Hot Games of the Week Reviewed: April 7th

The start of the Major League Baseball season means it’s also time to hit the virtual field, and–sorry Microsoft and Nintendo devotees — Sony’s MLB 15: The Show is the only game in town. The consistently graphically stunning baseball sim maintains its dynasty of excellence, but without real competition to push it, don’t expect any major enhancements.

That’s not necessarily the case with Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin, the latest in a long line of last-gen remasters to get a considerable overhaul. And long-suffering Final Fantasy fans finally have something to smile about, with the long-awaited Final Fantasy Type-0 HD finally making its way to the U.S.

Reviews by Phil Villarreal. Phil is an authorblogger and Twitterer. Publishers provided review copies.

Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin

(PS4, Xbox One, $60, Mature)

Buy Dark Souls II on Amazon

On the heels of perhaps its greatest work so far, the PS4 exclusive Bloodborne, developer From Software gives a spit-shine to its last-gen magnum opus, released last year as the PS3 and Xbox 360 were already on their death beads. The excruciatingly difficult yet engrossing gothic dungeon crawler RPG pits you against a formidable slate of terrifying enemies and trap-plagued environments, inching your way forward to up your strength and capabilities as you face off against will-crushing odds.
The new version considerably ups the graphical fidelity of an already darkly beautiful game. Previously released DLC is included, and the audio and animation performance have been enhanced. Multiplayer also gets an expansion, with more allies allowed into your game to help out. The $60 price tag stings — for that amount, the first Dark Souls should have been tossed in as well — but that doesn’t detract from the fact that, alongside Bloodborne, this is one of the best RPGs available for the Xbox One and PS4. If you’ve managed to wait a year to play it, though, you may as well hang tight for a few more months until the price tag drops.

Final Fantasy Type-0 HD

(PS4, Xbox One, $60, Mature)

Buy Final Fantasy Type-0 HD on Amazon

Originally a Japan-only PSP release in 2011, Type-0 has been a white whale for many series obsessives. It took so long for the game to arrive in the U.S. that disappointment was almost inevitable, especially since it was first made for such an antiquated system. So it’s a pleasant surprise that the game looks and plays so smoothly, easily rivaling the three Final Fantasy XIII games in visual fidelity and smooth gameplay.

Taking on a modern setting popularized in Final Fantasy VII, the game plays like a throwback to last decade’s rendition of the series, before it lost its way in overcomplicated combat systems and linear design. The free-wheeling, action RPG style has a bit of a Monster Hunter feel, and the party system, equipped with healers and support, has the flavor of Dragon Age‘s open-field battles. While the story is a typically unfollowable ramshackle mess, the game oozes fun at every juncture. There’s little grinding and few slow moments here. This is as fast and fun as Final Fantasy gets, and undoubtedly vastly improved over whatever Japanese audiences got on their PSPs four years ago. To sweeten the deal, the game comes with the demo Final Fantasy XV: Episode Duscae, which lets you sample the next mainline series entry.

MLB 15 The Show

(PS4, PS3, Vita, $60, Everyone)

Buy MLB 15 The Show on Amazon

Now that The Show has firmly locked down a stranglehold on Major League Baseball the same way the Madden franchise has on the NFL, it was expected that ennui would set in. The series has probably plateaued with its current-gen debut last year, with the mechanics of the game so strong and well-established that any major changes would amount to subtraction by addition anyway. This year’s version struggles to amount to more than just a roster update with minor tweaks by adding a strange yet addictive power-up system to its single-player RPG-style mode, Road to the Show.

Unlockable, EA Sports Ultimate Team-style cards give your player Diablo-style attribute boosts. While it’s tough to imagine batting gloves improving your bat speed or cleats making you better at stealing bases, it’s entertaining enough to track down the goods in order to keep your player progressing into an unstoppable, .750-hitting, 100-homer crushing behemoth. Online play feels streamlined and more accessible, and small touches — such as an in-game radio show that updates as you go — sell the illusion of your own parallel MLB world and keep you coming back to the daily grind. Save-file sharing among the handheld and home console versions, which has been around for years and is strangely lacking in most other sports franchises, continues to thrive in the Show, providing continuity whether you’re at home or on the go.

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