Persona is a cool start to the series with some pretty major issues that prevented me from having much fun with it. It is very grindy and repetitive, so I eventually abandoned it (but watched the cutscenes and second quest on youtube!).
Persona looks great. It is cool to see that they established this character and art style so early and that it holds up so well. I really like the character portraits, the expressiveness of the in-game sprites and how each of the demons and personas have their own sprites. The dungeons themselves look fine, but are very repetitive and just sort of slid off my mind, visually.
The music in this PSP remake hits for me even though it is extremely repetitive.
The basic structure here is turn based combat with characters and enemies on a grid. Each character has a specific weapon that hits an area relative to their position and each character can equip personas, granting them spells that work similarly. Demons can be talked to and recruited and then combined to make more personas you can equip, giving you more powerful and more varied abilities as you progress through the game.
It is kind of interesting to try to optimize your party setup to take advantage of everyone's range and attacks, but characters being locked into specific weapons means it is a problem you only solve once and there is probably only one solution. It is a cool idea, but lacks the flexibility or nuance to really make it interesting.
The combat model is straightforward and the game introduces the weakness/strength/absorb/reflect stuff that later Persona games lean heavily on. It is simpler here, with no real impact other than more damage done. In almost every fight I just cast the best aoe attack spell I had and it worked fine. Nothing approaches the press-turn system introduced later in the series. Generally the combat is pretty boring, unfortunately, and the simplicity here sort of undermines the rest of the game.
Even personas themselves aren't utilized very well, since all that really matters is the weaknesses and strengths they grant your characters. I wanted to care more about each individual one, but there just isn't much to them.
Recruiting demons and building personas doesn't have enough to it, even though it works basically like it does in future games. The lack of much more to support things here really hurts it, unfortunately. Talking to demons feels like you are picking an arbitrary option (because you are) and building new personas similarly feels random and arbitrary, without any real ability to target building specific ones.
There is a sort of cool idea where if you level up a persona enough you can retire it, converting it into a rare item or unique weapon. This ends up just being a nice bonus for when you are finished using a persona, since you don't know what they will become ahead of time. Awesome idea that would be cooler if you could plan around it.
The grind in this game is extreme. Characters have character levels (raw power) and persona levels (how powerful persona they can control) and each persona has an individual level once you summon it. All of these go up extremely slowly. You end up grinding for hours just to get your persona levels up high enough to recruit demons in the areas you are fighting that aren't difficult to kill when they are 5-10 levels above you. If the combat itself was more interesting this might be ok, but most of these fights are spamming aoe attacks thoughtlessly.
Dungeons themselves are truly mazes, in the style of Etrian Odyssey, with no compelling level design or mechanics and extreme length. The first person view can feel unique and looks cool, but every dungeon in the game is an exercise in tedium.
There are two different narratives you can pursue in Persona, only one of which was included in the original US release. I did most of the main story (SEBEC) and it is ok. You travel between different worlds, trying to stop a corporation and its CEO from destroying humanity with a demon invasion. There are some twists at the end that make things a bit more interesting and reveal more depth, but it is very surreal and most of what is going on doesn't make a ton of sense, probably on purpose. I liked Kei's character development -- everyone else is fairly one-note. The antagonists are written to be mysterious (though the mystery is obvious), which sort of makes it hard to care what they are doing.
I watched the Snow Queen story on youtube and liked it quite a bit more. It is more straightforward and character driven, with your party members establishing early motivation that carries them through the whole thing. Elly and Yukino are both standouts here and the premise and antagonists are grounded enough that I wanted to see how things get resolved. It is cool that this story canonically happens during the SEBEC questline, with the ending of this being that they go to deal with the rest of the game (though you can't actually continue playing).
Definitely a cool look at the beginning of this series and you can see a lot that is here that Atlus would pull forward to future entries in this and Shin Megami Tensei. I didn't hate it, but the grind and lack of anything super interesting just killed any motivation I had for finishing it.

Unfortunately Star Wars Jedi: Survivor has all the negatives of the first game in addition to a narrative that doesn't hang together as well.
I am going to get pretty designery here, because Survivor crystalized for me exactly the problems I see with it as well as Fallen Order. At its core, I dislike the combat because the systems don't provide enough affordance or reward for engaging with them, which makes the combat feel muddy, frustrating, and unfair. I am mostly limiting this to lightsaber combat, since force powers don't really work on any enemy that is difficult to fight.
