5) Persona (PSP) – I'm in the middle of playing the Persona remake, and after having played Revelations: Persona to the bad ending, I must say the remake is a success. The translation is significantly improved, the music redone and remixed, and the gameplay balanced. It's still frighteningly difficult at times and it retains its old world charm, but Atlus touched up just enough to make the original Persona more playable than ever, even if Mark still dances crazy.
4) Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box (DS) – Not an RPG; that should say something about this year's lineup. The Diabolical Box slightly improved upon the first entry in the series and made me challenge my mind all over again, and that's always a good thing especially in an era of WoW-induced hack 'n slash stupors. At least we can rely on the good Professor to teach us a thing or two and look good while doing it. I look forward to new installments of the franchise, at least as long as there are no more sliding block puzzles.
3) Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story (DS) – The Mario franchise makes for surprisingly good RPGs. Even if the series is getting a bit old (a trend lately it seems), Mario and Luigi can still have a blast onscreen and put other RPGs to shame, at least in terms of fun and diverse gameplay. The story is subpar and the experience as a whole feels a bit empty and lonely, but in a year mostly blank of RPGs, Bowser's Inside Story brought me joy.
2) SMT: Devil Survivor (DS) – The SMT series continues to captivate with unique settings, dense stories, and addictive gameplay. I have a feeling there will be at least one SMT game on every one of my top five lists in the years to come. Devil Survivor offers an interesting story of city-wide panic and claustrophobia, but I think the tactical gameplay is even more memorable. I'm usually not jazzed about strategy RPGs, but this one had me begging for more.
1) Dragon Age: Origins (Xbox 360) – Dragon Age: Origins is one of the few games worthy of being on a top five list for this year, as bereft of solid RPGs as it was. Although it may never receive due attention (especially the console versions) because it lacks the glitter of most next gen games and has no multiplayer mode, Dragon Age represents new highs in Bioware's ability to craft a world. Additionally, Dragon Age makes the choices in KOTOR look frivolous; here we enter that special gray area between the black and white, the good and evil. And we stay there. No one is a villain in real life, nor in Ferelden, making it all the more enthralling.
Disappointment of the Year
The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks – Here's to hoping Link gets back in a boat.
Worst Excuse for a Video Game
Flower, Sun, and Rain – Unplayable, pretentious, and utterly unamusing. It might be art, but that doesn't mean it's worthwhile. After all, you could just as easily mount my dog's morning B.M. on the wall and call it art, but that wouldn't make it anything other than shit.
Most Innovative Feature
Most Innovative Feature – Even though Avalon Code didn't make the top five, it is still a respectable game with good 3D graphics and some unique gameplay features, the best of which is the Book of Prophecy. By scanning nearby objects, creatures, and people, the player can rearrange a series of codes to modify those scanned items. People might be cured of an illness, creatures might lose elemental affinities, and objects might turn into something incredibly powerful. The Book is delightfully fresh, but marred by clumsy management and menus. Nevertheless, I appreciate the Book's originality, and I expect to see further innovations in the near future.
Best Character of the Year
Morrigan from Dragon Age: Origins – Is she friend or foe, good or evil, selfish or wise? Is she even human? No character this year has intrigued me as much as Morrigan. She constantly challenges the player to rethink his or her friendships and decisions. She is at times absolutely convincing, at other times spiteful and detestable. She twists friendship into something great and awful and in the end, you won't know any more about her than you did in the beginning. You just might regret getting to know her. Then again, did you have any choice?