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Found 12 results

  1. Jordan Haygood

    Review: Xenoblade Chronicles

    Developer: Monolith Soft Publisher: Nintendo Platform: Wii Release Date: April 6, 2012 ESRB: T for Teen Xenoblade Chronicles is an interesting beast of a JRPG. The first time I ever heard about the game, it was just one of three pieces to the localization campaign known as Operation Rainfall. With the game supposedly never to be released on shores that would allow me the opportunity of playing it, I wasn't all that sure what it was. That is, until I heard nothing but praise from every other country who had the game. I was intrigued by that point, and wanted nothing more than for Nintendo of America to at least give us Xenoblade Chronicles, which seemed to be the favorite of the three JRPGs. It took a while, but at last, after dealing with their Xeno-phobia (see what I did there?) for so long, NoA finally decided to let this game slip through. Sure, the game was in limited supply and could only be purchased at GameStop, but I got my mitts on it nonetheless, and I can vouch for the awesomeness this game is said to have – things like a very deep and enthralling storyline, an expansive and extraordinarily beautiful world, the wonderfully stellar soundtrack, a fun and innovative battle system, and the nearly endless depth of side-content. This RPG is certainly one for the ages and is what could very well be one of the most incredible games of the entire generation. I'm a sucker for good storytelling. And what Xenoblade does in that regard, it does exceptionally well. Many RPGs I play tend to have rather generic stories that rely heavily on common RPG tropes, and the ones that try to be different often try too hard that you can't really get into their stories (basically my feelings about Final Fantasy XIII-2). Xenoblade, on the other hand, has one of the most captivating and creative stories I think I've ever seen in an RPG. Seriously, I found myself irresistibly attached to the game for hours-on-end just to find out what happens next. Right on the outset, Xenoblade Chronicles captures your attention by introducing its worlds – two colossal titans that have become dormant during an epic battle and have since become the hosts of all known life. On the Bionis – the organic titan, organic life forms such as the human-like Homs, the adorable little Nopon, and the wing-headed humanoids (hominoids?) called the High Entia live out their peaceful lives. That is, peaceful until the mechanical Mechon from Mechonis – the mechanical titan – attack. You play as Dunban at first, who is a Hom soldier with the only weapon that seems to have any effect on Mechon armor – the Monado. During a battle between Homs and Mechon, Dunban helps to drive them away, getting injured in the process. A year later, their mechanical enemies return to disrupt the peace once again, and a young researcher from Colony 9 named Shulk must learn to wield the Monado and, with the help of a mixed group of highly interesting characters, journey across the titans to end the threat once and for all. And what a journey it is. The environments in Xenoblade are truly massive and welcoming to all you would-be explorers out there. On your way from story point A to story point B, it's hard not to get sidetracked by the many new places you discover along the way (many of which reward you with experience, which adds a lot to what it means to gain "experience"). However, the game does a good job limiting the amount of exploration the player is allowed to do upon entering a new area by placing really high-level monsters in certain places to turn you away until later in the game (unless you think your two-man, level 8 party can take on a level 70 giant). This helps the game feel really well-paced as it keeps the player from getting sidetracked for too long before deciding to return to the story. It gets difficult at times not to get a little sidetracked, though, since this game provides hundreds of sidequests and tons of collectible goodies to steal your attention away. The vastness of Xenoblade Chronicles is complimented beautifully by some of the most stunning visuals that have ever graced the Nintendo Wii. More often than not, I would find myself stopping to enjoy the view, from the towering cliffs around the Bionis during the day to the glowing red eyes of the Mechonis itself in the night sky – all with great clarity and magnificent rendering. And watching the appearance of the world around you change with the time and weather patterns is certainly a sight to behold. The only flaws I noticed within the game“s visual grandeur were slightly muddy textures and somewhat average-looking character models. However, I also understand how hard it must be dealing with the Wii's graphical limitations, and Xenoblade being as gorgeous as it manages to be makes these slight downsides nothing more than a mere afterthought. And even with the character models looking like something out of a GameCube game, the fact that they change