you blasting through puzzles with ease — or vice versa.
On the other hand, this gives the player breathing room, allowing them to experiment with routes and return to previous challenges. Skipping or leaving puzzles unsolved lessens opportunities for rewards, so a handy in-game map system allows players to keep track of exactly where they have not completed rooms on designated paths. An unyielding challenge can become an underwhelming enigma with proper dedication and practice. That said, although the endgame can become less challenging than the beginning, the pinball-inspired mechanics are so entertaining that a decline in difficulty never truly becomes an issue. Creature in the Well is never a slog to play through, even when revisiting old dungeons in the latter half of the game.
All of these dungeons conclude with thrilling matchups with the main power sources, as well as the creature who lives beneath the land. Creature In The Well does not have what many would consider traditional dungeon crawler boss fights, but simply sticks to a its puzzle gameplay and challenges players with a larger and more complex version. These battles involve the creature, who extends its arms from beneath the dark abyss in an attempt to attack you.
Embrace The Storm
Creature In The Well is a captivating case of a fresh experiment gone right. Flight School took risks in attempting to dabble in multiple genres at once that seemingly don’t correlate to each other. Yet, the end result is a fascinating concept built on the gorgeously-used Unreal Engine, with the potential to be further expanded upon. Albeit short, the journey to delve into the deepest parts of the mountain to solve new high-speed kinetic puzzles while avoiding a mysterious, calamitous creature never grows stale over the 5-7 hour journey. It is by far the most distinct ‘break the mold’ type game to be released this year, and an absolute must-try for audiences of both the pinball and puzzle game genres.
‘Daemon X Machina’ Review: Beautifully Bombastic Mech Action
With its customization and accessibility, ‘Daemon X Machina’ is a refined action game that should please mech fans of all types.
There’s something beautiful about Daemon X Machina. More than just its striking visual style, however, the game’s mere existence is special in its own right. It’s been some time since a classic mech-based action game in the vein of mainstays like Armored Core has burst onto the market, and given that much of the original staff of that monumental series have moved on to Daemon X Machina, this has long seemed like a noteworthy release for fans of robotic action.
However, it’s no secret that Daemon X Machina has had a bumpy road to release. Between its sub-par initial demo and its severe lack of pre-release hype, it hasn’t been easy for Marvelous’ Switch exclusive to get the spotlight. Thankfully, the result largely overcomes these roadblocks to create a refreshingly polished and much-needed revival of the genre. Daemon X Machina certainly has its share of issues with story and mission structure, but overall it’s a refined action game that should please both new players and genre veterans alike.
For the most part, Daemon X Machina checks off every box for ideal mech action It wastes no time in putting the player in control of a massive, customizable, explosive robot suit called an “Arsenal,” which allows players to zip recklessly around the post-apocalyptic environments to wreak destruction with wild abandon. There’s a delightful simplicity to this; with its easy-to-grasp controls, there’s no excessive complexity, allowing for the visceral joy of blasting enemies out of the sky with extravagant missile launchers to shine through.
But that is not to say that Daemon X Machina is merely a mindless romp. Instead, the plentiful variety of different mission types ensures that you’ll have to think on your feet with every objective. Some missions will have you simply gunning down every foe you see, while others task you with protecting specific units, and still more pit you against massive bosses — which are easily the game’s most memorable missions. With so many different objectives, each mission becomes an enticing prospect.
Unfortunately, this variety gets a bit strained towards the end of the fifteen-hour campaign. Far too often, late game missions merely stick you in an arena with a few other full mech fighters then make you fight to the death — and considering that these are easily the most tedious fights in the game due to how chaotic and difficult it is to attack fast-moving robotic suits, this gets frustrating fast. Likewise, the enemy variety leaves something to be desired, with the vast majority of foes consisting of mere drones or tanks, with the occasional mech thrown in for interest.
Daemon X Machina easily stands out for its polish, style, and accessibility.
However, these negative factors only partially distract from what makes Daemon X Machina so special: its ludicrous action. There’s also plenty of customization available to wreak havoc, allowing you to tweak your Arsenal to your liking. Want to focus on hand-to-hand combat? Install some new legs optimized for speedy ground maneuvering, and some arms for katana-wielding. Taking to the skies? Lighten your load, increase your memory capacity, and pack on the guns. The game presents the options to fight with your mech the way you see fit, allowing for action-packed scenarios straight out of your mechanized fantasies.
But Daemon X Machina doesn’t entangle itself in unnecessary complexity, unlike so many other mech-based RPGs or action games. None of the customization mentioned previously is strictly required to complete the story; instead, the only thing that matters is your ingenuity. In fact, you can likely make do exclusively with the weapons you pick up on the battlefield, and never have to bother with the game’s weapon shops or factories. Daemon X Machina ensures that the most important thing in each of its battles isn’t the weapon you wield, but rather your ingenuity in using it. If one gun isn’t working in the current mission, just head back to the hangar and try a new loadout.
For instance, one point in my playthrough saw me stuck against one boss with a seemingly endless HP bar that was difficult to whittle down, no matter how many shots were fired. However, after numerous frustrating failed attempts, some new types of weapons made short work of this previously daunting adversary, turning the boss into a shattered wreck. Daemon X Machina might be an action game, but by no means is it mindless. This freedom of strategy, combined with the flexible customization and accessibility, is what makes the gameplay loop so addictive.
Daemon X Machina is a balanced, deep, and approachable experience that should please players new and old.
