Wait, 2014's over already? Thank goodness, what a wild year it's been for gaming. New releases and ports, announcements and petty arguments, rants and raves... there's really been too much going on this year to keep track of it all.
But while the backlog piles up, time marches on, and here we are at the latter half of December. As per tradition, now I'll ramble off my favorite ten games of this year, while silently grieving for all those AAA and portable releases I never got around to. Without further ado...
10. Bravely Default
Bravely Default, like Fire Emblem: Awakening last year, is a game I waited a long time for. When the game was first announced for Japan, I'd gather up every little chestnut like a gaming squirrel storing up for the winter, marvelling at what was essentially Final Fantasy V-2 with a Final Fantasy IX-like artstyle. Seeing as those were my two favorite entries to the mega-series, my excitement was boundless when the game finally made it West.
Of course, Bravely Default suffers from some glaring flaws, most noteworthy of which being 'that part' during the second half of the game where you wonder just what the developers were thinking. Still, the awesome Job system and nice little tweaks to the standard turn-based battle system made it a lot of fun to play through, even through that particularly rough patch.
9. Shantae: Risky's Revenge Director's Cut
I missed Shantae: Risky's Revenge when it first released on DSiWare. There's a few reasons for that: I didn't really like the DSiWare service, the price of the game seemed a bit steep, and I never played the original (rare and pricey) Shantae.
But when the title re-released on Steam, I decided to take the plunge anyway, and I'm glad I did. Risky's Revenge is a wonderful Metroidvania title with an often underutilized Middle East like setting, and it constantly reminded me of the brilliant Monster World VI. It's a short title, but it's just brimming with personality.
8. Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN-
Years. It's been years since a new fighting game entry to the Guilty Gear series has come out. After Guilty Gear 2, a game I can't even begin to describe, the wait became unbearable. I assumed the Guilty Gear series was dead, never to be brought back as the company moved on to the somewhat similar BlazBlue games.
How happy I was to be wrong. Guilty Gear Xrd might have only been *just* released, but I already know it's everything I wanted from the series, and more. The wonderful, rocking music... the frantic and somewhat technical gameplay (can't button mash, but not as tough as King of Fighters)... the absolutely stunning graphics... it's not for everyone, but it's exactly what I wanted, flaws in plot and netcode aside.
7. Shovel Knight
I missed all the hype when Shovel Knight first came out. When the Kickstarter for the indie title debuted, I was skeptical; after all, there's been so many Kickstarter projects with indie games trying to recreate nostalgia that anyone's bound to feel fatigue.
But, eventually I did buy the title and (very recently) give it a whirl... and Shovel Knight really is a special title. Retro imitation done right, it's challenging but given the soft death penalties (losing money that you can get back if you're skillful) really helped to lessen the sting of the many defeats I suffered. Oh, and the game itself is a blast to play, look at, and listen to.
6. The Wolf Among Us
Sure, The Wolf Among Us may have started in 2013, but the majority of the episodes didn't make it until this year, so it managed to squeak onto my list. So, I have a confession to make: I'm a little sick of Telltale titles. The Walking Dead Season 2, while good, didn't really grip me, and Tales from the Borderlands and The Game of Thrones interest me so little I keep forgetting that the episodes started coming out.
However, I still really enjoyed The Wolf Among Us. The dark fairytale lore setting was awesome, and the characters were nicely written and fleshed out. It isn't perfect, but story-wise The Wolf Among Us was one of the better plots I worked through this year.
5. Mario Kart 8
I've always been one of those people that scoffed at the Mario Kart games. Like any good gaming kid, I adored Mario Kart 64, but every entry to the series I tried after that was... well, boring. Who can beat nostalgia and 100's of hours, after all?
Then I played a demo of Mario Kart 8 in a Target one day, and I was absolutely blown away. The graphics were amazing, and the driving just felt wonderful. I did not regret picking it up later, either; Mario Kart 8 is simply a wonderfully fun title for the Wii U, if you're playing by yourself or with friends.
4. Super Time Force
Goodness, is Super Time Force just a blast or what? Super Time Force takes the 'rewinding time' mechanic that's seen in just a few too many games and really spices it up, with an emphasis on dying and using sheer bullet power to mow down foes before time is up.
With a metric load of collectibles and an absurd storyline, you are bound to be entertained for the entire duration of the relatively short plotline. Few games can plant a smile on my face for the majority of the game, but Super Time Force managed to do that, so it gets a high rating in my book.
3. Demon Gaze
A confession: I never expected Demon Gaze to be a good game. I had barely heard about the dungeon crawler before I had to review it, and what little I did know did not seem promising. There seemed to be a main character with that weird 'Black Rock Shooter' eye affliction, a lot of fanservice, and otherwise boring graphics.
However, the gameplay really sold me over on Demon Gaze. Dungeon crawlers tend to be extremely difficult, but this one manages offer some challenge without beating players down at every interval. The story managed to work well enough, and overall Demon Gaze is just a solid game.
...Oh, and with some of the skills available, it can be fun to simply break the game's balance and steamroll everything. That's always a lot of fun.
2. Disgaea 4: A Promise Revisited
I've only recently gotten back on the Disgaea bandwagon. I loved the original for the PS2, but I quickly became bored with Disgaea 2 and promptly ignored the series for multiple years. It was only until the original game's direct sequel, Disgaea D2, came out that I took interest in the SRPG series again, and quite honestly the game hooked me in a way I didn't really expect.
So when it was announced that the Vita upgraded version/port of Disgaea 4 was going to make it West, I made sure to snatch it up. Honestly, I didn't expect to have the greatest time, as part of what hooked me with Disgaea D2 were some of my favorite characters making a return, but I was very pleasantly surprised by what Disgaea 4 had to offer. The gameplay took some bold departures from the series standard, and offered a bunch of fun ways to decimate the enemy. On top of that, new additions for A Promise Revisited, like the Cheat Shop, helped to make the game that much more streamlined and accessible, and the insane amount of stuff to do after the credits roll feels like even more than the average Disgaea game.
A Promise Revisited is probably the most complete and enjoyable game I played this year, but sometimes the number one slot has to go to something a little more... different.
1. DanganRonpa 2: Goodbye Despair
DanganRonpa 2 is probably not the absolute best game on this list. Many of the other games here offer better gameplay elements, and arguably a few on here provide a more cohesive storyline. DanganRonpa 2 requires you to play DanganRonpa 1 to really get everything out of it, and with them both being fairly dense and convoluted visual novels, the games certainly aren't for everyone.
But, what made DanganRonpa 2 the best for me is that it stuck with me. The plot engrossed me from the near beginning, and the characters and their more multifaceted personalities grabbed me in a way that no gaming characters have before. Even now, a few months after I've played it, I still ponder over the various nuances of the plot, and marvel over how well written some of the characters were. Goodbye Despair may not be the best game mechanically or storyline-wise, but it is a wonderful experience that manages to be far more.