Game of The Year 2013

Let's be honest, 2013 kind of sucked. We lost a lot of cool people (RIP Ryan Davis), and it seems like almost everyone I know, including myself had to go through some bullshit this year. That isn't to say the year was a total wash. Some good stuff happened along the way, not the least of which is the fact that it has been an awesome year for video games. I feel like this year, more than any one in recent memory was jam packed full of quality games. 2013 saw the release of a dozen games I was really looking forward to, and just as many surprises that threw me for a loop. By the end of the year I had a list of about 25 games I was considering for my top 10, and a few more games that I regret I didn't get around to. A good year indeed in that respect.

If you've read any of my lists before, you probably know what you're in for. A lot of Japanese games, an emphasis on amazing music, hell, the tried and true “hated it, then loved it” game of the year makes a return yet again. You might also know that this is going to go on for a bit. I can't help it, I get a bit wordy when talking about things I really enjoyed.

A few notes:

*There are liberal spoilers in this thing. It's the end of the year, and time to talk about my favorite games I've played this year. Spoilers are inevitable in most cases. I'll try to spoiler tag some things, but it's not possible for everything. Just keep that in mind. You've been warned.

*I'm really sorry about all of this. I generally tend to write... a lot. But this time I really got carried away. I don't think most people need 25 pages to explain which games they liked in a single year, or why they liked them, but... there you go. At least it's comprehensive, right?

With all that said, let's get this monster rolling.

Honorable Mentions

These games didn't quite make my top ten list, but I thought they were worth talking about, briefly, thankfully.

*Pokemon X/Y: This is my number 11 game, if you want to call it that. It was actually on my list until a couple days ago. I enjoyed Pokemon Y, the changes they made are welcome indeed. The new 3D graphics look great, and tweaks to things like EXP. Share make a lot of the more tedious things in these games a lot more bearable. Arguably the most significant change comes to the online interactions. Never before has it been so easy to connect with friends, and random people alike to Trade/Battle Pokemon. It's crazy how simple and easy it is, to the point that I can't believe we survived without it all these years. Features like the Wonder Trade which allow you to blind trade a random Pokemon for another random Pokemon are addicting and fun. I even like some of the new Pokemon, and some of the Mega Evolutions. Even though it sounds like Mega Evolutions fucked up some of the competitive balance/variety.

That's all well and good, but there's also some stuff that really sucks about Pokemon X/Y. Namely the characters and the story. Now, now. Before you get up in my grill about the story in a Pokemon game, I have to remind you that one of the main reasons Pokemon Black was my Game of the Year in 2011 was because it had an awesome, actually interesting story with good characters. Not the case in X/Y where you have some of the lamest characters around and quite frankly a garbage excuse for a story. That combined with the fact that I couldn't think of a lot of things I wanted to “gush” about lead me to remove it from the list.

*Attack of The Friday Monsters: A Tokyo Tale: My number 12 game, I guess. Attack of The Friday monsters is just a ridiculously adorable, pleasant little game that cost me all of what, $7? It was definitely worth it to experience the short, but sweet story it had to tell. I really loved the art, and the game made me smile nearly the whole time. The only negative thing I can think of is that the card game isn't really necessary It doesn't detract from the game too much, until the post game at least, but I just felt the game would have been fine without it. It's a funny distraction at best. That said, if you're interested in a cute little story about a small town in Japan in the 70s, where Kaiju (big monsters) come out out on Friday to fight, then I suggest you pick up AoTFM. Then have fun trying to figure out what's going on!

*Animal Crossing: New Leaf:

Uhg. I really don't want to think about Animal Crossing: New Leaf. I've put over 200 hours into the game, and you know what? I'd rather I hadn't. I wouldn't go so far as to say I dislike the game, but I'm certainly well beyond the point of being sick of it at this point. So why do I keep playing? It's my friend Zara. I bought the game for both of us back in July and ever since then she's been obsessed with it. I might have put in 200 hours, she has put in nearly 2000 hours, or something crazy like that. She plays it everyday, for hours on end. I don't even know what she has left to do in the game anymore, and yet she keeps playing it. And even talks about buying another copy of the game just to start a new town. It's madness!

I just thought I should “mention” it because it's been such a big part of my year, what with her playing it all the time. And me being roped into helping her with it. I actively played and enjoyed the game for about a month. Everything after that? Just helping her with stuff. Please, send help.

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10. Final Fantasy XIV

Final Fantasy XIV is a game that, I feel that if I had been able to spend more time with it, would have most likely been higher on my list. It's a game that I had been waiting anxiously for all year, and when it finally came out I wasn't really in a position to enjoy it to the fullest. I had originally wanted to embark on my journey with my friend, as we are wont to do with MMOs, but she just doesn't have the hardware to run the game. I'm working on fixing that in the next month or so, and we should hopefully, finally be able to dig deep into this beastly game.

That said, I just couldn't wait. So when digital copies for the game were being sold again, I picked the game up for cheap. What followed was what I guess you could call a trial run. I made a character that I played primarily solo, and got her to about level 25 before I let my subscription lapse. During that time I was learning the ins and outs of the game, and trying to decide if it was going to be a worthwhile investment in the long run. And you know what? I think it is!

Preamble about my situation aside, Final Fantasy XIV is a gorgeous game that demands the attention of anyone who might even having a passing interest in it. That includes people that are looking for a solid new MMO to sink their teeth into. This game is for Final Fantasy fans, or for people who enjoy a good Japanese style role playing game. You might also like to experience the world of Eorzea if you just like things that are beautiful, because XIV is dripping with jaw dropping splendor with everything from the world, to the incredible soundtrack.

At it's core, XIV isn't breaking any new ground when it comes to MMOs. In fact it borrows a lot from many other successful MMOs of the past. If you've ever played World of Warcraft, chances are you have a good idea of what you're in for. But one of the best things about XIV is that it combines the simplicity of the tried and true WoW systems, and applies them to something closer to what Square Enix did with it's first foray into massively multiplayer games, Final Fantasy XI.

That is to say, you have a very accessible system, that is solo friendly above all else, and it combines it with some of the quirky things XI did that were a little more taxing on the player. Even though XI has changed much over the years, it's still a hardcore game that more often than not demands that you rely on the assistance of other players to make much progress in the game. Wherein XIV you can enjoy a large majority of the game's story solo. In this way, XIV plays a lot like a traditional single player Final Fantasy game, complete with a compelling story that will hook you early on in the adventure.

Sure, you're still required to team up from time to time to tackle big story moments, but thanks to modern conventions it's a lot less painful than it is in something like XI. In addition to all that you have things like the FATE system, which is XIV's take on public quests which originated in games like the recently departed Warhammer Online, and more recently Guild Wars 2. Overall, XIV is just a nice spread of mechanics that have worked in the past, while maintaining the flavor of Square Enix's brand of online role playing. Something that I'm extremely grateful for.

In my time with XIV, as I've said, I got to level 26 fairly easily just playing alone. I made a Pugilist named Argilla Prihtivi, a staple name I use in a lot of games where you create a character. During my short time in Eorzea I got a feel for the major starting cities, explored a lot of the beginning to intermediate areas. I got a feel for all aspects of the game, from it's combat which is fast paced and fun, to the game's unique crafting system which is strangely action oriented. I ran dungeons with random players on my server using the easy to use “Duty Finder” utility, and even made a few acquaintances along the way. All in all it was a very pleasant experience that reminds me why I can still invest hundreds of hours into this genre of game. I only wish that I had my friends there to enjoy it with me.

Lastly, before I stop talking your ear off about a game that I probably only spent the bare minimum amount of time with, I have to say the one thing that really pushed XIV onto my year end list, and that is that it's exceedingly, unquestionably beautiful. I've mentioned it previously, but I feel that I really need to emphasis it. Everything about the game appeals to my sense of aesthetics. It's a beautifully rendered world with an eastern aesthetic. At the same time it doesn't come across as too anime, as it definitely has a western fantasy vibe to it too that is par for the course with the series.

Not only are the character designs easy on the eyes, but the traditional Final Fantasy monsters you've come to know and love are well represented here. Things from the ridiculously adorable Mandragoras that became popular with XI, to the beyond epic interpretations of the Primals. There's nothing quite like getting a party together and going into a boss chamber where you're greeted by the Lord of Fire, Ifrit, and it's an intense four-on-one battle full of enough graphical splendor to drop jaws. Plus the rush of fighting such an iconic figure is just way too cool.

Not even just characters, but the world itself is a vibrant place that easily rivals areas in any game. There have been times where I've been playing where I would just stop dead in my tracks as a storm kicked up. One time I just sat on a big rock and watched as heavy rain just rolled across the plains, and another time I slowly walked (not ran) through a forest as a lightning storm raged overhead. It's the kind of thing that just makes you stop and think: “Man, I wish I was really in this world right now.”. That so far has been by biggest takeaway from XIV, and I'm eager to get back to it and see even more of the world.

For real though, one final thing is that the game's soundtrack is just a pretty as the world it accompanies. The game is packed full of nearly 100 songs that would make any Final Fantasy music buff proud. I remember walking out to the Ul'Dah fields for the first time and hearing this haunting melody that made me shiver. God Damn, XIV is just such a gorgeous game.

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9. Saints Row IV

Remember how much I liked Saints Row The Third? Saints Row IV is kind of like that, but less so. That isn't to say I disliked it, because here it is on my Game of The Year list, but, I dunno... maybe you can't recapture that same feeling again? I should stop before I sound too down on the game, because honestly I really like it, but I just want you to know... The Third was better.

