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Top 10 Games with Staff Writer, Izsak Barnette

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Top 10 Games is a new, semi-regular series that hopes to offer a bit of insight into the twisted minds of Goomba Stomp’s writers, editors and podcasters by allowing them to tell you about their all time favorite games, and why they love them to such an unhealthy degree. 

About Izsak:

For my seventh birthday, my grandparents let me pick between a PS2 and a GameCube. I chose the GameCube and I don’t regret it. Why would I? After all, the Big N, while it suffered from plenty of issues, gave me plenty of good, quality games to play as a kid, a rarity in today’s world of mobile-focused shovelware and mature, AAA-focused titles. In the following piece, you’ll find ten games, from childhood favorites to relatively recent releases, that I cherish above all others. I hope you enjoy the list!

10) Super Mario Maker

I’ve always loved Super Mario platformers. From the incredibly creative Super Mario World to the maddeningly tedious Super Mario Bros. The Lost Levels, they’ve been the one game series that I’ve played consistently throughout my life. My love for them has stayed consistent, even as my tastes in gaming have matured or diverged entirely.

However, when Super Mario Maker was first announced in 2014, I remember feeling, well–not much of anything at all actually. I genuinely didn’t care about the game in the slightest (a side-effect of waiting eagerly on Xenoblade Chronicles X, I suppose.) The graphics looked pedestrian and while the game’s concept seemed interesting, the presentation most certainly wasn’t.

Fast-forward to September of 2015, however, and my opinion had changed entirely. I hadn’t bought the game at launch so I was watching videos about it courtesy of YouTube channel GameXplain instead. It was then that I realized that the game being released was not only much more polished than the product originally introduced in 2014, but that it also looked like a lot of fun.

Pretty soon, I was playing the game (courtesy of a well-timed birthday gift from my parents) and my family and I fell in love instantly. What normal Super Mario platforms had lacked in difficulty, depth, and variety was improved by a community dedicated to creating some of the most fun, diverse, and difficult Super Mario levels that I’ve ever seen.

Nearly four hundred hours of collective playtime later, its safe to say that Super Mario Maker became not only one of my favorite games of all time, but one of the games that I’ve had the most fun playing with my friends and family. We’ve spent dozens of hours playing through 100 Mario Challenge and countless more designing and polishing our own levels, which you can find here.

In a world where games are often criticized for how they separate people, Super Mario Maker is a rare example of a game that does the opposite, a game that not only brought my family a lot of fun, but also brought us closer together.

9) Super Paper Mario

While often considered the black sheep of the Paper Mario series, Super Paper Mario is a classic. I forget how many dozens of hours I spent as a kid roaming the world of Flipside while on my journey to save the world from the all-encompassing Void. While certainly not as well-polished as The Thousand Year Door, or the portable Mario RPGs, Super Paper Mario successfully manages to create a fun and engaging experience nonetheless.

Aside from its oftentimes banal combat system, the story is one of the better ones in the Mario RPGs, pursuing a depth and maturity that has yet to be topped. It is ultimately a game about love, loss, and the end of the world. The main villain, while lacking the traditional evilness and grativas associated with Mario RPG villains, is excellent.

A character reeling from pain and reacting in kind, his actions paint him as perhaps one of the most complicated characters in Mario series history; a welcome addition to a series whose villains often possess paper-thin motivations.

While its gameplay leaves much to be desired and it lacks the breadth of previous Mario RPGs, the depth of its storytelling coupled with a brilliantly tongue-in-cheek and original script, makes it not only one of the best Mario RPGs, but one of the best Mario games of all time. Super Paper Mario truly is a game worth experiencing.

8) Super Smash Bros.

The Super Smash Bros. series has been a favorite of mine since I played Super Smash Bros. Melee on the GameCube. The series’ fun mechanics paired with a roster full of  Nintendo characters from almost every one of the Big N’s franchises has given me countless years of enjoyment. However, picking between the different titles in the series is simply too difficult for me; each game is simply too good in its own way.

