Review: Mario & Sonic at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games offers fun time, downtime in equal measure

After taking a bit of time off, the Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games series is back in time for Tokyo, and for a Japanese game, representing itself well for the host country is clearly important. It’s not a good time to phone it in, so it makes sense that this release could draw your eye. How does it manage, given increased expectations? Let’s get into it.

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Review: Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD tries to reshape a Wii launch game’s legacy

By any given measure, Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD is a reclamation project of sorts. Banana Blitz wasn’t a particularly well-received entry at the time, and the intervening years have not seen a late fandom grow around it. So why is it, of all the Super Monkey Ball games, getting a remaster? One potential reason is that decision-makers at Sega thought it had an undiscovered appeal buried under its early motion controls and lack of development focus.

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Review: Atelier Ryza shows the series is growing up

Most of Gust’s Atelier games feel alike. A young woman decides she wants to become an alchemist and goes about honing her skills, proving herself and solving some major problem along the way. Every entry seems to have a priority, be it the exploration elements, item creation, relationships or story, but none of the installments released since Atelier Rorona feel like a step forward. Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & the Secret Hideout is a great big jump in almost every way.

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Review: The unlikely Sega Ages Ichidant-R is a welcome surprise

In most instances, a retro re-release project is about capitalizing on nostalgia. It’s about letting players revisit old favorites on new platforms, and the comfort of the known being preserved for future play. And Sega’s no stranger to that, both with this Sega Ages series and its compilation efforts in general. At least for those of us in the West, though, Sega Ages Ichidant-R is different. It’s an unknown artifact delivered to an audience to let them learn more, and it’s exactly the sort of effort that fans of Japanese games should applaud.

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Review: Sega Ages: Columns II keeps the pressure on players

Each console has its own sort of puzzle series connected to them. When someone thinks of a Nintendo system, Picross or Tetris could come to mind. After all, both have made their home there for years. With Sega, another sort was its identifying IP: Columns. Until the Nintendo Switch came along, the worldwide library has been rather incomplete. Columns II never appeared outside of Japan. With Sega Ages: Columns II, people’s library is finally complete.

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Review: The student has become the teacher in The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III

Nihon Falcom’s The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III is both a continuation and a new chapter. It’s not a fresh start for Rean Schwarzer and company, but it’s a clear inflection point, with a shifting status quo and a new cast of characters. At its core, though, it’s still very much the games that came before it. And for longtime fans of the franchise, a new coat of paint over the same structures is probably just fine.

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Review: Utawarerumono Zan is a complementary beat-’em-up

When it comes to visual novels, there’s a specific complaint that often comes up. People unfamiliar with the genre can sometimes be quick to point out how little "gameplay" there is in such affairs. It was a criticism volleyed at both Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception and Mask of Truth, two visual novels that didn’t offer players much agency, in terms of choices, and only occasionally broke up the narrative with a battle or two during appropriate events. Utawarerumono: Zan feels like a direct response to such this kind of grievance, but it might go too far when trying to rectify those gripes.

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Review: Sega Ages Space Harrier helps you rail against fantastic enemies

Space Harrier is one of those classic Sega games. The name is recognizable by anyone who has seen it in the 34 years since it made its arcade debut. Whether it is in an arcade, on a console or perhaps even in a Yakuza 0 virtual arcade, this early Yu Suzuki title has a sense of presence. There are plenty of reasons to remember it. Now, with the Nintendo Switch Sega Ages Space Harrier release, there is a refined version of the original game that takes optimized elements from past releases and a few optional gimmicks that provide a new way to look at the game, regardless of how good you may be at it.

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