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In Style Fashion News Feed - Fri, 02/02/2018 - 15:45

Night In The Woods Review

Game Spot Reviews - Thu, 02/01/2018 - 17:54

Both intensely personal and widely relatable, Night in the Woods doesn’t just tell a story--it gracefully captures complex, often unpleasant feelings and experiences. From the quiet melancholy of doing nothing on a rainy day to the emotional vacuum of severe depression, I felt deeply, sometimes too deeply, while wandering through the cartoon-animal version of a small Midwestern town. Its witty writing and character development keep its crushing existential themes grounded, making Night in the Woods one of the most evocative games I’ve played in a long time.

Night in the Woods follows 20-year-old Mae Borowski--who happens to be a cat--after she drops out of college in the beginning of fall and returns to her tiny hometown of Possum Springs. She’s an angsty troublemaker with a bit of a rap sheet and a sharp tongue, and you spend her first few days back kicking around town and catching up with people, including her high school friends Bea and Gregg. A few people allude to something awful Mae did in the past, while others talk about a kid from her high school who has gone missing.

There's enough small-town curiosity in those short, early interactions to be intriguing, but there are plenty of awkward moments that keep Mae’s homecoming feeling ordinary. You can talk to an old teacher (who likes Mae despite her awful behavior) and an elderly neighbor (who considers Mae a horrible nuisance), and it feels very real, like any small talk in your hometown--just with Mae’s distinct brand of snark. These interactions both offset and highlight the mysterious elements of Possum Springs, a balance Night in the Woods masterfully strikes throughout the entire story.

You’ll spend most of your time exploring Possum Springs through light platforming and optional interactions with the same few people you want to talk to, broken up by lighthearted, simple mini-games. For most of the game, you take things day by day, and that slow drip of information bolsters the development of Mae and her friends. This structure manages to feel aimless without being purposeless; every day is similar but not the same, and there’s always something new to learn about a neighbor or a dry remark from Mae to make the same few sights feel different each time. It’s understated worldbuilding that enhances the impact of the main story--especially through a better connection to Mae, her friends, and Possum Springs as a whole.

Many days end with a choice of activity, like going to the mall with one childhood friend or "doing crimes" with another. This is when a lot of the bigger--and stranger--events take place. Sometimes things are lighthearted, like sneaking into an abandoned grocery store just for the fun of it, but there are also serious talks about past mistakes or what exactly Mae is doing with her life. Watching her struggle to articulate her problems and awkwardly dodge questions about college is hard--especially if you’ve ever been in a similar position. Combined with melancholic music, a lot of Night in the Woods evokes the feeling of lying in bed all day, despondent and paralyzed by indecision and uncertainty.

Initially, I had an incredibly hard time getting through more than a day without having to step away from the game for a bit. At 20 I was in a bad place with both school and depression, much like Mae, and playing felt more like looking in a very shameful mirror. But there’s enough going on in Possum Springs to distract from that early-20s, nearly drowning feeling, and instead of closing my game, I looked forward to the respite of mini-games and visiting friends at work, both for Mae’s sake and for mine.

I began checking every corner of town hoping to find the smallest or silliest of moments, and I often got them. I shoplifted pretzels (in a red-light, green-light style mini-game) for baby rats just to see what would happen if I fed them, and I listened to a neighbor’s dumb poetry every day because she could easily have been someone I know in real life. At the center of Night in the Woods is a story about a young adult who has gone numb, and those experiences on the periphery are what she--and anyone who’s lived through an emotional void--does to feel anything at all.

The unfortunate reality is that finicky controls, and even some scenes that feel forced, occasionally interrupt Night in the Woods’ evocative atmosphere. More than one scene requires you to complete simple platforming to proceed, for example; sometimes it’s unnecessarily hard to execute thanks to poorly placed platforms, and in general, having a hard objective is at odds with a game that is otherwise not really gamified.

At the center of Night in the Woods is a story about a young adult who has gone numb, and those experiences on the periphery are what she--and anyone who’s lived through an emotional void--does to feel anything at all.

Night in the Woods does have a game-within-a-game: a dungeon-crawler called Demontower that you can play on Mae’s computer. It’s another good distraction--I played it right before having Mae go to bed, much like I would in real life--and it’s a throwback to the kinds of games you might have put a lot of hours into in the mid-2000s. As a cute detail, you can pick up where Mae apparently left off a decade earlier (and if you don’t like Demontower, you can just go on the computer to IM your friends after a night out).