Super Smash Bros. Melee has a fun, engaging Adventure Mode as well as the most fun (not to mention the most challenging) Events in the series. Super Smash Bros. Brawl has the Sub-Space Emissary which, while not a favorite of all fans, features two of the most most impactful and memorable cutscenes in Nintendo history. Finally, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U has (in my personal opinion, don’t flame the comments Melee fans!) the most well-balanced and fun combat mechanics, balancing the combo-heavy nature of Melee with the easy-to-pick up floatiness of Brawl into a package so fun that it can be enjoyed by Smash players of any skill level.

It’s simply too great of a task for me to separate such iconic titles from each other, with too much nostalgia at stake for me to even attempt it. They are in a class of their own, a testament to the genius of series creator Masahiro Sakurai and a visual reminder of just how great a treasure trove of IPs the Big N has at its disposal.

7) Master of Orion II: Battle at Antares 

It would be an exercise in foolishness to try and count how many hours I spent playing the Master of Orion series as a kid. I owned both Master of Orion II: Battle at Antares and Master of Orion III for the PC. Courtesy of watching my father play them when I was young, I fell in love with the series quickly. While Master of Orion III doesn’t hold up particularly well today, instead playing like an instance of “Excel Spreadsheets: The Game,” the second game absolutely does, a testament to how well good game design can carry a game that’s even older than I am.

Released over two decades ago, Master of Orion II possesses gameplay that, while rudimentary by today’s standards, is impressive for a game older than the Millennium itself. A complicated meta-game evolving around balancing special attributes and a punishing AI highlight what is perhaps the greatest feature of Master of Orion II: Battle at Antares, its nigh infinite replayability.

I have seldom found a game that I can come back to, whether after a week or a year, and still have just as much fun as the day that I first started. Master of Orion II is an exception to that rule, a game so fun and enjoyable that I still return to it, even today.

Master of Orion II doesn’t hide its age well and it doesn’t have to. Much like any classic, it can instead rest upon its timeless brilliance, brilliance that transcends the rapid development of PC hardware and the space-strategy genre. Master of Orion II is a classic space strategy game, and one that needs to be experienced by anyone who loves PC gaming or strategy games. It is a masterpiece of timeless game design.

6) Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga

While the Mario and Luigi series has hit something of a snag recently with two good, but not great, entries in the series, its debut game is still as great as it ever was. Another gift from my childhood, Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga maintained a constant presence in my Game Boy Advance’s carrying bag as a kid.

Fun, cartoony visuals punctuated with a masterful score by legendary composer Yoko Shimomura make most every moment of playing Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga a zanily enjoyable experience. Although I had played Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door by the time I received Superstar Saga as a Christmas present, it was my first true RPG; a fact that made it very hard for me to finish as a kid.

I can’t remember how many times I got stuck on a boss, puzzle, or just got lost in the game, but Superstar Saga‘s difficulty paled in comparison to its final boss, easily one of the most difficult final bosses that I’ve ever played against.

It wasn’t that the game was particularly hard, but that, like most children, I was impatient. Not content to spend the limited time I had to play games defeating enemies for experience points, I often ran from encounters, increasing the difficulty of the game further. Looking back, it’s a wonder that I ever finished it at all.

Regardless, Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga is a superb adventure, and one well worth revisiting either on the Wii U eShop or when its remakeMario and Luigi: Superstar Saga + Bowser’s Minions comes out on the 3DS this fall.

5) Chrono Trigger

It is very, very easy to make a bad JRPG. Trust me, I’ve played plenty of them. Even today, the genre struggles with crafting experiences that differ significantly from JRPGs that were released twenty or thirty years ago, with a few notable exceptions.

While most older JRPGs (such as the perennially loved Final Fantasy VI) show their age through use of by-the-book JRPG design, Chrono Trigger‘s originality and timeless gameplay still holds up as well as any RPG released today. An excellent, well-written time-travel story, an engaging battle system, and lovable characters made Chrono Trigger an easy game to fall in love with.

And the characters are what makes Chrono Trigger so different from many other JRPGs. From the enigmatic Magus to the indisputably honorable Frog, each characters stands out from the crowd of traditional JRPG archetypes, a testament to the game’s memorable presentation.

