For a game to enter my GOTY list, I have to have finished it. Bravely Second made this very easy for me, providing a streamlined, smartly designed portable experience. There are multiple options to maximize the enjoyability of your time with Tiz and friends — the ability to turn off random encounters, save gear presets, and chain random encounters for experience boosts, just to name a few. Couple that with the best version of the classic Final Fantasy Job System ever, and you're given a polished, albeit flawed, experience.
The Wii U is not known as a console for RPGs, but the release of Tokyo Mirage Sessions: #FE was enough to get me to dust off the console, and I'm glad I went through the trouble. Atlus knocked it out of the park yet again with this colorful game, combining a likable cast and excellent music with one of the best combat systems to ever grace an RPG. The blending of Shin Megami Tensei and Fire Emblem was unexpected, but Tokyo Mirage Sessions brings out the best of both series and is a great title to tide you over until we finally play Persona 5 in 2089.
Sometimes I'm more excited for a game's soundtrack release than I am for the game itself. This was the case for World of Final Fantasy, but luckily enough, the game itself succeeds as well. Fans of Pokémon will feel right at home catching recognizable Final Fantasy creatures and summons to build a party and explore the ridiculously cute world Reynn and Lann find themselves in. And the soundtrack is easily one of the best of the year, with remixes of songs like "Clash on the Big Bridge" and "Those Who Fight Further" giving fresh takes on established classics.
Dragon Quest Builders gave me something that I never realized I wanted from Minecraft: direction. The game has a great story and more dialogue than I was expecting, with every NPC having something to say about your mission to rebuild the world. The quests give you just enough purpose while simultaneously leaving things open-ended enough for you to solve problems the way you'd like. It's this mixture of creativity and a goal to strive for that kept me engaged through my entire playthrough of Dragon Quest Builders.
I finished Final Fantasy XV in three days. I knew as soon as I completed the first quest in the game that if I didn't get to the end of this story as soon as possible, my final grades would be in jeopardy. That's how much of a hold it took on me. A cast of characters that feel like real people, weighty combat, and a soundtrack from the esteemed Yoko Shimomura: this game had it all for me. Final Fantasy XV will be widely discussed and scrutinized for months, if not years to come — doubly so because of the announced incoming patches. But it is without a doubt my favorite game of the year.
This was a good year for RPGs, but you know what else was a good year for RPGs? 2006! We had titles like Twilight Princess, Final Fantasy XII, and The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion that year — pretty tough contenders. None of them beat my favorite game of that year, however: Kingdom Hearts II. Although it's a series that some would now consider an unintelligible mess, I was nothing but excited for KHII, and more than happy with what I got, as it was exactly what I was expecting: fast-paced combat, fun Disney worlds to explore, and some of Yoko Shimomura's best music. I can only hope the series ends on as strong a note as this game did — possibly some time before I retire.