For an industry that likes to schedule all its most popular releases during the fall and holiday seasons, 2023 started off strong. For what feels like an eternity, the first 3–6 months of the year are always dry with game releases, and gamers are left stuck with what they have, so it acts as a good time to focus on their backlog. However, slowly but surely, this pattern is changing, and we are getting more game releases throughout the year. Over the last three or so years, we have been getting good games released in the initial months of the new year, and in 2023, the gaming industry went the extra mile and delivered a ton of great games in the first month. Within 31 days of the year 2023, we’ve got a bunch of games that we can safely call bangers and maybe even game-of-the-year contenders, and we still have an entire year to look forward to! That’s crazy! We’ll be highlighting two of those games from January 2023 that you should definitely check out; they are worth your time and money, seriously.
A surprise release from Xbox Game Studios, “Hi-Fi Rush,” was announced during Xbox’s Developer Direct show and released on the same day. Coming to us from Tango Gameworks, “Hi-Fi Rush” was a surprise in more than one sense, as shadow drops are not commonplace in the industry these days, so seeing a game get announced and released at the same time was a delight. It doesn’t stop there, however, as “Hi-Fi Rush” is unlike anything we have seen or were expecting to see from a studio like Tango. Tango is known for making horror or spooky games, so to see a rhythm-action game with an art style that looks like it was ripped straight from a Saturday morning cartoon was an unexpected sight, to say the least. You play as Chai here, a wannabe rockstar in a somewhat cyberpunk world who, after being part of a weird experiment, ends up with a music player in his chest and a metal arm, and because of that, he can sense and feel the rhythm of the world. The game boasts rhythmic action that is spectacular and easy to get into but hard to master, along with gorgeous visuals. Everything from the enemies to hazardous objects to the cutscenes themselves moves with the beat, so to say that this game is an auditory experience would be an understatement. That wouldn’t be a great deal if the game itself was half-baked or poorly designed, but fortunately, “Hi-Fi Rush” is fantastic through and through. From its charming humor to its endearing characters to the amazing gameplay mechanics, everything works brilliantly here. Plus, you have a robo-cat companion named “808 that you can pet, so how can anyone complain?
Next up, we have the game, a blast from the past, some would call it, a game a lot of us were eagerly waiting for, and it surely didn’t leave us disappointed. I am, of course, talking about the remake of “Dead Space.” Post the closure of Visceral Studios and EA citing that the “Dead Space” IP is to be left behind with it, the general consensus of the community was in dismay, to say the least. The first “Dead Space” was a survival-horror masterclass, and “Dead Space 2” upped the ante even more and is considered the best the series has to offer. “Dead Space 3,” on the other hand, fell short and became the reason that put this series on its deathbed. We are not focusing on the past, though; we are focusing on the present and potentially the future of the series, and it all starts with the remake of the first “Dead Space.” Developed by EA Motive, “Dead Space” has been remade from the ground up for modern-day consoles, and they have cut no corners with this one. Gorgeous visuals and spectacular lighting are not just a fresh coat of paint they painted over the old shell, as everything the game has to offer has been refined and made better. The gunplay has never been better, the scares have never been scarier, and the atmosphere oozes with eeriness like never before. It is still as heart-pounding and scary as it was before when a Necromorph appears in front of you out of nowhere, but what makes it even better and, dare I say, more satisfying this time is the new system in place that EA Motive has implemented, which lets you dismember these monstrosities layer by layer, ripping their flesh and their bones apart with each hit. The game has never been gorier, and we love it. The story has been tuned a little (but not changed) to make it feel more streamlined, and our hero Isaac speaks differently than in the original, and the game also has an alternate ending that you can unlock. The weaponry still remains the same, but they all look and sound even better and the addition of zones where you have to make choices to traverse comes with choices that really add to the scares. The USG Ishimura, the setting for the game, functions like a Metroidvania of sorts where you can go back and traverse certain locations and find things that you may have missed during your first go, thanks to the upgrades you unlock. This adds another layer to the game and makes your strolls through the corridors as rewarding as they are scary. “Dead Space” is how remakes should be done and is perhaps the best remake we’ve seen since Capcom’s “Resident Evil” remakes. This game is as fantastic as it was when it came out all the way back in 2008 and is perhaps even better now. We sure do hope that the series has made a triumphant comeback, and we hope to see a remake of “Dead Space 2” and a better version of “Dead Space 3,” with maybe even a “Dead Space 4” coming out in the future.
A Quick Bonus: Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot
“Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot” initially came out in 2020, but it’s worth mentioning here as it got its free next-gen patch in January 2023. The Xbox version of that patch is full of holes and problems, but Bandai Namco is working on it, so worry not; it’ll be worth playing in no time. The reason this is worth mentioning here is that “Kakarot” is a great game and is made better thanks to upgraded visuals, but the main draw here is that the game is finally playable at 60 fps on consoles. Another reason worth mentioning is that the next-gen release came alongside Season Pass 2 and its first DLC, “Bardock: Alone Against Fate,” which tells us the story of Bardock, the father of Goku, just as we remember from when we were kids. We also got confirmation of the second DLC from Season Pass 2, which will take us all the way back to the end of the original “Dragon Ball” series, where Goku took on Piccolo during the world martial arts tournament. If that doesn’t take you down memory lane, then I don’t know what will. Good stuff for DBZ fans all around.
These two games are ones that truly left a mark on us and showed us that 2023 is off to a great start. There are many more games that came out during the month, like the ports of “Persona 3 Portable” and “Persona 4 Golden,” alongside games like “Monster Hunter,” “Spongebob Squarepants: The Cosmic Shake,” and more. We also got a game that is bad but flashy as hell with “Forspoken,” and yeah, it’s a bad game, but it’s not fully terrible as there is fun to be had. Either way, there have been two games since January 2023 that we think you absolutely should check out. Seriously, what a strong start to a year that is already looking jam-packed with tons of great games on the horizon. It’s only going to get better and better from here.