All of this goes without mentioning the spectacular soundtrack, which, as a first production by now-legendary composer Yasonori Mitsuda, is rivaled only by a select few. Its timeless melodies and luscious synth-jazz trills still give me chills to this day. It’s a masterpiece in sound design, and a testament to how well timeless music can set the stage for an excellent game.

Timelessness really is Chrono Trigger‘s greatest strength as, even 22 years after its initial 1995 release, it still holds up remarkably well. True timelessness is rare among games, but especially among RPGs, whose greatest tool is their ability to immerse players within a world. Despite releasing on hardware less powerful than the modern smart thermostat, Chrono Trigger still impresses today, a monument to what can be accomplished with enough pure talent, even on severely outdated hardware.

4) Final Fantasy XIV

There is no game on this list whose memory is more bittersweet for me than Final Fantasy XIV. The MMO genre is known for its ability to draw people in, to have them consider a fictional world of polygons and vectors their second home. FFXIV was no different for me.

I’ve written about it extensively before, but I played FFXIV during a time of great dynamism and change in my life. It relieved a lot of the stress from my final year of college and gave me goals that, while essentially meaningless, provided a release from what writing 15 papers in 14 weeks will often do to a person.

It helped that the game was a masterpiece in MMO design. While more “amusement park” MMO than sandbox, FFXIV was filled with so much content and so many callbacks to previous entries in the series that I often felt like it was a game designed specifically for me. A great story, epic soundtrack, and addictive content treadmill made playing FFXIV feel rewarding. Even if it took fifty hours to get the exclusive loot that I was after, it ultimately felt worth it in the end.

For more than a year and a half, all of my gaming-related decisions revolved around playing FFXIV. After I first played the game on PC, I bought a copy for the now-shuttered PS3 so that I could play while the computer was being used. When I got a PS4, I upgraded from the PS3 version so I could enjoy better graphical fidelity and smooth frame rates while in the living room. When I upgraded my computer to be able to play FFXIV at 1080p and 60FPS, I purchased a new keyboard and mouse, specifically to enhance my FFXIV experience. Everything I did, gaming-wise, at least tangentially, considered FFXIV, something I haven’t done for any other game, before or since.

I stopped playing FFXIV shortly after the release of Patch 3.1 in the Fall of 2015, when I made an attempt to come back and play it again. It simply wasn’t the same. Most of the members of my Free Company (FFXIV‘s version of guilds) had moved on. As a result, my desire to return slowly dropped away.

However, my memories of Eorzea haven’t. They remain as poignant today as they did then, a reminder of how games can move us in unexpected ways and make a discernible impact on our lives; a reminder of how powerful gaming is as an entertainment medium.

3) Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door

I remember the first time I heard about the Paper Mario series. I was standing in Wal-mart with my parents, watching one of those old CRT TVs that used to droop down from the ceiling, when an advertisement for The Thousand Year Door came on.

I was skeptical of the game’s appeal, as its cutesy, paper aesthetic immediately made me label it as a game for really young kids, and an uninteresting one at that.

Fast-forward a few months and, lo and behold, I received The Thousand Year Door along with Super Mario Sunshine for my birthday. As soon as my father and I began to play the game, I realized just how wrong my initial impression had been.

Far from the boring, Mario Paint-esque art game that I was expecting, The Thousand Year Door was one of the best games that I had ever played. An initially simple battle system unfurled into the subtly nuanced Badge System and a story that could have been mailed in was, instead, unfolded with great care. Side-missions involving Princess Peach and Bowser added variety and flavor to the game without interrupting its pacing.

Such brilliance was also evident in the design of each chapter of the game’s story. While there is one relatively weak chapter in the game, Chapter 2, the rest stand out as among the best in Mario RPG history. Adventures such as Mario’s trip to Glitzville and journey on the Excess Express are as memorable as anything the portly plumber has done over his nearly four decades of existence.

Despite paper-thin graphics, the game world comes alive brilliantly, the ultimate evidence that visual creativity often trumps pure graphical fidelity, especially as a title ages. Beautiful colors and an excellent paper aesthetic decorate a world that’s as beautiful and creative as any in the Mario series.

