Sunday, December 18, 2016

Annual Summary 2016

Thanks a ton for reading this over, Ecclesiastes, I appreciate it greatly!



Sweet Jesus, I have been doing this for 10 years.

...Well. Wow. Um. Here are the RPGs I played this year.


AeternoBlade
Ash
Code of Princess
Dex
Dragon Fantasy 1
Dragon Fantasy 2
Fallout 4
Fire Emblem 14
Infinite Dunamis
Justice Chronicles
Moon Hunters
Pier Solar and the Great Architects
Shin Megami Tensei 4-2
Shin Megami Tensei: Persona Q
Shining Force: Sword of Hajya
Valkyria Chronicles 1
Whisper of a Rose
Witch + Hero 2


Not a huge number, to be sure, but considering that I was finishing a graduate program, working as a student teacher for 4 months, working part time while both of those things were going on, and the fact that Fallout 4 is a game that takes up literal hundreds of hours, I think I did well. I also split my time with a lot of other non-RPG things, too.

Things like playing the non-RPGs Bloody Vampires, Cave Story, and the Shantae series. Things like experiencing the DLC for Pillars of Eternity (okay plot, good characters), and the extended edition’s post-game content for Shadowrun: Hong Kong (solid stuff). Things like watching Daredevil and Kimmy Schmidt’s second seasons, Gortimer Gibbons’s Life on Normal Street, and a few seasons of Are You Being Served?, and keeping up with My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, Brooklyn 99, Adam Ruins Everything, and, of course, the utterly and truly amazing Steven Universe. Things like rewatching the recent Doctor Who, The Legend of Korra, Robotech’s first season, and Rurouni Kenshin’s first 2 seasons as I showed them to my mother. And finally, things like replaying Undertale and Mass Effect 3 to show them to my sister.

Oh, yeah, and sometimes I ranted here, too. There was that.

So, normally, this is the point where I kinda just give a general outline of how the year went for me, RPG-wise, but, well, that just seems like it’s not all that interesting, and this rant’s already gonna be long enough, so...let’s just skip to the (theoretically) fun part: the lists!



RPG Moments of Interest in 2016:

1. I gotta say, the character creator in Fallout 4 is just really damn impressive. The level of detail and options for customizing your character is incredible. More than maybe any other level of game design, comparing where we are today to where we were 10 years ago with character creator systems shows an incredible level of advancement in our gaming.

2. Shin Megami Tensei: Persona Q is my first time hearing SMTP4 protagonist’s Yu’s voice to any significant degree (didn’t play SMTP4 Arena, you see), and I find it interesting that he shares a voice actor with SMTP4’s antagonist Adachi. No real thoughts on that, just find it an interesting point.

3. In 1 of those weird coincidences (like that year I played 2 completely unrelated RPGs in which Rasputin was a major villain), I actually played 2 totally separate RPGs this year (Fallout 4 and Dex) in which the protagonist is nicknamed Blue.

4. I finally got around to playing Valkyria Chronicles 1, which multiple friends of mine have urged me to do for years. This is largely thanks to reader Humza’s generosity--thanks again, buddy! It was good. Pretty neat to see Skies of Arcadia’s Vyse and Aika again, even just in odd cameo roles.

5. This year I played Dragon Fantasy 1, and thus got to see what it would be like if a Dragon Quest game (one without an 8 in its title, that is) was actually kind of fun.

6. I experienced Pier Solar and the Great Architects this year. It’s an indie RPG created, from what I’ve read, by a forum community of 16-bit gamers which call themselves Watermelon, and is, to date, the very last game created for the Sega Genesis, having been published in 2010. In much the same way that Kung Fury, released in 2015, is the ultimate 80s movie, Watermelon has basically created the most quintessential Sega Genesis RPG you’ll ever find in its approach, structure, feel, and style. Of course, anyone with an accurate memory of how well the Genesis actually functioned with its RPGs will realize that’s not a 100% positive thing. Nonetheless, if you’re ever missing the good old days of 16-bit RPGs and have exhausted the library of games actually released for the 1990s consoles, Pier Solar and the Great Architects is what you’ve been waiting for.

