It takes a lot of work to be the black sheep of a series as inconsistent as Final Fantasy, but Final Fantasy II has generally found itself in that position since it first released on the 8-bit Famicom back in 1988. It’s an odd game, in many ways establishing the SaGa series more than it sets up further Final Fantasy games. It went unlocalized for a rather lengthy period of time, which meant when it finally did come it was being judged against games that came ten years or more after it. Memes about the game were established in the West before the game itself ever had a chance. Unfortunately, I feel like the Final Fantasy II ($11.99) Pixel Remaster has once again drawn the short straw. Of all the Pixel Remaster games so far, this is the one that loses the most.
I’m assuming many readers will be familiar with the original Final Fantasy through one version or another, so I’ll cover the changes and differences first. This new remake breaks ranks with the others in that it does not use the previous version as its basis. In many respects, this game acts as though it’s the very first remake of the original Final Fantasy. That means a new art direction for the sprites that hits a little closer to the original designs, a Vancian magic system instead of MP, and perhaps most importantly, the absence of any and all dungeons, bosses, and other paraphernalia from the other remakes.
For a very long time, the game now known as Trials of Mana ($23.99) was the fish that got away for Western players. The first game in the Mana series, now known as Adventures of Mana, made it over under the title Final Fantasy Adventure. The second came over as Secret of Mana. But due to a variety of factors, the third game just didn’t happen at the time. Even the typically resourceful fan translation community had a bit of trouble with the game for a while. Later Mana games made it out overseas virtually without fail, leaving the third chapter as something of an oddity.
When I got my own PlayStation a few years after it launched, I didn’t know that one random sports game purchase would somehow get me into a game genre that I still play today. The Clap Hanz-developed and Sony-published Hot Shot’s Golf (Everybody’s Golf outside North America) is a game I don’t even know why I bought in the first place and I had an absolute blast with it and Hot Shot’s Golf 2 back in the day. Having not owned another PlayStation until the PS Vita and PS4, I never got to play the series until the more recent entries and I didn’t really enjoy the direction of Everybody’s Golf on PS4. Fast forward to April this year and Clap Hanz surprise released Clap Hanz Golf as an Apple Arcade exclusive.
Following its debut back in 2019 on Nintendo Switch and PC, Baba Is You has slowly become one of my favourite puzzle games of all time alongside The Witness. Many indie games debut on PC and sometimes consoles before they come to mobile and I gave up on Baba Is You ever hitting mobile considering I didn’t really see any discussion of more ports and figured we would see PS4 and Xbox versions before anything on mobile. After last week’s surprise release, Baba Is You ($6.99) from Hempuli is now on iOS and Android in addition to PC and Nintendo Switch platforms and this new port is just about everything I hoped for in a mobile conversion but it is lacking in one key area.
I discovered Taiko no Tatsujin through an import release on PS Vita because of how colourful the gameplay looked and how varied the song selection was. Prior to that, there had been some Taiko games on mobile but they were all region locked or had something putting me off trying them. The PS Vita having a lot of rhythm games I enjoyed definitely got me trying more in the genre on the platform. Taiko no Tatsujin V Version featured loads of music from games, anime, and even some pop songs like Gimme Chocolate! from Babymetal. I played a ton of it but was completely obsessed with the franchise from the PS4 and Nintendo Switch releases for which I even bought the drum controller bundle for Nintendo Switch.
Look, I don’t make the rules. If inkle releases a new game, I’m there. The folks at inkle have a fantastic knack for making narrative adventures that feel so much bigger than the confines of their designs, and Overboard! ($5.99) is no exception. It’s the classic murder mystery set-up: a passenger ship is making its way across the ocean on the way to New York. The night before the ship is set to arrive in port, one of the people on board is killed. Will the murderer be caught, or will they get away with their hideous crime? That’s up to you, but not in the way you might think.
Given how great Apple’s support for older devices is, I usually hold on to my iPhone and iPad for a few years at least before looking to upgrade as long as they work fine. While I definitely regret buying the iPad 3rd generation with how underpowered it ended up being, the iPad Air 2 was a fantastic device not just for gaming but also for work. It slowly started to become sluggish with newer games and some games I wanted to play on touch didn’t support it. Upgrading to the iPad Pro 2020 has been great with how well almost everything I play runs on it but one specific game announcement pushed me more towards upgrading. That was the original WWDC reveal for Divinity: Original Sin 2 ($24.99) from Larian Studios.
I don’t know what has been in the water at Square Enix the last few years, but I’m happy for it. The 8-bit and 16-bit Final Fantasy games can only be re-released and/or remade so many times, I suppose. We’ve received localizations of classic games I never thought we would see like Romancing SaGa 2 and Romancing SaGa 3. We’ve seen the latest SaGa, SaGa Scarlet Grace, get a release on new platforms and in new regions. Even the classic Game Boy games that kicked off the SaGa series (unbeknownst to those of us in the West at the time) got reissued on the Nintendo Switch. And now things come full circle, after a fashion. SaGa Frontier Remastered ($24.99) sees the very first game in the series that was localized under its original title make a return, hopefully to a warmer reception than last time.
Some games are good. Really good, even, and you know you’ll play them for hours and hours. Other games maybe need a bit of work, a bit of spit & polish, and they could be good. Then there are some games I really want to love and enjoy and recommend but, for one reason or another, I just… can’t. Dungeon of the Endless ($7.99) is one of those. Not because it’s bad, but because it just… doesn’t capture my attention, can’t keep me coming back for run after run, even after months of not playing. It’s not immediately obvious why, either—the art is gorgeous, the soundtrack is good, and the minute to minute gameplay is quite enjoyable too. So what is it? Why, despite owning the game on three different platforms and trying to get into it dozens of times, does it consistently fail to draw me in, push me to really dig in to strategies, and finally beat the game? The answer, I’ve come to find, is simple: The post-run reward loop that gets you to come back for one more floor, to experiment with that thing you just unlocked, or to see if tweaking your strategy just so makes the difference, just… isn’t there.