It’s a shame that Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door hasn’t been re-released yet. Such creativity ought not to be held back by the poor sales of a middling console, and one of the greatest games of all time ought not to linger behind while lesser games absorb the spotlight. It’s long past time that Nintendo reminds gamers of its brilliance and re-release The Thousand Year Door so that a new generation of gamers can see its greatness.

2) Metroid Prime

I received Metroid Prime in a bundle along with my GameCube for my birthday in 2004 and it’s the quintessential nostalgic tale of my childhood. I’ve discussed Metroid Prime at length before but, simply put, it’s one of the greatest gaming experiences of all time.

While previous Metroid games were excellent in their own right, Prime took the series to new heights. By taking the player within the suit, Nintendo and Retro Studios allowed one to truly experience the game, taking immersion to an entirely different level. Such excellent immersion, when paired with true in-game isolation, allowed Prime to craft an impressively quilted atmosphere that the series has yet to match in subsequent entries.

That goes without mentioning the excellent graphics, which hold up even today. While working with laughably antiquated hardware, Retro Studios managed to produce a game that looks as sharp as any Nintendo game ever has. While zones mainly stick to their themes, each is populated with detailed, believable flora and fauna that fit perfectly in their environment. From the fearsome Baby Sheegoth that stalk the Phendrana Drifts to the oh-so-annoying Shriekbats that haunt every corridor, Metroid Prime‘s biodiversity is one of its greatest strengths.

The music, composed by Kenji Yamamoto, remains some of Nintendo’s best. Soft, mellow glaciality highlights the expanse of Phendrana Drifts while the bubbly harmonies beneath the main melody of Magmoor Caverns showcase not only its incredible beauty, but also its danger. Perhaps no other Nintendo game executes so well on its soundtrack as Metroid Prime does.

Overall, Metroid Prime is, in every way, the quintessential Metroid game and one well worth experiencing. From its impressive vistas to its groundbreaking immersion, the original Metroid Prime isn’t only the greatest Metroid game ever made, it is also one of the greatest games ever made.

1) Xenoblade Chronicles

Once one witnesses true greatness, it becomes that much harder to stomach the dullness of mediocrity. I witnessed this greatness when I first played Xenoblade Chronicles in 2012, and I have yet to witness a game that approaches its stratospheric excellence.

I have spent the better part of five years searching wide and far for a JRPG capable of dethroning Xenoblade. I haven’t succeeded. Despite playing through almost the entirety of the Final Fantasy series and playing Xenoblade’s own spiritual successor, nothing has come close.

And, that’s not because they lack quality, it’s simply because Xenoblade supersedes them in every way.

Xenoblade’s story is breathtaking, a testament to the passion of director Tetsuya Takahashi. Unlike previous projects of his, such as Xenogears or the Xenosaga trilogy, Xenoblade doesn’t suffer from rampant issues in pacing nor the game’s own obtuse need to repeatedly remind the player how smart it is. While there’s still plenty of philosophizing (Xenoblade borrows heavily from Gnosticism), it is kept under control for most of the story, allowing the player to keep at least a tangential understanding of what is occurring on screen.

As a result, Xenoblade maintains its pace throughout the entirety of the adventure. While most JRPGs have either a slow beginning, a glacial middle, or a soul-crushingly difficult end, Xenoblade stays, with the exception of one ultra-challenging boss toward the end, incredibly well-paced. From the beginning until the end, there isn’t a single section that overstays its welcome. For a game that can stretch to over 100 hours, Xenoblade moves at a remarkable pace.

The story is assisted by an even better soundtrack. While I’ve heard a bevy of great music from a variety of JRPG maestros such as Nobuo Uematsu, none of them can match the consistent quality of Xenoblade’s soundtrack. Tracks such as “Unfinished Battle” and “You Will Know Our Names” are truly some of the greatest tracks in not only the history of JRPGs, but also of video games.

In fact, Xenoblade remains the only game whose soundtrack I listen to on a near-daily basis. Its vast collection of 91 songs covers nearly every perceivable emotion. Sad? Xenoblade has a song for that. Happy? Xenoblade has a song for that. Feel like crushing robots with the power of your magical sword? There’s a song for that too.

Every aspect of Xenoblade, from its incredible setting upon the bodies of two titans, to its excellent gameplay, seems designed to create the perfect JRPG. It aims for excellence and soars way above its mark, hitting true greatness.