With that out of the way, it's hard to find much else to dislike about Saints Row IV. It's more of the same insanity that we all loved back in 2011. Except maybe it's even crazier this time considering you're now a super hero. And even though I might not like IV as much as The Third, I think it was vitally important that they made the game so drastically different. It helped make Saints Row IV unique in a year where Grand Theft Auto V was released, and a year after Sleeping Dogs perfected the open-world crime game for me. Sleeping Dogs is still the best, but uh, God... the less said about Grand Theft Auto V the better. (Franklin, Lamar, and Chop are the only things I still feel positive about with that game. Okay, I'll stop).

So yeah, it's pretty awesome going around Steelport with superpowers. For one traversal is actually a blast, and I say that as someone who generally enjoys driving around open world games. Being able to sprint up a building, hit the highest point, super jump into the air, then glide across most of the city before you have to touch ground again never got old for me. In fact the few times in the game where you have to drive felt totally unfulfilling after zipping around like that. Especially considering the speed in which you can run is faster than driving the fastest car by an order of magnitudes. In addition to the cool transportation powers, your character has access to a whole arsenal of offensive powers. I guess it's unfortunate that half of them suck, and are worse than guns. Fire and Ice? Awesome, totally devastating. Ground Stomp? Dumb. Telekinesis? Fuck off.

My big problem with TK is that it's a stupid, finicky power that's more trouble than it's worth, but more importantly there are far too many side activities that make you use it. Those stupid Rift ones? Fuuuuuuucccccckkkkkkkk off. And speaking of side activities that's kind of a double edged sword for me. On the one hand, there are a lot of them, and you kind of want to do them all because you get cool stuff from your crew, but some of them are kind of a pain in the ass to do. On the other hand, I was able to complete every side activity in Saints Row IV in under 30 hours. Which is more than I could say for something like... Grand Theft Auto V. Uhg.

The main mission though? Fucking awesome. Volition proves once again that it can combine surprisingly sharp writing with the craziest shit you're doing in-game. From the Zero Dark Thirty/Call of Duty parody at the beginning of the game that ends with your character jumping onto a speeding rocket as Aerosmith's “I Don't Wanna Miss A Thing” plays. To when you're piloting a space ship through “reality” ala The Matrix style while Haddaway's “What is Love” plays. To piloting a mech suit. To playing an alternate take on Streets of Rage. To... any other number of absurd things you do in that game.

You know what else is good? The “loyalty missions”. Ripped straight from Mass Effect, you can do side missions with your crew members that will deepen your bond with them, and allow them to unlock their super powers within the simulation. These are sometimes arguably better than anything in the main story even. Pierce's sees the return of the “get in a car, and sing a song together” in which the two of you do really nothing other than drive around and sing Paula Abdul's “Opposites Attract”, and start to sing Biz Markie's “Just A Friend” until the game's villain Zinyak chimes in and ruins it. In Shaundi's mission you team up with her, and fucking Saints Row 2 Shaundi (Yes this is actually a different character) as you three score some sweet alien drugs, smoke them out of broken light bulbs, and then trip balls. And of course Keith David's mission where it's just a reenactment of They Live, complete with Roddy Piper. Yeah.. the game is something else.

There's tons of other little things that just make Saints Row IV a fun game. I'm rather fond of the Dubstep Gun, a large canon that just fires waves of Dubstep that actually plays, and causes by standards to dance. It can also be upgraded to just randomly cause explosions. Yep. Fuck man, it's great that Keith David is in the game as himself. This is especially rich because Keith David had previously voiced a character in an older Saints Row game, and the game is constantly making jokes about how that character and Keith David are so alike. Along those lines, all the references and cameos to and from the old Saints Row games. Going as far as to include clones of the default main characters from Saints Row 1. The fact that for no apparent reason you're character is the President of the United States. Hell, the list just goes on and on.

And on-top of all that the game still has an excellent selection of voice actors, not the least of which are all the selectable voices for your main character. Laura Bailey makes her return as the definitive female voice. As do Troy Baker, Kenn Michael, and Robin Atkin Downes as the three main male voices. Robin Atkin Downes in particular is the official voice of the Boss in my opinion, that dude is great. Also, for no reason, Nolan North is a selectable voice, as himself. Again, yeah.

Finally, man, I really like the soundtracks in these games. There are several radio stations I liked to listen to in SRIV. Mainly KRyhme, Mad Decent, and of course The Mix. The Mix is pretty much the station that has all the songs used in the missions, as well as the strangely appropriate sounding for flying around the city – "B.O.B" by Outkast. But KRhyme actually introduced me to some good shit, like Kendrick Lamar's "Swimming Pools" which is probably my most listened to song this year. And Mad Decent... fucking Riff Raff. Honorable mention to Klassic, the classic station which is hosted by Zinyak. Yep.

At the end of the day, it's hard not to like Saints Row IV. It might not have held the exact same appeal as The Third did back in 2011, but it's still the best open-world game I've played this year. It's stupid, and fun. And weirdly smart, and progressive. I know that sounds totally... stupid, but when you think about the way GTA treats women, and then the fact that the Boss (voiced of course by Laura Bailey) is just the biggest badass around. She demands your respect, and she's not going to take any shit. It's just a feel good game, and I say that as someone who played it during my most miserable point in the year.

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8. Tales of Xillia

You know, I really like the Tales series. It's not the best JRPG series around, but it's got some damn fine games in it. Last year I awarded Graces f a spot on my list, even if it wasn't one of the better games. And while I don't think Xillia quite reaches the level of something like Symphonia or Vesperia, it's still a fantastic game.

I think the big thing that helps Xillia, well aside from the fact that it's a PS3 game, and not just a port of a Wii game, is that it's characters are a lot closer to something like the cast in Vesperia. You have a widely different cast of characters in your party, and almost all of them are great. The one exception to this, for me at least, is Leia, who is so forgettable that I can never remember her name. That aside, you have Jude who makes a pretty great bumbling hero. He's not the coolest Tales hero around, but I think that's what makes him special. He just kind of falls into this, they never really establish him as a leader or anything. He's good natured, and by the end of the game he has solid convictions to fully support this strange girl who, he quite cutely, fell for over the course of the game.

Then you have Alvin who is just a real mixed bag. Not mixed in that he's sometimes a good character, sometimes a bad character, but a literal mixed character. At first he's the calm and collected guy who everyone can depend on to get them out of a jam. In some ways he almost feels like more of a hero than Jude does. That is until you see his true colors. I lost track of the number of times throughout the course of the game that Alvin double crosses your party, and I have to admit I was more than a little frustrated that they all went back to casually trusting him every-single-time. Sure Elize hates him for most of the game (more on that later), but I never really got the sense that the party was too concerned that this guy was working with the enemy. Which enemy? Every enemy. This isn't to say that Alvin's character himself annoyed me. I feel like it's pretty clear by the end of the game that he has his reasons, and he never really meant for anything bad to happen to the crew. It still just seemed weird that he was always, without fail, just let back into the party.

Elize is the second most interesting character in the game. At first she's just a timid child who has this cute talking doll mascot. Teepo himself is kind of interesting in that at first he's just another stupid Mieu clone. Just along for the ride, and to play the comic relief. But as both Elize and Teepo's nature is revealed he becomes so much more. Throughout the whole game I thought Elize was as cute as a button, but instead of just being the cute character she really has some interesting development. Part way through the game, Teepo gets snatched up, and he ends up losing his memories. I believe it's shortly after this point that we learn that Teepo isn't an entity at all, but just a reflection of Elize's inner thoughts. The things she's too scared or embarrassed to say. This to me added a whole new layer of depth for Elize's character, as she was, and continues to express more of her true nature through Teepo.

I guess I should also mention that Teepo is responsible for the best skit in all of Tales history. Teepo, or Elize, for whatever reason keep talking about “bazongas”. That in, and of itself is pretty funny, but when Jude finally asks what the fuck is up with the bazongas, Alvin and Rowen goad Jude into yelling “Teach me about BAZONGAS!” in front of Milla and Leia. Yeah, it's fucking great.

Anyways, the last thing I wanted to say about Elize is that despite the age difference, her and Alvin actually make a really cute couple. Throughout the course of the game, she's one of the only people in the party who doesn't blindly trust him, and actually holds a grudge against him for the longest time. Despite this, Alvin goes out of his way to help Elize several times, and by the end of the game there's a really cute scene with them before the final battle where she finally admits that she likes him. I know a certain someone who is dying for a more age appropriate relationship between the two.

Rowen is also quite interesting in that he finally, finally is an actual old man in your party. Too long have we seen 30-something characters like Raven being picked on for being ancient. No, Rowen is an actual old ass man. And he's pretty badass too. He has a history with the King of Fennmont, as he used to be a brilliant tactician for the army, known as the conductor. Throughout the game Rowen applies his years of experience and knowledge to help the party out. He also has a sad bit of backstory where he thought he lost the love of his love, but if you're up on the side quests in the game, you see a bittersweet resolution to that story. More importantly though, Rowen is just a really solid character, and not the kind you see very often in games. Least of which being JRPGs. He's like a kindly grandfather, wise in his old age, but still spry enough to kick some ass. And he's actually responsible for a good amount of comic relief. Again, kind of unique in that it's not the sort of comedy you're used to in a Tales game.

Finally there's Milla. Ahh... Milla. I know that Pete Davison already made a fabulous case for Milla in his Xillia review over on USgamer, but what can I say? The man is right. Milla is such a refreshing character, not only for Tales, but for games in general. In the past Tales has had some of my favorite female characters with Sheena from Symphonia, and Judith from Vesperia. Both of them being extremely awesome, but Milla is just something else entirely. At the beginning of the game you can chose who you want to control. Either Jude or Milla. And while playing as Jude makes a little more sense for the first time through the game (you see more of the story) Milla is clearly the heroine of Xillia. Not just a Colette, or Estelle type. She is the leader, she is the main character. If that wasn't cool enough she's also an extremely powerful character, not only in terms of combat prowess, but her ability to take control of a situation.

