FromSoft's attempt at putting their unique spin on the open-world building-block setpiece style is a roaring success, replacing a lot of staleness in the genre with fresh flair, twists, turns, and many emotional highs and lows, but you ultimately still end up hoping that the next game is a more linear affair. An ideal sequel would take this as a base and go further with making every piece placed in the world more meaningful.

Still, these are minor complaints for a series that mostly only has itself to be compared to. Elden Ring is a fantastic entry in a larger franchise that has created waves of influence in modern gaming, and you can bet your life savings that we'll be seeing the influence of Elden Ring for a long time to come.


This game is really frustrating, because while I think there is a lot of promise in the concept of a mail-delivery game set in a small town where you get to know the folks who live there and make memories and have fun, it seems as if a lack of resources and strong ambition has made the finished product feel incredibly limp. Though you might find little moments of charm here and there, the gameplay is ultimately boring, the characters are one-note and very flat, and there really isn't anything to do that takes you off of the beaten path or makes you feel like you have to make any kind of honest choice. It's comfortable, which is kind of worthy in and of itself, but when you're comparing it to all the other games you could be playing, that's sadly just not enough.

I do find myself kind of hoping this game is successful anyway, because I would love to see the developers get a budget they can work with. I've long enjoyed games that take place in small towns, but this one kind of shows that the aforementioned lack of resources can really make things feel dead. Dropping things down to a very simple polygonal style reminiscent of retro PS1 games, or even 2D 16-bit graphics could have freed up a lot here and allowed them to work in more that plays to what you would expect a game like this's strengths to be.

I think if they want to do this again, they need to take a long look at classic games of the small-town genre like Deadly Premonition (for its wacky, fun side content that adds layers of dimension to the town and characters and emergent gameplay experiences for the player), Night in the Woods (for its levels of depth and emotion that I'd argue bring video gaming up to the level of great literature), Life Is Strange (for its use of direction in order to make sure that every moment hits; this game had a serious problem with NPC conversations feeling like something I was entirely detached from), and even Animal Crossing (the charm, the way things grow on you and you start to feel a level of investment in exploring the town and getting to know the residents).

So, I guess it's easy to say that I don't really recommend Lake, and I feel kind of bad saying that, but there really isn't much to go on here, just the things that this game makes you dream of in a sequel that manages to check all the boxes rather than just giving you the checklist and asking you to imagine something good that had them. Here's hoping in the future they're able to make good on that, because the promise here is unbelievable, and it's nuts that they didn't really manage to land any of the hits.

Admittedly, there's a little bit of a simplistic feeling to GTAIV by today's standards, which is strange to admit given that I remember gleefully awaiting and being completely blown away by this game, but the strength in Rockstar's world-building is, as always, ever present. Niko Bellic is an incredible protagonist. The characters are probably the second best part behind only the city itself, each being rendered with depth and feeling fully fleshed out. Onward to TLAD!

Cyberpunk suffers from having ambition that shoots higher than it achieves, but it's still quite impressive in a lot of respects and shows a promising blueprint for what future titles in the franchise could easily capitalize on if they so desire. I achieved 100% (or, rather, as close to 100% as you can get with a singular lifepath, I chose Nomad), and I had fun with almost all of the 140 hours that I played, only having a small dip in enjoyment near the middle of the game that a few months of break did much to alleviate. I got every ending, including a secret ending, and really enjoyed myself.

Fans of modern immersive sim games such as Deus Ex: Human Revolution will find much to enjoy here, and honestly most of the complaint about this game is just a frustration with it not having more, which is a bizarre thing to feel after a single playthrough took me about 130 hours, and then another 10 to grab every ending and do a few other lingering tasks. I'm hoping that they use Night City in the same way that the Yakuza series used Kamurocho, giving us content built on top of this as a base. Everything this game does well, it does so exceptionally well that it's absolutely incredible. This game got well-deserved backlash upon release and probably could have used another year or two in the oven, but similarly to MGSV, once you get over the annoyance with the game not delivering on a specific set of hype-based expectations, what you'll find is a very rewarding open world action game with some light RPG elements, fantastic characterization, and pretty solid writing and world-building that will suck you right in for its entire duration. I can't wait to see what the future of Cyberpunk holds. I just hope that CDPR realizes that what they have here is gold and that it's worth continuing to go. I think Cyberpunk 2078, or whatever it ends up being called, has the potential to be one of the greats.

WHAT. A. GAME. This is probably THE best mystery VN I've played, and that's been pretty much exclusively the type of VN I've liked to play for over a decade now, so seriously, WOW! KnS2 is a bit difficult at first, given how it decides to drop everything after a major cliffhanger and go for introducing a massive new cast in a flashback that feels as if it continues forever, but STICK WITH IT. Outside of the sex scenes which I always find gratuitous and annoying in VNs, every detail finds a way to be important, and you end up with a complex weave of mysteries that will surprise you with just how intriguing they are. As much as I loved the first game, this is a step up in every way. Waiting for the final episode to get an English translation is going to be a nightmare, let me tell you hwhat...