And that, ultimately, is why Xenoblade Chronicles is my favorite game of all time. Its excellent story, superb music, and creative setting outclass every other game that I have ever played. While it isn’t perfect, it is far and above the greatest game that I’ve ever played, proof that JRPGs, despite stagnating as a genre, can still tell stories worth hearing.

10 Honorable Mentions: Civilization V, Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 3 (Wii), Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy VIII, Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, Super Mario Galaxy, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Mario and Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story

Although a gamer since before I can remember, there is not a better definition of me than these three words: Christian, moderate, and learner. I am steadfast in my Faith, my Beliefs, and in my Opinions, but I am always willing to hear the other side of the discussion. I love Nintendo, History, and the NBA. Currently a PhD Student at Liberty University.

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Ricky D

    August 30, 2017 at 11:32 pm

    How … why … how … no Zelda on the top 10?

    • Izsak “Khane” Barnette

      August 31, 2017 at 7:28 am

      Zelda games are objectively good games, with Wind Walker being my favorite. However, I’ve never enjoyed playing them as much as the games on this list. If this was a perfectly objective top 10, Ocarina would certainly be on here.

      • Ricky D

        September 2, 2017 at 7:04 pm

        Refresh my memory but did you play and like Xenoblade Chronicles X?

        • Izsak “Khane” Barnette

          September 3, 2017 at 8:15 am

          I played it and I really didn’t like it in the slightest. The story was poor and very boring, the character models weren’t that good, and it lacked the appeal of the first game. I remember being so disappointed when I played it. After all, I had waited almost three years to play the game and it didn’t meet my expectations in the slightest. Tops my list as my most disappointing game of all time. A lot of people like it, though, and I have no problem with that.

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Game Reviews

‘Coffee Talk’ Review: The Best Brew in Town

Coffee Talk is as quaint as your local coffee shop. It’s relatively short, wonderfully sweet, and absolutely committed to the art form of telling a story through a video game screen.

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It’s 9:00pm. The rain just started coming down softly a few minutes ago, and the street outside is reflecting the lights above it. Neon signs shine brightly in the distance, although it’s hard to make out the words. You unlock the doors to the coffee shop and wipe down the counters in order to get them clean for the customers. The rain makes a soft sound as it hits the glass and passerby speed up their walking pace to avoid it. The bells chime as a tall, green orc walks in and sits down at your table in silence. You wonder what their story is…

I wanted to set the tone for this review because of how important atmosphere and audio/visual design is in the world of Coffee Talk. While it’s easy to boil the game down as a visual novel-type experience, it’s honestly so much more than that. A unique cast of characters, incredible user interface, and a mysterious protagonist combine to form the most enjoyable experience I’ve had this year on Switch.

Coffee Talk
Some of the subject matter can be pretty serious in nature…

Coffee Talk is beautiful because of how simple it is. The entire game takes place within a single coffee shop. As the barista, you’re tasked with making drinks for the patrons of the shop as well as making conversations with them. The twist is that earth is populated with creatures like orcs, werewolves, and succubi. The relationship between the various races is handled very well throughout the story, and some interesting parallels are made to the real world.

Making drinks is as simple as putting together a combination of three ingredients and hitting the ‘Serve’ button. If a unique drink is made, it will be added to a recipe list that can be referenced on the barista’s cell phone. This is where the awesome user interface comes in, as the phone has a series of apps that can be accessed at any moment in the game. One app houses your recipe list, another acts as a facebook for the characters in the game, one allows you to switch between songs, and the other houses a series of short stories that one of the characters in the game writes as it progresses. It’s one of the coolest parts of the whole experience and helps it stand out from other games in the genre.

Coffee Talk is as quaint as your local coffee shop. It’s relatively short, wonderfully sweet, and absolutely committed to the art form of telling a story through a video game screen.

Coffee Talk cycles between talking with customers and making drinks for them. In the beginning, they will ask for basic beverages that can be brewed on the fly. Later on however, they may ask for a specific type of drink that has a unique title. These drinks often have certain descriptive features that hint at other possibilities in terms of unique dialogue. If the wrong drink is made, you’ll have five chances to trash it and make a new one. If the wrong drink is made, don’t expect the customer to be pleased about it.