7. I think I encountered the most powerful RPG character of all time this year. Seriously, I’m kinda drawing a blank on who in the RPG world would ever be able to defeat Freyja of AeternoBlade. I plan to do a very small rant (stop scoffing, it could happen) about why she's so unstoppable some time in the future, so I won't go into detail here, but against even the hardest hitters of the RPG world, and heaven knows SquareEnix has done its best to make RPG characters as a whole into the most over-the-top ultra-powered combat gods imaginable, Freyja would come out on top, and probably unscathed. Crazy how such an obscure little RPG wound up creating one of the most powerful fictional characters ever to exist, particularly when it doesn't even seem like that was really their intention.

8. You know what’s kind of interesting? For all the questioning of and potential defiance against God that the Shin Megami Tensei series is filled with, there are only, as of now, 2 games in the SMT series in which you can actually fight and kill God: Shin Megami Tensei 2, and the new Shin Megami Tensei 4: Apocalypse (which shall henceforth be known as Shin Megami Tensei 4-2). And what’s interesting about that is that each time it’s happened, it’s been in a direct sequel. SMT2 is a direct sequel to the original Shin Megami Tensei, and SMT4-2 is a sequel (mostly; it’s complicated) to Shin Megami Tensei 4. Probably a coincidence, but who knows...given that it’s Shin Megami Tensei we’re talking about, there might be some intended meaning to that.

9. Applause to Bethesda for going the extra mile by naming the protagonist's son Shaun. As any fellow resident of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts who happens to be reading this knows, this state strictly enforces a law requiring that at least 1 out of every 5 male children residing here must be named some variation of "Sean". Fallout 4's developers really went all out to sell the authenticity of the game's setting!


Best Prequel/Sequel of 2016:
Winner: Shin Megami Tensei 4-2
There was actually a good amount of competition here this year, which hasn’t happened for a little while. In the end, I give it to SMT4-2, because it builds off of the plot of SMT4-1 very naturally, expanding its main and especially side characters well to evolve the plot and purpose of SMT4-1--which honestly is a little subpar for the series and doesn’t tread new ground enough--to become a better story that has a better purpose told by a more memorable cast. SMT4-2 doesn’t just stand as a solid sequel/continuation (whatever you’d call it; it’s complicated) and as a solid game in its own right, it also retroactively betters SMT4-1 a little by association.

Runners-Up: Dragon Fantasy 2; Fallout 4; Shin Megami Tensei: Persona Q
Dragon Fantasy 2 nearly perfectly executes itself--as DF1 was a part parody, part homage to some of the biggest 8-bit RPGs, DF2 is a part parody, part homage to some of the biggest 16-bit RPGs, and not just that, it expands the world of the first Dragon Fantasy exactly as much as the SNES generation expanded on the NES generation of RPGs. DF2 has more dialogue, more involved characters, a bigger plot, and retroactively adds lore to its series. It actually reminds me just a little of the way Arc the Lad 2 heavily expanded on Arc the Lad 1, although those came out in the 32-bit era and beyond. The developers of Dragon Fantasy 2 pulled off what they wanted to do flawlessly, and if SMT4-2 hadn’t actually made its predecessor better by association, then Dragon Fantasy 2 would’ve won this category. I look forward to Dragon Fantasy 3, which is going to take the next step and hits the Playstation 1 era.

Fallout 4 is a great RPG and another strong entry to a strong series. There’s not much to say about it as a sequel--it follows Fallout: New Vegas and more importantly Fallout 3 just fine, taking what it needs from them and going forward. I mean, I guess I’m still sad that Fallout 3’s Brotherhood of Steel became a self-important load of shortsighted racists, but it’s believable enough as it’s presented, so I can’t complain. As for Shin Megami Tensei: Persona Q, it’s, well, it’s 75% Persona fanservice, but in its last quarter it takes a serious left turn and becomes something truly moving and great, so as a sequel to SMTP4 and (more strongly given the meaning of life element) SMTP3, it’s solid.


Biggest Disappointment of 2016:
Loser: Whisper of a Rose
Yes, yes, I know that traditionally we do the joke-that’s-not-really-a-joke about how Mass Effect 3’s ending is still the most disappointing thing ever, even years after the fact, but...well, now that the fans have provided a real ending for the Mass Effect franchise, I’m ready to finally, really move on...

