Remake of the Year: Final Fantasy VII Remake
I move at mach-speed-molasses when I play games, so I’ve only actually played two RPGs that came out this year: Final Fantasy VII Remake and Trials of Mana. The fun part is they’re both remakes, so let’s pit ’em against each other! These games are largely differentiated by philosophy: where Trials of Mana is looking to refurbish and revitalize, Final Fantasy VII Remake wants to reinvent. This means that despite incredibly improved visuals, music, gameplay, and customization on both sides, there is a clear winner in my mind. It’s Final Fantasy VII Remake.
The reinvention philosophy acknowledges that these beloved classics had addressable flaws, and that really shines in FFVIIR. The supporting cast is fleshed out. Our heroines get three whole dimensions of character development. Even Barret… well, at least he’s less problematic? The love, nuance, and thoughtfulness in John Eric Bentley’s performance goes quite a long way. I mean, It’s not perfect. There are certainly lingering issues that can and should be addressed in Part 2. Yet, Trials of Mana failed to see almost any flaws in its character representation, so I have to give it up to Cloud and the gang.
Plus, FFVIIR Tifa is far and away the most fun I’ve had with a game this year. True Strike! True Strike! Triangle, Triangle, Triangle, DIVEKICK! Bahamut weeps.
Best RPG Played This Year: CrossCode
So, what did I spend the year playing? CrossCode is easily my favorite game of the year, simultaneously the masterpiece I expected and the delight I never could have imagined. I’ve been champing at the bit to play it since early access in 2015, and I finally got the chance with this year’s console ports. The pixel art is gorgeous, the music is bumping, and every aspect of gameplay is a simple joy to experience. Think Zelda played at 100 miles an hour, with MMO fixings sprinkled in for flavor. Yet, none of that is what made CrossCode truly unforgettable. Instead, it was the puzzles. Everything is a puzzle. Exploration? Combat? Customization? It’s all puzzles! Radical Fish Games has designed an experience so intricate and cohesive that it simply baffles me. If you haven’t tried it, play it, then join me in the perpetual refresh of their DLC update blog.
Best Game Shared This Year: Ni no Kuni II
Yes, you read that correctly. Ni no Kuni II is the most fun I’ve had playing games with my partner all year. If I’m honest, this game has a quantity-over-quality problem: it’s a gameplay mechanic buffet when I just want one dish cooked to perfection. Yet, where most major reviewers saw this as a flaw (not RPGFan; Caitlin Argyros loved it), it was perfect for my partner and I. While I took on combat, customization, and crafting, she took on kingdom-building, sidequests, and skirmishes. By the end, we had super-saiyan fused into the target audience for this game. We adopted Evan, consumed every bit of content we could, and loved every moment of it… other than Lofty. *Kissing my framed portrait of Drippy from Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch* He’s a crime to Scottish anime fairies everywhere.