While our monthly "Biggest Games of" series looks at the biggest game releases of an upcoming month, in Hit or Miss we look back to see whether the more recent ones succeeded in earning the praise of critics or received scorn instead.
This time, we take a look to see if games like Accel World vs Sword Art Online, Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age and Splatoon 2 managed to hit the mark or ended up missing it.
Release Date: July 7
Platform: PS4, PS Vita
What is it: An action-RPG that sees the casts of Accel World and Sword Art Online crossing field paths. The two series’ characters end up joining forces to save Yui from game villain Persona Babel, with the Alfheim Online players getting fairy flight and magic while the Accel World characters get to use Accelaration and special techniques. Create your dream crossover team-ups, and engage in 4v4 multiplayer if you like.
How is it: Most found the narrative to be interesting enough and quite successful in bringing the two worlds' casts together. A good number found the gameplay solid and offers enough depth as well as distinct experiences when playing as the Accel World cast, although it’s nothing great. A few felt more let down by the combat however, citing simplicity and lack of personality.
There’s a good chunk of content in the game, from a host of side missions to a new chapter that unlocks after completing the story. Exploration is more on the weak side however, with the zones being large but rather empty, and heading to the location of a side mission can be finicky. The game’s notably similar feel to Sword Art Online: Lost Song (it uses the same engine) felt like a downside to some critics too, and Hardcore Gamer found the translation to be flawed.
Metacritic score: 64 (PS4), N/A (PS Vita)
Hit or Miss: Somewhere in between.
Release Date: July 11
What is it: Final Fantasy XII returns after over a decade with this remaster. It brings to the table HD visuals, along with “true” 7.1 surround sound and rerecorded background music. There’s also new gameplay features like The Zodiac Job System, Trial Mode and Speed Mode. The first introduces an improved system to level up characters in a way that caters to player preference, while Trial Mode lets you battle in up to 100 consecutive fights.
How is it: The remaster brings notable improvement to the presentation of the game while largely adhering to the phrase “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” for the core gameplay and story. Most critics found that the original aspects in general still held up well, especially the Gambit system, and liked the updated visuals and re-orchestrated soundtrack as well.
The new gameplay features were well-received by critics too. Most notable is the Zodiac Job System, which was introduced as far back as 2007 but was exclusive to Japan until now. Unlike the flexible License Board of the original which every character shared, the new system introduces more specific roles to be assigned to characters. The new limitations and specializations make things more compelling as a result, while the ability to assign up to two jobs per character retains a sense of flexibility.
Meanwhile, Speed Mode proves useful in grinding or when traversal gets boring, while Trial Mode offers plenty of challenging combat to test your skill and tactics in addition to giving rewards.
Metacritic score: 86 (PS4)
Hit or Miss: Hit
Release Date: July 21
Platform: Nintendo Switch
What is it: The Splatoon sequel brings back the 4v4 Turf War mode with a new singleplayer campaign, and adds a 4-player co-op mode and local multiplayer. Then there are the new weapons, gear, Splat Dualies for dual-wielding and remixes of familiar weapons.
How is it: While feeling more of an upgrade than a fulll-blown sequel, with familiar maps and weapons returning, Splatoon 2 still offers a blast of fun. Most felt that both the singleplayer campaign and the new co-op mode stand strong, while the multiplayer is as great as the first game’s. The new weapons were well-received, and the visuals are pleasing to look at.
One downside is that the co-op mode, Salmon Run, can only be accessed at certain times, which creates an annoying barrier for players. Another is that matchmaking has flaws created by strange design choices, with the match search function unable to be cancelled as well as players being unable to change loadouts while waiting for a match to begin.
Metacritic score: 83 (Nintendo Switch)
Hit or Miss: Hit
Release Date: July 25
Platform: PC, PS4
What is it: A party-based RPG From the creators of Bastion and Transistor. Claiming to feature the developers’ “biggest and most imaginative world yet”, Pyre is about battling in ancient competitions called Rites to win the freedom of your cast of exiles, who you can equip with Talismans and Masteries. Losing isn’t a game-over, but instead leads to branching and unique experiences for everyone. Other than single-player, there is a local Versus Mode in which to either battle a friend or a CPU opponent.
How is it: Another success for developer Supergiant Games. Pyre is widely considered to be a successful blend of a unique fantasy basketball-like game mode, an original and intriguing world, a strong narrative, great art design and soundtrack, and a visual novel format. The Rites are fun and contain a surprising amount of depth, while the branching aspect of the narrative in lieu of game-over states was well-regarded as well. The main downside of the game is that Versus mode lacks online functionality.
Metacritic Score: 85 (PC), 86 (PS4)
Hit or Miss: Hit