5) Ys SEVEN (PSP) – When XSEED announced plans for a North American revival of the Ys series, I couldn't help but be swept up in the hype. Videos of the frenetic action paired with rocking guitar riffs had me pumped long before the game ever made its way into my PSP. Aside from the seemingly excessive number of characters and middle-of-the-road story, I was not disappointed. This game made me transition from an Ys fan to a hardcore Ys enthusiast.
4) Ys: The Oath in Felghana (PSP) – Where Ys SEVEN tried to improve itself by adding more of everything, The Oath in Felghana took a different approach by polishing every aspect of itself to near-perfection. The result was a streamlined game with an excellent soundtrack and almost no filler. It has been said before, but this game is the ultimate Ys experience, and it should not be missed by any action-RPG fan.
3) Final Fantasy XIII (PS3 / 360) – I'm still astounded by the amount of controversy surrounding this game. While its flaws are numerous and glaring, I couldn't help but be captivated by the setting, characters, and music. The story was nothing revolutionary, but I never found it hard to follow, and was relatively pleased with its conclusion, despite there being potential for so much more. Indeed, I was frequently puzzled by poor design choices, but, the game's charm and aesthetics are enough to make it worth playing.
2) Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 Portable (PSP) – This game is so good that I've bought all three of its incarnations. There were enough changes and tweaks to warrant yet another playthrough, and I leapt at the opportunity to interact with some of the most well-developed characters I've ever had the pleasure of getting to know. For those who have somehow managed to avoid exploring Iwatodai until now, they can now experience the definitive version of the game. There are no more excuses.
1) Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light (DS) – I was completely blindsided by this unassuming little title. I expected it to be a throwback to the older days of gaming, sure, but it pushed my nostalgia buttons in ways I couldn't have anticipated. Everything about the game exudes charm, from the striking watercolor backgrounds to the adorably caricatured player models. It brought me back to a simpler time of gaming, when my experiences were shaped by my own hand rather than elaborate set pieces and character backstories. I wouldn't trade the sense of whimsy and adventure produced by FF: 4HoL for all the production values in the world. RPGs like this make me remember why I play games in the first place.