Milla also has an interesting quirk in that she is largely ignorant to a lot of things that people would think is common sense. Don't mistake me, not in a bimbo kind of way, but in a “I'm not familiar with your species” sort of way. This is what we call an endearing character trait. It's easy to fall in love with Milla when we see her be so clueless about such basic things, or bust out a bit of knowledge she read in a book, apropos of nothing, as if the information she was providing wasn't already common knowledge. And despite this she seems to have a better idea of what's going on, or what needs to be done than anyone. Well, except maybe Alvin who has insider information.

As you go through the game Milla slowly starts to become more “human”. Initially it's as simple as her losing her godlike power to control the four spirits. But at the game progresses more subtle changes take effect. Traveling with these people she starts feeling emotions, and develops friendships. Particularly the relationship between Jude, that really starts to kick off when Milla is injured early on in the game, and has to rely on Jude to help her. Near the end of the game that relationship finally comes together in a bittersweet way. Where Jude loves Milla, and wants to support her no matter what. While Milla herself probably doesn't share this same intimacy, I think she knows Jude has become her trustworthy partner.

Despite everything that happens to Milla to deter her over the course of the game, she remains steadfast, always set on her mission. And as she grows attached to her companions she's willing, and in fact does sacrifice everything for them. Even her final decision is a selfless act to help and preserve a state of peace in the two worlds, even if it means she'll never see her friends again (until Xillia 2, but whatever). I think it's cool that not only is she this really strong, compelling female character, but that the story is largely focused around her. It's kind of reminiscent of how Terra and Celes are considered the main characters of Final Fantasy VI. I guess it's a bad thing that this is such a rarity in games, but at least it's progress. From a Japanese developer no less!

Finally, yeah, she's just a really well designed character. Her actual character design is interesting, it's sexy, but it's also not overboard. The hair is a pretty big distinguishing feature, that might feel overdone on another character. Lastly, her English voice actress Minae Noji is really unique! I can't think of a character that sounds quite like Milla. It's kind of a husky voice that again helps to separate Milla from a lot of other anime heroines. It helps sell her delivery of all the “clueless” lines, as well as makes Milla sound like a commanding character.

And Leia? I dunno. She's just kind of there. She falls into the klutzy childhood friend troop. I guess if you want to get real about it, she's everything Milla isn't. She's supposed to be this tough tomboyish girl, but she just comes across as a helpless girl who has unrequited love for Jude. It doesn't help that she doesn't really go through any sort of interesting character arc, her personality isn't very original, and she's just kind of annoying sometimes. I'm sorry! What can I say?

So yeah, I just spent entirely too long talking about the characters in the game, but like I said, I feel that's where it's strengths lie. As far as the story goes, it's standard Tales fare. It eventually turns into a save the world(s) from destruction story, and there's not really many notable twists or turns aside from the few character arc things I've already mentioned. Much like another game on my list I feel like the story is just a vehicle to deliver the characters to you. Something is going on at all times to motivate the characters forward, but it rarely has any bite. Sometimes it's easy to stop caring about the main story, and just focus on the skits, and side quests that help flesh out the characters. That isn't to say the story is entirely without merit, but much like the music in Tales games, it's not the selling point.

And hey, I guess I could close out by talking about the gameplay some! Again, pretty standard for Tales at this point. It's no where near as big of a departure as Graces f was, but it does add some new things. For the uninitiated Tales is an action RPG, the battles take place in real time, and I guess you could compare it to a really simplistic fighting game. You have a basic attack, and special attacks called Artes which require a resource to use. One of the best parts of any Tales game is linking together as many of these attacks as you can and pulling off cool combos, again not unlike a fighting game. Graces f made the combat a lot deeper, but I don't know if it was ideal or not. Xillia's combat feels like a good medium between the older games, and introduces some new elements that make it a little more involving.

Namely the ability to “link” two characters together to take advantage of that character's support skill, as well as being able to flank enemies and string together bigger combos. Another key point to this feature is that you can combine two moves from both linked characters to form a new, more damaging move. It's a fun little addition, that's probably pretty crucial on the harder difficulty modes, but on normal it doesn't feel like it changes the flow of combat too much. Overdrive mode is still there, still allows you to spam Artes without an SP cost. And it still lets you use Divine Artes. Though I have to admit I played through a good portion of the game before ever performing a Divine Arte. I can't remember how it worked in other games now, but it certainly seemed a lot more obvious how to do them in those games. You have to hold a button at the end of specific Artes to execute the DA. It's not that hard to pull off once you know what you're doing though. You know, it's a Tales game. You've either come to enjoy this combat, or you haven't. This isn't the game that's going to change your mind on it.

Lastly, one other big new feature in this game is the Lillium Orb, which is essentially the Sphere Grid from Final Fantasy X, or if you want a more recent example, the Passive Skills tree in Path of Exile. Each character has their own unique orb, and the orb is divided into different sections based off which stat you're raising So this actually introduces a more hands-on leveling system for a Tales game, as you're able to modify your characters in any direction you want. Upon completing certain sections of the orb you unlock Artes, and Skills. I've explained Artes, but Skills you can equip to give your character more direct passive boosts in battle.

I would say that it's increasingly rare to find JRPGs these days, but that's not true at all. The genre has just expanded into different types of RPGs, and a lot more of them are being produced than say a few years ago. I guess what I can say is that it's hard for me to find ones I really enjoy anymore. It's hard to count FFXIV as a JRPG, but I suppose it is... if you're really stretching it, and another game on my list could be considered a JRPG. I also enjoyed Atelier Ayesha, but that didn't quite make the cut. That's about it for this year though. There were a few big ones on the 3DS with Shin Megami Tensei IV, and Soul Hackers, and two Etrian Odyssey games, but I guess I'm picky about my Atlus games. Hell, I'm not even going to talk about how much of a disappointment Dragon's Crown was. Man, just thinking about it again is bumming me out. Next year is looking hot though, what with Bravely Default, Ragnarok Odyssey Ace, Lightning Returns, Escha and Logy, and Dark Souls II kicking off the year in February and March. But I digress.

Point is, I'm glad the Tales series is still flourishing. It's a semi-big JRPG franchise that you can get on consoles. Maybe not new consoles, but consoles none the less. And even though it's brand of action combat might not be what traditional JRPG fans are looking for, I still find them very enjoyable. And hey, I get to look forward to Xillia 2 next year, and hopefully get Zesty the year after that!

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7. Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney: Dual Destinies

I feel like some of the games on this list require a great deal of explanation as to why I liked them so much, or in some cases as you'll see, dealing with controversies surrounding them. Dual Destinies is simple. It's just a damn good Phoenix Wright game.

If you've never played Phoenix Wright before, man, you're really missing out. The games are a hybrid of something as simple as visual novel, but throws in a whole level of interaction that gives it a little more meat in the gameplay department. I think most people know this at this point, but, yeah, you play as a lawyer. Sounds boring, but in the world of Phoenix Wright it's anything but! The game is broken up into two portions. One where you investigate the crimes, and another where you defend your client in court / try to find the real culprit guilty.

These games aren't very demanding outside of the fact that they can take a while to finish. In past games it could be pretty tricky to figure out just exactly what evidence you were supposed to present and at what time, and just trying to pay attention and keep track of everything in general. To me, and a lot of people from the sound of it, Dual Destinies makes this easier than ever before. Some people have gone on record saying they're not the biggest fans of this change, but for the most part I think the game still requires a certain level of engagement and outside of the box thinking to keep you invested.

That's just the mechanics part of these games though. No, the real draw of the Ace Attorney series is the ridiculous stories that are told, and the lively characters you interact with throughout. How much you like any given Phoenix Wright game comes down directly to how good you thought the cases were. For me, the first Phoenix Wright, and Trials and Tribulations take the cake for me. The final cases in those games were just too damn good. They got to be so big, and epic, and out of control that you'd spend hours furiously tapping away to get to the next upset in the story. And while Dual Destinies might not conquer these climactic titans for me, it does still tell a damn good story with just the right amount of twists and turns to cause my eyes to widen in disbelief.

Dual Destinies not only lives up to the legacy of the Ace Attorney series, but it offers up some outstanding new additions. Not the least of which are the gorgeous 3D graphics. When you make the transition from something that is 2D like the previous AA games, it's easy to misstep and lose the “feel” of the older games. Fortunately Capcom succeed here, and the game looks fucking great. To me, nothing was lost in the transition, and the overly animated character expressions are still top notch.

Of course the game also introduced a whole cavalcade of new characters. Many of the side characters can be hit or miss in these games, and it's no different here. For me, pretty much everyone involved in the game's second case, as well as the case itself was horrible. It was a dreadful slog getting through it, much like other infamous cases in the past such as the dreaded circus case. But in other areas of the game some characters really shined. Robin Newman for instance was a very interesting, very energetic character that it was hard not to like. I do feel like they missed an opportunity to make a compelling cross dressing, perhaps even transgender character with her, but she still has a good arc. Also from that case, the snakelike Myriam Scuttlebutt who was constantly in a cardboard box, but underneath the box, and her slippery personality she was actually pretty cute!

Another favorite of mine was the sadistic Aura Blackquill, who not only was super hot, and reminded me of Juri Han from Street Fighter, but presented a sinister character, who by the end of her arc is very easy to sympathize with. But the real stars of the show are the three new main characters. Athena Cykes, the new attorney, whom you play as for large portions of the game, as well as the central character in the game's story. Simon Blackquill, the new prosecutor who is just all kinds of badass. And Bobby Fullbright who is this game's Detective Gumshoe replacement.

