This year saw my game intake go down quite a bit. I still played a lot of games, but not nearly as many as I have in the past. I also saw an uptake in games being played on Nintendo system this year compared to the last couple. I put a focus on Nintendo releases and tried to highlight as many of those as I could. As a result there are more “Nintendo” games on my list this year despite there being a downturn in the number of games being released on their main console platform, the Wii U. The 3DS was where I spent most of my time this year. I played twice as many games on the 3DS this year than I did any other system.
Let’s see how my list for this year turned out. Unlike my predictions for last year this list is not dominated by PS3 titles. Seven titles were exclusive to Nintendo platforms and three of them were titles I played on PS4. Let’s see how things turn out.
10. Asdivine Hearts (Wii U) – This is not technically a Nintendo exclusive as it did appear on mobile back in 2014. It was, however, exclusive to Nintendo on consoles. It’s a really good role playing game in the vein of old-school Super Nintendo RPGs like Final Fantasy or Chrono Trigger. You play as a group of four characters as they attempt to save the world. The story itself wasn’t overly original or unique in any way. Where it stood out to me was the game play. The turn based battles used a mechanic similar to the ATB system from Final Fantasy. What made this so interesting was using elemental abilities to counter enemy weaknesses. You could mix and match your abilities using an almost Tetris like system where each ability had a piece that fit into a grid. You could increase the capacity of this grid to allow more abilities as you leveled up. It made each party member stand out from the others as they all specialized in different elemental types. There was also a lot of funny interactions with a god who’d been trapped inside the body of a cat.
9. Pokemon Moon (3DS) – I don’t play a lot of Pokemon games, and I’m more a fan of the spin-off series’ than I am the mainline RPGs. However, Pokemon Moon managed to keep my interest throughout the entire run. I never hit that RPG wall I occasionally hit when playing games that are 30 or more hours long. The change in the overall formula of the game was interesting to me. Each of the different islands you visited in the game gave you lots of varying pokemon to search for. The battles against the powered up pokemon and the Ultra Beasts really taxed your abilities as a trainer. Even the online functionality was fun. I just had fun with this game and that’s not something I can always say with a Pokemon game.
8. Valkyria Chronicles (PS4) – The first of three “remakes” to appear on this list. It was a good year for them and since I played all of these games for the first time in their remade forms they all count. This game melds elements from turn based strategy games with third person shooters. It does so in a beautifully rendered, water color version of an alternate WW2 era.
7. Paper Mario: Color Splash (Wii U) – The game I really wanted to be a contender for the top spot. This was one of my favorite series on the N64 and the GameCube. I even really enjoyed Super Paper Mario, even though I didn’t feel it was a Paper Mario game. After being disappointed in Sticker Star when it was released on the 3DS I was worried when this game was announced and the battle system was going to remain mostly the same. It’s better than that. The game is getting closer to coming back to the RPG roots of the series. Now all they need to do is bring back all the crazy, colorful characters and make the action turn based again and it would be great.
The game was funny, and with the help of a five year old who really liked to flick the cards off of the Game Pad I managed to play through the whole game without being too frustrated about the pacing of the battles. It was the story that kept me coming back and kept this game fresh and fun in my mind. I liked the paint mechanics and the puzzles in the game. I liked how different areas of the game could be revisted to find new secrets and use them in other parts of the game. I liked the funny writing. It was good. The game could have been great.
6. Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam (3DS) – When this game was announced I was very hesitant about offering an opinion. I knew I liked both of those series, but I was worried about how they’d work together. I’ve been on record saying that I like having those two series as separate entities with Paper Mario on consoles and Mario & Luigi on handhelds. However, I can happily say my expectations were exceeded as this game was really, really good. Until the very end. I had some issues with the end game feeling padded out to add length that was unnecessary. That would be my only real gripe with the series and I really enjoyed it. The writing was top notch and funny throughout. The ways they incorporated Paper Mario’s abilities with Mario & Luigi really worked well.
5. Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE (Wii U) – I waited for this game for so long. From the day it was announced as Shin Megami Tensei x Fire Emblem I was hooked. They then showed off some gameplay and it got me more excited. Information about the game went dark for a while and I was worried it would￼ never see the light of day. It did and it’s great. The mixture of the SMT (or Persona series) mixed with the characters and RPG elements of Fire Emblem worked really, really well together. Seeing the Fire Emblem characters used in such a unique way brought a different perspective to those characters.