It’s a shame that this excellent action is obscured by the game’s truly dreadful story. Of course, action games aren’t necessarily known for their poignant narratives, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but in Daemon X Machina’s case, the poor storyline distracts from the action. The story begins with a simple premise: a portion of the moon has exploded, and its remnants have corrupted the world’s robots to rise up against humanity. Beyond that beginning, the story devolves into a complex feud between different corporations and mercenary squads, often acting less like a sci-fi adventure and more like a political drama — and not a particularly good one, either. Worse yet, this story is populated by one-note characters who often spend minutes at a time musing upon the nature of warfare and humanity, using dialogue that would fit right in with any generic fantasy novel. At the very least, the voice actors all do a great job, bringing their cardboard characters to some degree of life.
Thankfully, there is respite from the dismal narrative in the form of side content like the ‘free missions’ and multiplayer mode. By forgoing the confusing and uninteresting story, these features focus solely on the strong gameplay loop. That said, it is nonetheless disappointing that one of the game’s most significant modes is tarnished by such shoddy execution.
However, the visuals don’t suffer in this way. Instead, Daemon X Machina features a breathtaking cel-shaded graphical style with a vivid color palette of stark reds, oranges, and greys that makes much of the game look like it flew straight out of a particularly stylish manga. The Japanese rock soundtrack does provide a fitting backdrop, but the tunes generally don’t manage to be quite as memorable as the graphics.
Daemon X Machina easily stands out for its polish, style, and accessibility, giving players the freedom to choose whether they want to focus on the best customization or craft the most creative strategies of their own. There a few rough edges due to its repetitious missions and uninspired story, but when the core content of the game is so enticing, most players should be able to overlook them. All told, Daemon X Machina is a balanced, deep, and approachable experience that should please players new and old.
Goomba Stomp is the joint effort of a team of like-minded writers from across the globe. We provide smart readers with sharp, entertaining writing on a wide range of topics in pop culture, offering an escape from the usual hype and gossip. We are currently looking for Indie Game reviewers.
Stadia Wave Podcast #2- Don’t Call Stadia Netflix for Games
TIFF 2019: Benson and Moorhead Bend Time in the Psychedelic ‘Synchronic’
TIFF 2019: ‘Uncut Gems’ Sends Adam Sandler Through the Ringer
TIFF 2019: ‘To the Ends of the Earth’ Is a Compelling Study on Loneliness
TIFF 2019: ‘Ford v Ferrari’ Drives Fast with Little Under the Hood
‘The Walking Dead: The Telltale Definitive Series’ Review: A Bittersweet Swan Song for Telltale’s Defining Game Series
‘Final Fantasy VIII’: A Beloved Black Sheep
TIFF 2019: Steven Soderbergh Explores International Corruption in ‘The Laundromat’
TIFF 2019: ‘Dolemite Is My Name’ Is a Return to Form for Eddie Murphy
NXpress Nintendo Podcast #179: ‘Creature in the Well’ Developer Interview, ‘Daemon X Machina’ Review, and ‘Ring Fit Adventure’ Impressions
The Top 50 SNES Games
Rinoa Heartilly Cheerfully Subverts Gender Roles in ‘Final Fantasy VIII’
‘Final Fantasy VIII’s Ultimecia is Every Bit as Epic as Her Name Suggests
A Look Into The Most Controversial and Unfilmable Scene In ‘It’
‘Final Fantasy VIII’: Squall Leonhart and the Art of Growth
‘Stephen King’s IT’ Is Dated but Not Toothless
Projecting Horror: The Best Scene in ‘It’
Stephen King Taught Me To Think
‘Cyberpunk 2077’: Required Reading
Ranking the Dungeons of ‘Link’s Awakening’
TIFF 2019: ‘The Vast of Night’ Is a Thrilling Homage to ‘50s Sci-Fi
TIFF 2019: ‘Color Out of Space’ Faithfully Adapts a Cosmic Lovecraft Nightmare
TIFF 2019: ‘Knuckle City’ Refuses to Hold Back Punches
TIFF 2019: ‘Nobadi’ Turns the Oddball Couple Genre on Its Head
TIFF 2019: ‘Sound of Metal’ Offers a Unique Sensory Experience
TIFF 2019: ‘Jallikattu’ Intensely Strips Itself to a Primal State
TIFF 2019: ‘Portrait of a Lady on Fire’ Paints a Masterpiece
TIFF 2019: ‘Sea Fever’ Adapts Within Familiar Waters
TIFF 2019: ‘The Personal History of David Copperfield’ Weaves a Tale of Empty Whimsy
TIFF 2019: Bertrand Bonello Slows His Pace in ‘Zombi Child’
- Games6 days ago
The Top 50 SNES Games
- Games6 days ago
Rinoa Heartilly Cheerfully Subverts Gender Roles in ‘Final Fantasy VIII’
- Games4 days ago
‘Final Fantasy VIII’s Ultimecia is Every Bit as Epic as Her Name Suggests
- Film1 week ago
A Look Into The Most Controversial and Unfilmable Scene In ‘It’
- Games5 days ago
‘Final Fantasy VIII’: Squall Leonhart and the Art of Growth
- Film1 week ago
‘Stephen King’s IT’ Is Dated but Not Toothless
- Film1 week ago
Projecting Horror: The Best Scene in ‘It’
- Film1 week ago
Stephen King Taught Me To Think