Full on spoilers here, but I feel like I need to discuss all of this to really get my point across about these characters, and how great the game's central story is.

So the main story behind Dual Destinies is that the world is in the dark age of the law. This ties back directly to the events of Apollo Justice, where Phoenix is disbarred for using false evidence. It also ties into Athena and Blackquill's past. If you look at Dual Destinies as being The first, fourth, and fifth case, that's where you have the main story. Case three helps establish some important side development for later, and the second case is completely pointless, but the point is that these three cases make up the main game.

For me, I consider those three cases being what you want to play the game for. The first case not only serves as the tutorial, and helps to set the story up, but when you loop back around to it later in the game you realize the significance of all of it. A large portion of the game is spent eluding to Athena and Blackquill's past, and when you finally find out the truth of that, it's about the time the game really starts to fall back into the Phoenix Wright epic finale scenario.

The fact that the game goes so far as to kill Apollo's best friend in a mysterious circumstance that leaves the blame pinned on Athena makes for a tragic scene. Where Apollo suspects Athena, he wants to believe in her, but he needs to be sure. I just didn't expect the game to go in that direction, even though earlier parts of the game suggest that Apollo is acting dicey. When Phoenix blows everyone's mind by revealing the possibility that the Phantom did it, and the whole courtroom explodes, it's awesome. At that point it's really touching to see Apollo be absolved of all his doubts, letting the team of lawyers come together to bust the case wide open.

And in regards to that relationship between Athena and Blackquill, it's also really touching that despite being at each others throat for the whole game, both of them were willing, and did in fact sacrifice everything to prove the others innocence. Blackquill never came off as a villain, much the same way most of the prosecutors in the series do. But it always felt to me like Blackquill was doing the right thing, even if that meant doing the “wrong” thing sometimes.

In the last case, it's a constant roller coaster from one point to the next. At first we see that Aura has staged an abduction to try and hold a trial to prove her brother's innocence. But it quickly spirals out of control when it's revealed that she wants Athena charged with the murder of her (Athena) own mother, and Aura's lover Metis Cykes. It also doesn't hurt that Edgeworth is randomly roped into this, if only to provide some homoerotic fanservice between him and Phoenix.

As I've said, Phoenix ends up clearing Athena in Apollo's eyes, but in order to completely clear her of guilt, the real culprit of both the Clay, and Metis murder must be brought to light. Seeing as how it's not Athena that leaves... The Phantom. A character eluded to leading up to this point, and the person Blackqull has been gunning for for the past several years.

And that leaves us with Bobby Fullbright. I think it's real fucking commendable of Capcom that they made such a wacky character, that you can't help but grow to love over the course of the game. One of his key features is that he's just so emotive. He'll laugh at the drop of a hat, and cry just as quickly. He's the definition of a Phoenix Wright character. And yet... You find out that Fullbright is in fact the Phantom. See, this is where the emotions come into play. The Phantom is known to be a spy with no emotions to speak of. It's a key point in the trial. He was able to escape the space center by making a death defying leap without even batting an eye. It also plays into the whole Mood Matrix mechanic of the game, where Athena can hear people's emotions. When you end up grilling Fullbright, everything is out of whack, because he's the Phantom!

The whole thing just turns the game on its head, and it was a twist that I, and I'm sure most people didn't see coming. I mean, how could you? Maybe if you were thinking about it really hard, or defaulted to process of elimination and just assumed one of these existing characters had to be the Phantom. To me it was one of the craziest twists I've seen in the series, and there are some pretty crazy twists! Also, it's important to note that the Fullbright you know isn't the real Fullbright. He died a while ago. So this begs the question, what as the real Bobby Fullbright like? It also makes you wonder if you should even like Fullbright (the Phantom) anymore since his whole persona is a lie. The real man behind the mask probably isn't that likable. And finally, what about the Fullbright_x_Blackquill ship? Is that sunk? We may never know!

Dual Destinies is probably my third favorite game in the series at this point, it's real close between DD and the first Ace Attorney. Sadly it doesn't really come close to Trials and Tribulations for me. Still, it's a great return for the Phoenix Wright series. The refinements to the game are a welcome addition, as is the soundtrack which is full of some new takes on classic tracks, as well as some amazing new pieces that get you pumped in the heat of the moment. For a while it seemed the series was lying dormant, especially in the west where we never got the second Miles Edgeworth game, and are just now finally getting the Layton spinoff game. I'm glad to see Capcom brought the series back though, and I can only hope they do more of it in the future. I hope their decision to go strictly digital in the west worked out enough for them to consider bringing future games here too. Because god dammit y'all, it's almost 2014, stop keeping games locked up in other regions of the world!

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6. DmC: Devil May Cry

Let's get this out of the way first. Fuck the haters, you know what I'm saying? It's a sad bunch of bullshit that the new Devil May Cry game gets as much shit as it does. It's a good fucking game, and no matter how much some people might want to whine and complain about it, it isn't going to change that fact.

I think there's a couple different kinds of haters for this game. There's the people that simply cannot abide by change of any kind. These are the sorts of people who can probably be found saying new Dante is one of the worst characters ever, and that he ruins everything that was cool about old Dante. Why? Because his hair is different? I like Dante, both of them, but Dante isn't really the epitome of cool half the time. Not only is he this goofy over the top anime hero (Note: I love anime, so don't start with me!) but he's also had some hard times. Remember “I should have been the one to fill your dark soul with LIGHT!” Yeah. How about all of Devil May Cry 2? Go ahead, try and remember it, if you dare. Even when Dante isn't accidentally being corny as hell, Capcom makes him a goofball. Remember that badass scene at the beginning of Devil May Cry 3? It's cool, yes, but Dante also isn't serious fucking business there. So what I'm trying to say is that, maybe, just maybe, cool it down and stop thinking of new Dante as being that different than old Dante.

Then you have the people that are just nasty about the game. To them this game is one of the worst games all year. Ninja Theory is a terrible developer who only makes shitty games. And that only babies like this easy to pick up and play snoozefest. It's all so completely ridiculous, that I can't help but shake my head every time I see the game brought up negatively in a thread on NeoGAF. At the very least I'm starting to see people who are coming out of the wood works saying that the game is treated unfairly. We need more people like that!

That rant aside. Hey, this game is pretty cool! DmC came out at the beginning of the year and has consistently held a spot on my Game of the Year list for the entire year. I think the thing that really does it for me is that the game has so much style to it. This isn't anything new to the Devil May Cry series though, long time fans will certainly remember how cool it was to pull off Stylish! Combos. Also, despite what I might have said about Dante, he is kind of a badass sometimes. Especially in Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne. Man, I remember thinking he was the hottest shit around when I ran into him in that game. But I digress.

The combat is fundamentally the same here, you juggle enemies with your arsenal to raise your Stylish ranking. When you get into the groove and nothing is touching you while you dish out combos in the triple digits consistently it's addicting. While the game might not be so difficult in some of the game's easier modes, it still encourages the player to look good while playing. And this to me makes sort of a buffer that makes the game seem a little more challenging than it might be otherwise. Plus being able to switch on the fly (it's just a different button press to attack with another weapon) between weapons while you're stringing together your combos is pretty sweet.

The rest of the game is focused on being fun. The story? It's not amazing, in fact I'm having a hard time remembering a lot of it now. I do know that there are some awesome moments scattered throughout, such as Mundus freaking the fuck out when his child is killed and shattering reality or whatever it is that he does. And there's a great scene where Dante and Vergil are talking shit to each other that stuck with me throughout the year “..and I've got a bigger dick.”. Actually now that I think of it, there's more just genuinely funny moments throughout the game. The opening with the pizza covering up the dick. The whole exchange between Dante and the Succubus. That god damn Bob Barbas boss battle. The white wig falling on Dante's head? Yeah, good shit, that.

Speaking of Bob Barbas though, and going back to the style thing. That's another thing DmC really excels at. It has some awesome, unique environments and boss fights. I'm sure you've heard people talk about “that” boss fight in regards to DmC. Yeah, that's the Bob Barbas boss fight, where you essentially end up going inside a television world that is made up of news marquees, until you reach the boss. At which point you fight a giant digital news anchor's head, and throughout the fight the game cuts to a chopper cam, showing shaky black and white footage of you fighting minions. That would normally be cool on it's own, but it's even cooler that you are actually fighting the minions during that part. All the while Bob is commenting on how much of a menace Dante is.

Another really cool part of the game is the whole nightclub level. Never before have I seen such a display of vibrantly flashing colors while loud club music is blaring... while fighting hordes of demons. The whole level is constantly transforming and it's a real trip. It's stuff like that, that really makes DmC stand out for me.

I'm not sure where I'd rank DmC on the hierarchy of Devil May Cry games. It's easily better than 2. I don't think too many people are going to try and argue that one. I personally think it's better than 4 which was a competent game that just felt like more of the same. Especially because you replay every level as Dante half way through the game. And why weren't people so pissed off about Nero? Probably because he had white hair I guess. As for 1 and 3... hard to say. I'm willing to bet that if you took the nostalgia away from the first game, DmC is better overall. But that's a big “if”. I don't think I can even fool myself into thinking it's better than 3 though, much less anyone else. But I'd be willing to argue that the two are closer than you'd think.

All in all, DmC was a good warm up to get me back into character action games, and I thoroughly enjoyed my time with it. A few final thoughts: The PC port is fucking hot, and that Combichrist soundtrack is something else. Something good, I think.

