Altered Beast: Guardian of the Realms

I wasn’t sure if I was going to like this game at all, seeing as how I don’t particularly care for the original, but I gotta say, I came away from this one more positive than I expected! Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a recommendation without caveats, certainly not, but it could have easily been a disaster, so I’m happy to say that it’s at least worth a shot if you like that original game in any way. Whether you legitimately enjoyed its gameplay or loved the concept only to be betrayed by the execution in one way or another, Guardian of the Realms is at the very least a slight improvement upon what its predecessor established. It’s a simple game that shows the depth of its mechanics to you just as quickly as its forebear did, but its aesthetics and surprises do a lot to give it that extra bump to put it just above harsh labels like “mediocrity” or “a pointless sequel”.

Star Ocean EX

And as a different experience compared to the source material, I’d call Star Ocean EX a success. It takes something dear to me and many others and retells it in a way that expands upon its character and world. Even with its downgrades in terms of action and capturing the systems of the game, it manages to add a lot to a cast that already had me by the heartstrings. I know I said that it's about the journey and not the destination, but it really is unfortunate that it was never finished in its intended form because I would have loved to see how everything else played out in this fashion with beautifully represented character designs, lively music, and appropriate voice acting. I admittedly came in not expecting anything particularly special, and I have to imagine it wouldn’t be anything special for people not familiar with the game, but as someone who has been yearning for a replay of Star Ocean 2 but hasn’t quite had the time to squeeze it in, this really helped satisfy that hunger for the time being.

Ninja Assault

Ninja Assault has so much to offer between its multiple stories and gameplay modes, but perhaps most importantly of all, it's the kind of game that makes you feel cool just by being a part of it! Every time you play it, you learn new tricks, can react to and counter foes that gave you a hard time previously, and you score higher than you previously thought was possible. This is a game I played through four times and still feel the desire to go back to because I know I can improve upon my game or do the rest of those missions. I love how it breaks past the boundaries of conventional Light Gun games to offer something more bombastic and exciting than what we're used to. Even if you don't have access to a Light Gun, give it a go and you'll have a good time!

Planet Monsters

Planet Monsters is what you get if you combine Bomberman, Kickle Cubicle, and Pengo into one strange mixture of a game. It's an interesting concept and it's visually charming, but its single player mode leaves a lot to be desired. Playing against the AI over and over again loses its appeal quickly and the boss fights, while novel enough, don't do enough to keep things interesting. Despite all that, and perhaps it's because I'm a big fan of the GBA, there's something about it that keeps me from outright disliking it. I could see this one being more exciting if you're able to wrangle together people who are actually willing to try it, but good luck with that in 2022...

Austin Powers Pinball

Austin Powers Pinball is an experience that's so minimalist and unremarkable that it almost feels pointless to play. It offers nothing that other pinball games don't and it doesn't make proper use of its license during a time where people were hungriest for it. But beneath it all, it has a degree of value as a fascinating cultural artifact of a time long past and that's pretty groovy in its own way...