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Neal Chandran's Awards

Neal Chandran

This 1996 doujin (fan made) horror game became a cult hit in Japan, but has only been made available to Western audiences in recent years, with the 3DS release finally coming in 2016. I loved Corpse Party's unnerving atmosphere that reminded me of classic Japanese supernatural horror films like Ringu (The Ring) or Ju-On (The Grudge.) With versions of this game available on 3DS, PSP/Vita, iOS, and PC, there is no reason for gamers not to check this game out... unless you're scared!

MoaCube, the studio behind the wonderful visual novel Cinders, has struck again with a fantastic visual novel called Solstice. With its gorgeous visuals, evocative soundtrack, and disturbing storyline, Solstice is a breath of fresh air and originality that visual novel fans need to check out. I would say more, but that would give too much away and detract from your potential experience with it.

The latest installment to the Pokémon franchise may not have been my favorite Pokémon game, but it's definitely one that made me want to burn a few sick days to stay home from work to play. The fact that Pokémon still maintains such an addictive quality after 20 years and also bridges generation gaps in a way that few other things do is an astonishing feat for this venerable franchise that seems to be a part of everyone's childhood.

I enjoyed Odin Sphere back on the Playstation 2, but the graphical slowdown, balance issues in some stages, and improperly calibrated difficulty levels were definite issues. Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir is a Director's Cut of Odin Sphere that presents the game as it should have been. Without hardware limitations and with newfound knowledge, VanillaWare has eliminated the slowdown, fixed the balance issues, properly recalibrated the difficulty settings, refined the control interface, replotted the field stages, and seamlessly integrated new features that felt like they must have been there the whole time. The game also includes a "Classic Mode" where players can play the game exactly how it was before, albeit with the newly enhanced HD graphics. Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir is how a HD remake should be done.

Historically speaking, Digimon video games have not been good. However, Media.Vision, the developer behind the beloved Wild ARMs series, is responsible for Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth, and it is a polished JRPG with lovely graphics, fun gameplay (including excellent New Game+ carry-overs), a surprisingly mature storyline, and Masafumi Takada's masterful soundtrack. The game has its hiccups like overly skimpy attire on some female characters and storyline scripting that still presumes you're male even when you've picked the female avatar (this makes chapter 8's crux a little awkward). But when all is said and done, this is a wonderfully engaging 65 hour JRPG experience that truly made me feel like I was in a really good episodic anime series and gave me the same warm fuzzy feelings as Persona 2: Innocent Sin and Chrono Cross did. Given that those are two of my all-time favorite RPGs, it's saying a lot when a game elicits those kinds of feelings. You don't even need to know anything about Digimon to enjoy this game, as the world and characters here are wholly different from those presented in the anime and manga, making it a perfect vehicle for fans old and new.


Most Pleasant Surprise of the Year

Although I didn't enjoy the RPG portion of the gameplay, I loved the Princess Maker and visual novel aspects of the game and adored how it turned seemingly shallow anime archetypes with oversized boobs and skimpy clothing into wonderfully sympathetic and robustly fleshed-out characters. Idea Factory has always been strong in the visual novel department (I still think Hakuoki is their best game, and it's one of my favorite otome games), and Trillion's visual novel elements proved that strength. If only the RPG portion of it wasn't such a painfully awkward chore, then it might have made my Top 5.


Disappointment of the Year

Yes, I know this game came out in 2015, but it was not available on Steam till 2016. Either way, this game was a disappointment to me because I loved all the previous games in the series, but I felt that this one was a chore to play, had a lukewarm soundtrack (because stalwart composer Aaron Walz only contributed a scant few tracks), and did not have the soaring earnestness that made me fall in love with Aveyond in the first place. Though Aveyond 4 was a joint effort between developers Amaranth and John Wizard, it was not as good as prior Amaranth and John Wizard efforts. The bottom line is that not only was Aveyond 4 a weak Aveyond game, it was a mediocre RPG, period.


Best 2015 Game I Finally Played in 2016

Summon Night 5 does not reinvent the JRPG and SRPG wheels with newfangled gimmicks, dazzle with over-the-top production values, or offer a life-altering transcendent experience... and that's why I found it so great. With so many modern RPGs trying to be art pieces or something more than a game, it's wonderful to play a non-pretentious game like Summon Night 5 that is simply that: a really fun and refined game. What I liked most was that if you select the female avatar, the dialogue scripting is different from the male version, so everything makes contextual sense. The game didn't presume my protagonist is male when I chose the female. Nice! I'm not the biggest SRPG fan in the first place, but this is one of the few I played to completion and the only one I wanted to play multiple times over.


Best Review Lead-In

The clever use and variation of lyrics from Donna Summer's 1979 hit song "Bad Girls" in the byline and the writeup was a stroke of genius.




Twitch Schedule & Status

Sunday, December 9th
Tales of Eternia w/Scott • 10am PDT/1pm EDT

Mondays
Darksiders w/Maxx • 12pm PDT/3pm EDT
Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth - Hacker's Memory w/Kat • 3pm PDT/6pm EDT

Tuesdays
Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance w/Kyle • 3pm PDT/6pm EDT
Dragon Quest XI w/Scott • 7pm PDT/10pm EDT

Wednesdays
Dragon Quest XI w/Scott • 7pm PDT/10pm EDT

Thursdays
Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance w/Kyle • 3pm PDT/6pm EDT
Dragon Quest XI w/Scott • 7pm PDT/10pm EDT

Fridays
Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance w/Kat • 3pm PDT/6pm EDT
Friday Super Variety Night w/Scott • 7pm PDT/10pm EDT

Saturdays
Dragon Quest XI w/Scott • 5pm PDT/8pm EDT

Games of the Year 2018: Readers' Choice

Games of the Year 2018: Readers' Choice

Vote now!
RPGFan Launches Daily 'This Day in Gaming' Video Series

RPGFan Launches Daily "This Day in Gaming" Video Series

Video Series
Jimmy and the Pulsating Mass Review

Jimmy and the Pulsating Mass

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Random Encounter 155: Let's Go, Joker!

Random Encounter 155

Podcast
Return of the Obra Dinn

Return of the Obra Dinn

Review