Infamous third lava dolphin
Someone will have to explain to me how it is that CrossCode has flown under Talking Time's collective radar, because this game feels like it was custom-made for folks like us. CrossCode is an action RPG that looks like it walked right out of the 16-bit era, but with modern design sensibilities! It looks and sounds fantastic! It has deep, challenging combat and devious puzzles, plus some of the best writing I've seen in this kind of game in forever. It's out on Switch, even! Basically, CrossCode rules and you should all give it a try.
If people want some more info, here's the deal: CrossCode is a game where you play an MMO. The game itself is NOT an MMO, it's a single-player action JRPG that has a linear story where you play as a character who is inside an MMO. You explore an actual alien planet that has been turned into an enormous theme park for players across the world, who use future technology to embody avatars in the physical space of the world via the internet. In practice, it just means that people talk like regular people who are playing a video game, and that your various party members will occasionally log off to sleep or go to school or what have you.
The gameplay itself is action-based and maybe reminds me of Hyper Light Drifter more than anything? You have melee and ranged attacks, both of which come in a staggering variety. The combat is fast-paced and challenging, although I think there are numerous accessibility options available if you find the game too hard. There's also a really big puzzle solving aspect, part of which is using your projectile weapon to interact with objects in the environment and part of which is traversal puzzles where you have to figure out how to parkour your way around the world. That last part in particular reminds me of finding the secrets in HLD, looking for a series of ledges that you can use to navigate your way to a seemingly inaccessible point.
The game is challenging on both fronts, but not punishing - autosaves happen at every screen transition, so you rarely lose more than a few minutes if you die in battle. The game has extremely generous fast travel options, too, so you don't waste a lot of time when backtracking to earlier areas (which you will often do in the course of sidequests). The puzzles are maybe the hardest part, but I've found them to be very satisfying to complete. I think there are also accessibility options just for them, but I honestly haven't looked into them. There are a few chests that I haven't figured out how to get yet, but I've been able to clear all the mainline dungeon puzzles by staring at the screen and poking things in the environment.
Finally, the writing in this game is really solid. Characters make lots of funny little observations as you run around and there's some good meta-commentary on the nature of role-playing games and MMOs. The first party member you get is one of my favorite characters in years and she has lots of surprising things to say. Equally important, IMO, is that the character designs aren't skeezy at all! At least not in the 20 hours that I've played so far. Basically, this game feels like if JRPGs kept evolving along the lines of FFVI, Chrono Trigger and Secret of Mana, in some magic world where fanservice didn't exist. The only problematic thing I've seen so far is the race of lizard-people that you meet, who lean a little too heavily on indigenous tropes for my liking, but it's nothing egregious. If you've ever wanted to play a game that feels like you remember JRPGs feeling (and didn't want to be embarrassed whenever someone walked in the room and looked at the screen), then CrossCode is the game for you.
Give it a try, maybe? Bye!
(I know there was a thread back on Ye Olde Talking Time when the game was first released on PC, but it hasn't seen any activity since 2018 and I really feel like people aren't talking about this game enough.)