Content creators come in all shapes and sizes, bringing you all kinds of entertainment in all kinds of different ways. Years ago, I had planned on becoming a writer about video games myself, penning reviews, previews, opinions, and the like. As time passed, however, a lack of confidence and self-esteem got in the way of that, and even making an attempt to blog was stopped because I couldn’t hammer down a focus on what exactly I wanted to share. This list actually gives me an opportunity, one that I take on the regular as a Twitch video game streamer: I can share opinions with you readers, and there’s a chance of discussion whether agreeing, disagreeing, or questioning various viewpoints, and it’s an exciting thought! For your approval, let me share with you 5 video games that came out in the year 2022 that piqued my attention.
Pokemon Legends: Arceus
For the most part, Pokemon remained largely the same in its main games’ gameplay. Catch adorable monsters that can somehow shrink down from their original sizes to fit in spherical capsules (and they don’t need to know the move Minimize to do it!), gather research data on them to complete a very light version of an encyclopedia, work with the ‘mons to defeat others’ ‘mons in battles of teamwork and supremacy in a culmination of tests comprising usually 8 gyms and a league that separates the wheat from the chaff, stumble onto and put a stop to a regional takeover threat from a not-so-friendly organization, and, in some cases, quite literally save the world from an impending doom.
Imagine my surprise when it turns out that Legends: Arceus flips a lot of the script! You’re yanked from the modern day into a past version of what would become the Sinnoh region, and working with Pokemon is a little more foreign than what you’re used to, usually reserved for more important positions, whether research-focused or clandestine, for example. A lot of the focus is actually on Pokemon research, and compared to other games (perhaps except for New Pokemon Snap), there’s novelty in how you do that! You don’t simply catch Pokemon; you catch multiple Pokemon of the same species, you evolve them, you use certain moves on them, you try to catch them unawares, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg! If there were ever a way to radically change up the Pokemon formula in a way that appeals to me, Pokemon Legends: Arceus is absolutely it.
The King of Fighters XV
Since 2016, SNK has made their way back into the console/arcade circuit with their then-triumphant return in the form of The King of Fighters XIV. Yes, it was rough around the edges, but they managed to move away from the pachinko games they had poured a lot of resources into with a fighting game that longtime fans could play, including some great surprises. They worked on improving themselves with SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy, as well as with another franchise’s return in Samurai Shodown (2019), and in some unspecified time, Fatal Fury will come back into the spotlight with an in-development sequel to the beloved Garou: Mark of the Wolves. For now, it must be pointed out that The King of Fighters XV is many steps up from that first return to the fighting game ring.
For one, the visual improvements shown in KoF XV are night and day, with the characters popping out from the arenas, and with bolder faces. Some of these arenas are absolute eye candy, such as the home arena of Team Ash, with its ethereal deer and the Aurora Borealis shining overhead. The music has always been quality, and that of course continues here. I’d be remiss to caution that the online is lacking in some quality aspects, as well as the fact that it doesn’t feature crossplay (yet), but offline is an entirely different beast. To make simply one point, instead of locking them behind MAX Mode like in the previous game, the enhanced EX Special Moves can be done as long as you have 1/2 of a Power Stock/meter/bar/etc., and it allows for far more expressive and free combos with your favorite characters, including visitors from the aforementioned Garou and SamSho; the latter’s Nakoruru was in XIV, but now she’s joined by newer fighter Darli Dagger and samurai poster boy Haohmaru, and his appearance means we have FOUR different fighting game poster boys from four different franchises, including Fatal Fury, Art of Fighting, Samurai Shodown, and The King of Fighters itself! We probably should also mention the protag of Garou, given Rock Howard’s DLC return, but Garou is within the greater Fatal Fury series. That one mechanic change makes for a far superior KoF experience, and there’s plenty more to come, including a crossplay beta and returning characters such as Shingo Yabuki and Kim Kaphwan.
Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin
Koei Tecmo Games is no stranger to action RPGs nor action-adventures. This game exists in the subgenre space within both, the Soulslike. There aren’t many Final Fantasy games that can feel visceral or brutal (Final Fantasy Type-0 being one example that comes closer than others), but Stranger of Paradise sure succeeds in this regard, as well as with the potential difficulty. None of this takes away from the kinds of flavors that Square Enix’s miracle “franchise that could” brings to the Soulslike formula.
