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.
Gate of Doom
I know I’m playing armchair game designer here, but I really feel like Gate of Doom would become something great with just a handful of changes. Increase the default movement speed, rebalance some enemy damage output (or just give players full health when respawning), make magic usable in boss fights, and make the power-up items permanent and you’d have a much more reasonable game that actually feels like a proper blend of action and RPG elements. As it is now, Gate of Doom wears the skin of a D&D campaign and does so very well, but when you actually get your hands on it, it just feels like a less polished and poorly balanced take on contemporaries like Gauntlet, Cadash, and The King of Dragons that were all doing the same thing more effectively, to say nothing of the excellence that the Capcom D&D games would achieve just a few years later.
Disgaea 6: Defiance of Destiny
Disgaea 6 is a game stuck at a crossroads, conflicted between two different experiences it wants to convey. Its story is one of the strongest in the franchise, offering entertaining characters with a heartfelt message about overcoming hardship that resonates strongly and is concisely told. On the other hand, it also wants to be as approachable as possible, providing a method to allow anyone to breeze through the game and witness the story even if it means betraying the themes of said story and offering shallower gameplay to the dedicated fans who have been there since the beginning...
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...