Whaaat?! Another visual novel?!? Well too bad, this was just so amazing I had to put it up here.
I’m not gonna write anything for this because I already have a lengthy review for this game on another site. Link is here. (I’ve been having trouble directing myself to that link. Just refresh it if you can’t connect and you should be good to go)
But yeah. Read this. Seriously.
2) Tales of Symphonia
One of the best, if not the best selling RPG on the Gamecube. I fell in love with this game the moment I started. I was relatively new to JRPG’s at the time, so this was a new experience to me. From the moment I picked it up to the moment I beat it, I was having the time of my life. The story, the cast, and the battle system were all so amazing, especially when put together.
Well, ok. Truth to be told, the story wasn’t all that spectacular. It was good enough for what it is though, and the story really drove the characters to develop themselves as individuals. Which brings me to my favorite aspect of the game; the cast. Each character has their own unique quirks and traits, all with a dark background and past. The way the game allowed the characters to interact with the world, other characters and the story really made them come alive. The game allows you to have an ending for any character in your party, which leaves a lot to explore even after beating the game. Each character path gives more insight on said character, connecting themselves with you as the player even more so. Throughout the game, it felt more like I was really traveling with a group of friends rather than distant companions sought on accomplishing their own goals. Just a irk of mine, the English localization could have at least voiced the skits. ;_;
And the gameplay, the trademark of the Tales series. Tales of Symphonia’s battle system is rather primitive when compared to later Tales of games such as Tales of the Abyss and Vesperia, but what Symphonia’s battle system can do is enough to make the game enjoyable. Battles are set in real time, so there’s not much time to decide on decisions. In any given battle you are allowed a maximum of four characters on screen. Each character has their own set of skills and movesets, which gives way to many different unique combinations and battles. If you’re new to the Tales of series, at first the battles will seem crazy and out of control, what with so many things happening at once in one screen. However, the battle system is very easy to adapt to and sooner or later, you’ll become accustomed to the chaos that takes place in every battle. Even if you think you’ve gotten the grasp of your character and the battle system, there’s other aspects to explore, such as the S and T type branch. Using certain skills will move your character to a certain type, which in turn gives them different skills and abilities. There’s a lot to explore with Symphonia’s battle system, even if you’ve beaten the game several times.
Tales of Symphonia does hold a special place in my heart. After all, it was my first “real” RPG that I fully enjoyed and finished (I’ve played others before, like FFX. None of them did it for me). The light hearted attitude of the game and the characters created a fun atmosphere, which was enjoyable to play through. Oh, if you’re planning to play this game, keep in mind it’s about 50+ hours to finish. And that’s not even counting the sidequests. If I were to count that in the playtime hours, the game’s worth at least 100 hours. Depending on how fast you play RPG’s though, of course.
1) Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4
I’m sure many of you have heard of this game before. It was that one PS2 game that was released in the states during the period where no games were being developed for the PS2 anymore. Persona 4, without a doubt is my favorite game of all time (so far, at least).
Everything; from the cast to the story to the gameplay is amazing. The cast is composed of a bunch of high school teenagers with an incentive to save people from mysterious murders, and their town that’s being threatened to be engulfed by a mysterious fog. You, the main character, is a silent protagonist. Through the decisions you make, you can increase your stats in various areas such as intelligence and courage. Your decisions also affect your relationship with other characters, which is extremely crucial to your abilities in battle. The rest of the cast will become your trustworthy companions for a whole year, all of whom you will work together with to solve the mysterious murders that have been occurring in the small town of Inaba. Each character is unique, with stories and backgrounds to tell. Your party members are all quirky in their own way, their personalities often contrasting with others in your group. Nonetheless, you all get along as best friends, and throughout your journey you’ll establish a strong connection to each of your friends. The cast in Persona 4 is even more heavily defined than the characters are in Tales of Symphonia. Because of a more open world and setting to explore, the game is able to delve into the cast of Persona 4 much more deeply. Because the main character is living two separate lives; one as a student in high school and the other as a detective attempting to solve the mysterious murders. Due to this, as you simulate your life as a student and a detective, the main character is given more opportunities to interact with everyone in the game and get closer with each of them. Some you can choose to become lovers with, others you can decide to become best buddies with. Ultimately, many options are open to you. Because of this, many things can only be explored on a second playthrough. One playthrough will not be enough to get the most out of Persona 4. Just like Tales of Symphonia, the game makes you feel as if you’re on a journey with the best of friends rather than a bunch of acquaintances living in the same town. The only difference being, Persona 4 visits the nature of its characters much more deeply, which gives a lot of insight to human nature and its ups and downs. Persona 4’s cast raises a lot of psychological questions to the reader; is what we’re doing always right? Is it right for us to hide our true selves and put on a facade, a persona? Many of these questions are presented to the player several times, leaving the player to ponder the nature of society.
