Game of the Year 2012

Derek Heemsbergen's Awards
5) Atelier Meruru: The Apprentice of Arland (PS3)
The final entry in the Arland trilogy built upon its predecessors in natural and enjoyable ways. The kingdom-building aspect in particular is especially addictive and provides constant goals for the player to pursue. More than anything, I enjoyed the game's lighthearted atmosphere. Arland's pastel forests and placid lakes make for a whimsical escape from the dark settings seen in many modern RPGs.

4) Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward (3DS, Vita)
The sequel to 999 raised the bar once again in terms of storytelling and straight-up mindscrewery. It's a feat when any game can pull off a twist that makes me say, "Wait, WHAT?" Virtue's Last Reward didn't settle for doing that once; it threw revelation after revelation at me in rapid succession, each one answering a question while deepening existing mysteries. Between its captivating cast and brain-tickling discussions of various scientific theories, VLR had my full attention from start to finish.

3) Ys Origin (PC)
This game really caught me off guard. I was an Ys fan already, but Origin catapulted my love of the series to new heights. I think it might just be my favorite Ys title thus far. This is arcade-style action-RPG goodness at its finest: streamlined, fast-paced, and perfectly balanced in terms of difficulty. Each section of the Devil's Tower feels like its own "level," complete with face-rocking music that I'm still listening to on a regular basis. The way all three storylines overlapped and tied into Ys I: Ancient Ys Vanished was immensely satisfying, and thanks to an addictive Time Attack mode, Ys Origin is a game I'll be happy to revisit in the near future.

2) Persona 4 Golden (Vita)
I feel like I've gushed about this game enough, but I'll say it one last time: Persona 4 Golden is the ultimate version of P4, enhanced in every way and accessible to everyone. The music, story, setting, gameplay, and presentation are all top-notch. Inaba feels like a second home to me now, and I urge you to visit if you haven't already. Unless you absolutely despise Japanese RPGs, you would be remiss to skip this title.

1) Xenoblade Chronicles (Wii)
"Long ago, the world was nothing more than an endless sea cloaked in a boundless sky, reaching as far as could possibly be imagined. Then two great titans came into existence." The world concept for Xenoblade Chronicles is staggeringly unique – unlike anything I've experienced in an RPG. The idea of an entire ecosystem thriving on the body of a dead god is absolutely fascinating, and Xenoblade's world is unfailingly beautiful. From the sweeping Gaur Plains to the dazzling Eryth Sea, every location is a joy to explore. The action is propelled by an intriguing story and a likeable, well-acted cast. Combat is deep and strategic, character customization is addictive, and a monstrous amount of side objectives kept me engaged for hours upon hours. In terms of sheer scope and creativity, Xenoblade stands head and shoulders above its peers. I only wish it would have been on an HD console so I could have enjoyed its splendor in delicious 1080p. A remake for Wii U would probably be too much for my poor heart to handle.

Honorable Mentions
Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 (DS)
I managed to get most of the way through DS2, but its alienating difficulty kept it from making my top five. I'm a big fan of its Evangelion-esque plot and interesting characters (Jungo is the man), so I look forward to seeing how the recently-announced anime adaptation pans out next year.

Tales of Graces f (PS3)
Another game that barely missed my list, although for the opposite reason. ToGf's combat is lightning-fast and incredibly enjoyable, but its dungeons are a slog and I never really connected with the cast. I didn't outright dislike anything about the story, but it didn't captivate me, either. Hopefully Xillia fares better in that regard.

Overall Awards
Traditional RPG Action RPG Graphic Adventure Strategy RPG Indie RPG MMORPG Port or Re-release Downloadable Content (DLC) Best Combat Best Visuals Best Sound Best Story
Reader's Choice
Reader's Choice Best RPG of 2012
And the winner is...
Best RPG of 2012
Editors' Picks
Abraham Ashton Liu Andrew Barker Dave Yeager Derek Heemsbergen John McCarroll Kyle E. Miller Neal Chandran Robert Steinman Stephen Meyerink

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