appearance with every little thing you equip on them (including bikinis, hubba hubba) more than makes up for that. And so do the characters themselves, each with their own unique personality and distinctive styles. Not only is it nice that the characters aren't generic-looking at all, but it's just hard not to enjoy them as characters, as they each have different things to love about them. They also have their own distinctive voices, no two sounding similar at all, and that“s certainly refreshing. It also helps that the voice acting in Xenoblade is all-around fantastic, even if the lip-syncing seems a tad off sometimes. Voice acting isn't the only good audio aspect Xenoblade has going for it, though. In terms of quality and effectiveness, this game's soundtrack is outstanding. The music is great to listen to on its own, but not many RPG soundtracks have immersed me into their respective games quite as well as this one. When something intense is happening in a cutscene, the music makes you feel that intensity; when you're fighting a powerful enemy, the music pressures you into trying your hardest; and when you're exploring the beautiful landscapes of the Bionis, the music gives you a very pleasant feeling. And the best part is, the music never gets old. Nope, never. It's definitely good that the battle music is as effective in making you feel the pressure of battle as it intends to be, because it really helps in supporting just how great of a battle system it is. Breaking into MMO and Western RPG territory a bit, battles take place in real-time, allowing you to move freely around your enemies. Players use an auto-attack when they're close enough to an enemy, but also have up to eight "Arts" that they can use. These are basically specialized moves that encourage high levels of strategy that makes the fighting much more satisfying to get involved in. There's a wide variety of arts for each character, too; some dealing more damage depending on how you use it, others that cause certain status effects, and your expected healing moves. There are also "chain attacks" that allow you to unleash a series of arts from each party member, one at a time, until the chain breaks. The battle system is pretty complex, but the way it's handled makes it easy to jump into, while you slowly learn different techniques throughout your journey via tutorials and your battling skills evolve over time, making your overall fighting experience remain fresh throughout the game and flow much better than being spammed with everything at the beginning and expected to retain all knowledge for the next 70+ hours. There are also some other unique battle mechanics to mess around with, including specific special arts that each character can use once they've auto-attacked enough. Shulk's is the most interesting one as it highlights the Monado, allowing you to use one of several different powers the sword gains throughout the game. In addition, the Monado also allows the player to see the future to the moment an enemy unleashes a devastating attack so that they can act accordingly. There are plenty more unique features in Xenoblade's battle system, and with so much involved, is something I can't fully detail here. Take my word for it, though: it's a blast. There are also plenty of other general content that makes the game more interesting for those willing to take advantage of it, such as skill trees, skill links, a relationship-building system between party members and countless NPCs, heart-to-heart events, and more. The game is so jam-packed with content that it's mind-blowing. We already knew that Xenoblade Chronicles was a great game before it arrived stateside, as other countries had already praised it for its gorgeous visuals spanning ginormous amounts of virtual land mass, beautiful music that never gets old, and a captivating and very creative storyline involving gigantic titans, mechanical foes, and a sword with the power to control the fate of all things. But once I was finally able to spend 70+ hours exploring the incredibly expansive world, become addicted to over 400 unique sidequests, and see for myself just how fun the unique battle system is, all of which overshadow the game's very few flaws into oblivion, I realized that Xenoblade Chronicles is by far one of my favorite experiences I've ever had on the Wii, and definitely the greatest RPG I've played in quite some time. But more importantly, this game truly excels as a video game in general, and is one that I feel no shame in calling a masterpiece. Pros: + Captivating storyline within a creative setting + Likeable cast of characters + Gorgeous visuals alongside massive environments + Outstanding soundtrack and voice acting + Fun, unique battle system + A nearly endless amount of content Cons: - Some graphical hiccups - Slight lip-sync problems Overall Score: 9.5 (out of 10) Fantastic With so many good things about it, Xenoblade Chronicles is by far one of the Wii's greatest games. But it goes beyond that, proving itself to be one of the greatest RPGs ever made.
