Wednesday, December 27, 2017



With the end of year gaming events and the awards rolling in, everyone is fighting over their own personal "game of the year,” all in separate genres. We have formidable games such as Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey from the likes of Nintendo, Uncharted: Lost Origins and Horizon Zero Dawn on PlayStation, Assassin’s Creed Origins, Destiny 2, and even some old classics making a return such as Crash Bandicoot: N.Sane Trilogy!

But some people, like me, tend to get a bit genre-specific about their love of games. I’m personally a huge fan of the RPG genre from both a gamer and a writer’s perspective. There’s a lot of time to sit back and immerse yourself in a story-driven game, to grow with the characters that you control. I started off my gaming career at age six (wow, can you believe that was seventeen years ago) with Spyro the Dragon on PS1, and it’s only been up from there!

A lot of amazing JRPG’s have stormed into the field this year, both old and new, so how about we embrace Japan’s glorious work with five JRPG’s on PS4 that you need to play?

For this list, I decided to stick to games that were released between late last year (October up) and right now, so maybe you’ll find one that you’re interested in!

1.        .Hack//G.U.: Last Recode
A player for a popular game called ‘The World’ named Haseo hunts a player nicknamed Tri-Edge, who defeated his friend Shino and left her in a coma in real life.

Haseo comes into contact with other players who know of Tri-Edge and wish to stop him. Haseo comes to find that Shino’s comatose is connected with AIDA, a mysterious computer anomaly that infects the characters.

The most recently released entry on this list, .Hack is a popular series created by the company CyberConnect2, well known for their work on the Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm video games. I was the unfortunate soul that didn’t get to play the original G.U. games on PS2 before they ultimately became rare gems to uncover, but now I finally have had a chance to sit down and experience some of it, ten years after its original release.

The world-building of, well, ‘The World’ is sheer brilliance that holds up even today, as there was barely much work done for the atmospheric MMO in this remake. The main hub of your first town alone gives a European feel, the shrines before reaching the Guardian Stones leave a haunting mystery about what lies within. It truly makes you feel as though you’re playing an MMO with all of the right JRPG game tactics, a unique twist on the genre.

Not only is ‘The World’ full of exploration, but watching the characters interact draws you in from the beginning. Minor spoilers ensuing from here!

Haseo starts off his first day in ‘The World’ as most gamers do—at level one, barely experienced, just here to have fun, and it unravels very quickly when Player Killers emerge to throw him down, but he is saved by the one that I dub the Holy Intervener, Ovan. This strikes a chord in Haseo’s gaming experience, as eight months later, he emerges as a level 133 Player-Killer-Killer… only to take on the wrong mission while seeking out revenge for a fallen comrade and be booted right back down to level one.

But this provides him with a chance to not only meet with new allies, follow new objectives, but you also see his personality shift from one built on sheer vengeance into one of sincerity, vulnerability, and true strength.

This is a classically modernized game that will hook you from the very beginning.

2.       Kingdom Hearts 1.5/2.5 Remix and Kingdom Hearts 2.8
Kingdom Hearts is a crossover of various Disney settings based in a universe made specifically for the series.

The series primarily centers on the main character Sora and his journey and experiences with various Disney, Final Fantasy, The World Ends with You and Pixar characters, whilst stopping the various incarnations of the primary antagonist Xehanort throughout the series.

And that description details only part of what this series has to offer. Kingdom Hearts first debuted in 2002, a strange blend of Disney and Square Enix, best known for their work on the Final Fantasy series. But it is a blend that rivals blueberry and banana smoothies, for they seem strange, and yet, they play off of one another brilliantly. I was eleven years old when I got my hands on the very first game in the series. From the moment that I stumbled upon the first new world, Traverse Town, I was hooked.

The main character, Sora, starts off as a bit of a reluctant hero thrust into chaos after his own world falls to darkness and he is blessed with the abilities to wield a mysterious weapon called the Keyblade. He goes in search of his lost friends Riku and Kairi alongside Donald Duck and Goofy, who are in search of their missing King Mickey. Along the way, the three discover the origins of the Keyblade, make new friends, reunite with old, and restore the worlds, all while battling the forces of darkness and making tracks. But the story continues to run far deeper, and there’s no telling what will lie beyond the realm of Kingdom Hearts.