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5. The Last of Us

Alright. So. The Last of Us. It's quite good, yes? The fervor surrounding it? Not so much. I'll just get that crap out of the way first so I can talk about why I loved this game. So you know when something comes along, and it's extremely well received, and the people who really love it can't seem to understand why everyone else isn't in love with it? Yeah, that's sadly what happened with The Last of Us. I don't want to give the impression that this soured me on the game in anyway, because until my number two, and four games came along this was pretty close to the top of the list, and it's only at number 5 because two more phenomenal games came along.

Still, it's pretty gross how some people act about this game. I get it, many people think it's the game of the generation. I don't, personally, but it is pretty fucking good, so I can see why some would think that. The problem lies in the latter part of the above situation. The fact that some of this game's most diehard fans just cannot abide by the fact that some people just aren't into it. It also has that “Dark Souls syndrome” where people try to push it on everyone they talk to. Y'all just gotta understand, this isn't a game made for everyone. Same as Dark Souls in fact.

The whole thing reached a critically embarrassing level when certain members of the Giant Bomb staff didn't want to play the game. If you know anything about TLoU, it's bleak as fuck. It's not a fun world to be in. In fact Phil Kollar's infamous 7.5 review over at Polygon is actually spot-on in a lot of ways. The game is fucking miserable. I, myself found that I had to push myself to play it sometimes. It's just so oppressive that you'd probably much rather be doing anything else.

And yet, some of these fucking people on NeoGAF. Oh lord. The Last of Us came out right around the time Ryan Davis died. You would think it'd be understandable that not only would the guys not want to play a game like this at the time, but that the game would have some kind of a bad stigma attached to it after that. And still, every Giant Bomb thread on NeoGAF was about why Brad and Jeff (or sometimes no one, despite the fact that Vinny, Patrick, and I think Alex, and finally Drew had all played it) hadn't played the game. Like it was an outrage, they weren't doing their jobs if they didn't play this game, and talk about it. Or represent it in the Game of the Year discussions, because clearly it is the only game you should care about, and is the most important thing ever!!! Fuck off.

I guess to end that story, Brad finally played it in spite of everyone goading him, and he actually really liked it. Jeff? Not so much. It will be interesting to hear the deliberations, which start tomorrow as of the time I'm writing this. Anyways, it's just sad that a game that is as brilliantly designed as TLoU has all this shit splattered on it by irrational fans of it. As I've said, this is a game that by it's very definition is not for everyone.

That said... I really fucking liked The Last of Us. The story is the centerpiece here. Naughty Dog did such an excellent job of telling this narrative, as grim as it is, you can't help but admire it. The characters of Joel and Ellie are considered some of the best characters this year, and for good reason. The emotional roller coaster you go through with them is ensnaring. As much as the game is pushing against you not to play it for long stretches at a time, it can be hard to put down once you're going. Anxiously waiting to see what happens next. All the while formulating theories about where the story is headed, and it's ultimate conclusion.

The transitions between the seasons are something to behold. While the game struggles early on during the summer portion of the game, both in it's divisive gameplay, and the rocky relationship between the two main characters, once you hit Fall shit starts to get real. It's about half-way through the Fall when the game really transcends itself. The way that Joel finally realizes that Ellie is important to him, and the ride up to the University is powerful stuff. Then the ending of that chapter is devastating, the mad dash out of the University, and Joel taking that fall. It's at that point you're wondering where exactly this train is headed. And going into Winter the game pulls the ultimate bait and switch, making the player think that Joel has died. At least for a little while.

The moments where you play as Ellie are potent not only in a story sense, but also the gameplay, which I've neglected to talk about so far. Early on, at least in the difficulty I played the game on, stealth was mandatory. There was no way of getting around it, TLoU was a stealth game. You have very little means of defending yourself, and even less of a chance if you're going toe-to-toe with something. But as you progress in the game, Joel kind of becomes a one man army. Once you get more weaponry, and access to weapon quick slots you can pretty much clean up. Again, this is probably different on harder difficulties, but for me personally, I started to enjoy the gameplay much more at this point. But when you switch to Ellie, she's weak. Again your inventory is limited, she doesn't have the upgrades Joel has, and ultimately the game goes back to feeling like a fight just to survive. Which, in this instance, was effective, and not a bad thing for me.

Winter is really a fucked up chapter of the story. Joel and Ellie get separated, and Nolan North's character is a real fucking creeper. The things that happen to Ellie are frightening, and again the game does an effective job of not only making the player miss Joel's protection in a story sense, but also in a gameplay sense. I'll admit that Ellie's boss fight was one of my most hated parts of the game, but I'll be damned if it wasn't an intense moment. And when you finally get to control Joel again you feel super powerful in the best sort of “Hey, I'm back to kick your fucking asses” sort of way. And finally the way Winter closes out with Ellie just going to town on that psycho is gratifying at least, phenomenal at best.

And then you're in Spring, and the game is getting ready to wrap-up. After a touching opening to the chapter things go completely dark with the revelation that Ellie will have to be sacrificed to possibly find the cure. I know at the point where Joel goes on a rampage against all these military personnel is up for some debate, but holy shit it felt good. And all I wanted to do at that point, same as Joel, as to save Ellie. And then the ending happens. Another point of contention for some people, but fuck me if it isn't one of the best endings to a game that I can think of.

Some people have speculated that you have to be a parent to really appreciate Joel's decision. Well, for me, I'm not a parent, but I wouldn't have had it any other way. The way Joel puts an end to all of this, bailing out of this thing he signed up for so many hours ago in real life, months in game, it's powerful. And when Ellie wakes up in the backseat asking what happened, and Joel lies through his teeth to try and protect her from the truth, it just hits you right in the gut. The second part of the one-two punch comes when Ellie asks Joel just before the credits if he lied. Joel says “No.”, and Ellie simply responds with “Alright.”. In that instance you truly understand the relationship of these two characters.

The Last of Us very well might be a monumental game with moments like that. It'll be interesting to see how people feel about it going forward. Even more interesting to get our hands on the DLC. And who knows, maybe we'll see a sequel? Though I have to say, I'd be perfectly fine if it just ended here. Perfectly.

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4. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

There was a very real possibility that the team over at Nintendo working on A Link Between Worlds could have fucked the whole thing up. It's a sequel to not only one of the most beloved Zelda games, but A Link to The Past is often regarded as one of the best games of all time too. That's a lot to have on your plate. Also, considering Nintendo's recent track record with Zelda games, they were gonna have to win me back with this one. I wouldn't say that I started disliking Zelda as a whole, but starting with Twilight Princess it's been a pretty big disappointment. I sort of begrudgingly finished Twilight Princess, it wasn't the worst game in the series, but it definitely didn't have the same Zelda magic to me. The DS games were unplayable to me with their stylus only control, and similarly so was Skyward Sword with its motion controls. I just grew really disenchanted with the franchise.

That said, when they revealed ALBW, I was fucking ecstatic It looked like the kind of Zelda game I wanted to play again. Not just because it was so directly linked to my favorite Zelda game, but because a top-down Zelda was something I never thought would happen again, at least not like this. So, I had admittedly high hopes for this game. Did it deliver? Oh yes, in spades.

ALBW truly does play on your nostalgia. If you've played LttP, chances are you liked it, a lot. Chances are you remember a lot about that game. The world, the music, the “feel” of the game. It's amazing, but ALBW encapsulates all of that so well that it's almost like you're back in the early 90s playing a direct sequel to LttP in that era. I'm willing to bet that if you have fond memories of LttP that your enjoyment of ALBW is almost ensured. And if you don't, or you never played it? Well, this is still a really damn good game.

There's something comforting about walking around that version of Hyrule again, having a pretty good idea where everything is. If I go to the northwest corner of Kakariko Village then I'm going to find that hole I can jump in to go down to where those snakes are, and where I used to farm rupees for potions. If I survive the hike up Death Mountain I'll reach The Tower of Hera where that stupid worm boss is. All the while remixed versions of music from that game are playing, and it sounds glorious. The first time you hear the Hyrule overworld theme when you step out of Hyrule Castle. Or better yet when you first go out to the overworld in Lorule, and the strange beginnings of a song are playing, and suddenly it goes full tilt into the Dark World overworld theme. It's moments like this that gave me chills, and just made me grin like an idiot.

And yet, so much has changed at the same time. There's new dungeons that weren't there before, and even the dungeons that were there have changed on the inside. Obviously all the heart pieces are in different locations, and there's new characters to meet. You go into the Thieves Hideout and expect the person you're escorting to be the boss, but they get left behind at the last second, and you end up fighting that same boss anyways. The way the game plays on your nostalgia and then fucks with it is the kind of thing that separates a good sequel from an amazing sequel.

Stranger yet is the way you acquire tools. No longer do you get the tool for each dungeon within said dungeon, but from early on in the game you can rent every item from the strange merchant Ravio. And you better be careful, because if you're renting those tools and you die, you're going to get a visit from the Repobird. The way that this opens up a large majority of the game to be tackled in any order is refreshing, and allows players to mix it up a little bit. I don't think it's the be all and end all solution to revitalize Zelda, but for this game at least, it was an interesting change that I enjoyed.

Some people have some negative opinions regarding a few issues in the game. First and foremost is the way the game looks. Some people, including the press have gone on to say the game looks like shit. Honestly? That's simply not true. While the game might not have the timeless look of something like Wind Waker, or even the vibrantly colored look of the original Link to the Past, it's a game that looks good in motion. And the little trick that the team did to make everything look top-down is a stroke of pure genius.

Another common complaint is that the game is too easy. While I'll agree, the game is certainly easy, I don't think that's such a bad thing. On the normal difficulty the game can be played and enjoyed by everyone. It's not only newbie friendly, but it also makes the game infinitely more replayable in my opinion. At least, I think games that are super challenging will deter most people from wanting to replay them over and over again. With ALBW I can easily see people picking the game up once a year and just barreling through it again. It's enjoyable. Furthermore, Zelda has never really been about the combat. It's true that LttP was tough (I always needed a stock of potions, or fairies on me), these games are more about the exploration and the puzzles. And again, I feel like the fact that none of the puzzles are too demanding is a boon for the game.