By the third and final act of the game, I had grown seriously attached to Mae and her crew of deeply flawed but charming weirdos. Their experiences in a struggling, dead-end town are relatable even if you’re nothing like them--and that’s what gives Night in the Woods its emotional impact.

From beginning to end to epilogue, Night in the Woods is ultimately open to individual interpretation. How you relate to it depends on your own experiences and choices, including Mae’s dialogue and who you decide to spend time with. Though its charming and angsty story works well on its own merits, it’s special because of how it prioritizes conveying emotion over telling a straight narrative.

Editor's note: This review has been updated to reflect our time with the Nintendo Switch version of the game. -- February 1, 2018

OK K.O.! Let's Play Heroes Review: Pulling Punches

Game Spot Reviews - Wed, 01/31/2018 - 17:00

With an extensive roster of quirky characters and a world that's as colorful as it is joyful, the OK K.O.! universe is the perfect playground for a video game adaptation. But while OK K.O.! Let's Play Heroes perfectly captures the show's tone and aesthetic in its own way, it is, unfortunately, let down by repetitive quests and shallow mechanics.

You play as a young boy named K.O. who aspires to be the world's greatest hero. He is aided in his journey by his delightful group of friends (such as the cool-as-ice Enid, the slacker Radicles, and the tough-as-nails Mr. Gar) who all hang out and work with him at the Lakewood Strip Mall. But when the evil Lord Boxman from across the street threatens to take down Lakewood by resetting every hero's POW card (which depicts their "hero levels") to zero, it's up to K.O. to help restore everyone's levels by beating up an endless factory line of robots. Let's Play Heroes is primarily a beat-'em-up with some simple RPG elements, such as a basic leveling system and side-quests, sprinkled in. While this helps keep the game from getting too mundane, it only partially succeeds in alleviating the tedium.

The game's beat-'em-up combat is simple but has enough variety to keep things engaging. Attacks and dodges are performed with single button presses, and advanced moves involve a few more directional changes but nothing too tricky to master. Like most beat-'em-up games, there are also a large number of super techniques, called Powie Zowies, available to unlock. As you complete each stage, you earn experience points that go towards leveling up your Strength, Agility, or Cool stats. With three attributes, there might have been potential to shape K.O. to your desired playstyle, but disappointingly, the stats only serve as a way to keep advanced moves locked until you reach certain levels.

Each enemy robot has its own unique skillset, and some battle stages have item crates containing useful weapons. These factors encourage some strategic thinking, but the limited number of enemy types and the simplistic AI means that you can win almost every battle in the same manner with the same attacks. These robot fights only become remotely challenging during boss battles, but these are few and far between.

When you are not battling robots, the rest of Let's Play Heroes involves exploring Lakewood Strip Mall and talking to the various side characters to unlock their Powie Zowies via simple side-quests. Unfortunately, most of your options are either long-winded fetch quests or battles against robots, quickly turning these tasks into a grind. The game falls into a tedious pattern of talk, fetch item and/or fight, and talk again. There are a few mini-games available, but they are generally nothing more than reskinned or tweaked versions of the game's many robot battles.

The repetitiveness also does nothing to help the game's poor pacing. Despite the high-stakes story (for the OK K.O.! universe), Let's Play Heroes plays out like a series of meandering vignettes that mostly ignore the overarching storyline, not unlike the narrative structure of the show. While that approach may work in TV, the result is a game with too much padding and little in the way of forward momentum.

What Let's Play Heroes lacks in narrative urgency and mechanical depth, it almost makes up for in its presentation. Rather than imitate the show's simple presentation, like what The Fractured But Whole did with South Park, OK K.O.! Let's Play Heroes features its own colorful interpretation of the characters and universe. In contrast to the show's static look, the game's art style is dynamic and rich in detail yet simple enough to capture the tone of the source material.

Complementing the eye-pleasing visuals is the excellent audio design, notably the soundtrack and voice acting. Each background track feels entirely in tune with the show’s whimsical tone, right down to K.O.’s adorable beatboxing. The voice cast from the show lends their talent to the game, giving Let’s Play Heroes a wonderful sense of familiarity and comfort. Writing and characterization are also top notch, and perfectly capture the quirky nature of the show. Witty one-liners, layered jokes, and meta gags are generously sprinkled throughout the game, though these sadly start to run out towards the final act. All the characters in Let's Play Heroes are well-realized, with nearly every hero and villain given enough time to shine in their interactions with K.O., all while staying faithful to their TV counterparts. It goes a long way in not only pleasing long-time fans, but also establishing character relationships and dynamics for those unfamiliar.