  2. As we move into the new year after successfully surviving the end of the world (thanks again, Goku!), it“s time to look back on all the fun times we had in our virtual worlds. There were certainly lots of games released in 2012 – some good, some bad, and some so ugly only a blind prostitute is willing to look at it. Which ones are worth playing, though? With such a large slush pile of bad games that may or may not have something to do with Kinect or James Bond, there are plenty of gems for each game-playing platform that I find extraordinary. So let“s take a look at 2012 and pick out what I think are the most outstanding games of the year…from what I“ve played. Keep in mind that I haven“t played all gazillion games that came out in 2012, and this is just a list of the games I enjoyed the most out of what I played. PC Game of the Year: Guild Wars 2 I haven“t exactly played too many PC games recently (now, if you“d like to buy me a better computer, we“ll talk), but out of the ones I have played, as far as PC exclusives go, none have given me as grand an experience as Guild Wars 2. With such a gorgeous world to journey through, unique systems to play around with, and a vast array of nice character classes, this game is fun from the get-go. But throw in tons of imaginative quests, a brilliantly-designed PvP system, and a crapload of other content, and this is one helluva MMO. And ya wanna know the best part? All of this requires a subscription of only $0! PS3 Game of the Year: Journey Official GP Review It“s not a 2012 Game of the Year list without Journey in there somewhere. And there“s a reason thatgamecompany's newest game is finding its way onto so many of these lists. As far as video games go in general, few have immersed me into its world as much as Journey has this year. It's not only one of the most beautiful games I've seen, and not only does it have one of the best co-op modes I've ever played, but the soundtrack... oh, that soundtrack! And you know a video game soundtrack is amazing when it gets nominated for a friggin' Grammy. That doesn't happen often. Xbox 360 Game of the Year: Silent Hill: Downpour Official GP Review It“s pretty much unanimous that the first three Silent Hills were the best, and many considered the series to have been going downhill since. With that said, Silent Hill: Downpour is exactly what the series needed to get it going back uphill again. With the survival horror genre having shifted directions, it took a while for the series to truly find the path it needed to keep modern gamers happy while also giving hardcore fans a true Silent Hill experience. It has its share of flaws, sure, but as a hardcore Silent Hill fan myself, I really enjoyed it. Wii Game of the Year: Xenoblade Chronicles The Nintendo Wii didn't see much in 2012, but that didn't stop it from having one of the console“s greatest games arrive on American shores, thanks to the efforts of Operation: Rainfall. Sure, The Last Story could be considered the Wii“s swan song, but compared to Xenoblade Chronicles, that is merely a duckling chirping. Out of all Wii games released in 2012 (yes, all four of them), none can hold even a drip of candle wax to Xenoblade. I already knew it was a good game from all the praise it got, but once I was finally able to spend 70+ hours exploring the incredibly expansive world, I realized that Xenoblade is by far one of my favorite experiences I've ever had on the Wii, and definitely the best one to come out of 2012. Wii U Game of the Year: New Super Mario Bros. U Unfortunately, I still need to buy a Wii U. That said, my lack of owning the console hasn't stopped me from playing a few of its games (I have my ways). And out of what I“ve played, there“s no denying that New Super Mario Bros. U is my favorite thus far, so it gets my pick for Wii U Game of the Year. While I for one love every entry into the New Super Mario Bros. series, many of you have your share of problems regarding them. And I understand that because none of them has been able to match my love for Super Mario Bros. 3 or Super Mario World. But after playing NSMBU, I think one of them has finally come pretty close. Whether you play solo or with four others, New Super Mario Bros. U is a great game every Wii U owner should own. Now, back to saving up for my own Wii U! DS Game of the Year: Pokemon Black 2 / White 2 Official GP Review With the 3DS having picked up steam a while back, you“d think the DS would have been set aside long ago. Pokemon didn't think so, which is apparent by its love for the last-gen handheld throughout the year. One (or two, rather) such game is Pokemon Black 2/White 2. Of course, with what little the DS got in 2012, there really isn't much competition aside from Pokemon Conquest, but whatever. If you“ve played the first Black/White, you“ll pretty much know what to expect from this one. But that“s not to say it“s the same thing. I see it as Black/White after it took a few rare candies (oh there I go with the lame Pokemon jokes). If you're a Pokemon fan, this game is a no-brainer. 