Article by Michael Savich
Video Game Roundup Review
Hello, Michael Savich here, a writer for the Goucher Eye. As the local cyber-hipster, I play a lot of smaller, quirky games that nevertheless deserve a shoutout. The idea here is that if you see a game that interests you, you should feel free to look it up online and read a full review from one of the major video game news outlets. Who knows? You might find a new favorite.
In case you’ve forgotten, for these review roundups I use a simplified rating system, that basically corresponds to how strongly I think you should check out the game in question.
• Green— A game that is fascinating, a title which deserves to be recognized.
• Yellow— Game isn’t broken, but it fails to stand out from the crowd for one reason or another.
- Red— Don’t buy this game. Don’t even look in its general direction. Avoid eye contact.
The Longest 5 Minutes (PC, PS Vita, Switch) $39.99
It’s an interesting premise: what if the hero of your average everyday JRPG reached the end of their quest… only to lose their memories during the final confrontation. The Longest 5 Minutes plays out as a string of mostly-chronological flashbacks, but this format proves to be the game’s undoing. Your gear and experience is reset between flashbacks, which negates the feelings of accomplishment and agency typically associated with JRPGs. Even with the experience being reset between memories, battles are too easy, and the game’s bland turn- based combat is almost not worth bothering with.
To Longest 5’s credit, the world the game takes place in is actually quite interesting. From a train powered by a mix of fire magic and funk music to a kingdom that is just one giant woodstock festival, the game’s quirkiness betrays its influences, namely Earthbound and Pokemon. Unfortunately the colorful setting is mostly squandered, as the core plot rarely capitalizes on the unique environments. That’s not to say the story is terrible, and it does have its moments, especially towards the end. But a few clever plot twists don’t make trudging through the hours of blandness worthwhile. Doomed by design and poor in execution, The Longest 5 Minutes would be a hard sell at $20, let alone the asking price of $40.
Lost Sphear (PC, PS4, Switch) $49.99
Developer Tokyo RPG Factory’s previous game, I Am Setsuna, was both an experiment in extreme minimalism and an attempt to capitalize on nostalgia for classic 90s RPGs like Chrono Trigger. Lost Sphear drops the former aim to focus on the latter, which ends up being a welcome change; Setsuna’s story of sad people in snowy places, albeit inspired, failed to capture the mood of cheesy 90s adventures. Lost Sphear, in stark contrast, brings the campiness and brings it hard: time travel, edgy antiheroes, amnesia, airships, mechas, magic, magical mechas, if you can name a 90s RPG cliché then Lost Sphear has it. It’s the “young boy from rural town saves the world” plot again, beat-for-beat, and how you feel about that and/or the words “Active Time Battle” will probably tell you whether or not this game is for you.
Although it is built mostly on mechanics borrowed from 16-bit era RPGs, Lost Sphear does sport a few ideas of its own, most notably the “artifacts” that you can build all over the game’s world. Building an artifact has the effect of altering the rules of battle. Often these are mundane tweaks, such as increasing the critical hit rate, but more esoteric artifacts can yield effects such as letting you use an item twice or modulating your attack power based on the distance between you and the enemy. You can even build multiples of most artifacts, with their effects stacking, letting you tilt the playing field quite dramatically. The sheer malleability of the artifact system is remarkable, and this flexibility isn’t strictly limited to artifacts, as customization is a recurring theme in the game’s many subsystems. This invitation to tinker and forge your own experience proves refreshing, to say the least. In some ways, it makes sense that a game built on nostalgia would take the form of a blank canvas: what you get out of this game depends on what you put into it. If you have fond memories of old RPGs, Lost Sphear asks you to remember them.
Golf Story (Switch) $14.99
One might think that RPGs and golfing would go together like peanut butter and roadkill, which is to say, not at all. Golf Story isn’t even the first game to try this combo, the most famous example being the Game Boy Color iteration of the Mario Golf series. But, since then, this nanogenre has been mostly left alone, and it’s partly because of this drought that Golf Story feels so refreshing. Of course, you play golf in Golf Story, but it’s a pretty standard affair. If you’ve played almost any other golfing game, you’ll recognize the mechanic of stopping a meter at just the right moment to maximize the distance and accuracy you get from a swing. The course design is noteworthy for being spacious and cleverly thought out, but otherwise the golfing itself isn’t much to write home about.
No, the main hook of Golf Story is the story, specifically its offbeat sense of humor. Whether you’re facing off against a gang of psychic disc golfers or witnessing a senior citizen beat a teenager in an epic rap battle, you’ll find there’s always something odd afoot. In fact, there is a bit of an overreliance on humor, as the game can never seem to take anything seriously, with moments of vulnerability and triumph being promptly used as fodder for the next punchline. This becomes a problem towards the end of the game as you start to realize none of the characters have an arc to them. Unfortunately, for all the time you spend with them, the cast is somewhat forgettable. Funny, yes, but forgettable.
That being said, whether you should get this game ultimately boils down to the question of whether you’re interested in a comedic golfing rpg. It certainly has the market cornered in that regard. Golf Story is good but can’t shake the feeling that what should have been a hole-in-one has fallen just short of an eagle.