5) Dragon Age II (PS3/360/PC)
While some of my fellow editors understandably find issues with Dragon Age II, I think that much of the criticism leveled against BioWare's latest RPG is unjustified. Yes, it takes place in only one city. Yes, you can only select a human as a playable character. Yes, many of the environments are recycled. The battles were still just as well-done as the last game's, however, the characters were well-written and interesting, and best of all, the story actually progressed into shades-of-gray territory instead of relying on the previous game's "become Grey Warden, kill all Darkspawn, fist bump Alistair" formula. Not that there's anything wrong with Alistair (or darkspawn) but the Mage-Templar dynamic, as well as the insight into Qunari customs, made the story much more interesting. Naysayers can bray all they want about how Dragon Age II is the second coming of ET, but it still has the distinctive BioWare quality to me.
4) Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together (PSP)
SRPGs are a dying breed, and SRPGs that actually involve strategy? Don't get me started. This year, though, sees Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together, Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor Overclocked, and Disgaea 4, among others, and while all are solid SRPGs, Tactics Ogre can quite convincingly be called Matsuno's magnum opus, the best game he's ever produced. Dozens of jobs, incredibly challenging battles, branching storyline paths, and a multifaceted plot involving the cutthroat tactics and deception used during war make this one of the best SRPG of all time, updated to fit modern gameplay conventions. What results is possibly the best SRPG game that will ever be released on any platform.
3) Deus Ex: Human Revolution (PS3/360/PC)
Holy Paradigm Shift, Batman: Square Enix released an awesome game! They're on the fast track to being a top developer ag- what's that? Oh, it was developed by Eidos Montreal? Oh... well, that's some serious egg on my face. Regardless, Human Revolution shared Skyrim's gameplay philosophy of allowing the player to play the game however he or she wanted. Are you a proponent of pure stealth? There are achievements/trophies that put your skills to the test. Perhaps you'd rather go in guns blazing and annihilate your enemies with rifles and explosives? That's definitely an option, too. Whichever gameplay style you chose, Deus Ex: Human Revolution gave you a choice. Add in some excellent dialogue and a well-crafted narrative, and Human Revolution becomes one of the classics that this generation will be remembered for.
2) Tales of Xillia (PS3 - import)
What's this?! Tales games in Ashton's game of the year lists for two consecutive years? Has he gone mad? Nein, fraulein. Tales of Xillia truly exemplifies the direction that JRPGs should be heading. The characters are lovable, the storyline is fun and interesting, and the battle/character progression system has truly reached its pinnacle in this game. While the game feels slightly rushed, it doesn't change the fact that Xillia is probably the best Tales game released thus far, combining the best aspects of both Team Destiny and Team Symphonia's styles into one excellent game.
1) TIE - Elder Scrolls: Skyrim (PC, 360, PS3) & The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Wii)
I struggled for days trying to decide which game I liked more this year, and it's a good year when I can put not one, but TWO games in the number one slot in my top five list. These two games couldn't be more different, but both drew players into their respective worlds like no other game has been capable of doing so this year – the sky was the limit, and both games surpassed it. Yes, that was a horrible pun. No, I am not ashamed.
Skyrim offered players a humongous world rife with monsters, dragons, and people, offering myriad different races, equipment, skills, and abilities to allow players the freedom to play the game how they chose to play it. The world came alive with an absolutely stunning number of missions, sidequests, and dungeons that could be tackled and completed, and hours of gametime could be spent without progressing the main storyline. It stands as a true masterpiece in game architecture as well as in gameplay.
Skyward Sword, on the other hand, proved that even in the HD era, art direction is still king; the lush and colorful impressionist visuals combined with some of the best gameplay seen around and a strong story to form what is, in this editor's opinion, the best Legend of Zelda game Nintendo has delivered thus far. Of course, Skyward Sword's gameplay still doesn't disappoint, and while some of the mechanics could have been more fleshed out, the rest of the game stands as a testament to Nintendo's excellent game design process. Bravo, Nintendo!
Sonic Generations (PS3/360/3DS/PC)
This year had no dearth of quality, triple-A titles. Were you itching for a fight? King of Fighters XIII could scratch that itch. Maybe a superhero game? Batman: Arkham City took the best parts of Arkham Asylum and made an incredible sequel out of them. Some system exclusives? Uncharted 3 and Gears of War 3 rounded out the long string of second sequels dished out this year – a string that included heavy hitters like Modern Warfare 3 and Battlefield 3. Or maybe you'd like something a bit more traditional? Super Mario 3D Land (Special Stage 8-Crown is cruel) and Mario Kart 7 (Blue Shells are HAX) were incredible nostalgia trips that remained fresh and exciting.
But if you were a 90s kid (like I am) who was weaned on Sonic (because anyone who said Mario was better than Sonic back then was WRONG), then Sonic Generations was nothing short of amazing. Gone were all the silly gameplay "enhancements" that Sega felt obligated to hamfist into their games. Gone were all the insipid characters we were forced to play as because Sonic games needed "diversity." Gone were all the *shudder* human/hedgehog romances from Sonic 2006. Generations brings the series back where it belongs – excellent platforming, speed, great music, speed, beautiful levels, speed, oh, did I mention that Sonic was back to actually being speedy now? It was the perfect marriage of classic and modern gameplay. With levels separated into two acts – one for classic Sonic and one for modern Sonic – and level designs inspired by stages throughout the series' history (Chemical Plant Zone still brings a tear to my eye), this game brought to the table something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue.
Hey Capcom! You're releasing Marvel vs Capcom 3? Aweso- wait, why are you releasing an enhanced version half a year after the first game? That's just a huge "F YOU" to all the people who bought the first version! Okay, that's kind of weird, but I guess we still have Ace Attorney Investigations 2 to look forward t- you're not bringing it over? I guess the previous game kind of jumped the shark with that last case... but seriously, you're losing a lot of the goodwill you built up over the years. At least you're finally giving us Megaman Legends 3, I guess. I suppose that will mitigate everything you've done up to n- wait a minute, you cancelled that? What the ****, Capcom. What have you done? Why? What? Because the fans didn't help make it? What, were we supposed to make the game for you, Capcom? Yes? Are you ****ing insane?
Seriously, I'm done with you. As are many of your fans, I'm hoping. Good riddance.
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