What to play: ‘Tekken 8,’ ‘Like a Dragon’ sequel and ‘Palworld’ highlight our top picks

What to play: ‘Tekken 8,’ ‘Like a Dragon’ sequel and ‘Palworld’ highlight our top picks

It’s unusual for January to get so many novel experiences, but that’s quickly becoming the norm for gamers. They have plenty of great video games to choose from including a new chapter to a venerable fighting game, a sequel to a fresh revamp and the new viral game of 2024.

Here are the games that you should be playing this weekend:

“Tekken 8” Bandai Namco’s flagship fighting game has only gotten weird over time, but that hasn’t hurt the series. In fact, the developers have turned that perceived weakness into a strength as they leaned into the over-the-top family feud within the Mishima household. That has brought the world to the brink of destruction and has all eyes on another King of Iron Fist Tournament.

While the 15-chapter Story Mode is entertaining, it’s the deep fighting game systems and Arcade Story mode that’s the true draw. “Tekken 8” combat has been refined so well with the Rage Arts comeback mechanic and ferocious Power Crush moves. The big innovation is the Heat system, which gives players more powerful moves but for a limited time per round.

It creates a more aggressive fighting system that accentuates the franchise’s quick but entertaining combat. With plenty of other extras and robust online mode, this version of “Tekken” gives players plenty to do.

Play time: Because this is a fighting game, players can spend all weekend running through matches or they can binge the campaign, which players can complete over a night.

“Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth” — Before taking on this second adventure starring Ichiban Kasuga, you have to play the original “Yakuza: Like a Dragon.” It helps a lot because it takes place a few years after the Hero of Yokohoma saves the day, and players will have more context to relationships and characters.

With that said, the game puts Ichiban in another fish-out-of-water place. This time, it’s in Hawaii. As in the previous “LIke a Dragon,” the game adopts a Japanese role-playing game battle system instead of the beat-’em up style of previous games. That makes it more strategic as the refined turn-based system takes position and other elements into account.

Like the other games in the series, players will progress with twist and turns but the real star of the game is the side stories, which can run the gamut of emotions from heart-warming to uproariously humorous.

Play time: Several reports said the game will take at least 60 hours to finish. If you haven’t finished the original, that could add at least 45 hours.

“Palworld” — “Pokemon” is a game that dominated childhood for several generations and then “Minecraft” picked up the slack bringing young people’s imagination to life. Developer Pocket Pair saw an opportunity to combine elements of both games to create a viral sensation among gamers.

Yes, the character design will draw comparisons to PIkachu and company, but the game is filling a niche and ups the pressure on Game Freak and The Pokemon Company to innovate instead of resting on their laurels. Despite the obvious comparisons between some Pokemon and the Pals, “Palworld’s” core gameplay is sound and engrossing.

Right now, it’s early access on PC, Xbox and Xbox Game Pass, so it’s hard to pin the game down, but “Palworld” holds plenty of promise and is a fascinating mix of several kid-popular genres.

Play time: This isn’t a game that one could finish right now, but it’s worth trying out if you have Xbox Game Pass. The gameplay is engrossing though players will have to start over a few times as they learn how to build their base and characters.

“Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney Trilogy” — I have to admit that I didn’t like this set of games when it was first released on the Nintendo’s portable systems, but coming back and knowing the story, this visual novel holds up well. It’s worth another play-through for those who experienced it before because players can appreciate the touches that the developers added throughout the campaign.

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Although Apollo Justice isn’t Phoenix Wright, he has his own fascinating backstory and abilities, and those come to the fore as he defends wrongly accused clients. Playing it from the beginning players can see the seeds the narrative plants early on and see them pay off in later games of the trilogy.

With this game being re-released, it comes with several perks including the ability to save at any point in the cases and bonuses including new costumes and mode that highlights orchestral versions of the tracks.

Play time: Although you could finish one or two of the games in the trilogy over the weekend, this game would take at least two weekends to finish.