There is also an additional payoff for those who watch the show religiously, though it's something may frustrate newcomers: The game features a special vending machine that allows you to input secret hidden codes found within episodes of the show in exchange for POW cards that are otherwise unobtainable. While this kind of locked content is disconcerting, Let’s Play Heroes’ simplistic fighting system renders this almost unnecessary. The fact that you can easily finish the game without unlocking these hidden POW cards means the mechanic ultimately doesn’t have a significant effect on the overall experience, though it may frustrate those who want to collect every POW card in the game.

As far as adaptations go, OK K.O.! Let's Play Heroes looks and sounds fantastic in a way that is distinct yet faithful to the source material. But the shallow mechanics, the repetitiveness of the gameplay loop, and narrative pacing issues prevent the game from being a rousing knockout.


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Shadow Of The Colossus Review: A Somber Masterpiece

Game Spot Reviews - Tue, 01/30/2018 - 08:01

2005's Shadow of the Colossus was a revelation, a game whose gorgeous aesthetic and reserved tone were, at the time, undeniably distinct. Together with its unique take on boss encounters and a stirring soundtrack, those aspects made the game a defining title of the PlayStation 2 era. But it was also a game infamous for its technical issues: most notably, the ambitious design of the titular colossi meant the game would often suffer from a choppy, aggravating framerate.

A 2011 HD remaster for the PlayStation 3 alleviated these problems, but now, with 2018's Shadow of the Colossus for PlayStation 4, Bluepoint Games has completely rebuilt every aspect of the game's world while leaving the underlying structure and mechanics intact, a move which not only rejuvenates the game visually but uncategorically intensifies the utter majesty of this extraordinary experience.

Shadow of the Colossus takes place in an ancient world, where young warrior Wander and his horse Agro transport a deceased loved one to a forbidden, sealed land. With a mythical sword and an ordinary bow, Wander hopes to take advantage of a fable that suggests something in this isolated province has the means to bring back the dead. There, he encounters an omnipresent entity who compels him to destroy sixteen colossi scattered throughout the territory in order to enable his wish.

If you've already played a previous version of Shadow of the Colossus, you'll find that Bluepoint's rendition feels much the same, barring some minor differences in controller mapping, some subtle quality-of-life tweaks, and a new Easter egg. The locations of each colossus and the methods of defeating them remain the same, as do the locations of every white-tailed lizard and fruit collectible. The weight and movement physics of Wander and Agro feel unchanged, and New Game+ rewards are identical.

But the impact of the completely rebuilt world is transcendent. This is a world that is geographically as you remember, but one that still astounds you as if seeing it for the first time. Highly detailed environment modeling in tandem with impressive light and shadow simulation bring amazing life to the game's breathtaking biomes. Lucious forests are densely packed with majestic tall trees and twisting foliage, dappled beautifully with soft rays of sunlight. Vast, arid deserts feel hauntingly desolate as you try and sight somber ruins through a wispy sandstorm. Even the simple sight of mountainous crags and cliff faces is impressive, with shadows acutely defining their rocky surfaces, making them pop ominously. Every time you crest a hill, emerge from a crevice, or change your perspective, the landscape will be a sight worthy of pause.

The increased fidelity of the reconstructed colossi is just as spectacular, and the mere sight of one in this version of the game is even more awe-inspiring than it is in your memory. Each foe--some small and nimble, the rest impossibly titanic and overbearing--is a terrifying beast of stone, fur, and leather. That fur is now noticeably more dense and luscious, and hanging onto it for dear life as your enemy tries to violently shake you off feels even more intense. These moments are enhanced by the detail of the distant environment that lies far beneath you when on top of a colossus, combined with motion effects that amplify the sense of danger at these dizzying heights. The first time I mounted a flying colossus in this version of the game, I could feel my chest wrench as I squeezed my controller to hold onto its wing for dear life while it soared, flapping wildly through the air. It was exhilarating.

Playing on a PS4 Pro offers you the ability to further enhance visual fidelity via high dynamic range color, as well as the choice between two different graphical options with different priorities. Cinematic mode enables 4K resolutions, as well as allowing for impressive downsampling (that is, scaling down a higher-resolution image) for 1080p displays at a targeted 30fps. Performance mode provides less impressive graphical quality but maintains a smoother frame rate targeting 60fps. In my experience, I preferred the crisper image offered in Cinematic mode--once you realise you can recognise the definition between each individual blade of grass, it's hard to let that go. However, the visual quality offered by both modes still enhances the experience of the game in ways previously mentioned, especially for those whose last memory of it was suffering through sub-30fps framerate issues on the original PS2 release.

