Every Friday, A.V. Club staffers kick off our weekly open thread for the discussion of gaming plans and recent gaming glories, but of course, the real action is down in the comments, where we invite you to answer our eternal question: What Are You Playing This Weekend?
As we careen, brakeless and bewildered, down an ice-slicked hill toward the brick wall at the end of 2021, a little self-reflection is probably in order. Not, mind you, about the various bad decisions and poor brain situations that have brought us to this latest series of precipices. No, we’re here to do the real soul-searching: looking back over the 2021 gaming calendar, and trying to figure out what great titles we missed in the endless, inescapable rush toward the future.
For me, the ranks of those poor, ignored, and damned are largely filled with the 60- to 100-hour monstrosity known as the role-playing game. Outside of a few indie-ish efforts like Loop Hero and Darkest Dungeon 2 (both designed to be consumed in easily consumable morsels), that most time-consuming of genres has been largely absent from my consoles and PC this year. The fact that there’s a brand new Shin Megami Tensei game out there, just begging to kick my teeth in, and which I somehow haven’t played, remains as baffling to me as it is galling.
That being said, I have done a bit of work in the last month or so to patch gaps in my gaming resumé. (You’re welcome.) Last night, I finished NEO: The World Ends With You, Square Enix and h.a.n.d.’s follow-up to one of my very favorite Nintendo DS RPGs. NEO: TWEWY was pretty much exactly what I was expecting and hoping for: a twisty, melodramatic, and fan-service-heavy sequel about Tokyo fashion teens employing an extremely addictive and customizable battle system to fight off monsters and angels.
Given that I’ve spent the last year or so in a haze of idle games and nostalgia play—interspersed with a few sharp highlights, like Inscryption and Returnal, and lowlights, like Far Cry 6 or No More Heroes 3—there’s been something strangely soothing about dipping back into the grind of the Shibuya Scramble. NEO: TWEWY isn’t a genius game, by any means, but it’s extremely playable, full of compulsive little systems, and written with an eye to giving fans of the original exactly what they might want, in dependable doses. It isn’t likely to crack our list of the best games of 2021—out next week, FYI—but giving myself over to it fully was satisfying in a way that even some objectively better games weren’t this year. At least it’s one more damn thing off the backlog.
And so I toss it out to the crowd: What games are you still hoping to clear off your List Of Digital Obligations for 2021? New Halo? Space Warlord Organ Trading Simulator? Resident Evil: Village? Clock’s ticking, folks. They’re only going to keep making more of these damn things.