The story of Persona 4 is very heavy on development, so I can’t say much without spoiling. To get the most out of the story, there are several ends that can be achieved. There is the Bad End, Normal End, and True End. To achieve the True End is a very difficult task; many people don’t achieve it until their second playthrough, unless they used a guide to walk them through the game. The story is intriguing to those interested in the genre of mystery. In the small town of Inaba, mysterious murders have been happening. Nobody knows who’s causing these murders, and it’s up to you as the main character to discover the truth. The police are useless, after all (seriously, when have they ever been useful in a video game, ever?). From start to finish, many plot twists are presented, and several shocking revelations will surprise the player. With its amazing pacing and development, Persona 4’s story is one that will hook anyone from beginning to end.
As for the gameplay, it’s your traditional turn based system, with Shin Megami Tensei’s own unique flavor. Unlike Final Fantasy games, the turn based system in Persona 4 is very high risk, high reward. Every single move and decision you make in battle affects the outcome greatly. Your characters are not almighty; they can be easily taken out with a few hits, sometimes even on. After all, you are but a high school student. It’s up to each party member’s Personas to protect their respective owners. Even then, battles are not easy. Make a simple mistake, and you might just see the Game Over screen appear. The point of the battles is to discover your enemy’s weak point, and to exploit it. Without it, battles can be hard fought, and your party may be exhausted of SP sooner than you’d hope. By making smart decisions in battle and exploiting your enemy’s weakness, your party can progress further in the game’s randomly generated dungeons. It’s not just your typical “Select Attack and Win” battle. Though granted, once you get the hang of the weakness of the different types of enemies, the game does become a tad easy. Until you hit the bosses. Some of them are ridiculously hard. Seriously.
And that concludes my main list, my personal Top 10 Games of the Decade. Now, for the Honorable Mention Award goes to…
HM) Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale
Recettear is an indie game that was released in Japan many years ago. However, Recettear is also an indie game that was recently localized and released in the US this year. I picked up this game because of all the hype it got from various forums and sites. Did it disappoint? Oh, hell no. I was expecting great things from the game even, and I still underestimated it. This game went for $20 on release on Steam and other gaming sites, and I can say this: If I had to pay $100 for this game, I’d gladly do so. There’s so much content packed into this indie title that will leave players with much to do, even after beating the game.
So you’re wondering, what in the world is Recettear? It’s a game where you take on the role as a loli shopkeeper, working to pay off your father’s debt. Remember all those times in those RPG’s you played, where you would enter an item shop and buy weapons and potions? That under appreciated shopkeeper is now you, and it’s up to the player to stock up on the store and remain in business. After all, if you’re not going to do it, who else is going to be responsible to sell potions and steel swords to adventurers?
The gameplay itself is quite unique. It’s split in two parts; one part is where you handle the shop during business hours. You stock up on items, you put them on display and you sell them personally to customers who come in to your store. The other part is where you, as the loli shopkeeper hire adventurers to do your dirty deed for a price in dungeons. They kill monsters and gain experience, while you get all the loot to sell. The dungeon exploring part of the game is fairly simple. You your characters and the map from above, and you move around the dungeon in real time and attack monsters that approach you. Quite simple, yet if you time your attacks wrong, you can be severely punished for it, as monsters do deal quite a lot of damage. Each adventurer has their own special abilities. There are many different things you can experiment with each adventurer, leaving a lot for the player to explore. Not only that, there are many different items to find in the game, all of which you can use or sell in the store. As for managing the store, after you open up your shop, your customers will ask you how much you want to charge for a particular item that they want. It’s up to you as the shopkeeper to negotiate with them by raising the price to an acceptable amount that they would agree to. Fail, and you’ll lose trust in your customers. Succeed and your store’s reputation will increase, as will your Merchant Level. As your Merchant Level increases, you become more able to forge better items and equipment. By winning the trust of customers, you can sell your wares for a higher price. In the end, it all comes down to how well you can manage your time and business skills. If you’re not good enough, then you’re subjecting Recette to live in a cardboard box for the rest of her life. You wouldn’t want that, would you? Do yourself a favor, support Carpe Fulgur and buy this amazing gem of a game. You won’t regret it at all. And Carpe Fulgur deserves all the support they can get. After all, they did an amazing job with the localization. One of the reasons why I enjoyed the game so much was because of the creative and unique way they localized this game. They didn’t go with a literal translation, but rather they changed the script to fit to the taste of Westerners, while still retaining the traditional Japanese style of humor and dialogue. So yeah. Go out of your way and buy this amazing game for $20. You won’t regret it. If you do, Recette will be happy.