The visual reconstruction doesn't detract from what makes Shadow of the Colossus great, and the game's holistic and understated direction still comes through strongly: its muted colors, cinematic camera angles, and stark absence of music while exploring the world still evoke a poignant tone of desolation and solitude. The world's large forsaken landscape doesn't feel bereft of things to do, because simply riding through it and enjoying at the majesty of the land, accompanied only by the sound of Agro's hooves scraping against the earth, is a meditative experience.

Fighting a colossus is still a grand, solemn, and tense challenge that is exhilarating to overcome. The impassioned orchestral soundtrack heightens the pressure of every maneuver: Deciphering a method of mounting your impossibly enormous enemy, clambering to reach their vulnerabilities as they try to fling you off, and driving your sword into their flesh. Every moment of a colossus battle is thrilling to execute and witness, whether you're doing it for the first time, or the fifteenth time in a post-game time trial.

While the passing of twelve years hasn't affected the overall quality of Shadow of the Colossus, there are two technical annoyances that persist and remind you of a bygone era. The third-person camera system does not clip through world objects, so it becomes erratic and troublesome to adjust when moving Wander through enclosed spaces, or near a solid object. Additionally, the game's unforgiving climbing system, which asks you to jump with the X button and grasp onto a ledge or surface with the R2 trigger, is occasionally temperamental in certain situations; there may be times when contact with a ledge may not correctly register even though you may have been holding R2 well in advance and correctly estimated the distance needed for your jump. However, both of these issues affect only a small amount of your time with the game and should not be considered a significant strike against the whole. In the case of the climbing system, it's a quirk that's easy to come to peace with because of how absolutely essential the mechanic is to creating the rousing pressure and suspense of colossus encounters.

Shadow of the Colossus is a tremendous journey, and one well worth taking and retaking. The visual overhaul is stunning, thoroughly enhancing every facet of Wander and Agro's excellent adventure. Galloping through the tranquil world is always breathtaking; felling a monumental colossus is always humbling. Shadow of the Colossus is a beautiful reconstruction of an already exceptional title. It continues to be a modern classic and is an extraordinary game that everyone must experience.

Subnautica Review: A Water Wonderland

Game Spot Reviews - Mon, 01/29/2018 - 21:00

Decades after Jaws cemented our cultural fear of the deep ocean, Subnautica emerges from Steam Early Access to fuel a new breed of underwater nightmares. This first-person survival epic by Unknown Worlds Entertainment dumps you into the water with not a great white shark to watch out for, but an entire alien world full of monstrosities ready and able to swallow you whole. Subnautica expands into an intense and challenging game that maintains considerable beauty and mystique across its massive environments. It's so magical and otherworldly that it practically pains you to stop playing, even when you're filled with dread.

Despite its scale and demanding ecosystem, Subnautica is one of the most approachable open-world survival games around. Where most of this sort have a steep difficulty curve to climb, this underwater alien world is easy to get into. The solo-only campaign begins when your ship crashes onto a flooded planet. You awaken, floating in your pod with only the fiery ruin of your former starship to break up the monotony of the ocean that rolls on endlessly to all points of the horizon.

From here, your goal is a simple one--survive, discover what else is on this world, and do your best to find a way off of it. Thankfully, you come from a Star Trek-style federation. Your lifepod is tricked out with a fabricator, a nifty wall-mounted device that can make pretty much anything, provided you feed it the necessary raw materials. Bladderfish are needed right away to provide potable water, while smaller finned creatures are best for fast frying and eating.

Compared to other survival games, gathering up items is easy. Want to see what mineral is hiding in that rock? Punch it or whack it once or twice with whatever you have in your hand. Need to cut plants or coral? Right-click to slash with your knife. Considering other survival games force you to do things like bash your fists bloody against trees to collect wood, you get by pretty easy here, and the entire game is better for it.

Because the crash has corrupted a lot of your databank, you also have to find and scan fragments and crack open data boxes scattered across the ocean floor before you can build bits of technology. You can even fabricate additional fabricators that make components for vehicles like the zippy Seaglide or Seamoth mini-sub, and even seabases straight out of Octopussy. These are not only cool to look at, but useful in the long run, with '70s-style observation bubbles, solar panels, and high-tech hardware to refine and manage your supplies.