...to new disappointments! Like Whisper of a Rose. Jeez I wish I could like this game. It’s got good and interesting ideas, it’s got issues not often touched on in RPGs, and what it wants to communicate seems to be worthwhile (I think). But damn does it ever just fall flat on its face and not manage to deliver on any of its promise. I’ll be going into the details of Whisper of a Rose in a rant some time soon, but for now, just know that it’s sincerely disappointing.

I hate it when I have to rag on an Indie RPG. Makes me feel like a damn bully.

Almost as Bad: Code of Princess; Fire Emblem 14
Code of Princess is funny and lighthearted, but just...not quite enough, or maybe not in the right way. It just doesn’t really go anywhere, and it’s not quite funny enough to get by on its humor alone. Funny, but...forced, I guess. Like the writers are trying too hard to do what Nippon Ichi does effortlessly. As for Fire Emblem 14...well, it’s a fine Fire Emblem, and I don’t really have any huge problem with it, but the extremely limited amount of homosexuality is still a big enough disappointment that I think it deserves a place here. More detailed thoughts on this can be found in my previous rant on the subject.


Best Finale of 2016:
Winner: Shin Megami Tensei: Persona Q
Man, I did not see the latter quarter of SMTPQ coming. I mean, I knew there was something more to the plot for most of the game as I went through, but...Shin Megami Tensei: Persona Q goes from a rather unimpressive, though fun, RPG about having the casts of SMTP3 and 4 team up and just having a good time with that idea, to a deeply emotionally gripping tale of what worth a life can have about 75% of the way through, and it is a fast, HARD plot twist and change in tone. The questions it raises, and the pathos of the characters involved, are just excellent stuff, and the ending to this game wound up making me weep. In public.

Runners-Up: Fallout 4; Shin Megami Tensei 4-2; Valkyria Chronicles 1
Valkyria Chronicles 1’s finale is solid; there’s not much to really say about it beyond that they close the game well. Same with Fallout 4, really--it’s big, it’s impressive, it makes you stop and reflect on yet another grand story of the post apocalyptic world that you’ve taken part in...everything you expect from the series. Well, not everything, actually...the game does lack a definitive ending narration, which IS a real problem, making it probably the weakest ending of the Fallout series, and I sure as hell hope that they don’t pull that again. Come on, Bethesda, is it THAT hard to follow Fallout tradition and give us some ending clips for important people and places, tell us what happens to them in the future because of our endings? Nonetheless, it’s still a strong finish to a great RPG. And lastly, SMT4-2 kicks up its thematic philosophies a notch in its finale (provided you’re not an asshat who sided with the hypocritical Dagda instead of your friends). The final battle against YHVH is really well-done, a battle of philosophy and humanity’s purpose and progression as much as it is of actual physical conflict, and the use of Flynn’s team was a pleasant surprise, better tying the first Shin Megami Tensei 4 into its new conclusion. The ending subsequently does a good job of both focusing on its own cast and themes, while including its predecessor’s characters and ideas so well that I actually found myself in SMT4-2’s ending caring about Jonathan, Walter, and Isabeau’s connection, which SMT4-1 sure as hell couldn’t manage to accomplish. So yeah, good job with that, Atlus.


Worst RPG of 2016:
Loser: Whisper of a Rose
Look...Whisper of a Rose has high ambitions, and I respect it for that. But that’s all that I can say about the game that’s positive (well, that, and it also has a lot of really good songs). I’m not going to go into detail here--as I said, that’s coming up in its own rant soon. But unfortunately, this was not an auspicious first step for Indie developer Roseportal Games, and rather than get me excited to play more of their works and make me look forward all the more to the Shipbreakers game that I helped Kickstart, now I find myself uninterested in their other games and concerned about whether my money has been well pledged.

Almost as Bad: N/A
You know what’s cool about 2016? I only played a single game this year that I’d consider bad! And honestly, Whisper of a Rose isn’t even all that terrible; most other years, it’d be easily outclassed by worse stinkers. So that’s cool.