This game is truly a gem, and it has all the makings of expecting the unexpected in a game. If you never had the chance to play the games, definitely pick up 1.5/2.5, which has six of the released titles, two of which are in feature film format! And if you enjoyed those titles, then you can move on to Kingdom Hearts 2.8, which has two more titles and one more film.

It’s great preparation to play the games in their specified order before Kingdom Hearts 3 (FINALLY) releases next year!

3.        Persona 5
Persona 5 takes place in Tokyo, and follows the player-named protagonist after his transfer to the fictional Shujin Academy after being put on probation for an assault of which he was falsely accused.
During the course of a school year, he and other students awaken to their Persona powers, become masked vigilantes dubbed the "Phantom Thieves of Hearts", and explore the supernatural Metaverse realm to steal ill intent from the hearts of adults.

If not for Nintendo clearly taking the innovative route for the year, I would have dubbed this my own personal game of the year, but it still stands out strong for its beautiful graphics, awesome characters, and brilliant atmosphere. It stands out well among its other counterparts in the Persona series. And not to mention all the jazz-like music, my gosh, this soundtrack is just blazing down my heart. Take me, Phantom Thieves!

On the rocker again, I found myself drawn into this game after having played Persona 3 and 4, but both of those were a year before 5 came out. So, I got to cheat myself out of the ten-year wait that all the other Persona fans had to endure. Doesn’t mean that I enjoyed the game any less.

The battles are always turn-based, but outside of battle leaves you with a lot of options too: stealth, sneaking, using your wits at times to move through the puzzles left behind for you, and there’s always going to be some work uncovering a new surprise. And then there’s your social links—while not as innovative as previous games, you’ll definitely want to utilize them, as they’ll help you find better ways to work through your dungeons.

The story revolving around your Protagonist this time takes a real twist on the transfer student aspect, as this time you’re working on parole and can’t afford to get into trouble, or it’s off to jail with you. What’s his response on his second day in a new city? Let’s become a Phantom Thief and be at risk all the time! We’ve got friends, yes, we do, let’s rope them in. Oh, what’s up with the talking cat-car-mascot? Well, at least he’s memorable.

Well, it’s a lot better than that, but hey, we’ve got an awesome game in store for us.

Wake up, get up, get out there.

The graphics of the game truly outdo themselves, and it’s definitely cleaner than previous games. The stylistic choices make it seem darker as well, and your choices throughout the game impact a lot of telling moments.

Look beneath the mask.

There’s so much that I could say about this story, about the concept of this game, but instead of that, I say that you should go off and start stealing people’s hearts for yourself. And have fun choosing the best girl out of a slew of them.

Answer: It’s totally Futaba that’s best girl. But, it’s okay, because about 80% of them are well worth giving your own heart to.

4.       Tales of Berseria

Tales of Berseria is the story of a woman driven by revenge. Nineteen-year-old Velvet Crowe witnesses the murder of her younger brother Laphicet on a Scarlet Night, where demons are ushered in to plague the world. The assailant is her brother-in-law, Artorious Colbrande, a man that is later dubbed hero by the public: the first Shepard.

Scorned and broken, Velvet’s right hand becomes cursed, forcing her to eat daemons in order to survive and stave off the bloodlust coursing through her veins. After gaining the ability to roam the world again with the aid of her new allies, she seeks to rid of the man that unraveled her life forever.

This is probably going to be the most underrated entry on this list due to previous Tales games history (I’m looking at you, Tales of Zestiria), and how they’ve been coming up a bit shorter lately. But this one was truly a game-changer. See what I did there?

Tales of Berseria offered us the first female Tales protagonist. At least, one that didn’t need to share the role with another, like Jude Mathis and Milla Maxwell from Tales of Xillia. This was a bold move on Namco’s part, as they could have easily gone a different route, have Velvet be more… civil as a lady. But they didn’t, and it made her out to be an incredibly well-rounded character not just on a female standpoint, but as a whole. You feel invested in her story, and Christina Vee truly pulled every emotion out of Velvet and made you find such passion in her goals.

