Surprisingly, there weren’t as many games this year, but all the same this year was AWESOME. There are 39 games. This was actually a tough year as far as deciding #4 and #5, though the top 3 was obvious even from the get-go. Let’s do this!
#5 – Tales of the World – Radiant Mythology (PSP)
All I need to do is tell you the synopsis and it should be enough. It’s a giant Tales crossover where you get to create your own character and it’s more or less open world. Sometimes characters from different Tales games join, sometimes they leave, sometimes there’s plot, but mostly it’s your own thing. You can develop and customize your character in a variety of ways and the game is kept fast paced. Perfect.
Of course, it’s perfect in that I don’t spot anything technically wrong with it and it doesn’t take any real risks by not having much of a plot to begin with. There are other games that did that this year too, but they weren’t as good and not necessarily on a portable either. This one might seem like a copout, but I truly enjoy it and highly recommend it.
#4 – Jeanne d’Arc (PSP)
Jeanne d’Arc is a retelling of Joan of Arc with an anime spin on it via Level 5. It’s essentially an SRPG with lots of interesting elements thrown in such as the combination frog thingy from Rogue Galaxy (it’s a little weird but also kinda awesome). There are really only three major flaws with this game that often cause people to end up chucking it. For one, there’s a lot of slowdown, which I don’t quite understand because it’s not doing anything too terribly graphically impressive.
Two, the pacing is a bit slow, but that could be because of three, which is you have to grind like a motherfucker to be able to get past some fights. Of course, the game is very rewarding in terms of story and also great cutscenes. The voice acting is pretty damn impressive, too. And again, all this done on a portable. Awesome.
#3 – Rogue Galaxy (PS2)
Now you’re cooking with gas! This game’s fucking awesome and actually has a number of genuinely sad moments in it. I say that with high praise because usually, regardless of whether it’s Western or Japanese, an RPG doesn’t QUITE get to the tearful moment it’s trying to accomplish with its story. And yet, Rogue Galaxy has them around just about every corner. There are lots of great twists and the story overall is very fun.
And of course, also impressive are the music, sounds, voice acting, FMVs, combat system, and…well hell, just about everything. So why isn’t it taking #2 or even #1? Ha, well…
#2 – Mass Effect (360)
That’s right, motherfucker…Mass Effect. Of course, a lot of you are probably wondering why it’s not at the very top. Well, that’s a good question, but stow that for now. Mass Effect is a great action RPG that actually got me interested in sci-fi again. At first I wasn’t sure what to think. I didn’t like the mindless planet roaming and I thought the third person shooting was just okay…then I started playing on insane.
Sure, the planet roaming still sucks, but only because it’s not interesting. It just feels like you’re hopping from one moon to the next. And even though they’re not all moons, it kinda doesn’t matter because that’s exactly what it feels like. Only rarely do you actually have to do it for primary missions and only then does it really shine because there’s ACTUALLY STUFF GOING ON.
The game should still receive high praise for starting a great series, having a great story full of interesting choices, having awesome and diverse characters complete with equally awesome dialogue and voice acting, and, well…just in general being a definitively excellent game. So again, why not #1? Sounds like I want to have mad manlove with it after all, so really, what gives, right?
#1 – Shin Megami Tensei – Persona 3 (PS2)
Did you really think that in the same year ANYTHING could take this one down? First, let me explain the bad. There are barely any save points and the game rewards risk over skill. Think I’m wrong? Often in Tartarus, the game’s only true dungeon, you will have a ridiculous amount of floors you’ve trudged through with no checkpoint, meaning you COULD go back, but if you do, you can’t start anywhere close to where you are again.
Second, game over is GAME OVER. And that game over is more easily achieved by it being qualified by having the main character simply getting beaten up. AND you can’t control your allies. As a result, there are a lot of cheap deaths that occur simply because you’re unable to move or whatever and your allies are acting like retards instead of helping you.
That said, this took #1. Why? Because there are two primary elements to the game. First, a balanced social life where you go on dates, attend school, have extracurricular activities, and lots of “character attributes” such as academics, courage, and whatever (can’t remember the others but you get the idea). That’s because you’re still in high school and overall you’re a fairly normal student…during the day.
During the hidden hour between days, however, you explore Tartarus, fighting shadows that threaten humanity’s existence and attempting to discover the meaning behind them. You’d think this wouldn’t work, being almost two entirely separate elements, and yet they compliment each other well. Most of what you do during the day has little effect on what you do during the dark hour and vice versa, yet the story interweaves them in a way you give a shit about the day portion and it will often be tied into the dark hour for reasons I won’t explain due to spoilers.
The game is grind intensive, TOUGH, and incredibly addictive. Face it…there is no better game this year.
“What?! I thought I had you pegged for being a total JRPG nerd, Gun Sage! Why would you ever leave out titles like Blue Dragon and Eternal Sonata? And since you went on and on about them, why not games like this new Growlanser or even Soul Nomad, which was another Nippon Ichi title? Come on, man…show a little consistency!” The truth is I love JRPGs because they are what has defined console RPGs for decades now.
But let’s be honest here. Blue Dragon and Heritage of War SUCKED. Eternal Sonata’s not bad and the story and graphics are certainly very good, but overall I feel the pacing is off, the combat system is weird, and…I don’t know, I just feel it’s “alright.” Soul Nomad is also pretty goddamn awkward. I know it’ll just be a matter of sticking with it until I get the feel for it, but I love games that I can just jump into and lose myself…thus yet another reason it’s a runner up.
Overall, this was a great year and I see MANY runner ups that are excellent titles well worth checking out.
.hack//G.U. vol. 3//Redemption (PS2)
Aedis Eclipse – Generations of Chaos (PSP)
Atelier Iris 3 – Grand Phantasm (PS2)
Blue Dragon (360)
Depths of Peril (PC)
Digimon World – Dawn (DS)
Digimon World – Dusk (DS)
Dragonquest Monsters – Joker (DS)
Dungeons & Dragons Tactics (PSP)
Eschalon – Book 1 (PC)
Eternal Sonata (360)
Etrian Odyssey (DS)
Final Fantasy 12 – Revenant Wings (DS)
Fire Emblem – Radiant Dawn (Wii)
Forgiveness – The Second Chapter (PC)
Front Mission (DS)
Geneforge 4 – Rebellion (PC)
Growlanser – Heritage of War (PS2)
Hellgate – London (PC)
Heroes of Mana (DS)
InuYasha – Secret of the Divine Jewel (DS)
Loki – Heroes of Mythology (PC)
Luminous Arc (DS)
Monster Hunter Freedom 2 (PSP)
Pokemon Diamond (DS)
Pokemon Pearl (DS)
Shining Force EXA (PS2)
Soul Nomad & The World Eaters (PS2)
Star Wolves 2 (PC)
Two Worlds (360)
Unknown Realms (PS3)
Wild ARMs 5 (PS2)