Enemy blocks and your parries reduce their poise, making them vulnerable for maybe two seconds or until you hit them, at which point their poise refills and you do it again. The reward here is small, maybe 10% of their health in damage, and the effort required to do it is pretty high. A string of blocked attacks and parries you have to learn then repeat until you win. Even when you are doing it right, it feels tedious and repetitive.
There is an additional wrench though. Almost every enemy attack has super armor, is faster than any attack Cal does, and puts Cal into a large reaction, interrupting his combo and usually giving the enemy enough time to regenerate their poise. Cal's attacks can't be cancelled into a block or parry (except while he is in dual wield stance) so entering an attack is heavily punished. I guess we just fish for parries.
But wait! While you are waiting for the enemy's one parryable combo, they are standing around or doing unblockable attacks, usually allowing their poise bar to regenerate faster than just parrying will wear it down! Unblockables themselves can't be blocked or parried, have extreme tracking and range, variable wind-up time, and variable warning time (!?), so they are very dangerous, hard to avoid without fully running away or jumping into the air or some other clunky solution, making them hard to punish reliably.
All of that combined with unclear enemy and player animations, inconsistent behavior on enemy and player attack homing, and unpredictable player dodging means that everything feels punishing to play with no affordance or feedback for how to succeed. At best each individual fight feels like loose pattern memorization through repetition, punctuated by unfair-feeling failures, rather than a satisfying execution of mechanics based on understanding the enemy.
There are some additions to the combat, new stances, new force powers, and some other new options. The stances themselves are fun and play a bit differently and I liked having to pick two to go with at any given point.
It is very strange that you can only cancel into a block in dual wield stance since it feels so required for most fights. It is even stranger that even in dual wield, you can't cancel into a dodge, but you can cancel an attack into a block and cancel that instantly into a dodge, so the functionality is possible, but it just feels janky and unconsidered.
Force powers can be fun, but don't work on most enemies that matter and end up being hard to wrangle crowd control for large combat fights. I hardly used them except for novelty.
Cal's navigation options feel a bit more fleshed out here and reliable. Challenges still involve going the only way you can, but movement is more reliable and there are far fewer instances of the weird slide that was so prevalent in Fallen Order.
Puzzle chambers are also back for Survivor, but they worked better for me here than they do in Fallen Order. They are justified by being training grounds established by an ancient Jedi master, Santari, and her presence and voice over makes them feel a bit more like a reasonable part of the Jedi's machinery of control in the High Republic. The actual puzzles are fun with some interesting mechanics that never get too difficult.
Survivor's open world is a good advancement, but doesn't go far enough. These are more like Ocarina of Time's Hyrule Field, with a large explorable area and a couple of linear spokes leading off of it for specific side activities and missions. This tends to make the open areas feel vestigial and ignorable, unfortunately.
--- Spoilers!! ---
Narratively, the game starts off ok but almost everyone's goals feel contrived and unmotivated. The Dagan Gera and his second in command are uninteresting and fairly nonsensical. It doesn't make a ton of sense that Dagan was magically preserved in stasis or that Rayvis is also here. Dagan's motivations are just to get to Tanalor at any cost for no discernible reason which just isn't that interesting.
Bode's betrayal is even more contrived and unmotivated. He goes completely scorched earth, killing people and causing the destruction of everything on Jedha, trying to kill Cal and putting his daughter in extreme danger, only because "The Hidden Path are strangers!" Even the twist of him being a Jedi doesn't make sense and doesn't matter.
It is a bummer because it definitely feels like there is a story you could tell here with Bode/Cal paralleling Dagan/Santari that would make more sense and be more interesting.
--- End Spoilers! ---
There is so much potential in this series aesthetically and mechanically and the idea is so solid. It is unfortunate that I don't like this even a little bit. I so want these games to feel like Star Wars and play like Dark Souls, but unfortunately the combat systems just aren't there for me.

Vernal Edge is beautiful with a solid combat foundation, but didn't do enough with it to keep me invested.
The game looks great. Brilliant pixel art that is fluidly animated. Levels that are lush and varied that remained interesting to look at throughout my play. I liked the variation in the levels themselves, but I wish their 3d representations on the overworld map could be more easily identified.
The design of the levels and structure of the game itself left me somewhat hollow, unfortunately. There is some interesting platforming, but the levels are drawn out and began to feel samey after the first few. I never had a clear idea of why I was in a particular place or what I was meant to be doing, other than moving forward the only way I could.