3DS Game of the Year: Kid Icarus: Uprising Official GP Review It took about 20 years for our favorite little angel warrior to show his face in a game of his own, but when he finally returned, I couldn't have been happier. Kid Icarus: Uprising is a lot of things, and a lot of things handled really well. To put it simply, Uprising is a fantastic revival to a classic gem, and has a lot going for it as a fantastic game all in itself. And of course, it is. I mean, what list do you think this is? Sure, the game does have a few flaws, but they were obviously no match for the awesomeness this game exudes. Of all the quality 3DS games released in 2012, Kid Icarus: Uprising is the one I enjoyed the most. PS Vita Game of the Year: Zero Escape: Virtue“s Last Reward First off, I actually haven“t played the Vita version of this game. I played the 3DS version, though, so at least I played it. As for why I named Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward my favorite Vita game of 2012…well, that“s pretty much because I haven“t exactly played anything else for Vita that isn“t also for the 3DS. So, uh...I guess take my word with a grain of salt (or sugar, if you prefer sweets). Second off, I did do my research before finalizing my decision, so there“s that too. As I understand it, the Vita version is just as good, if not slightly better than the one I played, so that“s something to consider if you own a Vita. Regardless of which version you play, though, Zero Escape in general is simply amazing. If I owned a Vita, I“d buy this version of the game just so I have an excuse to play it all over again… Mobile Game of the Year: Rayman Jungle Run If there“s one thing Rayman Origins did right, it“s everything. Well, as far as platformers go, anyway. Not only was it one of the greatest platformers this generation, but it even gives Mario a run for his money as one of the greatest platformers ever. Speaking of running, if you liked Rayman Origins and have an iPhone or Android, Rayman Jungle Run is a game you must own. In fact, even if you haven“t played Origins, Jungle Run is a game you must own. Seriously, while I don“t think mobile gaming will ever truly take over the handheld gaming market, it“s games like this that make that a compelling argument. It's basically a game where our favorite man-without-limbs runs continuously throughout each level, giving you the task of making him not kill himself by getting him to jump, punch, and fly his way to the finish. This game is such a delight to play and definitely my most enjoyed mobile game of 2012. And My Pick for Game of the Year... Xenoblade Chronicles No matter how much I love each and every other game on my list, none of them gave me quite the year-defining experience that Xenoblade Chronicles did. Operation: Rainfall was right in petitioning to bring this game over because it truly is an amazing game. Not only is it the best Wii game I“ve played in 2012, but it“s also the best RPG I“ve played in a long while. But most importantly, Xenoblade was the game to come out of 2012 (even if others did get it beforehand) that I enjoyed the most, which makes it my official pick for 2012's Game of the Year.
  3. Have you ever woken up and felt like the world slightly shifted on its axis? That“s certainly how I feel this morning, as one of the biggest fans of Xenoblade Chronicles. Shulk, the main character from Xenoblade has officially been confirmed for Super Smash Bros. on Nintendo Wii and 3DS. His official reveal trailer (seen below) features the usual Sakurai charm, as well as showing off some of his moves. His Final Smash features Riki and Dunban joining him for a moment. The end of the trailer even features Metal Face from Xenoblade looming over him as a shadow. Is this a hint to a potential stage hazard? Oh, but that“s not all. Nintendo also announced a port of Xenoblade Chronicles was coming to Nintendo 3DS. ...But wait! That“s impossible with the 3DS“s processing power, isn“t it? Precisely. And that“s why Nintendo officially announced brand new 3DS and 3DS XL systems this morning. They“re coming to Japan on October 11th, 2014. The systems have been confirmed for the West as well (2015), but the Xenoblade Chronicles port has not. I presume Nintendo of America are keeping their cards close for some potential PAX Prime spotlight. I'm quite certain this port won't provoke another Operation Rainfall. For now, you can watch the full Nintendo Direct presentation (in Japanese) to see all the greatness revealed before many of us woke up this morning. More news bits include the fact that themes are coming to the Home Menu on Nintendo 3DS in October. For those wondering just how much processing power these new systems will have, of Xenoblade Chronicles for Wii and the brand new 3DS systems. This story is still developing. I“ll update it with more information as it comes.
