4) Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth (3DS)
Persona Q is a game that I can't fault on any technical level; it takes the best parts of Etrian Odyssey and presents them in a Persona-styled package that should make any series fan giddy from the outset. It's got a high-energy soundtrack, streamlined mapping, and a fast-paced battle system, all of which work together splendidly. My only issue with Persona Q is its somewhat middling story; fan-favorite characters are present in droves, but their personalities all seem to have regressed to the beginning of their development arcs from their respective games. It's as if the writers took each person's defining characteristic and amped it up to 11, making for some disappointingly shallow interactions between two otherwise brilliant casts. Still, it's an addictive game that I'm continuing to work through into 2015, cardboard cutout characters be damned.
3) Dragon Age: Inquisition (PS4)
I'm normally more of a JRPG guy, but the accolades Dragon Age: Inquisition received from my peers pushed me to give it a go — and boy, am I glad I stepped outside of my comfort zone. Thedas looks like a generic European fantasy world at first glance, but its surprisingly varied locales impress and beg to be explored. Even some occasionally hokey writing isn't enough to keep me out of this world for long. For me, DA:I doesn't need to have the most captivating story in the business; I'm simply content shoulder-tackling demons between awkward attempts at seducing The Iron Bull.
2) Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc (Vita)
& Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair
Initially, I was pretty unnerved by Danganronpa's premise. The gruesome nature of these Phoenix-Wright-meets-Battle-Royale murder mysteries means you have to possess a certain tolerance for violence to even proceed beyond the title screen(s). However, once I subdued my squeamish tendencies, I was able to dive into an upside-down world of neon-bloodsplattered mayhem. Full of outlandish personalities and twists aplenty, the two games connect in unexpected ways to create a cohesive narrative that sucked me in and refused to let go. Masafumi Takada's thumping techno score is the perfect complement, highlighting dramatic moments with a one-two punch of electronic samples and memorable piano motifs.
1) Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call (3DS)
Okay, so it's not technically an RPG, but it's within our coverage, and I gave it more of my life than any other new game this year. There's always been something magical in the music of Final Fantasy. Theatrhythm Curtain Call is a conduit for stirring memories and evoking emotions. I'm delighted that it has become a series with the announcement of Theatrhythm Dragon Quest. More, more, more!
The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky (PC)
A port of an already excellent game with some welcome graphical tweaks. More importantly, Second Chapter is almost upon us at last. It's been a long road, and my heart goes out to project head Andrew Dice over at Carpe Fulgur, who has faced an extremely challenging year
. I may be chomping at the bit for Trails SC, but it's important we remember that real people — people who deserve to be happy and healthy — are behind the games we love. May 2015 bring us more Trails and better tidings for Mr. Dice.
Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn (PC)
Eorzea is a beautiful world that has so much in store come 2015. I can't wait to take to the skies in Heavensward.
Bravely Default (3DS)
If I was feeling particularly vindictive, I would've listed this as "Biggest Disappointment," but I'm here to celebrate the highlight of my time with Bravely Default: its vibrant, emotionally stirring musical score. Baby Bird
, Land of Light and Shadow
, Serpent Eating the Ground/Horizon
, and more stand out as some of the best music I heard all year.