Most people who know me know my love for video games. I mean, why would I be involved with this site if that wasn’t true? However, my love for them is usually equalled by a lack of time to actually play them. Somehow, 2016 was a year where I was able to knock out quite a few RPGs. I didn’t have time to write about them all, of course, so here’s a roundup of the RPGs I was able to complete last year.
The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky
Earlier this year I shared my thoughts on a little dark horse RPG known as The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel. It quickly became one of my favorite RPGs. I had owned Trails in the Sky for a little over a year at this point, and had even dabbled in it some, but Cold Steel gave me the incentive I needed to pick it up again. I’m truly glad I did. The battle system isn’t as refined as it is in its Vita cousin, but the spirit is there. Sky linked to Cold Steel in narrative ways that I never expected, and it became quickly apparent the world building in these games rivaled any WRPG I had yet encountered. The cliffhanger ending was heartbreaking, and I finally understood why the outcry for the Japanese-only Second Chapter was so intense. This is a fantastic game.
Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE
I’m one of those rare people who was on board with this game from the first trailer. Sure, it wasn’t what we expected, it wasn’t the dark and gritty Shin Megami Tensei/Fire Emblem crossover people thought they deserved, but man, what it turned out to be was a fun, light-hearted romp with a fun battle system, colorful characters, and dark undertones that turned this game into what would’ve been, without question, my game of the year. Only one thing kept that from happening, and that is the next game on my list.
The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II
This game. It’s everything I loved about the first title, only more polished. The battle system is basically the same, with a few more options. Where this game really shines is the structure. No longer confined to going along with the plot, the way the first game way, you can now, after a certain point in the story, use an airship to fly around Erebonia at your leisure, taking on quests and new crew members for your ship. This is the meat of the second half of the game in fact. You are tasked with finding your fellow classmates who have been scattered by the events of the first game, and each one brings something new to the table. You don’t have to find them all, but a lot of the story unfolds within these quests. It’s a refreshing take on the franchise that I really enjoyed. Bring on Cold Steel III!
The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky Second Chapter
You may notice a trend here. I couldn’t help it! Once I got sucked into the world of Trails, I couldn’t stop. After the insane ending of Cold Steel II (and the character cameos from Trails in the Sky), I had to know everything there was to know about this world I’d already spent so much time in. The ending of the first Sky was so abrupt and heartbreaking that I needed to know what happened to Estelle and company. Sky SC plays a lot like its predecessor, but the customization has been upped with more quartz options (think of Final Fantasy VII’s Materia system on steroids and you’ll have an idea of what these games use) and the world has been opened up to you by the events and interactions of the first game. My only real complaint is the lack of fast travel, as SC has you traversing all of Liberl by foot, but at least there is an in-game explanation for this. The plot and characters are the best I’ve encountered in a JRPG, and likely in games period. At this point, if anyone asks what my favorite game is, I’m hard pressed not to blurt out “SC!” without a thought. It’s that good. The small teaser in the ending has me really excited for Trails in the Sky The 3rd which is due out sometime later this year.
After the heavy plots of the Trails series and flashly style of Tokyo Mirage Sessions, Pokemon Moon was the perfect game to finish out my year. I’m not a Pokemon Master by any means. I got back into the series with XY, played through Omega Ruby over the course of two years, and dabbled in Pokemon Yellow in the eShop. I love the series, but I’m not the type to spend hundreds of hours breeding the perfect monster. That said, I loved the heck out of this game. Nintendo and Game Freak changed the formula for the first time since the series’ inception, and it works really well. Gone are the gyms and badges. This time, you travel from island to island in the Alola region taking on trials and Totem Pokemon. It was just what I needed. Alola forms are a great addition. I’d rather them shake up the Pokemon I know that invent a slew of nonsensical ones, which is what the series seems to do with each entry. Not that there aren’t new Pokemon here. Exploring the islands looking for Pokemon was fun, but what I really liked was the Lovecraftian/Shin Megami Tensei-eqsue story involving Ultra Beasts from another dimension. The plot isn’t what Pokemon is about, and yet I really enjoyed this story and the characters introduced. All in all, a really solid entry in the series.
2016 was a fun year of gaming for me. I probably finished a record number of RPGs this year for me. 2017 has its fair share of RPGs coming as well. Here’s hoping the upcoming year is just as great!