  4. Now as many of you know, I've decided to participate in the summer gaming challenge. That is, compile a list of games that other people constantly tell me I need to play and actually sit down and play them. Now I figured that since I haven't written a review in a while and the past 3 I wanted to do I waited too long to write one, I'll just do something else. This is that something. After playing each game for a short undefined while, I'll write a quick synopsis of what I think about the game. Basically I'll be writing my first impressions of each game on my summer gaming list and then later write about how my opinion changed, how it stayed the same, or in extreme cases, couldn't even bring myself to the game. Here is my first impression. Now I'll warn you, these things are going to have lots of personal pronouns and such since they are all my feelings and opinions. Obviously, very little planning or formatting will be followed with these. Now, I was a little hesitant to even put Xenoblade Chronicles in my summer gaming list, but the sheer amount of people that have claimed this game to be the saving grace for the Wii. That's funny, last time I checked the Wii sold the most in the last generation compared to other consoles. Well anyway, first impressions are kind of like first dates, you need to have some good part without giving too much away, but also captivate the other into wanting to continue seeing you or playing the game in this instance. Sadly, I felt neither of these within the first two and a half hours of playing Xenoblade Chronicles. In fact I'm actually pretty turned off by it. The introduction to the game, the intro cut scenes that is, left me feeling a bit confused and wishing someone would go into more detail about it. Then suddenly I'm thrown into battle with very little exposition except for the fact that humans are fighting these machine things called Mechons. Alright so, in the time that I've spent playing, I'm already drastically confused, then thrown into a battle with a race of sentient machines that want to kill me, oh, and I'm not playing as the main character. For some reason this really bothers me, I mean, with the extremely short amount of time I spent playing as this weird guy that reminds me of Kaim from Lost Odyssey it could have just as easily been done in a cut scene, and then explain how to actually play later. Then again, I think I'm just nit picking there. Then luckily I calmed down a bit, taking control of Shulk. The fact that I could honestly free roam, go where ever I wanted and possibly even ignore the main objective was like a breath of fresh air, and oh god did I take a lot of deep breaths. By the time I got to the main town I had already leveled up several times! The combat honestly didn't do much for me, or rather, not yet at least. I don't feel it's right to bash something I only have half of, but for right now it seems pretty simple. Press a to auto attack, press right to do cool special, press left to do other special, resume auto attacking until cool down is done, rinse and repeat. It's not bad, but it feels incredibly like an MMO to me, one of the reasons I wasn't too fond of Final Fantasy XII or Ni No Kuni's battle system. Furthermore, after finishing the fights I have to stop to pick up all the treasure chests, which is taxing and rather annoying. Why not just give me the items in the results screen with the EXP and AP and SP? Would it have been that much harder? Honestly, the story is doing absolutely nothing for me either, mainly because it feels like it hasn't even started yet. Even the characters are a little...bland? I don't know if that's the right word, but the fact that there's heart to heart conversations in which they refer to each other's past and expect me to be able to guess after spending less than 20 minutes with the character is infuriating. How the hell was I supposed to know that Shulk and Reyn got into a big fight when they were younger, or that Fiora ran out of her house or whatever?! Something positive though since it feels like I've been ripping this game apart, I actually enjoy the art style and graphics. While this game is no Ni No Kuni in terms of visuals, it has its own charm and the fact that I didn't have to wait for a huge amount of landscape, water, town, beach etc. to render was incredible. Even the characters are interesting aesthetically, the faces and eyes remind me of an older style, but the ways their mouths move and even facial features seems like something I'd see in a more high end JRPG. Color me impressed for the most part. After all of this though I can still say I want to continue playing, or rather, it would only be fair to continue playing. Characters might develop more, the story will definitely flush out, and the combat is bound to get better considering I still have quite the large chunk of grayed out options, not to mention I don't really understand breaking and toppling. Current Score: 6.5 / 10 Decent I look forward to continuing my journey in the Xenoblade Chronicles world, but as for right now, I'm nowhere near impressed.
  5. gaiages

    Xenoblade Chronicles

    From the album: The Dusty Photo Album

    Oh, I get it, Xord. Okay no I really don't.
  6. http://www.destructoid.com/xeno-something-is-coming-for-wii-u-and-i-want-it-242983.phtml A lot of things went down during the Nintendo Direct today, and this is one of the things I'm most excited about. Apparently Monolith is at it again, teasing a new game in the 'Xeno-' series, and it's coming to Wii U. Pretty awesome! Anyone else excited for this new? Hopefully Nintendo won't be so hard to budge on localizing this one ;D