The gameplay really is not the focus here though; it’s the characters and their stories that take center stage. An elf with relationship issues, a writer that can’t seem to pin down her next story, and an alien whose sole goal is to mate with an earthling are just a few of the examples of the characters you’ll meet during the story. There are tons of memorable moments throughout Coffee Talk, with every character bringing something unique to the table. The barista develops an interesting relationship with many of these characters as well.

Coffee Talk
Appearances can often be deceiving in this game.

Even though serving the wrong drinks can change some of the dialogue, don’t expect any sort of options or branching paths in terms of the story. It’s not that kind of experience; the story should simply be enjoyed for what it is. I found myself glued to the screen at the end of each of the in-game days, waiting to see what would happen in the morning. The first playthrough also doesn’t answer all of the game’s questions, as the second one is filled with all kinds of surprises that I won’t spoil here.


Coffee Talk is as quaint as your local coffee shop. It’s relatively short, wonderfully sweet, and absolutely committed to the art form of telling a story through a video game screen. It’s an easy recommendation for anyone who loves video games, not just visual novel fans. There are characters in the game that I’ll certainly be thinking about for a long time, especially when the setting brings out the best in them. Don’t pass this one up.

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Games

The Magic of Nintendo: How Mario and Zelda Connect us to Our Inner Child

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Magic of Nintendo

Nintendo is special. Many excellent developers depend upon story or progression systems to entice engagement, but not Nintendo. Nintendo games captivate because of their immediate charm. There is no need for a payoff. The games, themselves, are enough: they elicit feelings, hard to find in adulthood. Through intrepid discovery, playful presentation, and unfiltered whimsy, the best of Nintendo connects gamers to their childlike selves.

The heart of any great Nintendo game is discovery and no encounter encapsulates this better than Breath of the Wild’s Eventide Island. First, finding the island requires genuine gumption. Found far from Hyrule’s shore, the island is only clearly visible from other islands, and even then, it’s only a speck in the distance. Reaching the island requires players to brave the open ocean and head towards something … that could be nothing. Then, upon arriving on the beach, a spirit takes all the player’s gear, including clothes and food. Link, literally, is left in his underwear. From there, players must make clever use of Link’s base skills in order to steal enemy weapons and make traps. The scenario creates a marvelous sense of self-sufficiency brought on by one’s own desire to discover. The player comes to the island purely of their own choosing, tackles the sea, and then overcomes obstacles without the aid of their strongest tools. The game turns players into plucky children who are discovering they can take care of themselves.

The intrepidity of Breath of the Wild and other Nintendo greats mirrors the feelings Shigeru Miyamoto, the father of many Nintendo franchises, experienced as a child. “I can still recall the kind of sensation I had when I was in a small river, and I was searching with my hands beneath a rock, and something hit my finger, and I noticed it was a fish,” Miyamoto told the New Yorker. “That’s something that I just can’t express in words. It’s such an unusual situation.” In sequences like Eventide Island, players don’t just understand what Miyamoto describes, they feel it: Apprehension gives way to exhilaration as the unknown becomes a place of play.

 Nintendo’s intrepid gameplay is often amplified by playful presentation with Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island being the quintessential example. The game’s visuals, defined by pastel colors and simple hand-drawings, appear crayoned by a child while the celestial chimes that punctuate the jubilant soundtrack evoke shooting stars. The overall effect cannot be understated. It takes the surreal and turns it real, allowing players to interact, tangibly, with imagination.

Super Mario Odyssey Wooden Kingdom

Even if one removes the presentation and gameplay from Nintendo’s masterpieces, an unabashed creativity remains that bucks norm and convention. The arbiter is fun; reason and logic have no say. For instance, Super Mario Odyssey’s Wooded Kingdom, takes place in a post-apocalyptic setting akin to Nier Automata. Players explore the metal remnants of a civilization that has become a lush home to robotic beings. However, unlike Nier, the dark undertones of the past have no bearing on the game or those who inhabit its universe. The post-apocalyptic setting is just a fun backdrop. It’s as though a bunch of children got together, began playing with toys, and one of the kids brought along his sibling’s adult action figures. There is no attention paid to the context, only unfiltered imagination.

