Games of the Year 2013

Neal Chandran's Awards
5) Soul Hackers (3DS)
I've been wanting to play this game for over a decade and I finally got to play it. This is a bucket list game for most any "old-head" Megami Tensei fan, and this is a strong case of "better late than never." Soul Hackers certainly shows its age, especially with it's VERY 1990s plot and play mechanics that future Megami Tensei games have refined, but it's still a slick game with a unique story, killer voice acting, and some brutal difficulty.

4) Richard & Alice (PC)
This brief, but excellent, indie adventure game came out of nowhere and thoroughly impressed me with its quietly powerful and unnervingly disquieting story. I played other indie adventure games this year that packed similarly powerful stories in short time frames (e.g. Kentucky Route Zero, Nowhere Safe: Unintended Silence), some of which I may have even rated higher than Richard & Alice, but Richard & Alice is the one that stuck with me the most.

3) If My Heart Had Wings (PC)
Looking past the aforementioned adventures that packed powerful stories into short time frames, this year has been great for graphic adventures in general. Acclaimed series such as Phoenix Wright, The Dark Eye, and even the venerable Broken Sword all saw good installments this year that could be in anyone's top five list. There were also some new players on the scene that deserve more attention, like Leviathan: Last Day of the Decade. I could easily make a top five with graphic adventures alone, but my pick of the litter here is If My Heart Had Wings. The art direction is gorgeous, the music is lovely, the story is enjoyably uplifting; in short the whole game just soars. Arguably, the other games I mentioned could be considered superior to If My Heart Had Wings, but this one has that intangible "mojo" that just resonates with me.

2) Fire Emblem: Awakening (3DS)
I'm not a fan of SRPGs and I often avoided Fire Emblem games in the past because they are too hardcore for a chickenwuss like me. However, the demo for Fire Emblem: Awakening enthralled me enough to purchase the game, and I'm glad I did. It has an engaging plotline, cool characters, and solid music, and the often brutal difficulty didn't bother me very much. I consider myself the least likely person to pursue a Fire Emblem title, but this one handily changed my mind and I loved every minute I spent with it.

1) Pokémon X/Y (3DS)
Rare is the time I spend more than 40 hours on an RPG. By that time, I'm usually ready for it to be done, but I've sunk over 90 into Pokémon Y. Since its October release, I have been completely addicted. I found myself revolving my busy schedule around playing Pokémon. When I wasn't playing Pokémon, I thought about playing Pokémon. When Pokémon kept me up past my bedtime, I would reluctantly go to sleep and dream of Pokémon when my head hit the pillow. When driving to work in the morning, I would play the game's soundtrack on my car stereo. Pokémon consumed my life. I want to be a Pokémon trainer and live in that world. I want to visit a professor, choose a starter pokémon of my very own, and go on a journey worthy of Ash Ketchum. I say this all the time, but when a game transcends being a game to being an experience, I have no choice but to offer it my highest accolades.

Biggest Surprise
Fire Emblem: Awakening (3DS)
Like I said before, it's an SRPG meant for genre die-hards, I fail miserably at SRPGs, they don't enthrall me like proverbial classic JRPGs do, and yet this game was AWESOME!

Best Non-RPG
Hatsune Miku: Project Diva Code F (PS3)
I love J-Pop, I enjoy rhythm games, and this one was quite robust with so many things to do outside of the main game. The level editor would make any tweaker salivate with glee. And, yes, the music is stellar. I love every song, especially "Hm? Ah, Yes." That's one of the best songs I've heard all year. The Vocaloid artists whose songs are included in the game may be controversial among folks (I'm sure plenty of aspiring pop singers have issues with "singer-in-a-box") but this game actually makes me want to try the Vocaloid software for myself and try my hand at computer-based songwriting. Definitely a great game and one I've spent a LOT of time with.

Disappointment of the Year
Tokitowa (PS3)
When Tokitowa's first screenshots were leaked, I saw potential. The game gave off a Thousand Arms meets Vay vibe, which appeals to me since I think both of those games are criminally underrated. Unfortunately, Tokitowa is the equivalent of someone on a dating site with a heavily doctored photo and profile that comes dangerously close to outright lying to you about what you get. The game held some promise during the speculation period, but the final product took any and all of that promise, tossed it into a garbage heap and took a big, fat, steaming dump all over it. Tokitowa was an eternal waste of the developer's time, the publisher's time, the player's time, everyone's time.

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