  7. Last year was interesting because there was really only one game that stood out above everything else for me - The Legend of Skyward Sword. Going into 2012, I wondered if any other games would really resonate with me like that title did, and what transpired throughout the year manage to surprise me quite a bit. It became evident to me that the games that would really stick with me were the ones that were mostly shorter, powerful experiences above all else. That isn't to say there weren't games to enjoy purely for the fun of it, but there were at least four or five different surprises for me throughout the year that I wasn't expecting at all. Take a look below, as you might be surprised at more than a few of the games I selected for my top 10. 10. Nintendo Land If you're looking in disbelief at the #10 spot right now, know that I would've been right there with you just a few months ago. Upon actually playing it, however, Nintendo Land is deceptively deeper than originally thought. The actual minigames have a simple-but-fun element to just about all of them, but when you factor in multiple modes, multiple difficulty levels, and multiple levels (sometimes spanning into the 20's-30's) for some of the games, there's quite a bit of content here. And the actual task of using coins won in minigames to help pad out Nintendo Land's theme park with statues, remixed music, and other objects from the publisher's history is a lot of fun in itself. 9. Rhythm Heaven Fever Official GP Review Rhythm Heaven Fever exceeds and surpasses 2009's Rhythm Heaven (DS) and does it with the push of a button, literally. As much as I loved the DS predecessor, tapping and flicking the touch screen amped up the difficulty considerably on certain games (which often required precise timing), so that hampered my enjoyment a bit. Fever returns the series to a button-only control format and it's much better off for it, not to mention that a lot of its music features what I consider the catchiest songs of the year. If you love rhythm/music and unique games, definitely check it out. 8. LEGO The Lord of the Rings This year saw the release of two of the best LEGO games yet; the first being Lego Batman 2, which introduced an open world format for the first time in the series. However, I found the second LEGO title, LEGO The Lord of the Rings, to be a more ambitious game overall, and it corrected quite a few of the bugs and glitches that LB2 had. Toss in an open world Middle Earth that is fully explorable (along the path that Frodo and his companions took), a brand new item system, and levels that adapt some of the best moments in the movies quite well (Helm's Deep and The Battle of the Pelennor Fields are especially impressive), and it's easily the deepest LEGO game to date. Bring on LEGO The Hobbit next! 7. Tokyo Jungle Official GP Review Tokyo Jungle was never on my radar from the beginning, but I knew that I had to try it when our own Leah and Marshall were raving about it over Twitter. It's a good thing I did end up playing it too, because it's easily one of the most unique experiences I've played in years. Along with some pretty happenin' electro-ambient tunes, what really struck me the most about this game was how different each playthrough felt as a different animal, and how much strategy comes into play in adapting to the ever-changing random atmosphere in order to survive. Post-apocalyptic games have never been that interesting to me before, but Tokyo Jungle's animal-themed take on it took me by surprise and went for the jugular. 6. Paper Mario: Sticker Star Official GP Review Paper Mario: Sticker Star was perhaps my most anticipated game coming into 2012, and for good reason. Introducing a new and innovative "sticker" element to the series, Sticker Star retained the same trademark humor and inventive gameplay that the first three games were known for. Sure, the shift in focus away from a more traditional RPG setting is a little disappointing given the high quality of the first two games, but overall, there were tons of great, memorable moments in this game, and collecting and figuring out what all of the different stickers did was a lot of fun, making it easily one of Mario's best adventures in years. 5. Rhythm Thief & The Emperor's Treasure Official GP Review Professor Layton clones are a dime a dozen nowadays (especially considering Konami's failed knockoff Doctor Lautrec and the Forgotten Knights) but Rhythm Thief blends the touch-centric Layton gameplay with rhythm segments and catchy music to a wonderful effect. However, the characters are the true heart of the game and its story (even if it is a bit absurd), and the game does an amazing job of introducing them and making you care about what happens to them as well, even managing to throw a twist or two that most players won't see coming. It's a shame that Rhythm Thief's future is uncertain as SEGA dropped much of their internal development earlier this year due to financial difficulties; the cliffhanger ending opens the way not only for a sequel, but an entire franchise to be spun out of this game, and I'd love to see it happen. 4. Xenoblade Chronicles Confession time: I haven't beat Xenoblade Chronicles yet, but from the good amount of time I did invest in it so far, I can say that it has one of the most stunning settings and worlds that I've ever experienced in a game; you can spend hours upon hours in the first area just exploring and doing sidequests alone. The narrative and story are pretty attention-grabbing and heavy-handed as well, and what happens in the first 15 hours is pretty significant, but doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of the game as a whole. In an era where JRPGs are largely thought to have had their golden years behind them, Xenoblade reignited my passion for the genre and keeps my hope alive that we'll continue to see great games like it in the near future. 