Still not good enough for you? Well, I hear Hero Mode is pretty tough. Even heard some people tossing around that it's kind of Dark Souls-ish. So maybe check that out if you're so inclined? It's totally something I plan on doing sometime, as I am definitely going to play the game again, and soon.

A Link Between Worlds did exactly what I wanted it to do. It's a great sequel to A Link to the Past. Over the course of a week, I pretty much 100%'d the game with the exception of a bottle which I really should have known the location of, and a final piece of heart from that stupid Octopus Baseball game. I have every other piece of heart, all the Maiamais, fully upgraded Master Sword, and even the upgraded net and lantern. I enjoyed every second of it... almost... stupid baseball game. And just when I thought it couldn't get any better I got to the last boss, which blew my fucking mind! It was everything I had hoped for, and more besides. ALBW is not only a return to form for the Zelda franchise, but also one of my favorite games of the year.

Oh, and those twists at the end of the game, and the actual ending itself? So good. I'm not gonna lie, I cried when I saw Hilda and Ravio being so excited to get a Triforce again.

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3. Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance

So, you guys all know about my big surprise games every year, right? It started with Nier in 2010, and has been a running theme every year afterward. Basically there will be a game, and I will either have absolutely no interest in it until the last minute, or more often than not it's a game that I play a bit of, either a demo, or a bit of a rental copy and decide I fucking hate it. Well, this year is no different. I have an interesting relationship with Platinum games. I think some of their games are good, and I think some of them are mediocre to outright awful. Just something about that company's style that doesn't usually appeal to me. I don't know if it's the over-the-top “Japaneseness” of it, or their tendency to make super hardcore games. So when I heard Platinum had picked up development on the much delayed Metal Gear Rising I just had to groan. I'm a huge Metal Gear fan, and the prospect of a Platinum helmed Metal Gear game didn't particularly light my fire.

Flash forward to earlier this year when the demo for Rising came out. I downloaded it, actually feeling pretty curious about how it turned out, but largely going in predisposed to hate it. And after playing through the short demo I felt that I was right. I thought it was awful. I can never explain these initial impressions that ultimately end up changing, but yeah, I wasn't a fan at all. I thought the supporting characters were terrible, I could smell that Platinum wackiness a mile away and I felt like it was just going to be a shitshow. Furthermore the combat completely eluded me. Especially after playing DmC which completely scratched that itch for a good character action game. The whole parry system was frustrating, and I felt weak, dying several times even before the boss battle.

I didn't want anything to do with this Metal Gear game, and was left feeling pretty angry about the whole thing. And then.. the game came out, and people were singing its praises all over. I slowly felt myself being sucked back into it despite myself. I think it was the Quick Look that finally did it for me. And as is often the case with highly lauded games that I previously dismissed, I gave it another shot. And boy, am I glad that I did.

I think it helps to start that game from the beginning, and be gradually eased into the insanity. And by that I mean, have a brief introduction that makes a little more sense than being tossed into the demo, and then immediately see the shit hit the fan as Raiden fucking destroys this Metal Gear Ray all by himself. That scene right there was what hooked me. I was still fumbling with the combat a bit, but the the absurd shit I was seeing on screen was more than making up for it. This over-the-top ninja action as one man single handedly demolished a giant robot. Combined with fucking “Rules of Nature” blasting over my speakers. Yeah, better get this out of the way now. This soundtrack owns, there's a lot of soundtracks on this list that are dainty, and pretty, and make me feel warm and fuzzy. Rising's soundtrack brings my blood to a boil, every time you're fighting a boss and near the end of the fight those sick vocals kick in, it's hard not to jump out of your seat and start furiously pumping your fist in the air and singing along.

Anyways, now that was one hell of an introduction. And the game doesn't even begin to stop there. Throughout the rest of the 8 or so hours I spent with Rising everything just kept getting cranked up. Before long I had overcome my troubles with the parry system. I wouldn't say I want all games to be like this, because for example I still really loved DmC's more accessible combat, and it's really tough not having an evasive move, but there's definitely something to be said about Rising's razor edge combat. And once you get a grip on it, the stuff Raiden, and by extension, you, pull off is drool inducing to action buffs.

In this way, this is a situation where Platinum's absurdity helped so much. When you stop and think about it, Metal Gear is crazy. Kojima is a crazy dude. These games have always been ridiculous So when you're making a spin-off cyborg ninja action game, why the hell not crank it to eleven, and then just break the knob off? Throughout the game you get this ridiculous story that is always one-upping itself. You get scenes where Raiden rolls into town with a giant sombrero and a poncho on, with a cyborg wolf in the back seat of his car.

Aside from scenes like that, the game keeps amping up each boss battle. Which make no mistake, the boss battles are the reason to play this game. I already mentioned the music that plays that gets exceedingly more hype as each fight goes on, but each one of the game's bosses are more absurd than the last. It's heart pumping, adrenaline filled action combined with moments where you have to do a double take because you can't believe these things are actually happening.

And of course all of this accumulates in the game's final boss fight where you fight a fucking senator of the United States who is infused with fucking “nanomachines, son”. This bulked out paper pusher proceeds to beat the shit out of Raiden all the while ranting about the war economy, and “the way of things in the real world”. And the whole thing explodes into the game's toughest boss fight where you're fighting in the wreckage of a giant Metal Gear, where the whole ground is on fire, the boss is stripped down to the waist looked like a steroided muscle beast and “It Has to Be This Way” is pumping out of your speakers. It's one of the single greatest moments I've had all year.

And then the credits roll with the game's first somber track “The War Still Rages Within” playing, and my jaw just on the ground. It should go without saying, but Rising is a blast. It's pure stupid fun, and it's easily my favorite Platinum game, and one of my favorite Metal Gear games now. I can only hope that we'll see a follow up to this, as I feel Rising is one of the finest, if not the finest character action games ever made.

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2. Hate Plus

I've already done a pretty good job of chronicling my love for Hate Plus, but, here we are again. For those that don't know, I discovered Hate Plus's creator Christine Love's work at the very end/very beginning of last/this year. I played Hate Plus' predecessor Analogue: A Hate Story and fell head over heels for the game's central character *Hyun-ae, as well as becoming a total Love devote. Analogue's story captured me in a way very few games are capable of, and it spurred me to write a jumble of rambling about my affinity for the game, and for some reason a complete recollection of the entire thing. Since then I checked out Love's other works, Digital: A Love Story, Don't Take It Personally Babe, It Just Ain't Your Story, as well as some of her Twine offerings. But really, as much as I enjoyed that stuff, I kept my eye on the prize. The sequel to Analogue, Hate Plus.

When Hate Plus came out in August along with half a dozen other games all the synapses in my brain fired off at once. I remembered the cold January month where I fell in love with this bleak future, and the two AI companions *Hyun-ae, and *Mute. It didn't help/hurt that Hate Plus' titular song “It's Not Ero!” did a total number on me. Not only does it start out as a catchy up beat song that pokes fun at the typical adult oriented visual novels, or “Eroge”, that is found in Japan. I also quickly realized that the song was being sung from the perspective of *Hyun-ae. The song goes on to retell the events of Analogue, and finished by singer Senah Kim pleading to be forgiven for the tragedy that *Hyun-ae wrought to the colony ship Mugunghwa. The song just tears me apart, it's beautiful and horrifying at the same time. And it's just another example of Love's mad genius at work.

But that has more to do with Analogue honestly. Hate Plus itself is a different matter in some aspects. It's placement on this list of amazing games should be telling, as should the fact that for the week that I immersed myself in it, it was the only time throughout the whole year where I questioned my number one game. Rationality won out in the end, and here's Hate Plus at number two. Why? Well obviously I like it a lot. But as for why it isn't number one has a lot to do with my experience with the number one game, and also a bit to do with the fact that in the end I don't like Hate Plus quite as much as Analogue.

I hate to say anything negative about the game, but it's the truth. Why that's the case could be due to a number of factors. For starters it came after. There's just something really potent about your first brush with something. Another thing is that while Hate Plus certainly offers up another tragic story that had me thinking about it non-stop for an entire week, it ultimately wasn't as revelatory as the one in Analogue. At least to me anyway. And finally, even though I'm sure Love would be dismayed to hear this, I just don't like *Mute as much as *Hyun-ae. And Hate Plus is definitely *Mute's story.

With all that said, that's about all the negativity I can manage to squeeze out of Hate Plus. Everything else is life changing. Maybe that's a bit hyperbolic, but some of the things Hate Plus does is nothing to be trifled with. As we've established, Hate Plus is a visual novel, all you do is read. In fact it has less interactivity than Analogue even did. Forgoing the command prompt system in favor of slicker menu commands.

We've established that this is a grim story, Hate Plus goes on to tell you about *Old Mute, *Mute's predecessor AI who was around for hundreds of years before *Mute was rebooted. In this time, *Old Mute was much more powerful of an influence on the Mugunghwa. She was a member of the council that ran the ship. She had a say in all the going-ons in the society. This all came to ahead when a coupe goes wrong and *Old Mute ends up getting erased, failing to help her friend and lover avenger her husband's death, or to prevent the ship from descending into the dark era of sexist oppression, and backwards thinking that tormented, Hyun-ae, and ultimately caused the annihilation of the ships population. All of this makes for a really gripping story that unfolds over the course of a few hours of playtime. And it was more than adequate to make my Game of The Year list.

