When everything is going well and you’re able to just play the game, it’s a really fun time and feels like a proper marriage of Castlevania throughout the years. There’s quite a bit to experiment with and you’ll get to test your skills against enemies from several different Castlevania entries, seeing them in a whole new context. Every character feels like they have a distinct enough playstyle and the 5* items do a great job of rewarding you with fun new attacks to use. But all of that comes with a hesitation to recommend this game for a variety of reasons. This isn’t a game you can just pick up and play even if many of its design choices encourage exactly that when it’s finally in your hands. You need to jump onto a specific ecosystem and pay monthly, it’s a game that works best if you’ve played at least eight or nine Castlevania games to completion to appreciate all the throwbacks, and it’s a game that expects you to keep coming back no matter how much it asks you to grind. You can outsmart it in some ways, but ultimately, this is one that you’ll have to chip away at bit by bit to see it through, no matter how much it gets on your nerves.
The Famicom had a ridiculously large library and I get the impression a lot of people outside of Japan still have yet to dig deep into its JRPG library beyond the usual suspects. That’s because most people get turned off by their difficulty, their obtuseness, or their slowness, but Shadow Brain defies all of those expectations. Shadow Brain is an exceptionally thoughtful game that offers some of the best world building on the platform alongside convenient and smart features that wouldn’t become commonplace in the genre until years later. It’s rare that we see something so ambitious that actually works out, so this game is worth celebrating for that reason alone.
Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood
Earthblood has such a specific goal in mind, an ethos so at odds with where video games currently are, that it was destined to get critically panned. It's hard to say whether developer Cyanide intended to cater to a niche of people yearning for the days of the PS2 and Xbox 360 or if they were really just that out of touch with modern expectations, but I'm thankful regardless of the reason, because this is exactly the kind of game I miss...