A perfect little game with very, very little filler. I think of it as the first really well-designed town you come up to in an RPG, where all the quests flow into each other and the presence of each piece enlivens the others around it. This is a game that simply tackles that one small town. It won't take you more than ten hours to 100%, and in a time where games seem to be exploding in length but have little content worth exploring, that's a beautiful thing. Great writing, interesting characters, and fun use of the time loop mechanic make this worth a binge session or two.

Wow!!! Kara no Shoujo is such a massive step up from Cartagra, though I don't regret playing its predecessor (as there were multiple moments where playing it gave me a little extra somethin-somethin). Everything is better. Better characters, better story, better art, better gameplay that actually has you investigating and, more importantly, gives you the opportunity to get things wrong and watch how that plays out, which is something I almost NEVER see... this is considered one of the best VNs out there, and for good reason. Yes, you have to wade through a lot of offputting sexual and grotesque violent content (and a lot of it mashes the two up, which is disgusting), but I think the overall experience makes it worth it. My biggest complaint really is that the ending lacks that big "holy shit" climax that Cartagra and most other VNs have (though it does have multiple "holy shit" moments throughout the narrative that more than make up for it), instead opting to set up for the sequel. Still, you can't really go wrong with this one. Probably the best mystery VN that I've played thus far. 7/10.

Although the main quest feels ultimately forgettable, XIV succeeds at being the ultimate time-waster game, a kind of meditation of tasks just monotonous enough that you can pull up a podcast or listen to some tunes without missing much, but just engaging enough that you're willing to sit there in this state and suddenly the day's turned to night and back to day again and that's it, that's the real MMO experience, that's the good stuff.

Tell Me Why manages to deliver boldly as an attempt at telling a touching, intimate story with nuance and careful representation that successfully removes the constant eye rolling (something I enjoyed, but something I'm also fine with letting go of because this shit, right here, is the kind of thing that is going to push the medium forward so that it actually can stand toe to toe with other, more aged mediums) that accompanied DONTNOD's previous efforts.

A fantastic new entry in the series, with a great, intimate, fresh vibe that will surprise and delight both classic and new fans alike, but it runs a little bit leaner than it should.

The original Mafia is one of my favorite games. I spent so many childhood hours driving around Lost Heaven, admiring the incredible attention to detail and generally adoring the game's more in-depth approach to what was a newer style of game at the time, widely popularized only a year before with the groundbreaking smash hit Grand Theft Auto III.

What I appreciated the most was the dedication to realism: you could be pulled over for speeding or running a red light. The missions all felt like bigger deals, with a larger story context wrapping them essentially into the narrative, and characters that felt much more rooted into the world surrounding it, keeping it grounded. I always dreamed that the game would be remade someday, or something else made following in its footsteps. It is now 2020, and it seems someone in a boardroom somewhere has decided, "Gee, we should remake Mafia. But I don't think we should change the experience that much, more just port it over to our new engine and remake the assets, and maybe flesh it out a little bit. Not too much though. We don't want to change the experience. It should be a remaster, not a reimagining."

And therein lies the problem of Mafia: Definitive Edition. Moments throughout seem soulful, even the city can be gorgeous to look at from time to time, but the game shies away from taking the final step it needs to make this entry stand out. It sticks TOO closely to the blueprint outlined by the original, a game made when the technology available to developers was vastly different, and never manages to really WOW you as a result. At times, it feels like a stop-gap, as if it was done specifically and only so that a "Mafia Trilogy" SKU was possible, but then every once in a while you get something that really makes you see the possibilities of what could have been if only the game had gone a bit further.

I realize that I may be asking too much of a remake of an 18 year old game, but I just don't see much of a reason for this remake to exist. It's a fun game to plow through during a weekend with not much else to do, but you will forget about it immediately. Although it tries to expand upon the characters in a lot of ways (and occasionally succeeds), by the end I felt the relationship between the characters was something I couldn't really feel whatsoever. Mafia 2's characters and city had infinitely more charm and felt infinitely more alive. And when I try to go back to my memories of the original, it may just be because I was young and because the lower fidelity left more to the imagination, but I don't remember the game coming off to me this way at all. Something is missing here, but I can't put my finger on it.

As far as what to expect from the game as a newcomer: Mafia is a fairly short and linear third person open world-style game in which you play through a somewhat generic but ultimately captivating Mafia story, working your way up through the ranks from your introduction to the criminal underworld as a cab driver all the way to pulling off regular Mafia hijinx with ease.

The game can be completed in about fifteen hours, and it isn't too difficult. I played a lot of the game on Classic difficulty, save for the relatively infamous Race, which I decided to bump down after realizing I did not have the patience to do the race over and over until I finally got first place. No one has any time for that.

What else? The mission variety is solid. The voice acting leaves something to be desired. The moment-to-moment gameplay is inoffensive but somewhat bland. The music is utterly forgettable. The graphics can sometimes be gorgeous for a second but never really "come alive" the way it does in the 2nd and I kinda wanna argue the original.