Of course, there are still some significant challenges here. While you start off in the appropriately named Safe Shallows, home to mostly friendly fish and readily available materials required to craft basic items like swim fins and oxygen tanks, you soon need to venture farther afield. The world consists of many biomes, distinct geographical regions with their own flora and fauna. Most of the better goodies in the game come from more extreme and far away places, which forces you to steadily upgrade your equipment to handle greater depths and highly aggressive sea life that look more like monsters of myth than fish at your local aquarium.

...there is a real push-pull dynamic at large that makes you feel like you're constantly achieving one new goal after another.

Aggressive creatures are a continual presence. You have to respect them and keep your distance, knowing what they can do. With that said, creatures are not unduly punishing. Running into something aggressive doesn't result in instant death. You'll likely die far more often as the result of drowning during an exploration dive, or starving to death because you took too long during an expedition.

Diving into wrecks makes for the most intense moments in the game, especially when you're at significant depths. Bigger wrecks almost always seem to be in the neighborhood of the nastiest monsters on the planet, which means you need to sneak in and out. Caves are almost as nerve-wracking and contain an even stronger likelihood of drowning due to their labyrinthine nature. Further investigation rewards you with rarer natural resources like diamonds, nickel ore, and Blood Oil. Caves aren't as enjoyable to explore as wrecks, though, because the sheer danger makes them too risky to have much fun in. At least the game eventually allows you to craft things like a compass and the pathfinder tool that lets you lay down a trail of electronic breadcrumbs.

While routine scavenger hunts for more basic survival needs can grow routine (though you can turn off the need to eat and drink at the start of a game--or go in the other direction and turn on a hardcore permadeath mode), there is a real push-pull dynamic at large that makes you feel like you're constantly achieving one new goal after another. Even something as simple as grabbing a dozen or so bladderfish and peepers and turning them into bottles of water and salted fish snacks can be rewarding, because you know those supplies are essential for extended exploration missions.

Your development as a scavenger is nudged along by a story that loosely guides your exploration. Getting the lifepod radio repaired reveals a number of distress calls from other lifepods that went down along with you, along with coordinates of their current or approximate locations. This even opens up a possible rescue attempt, which leads to another interesting part of the planet. Venturing to these locales uncovers an unexpectedly deep story, but it also moves you to various locations where you find vital resources at just the right time. Progress moves quickly if you follow the story, though this is still a huge game that requires a lot of time, patience, and exploration.

Some patience is also required when you bump into the game's rare technical issues. Loading save files takes a very long time, there are regular sound glitches where audio vanishes while leaving the water, and crashes can occur when loading your save. Given that you're only allowed a single save slot per campaign, these moments are stressful, though thankfully no saves were lost during our time with the game.

Subnautica's story, scares, and beautifully rendered underwater setting make it one of the most fascinating survival games around. You will always have to grind away to a certain extent to gather necessary resources, but the overall experience is both accessible and refined. Subnautica may not make you eager to get back to the beach this summer, but right now there is no better virtual way to experience the beauty, and the terror, of the deep blue sea.

Lost Sphear Review: Short Of The Mark

Game Spot Reviews - Mon, 01/29/2018 - 15:00

Lost Sphear, like its predecessor I Am Setsuna, wants to remind you of the 16-bit RPGs that were so beloved in the '90s. Developer Tokyo RPG Factory has succeeded in terms of the basic look and mechanics, but after two games, it's starting to feel like the studio's name is intended more literally than we initially realised. Lost Sphear isn't a bad game by any stretch; it does some genuinely interesting things with its combat system, but everything surrounding that often feels like something that came off a factory assembly line.

Lost Sphear follows Kanata, a young man who sets out on an adventure with his two childhood friends, Lumina and Locke--along with Van, a stranger that the team adopts with very little vetting or discussion--after a calamity strikes their hometown. It soon becomes clear that Kanata is the key to solving a worldwide epidemic of people and places becoming "lost," meaning that they've disappeared, leaving behind a sparkly white silhouette. He and he alone can restore the lost thanks to his special, mysterious ability to compile and restore memories, and as whole chunks of the world disappear Kanata learns more about the disaster and why he alone can turn it around. This likely sounds familiar, because it's hitting on the same broad tropes that many RPGs have in the past. This is a standard "chosen one" story, albeit one that gets fairly bogged down in game-specific terminology. You and your slowly-expanding crew of fighters travel around an overworld map straight out of the SNES days, discovering new towns and smacking down a variety of monsters. Structurally, there's nothing here you haven't seen before if you're even a casual fan of RPGs.

