August is here, the sun is high in the sky, school is just around the corner, and we are in the final stretch before the holiday season os upon us. It’s a slow time of year for video games, plenty of opportunity to beat the heat by catching up on that huge backlog or spending time those old favorites.

So, without delay, what games are you playing through this summer?

Octopath Traveler

No surprises here. If I’m not working or spending my summer hours with my family, Square Enix’s retro JRPG Octopath Traveler has become my go-to game. When my Switch hits my hands, I feel like I’m 11-years-old all over again, plugging away at Chrono Trigger or Lufia 2: Rise of the Sinistrals, and I suddenly don’t have a care in the world.

Octopath Traveler is a time warp back to simpler times, a dangerous one at that since it’s so hard to pull yourself back to reality from. This is the perfect summertime game. No other games to get in the way, no distractions to pull you from your adventure. No pencils, no books, no teachers’ dirty looks…

…man, I’m a teacher now, and that song isn’t fun to sing anymore.

However, Octopath Traveler is a tune I’m more than happy to join along in. Just classic JRPG adventure as far as the eye can see. Man, I miss being 11-years-old.

Terra Battle

My longtime free-to-play outlet has lured me back in and completely stolen my attention span. As a new dad, I’m only able to dedicate so many minutes of my free to time video games, so brief bursts of this future mobile classic are usually all I can muster.

I’m always “off and on” with Terra Battle, but I couldn’t walk away this summer with developer Mistwalker tempting me with its special events. “Vengeful Heart” is currently underway, offering secret characters I either missed or was too weak to recruit the first few times through. I have a whole month to pick it clean and make sure I acquire everything before it disappears until only Lord Sakaguchi knows when.

Several smaller events, like “The Hunts” also reappear here and there, hopefully leading into an exciting new story or a larger special event I might have missed in the past. Who knows, maybe Mobius: Final Fantasy’s collaboration event will return, and I can finally Recode Echo!

Let’s make it happen, Square Enix!

I’m also enjoying Terra Battle for my 445th day because I’m wary about how much longer it will be with us. The closure of Terra Battle 2 within a year of its release shows that the online community’s enthusiasm might have dipped and is not be keeping the title financially viable anymore.

With the flip of a switch, this marvelous JRPG could be gone forever… along with all my progress.

Mega Man X series

I haven’t bought the Mega Man X Legacy Collection just yet because I already have viable versions of each of the classic games. I already beat Mega Man X on my SNES Classic, having a blast in the process, and now I have Mega Man X2 and Mega Man X3 waiting for me on my Wii U Virtual Console down in my basement.

However, I’m mostly excited about going back to Mega Man X4 and Mega Man X5 on my PlayStation Vita. The former is the one I played the most of as a kid, outside of the original, so it gets the most nostalgic feels out of me.

On the flip side, I only played Mega Man X5 once or twice and want to go back now that I have a better understanding of what its creators were looking to do. Multiple endings and a great story are just the beginning. Capcom loaded this game with Easter Eggs and nods towards the original series, and I intend to seek those out as I play.

Twenty years have come and gone, and I’m finding that this series still provides the freshness that helped it revolutionize the franchise… well, most of the series at least. Not all Mega Man X games are created equal.

And if you don’t have access to legal copies of these games, then please be sure to buy Mega Man X Legacy Collection. Show Capcom some love and support because it’s the only major publisher that seems to love and support its retro library at the moment.

Tecmo Secret of the Stars

My playthrough of this lost gem is on hiatus at the moment, but I have every intention of finishing it within the next month. I spent a lot of time with this game as a kid, playing it on summer vacations at my grandmother’s house, and while I usually looked back on it as merely a sentimental favorite that wouldn’t hold up in this busy day and age, the summer of 2018 proved to me I’ve been wrong all this time!

This game is a lot of fun!

Granted, you need to be in the mindset of wanting to grind experience points and setting off on a crazy adventure with awkward boss fights, weird settings, and the most cliche JRPG setup of all time, but at its heart, Tecmo Secret of the Stars is the most… pure… JRPG I’ve ever played. More so than Chrono Trigger, which was destined to be perfection from its inception. More so than Final Fantasy, which has always rumbled with a balance between its own plots and the genre’s usual themes.

Maybe even more so than Dragon Quest itself, which lives to this day as a satire of its own nonsensical traditions.

Tecmo Secret of the Stars was created with the full intention of being a genuine, stand-alone JRPG, and it shows every step of the way. You start off as a youth from the middle of nowhere, destined to follow in your father’s footsteps. Tragedy sends you on a trip around the world to recruit other kids to your cause, eventually leading into a climactic battle against an evil lord set on destruction named Homncruse.

Character progression is simple as they come, gaining abilities through merely leveling up. Friends join along the way as the plot serves. Side-quests are rare in this game, and grinding is a must. However, Tecmo Secret of the Stars isn’t nearly as notorious for grinding as other older games from the genre. Even the random encounter rate, though heavy by today’s standards, is hardly a nuisance… until you get the boat. Then it becomes a bit frustrating.

Pro-tip: You might sail into enemies often on the boat, but boating is the best way to grind for experience!

Simple, fun, no deep mechanics to speak of, and pure fantasy. Tecmo Secret of the Stars was overlooked when it was released since it came out the same years as Chrono Trigger and was severely outdated. However, twenty years later, all things look retro in hindsight, and being two or three years too late to the party doesn’t have nearly the same crippling effect nowadays as it did back then.

If you want something “pure” that perfectly encapsulates the simplicity of old games while still being playable, no fancy strings attached like on superior games, this might be the adventure for you.