Most Creative of 2016:
Winner: Moon Hunters
Oh, hey, I finally got that Native American setting RPG I wanted. Well, mostly. Moon Hunters gets props for having a theme and setting based on tribal culture and lore, but it’s also very creative with how it handles itself. See, it’s a randomized roguelike RPG. Now, I just can’t stand roguelikes, and I’m not usually a fan of randomized dungeons, but Moon Hunters actually brings the idea together. Every game you play in it is different--the map changes, the ‘dungeons’, so to speak, change, and the characters you come across change. Yet this actually comes together perfectly in terms of plot, because the game is all about a single, legendary event of multiple cultures’ past, passed on orally in legends that change with each telling. The randomization element of gameplay that keeps the game different and thus fresh each time is actually accounted for and a strong part of the story!

Beyond that, the way it’s handled is just great. You really feel just like you’re playing through some tribe’s legends, and each time you restart (the game’s only like an hour and a half long, but it encourages multiple playthroughs in having different endings and many more events and characters than you could find in a single, or even half a dozen, playthroughs), you’ll experience more little side plots and figures of the game’s mythos that feel authentically like they’re parts of a long and involved legend. Moon Hunters is an extremely creative game; I am well pleased that I could help back it.

Runners-Up: AeternoBlade; Pier Solar and the Great Architects; Whisper of a Rose
Look, just because Whisper of a Rose can’t make anything worthwhile of all its interesting ideas and starting points, that doesn’t mean that those concepts aren’t still creative. AeternoBlade is an interesting story of time travel, vengeance, redemption, and human spirit that transcends time, and while there’s nothing that stands out too greatly about it, as a whole it comes together as a pretty creative venture. Lastly, while Pier Solar and the Great Architects does seem generic as an RPG for a while, its end game introduces a few very interesting plot points regarding the Pier Solar and the true history of the game’s world that are neat and different.


Best Romance of 2016:
Winner: Aigis and Minato (Shin Megami Tensei: Persona Q...and, well, Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3, essentially)
There’s really only a single place in the game in which romantic stuff comes into play, but as always, the love and devotion that Aigis has for Minato is compelling. This isn’t a powerful and excellent romance in SMTPQ itself, but it’s powerful and excellent inasmuch that the love between Aigis and Minato here is an additional part added to the whole that is their love in SMT Persona 3...a revisiting of something really beautiful.

Runners-Up: Alicia x Welkin (Valkyria Chronicles 1); Camilla x Corrin (Fire Emblem 14); Selena x Subaki (Fire Emblem 14)
Alicia and Welkin are a pretty by-the-numbers JRPG protagonist x main girl couple, but they do have a good chemistry, and you can see and believe in their deepening interest for one another. It works. As for the FE14 couples...I’ll refer you to my previous rant on these characters. Suffice to say, Subaki provides a support for Selena (who is one of the deeper characters of FE13 and 14) to really grow as a person, and Camilla’s love for Corrin, for all its unsettling weirdness, is undeniably, inspiringly, overwhelmingly genuine.


Best Voice Acting of 2016:
Winner: Fallout 4
What is there to say? It’s Fallout. Almost everyone’s vocal work is on point, and the game goes out of its way to go a step further and include a lot of variations on Massachusetts accents in its NPCs, which, y’know, is pretty essential when a huge focus of your game is to examine American culture, and the particular setting of that culture is the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Serious props go out to the voice actress for Nora the female protagonist, who really adds a lot of character to her role and perfectly balances the levity of sarcastic responses, the genuine goodness of morally upstanding responses, and the pain, confusion, and exhaustion that Nora carries in her search for her child (and after the search is over, for that matter; some of the lines during her conversation with Father on the roof in Cambridge are hauntingly well-done). The actor for Nate is highly competent, too, don’t get me wrong, and in a lot of other games he’d be a highlight...but if you play Fallout 4 without Courtenay Taylor voicing your protagonist, you’re just doing yourself a disservice. Big props also to Stephen Russell for his role as Nick Valentine, because I never, EVER will get tired of listening to a well-cast hardboiled detective, and he does a damn fine job with the role. But really, the game’s full of great performances. Deacon, Strong, Piper, Shaun, Tinker Tom, Hancock, Codsworth, Travis (especially before he gets his confidence), Curie, Kellogg, even a lot of little NPCs like the baseball vendor and Clem, they’re all great. With a game that has as much nuance to its emotion and ideas being expressed in its dialogue as Fallout 4 possesses, you need an incredible level of vocal talent in your whole cast to make it all work, and Fallout 4 brings that.

...Okay, fine, there is Preston’s “babe” problem. Look, no game is perfect.