Where other games have you largely use one loadout that you keep improving upon as you find gear to fit your playstyle, Stranger’s Job System means that you can employ different loadouts for different vocations, whether physical like a Samurai, or magical like a Black Mage. The Soul Shield is a riskier guard, but if you can time it right, you can counter with your own advancing counter, and with some special abilities an enemy might use on you, you can turn it right back around on them! It may be Chaos, but I feel this was a refreshing take on Final Fantasy in its higher focus on intense action than any mainline game.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge
Some of the staff at Tribute Games had already proven with Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World: The Game that they can make a great beat ’em up. It was so well-received that it broke the hearts of fans when it went off the digital market, but then a Complete Edition revitalized and mended those broken hearts, and surely that motivated its devs to do something different! With four heroes in a half-shell, the many different media including comics, TV shows, and movies among many other things means there’s a lot of exposure for Turtle Power. Their arcade beat ’em ups, especially Turtles in Time, are considered two amazing games in the genre, and it’s no exaggeration to say that Shredder’s Revenge completely follows suit in its reputation as another beloved entry.
From the moment you turn on the game, you can tell there’s love; the Turtles’ style is based on the 1987 cartoon just like the arcades, even featuring a visually-upgraded version of the opening! When you get into the game, similar love is shown, with expansive stages to beat up bad guys in, slammin’ tunes to get in the mood (music composed and produced by Tee Lopes with features from guitarist Jonny Atma, rappers Mega Ran and Wu-Tang Clan members Ghostface Killah & Raekwon the Chef, and vocals from Mike Patton), a tight gameplay system that includes super moves to lay into said bad guys, team-up maneuvers to show the world how best of friends you can be, and references to other fighting games if you look hard enough, such as April O’Neill’s launcher attack that looks inspired by Street Fighter’s Chun-Li’s Tenshokyaku special attack. Oh! April isn’t a damsel in distress here; she’s here to kick butt and take names like the Turtles, their master Splinter, and the vigilante Casey Jones!
It’s no secret that Sonic games of the last few years can be very hit or miss, with the exception of the glowing Sonic Mania. We can’t be so hard on them for trying out different gimmicks, but sometimes they just really fall flat. With Sonic Frontiers, the gimmick is an open Zone (Sega and Sonic Team don’t want to call it open world). There have been Adventure Fields and similar hub worlds in a few Sonic games, but nothing to the scale of the five Starfall Islands had been a thing for the Blue Blur before now. Considering the ease with which Sonic can go places, why hasn’t this been done before now, one might wonder?
Okay, perhaps the action in the game doesn’t need to be more complicated than Homing Attacks on enemies, but that’s not to say that combo attacks and special attacks don’t work, and there are puzzling approaches in order to defeat the bigger Guardians throughout the islands. When you’re not taking on various robots, you can have Sonic run through big, open fields to your heart’s content. There are various challenges to take on, and succeeding in them can make for more fun ways to speed through the islands. For those who want closer to the traditional Sonic experience, you may have fun with the Cyber Space levels you have to clear in order to grant Sonic the Chaos Emeralds he needs to take on the Starfall Islands’ giant bosses known as the Titans. Do you gotta go fast…er? You can draw a mobius loop/infinity sign/figure 8 with Sonic’s vital Cyloop ability to give him temporary infinite boost energy! If you can believe it, there are some cosmetic costumes that Sonic can put on, and there’s a whole DLC roadmap on the way, including more story and the chance to play as some other characters besides Sonic!
It’s funny, the website is called Indie Ranger, and yet these games are anything but, Shredder’s Revenge probably the closest thing to that. I promise I do have indie games that I enjoy and am willing to play, don’t you worry! It just wasn’t a strict rule for this list, but you can expect to read about great indie titles here! That recent SNES JRPG-inspired Chained Echoes is sure looking pretty exciting, and the upcoming Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes, Armed Fantasia: To the End of the Wilderness, and Penny Blood are all JRPGs in the works that have inspirations (and developers) from the respective likes of Suikoden, Wild Arms, and Shadow Hearts, and should make their ways on your radars! Keep an eye out for those titles and others on Indie Ranger, for 2023 will be another great year for video games!
Steven "THE UnKamen Soul" Acklin
Steven Acklin is uncommon in his interests, and unmasked in his love for them. His dream is to entertain others by ways of excitement, laughter, wonder, and joy through video games, and streaming and videos are the methods through which he brings the hype.
You can expect unbridled joy from him when you bring up fighting games, beat 'em ups, platformers, JRPGs, or ARPGs. While these are the main genres for him, there are many others that he'll love to hear others gush over. Just not horror. He's a bit of a fraidy-cat (his words, not ours).