We've routinely said that PAX is our favorite convention to attend. The atmosphere is very relaxed, and it's much easier to have a real conversation and discussion with a developer or whoever. Oh, and there's a ton of great games there too. We always leave quite surprised, and this year is no different. Here's our top 10 games we saw at PAX West 2019.
Convention demos are usually pretty good, no matter the game. There are exceptions, of course, but I walked away from Cyber Shadow greatly impressed. Movement was crisp and precise; the emphasis on timing made for interesting, deliberate gameplay; and it looks and sounds amazing. The over the top ninja action and story are just window dressing at this point but add so much to the over all feel of the game that they are equally as important. Great movement, gameplay, and combat can of course stand on their own, but when you wrap it all up in 8-bit ninja vengeance aesthetic... I mean, can it get cooler than that?
Disintegration is going to live or die by people buying into its unique gameplay. It's an FPS that values accurate, twitchy play, but the strategy is just as important. Controlling your squad correctly, while being effective yourself, makes for some interesting gameplay decisions that I've not experienced in an FPS game before. It's a new concept that works well, and I hope it sees some interesting updates over its lifetime. Disintegration is an interesting blend of FPS and real-time strategy with a lot of potential.
The first thing anyone notices about Haven is just how beautiful it is, which is totally deserving—there's just a lot more going on too. The writing is great and very real, featuring an established relationship that's central to not only the story but the gameplay as well. Everything is about surviving together, in every way, from cooking to combat. The combat is very unique and engaging as well. It's not simply going through menus like other turn-based systems, but fully engages you in reactionary, sort of rhythmic combat. Everything about Haven is interesting, and I can't wait to learn more.
Indivisible combines faintly familiar fighting game mechanics with JRPG and platforming mechanics, and the unique mixture forms a memorable concoction of fun. Every fight challenges you to get better. Every new character encourages you to try new party formations, which in turn promotes combo experimentation and diversity. Within the first 20 minutes of playing, I already started figuring out some cool combos. Every new one I learned was an evolution of the previous, and I enjoyed picking the game apart and learning it. Lab Zero Games gets so many things right here. Beyond the engaging combat, the hand-drawn visuals make every frame a treat to look at, and the animations bring them to the next level. The cherry on top? It comes out soon. Really soon.
TurtleBlaze really hit it just right with KUNAI. The tight action platforming feels great, especially with the added titular kunai. They provide quick access to two grappling hooks, allowing you to swing through any level with ease if you know where you’re going. The combat, while simple in the demo I played, seems like it could evolve into something with more options than I could count. The story didn’t quite get its hooks in me yet, but the fun of roaming around this Metroidvania can’t be passed up. Plus, Tabby, the protagonist, is an adorable take on an anthropomorphic computer warrior.
Mega Man Zero/ZX Legacy Collection
This pick is for the nostalgic Mega Man fans out there. While everyone knows about the classic games and the revamped X series, few talk about the Zero or ZX games from Inti Creates. Luckily, the Mega Man Zero/ZX Legacy Collection—aside from being a mouthful—provides consumers today with an easy way to check out these overlooked action platformers. The smooth filter improves the games’ visuals, but old-school players can turn it off the relive them in their old glory. Nonetheless, for players old and new, this collection of six games has a lot to offer, and they still stand as some of the best action platformers on the market, especially the Zero games.
VA-11 Hall-A was great. N1RV Ann-A looks like it is going to be pretty great. We only gad the opportunity to see it for about 10 minutes, but it was just like starting up VA-11 Hall-A again. That is definitely not a bad thing. It's more of a great thing in the best ways possible. Everything feels the same, but new themes will be explored. Set in a higher class area, the people coming to the bar are going to be very different this time around. They'll have a lot of new problems and stories to tell as well. If they're done in the same quality as the first game, N1RV Ann-A should be fantastic.
Shovel Knight Dig
Shovel Knight Dig is going to be a new addiction for a lot of people. It's fast-paced, fun, challenging, and can be played in small chunks. Every time you try to make it through a stage and fail, there's a strong urge to give it another go. It's not just get as quick from point A to B, either. a lot of though and quick decision making is key, which keeps you sucked in for the entirety. Combine the awesome platforming and movement of Shovel Knight with the interesting, strategic movement through a level by digging, and add in a time constraint so you have to keep moving, and you've got Shove Knight Dig.
I have a feeling that the full release of Spiritfarer will make me cry. It’s a “cozy management game about dying,” which is cuter than it sounds. You play as Stella and one of the cutest cats in video games, and you shepherd wayward souls beyond this mortal coil. The excellent hand-drawn aesthetic evokes memories of Disney and Studio Ghibli, and every anthropomorphized character has a certain charm about them. As you help them with various tasks, you bring them closer to eternal rest. Yet, this isn’t the sad sort of death, at least not in the example I played. Instead, it was about letting go and learning to move on. It’s an aspect of death that isn’t talked about much in games, and I want to see more of the discourse that Spiritfarer hopes to bring to the medium.
Trials of Mana
Longtime JRPG enthusiasts might be familiar with Trials of Mana. The original game never made it to Western shores in an official capacity until E3 2019. Furthermore, this full-fledged remake plans to present the game in a whole new light. No single part of this remake stands out, but everything comes together to form a well-crafted piece of JRPG comfort food. The story feels like classic, world-ending business, and the characters are just as bombastic as you’d expect. WIth an engaging combat system that especially excels during boss battles, I expect Trials of Mana to provide many hours of content to dig into.
Did you have a chance to attend PAX West 2019? What were your favorite games you saw? Let us know in the comments below!