The gameplay in this doesn’t feel as repetitive as it has with Zestiria, another edge that it has over its chronological sequel, due to Velvet’s diversity as a daemon eater, and the variety that the other characters such as Laphicet and Magilou have as mages. Rokurou is the only sword/dagger-wielder of the group, so you’ll probably find a lot of comfort in using his speed and finesse if you prefer that route. Eizen is a man of his fist, but he also has diversity in two forms of magic rather than an assortment of spells like Magilou or healing tactics like Laphicet, so you’ll have the best of both worlds there! And as for Eleanor, she is a mixed fighter much like Leia from Tales of Xillia, so you’ll find yourself making waves with her magic spells and her extraordinary range with her lance.
I’m nearly finished with this game, just one chapter away, but already I’ve found myself so drawn into not only the warming cast, but the story seems to have such life in it that I haven’t felt in a Tales game since Xillia 2. I know that isn’t saying much given that Xillia 2 is recent, but even the structure of the Xillia cast didn’t feel as close as Berseria, and some of the characters in Xillia already knew each other!

If ever you find the need to invest in a game that will take you on a whirlwind of emotions, you should pick up Tales of Berseria. You won’t be disappointed.

5.        Final Fantasy XV

Noctis Lucis Caelum, heir to the Lucian throne, goes on a quest to retake his homeland and its magical Crystal after it is seized by Niflheim on the eve of peace negotiations between the two nations.

However, he soon discovers that the Crystal is at the heart of a much greater threat to Eos, and that his role as the future king is key to averting an apocalyptic event from taking place.

This one is a bit of a cheat, because Final Fantasy XV came out on November 29th, 2016. It’s close enough to the end of the year to practically throw it into 2017, just barely. In addition, it’s still not a complete game due to all of the episodic DLC for our assortment of characters, which I personally believe should have been implemented into the game, but that is all for a much broader review that I plan to craft once the final episode is released next month.

Final Fantasy has been one of my favorite series since I was a teenager, first stepping into the limelight with the release of Crisis Core: Final Fantasy XV, which is to this day, one of my favorite games of all time. When Final Fantasy XV was finally getting a release date, I was glued to my chair watching the livestream, and screamed at the initial date of September 30th, 2016. And then the delay happened. I still was more than happy to wait. And then I played. Oh boy, did I play this game.

And I finished it within two weeks of its release. And plan to do it again. There was so much left to be desired, and yet, I wasn’t disappointed at all in this game. If there is so much that I could say about it already, then why am I recommending it to you?

Because even with all its flaws, its disappointments, its hypes, and all in between, it is still a fantastic game for first-timers into the Final Fantasy series.

Final Fantasy XV, graphically, is gorgeous. You’ll want to spend much of your time traveling the world of Eos, and trust me, there’s plenty of side-quests and story requirements that will let you go to the ends of the earth to see it through. The detail put into most of the atmosphere, those little details, will definitely leave you feel some of the magic that the earlier Final Fantasy games left behind in wake of a new era.

The gameplay, albeit a bit repetitive at times, can leave you with excitement down each road. There’s always something that you may not expect as you go. And it’s a bit more polished and fun than, say, Final Fantasy XIII. Just the first two. Lightning Returns was the better of the trilogy to me.

Character development wise, I love the close-knit bond between our four-man group of Noctis, Prompto, Ignis and Gladiolus. They’ve all known each other for many years, which is something that most Final Fantasy games don’t have—they all come together by circumstance, and these guys didn’t have to do that. They already had a present bond from the start, and they stand by one another. They were always brothers in arms and outside of them. It’s easy to fall in line with their work, and they all play off of one another so pleasantly that you can’t wait to see what they’ll get into next.

Story… that is where we fall short. It is incomplete. I’m among the first to rise up and say that I hate what they did after chapter nine. Because it unravels, and not for the best. But, don’t get me wrong. I do love this game, a lot. I just wish that it was done better.

But if you’re a fan of growth in many different shapes and forms, I definitely recommend a try, especially as a first-time Final Fantasy player. You may enjoy the nightly drive through the countryside. Unless Iggy tells you no, then I suggest retreating in covers and closing the curtains.

What about you? What's YOUR game of the year?

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