I've never been a huge fan of the Final Fantasy brand, playing just maybe a few entries in the series as many of them never did capture my attention for too long. During the PS2 era, I did manage to play Final Fantasy XII and it was one of the few in the series to really grab me. I recall getting stuck in the game somewhat far into it and eventually moving on to other games but it was always a title I wanted to revisit.
Thankfully, for my more modern sensibilities, Square-Enix decided to remaster FFXII for the PlayStation 4 with better audio, higher res visuals and revamps to not only the job system but an added speed modifier as well, allowing you to speed walk and fight through the game at your own pace and this made experience grinding actually fun, which is a rare miracle for a JRPG. The new job classes made the combat incredibly satisfying and made roles feel more prominent in the game as it was much harder to have these distinct roles in the previous release.
What really made me get into XII was that it left the turn-based combat the series was known for behind and embraced a more real-time focused system. This, at least for myself, made the combat very engaging and allowed me to feel in control of the battle. You could swap to either character in your party and even set AI systems to allow your team to play like you want them to. This form of team management allowed me to focus on the aspects of the game I enjoyed and not have to worry so much about micromanaging my party in the middle of combat.
The game oozes with inspiration from Star Wars, far more than any Final Fantasy before it. You have a young blonde kid with dreams of joining the fight and then it's off to save the princess with a smuggler-type and his animal companion. While main characters, Vaan and Penelo were not terribly interesting, the supporting cast and strong story make this one of the better games I've played in some time.
Do you like Basketball? Fantasy elements and interesting characters? Yeah? How about an epic Fantasy Basketball game? Pyre is a very strange and yet wildly interesting game that is, on one hand, a Basketball style sports game and on the other, a Fantasy epic with well-constructed characters and a deep and satisfying lore.
You play as the Reader, a character who is soon joined by the Nightwings, a ragtag group of characters who have been exiled from the Commonwealth and now participate in a sports event called The Rites. As a Reader, you can read the stars and use them to track down the next challenge. During your adventure, you will meet a vast collection of interesting characters, many of which can join your team. You'll learn their backstories, how each of them handles on the court, and take on challenges to earn them gear items to make them a more effective teammate. The actual gameplay is extremely fast and despite how simple the mechanics are, it shows layers of depth and nuance.
You will certainly have your favorites to use in the game but there is a fun narrative twist that will force you to build your team in unique ways and this will allow you to learn more about the story as you pick and choose key members of the team to progress through the story. The narrative is a true highlight of the game and one that feels original and rewarding.
Pyre succeeds in many things; it tells an interesting story, it has fascinating characters, gorgeous visuals, an amazing soundtrack, and the gameplay is very solid and enjoyable. This is one of those games where the concept may throw you off, but the game will get its hooks into you and never let go. Pyre is incredibly fun and worthwhile to add to your collection.
I often considered the Rabbids to be the Minions of video games and haven't really been a huge fan of them, however; they do bring a very particular charm when mixed with the world of Mario. This turn-based X-Com style game is one of the best Mario titles I have ever played and honestly, it's almost better than Super Mario Odyssey, almost.
Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle is a kid-friendly turn-based squad orientated adventure. Mario and his regular cast of companions team up with their Rabbid Doppelgangers in an attempt to return back to the home they know. During a freak accident with a device that can merge various things together, the Mushroom Kingdom is turned upside down and infested with an army of twisted Rabbids. To combat this menace, Mario and his crew are gifted a wide range of slap-stick weaponry like Explosive Rubber Ducks, Laser Pistols, and Remote RC cars.
The combat is turned based and characters can move a set number of squares to hide behind cover or gain a bit more ground should they perform a team jump. The mechanics behind combat, whether it's the gunplay or melee attacks, all feel fun and a successful takedown can feel incredibly satisfying, especially when that attack wins the round.
What works so well with Mario + Rabbids is the game has a very addictive personality to it. The combat, the music, the characters, and even the levels themselves few cohesive in a way that many other games only dream of. The boss encounters are beyond amazing and you never feel repetition set in due to the game constantly introducing you to new units or narrative surprises.
What works so well with the Nintendo Switch is the portable nature of the device and frankly, had this been a TV-only title, it probably wouldn't have made my list. The fact I can play something of this quality on the go made convention line-ups, especially 4 hour waits in line for Pax, an enjoyable experience.
What is even more surprising about Mario + Rabbids is that this game is not even produced by Nintendo. This is an Ubisoft game that was pitched to Nintendo and even Nintendo was surprised they didn't make some of the assets used in the pitch. Much like the other two Nintendo games in my top ten, this is an absolute must own for the Nintendo Switch.