There was plenty of controversy surrounding the game, but I don’t think the overall package suffered any from it. It was a fun RPG that didn’t necessarily take itself completely seriously, but it worked in the context of the game and world it was presented in.
4. Odin Sphere Leifthrasir (PS4) – The second remake/remaster of the list. This one I actually owned on PS2, however I never really played it. I got maybe 45 minutes to an hour in and never went back. I couldn’t really tell you why. It was beautiful. It was the solid game play you expect from Vanillaware games. I just didn’t play it past the first bit.
This game was really, really good. Muramasa was my first real introduction to Vanillaware and their games and I loved that game to death. This felt very much like that. The game play was fast, not as fast as Muramasa, but fast. The combos were really great to execute and each of the main playable characters felt very different from each other. That kept the game really fun throughout the whole experience. My biggest problem with Muramasa was that the two characters didn’t really feel different and because of that the game felt like it went on twice as long as it really needed to. This didn’t. It was great. It was beautiful. You should play it.
3. Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: India (PS4) – I’m not going to lie I just started playing Assassin’s Creed Rogue and I thought very briefly about putting it on the list. We didn’t get a main series game this year as Ubisoft has decided to take 2016 off for Assassin’s Creed. I’m hoping that will make the 2017 entry in the series stand out as much as Brotherhood or Syndicate.
However, we did get two of the side scrolling Chronicles games. India and Russia came out within a couple weeks of each other at the beginning of the year. These games both did a really great job at making you feel like you were playing Assassin’s Creed, but in 2D. Stealth was solid, long combats would get you killed and the characters had their own unique styles that went well with the areas they were exploring. India comes out on top for me though, because it had one of the best end sequences I’ve seen in the story yet. One of the last few missions put everything you had learned to that point to the test and did so while you were free running to escape a world around you collapsing. It was so satisfying to hit all the right moves as you move non-stop from the start of the level to the end. It’s up on our Youtube channel. I’ll put it here so you can watch it again. It was so good. It would easily top the list of my favorite moment of the year.
2. Fire Emblem Fates (3DS) – There are no two ways to say this, but this game is great. The developers sort of went the way of other popular franchises, like Pokemon, and gave you two games on the same day. However, unlike many of those franchises these were really two separate games. You had a game that was more friendly to casual fans or newcomers of the series that sort of eased you in and let you customize your experience. You also had a game that was unapologetically brutal in difficulty. Long time fans of the series preferred that entry. They told two sides of the same story and both led to the events of yet a third entry in the series, but there was something here for anyone of any level of familiarity with Fire Emblem.
The game play itself was as good as it’s ever been. You move your characters around a grid based board. Keeping different characters together during combat would improve their relationship with each other, some of those relationships could end up in marriage and parenthood, which in turn improved those characters’ fighting ability. If you’re looking for a great strategy game look no further than Fire Emblem Fates.
1. Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past (3DS) – At one point I thought I was going to have to decide whether my top game for the year would be Dragon Quest VII or Dragon Quest VIII. Mercifully Nintendo and Square Enix pushed the release of DQ VIII to 2017. That left this spot wide open. This is the first time I’ve had the chance to play this game and it was well worth the wait. I’ve always liked the series, but this has become one of my favorites in the series.
The update to the 3D visuals and the more detailed overworld really made this game stand out in the series and felt more like Dragon Quest VIII on PS2 than it did as one of the first games in the series on the PS1. The game’s also very long. It was close to 100 hours in total, but never wore out its welcome. The job system allows you to change up your play style with your party often and keeps things fresh as you learn which job combinations worked best and learning new skills all the time kept your characters growing.
I love that the franchise has stuck so strongly to its roots over the years. Dragon Quest VII is not ashamed to be a JRPG in every aspect. It’s heavily menu based, you’ll have to do some grinding and it’s not always 100% clear what you need to do to progress. That’s what frustrates some people, but it’s also what has kept me a fan of the franchise since I first played Dragon Warrior back on the NES so many years ago.