Structurally, Vernal Edge is reminiscent of Skies of Arcadia, with a fully 3d, PlayStation 1-era world you can fly around in serving as a level selection mechanic. This was cool at first, but there isn't enough going on in the overworld and the levels themselves are too numerous and hard to differentiate. This glorified level selection menu began to feel tedious rather than exciting pretty swiftly.
Combat is very solid and plays like a 2d Devil May Cry. Juggling enemies and dashing into them to keep the combo going is very satisfying with a difficulty curve that was rewarding to try to perfect. Unfortunately most combat in the game locks you in a room with waves of the same 4-5 enemy types spawning, so the solid base doesn't get a chance to show you anything new as the game goes on. It becomes a rote exercise of defeating the same enemies in the same ways over and over. Like the levels themselves, there is not enough of interest spread over too much game here.
The narrative is kind of cute and manages to be mysterious (both in the events and how the main character is related to those events). It wasn't enough to keep pulling me forward, but I was engaged.
This is such a solid foundation that just has too much in the wrong places. Smaller levels, fewer levels, and some more considered encounter design would make this a really fun and engaging experience throughout, unfortunately it doesn't pull me through in its current state!

Disclosure: I was QA on this title
Summon Night is a cute little action game with some light crafting elements, a pokemon-esque attitude, and a tournament arc-based story. It works well for what it is, but most everything is fairly shallow, if satisfying.
Combat is as dead simple as it gets. Weapons have a single combo string and one or two extra moves (usually an upwards attack and a charged attack) and spells are simple line attacks, heals, and buffs. Movement feels sluggish at the start, but forces you to pay attention to your attacks, positioning, and blocks, which injects a little bit more depth into the combat. It is satisfying, but never really feels like more than block to get an opening and then spam your attacks though.
Each weapon has a bit of a different playstyle that makes it rewarding to find one you like (and you can equip up to 3 at once for most combat). The game sort of pushes you toward swords, even though drill is obviously the coolest.
I like the sprite work in Summon Night quite a bit. Characters are cartoony and expressive and the pixels are very well done. Small touches like each weapon you craft showing up on your character add a bit more charm as well.
Crafting weapons is very simple, but it is sort of fun to progress through the largely linear weapon progression. I like that the crafting itself is core to the gameplay and also tightly tied to the narrative. The ideal here would be a few more steps towards the Monster Hunter model, where my choice of weapon has a lot of meaning, but like the rest of this game, this does well enough for what is needed.
Everyone loves a tournament arc! There aren't a ton of games that are just "go through this tournament" and it is cool to see it here. There are diversions, of course, but largely you are competing to become the next Craftlord, which basically just means 1v1'ing all the other crafts-kids in town. This is classic anime storytelling that the game leverages well to give the player motivation and to introduce a bunch of rivals/friends for you to interact with. The simple approach here works very well.
I like Summon Night for what it is, though it isn't quite interesting enough to hold my attention on this revisit. I do have a soft spot for it since it was the first game I worked professionally!

I like this Fire Emblem a fair bit, despite some rough spots that didn't land for me.
The Blazing Blade looks amazing, with super expressive, smooth animations and lots of unique flourishes for each unit type depending on weapon use, hitting a critical, dodging, etc... The character designs are reminiscent of 90s high fantasy anime, like Record of Lodoss War, rather than the more extreme modern anime style of recent Fire Emblems. I like this approach better -- I can take the characters and events a bit more seriously.
Narratively, the game is fairly generic, but works well enough. The main plot is predictable, made more interesting (and a bit cheesy) by how far they are going to set up relationships and characters that appear in the game Blazing Blade serves as a prequel for, The Binding Blade. The majority of it is simple though overlong. There is a lot we are doing that feels like busywork, rather than something that makes sense in the story. It simply goes on for too long without enough motivation.
Additionally, the first third of the game is a sort of tutorial, where you play as a different character, which I think is a cool narrative device to introduce some major players, but it doesn't really have enough relevance to the main story.
The gameplay is, of course, the driver here. Map designs are mostly interesting, with a mix of small-scale castle assaults and broader field-based battles that are very different, but all feel tactical. Choke points, interesting terrain, and enemy troop placements reward forethought and planning. The weapon triangle is in full effect here, with the addition of a magic triangle that also works pretty well. Advancing your characters feels great because they gain access to new weapons, which lets them cover weaknesses or exploit enemy weaknesses.