In addition to the core plot, you have a bigger emphasis on side stories this time around. Side characters on the Mugunghwa during *Old Mute's time that help paint the world for you. These stories included the obstacles an upper class lady goes through with her young peasant girlfriend, and the ultimate heart breaking separation of the two. You hear about a young boy who falls in love with a cross dressing boy, and the shenanigans they get up to. There's a grim tale of one of the Mugunghwa's last female scientist who was about to make a big breakthrough with the re-population problem that was plaguing the ship, right before everything changes, that she loses not only her position as a respected individual, but also her valuable research. All of these stories provide not only a deeper look at what was going on in this future-past, but provide a distraction from the real tragedy that is taking place.

All of these things are what make the core of the game worth playing. Christine Love is a damn good storyteller, and this is definitely a story you need to hear. But given all that, it's a really solid visual novel, that ultimately had a story that appealed less to me than the previous game. Again, it's good, but maybe not worthy of holding the number 2 position on this list. That is until Hate Plus works its magic, and turns a simple visual novel into a wild ride.

I'll admit, maybe I'm missing the point by putting so much stock into this stuff, but I'd be lying if I said it didn't make a huge impact on me. See, not only is Love an extremely talented writer, and UI designer, but she's also mischievous Hate Plus has quirks that make you go “Huh!?”.

For starters we have the whole mechanic that requires you to play the game over the course of three real world days. Or more specifically 12 hours. Yes, each of the game's three “chunks” is separated by the game asking you to wait 12 hours before continuing the story. Granted there is a way to cheat this, but if you're playing by the rules you won't be able to load your save and continue the game until 12 real world hours have passed. This isn't just an interesting quirk, but something that helps immerse the player in the story. You, the player, are playing the role of a space investigator who is returning to Earth with your discovery of what transpired on the Mugunghwa. Canonically, it takes you three days to return to Earth from your current position in space. In addition to that, the ship is low on power, and you can only afford to extract a limited number of the data logs per day before having to recharge.

It's just a really brilliant mechanic that helps get you involved with the investigator's plight, and also gives the player some time to think about what they've read. I'll admit, it was hard to play by the rules, and not just blaze through the story, but ultimately I think my experience was enhanced by following protocol.

Then there's the achievement system, which, man... Okay, so the game has 12 Steam achievements. Most of them are pretty normal, you just have to play the game on the different routes to unlock them. But there are two achievements in particular that blew me away.

The first one is related to *Mute. When you first start the game and look at the achievements, you will see one called “Level Four Revive


” more on the name later. Anyways, it states: “Finish the game with the security AI in traditional dress, *Mute!” So, pretty standard “finish the game on *Mute's route” achievement, right? Nope!

So when you're playing *Mute's route in the game, and get to day three, you find out something terrible has happened. *Mute has committed computer program suicide and has erased herself. Learning the true nature of *Old Mute, the events that transpired on the Mugunghwa in the past. The fact that her best friend, and master betrayed her by orchestrating her predecessor’s deletion. And the fact that *Mute ultimately comes to the conclusion that she has fucked every single thing up that she has ever been a part of, past or present. It's too much for her to bear and she kills herself.

This leaves the player in an uncomfortable situation where they attempt to restore *Mute, but only succeed in booting up a new version of *Mute, appropriately referred to as *New Mute who has no recollection of you, or the personality of *Mute. Instead you are forced to finish the game with this new *Mute where the two of you remain mutual partners who are trying to finish solving the mystery. This is especially heartbreaking if you were in any sort of relationship with *Mute, as your wife has just killed herself and has been replaced by a doppelganger who has no affinity for you.

Back to the subject of the achievement. When you finish *Mute's route you get a new, previously hidden achievement: “Have you tried doing a factory reset?”, which reads: “Finish the game with security AI in default uniform, *New Mute!”. So how do you get Level Four Revive Materia? The secret is, you don't! Yes, in a masterful act of trolling, Christine Love has made an achievement that is impossible to get, and thus you will never get more than 11 of the games 12 achievements.

Shortly after the game was released, the Steam forum for the game was a hot bed of discussion. Players all bashing their heads against the wall trying to figure out the secret to reviving *Mute. There were pages, upon pages of people's experimentation, and theories. But of course nothing worked, because it's impossible to get. Even if you crack the game open and try digging through it, you'll find nothing, because it doesn't exist. The achievement is a pure red herring, and for better or worse it has driven the community mad. This is exactly the type of thing that makes Hate Plus my second favorite game of the year, and Christine Love one of my favorite developers.

Speaking of these achievements, the names of them are all jokes. Many of them references to other games like Metal Gear Solid, and The Legend of Zelda. There's even a nod to fan favorite anime Cowboy Bebop. It's jokes like this that help establish the charm of Love's games, and let's me know that she's pretty radical. In addition to the MGS references in the achievements, there's also a throw away question when you start a new game in Hate Plus. The game asks you which year you'd rather live in. All three of the options are years in which Love's past games took place, and this is a very direct, if not entirely vague reference to Metal Gear Solid 3 when the game asks you which Metal Gear Solid you liked more. In that game, if you picked MGS2, you started the game with a Raiden mask on. As far as I know the decision in Hate Plus doesn't effect anything, but it's still humorous

Lastly, we have to talk about the cake. There's another achievement in the game that is absolutely bonkers and it's this one: “Cooking by the Book”. To get the Cooking by the Book achievement you have to really want it, like, really-want-it. During the course of the game, on *Hyun-ae's route, you'll get to the beginning of day three. This is when things get wacky. *Hyun-ae wants a cake. This presents somewhat of a problem, seeing as she is an AI, and a fictional one at that. But that doesn't stop her. In one of the craziest instances of fourth-wall-breaking I can think of, *Hyun-ae asks the player, as in, not the space investigator, but you, the real human being playing the game to get up from your computer, and bake the both of you a cake. No, she's not joking, she wants you to make an honest to God cake.

When she first poses the question, she gives you time to check your kitchen for ingredients to make the cake. If you instantly respond to her with either a Yes, No, or I don't know she will reprimand you for not actually checking. Therefore you have to wait several minutes, or actually go look for the ingredients. Once you've answered in earnest she goes on to tell you what you'll need to make the cake, or offers to let you use your own recipe. At this point she asks the player if they're really serious about doing it. You can either agree to make a fictional computer program happy by making a cake, or you can be an asshole and crush her dreams by telling her no.

Now, of course, you could lie your way through this whole thing. Wait the appropriate amount of time to respond, and just tell her you're going to make the cake. But that's fucked up, so- I made the cake. Yes, I stopped what I was doing, which was trying to finish Hate Plus, and I waited several hours until I could go to the store and buy cake mix for a German Chocolate Cake. When I got home, I baked that shit. And I took pictures of all of it too! What? Doing a favor for a fictional anime girl isn't enough for you? Well, how about this. You can't get the previously mentioned achievement without submitting photo evidence to Christine Love that you did in fact do this thing.

It's the most genius thing I've ever seen. At that point, how could you not want to do it, and also how could you not love this game? I'm not sure how well Hate Plus has sold, I know it has it's fans, and I'm sure it's not astronomical, but from what I've heard, a decent amount of those fans have actually done the cake thing, and have gotten the achievement That's dedication!

So yeah, it's things like this that make Hate Plus a special game to me. It might not have touched me as deeply as The Pale Bride's story did, but it is a solid game, that just so happens to have some of the biggest “What the fuck?” quirks around it that makes it so memorable. All of that combined with a appropriately futuristic soundtrack by Issac Schankler helps make Hate Plus an unforgettable event. Recently Love tweeted that she was happy to never have to write in this universe again. Which is understandable for a number of reasons, but it's still a sad thing to hear. Hate Plus does do a good job of wrapping everything up for these two games, but I can't deny that I will miss *Hyun-ae, the virtual girl who stole my heart.

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1. Fire Emblem: Awakening

Oh god. Where do I even begin with Fire Emblem: Awakening? It didn't take long in this year to find my Game of The Year, that's for sure. Ever since February 4th I knew what was going to be at the top of the list. It's kind of a strange feeling, that, you know? Knowing deep down within the first hour of playing something that nothing is going to come close to knocking down this game as king of the year. Yeah, it was love at first sight. And the bond I formed with this game only got more radical in the following months.

First let me say that Awakening was my most anticipated game for a long time. So it wasn't entirely surprising that it was going to win my heart. I'm a huge Fire Emblem fan, ever since Marth and Roy first appeared in Melee, and served as my introductory to this amazing series that many westerners knew nothing about. I bought Fire Emblem 7 for GBA when it came out here and knew that like one of my all time favorite games, Final Fantasy Tactics, that this was a game series for me. Of course, my obsession with Fire Emblem didn't truly begin until I played Radiant Dawn, which is a game that quickly secured a spot on my Top 25 Games of All Time list. After Radiant Dawn though? It was total adoration. I went back and played every Fire Emblem game released in the States, and Ike quickly became one of my favorite characters. As did Nephenee who I have the biggest crush on. But that's getting way too off-track.

Anyways, when Fire Emblem: Awakening was announced I knew two things. 1) I needed a Nintendo 3D, 2) Nintendo of America had to bring this game west. Following that was a bumpy time where I wasn't sure if number 2 was going to happen. As E3 2012 rolled around, and there was no word of Awakening coming west even at Nintendo's Press Conference I flew into a panicked rage. It wasn't until Kotaku's Jason Scheier coaxed Reggie into spilling the beans shortly after the conference that I was at ease. I knew that eventually Awakening would be coming stateside. And less then a year later, it did!