Lost Sphear's battle system--despite being very directly based on Chrono Trigger's Active Time Battle system--has a stronger sense of craft to it than the story does. Each member of your team has access to unique weapons and moves, with no overlap, and by visiting the magic consortiums and blacksmiths in each town you can equip them with all sorts of abilities. Over time, you can play around with the "momentum" system--which lets you add buffs and bonuses to certain abilities that can be triggered during battles--and "sublimation," which lets you build up passive effects on these abilities over time. Each attack has its own area of effect, and each character also has access to a "vulcosuit," which lets them suit up in a mech during battle to access more powerful attacks. Figuring out strong attack combinations, and which attacks to assign which momentum bonuses, is satisfying, and while the game throws a lot of terminology at you as more combat abilities unlock, it never feels overwhelming.

You also have full control of your movement when each character's turn rolls around, meaning that you can choose where to place them. You might position someone who attacks from ranged distances in a safe spot behind the rest of the party, or spend ages trying to find a pixel-perfect position that will let one character's attack hit two enemies instead of one. This means that you have a lot of control over your placement on the battlefield and by playing strategically you have the potential to execute attacks that will let you deal a lot of damage at once. The strategic depth imbued into these systems means that even the most basic battles, the ones you can't possibly lose, remain enjoyable. Over time you can build up a huge number of passive buffs by restoring lost parts of the overworld map with Katana's powers, meaning that diligent players will have the opportunity to really boost their effectiveness in combat.

Some abilities are fundamentally much more useful than others, but harsh cooldown times and resource penalties mean that, in a long battle, you can’t spam your strongest attacks over and over. But while the system behind combat is great, most enemies will go down quickly if you just throw your biggest attacks at them without worrying too much about being strategic. I only died once outside of a boss fight, but when the bosses arrived, I never knew what to expect. Playing on normal, some were a cakewalk, while others were a brutal slog that the game had in no way prepared me for. Bosses will throw out incredibly cheap tricks, often right at the very beginning of the fight--instant-death attacks, sleep powders that put your entire team out of action for a long time, punishing area-of-effect attacks that trigger upon the boss' death, you name it. Thankfully, you can change the difficulty at any time if you get frustrated and don’t want to take a long trek back to the nearest town to buy new abilities and fortify your weapons in the hope of becoming strong enough to endure their attacks. And Lost Sphear not only allows you to quick save, but it signposts boss fights with save points--modern concessions that you'll likely be thankful for.

Outside of combat, working through Lost Sphear's campaign can often feel like busywork. It gets bogged down in glorified fetch quests for long periods of time, sending you pinging between different points on the map to take in unexciting dialogue exchanges. There are very few formal side quests with dialogue and objectives, and while there's quite a bit you could do on the map there's not much incentive to strive for 100% unless you're committed to finishing it on Hard.

For a while Lost Sphear feels aimless and flabby--it takes a while for an identifiable villain to emerge, and many early plot threads drop by the wayside as new, less interesting conflicts and dramas pop up. There's a lot of exposition, and the plot justifications for what you must do next often feel flimsy or forced. But lore is built up over time, and the plot pulls a neat trick on the player later on, subverting expectations and eventually connecting various dangling threads across the final act. It builds to a satisfying conclusion, albeit one weakened by uninteresting characters.

Lost Sphear also has an odd aesthetic to it. It has the look of an older portable title that has received an HD remake, with some pleasant scenes and locations offset somewhat by numerous repeated assets, bland textures, and dull interiors. Every now and then there will be a moment of beauty--a lovely vista, a quaint village--but other sections of feel like placeholders, too empty and boring to feel like real places. The character designs are indistinct, and the lack of close-ups or FMV cutscenes mean that it's hard to get a sense of personality from them. Tomoki Miyoshi's score is a solid fit for the events that unfold, but is lacking in earworms and unique boss themes.

It feels like the main purpose of Lost Sphear is to remind you of your favourites of the genre, rather than to join their company. Its enjoyable combat system and late-game revelations are satisfying, but it's hard to pin down its identity or to point towards anything that really makes it stand out beyond its ability to provoke nostalgia. For some players, that may be enough, but for others, the best thing about Lost Sphear might be that it inspires you to replay Chrono Trigger or Final Fantasy VI.

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