Welcome to The Watchlist for the week of January 15-21. Every Saturday I’ll tell you about the games you need to waste your time on that come out next week. Some games you may know, some you won’t, but every game has been researched and has earned a place in The Watchlist. That doesn’t mean you’ll end up loving them, but you should give them your time. Let’s get started.
January 19, 2023
A Space for the Unbound
Going straight to Thursday, January 19, we have A Space for the Unbound, a narrative adventure developed by Mojiken and published by Toge Productions. The description reads “A slice-of-life adventure game with beautiful pixelart [sic] set in the late 90s rural Indonesia that tells a story about overcoming anxiety, depression, and the relationship between a boy and a girl with supernatural powers.”
I love it when a developer gives me a demo because this game can’t trailer well, but it also is a confident gesture, and Mojiken has every right to be confident. We play the Prologue in the demo and it’s harrowing, cute, mysterious, and makes me want more. The best part is that this is an indie game, so they’re probably not shooting for a 20 hour epic, so I expect a well-paced story without extra padding that plagues AAA narrative games.
This isn’t Mojiken’s first game, either. They developed When the Past Was Around, which has an Overwhelmingly Positive rating on Steam out of about 2,700 reviews. Plus, they have the backing of Toge who developed and published Coffee Talk, which has been a very well-regarded narrative game. Additionally, they have four other games under their belt, all with Very Positive and higher ratings, so Mojiken has a lot going for them.
Keep in mind you’re not getting heavy gameplay from this. You’ll discover different items that unlock progress like an adventure game would, but beyond that, I’m not seeing any sophisticated puzzles or dialogue choices. You’re along for the ride, which is fine because the ride looks like it’ll be good.
I’ve been vague for the sake of not spoiling anything, but for context: you play a boy who has a younger, imaginative friend, and you’re trying to finish this story she’s come up with. I think this story is one that will resonate with middle schoolers and high schoolers, but sometimes it’s refreshing to play games with simpler stories that are a little less subtle about how it presents its themes.
The one thing I hope that gets better is that we get to see more of what India feels like. That’s one of the selling points from Mojiken and Toge. The problem is I don’t feel it much in the architecture. I can feel it with the clothes people wear and how the streets have life, but I can’t get a grasp of what India looks like yet. Part of that is the 8 bit art style that distorts the landscape, part of that is the architecture doesn’t pop. But that’s not going to stop me from playing this and it shouldn’t stop you either. Waste your time on this one.
A Space for the Unbound is coming to PC, Xbox, PlayStation, and Switch.
January 20, 2023
Fire Emblem Engage
Count on Nintendo to drop a game for us just before the weekend. This time it’s Fire Emblem Engage developed by Intelligent Systems. The description reads: “In a war against the Fell Dragon, four kingdoms worked together with heroes from other worlds to seal away this great evil. One-thousand years later, this seal has weakened and the Fell Dragon is about to reawaken. As a Divine Dragon, use rich strategies and robust customization to meet your destiny—to collect Emblem Rings and bring peace back to the Continent of Elyos.”
It’s been a minute since I’ve played a Fire Emblem — a shame because I love playing them whenever I do — but this hooks me in a way Fates and Three Houses did not before those launched. I like the bright and bold art style, the combat animations and the cutscenes look incredible, and from what I can tell, the concepts behind certain combat mechanics seem interesting.
Again, I haven’t played in a while, but I’m seeing things in the trailer like hitting multiple opponents in a straight line, I’m seeing units move further based on which lord you’re using, or doing multiple attacks based on which lord is with you. And that’s a part of all this too: It looks like depending on which ring you’re wearing determines the type of previous Fire Emblem lord will join you in very specific scenarios. We’ve seen Marth, Lyn, Byleth, Corrin, and others. Considering there are twelve rings to collect, Intelligent Systems is going deep into the Fire Emblem franchise to make this work.
As I’ve watched the trailers and have listened to a few analysis from different YouTube personalities who have followed this franchise closely, I understand the trepidation around this Fire Emblem, which is another that dips into the past, but the only Fire Emblem I’ve played I didn’t click with was Sacred Stones. Every other one has been good and I’m not seeing anything here that suggests Intelligent Systems is deviating so far from their working formula that we shouldn’t waste our time with this. Obviously we have to play it to have a verdict on the story, which could be the weakest part judging that this is relying on the past a little bit, but what we love about Fire Emblem are the relationships and the strategy. Engage looks like it’s still got all that. I can understand if you feel weird about the art style – I certainly feel weird seeing Lyn in this style – but so much of Fire Emblem Engage looks great. I can’t imagine passing this one up. Waste your time on this.
Fire Emblem Engage is coming to the Nintendo Switch.