Units have linear upgrade paths (cavaliers will always become paladins, warriors will always become knights), but it works fairly well because of the scarcity of upgrade resources. You don't diversify your army by choosing different specializations, but by choosing which specific units you want to advance and when. It really feels like there are a lot of viable units (even the pre-promoted paladin is viable until the end here!) so your army feels like it is truly yours.
Blazing Blade unfortunately does the Fire Emblem thing where the leader of every army has incredible stats and usually doesn't move, so you just have to get your most leveled character up there and hope you can kill them before they kill you. I don't find this to be particularly engaging or challenging and this game in particular ramps it up in the extreme in the last few chapters. It absolutely marred what was otherwise an enjoyable and challenging playthrough.
Blazing Blade holds up super well and is one of the better Fire Emblem games I have tried. It is a stripped down game in comparison to modern entries and lacks some quality of life features, but it is still a solid tactics game that is worth playing.

Solid expansion to a great game!
It has all the same positives and negatives as the base game does. This is just a slightly smaller campaign with a few new mechanics and a new narrative.
The most interesting new mechanic is memory analysis, which sort of lets you download an image of the machine you have accessed to scan its memory for information. This is somewhat contrived and ends up being the thing you do once you exhaust all other options, but it is still kind of interesting and feels sufficiently hackerish enough to be fun.
There is a much-needed addition of a network managing tool. It only occurs near the end of the expansion, unfortunately, and it still doesn't make things quite as usable as I would like.
The narrative is a bit less directed in Labyrinths, with most of the missions being done for pretty unclear or unconnected reasons. This isn't a huge deal and it does come together in a tense and fairly panic inducing final mission that I liked quite a bit, even if it didn't have the most motivation.
One other standout mission has you messing with files on your actual computer, which is a cool way to make things feel more immersive and cool.
Just more Hacknet, which is a good thing. I wish it had a few more curveballs or meaningful additions to the gameplay, but it is worth playing along with the base game!

Hacknet is really cool. This is probably the best version of this sort of hacking simulation game I have tried.
The game is just an interface, styled as a virtual machine with a limited set of commands you can use to communicate with IPs in a fake version of the internet that exists within the game. It is minimalistic but immersive and represents things very well with a few smart decisions thrown in to make it all come together seamlessly. For example, your rig's available memory is represented by the actual size of the window showing your active programs, so as you spin up executables, their size and the empty space make cycle usage obvious.
The network node representation is a bit unwieldy, though this seems like an intentional choice to make things more hectic towards the end of the game. Nodes overlapping is needlessly fiddly though, and it all just kind of feels tedious rather than fun or engaging.
Everything in the game can (I think?) be done with command line inputs alone, but unlike other entries in this niche genre, there is a ton of mouse support, making the entire experience smoother and more enjoyable. There are moments where you are switching from activating a set of proxy overloads or closing shells with your mouse to entering a series of cracking commands with your keyboard that really capture the feel of being a hacker.
Some really great aesthetic decisions elevate this game immensely. Certain events and problems in the game can mess with your rig, resulting in blue- screens or forced resets you have to deal with. It is really cool to be in the middle of trying to break security only to have your failsafe kick in, turn your whole screen red and force you into a mini-hack to change your IP and regain anonymity. Similarly, it is cool to set a trap in your shell and counter-hack someone who is attacking you.
I wish these events were a bit more procedural though. It feels like they just happen at predetermined times, rather than based on how you are doing or if you forgot to clean the logs on a system you have accessed.
The hacking itself is varied with a good mix of simple, satisfying hacks into systems that won't try to trace you and intense, exciting hacks into systems where you can barely get your tracekill up in time. Most of the game is sort of a puzzle though -- looking through files and logs to try to spiderweb your way through the network to your target while gathering logins, passwords, and information as you go.
There is a bit of confusion around what causes security measures on a system to reset or why some systems grant admin access upon a successful hack and some don't. It isn't a huge problem, but makes things feel a bit more uncertain than they should.
The narrative is a simple but compelling linear story. You are a hacker recruited by a mysterious benefactor named Bit, who shows you the ropes, introduces you to a hacker collective, then disappears. Things become more serious over time, but the game always maintains a generally positive outlook on the hacking. Everything is basically white hat or targeted at explicitly bad individuals or organizations.
The writing is well done without being too ridiculous or leaning into memes or weird hacker culture. There is a lot of simple environmental storytelling for you to discover as you comb your way through these systems, which can be pretty entertaining.
