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Yours Truly's 2013 Game of the Year Awards

Been an odd year, but the spread of games is similar to the last two: 2-3 Japanese games to each indie, few on console. I missed a ton of stuff like FE, Ys Celceta, and SM3D Land would probably bump 8, 9, and 10 off the list, but what can you do?

List items

  • The title foreign Megaten fans and knowers of JRPG lore had longed after for 17 years, strangely found itself in crowded fields of both a resurgence of cyberpunk design and a relative cornucopia of 1st Person Dungeon Crawlers out of Atlus. What a welcome! SH did however, present perhaps the greatest look at just how strong Megaten was, is, and will be, earning it my top spot.

    SH does this by having lightning-fast combat, a resoundingly clever localization, a wonderful and immense OST, and being chock full of those brilliant quirks both little and large that makes Megaten a premier franchise it is. Best demon conversations in the series. Odd, moody battle graphics. Crazy retro 90s VR vision of the future internet nostalgia Gone Home couldn't touch with a 10-foot pole. Intriguing character design. I could go on and on.

  • This entry is by and large a much more robust game than its predecessor. The tuning is tighter, the character building more nuanced, and the ship portions FAR more inticing by far. Remarkable considering the two big red alert changes that worried us faithful: 3D enemies and non-synth OST, both of which turned out wonderfully.

    There are a few problems, though, some aesthetic, some unarguable respectively: The lack of a linear Labyrinth nixxed alot of the reward from killing a stratum boss, and the visibility of FOEs ebbs some of their ominous mystery. On the unarguable front, giving players a 6th for the boss is meaningless in a series proud of its indifference, a lack of stratum levels (we're missing out on 5 levels of dungeon crawling from this) and a near-lack of OH SHIT outside of FOES (squirrels, pits in front of chests, ambushes with chests and gather spots). These last three things especially are mistakes to be fixed.

    Thankfully, those are just about the only real negatives, and EO IV remains the second best EO and a great start-off for those looking to upgrade their RPG-Fu.

  • This was another of the many 3DS games that made major jumps in presentation this year. Glorious 3D? Sometimes, yes.

    But that wasn't what I truly liked about this one. The smartly-done breeding system (smartly-done, not gamer bribery) making something that made much more sense for what it was. The vastly improved on-line functionality putting trades and battles there instead of standing in the Pokemart. Fairy type taking some steps to balancing types (until it becomes broke as fuck later :P). Most of the new Pokes are great, too and there's very little filler. It's either wierd new typing (Fire/Normal, Poison/Dragon, Ghost/Grass), great clever design (Gogoat, Greninja, Pangoro, Hawlucha), potent battle ideas (Carbink, Aromatisse, Aegislash), or nice quicks (evolves when 3DS is upsidedown, evolves when a Dark pokemon is also in the party, or different regions of the world have different wing patterns). Excellent, excellent stuff.

    There's been a few problems, and rather big ones. Framerate eats it when too much showy stuff happens or you run into hordes, and the game is now even easier. Instead of rubberband RNG punishing you for using higher strategies like buffing, sweeping, and walling, X/Y fails to prepare the player as you run into such small parties from enemy trainers and their tactics and stats so weak, there's little reason to bother to try, then you hit online, and online hits back hard. Not exactly the right way to train people who've never done Pokemon PvP to prepare them for veteran's teams and strats.

  • So much was riding on this game. Atlus' future was in flux. The development team alluded to this being an example of the kind of dark, deep, and difficult JRPG that was in danger of disappearing. Kaneko, Hashino, and Meguro were largely absent from its development. Some said they could never match the magnum opus SMT3.

    I knew going in they would probably not match SMT3. They didn't. But you know what? They passed every other test with flying colors. It was financially successful. It was dark, deep, and difficult. It was in good hands with those on the team. It was great.

    The greatly expanding scope and focused wildness of the plot is some of the best in the business, with that "reality itself is slipping away" that the series is not famous enough for. Dialogue is snappy and proper for the characters, with station and location the characters are from reflecting in their words properly.

    It is not without problems. Smirk is barely contained as a mechanic, and I truly feel it was thrown on top YHWH's Own Turn-Based Battle System to counteract the copious ease and comfort mechanics that were present here so the game's difficulty would not be a joke. Some of the new demons from other artists were some serious WOOF WOOF. The clumsy "removal" of ranbats resulted in ambushes, cramped hallways without evasion room, and enemies that can go thru walls plus move faster than you can on the overworld. But they're visible, so they're not frustrating ranbats...or something. And SHUT THE FUCK UP BURROUGHS.

  • This game is kicking my ASS. Pixel-perfect controls, constantly clever level design, and excellent audiovisual design keep me coming back for more. Speaking of which, I got some time this weekend...

  • I enjoyed both the childlike wonder the thru-the-looking-glass design of the game brought out in me and the mild flippancy of the little notes on the bare, garish matte color of the game giving a little insight into the playful mindset of the developers. The puzzles blending with the quiet journey thru the game world was well-paced, and the "learn by doing" nature of the early stretch a breath of fresh air in a smog-filled telltorial world.

  • I often have games that don't fit snugly under the aegis of "games are designed to be fun" mantra (a red herring of a mentality if there ever was one, anyways), but PP is especially far from that designation. And yet, it was inviting. There was no hope of victory, perhaps a chance at more enduring? It's odd, I can't really say emotionally why it entertained me so well. Its design certainly fit the gameplan perfectly, so on a technical level it was excellent.

  • RL didn't stick well enough with me as other Roguelike hybrids have, I think it was the merely servicable music and the loooooooooooong slog in the middle where you hunted after the bosses and farmed runes/patterns/gold for upgrades. It was a price to pay for having a Roguelike/Metroidvania hybrid (there are people who are twitching right now from that name), but it definately had a dull mid-late game.

    Clean and creative otherwise, especially with the lineage design, and I definately loved my time a ton when it wasn't bogged down.

  • I originally bought this as an act of faith that the combination of Vanillaware's game design would finally pay off for me, Atlus' backing of the game, and Basiscape goodness. The early hours were...not good. Too much telltorials (FIE to you VW!), and the lack of character skills heavily restricted combat options leading to very similar encounters, dungeon after dungeon.

    But after the A/B paths opened up, the game had gotten very very good. More skills lead to variable strategies, and taking it online worked very well. The Loot-Driven/Beat 'Em Up combination works surprisingly well, and the gear customization is very well though out from what I've seen. Exemplary post-launch support too, and free! VW earned that 1m sales.

  • Last year's Tales of Graces f was famously bipolar, and the word was Xillia was a return to a more balanced experience. However, I found reason to beg to differ.

    Xillia's narrative and characters are much stronger, but the plot puts too much stress on the characters, with Alvin's strong nuanced development especially cracking under the strain. The pairing system nukes mulitplayer (a series staple), and also invites AI brainfarts. The bosses breaking out of combos makes a mockery of the battle system and is a needless, joyless frustration even when you win. The fields are ugly, barren expanses lifted from a PS2 game. Gaius and Musee being trainwrecks of personality, especialy Mr. Gary Stu himself. A sickening lack of costumes and other doodads, shoved off to the side to prey upon the financially inept. And that framerate when the shit hits the fan in-battle; wretched.

    But the music, the dialogue, the rest of combat, the city design, and especially the plot when it doesn't punch above its weight shine so well. It wasn't the even quality game it's been painted as, but it definately is worth the money same as Graces was.