Top 3 Remakes & Remasters
1. Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion
We got some PSP remakes and ports this year, and while I’m sad Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth came out too late for these superlatives, I’m quite pleased with the ones that did make it out in time for the list. Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion not only provides context to the most popular entry in the Final Fantasy franchise, but it also reframes both Cloud and Sephiroth’s presence in the overarching story. Though essentially the same game was released 15 years ago, a new coat of paint and some quality-of-life updates were all this game needed. Relaxing and playing on a big screen brought this game to life for me, and I’m glad I got to play it.
2. Tactics Ogre: Reborn
Tactics Ogre: Reborn is another PSP remake (or really SFC, PSX, and even Saturn) was re-released for modern consoles. I think Square Enix is getting the hint that we still want to play their old games. Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together was an incredible game and one of my first games on the PSP. After purchasing Reborn for my PS5, I sank 200 hours into the game, clearing it in its entirety (including the new Deneb recruit, which, huh.) Tactics Ogre: Reborn isn’t redefining the genre, but it’s a nearly pristine remake worthy of praise.
3. Chrono Cross: The Radical Dreamers Edition
Chrono Cross on the PSX was something I struggled to get into. I wish I could go back in time and whack myself upside the head when I said, “Where’s Chrono?!” before putting the game down. When this remastered version came along, my slightly smarter brain said, “Ah, perhaps this game is more Cross than Chrono.” This new release makes Chrono Cross look pretty okay on modern screens but still preserves the incredible gameplay and soundtrack. Likewise, it’s cool to play the never-released-in-English Radical Dreamers that’s included. I had a great time finally playing Chrono Cross, and it has made its way onto a list of my all-timers.
Top 2 Action RPGs
1. Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising
I’ll confess I’m not part of the Suikoden/Eiyudian Chronicle fan community, or at least, I wasn’t until I played Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising. I love a good town builder, and if my gameplay cycle is collecting ingredients to make the town bigger and better, I’m gonna dump my all into it. Eiyuden Chronicle surprised me, as I had not anticipated it; I just downloaded it to my Xbox through Game Pass. The result was four days of not doing anything but playing Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising and gushing about it to friends.
2. SD Gundam Battle Alliance
I only bought this game because a friend was interested in it, and it had co-op. SD Gundam Battle Alliance ended up being an on-ramp to enjoying mecha. I ended up playing way more of it than I thought I would and was surprised at how invested I became. Despite the existence of co-op getting me into it, most of my time with SD Gundam Battle Alliance involved playing solo or with randoms online while exploring the story and leveling up my little Gundam guys.
Top 3 Adventure Games
1. Citizen Sleeper
I had been anticipating Citizen Sleeper for a while. I attended a panel where developer Gareth Damian Martin was speaking, and enjoyed what he had to say about bringing pen-and-paper mechanics to video games. I was very interested in his next project, Citizen Sleeper. The game is one of those knock-out titles that, by the end, you should take a moment to reflect on everything that happened during your time with it. Exploring the game world and the stories held within feel organic in a way I hadn’t experienced before, and all of it is determined by a simple dice roll. An incredible game.
2. I Was a Teenage Exocolonist
Another game with a tangible system made digital, I Was a Teenage Exocolonist struck me by how well it mixes tough decision-making with a fun and simple card game. What also struck me was how to obtain cards, not by visiting a shopkeep or winning card battles (though both are options for some cards), but by making decisions in the game and having experiences. While used as a metaphor, it made me wonder what cards we all have in our deck. And a game that has me waxing philosophical is a game worth playing.
3. Beacon Pines
I first saw Beacon Pines in early 2021 and was blown away by the art style, featuring little anthropomorphic characters running around, getting into trouble, and solving mysteries. Beacon Pines took me for a ride. While the art is stellar (go look at it), what kept me interested was the fun and winding narrative. There have been games before that allow you to alter the outcome of a past event, but tying it to a collectible like the charm puts an enjoyable spin on a familiar mechanic.