At 9:00 PM PST Saturday February 3rd I downloaded Awakening off the eShop, and then I proceeded to do nothing but play the game for the next 24 hours. I was enamored with it, it got it's hooks deep into me early on, and I just couldn't put it down. I sat there forgoing anything else in my life, earbuds plugged into the 3DS as I strategically fought the hordes of Plegian troops while nodding along to the game's stellar soundtrack. I couldn't help but laugh, and smile at every interaction between the game's legendary cast of characters. A crew that I can nary think of a single complaint about.

I had done research beforehand, pouring over every little detail involved in hardcore eugenics. Thinking about which character I wanted to marry another character to get the perfect offspring. And of course being a Fire Emblem veteran I was playing the game on the Classic mode, the one where characters die permanently if they fall in battle. Granted I was only playing on Normal my first time, it was still a challenging affair. One that had me resetting many times whenever I would lose a single unit. Not only did I require perfection, but I just couldn't bear to lose a single one of these characters.

I think it took me about four days to get through the game the first time, and I was beside myself when it ended. It took a decent number of hours, about 40, but that wasn't enough. I needed more. I quickly started a new game this time on Hard/Classic, and pushed myself even further. For the entire month of February it was all Awakening. I just couldn't get enough of it. And with all that said, that doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of how deep this thing went.

About a week after the initial foray into Awakening, my friend Zara suddenly became interested in playing Awakening. She had no prior experience with the series, and quite honestly it was a huge surprise that she even cared. But thanks to her friend, and myself we had piqued her interest enough. She needed to play the game of the year. The whole thing was a big gamble. As I said, she hadn't touched the series before then, and while she has a history of games, she's not necessarily what you'd call a core gamer. That combined with the fact that she didn't own the game, let alone a 3DS was a real barrier to entry. I couldn't resist though, I wanted to share my feelings of glee with her. As I'm sure you're all familiar with, it's one thing to like something. It's another thing to share your interest with people you care about.

So, I dug into my pockets and shelled out for a 3DS and a copy of the game for her. I didn't know what to expect, I don't think anyone did, but what followed was nothing short of ultimate satisfaction. She took to the game right away, like me it was all she could do or think about. She fell in love with the characters, and despite not having a ton of experience with these kinds of games she pushed through to the end. And then she played it again, and again, and yet again. For the next few months all we could think about was Fire Emblem. We both put over 300 hours into Awakening across multiple playthroughs. Trying different things, hunting for that perfect save file. We bought all of the DLC released for the game, and played all of that too. We talked about the game all the time. Went into a level of depth discussing the characters that it was absurd.

As much as I hate to associate myself with something like a “fandom”. We were certainly a part of the Fire Emblem one. She scoured the internet for pictures, official and fan art alike. We have a collection of hundreds of pictures, not just from Awakening, but the scattered bit of content that was produced for the older games too. She participated daily in Fire Emblem General, a topic that was popular on 4chan's Video Games General board. Every bit of conversation we had eventually lead to Fire Emblem. And still, it didn't stop there!

Once we had rung everything we could possibly hope to get out of Awakening we both started playing the older Fire Emblem games. I know we both made it through 7, and she went on to play through most of 6, while I revisited my favorite games in the series Path of Radiance and Radiant Dawn. Radiant Dawn being like my sixth playthough of the game since it came out in 2007. And even though our fervor eventually died down, and we had a Fire Emblem overload, it still didn't stop!

Zara being somewhat of an artist drew some pictures of Fire Emblem: Awakening characters. She also made cell phone charms, and other trinkets that she is wont to do with things she really likes. As for me, having no artistic talent to speak of, I took to my own form of expression. Yes, I'm a bit embarrassed to admit it but I wrote quite a bit of Awakening fanfiction. It was mostly for Zara, depicting her character (MyUnit/Avatar/Robin – The tactician you play as in Awakening) interacting with the various characters. I wrote at least 50 pages of content that we both really enjoyed.

I'm sure you can tell by now that Awakening wasn't just a game for us, it was something more. Just one of those things in life that comes along and you attach yourself to it. Was there any real doubt that this would be my “Game of The Year”? It defined early 2013 for me and my friend. A truly transcendental experience that wasn't just limited to enjoying a game. And even though we're not as fired up about it nowadays, it still continues. Zara spent quite a bit securing a copy of the official artbook Knights of Iris. And my present to her this Christmas is Good Smile Company's drop dead gorgeous Tharja figure that has sadly been delayed to February.

Phew. And that ladies and gentlemen is a very bad case of obsession with something. I don't even know where to go from there. Talk about the game I guess? Yeah, I'll see if I can dedicate a few more paragraphs to that.

Awakening is in some ways the perfect Fire Emblem game. In other ways there are a couple things that I'm unsure of if I like more than previous games. The big thing that Awakening gets right is that it's accessible. This is arguably one of the biggest reasons the game has seen such huge success. As is evident with my friend, it's a great starting point for the franchise. The inclusion of a Casual mode that not only takes away the unforgiving permanent death mechanic, but allows players to save anytime mid-battle is a true blessing for newcomers. At the same time, the game also offers an immense challenge if you let it.

Starting off a Classic game on anything but Normal difficulty is brutal. You will die – a lot in the beginning before your characters start to shine. Once that happens though, admittedly, the game can become pretty easy again seeing as just how overpowered your army can become. Especially if you're taking advantage of the kids who are all so overwhelmingly powerful compared to the first generation units. Fortunately, if you're willing to invest in the game's multitude of donwloadable content you can still find yourself on the brink of defeat. Some of the later DLC maps are beyond brutal and will take absolutely every resource you have to overcome them. The game doesn't lack for challenge, or content, depending on how much you want to put into it.

The double-edged sword of the game is in the game's choice to allow units to change classes. It's what I like to call “Final Fantasy VI syndrome”. Basically you can make most characters anything. Sure, there are some class restrictions, but the freedom you have, again, especially with the kids allows you to break the game by accumulating the best stats and skills across the game's numerous jobs. I feel that this also plays a big part in making the game more accessible, and it helps so that you can play with the characters you like instead of being pigeon-holed into the ones that are good. This to me is largely where it comes down to “Do I like this more or less than Radiant Dawn?”.

For those unfamiliar Radiant Dawn is more like a traditional Fire Emblem game. Each character has their own predetermined class and thus their usefulness. You could spend hours doing research trying to figure out who the best characters are. Not only are certain job types more useful than others, but the growths of each character can determine which ones are the truly great ones, and which ones are best left on the bench. To me this totally plays to my affinity towards powerful characters. I'm the kind of guy that likes to use the best of the best. Yeah, it's sad that my opinion of a character is so heavily affected by their strengths, but this sort of ties into a life of growing up enjoying shonen manga series like Dragonball where powers collide, and the toughest guy is always the coolest. In this case, a character like Nephenee from the Radiant games. Not only do I really enjoy her character design, and personality, but she is an absolute beast. She can break the game for you if you use her right.

Awakening is missing that. Since so many of the characters can be and do anything, there's not a definitive “winner”. You can come close with some characters. Lucina for example, my favorite character in the game (who, as if she wasn't already totally my type, is voiced by my favorite voice actress Laura Bailey). Lucina is Chrom's child and therefore she gains access to one of the best skills in the game, Aether, and also has a permanent weapon in the Parallel Falchion that makes her instantly powerful the moment you get her. As far as characters go, she can certainly be one of the more useful ones. And the fact that her character plays such a big role in the game, by being the mysterious Masked Marth, and the leader of the kids from the doomed time line, she is an easy favorite. But unlike any of the characters in Radiant Dawn she isn't assigned a rating of greatness. She has just about as much of a chance to shine as any other character. And for me, that just takes away some of the fun.

In this rare instance that I'm being negative about Awakening, I will say my other big gripe compared to a game like Radiant Dawn is that the story is a little weak. It has it's moments, but ultimately it doesn't feel as important as stories in some other RPGs. I dunno, maybe I'm just spoiled in what Radiant Dawn was able to accomplish, being a direct sequel to an earlier game that allowed them to tell a massive, epic story involving the same characters over the course of a matter of years. And the nature of Radiant Dawn's story in which by the end of the game all living creatures have been petrified expect for your chosen few. Awakening just can't stack up to that. However...

...where Awakening really, and truly shines, above all else is its characters. The cast in Awakening is easily one of the best in gaming history and there are a lot of characters! Yet, somehow, thanks to the brilliant writing of the original team, and the godlike localization by 8-4, Awakening's characters make an impression, one that is sure to stand the test of time. While the story might be lacking in certain areas, the walls, upon walls of text that make up the support conversations between all the characters in the game makes you care more about these people than even the most epic of stories.

And the fact that a big component of the game is playing match maker and partnering up these characters, whether they be friends, or spouses only helps to solidify the importance of having such a charming crew. I said I wrote fanfictions for this game, it really wasn't hard. The game gives you enough information about these characters and their personalities that any author worth their salt can take it and run away with it. It's the kind of thing that justifies spending $100 on a statue of a bodacious sorceress. And in this way, Awakening is one hell of a game.

In closing, I highly recommend anyone who has a 3DS to check this game out. Or if you don't have a 3DS and are thinking of getting one (which, really, come on. It's the best system out there right now, you should own one if you're a gamer.) than this game is one of the first you should pick up. It's a tactical strategy RPG at its best, and if I haven't sold you on just how inviting these characters are then I don't know what to tell you. And just so I don't forget, the game also has an amazing soundtrack that is a joint effort by Rei Kondoh, and Hiroki Morishita. The fact that this game has it all, beautiful 3D graphics, a stunning soundtrack, charming writing that is enhanced by the ever so talented people over at 8-4, complete with awesome vocal talent from Cup of Tea. Fire Emblem Awakening is my game of the year, and will probably fair excellently on my eventual Games of The Generation list for this budding generation. My only regret is that I spent so much time telling you how much of a loser I am for loving a video game so completely.