3. The Unfinished Swan Official GP Review Not everyone will appreciate The Unfinished Swan like I did, but for those who did, the world created within is unlike any other. For me, like the top two games on this list, what this game does as far as imagination goes is pretty extraordinary, creating a storybook-like world with a narrative that unfolds through pages as you make your way through a world that was created with a single paintbrush. What's most unique about the game is how its gameplay evolves as you progress and new ways of interacting with the environment begin to open up. Coupled with a unique and heartfelt story, The Unfinished Swan is one of the best experiences I had all year long. Did I mention that Monty Python's Terry Gilliam does some superb voicework here? 2. Papo & Yo Official GP Review Another huge surprise, Papo & Yo was another title that I vaguely acknowledged up until a week or two before its launch. What looked like another Ico-like puzzle platformer was revealed to be a game with much deeper meaning, as it came out that the story in it is actually a metaphor for creative director Vander Caballero's abusive childhood under his monster-like alcholic father. The game itself isn't without issues, but the world it presents in child protagonist Quico's imagination is truly outstanding, being one of the first video games wholly grounded in South American culture, from its made-up Latin-gibberish language to the setting of a Brazilian favela and themes of poverty within it. Artistically, it's unlike any other game I've played this year, and its soundtrack is one of the most heartfelt and sorrowful (yet beautiful) in a year of largely excellent video game music. But the ending alone is what truly cemented Papo & Yo as one of the must-experience titles of this year; what it leaves behind when you're finished is a powerful lesson that stands true even for those who may not have experienced a childhood under an abusive family member. 1. Journey Official GP Review It's hard for me to truly describe why Journey is such an amazing experience. Is it the extraordinary art style - an otherwise painterly aesthetic that transcends the realism most other modern games shoot for (pun entirely intended)? Is it the groundbreaking effect and emotional ties that the multiplayer creates with seemingly unknown and random online players along your journey? Austin Wintory's hauntingly beautiful score which fits the game's narrative to a "T"? Or is it the story and narrative, a tale of death and rebirth, and destiny, that seem to linger in my thoughts? Or perhaps it's all of that at once? The idea behind Journey is something that largely has never been attempted up to this point. There is a goal, but there is little skill involved in reaching it; rather the emphasis is shifted to your experience as you journey to the final destination. Emotion through narrative, as creative director Jenova Chen put it. As I reflect on my playthrough and what other people have written about the game, one word keeps appearing above all else - "transcendent." "Surpassing usual limits," or "beyond the range of usual perception" as some definitions put it. And really, that sums up the experience as a whole for me, especially the final area. There's nothing else quite like Journey, and there may never be another game like it ever again.
  8. Jordan Haygood

    Xenoblade Chronicles

    From the album: Kaptain's Gallery

    © Monolith Soft

  9. 2012 was a very interesting and different year for gaming. Depending on how diverse your gaming tastes, amount of free time you have available, and the gaming hardware you have access to, it was either very much a blessing or a curse (in more ways than one). Because there aren't as many obvious and clear contenders, like the AAA titles of last year represented, it will really boil down based on preference despite how a lot of genres were incredibly well represented this year from retail and digital forms for gaming. For me, well, I think it will be shortly apparent what genre I may have an (unreasonable) affinity for, but I certainly have had a lot of great gaming experiences during 2012. 10. Tales of Graces F Official GP Review If I were to make an incredibly specific category for this year, this game would probably steal the "Most Fun RPG Battle System Of The Year" category. I have my reservations about how the very cliche story beats are handled and some annoying dungeon design, but I would be lying if I didn't say I had a lot of fun with this game despite that. While Tales of the Abyss probably had the best storytelling of the series, and Tales of Vesperia having the best characters/overall style, Tales of Graces F I simply enjoyed the most of the whole series as a game. Sporting a very deep and entertaining combat system, light-hearted nature, and wealth of optional content, it was simply an adventure I proudly went out of my way to play through twice despite its flaws. 9. DJMax Technika Tune Even though I find myself playing rhythm games occasionally, I've rarely been invested in them outside of a group/party environment. Having said that, and I know it's probably odd, but playing DJMax Technika Tune really solidified me being content with my Playstation Vita purchase. It doesn't flip the music game genre on its head, but it somehow really resonated me with its very catchy, unique song selection that I normally wouldn't expose myself to, responsive and entertaining gameplay, and very slick design/presentation. I still find the game immediately tempting to play every time I boot up my Vita even when I have games like Persona 4: Golden and Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward begging me to continue playing them (I love you two, I just have a problem... and the only cure is more DJMax.). 