When they’re at their best the creators at Nintendo invite gamers to come and play, like a parent arranging a play date. Pulled along by joyful gameplay that expands in unforeseen ways, players desire to play for the sake of play. It’s a halcyon state of being: No messy thoughts or contradiction, just joy.

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Games

‘Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind’: An Utterly Shameless Cash Grab

Coming in at a $40 price point (!!!) Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind offers an 80% recycled campaign, a boss rush mode, and some other trash.

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Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind

In the 15 year long history of DLC, we have seen some really shameless displays. The notorious horse armor incident of 2006 and a notable day one DLC for the ending game of a trilogy notwithstanding, few companies have had the utter audacity to offer so little content for such a high price point. Enter Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind.

Coming in at a $40 price point (!!!) Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind offers an 80% recycled campaign, a boss rush mode, and some social media nonsense for people who really hate themselves. That’s really it, that’s what you get. Honestly, Square-Enix should be utterly embarrassed by this DLC.

It’s been one year: 365 days, 8760 hours, 525600 minutes, or 31556952 seconds, since the release of Kingdom Hearts III. Let that sink in as you begin the meat of Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind. Think of it as the extended version of a movie you really like… you know, the kind where they add 4 minutes to the 120 minute runtime.

Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind

Yes, Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind, really is that cynical. I’m not kidding when I tell you that the game literally starts with an exact cut scene from the base game, and a cut scene that happens to be available from the theater mode of the main game that you’ve already bought if you’re playing this DLC. Yes, the introduction to this new content is… content you’ve already seen.

In fact, that’s kind of the sticking point here: most of what you get for your hard-earned cash is footage you’ve already seen, and battles you’ve already fought, and story you’ve already experienced, just with slight alterations for context. Remember back in the 2000s, when we were super obsessed with prequels? This is like that, except even more egregious.

Generally I’m not so unforgiving as to call a company out for a forthright cash grab, but that’s absolutely what Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind is. There’s just no other way to put it. You might find someone in the marketing department for Square-Enix who would disagree, but being a company that has faced just these sort of allegations for their last two major releases, Square-Enix either doesn’t read the news, or doesn’t care what people think of their products.

Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind

Square-Enix was roundly accused of shipping unfinished products in the case of both Final Fantasy XV and Kingdom Hearts III — their two most high profile releases of the last decade. I personally gave mostly positive reviews of both games for this very website but if you want ammo to suggest that this company is deliberately trading on the nostalgia and passion of its fan base in order to make financial headway, there are few examples you could draw from that are as obvious as this DLC.

Look, maybe you’re a really big Kingdom Hearts fan. Maybe you just really wanted to know what the context was for that cliffhanger ending in Kingdom Hearts III. Maybe you just don’t do much research before you buy something. Or maybe… you just really trust this company for some reason.

Hey, I’m not judging… hell, I bought this DLC for $40 same as anyone else. I oughta be honest that I’m not reviewing Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind as some holier than thou critic, talking down to you from my position of privilege. No, I’m an angry consumer in this particular case. I’m a person who spent enough to replace a flat tire on my car, or buy my family dinner, on a game that is clearly playing off of my love for a franchise, and using it to bilk me out of money in a method that is so clear, and so concise, that those involved in the entire endeavor should be totally embarrassed for their part in the creation, marketing, pricing, and distribution of this expansion.

Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind

Yes, fans had their complaints about Kingdom Hearts III. “Where are the hardcore boss battles? Where are the Final Fantasy characters? Where are the secret areas? Where are the hidden plot developments?” Still, to address these particular complaints by hammering a few minutes or seconds here and there into already existing content is truly like spitting in the faces of the people who have built the house you’re living in.

I haven’t sat in the board rooms at Square-Enix and I haven’t been in email chains about the planning of projects at their company but what I can say is that there is something rotten in Denmark if this is what passes for a satisfying piece of content for the wildly devoted fans of a hugely popular franchise in 2020. Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind is literally, truthfully, and succinctly, the worst piece of DLC I’ve ever purchased.

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