10. Persona 4 Arena
Turning an RPG into a fighter is inherently an interesting prospect from a design perspective, since you have lots of things like status ailments, critical hits and different equipments and spells to add mountains of depth to a game. Not many developers have actually stepped up to the challenge to make a game around this concept. Luckily, Atlus and Arc System Works teamed up to give us this fascinating little gem.
9. Kid Icarus: Uprising
Uprising is a superb portable action game filled to the brim with content and replayability. It also is a nice tech demo for the 3DS’ visual capabilities, due to its eye-popping detail and fluid, fast animation. Uprising is quite a way to restart an old franchise, and I totally expect to see Pit again in the near future.
8. Nights into Dreams HD
The original was a game that played to the Saturn’s strengths by being 3D, but in a curated, on-rails experience so the system could handle all the polygons. It was absolutely endemic of Sega’s arcade heritage, a naturally score-based game with lots of bonus content to keep players coming back. Top it off with an eye-popping art style and one of the best soundtracks in any game ever, and you’ve got a classic. Sega did release a Japan-exclusive PS2 remake a few years back, and fans were sad to see that it never made it across the pond. Until now. Sega has finally released said remake with updated graphics, trophy/achievement support and leaderboards! Patience really can pay off.
7. Spec Ops: The Line
I normally avoid military shooters like the plague, and I would have kept on doing just that if I hadn’t heard about how special Spec Ops: The Line is. Spec Ops knows exactly what it’s doing; it deliberately paints itself as a bland, average military shooter so that it can shatter your expectations (and your emotional state) to bits later on. It’s a brutal, harsh deconstruction of its very own genre, and I love and fear every minute of it. It’s one that people should really pay attention to, since it takes an honest, responsible approach to the industry’s take on war.
6. Tales of Graces f
Now here’s a game I never thought would see the light of day. I’m a big fan of the Tales series, and a while back I was really upset that we hadn’t seen a new entry in the series in the states since Vesperia (and we didn’t even get the best version of that game). Things were looking bleak for the Tales series until Namco finally decided to localize the improved PS3 port of the Wii’s Tales game, Tales of Graces. The wait was well worth it; Graces f continued the fine legacy of the series by offering lush, vibrant art, a lively soundtrack by Motoi Sakuraba, likable characters and, most importantly, a time-tested action RPG battle system, honed to perfection over the better part of two decades.
5. The Last Story
The Last Story isn’t just an excellent Japanese RPG. It isn’t just representative of an entirely necessary turning point for how Nintendo does business with localization and third party publishers. It isn’t even just XSEED’s best-selling title ever. It’s almost revolutionary. All three Operation Rainfall games show an unabashed sense of bravery toward developing JRPGs, with the guts to throw out everything that just doesn’t work about the genre and make something completely fresh, new, and unheard of. As Hironobu Sakaguchi’s much-discussed return to big console RPGs, The Last Story represents the vigor and spirit that still burns bright in the JRPG genre.
4. Ys Origin
I don’t remember the last time I had so much stupid crazy fun with an RPG as I did with Ys Origin. The frantic, reflex-heavy action-RPG combat made Ys Origin a treat to say the least. If you’re a JRPG fan who wouldn’t mind trying something on PC, you owe it to yourself to check out Ys.
3. Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask
One of the reasons I love series like Professor Layton and Phoenix Wright is that they are some of the very few games that do educational games right. We all know of countless embarrassing attempts at edutainment, and how it almost always falls flat on its face due to a lack of compelling gameplay and a nonexistent story. Games like Layton buck this trend by focusing on making a solid game first and exercising our minds as a close second.
2. Xenoblade Chronicles
Not much more can be said for Xenoblade Chronicles that I haven’t already said about The Last Story, mainly because they are both excellent games for basically the same reasons. So, why is Xenoblade Chronicles so much higher on the list? Well, mainly because of what it represents. I alluded to this earlier, but the most important thing about the Operation Rainfall games is that they came out at all. The fact that Nintendo agreed to the demands of its fans in an act of goodwill is a huge deal, for consumers and developers, as it is indicative of the change the industry is going through right now.
1. Persona 4 Golden
I can’t think of many games that I would truly call system-sellers, but Persona 4 Golden is definitely one of them. No JRPG fan or Vita owner should miss out on this one. I’m not sure what else I can really say about Persona 4 Golden other than it is undoubtedly my favorite game of the year, and one of my favorite games of the last several years.