8. Growlanser: Wayfarer of Time Official GP Review The best word I can use to describe Growlanser: Wayfarer of Time is 'endearing.' It tickles a certain earnest old-school gamer itch that just doesn't exist in RPGs nowadays. To call Wayfarer of Time simply 'old' and nothing else, however, would be very insulting. Hidden beneath its dated presentation lies a very dense SRPG with plenty of challenging fights, intriguing narrative and character interactions, and a multitude of endings. Wayfarer of Time certainly takes the best title I've played in the series and I have no qualms calling it the PSP's proud swan song. 7. XCOM: Enemy Unknown Official GP Review Despite being quite a fan of strategy games and especially their RPG variations, it has been a while since I've played a strategy game that felt like a sincere breath of fresh air (that I wanted to keep playing), since probably the original Valkyria Chronicles. XCOM: Enemy Unknown manages to reinvigorate the classic PC series while also capturing the devious spirit as well. Despite that, Enemy Unknown is surprisingly easy to get into and is very engaging throughout with its complex and strategic combat system, well-implemented base managment system, and enticing replay value. 6. Xenoblade Chronicles I“m still relatively surprised we even got both The Last Story and Xenoblade Chronicles in the United States even after the European release, but what I“m even more surprised by is how much more I liked Xenoblade of the two. The Last Story was probably the more ambitious game, and I really enjoyed my time with it, but Xenoblade really sold me with its incredibly grand scope, fantastic musical score, engaging storytelling, and just plain refined RPG structure. Proving that, even on dated hardware, big things come in small packages… wait, I set up something I shouldn“t have, didn“t I? 5. Mass Effect 3 Official GP Review I“ve always been a sort of blasphemer when it came to this series, where even if I enjoyed the original two to a certain extent, I felt like I played them more out of obligation than any true personal enjoyment and investment. That really changed when I played 3, however, which not only fixed a lot of my complaints about the series as a game, but really drew with me in terms of writing/narrative, great voice acting and musical score, and just plain overall design more so than the previous games. Sure, the ending still blows and some story elements could“ve been handled better (or been outright omitted), but I will not let that detract from what I thought was a strong experience and easily one of my all-time favorite western RPGs this generation. 4. Persona 4 Arena Official GP Review If there was a gaming match made in heaven catered almost specifically to individuals like myself, this game would fit the bill. This game combines one of my all-time favorite RPG properties and has my favorite fighting game developer realize it into one incredibly well-crafted fighting-game package. Admittedly, despite the praise it got for its storytelling, though solid, I desired a bit more out of it (even as a fan). As a fighting game, though, my minor quibbles were more than balanced out by the entertaining and frenetic combat system that is easy to learn but hard to master. Seriously, I just have a blast playing even now, whether it be competitively online with the great netcode or among my circle of friends regularly. 3. Atelier Meruru: The Apprentice of Arland Official GP Review Making for what was probably my most unhealthy gaming addiction this year is this little odd title... 40 hours in 4 days -wait, that wasn't subtle at all. Most will reasonably overlook this niche title, but I know I'm secretly on the right side of history for playing easily one of the best RPGs this year. Regardless, I had a great time seeing the Arland trilogy come to a close and will secretly miss the light-hearted and cavity-inducing character interactions, fun RPG mechanics, rewarding exploration/development and deep crafting system, and my homies Gio and Sterk; well, at least until Atelier Ayesha is released. 2. Journey Official GP Review For an individual who usually gets nothing out of playing “arthouse” games, playing Journey was nothing short of a pleasant surprise to me to put it lightly. Featuring an incredibly immersive setting/atmosphere, captivating musical score, and some surprisingly poignant moments in an anonymous online environment, which would be very difficult to articulate for the uninitiated, I sure as heck wouldn't trade the 2 hours I got with Journey over many other games. 1. Devil Survivor 2 Official GP Review It seems like Atlus has a habit of releasing great RPGs late in the cycle on perceivably dead systems and Devil Survivor 2 is no exception. Out of all of the games I've played this year, Devil Survivor 2 may actually be the hardest to rationalize as the #1 place on this list. It shares a lot of the same strengths as my previous listings (great storytelling, branching narrative, enthralling combat etc), and is probably the most visibly incremental of the bunch, despite being a deceptively much-improved sequel. Beyond that though, Devil Survivor 2 has a sort of intangible appeal to it that I may irrationally place right on the top of the proud #1 throne. I find it incredibly hard to nitpick its faults as a whole, even as an iterative sequel, and it was a game I didn't want to stop playing until I saw EVERYTHING it had to offer. Honorary #11: Sleeping Dogs, Gravity Rush, Binary Domain, Borderlands 2, Katawa Shoujo, and The Last Story. I would love to have more excuses to give shout-outs to many games games I've played or I haven't gotten around to finishing (My deepest apologies Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward, The Walking Dead, and Mark of the Ninja!) this year since I look back on it pretty fondly. 2012, as a whole, was very much a pleasant surprise for a year I didn't expect too much of going into. So much so, that even if not a whole lot impresses me in 2013, there are still a lot of games from 2012 I'd love to play... or unhealthily keep playing.
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