Hacknet is super cool and I enjoyed playing through it quite a bit. If you don't mind typing and are into the aesthetic, this one is definitely worth checking out.

This update to Final Fantasy Legend is (I believe) strictly visual and it looks fantastic. The colors are amazing and the simple splash screens they have added on entering new areas are evocative and pretty.
I don't think the base game is actually good enough to warrant playing through a second time, so I abandoned it after a few hours.
This is strictly the version to play over the original Game Boy release especially with a few quality of life changes that make things a bit smoother. You can see what your monsters will turn into when eating meat (making them much more usable) and a gallery of monsters makes things a bit more understandable. Simple features like automatic attack retargeting when your enemy dies make things flow a bit more smoothly as well.
My thoughts on the original release hold true here as well, however, but if you are going to play Final Fantasy Legend, just play this instead!

I don't like This Way Madness Lies very much. I have a soft spot for Zeboyd games, but it wasn't enough to really let this one land for me.
This is a fairly straightforward RPG with a magical girl and Shakespeare theme. The two things don't have much to do with each other and it feels more like a meme than an interesting setup.
The magical girls as party members is a unique take, though I wish the characters were more differentiated. You get most of them in your party at the beginning of the game and I didn't find the differences in their gameplay to be very easy to grasp right off the bat. The number of characters combined with fairly complex systems and the number of abilities each character has just doesn't work.
There are a couple of distinct personalities (sports-girl, smart-girl, gamer-girl) but the remaining three girls have basically no personality to speak of. Throwing them all at you at the beginning of the game certainly doesn't help, but cutting the cast down to at most four would make things more manageable and wouldn't require the strange justification of "oh! some of my friends didn't end up here with us!" that occurs for the first 75% of the game.
Mechanically the game is trying some interesting things. It has the now classic Zeboyd reusable items and fully healed characters at the end of battles, but expands it with some not-quite-but-almost interesting advancement and ability mechanics.
Each girl has a series of Fire Emblem-style bonuses they unlock as they level, which you can assign to effect your play-style. These are fine though I never really found myself making too many hard choices.
Additionally, the girls have quite a few abilities, each of which has a basic function and an alternate or more powerful function that happens when they are in Hyper mode (it just occurs every few turns). This is a cool idea, but there isn't any way to see what the alternate functions are, so you are meant to just memorize them, I guess, which is pretty bad. Abilities also can only be used once before they have to be recharged, but each girl has enough abilities that in all but about three of the fights I never had to interact with this mechanic. There are simply too many abilities and the time to kill on enemies is too low for this sort of thing to ever really be important.
Additionally, there is zero tooltipping in the game, leaving status effects unexplained and unknown. Abilities also reference each other by names you won't remember or have descriptions that make their effects simply unclear. Most of the technical writing in the game is a mess.
I think you are meant to be here for the narrative writing. It is passable, trying very hard to be goofy and funny, but it wore pretty thin with me almost immediately. The writing in Zeboyd's previous games was similarly styled, but I feel like there was simply less of it, so it wasn't quite as grating. Dialog sequences here are very long, with each of the six main girls having to get their quips in for every event (again, cut it to four). It is just too much. When the writing isn't comedy it is transcripts of Shakespeare (with irreverent optional translations) that just feel hollow and out of place here. I didn't get much out of it.
The story flies like an arrow. There is a main plot of alternate dimensions (based on Shakespeare stories) being attacked by monsters with some gesturing at a side plot of the magical girl friends putting on a series of school plays. You aren't making choices here, just going from fight to fight and dungeon to dungeon. It is fine but I wasn't invested in either the alternate dimension or the side plot.
I really like the pixel art though some of the environments get samey. There are cool magical girl transformation cutscenes that are impressive and look like they are pulled straight out of a pixel version of Sailor Moon.
The premise here is so cool, it is a bummer this game didn't work for me like Zeboyd's past games have. With a bit more restraint to the storytelling and some iteration on the mechanics this game would be pretty solid, but I can't really recommend it as is.

Everspace 2 is a fun space shooter that reminded me a lot of Freelancer. I ultimately shelved it just because of lack of variety, but I had a good time with it.
Everspace looks really great. The ship designs are cool and the ability to swap out parts and paintjobs to customize how your ship looks gives the game a ton of personality. Environments are varied and cool with each major area having its own style that helps make the universe an interesting place to explore.
Cutscenes are done in a simple, lightly animated, comic book style that works well for the story they are telling and appealed to me throughout.
