• Ace Combat Advance
    After playing this game and finally solving a years-long mystery for myself, I’m not at all surprised to see this game get the cold reception it did. Spin-offs are a wonderful thing if you accept them for what they are, but even if you look at this game in a vacuum, it just doesn’t offer the same emotional highs or mechanical thrills the rest of the series does. As much as I like to bang the drum in support of weird spin-offs and will continue to do so, this game isn’t exactly a sterling example of how to shake up a winning formula. I like being generous, though, so I’ll try to be generous here by saying that Advance’s strange emphasis on ground combat, overhead perspective, and curious platform of choice does give it a unique flow and feel compared to other Ace Combat games, which is typically an ideal goal to aim for with a spin-off.
  • A Drawing’s Journey
    There’s truly infinite potential with an idea like the World of Drawings, so it would have been nice to see it pushed harder here. As it is, A Drawing’s Journey is a game that’s unfortunately one I wouldn’t recommend. Its gameplay is tedious and full of needless misdirection, its story is unfulfilling and rings hollow when it tries to make a big play at the end, and the whole thing just bums me out because it’s nice to see small projects like this succeed. Having played it myself, I suppose I’m not surprised to see that the few people who bought it seemingly never made it far – I highly doubt normal people would stick with that nonsense battery puzzle as long as I did!
  • Stahlfeder: Tekkou Hikuudan
    I’m really not sure why this game garners the hate it does (when it gets any acknowledgement, anyway). I know it’s far from the peak of the genre and it’s certainly not without things that would dissatisfy diehard STG players, but when you boil it down, it’s… really not doing anything particularly wrong or different from what you’d typically expect. It’s slower than the likes of, say, Ikaruga, and much easier than it too, but I think it’s really nice to have something that’s both an entry point and something you can just suck down in 30 minutes and have a good time, even if said time isn’t an exceptional one.
  • Funky Jet
    When you boil it down, I suppose Funky Jet isn’t much more than a fun 30 minute jaunt with some lively visuals, but it achieves that humble goal with such aplomb that I can’t help but think it deserves much more credit than it gets. The formula it strives to improve upon is a tricky one to touch since it’s the kind of thing that was practically perfected from the jump, but Mitchel Corporation really found a way to make it their own. It’s kind of genius how they took two genres with such straightforward fundamentals and figured out that they’d work together so well.
  • Cacoma Knight in Bizyland
    Realistically, I don’t think Cacoma Knight is going to blow anyone’s socks off. It’s a solid iteration on Qix with a fair amount going on mechanically and a juicy flavor to appreciate, but once the novelty wears off, I have to imagine the endless replayability and challenge of Qix will always win out in the end with diehard fans. Even so, I find Cacoma Knight to be one endearing game. I love the way it looks and I really appreciate how it takes a puzzle game formula and expands on it in such a way to make it feel like a proper adventure. Its increased emphasis on storytelling and cooperative play definitely give it a distinct identity, and even though people don’t exactly play Qix for the story, the effort is absolutely appreciated nonetheless.