It’s a bit late, I know… but Legend of Heroes games take a long time to complete, and deserve the time they take. Now that we’ve finished reviewing Trails in the Sky: Second Chapter, it’s time to wrap up 2015 by showing off the overall best games of the year.
This was actually one of the easiest lists I’ve ever created because, to be frank, there really were only 6 games that turned out well enough last year to rank from among those that I was interested in. I only played around a dozen new games last year, and of those, nearly half were pretty big disappointments. Now, this may make you wonder about the quality of the games on this list here… but have no fear, nearly all of these games are contenders for the Shadow’s Sixty so while we may be lacking in quantity, we were certainly not lacking in quality.
6) Omega Quintet
It’s generally a pretty safe bet that I’m going to like a JRPG, but I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Omega Quintet. Between its (mostly) interesting cast, perfectly fitting soundtrack, and unique and fun combat system, this tale of idols saving the world enthralled me for quite a long time.
My favourite part of the game was how well in-character the entire game stayed. From musically-charged terminology for its various abilities to a combat mechanic that brings the concert experience to the game; from the costume mechanics to the PVS system… every aspect of it brings home the fact that these are idols tasked with saving the world, and being idols is every bit as important as the ‘saving the world’ thing. It’s an interesting concept, and it worked very well for this game.
5) Atelier Shallie
In #5 we have the best crafting system known to gaming. It’s hard to write about this game without repeating myself, since I was just lauding this game in the Shadow’s Sixty countdown. Atelier Shallie placed 50 on that list, and for good reason: the game is a ton of fun, the characters are cute, and the crafting is so good it boggles the mind.
What’s so amazing is that, despite being so deep and interesting, the crafting system is never overwhelming. I’ve spent hours hunting for the perfect item… but at the same time, you get to the point where if you’re just doing routine crafting, you can fly through it. I recall, on stream, reaching a bug (that was fixed a few days later) that forced me to load a save from a few hours earlier, and my viewers were amazed by how quickly I was able to do the crafting when I knew what I was going for. The system is intuitive enough that, once you’ve learned it, manipulating it becomes second nature.
4) StarCraft 2: Legacy of the Void
I love RTS games. I always have. Some of the first games I’ve ever played were gems like Warcraft: Orcs and Humans, Age of Empires 2, Command and Conquer: Red Alert, and Dungeon Keeper. So it should come as no surprise that I love StarCraft 2. And Legacy of the Void added numerous impressive features to the game, in addition to having the best campaign in the series.
The most noteworthy addition, aside from the incredible new campaign, doesn’t even require the expansion to experience: Co-Op Missions. Co-Op Missions are 2 player online missions where you get to play as various key figures from StarCraft 2’s story and do special AI missions with unique objectives. Overall, they’re a bit low in scope and scale for the moment… but they’re a ton of fun and if Blizzard keeps adding content and refining the experience, they could quickly become one of the best ideas Blizzard has ever had.
3) Disgaea 5
Ever wanted to throw a giant, exploding penguin-demon-thing? Well, Disgaea’s got you covered.
Disgaea 5 is the most recent entry in the venerable Strategy RPG series, and the first entry I’ve really given the time it deserved… and I was thoroughly impressed. Disgaea 5’s primary selling points are humour and near-infinite replayability. It has a story that seems to switch between absurdly serious and ridiculously absurd on a dime, and characters who have just enough character to be interesting.
It even has numerous progressions systems including a pretty standard leveling system, the ability to power up items by exploring dungeons generated within the item itself, a strange board-game style character powerup system – among others. The story truly is just the beginning in this game.
2) Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky Second Chapter
The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky’s Second Chapter finishes off Estelle and Joshua’s story, offering closure after several years of waiting. It was worth the wait though, as the game offered the whole package: strategic combat, an involving and emotionally charged story, great characters, and a varied and interesting customization system.
What is weird, though, is that many of my favourite moments in this game had nothing to do with the main story. There are so many interesting moments involving the game’s side characters, who receive far more development than most games are willing to give, that it is easy to recognize that its creators are trying to create a world, not just a single story, with this series.
1) Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel
It may seem weird to have two games from the same series sitting right at the top, but they deserve it. The Legend of Heroes series is fast becoming one of my favourite game series, and Cold Steel is the best the series has to offer. There were a lot of cool moments in Cold Steel, really the vast majority of the game… but if I had to pick one standout for me it was the game’s cast.
Both main and side characters in Cold Steel were amazing, with the protagonist being a character I saw a lot of myself in and numerous main characters that I just couldn’t help but love. I particularly enjoyed the way they manage to make characters who seem one-dimensional or cliché have tremendous depth through good character development. Probably the most notable example is Alisa – a girl who, at first glance, just looks like a completely stereotypical tsundere. But when you dig a little deeper, you see a girl for whom ‘typical tsundere’ reactions would be the most logical reactions… and a girl whose history and backstory make her personality make perfect sense.
So many characters in this could be written off with one-line descriptions, but for each of them there’s a history that could easily fill a novel on its own. That is just one of the reasons why this game deserved the #1 spot in this list, but it’s a big one.
What were your picks for 2015? Do you agree with the ones I’ve chosen? Disagree? Please share your favourites in the comments below!