The story is fairly by the book, though it is refreshingly low stakes (for at least as much as I played). For most of the game you are just trying to get by and land a big score to escape the DMZ (the part of space you are in that definitely isn't demilitarized, so I don't know what the name means). There are a lot of references to alien races and political tensions that might be related to the first game, but aren't that well explained, so I didn't get a lot out of them.
You sort of collect various crew members as you progress through the story, each of which end up crashing at your headquarters and providing you with upgradable bonuses. This is a cool feature and I like the light community building it provides, even though all the crew interactions are story driven and seem to just be them whining at each other.
This is space combat almost exactly as I remember Freelancer being, and it plays very well. Flying is responsive, aiming is straightforward, and blasting enemy ships out of the sky is satisfying. Unfortunately, missions themselves are all pretty samey, which is why I ended up shelving this one. Combat is very one-note even though there are a number of different enemy types, they don't have enough of an impact to really factor into how you approach things.
There are a ton of weapon and equipment options, allowing you to approach combat however you want and upgrading your guns and armor feels pretty good throughout the game. I didn't get as much out of the different ship types, mainly because they didn't seem to have that much differentiation (general stats plus one special ability) and changing ships is prohibitively expensive. I only ended up using better versions of the starting ship.
I would have liked this aspect more if there were fewer ships and you ended up purchasing a bunch of different chassis to change how you approach any particular mission, but things aren't really designed that way.
Travel in Everspace 2 was one of the major reasons I shelved it, as it is tedious and takes much too long by about the middle of the game. You do eventually unlock minimal fast travel, but it happens too late and it is too annoying to actually set each fast travel point up. You have an HQ you can return to, but there isn't really a reason to (besides narratively) and it doesn't serve enough purpose. The game, in general, wants you to prove you have earned the right to do things quickly, which is just punitive and dumb.
There is even a nomadic trader ship that you can call to certain areas that functions exactly as you would want a base to function, with a place to repair your ship, buy upgrades, and eventually, buy better ships. Writing the narrative such that your group of renegades is laying low on this ship would have made more sense and been better gameplay.
I like Everspace 2, it is fun and satisfying to blast your way through this universe. I wish travel was less tedious and combat had a bit more variety, but I still enjoyed my time playing the game.

Zachtronics games are at their best when they are abstracted enough to expose some interesting aspect of programming without just being assembly coding. Opus Magnum is the best example of this -- its ballet of alchemic operations represented in physical space allows you to experiment with timing, parallel processing, and register management without muddying things with syntax and op codes.
Exapunks unfortunately leans more towards the TIS-100 and Shenzhen I/O side of things, with a thin layer of story and mechanics over top of direct assembly coding. As someone who writes code professionally, this never appeals to me. It is too fiddly and clunky to really expose the fun parts of programming and I find myself challenged more by the syntax and idiosyncrasies than the actual problems the game is presenting.
I wanted Exapunks to explore hacking in the same abstracted way as Opus Magnum does alchemy, with mechanics that let you explore the world of network security, data manipulation, and crime, but it isn't really interested in that.
The narrative and world building over top of this game are well done and sort of present a cool window into this world. It didn't seem to be doing anything super unique, but it is telling a hacker story clearly inspired by Neuromancer and doing a competent job of it.
If you like Zachtronics games that hew closer to the metal, this one definitely scratches that itch. I wish it clicked with me more than it does, but I just can't get behind this implementation of programming for fun.

Elden Ring is great. It takes the already open world exploration and choice driven format of the Dark Souls games and absolutely blasts it wide open with a massive world full of surprises, challenge, and interesting lore.
Elden Ring plays like a Souls game, equipping weapons and armor of your choice to block, dodge, and cast your way through nerve wracking environments and difficult boss fights. You have your classic stat options of strength and dexterity, as well as faith and intelligence, but Elden Ring also adds in an arcane stat (similar to Bloodborne) for special weapons that usually cause bleeding. There are an order of magnitude more build options here as well, with more weapons and armor, more spells, and new systems like the ashes of war and spirits that let you customize things even further.
The areas and bosses have a ton of standouts, with the elden lords being the main attractions, each relegated to their own part of the map and usually their own "legacy dungeon." I was amazed again and again by unique areas that reveal themselves and how epic and fun the fights are. From has a couple of its classic gimmick fights, but they mostly work better than those found in past games.
