The Zero Escape series has served up some of the most engaging, yet absolutely insane, storytelling in gaming, and Zero Time Dilemma had a lot of expectations to live up to. Especially given the long wait after the ending of Virtue's Last Reward's tease that something big was about to go down. And while this third installment is somewhat... less than satisfying when held under scrutiny, it does a decent job of tying up the immediate plot it set out to tell, and I was glued to my Vita screen for the entire bloody ride. ZTD also features perhaps the most devious puzzles in the entire Zero Escape series, which is really saying something. "Not the game we deserved, but the one we needed right now," or something like that?
When I first started World of Final Fantasy, I was expecting a cutesy romp through an amalgamation of past Final Fantasy worlds, collecting critters and making acquaintances with classic characters as I struggled with my urge to stab Tama with an ice pick. What I wasn't expecting was for the game to hit me right in the feels towards the latter half. World of Final Fantasy's sudden turn into legitimate storytelling was a bit sudden, but welcome nevertheless, making it one of my biggest gaming pleasures of the year. I also totally named all of the creatures I caught after Pokémon. Speaking of which...
Every new generation of Pokémon is a cause for celebration, but Sun and Moon did so much to bring the series forward that I'm going to have a rough time going back to even the Gen 6 games. Realistically proportioned trainers? A shortcut for selecting Poke Balls? Being able to add a captured Pokémon to your party instead of sending it immediately to the PC, along with a host of other improvements and tweaks to make the experience more palatable? A story with likable characters that undergo actual arcs and have real life-or-death stakes??? It's all here, making Sun and Moon perhaps the most fleshed out Pokémon experience to date. Now, if only Nebby would get back in the bag...
The burden of expectation can be heavy, especially after nearly a decade of waiting for something to happen. I was a middle schooler when Versus XIII was announced: now I've graduated college. We may never know what truly went on behind the scenes, nor experience Noctis' journey as originally envisioned: especially when the second half of FFXV is so clearly rushed, unfocused, and lacking any real pacing. Yet despite everything, the newest numbered entry in the Final Fantasy series manages to overcome these obstacles and provide one of the most satisfying gaming experiences of the year. Even now, I'm still looking to do more hunts, come up with new recipes, find more soundtrack CDs, and spend more time with these characters. In that regard, I believe Final Fantasy XV to be an admirable course correction for Square Enix. Now bring on XVI!
What is with the Wii U and great JRPGs? My favorite game from last year was Xenoblade Chronicles X, and this year it's Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE, a collaboration between Intelligent Systems and Atlus that brings together the Shin Megami Tensei and Fire Emblem franchises into a colorful, off-the-wall, and completely delightful RPG. Don't let the focus on the Japanese idol industry drive you away — not only are you in for some great music with Tokyo Mirage Sessions, but you'll also meet some fantastic characters and experience a combat system that blends the best aspects of MegaTen's elemental weakness/Press Turn systems and Fire Emblem's Weapon Triangle. It's one of the best JRPGs I've played in years, period.
Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 has no excuse to be as addictive as it is. I spent an unhealthy amount of time on the first game, to the point that I found the idea of a sequel to be somewhat questionable. And yet, smart and creative changes to the basic Pac-Man formula plus clever maze design and an even zanier neon aesthetic make Championship Edition 2 a worthy follow-up.
Let's be real, here: this is only one true contender for 2016's Game of the Year. Ignore the mediocre RPG that it comes with
, because Chompcraft is where it's at.