5) Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen (DS) - How did this port make it to my list, but not Chrono Trigger? Good question. But it's all a matter of taste, and to some extent, exposure. The fact is that Americans haven't had a chance to play Dragon Quest IV since its original NES release nearly 20 years ago. My heartfelt thanks goes to Square Enix for the excellent translation and localization, though this game would be placed even higher on the list if they hadn't cut some small parts from the Japanese DS version.
4) Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney (DS) - Capcom could pump these games out indefinitely and I'd probably continue to be obsessed with them. Seeing Phoenix Wright take a "behind the scenes" role this time around, while a new cast of characters took the stage, was a surprisingly enjoyable experience. The added gameplay mechanisms, such as the "watch for people twitching" game, also boosted the game's value compared to its predecessors.
3) Mana Khemia: Alchemists of Al-Revis (PS2) - Much as I loved Gust's "Atelier Iris" trilogy, they were rough around the edges. Mana Khemia, on the other hand, was one of the most polished 2D games published this year. Thanks for keeping up with the Gust catalog, NISA!
2) Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure (DS) - Despite cutting the bonus content and then falsely advertising that the content was, indeed, in the English version, I can't help but forgive NIS America. The fact is, they brought the game over, and it's a far improved version over the original PlayStation game. Most people associate NIS with Disgaea, but I'd prefer to associate them with the Marl's Kingdom series.
1) Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 (PS2) - I won't spoil it for you, but for all the wonderful things this game has, the clincher for making this my top RPG of 2008 was when I fought a certain boss that wielded two large, golden astrological signs. If you've seen him, you know what I'm talking about. Fantastic work, Atlus!
HONORABLE MENTIONS: The Spirit Engine 2 (PC), Mystery Dungeon: Shiren the Wanderer (DS)
Top 5 RPG-related Game Music Albums of 2008
5) Concerto ~The extraordinary world of Concerto Gate~ - It may have fallen under the radar, but I still see this album as a semi-triumphant return of composer Hiroki Kikuta. Kikuta's history in gaming is long and complicated, but most RPG Fans will remember his work on Secret of Mana. That same beautiful, unique synth is back for Square Enix's low-budget MMORPG "Concerto Gate" (a spiritual successor to "Cross Gate"). The music here is fantastic, and I can't wait for more.
4) Gyakuten Saiban Special Courtroom 2008 Orchestra Concert ~Gyakuten Meets Orchestra~ - The "Ace Attorney" series, now four installments strong, received a second live orchestra arrangement this summer. Fans of the series will want to check out this fine album.
3) Chocobo's Mysterious Dungeon ~Labyrinth of Forgotten Time~ OST - This soundtrack is essentially made up of impressive, synth-based arrangements to compositions from nearly every entry in the Final Fantasy series. These arranged tracks operate as the score for a Nintendo Wii title, released in North America as "Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo's Dungeon."
2) Live Music by Piano and Strings - Sekaiju no MeiQ I & II Super Arrange Version - In the last twelve months, a strange alliance has been formed between VGM veteran Yuzo Koshiro (ActRaiser, Streets of Rage) and relative newcomer Norihiko Hibino (Metal Gear Solid). The alliance is best shown in this album, with neo-classical and jazz arrangements of Koshiro's music for Atlus' Etrian Odyssey series on Nintendo DS.
1) drammatica - The Very Best of Yoko Shimomura - Fully orchestrated arranged music from Front Mission, Live A Live, Heroes of Mana, Legend of Mana, Kingdom Hearts, and a bonus track from a game that probably won't be out until 2010 (FF Versus XIII)?! Yeah, that's pretty much the greatest thing ever. It's my top album of 2008, hands-down. Everyone who appreciates VGM should have this CD.
Best non-RPG game of the year
For me, it's a tie. They're both PlayStation 3 titles, and they were both released within about a month of each other. One is LittleBigPlanet, the other is Prince of Persia. LittleBigPlanet wins big accolades from me for the graphics, the incredibly deep and complex "create your own world" mode, and the British-indie-hip-weird soundtrack. Prince of Persia wins for being downright fun and interesting, and setting up for what I hope is an awesome trilogy.