The world is huge and although it is the main selling point, it also serves as the only real dark spot in my experience of the game. Exploring is rewarding and a ton of mini caves and dungeons dot the map, but they are comparatively unsatisfying and get a bit repetitive. It isn't quite to the level of the chalice dungeons of Bloodborne but it can be tiresome to navigate similar areas and repeated bosses, even when you are finding cool weapons, spells, and weapon arts in them.
The world of Elden Ring is interconnected and dense, with many different factions vying for control of the Elden Ring itself. This leads to a lot of intricate lore and engrossing side quests as you chase down all of your options for what to do with this horrific, broken world. Many of these open up completely optional side areas that expand the map and put you against new bosses and dungeons. I really liked trying to make sense of all of this and it really feels like there will still be a lot for me to uncover on subsequent playthroughs.
Elden Ring is a beautiful game with excellent art direction and an impressive number of varied areas and enemies making up for any shortcomings it has graphically. I was amazed by the vistas and landscapes over and over as I traveled the Lands Between on my quest to become the Elden Lord.
Overall I don't like Elden Ring quite as much as the more directed and tighter experience that Bloodborne provides, but it is still easily among my favorite From Software games. Truly an amazing experience that iterates meaningfully and impressively on the genre they defined.

I liked Tears of the Kingdom more than Breath of the Wild. It takes the base structure of that game and expands on it -- TotK improves many things while unfortunately retaining most of its shortcomings as well.
The exploration and creativity are the stars here. The world huge and has interesting things in every direction. Though this is technically the same map, the addition of new caves, sky islands, and a vast underground to explore made it feel more like seeing what has changed in a familiar environment than retreading old ground. The way things open up in this world as you play, gaining more knowledge and abilities, is really incredible.
I was at first worried when they took all the baseline abilities from Breath of the Wild away and replaced them with new functions, but these all feel like they fit in the world, are more expressive, and lead to more creative thinking to solve interesting problems. Where BotW abilities like Stasis and Freeze feel very limited and are, TotK abilities like Ascend and Recall also feel very limited but reveal themselves to have interesting and varied applications.
Building things using Fuse and the Ultra Hand is a part of this game's DNA and it works incredibly well. It is never not fun to creatively solve the problems this game presents you with by slapping together two random pieces of machinery and the Tears of the Kingdom surprises you with new options and parts up to its final hours. I am incredibly impressed by how well this system works and how fun it is -- I spent more than a few hours just building dune buggies and flying contraptions to travel around for no other purpose than to try out a cool idea that the systems inspired in me.
Narratively, Tears of the Kingdom really impressed me. A lot of it is rote and a retread of Link's journeys in every previous Zelda game, with the pursuit of Sages and conquering of Temples being obvious (and fine) throwbacks to previous titles, but Zelda's story specifically is incredibly well done and impactful. A couple of the revelations the game manages are extremely impactful, both emotionally and mechanically. By the end I sort of felt like this was Zelda's story, rather than Link's and it worked really well for me, despite the convenient wrap-up and conclusion.
Combat is perfectly functional and remains unchanged from Breath of the Wild. Ultimately I think it is pretty boring, repetitive, and lacks any real challenge, which is fine, but doesn't add much to the game other than tedium. The game is at its best in boss fights, which usually boil down to "do a thing to the boss to make it vulnerable, then whack it repeatedly with your sword" rather than regular monsters, who lack the interesting first step. You can do a lot with Fuse to make things more interesting, but it doesn't go quite far enough (or encourage you to go far enough) in regular combat.
Minorly, the game itself can be an extreme chore to play, with tons of repetitive dialog, unnecessary confirmation and follow-up windows, multiple-level deep menu navigations, and menu gore in general for things like changing equipment and fusing things. I didn't mind this stuff too much (and it isn't much changed from BotW), but it does get a bit tiring.
Tears of the Kingdom is great. If you liked Breath of the Wild, you will like this. It meaningfully pushes this systemic, immersive sim-style of open world game forward with the courage to just throw mechanics in that most other developers would run screaming from. I hope Nintendo continues to explore more avenues of Zelda design, but I wouldn't complain if the next one used this format as well!

Wildfrost is a really solid deck builder that does some unique things and has really good aesthetics and feel. Some things feel a bit too overtuned, or require very specific builds without foreknowledge that you will need them, but it still manages to be a lot of fun even when you are losing.