The story unfortunately doesn't really end as well as it could, mostly due to not selling the relationships between the characters as I said before, and ends up feeling underwhelming even though I knew every story beat coming up. All of those beats could be kept, as far as I'm concerned, but the lack of spirit and gusto in execution really kills this game. It would have really benefited even from a handful of new missions designed to give even more context to the characters and world. There are very FEW moments of camaraderie within this title. We get all kinds of extra lines and scenes that give us new insights into the characters that didn't exist before, but we never have any larger content that takes advantage of those details or creates a bulk of new ones, so it gets stuck in that middle ground of "it almost went for it, but it didn't quite get there" and that sucks just about all the excitement out of it, like being handed a present on Christmas in a box that weighs like something you want, then you open it and there's just a weight and some crumpled pieces of paper.

Would love to see either a reboot that goes all the way, a Mafia 4 that returns to the 20s/30s as a setting, or the franchise to be passed off to a new team. I am very thankful this game does not have any repetitive busywork crammed in like Mafia 3, and hope they continue down this path. I think revisiting Mafia was probably a good exercise and hopefully will give inspiration for whatever is next, but these games have started to feel a bit "Ubisoft-y", which for me is a bad thing.

Why create such a beautiful recreation of this city if you're not going to do anything that makes it come to life? What is this game's greater raison d'être? Other than bringing in some funding and maybe a nostalgic revisit of a classic title, in terms of anything that would make this game a worthy piece of art, I don't think it has one.

Do I recommend buying Mafia: Definitive Edition? Personally, even with my undying love of the game as a childhood masterpiece, I only recommend this one on sale for $15 or lower. That's just how the cookie crumbles, I guess. Here's to hoping we get either a sequel trying to follow this line of thinking over Mafia 3's, or another remake of this in 15+ more years.

The "beach episode" of the Like a Dragon franchise is a relaxing slow burn with an emotional plot and surprisingly tender moments. I wouldn't say that it goes as hard as it's predecessor, 2, and some may find that a detriment, but I think it's still a great entry and a worthy chapter in the saga of Kazuma Kiryu.

Of the games in the franchise that I've played at the time of writing this review (all of 1-4 and some of Kenzan, 5, 0, and Judgment), this one probably has my favorite story. A title that improves upon its predecessor in every possible way, and features a gripping, complex plot that I think can stand toe-to-toe with the obvious hard-boiled Japanese and Chinese crime flicks that clearly influenced it.

I have yet to play Kiwami 2, but I do feel the need to mention that it exists, for those who have not experienced 2 yet and are considering it. It might be better, I dunno.

A great starter to a very beloved franchise, but has weak points that really bring it down, such as repetitive, long, grating load times. If you want to experience the same story, Kiwami is a much superior method of delivery, but if all you have is a PS2, or maybe if you're just a masochistic retro devotee, it's still a very fun way to spend some tens of hours.

TL;DR: Can't really recommend this one, but yes, I played through this nukige for the story, and for me it wasn't really that worth sitting through the extreme content for the few moments where it did something interesting. I could barely tolerate it, despite having rodeoed with extreme visual novels before in the search for the Good Story, and I know most people would not, so my score has settled on a 1.5.


If a somewhat mediocre thriller, the key word here being mediocre, with charming characters and a philosophical palette full of literary references sounds like it's worth sitting through nonstop random and grotesque depictions of horrible rape that constantly come out of nowhere, ruining the pace and being entirely, revoltingly, and disgustingly masturbatory, then I suppose I'd say check this out, but if anything about that sounds even mildly offputting, it's best to skip this one and save yourself the trouble. There are plenty of other good visual novels I'd recommend instead way before I'd suggest diving into this one.

Somewhat regret playing through this, but I bought into the hype and kamige status. I just had to see it through in the hope that something worthy of all the immense suffering, both of the characters and of myself, would finally reveal itself at the end and make the whole thing come together. When those moments happened, they fell flat for me.

And yes, I have been all over the Internet reading various interpretations that try to give deeper context to the disgusting sexualization, but I think it's important to remember that this game was developed first and foremost as a nukige. It was designed to be masturbated to, and the story is built around giving those scenes external context. If the primary function of this does nothing for me, then contextualizing it in post probably isn't going to work either.

At the end of the day, I read many hours of horrifying content that wasn't solely intended to be horrifying, but also to get someone off, and I didn't like it that much as a result. I don't even really feel right about having read it. It just doesn't sit with me. I like to think I have a pretty high tolerance for extreme content, and can often look past it and just acknowledge that it simply isn't for me, focusing my perspective on the other things that the work does successfully elsewhere, but I think writing scenes that make rape "sexy" is where I have to draw the line in a strictly moral sense. This game doesn't just commit this sin once, but over and over, to the point that I don't want to go back and try to count every rape scene just to put the information in this review. It's easily over ten, if not fifteen. Fuck that.