Gameplay is superficially similar to something like Slay the Spire, with a couple of twists. Multiple characters can be played on your side, in one of two lanes, determining which enemies they will attack. Additionally, rather than each side taking its full turn all at once, all the characters on both sides have a turn timer that counts down as you play cards, at which point they attack and execute any abilities they have. Managing these turn timers on both sides (various abilities let you speed up your turns and slow down enemy turns) is very satisfying and core to the strategy of the game.
Related to strategy, there are a number of different, interesting mechanics at play that you can focus on. For example, snow lets you slow enemies, one faction leans into summoning temporary allies to use or sacrifice for some benefit, and certain cards focus on gaining and losing life to alter your power and defense in various ways. Character choices made at the beginning of the game let you lightly steer towards some builds, but largely you are creating synergies as you go based on the cards you get, making each run feel very unique.
Some abilities are extremely hard to deal with without very specific builds, or punish other builds in a disproportionate way. With no way to foresee what is coming, sometimes runs just feel like you had no way to win because of choices you made earlier, which can be a bummer. A fight full of creatures that have teeth (deal damage to attacker on hit) when you have a couple of characters who hit multiple times in a turn will quickly ruin your day. In the occasions where you have gotten enough diversity to pull yourself out of these seemingly unwinnable situations though, the game really shines.
The game has a very interesting final boss mechanic that is surprising and cool, but definitely adds heavily to the uneven difficulty.
The charm system also puts a cool spin on things, letting you collect items to modify your cards in simple but powerful ways that synergize with each other in compelling ways.
Wildfrost looks great! The characters and cards are expressive and appealing with engaging animation and VFX accompanying them. The audio is also fantastic with snappy sound effects and though there is only a single music track, it is catchy, dynamic, and never annoys.
There is a light narrative here about a frost which has overtaken the world and your fight against it, but nothing too impressive. It gives you some context and is very cutely depicted -- characters join you after you smash them out of giant blocks of ice, charms come out of depleted gatcha machines which also appear in the shops (implying this is a shop that has been abandoned or destroyed).
I had a great time with Wildfrost and will definitely pick it back up again as time goes on. The difficulty can be frustrating and feels a bit unfair at times, but the gameplay is super compelling and the synergies are satisfying and fun to put together. If you are a fan of roguelike deckbuilders, try this one out.

Shadow of the Colossus is an amazingly streamlined game that delivers a particular experience very well. It is utterly fantastic.
Shadow of the Colossus had some of the most striking visuals when it was released, and they still hold up simply because of the art direction and style. Everything feels textured and real, with the sun, fog, and weather in the various biomes making this feel like an expansive, abandoned world that you are alone in.
The Colossi are all unique and seeing what the next one will even look like is a large part of what draws me through this game. Some of them are giant, lumbering beasts, others are surprisingly lithe and acutely dangerous. Though the gameplay on some of them misses, the visual design never does.
The soundtrack is incredible.
The game knows what it is trying to do with its gameplay, and focuses on that. The protagonist, Wander, is a capable rider, climber, and bowman, but most other actions can feel clunky. Even raising your sword to deliver a killing blow to a colossus once you have clambered up its body feels like a dicey move you are hardly in control of. The somewhat awkward controls can take some getting used to, but I only rarely felt like they got in my way.
When you are riding, climbing, or shooting, the game feels great, with a perfect mix of tension and resistance (from your horse, your grip bar, or the colossus itself) that promotes mastery of the controls and timing that you come to over the course of your play. Steady upgrades to your health and grip as you play serve to make you feel measurably stronger, without ever really feeling overpowered.
Each of the colossi require you to examine their patterns and anatomy in order to figure out how to best approach and defeat them. At their best, these are exhilarating climbing and navigation puzzles you contend with while hanging a hundred feet off the ground, soaring through the sky, or being dragged through the depths of a lake. These moments of excitement and triumph heavily outweigh the few colossi that have unclear mechanics and strange solutions.
Shadow of the Colossus is light on narrative, but tells a very minimalistic story of love and sacrifice. Wander's relationship to the girl he is saving is never quite clear, though his willingness to sacrifice everything for her is. Shadow of the Colossus has some of the most genuinely heart-wrenching and surprising moments I have experience in video games, delivered almost entirely through gameplay. Additionally the personal narrative you form as you make your way in solitude through these deserts, plains, and forests is filled with moments of confusion and realization, awe and wonder that make it feel incredibly personal and real.
Shadow of the Colossus is really fantastic. Its few minor stumbles do little to mar the cohesion of the narrative and gameplay or the mystery, excitement, and grandeur of Wander's quest.