Runners-Up: Shin Megami Tensei 4-2; Shin Megami Tensei: Persona Q; Valkyria Chronicles 1
VC1 matches its characters to its actors and actresses well, and they do their part well to draw you into the game’s story and cast. The same is true of SMT4-2--everyone’s on point and bring you into the game with personality granted almost as much by their voices as by their actual words.* And lastly, well, the voice acting for both Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 and 4 was excellent through and through, so small wonder that SMTPQ, whose cast is 90% characters from those titles, is terrifically voice acted. I do so love hearing Elizabeth’s whimsical musings and Theo-abusing demands.


Funniest of 2016:
Winner: Dragon Fantasy 2
Dragon Fantasy 2 is an enjoyable little tongue-in-cheek homage to 16-bit RPGs that stays amusing throughout. That’s all there is to say, really. It’s not a laugh-a-minute sort of game, but it’s pretty consistently fun.

Runners-Up: Code of Princess; Dragon Fantasy 1; Witch + Hero 2
Witch + Hero 2 continues the same vague but lighthearted humor as its predecessor, and it works fine. Dragon Fantasy 1 is built on the same humor as DF2, it’s just a little less frequent as a natural result of having a less dialogue-heavy story. And lastly, while I did criticize Code of Princess for the fact that it’s just not quite up to par for the tone it’s trying to take, there’s still a good few chuckles to be had with it.


Best Villain of 2016:
Winner: Father (Fallout 4)
Honestly, it’s a tough call who’s the best this year; all the contenders here are competent and have their strengths. In the end, though, it’s Father who is the best. He has depth as a callously misguided person, and his connection to Nora/Nate, and Nora/Nate’s entire purpose for braving the dangers of the Commonwealth, provides great drama to the game’s final conflict.

Runners-Up: Bethina (Pier Solar and the Great Architects); Krishna (Shin Megami Tensei 4-2); Vernia (AeternoBlade)
Vernia’s a good counterpart and juxtaposition to Freyja, and embodies AeternoBlade’s plot’s purpose very well. Bethina is interesting, and in some ways, not even as much a villain as the game’s protagonists are, though I can’t really say any more without spoiling certain things. As for Krishna...well, he’s got a decent villain schtick, but he’s not all that deep, honestly. At the same time, though, he’s got a charismatic villainous bearing, he’s smart and good at plotting, and he sells himself as a smug thinks-he-knows-best evil-doer. And honestly, sometimes that’s all it really takes to fill the role well.


Best Character of 2016:
Winner: Rei (Shin Megami Tensei: Persona Q)
I cannot tell you any detail of why Rei is here. Go play the game if you want to know. Sorry. But hey, it’s a good RPG; you should play it anyway.

Runners-Up: Forrest (Fire Emblem 14); Nora/Nate (Fallout 4); Zahua (Pillars of Eternity)
Zahua’s here because I experienced Pillars of Eternity’s DLC this year, and he, a DLC character, has a notable personality and a strong level of characterization. Forrest is a solid character whose wisdom and quietly friendly forbearance is really great, and I’d say he has the most depth of character out of the entirety of FE14’s cast. And it is really, really nice to see a JRPG treat a crossdresser character as something other than a cheap punchline. Lastly, the potential for character in Nora and Nate from Fallout 4 is really excellent, with the way their issues and loss stay with them and affect their decisions, and the way they react to this strange new--and yet in many ways sadly all too familiar--world around them. This is the first time that the Fallout series has had a protagonist who, while still very much in the player’s control, has a distinct origin of personality and a definable mentality which can be explored. And frankly, in spite of some players’ complaints about this, I think that this is a huge benefit to the integrity and power of the game’s story and purpose, and I really hope that future installments of the Fallout series will do the same. Look, player choice is great, open-ended approaches to RPGs can work fine, but the quality, integrity, and strength of the story and narration still comes first. The power and pathos of Fallout 4 greatly benefitted from having a more concrete protagonist than its predecessors possessed, and that makes it a positive.


Best Game of 2016:
Winner: Fallout 4
This probably isn’t a huge surprise. Fallout 4 isn’t the best of its series--Fallout 3 is still better, and maybe New Vegas and 1, as well--and it has its problems (for example, the Synth issue that the game is focused on is interesting, but in the end, a little outside the right sci-fi range for the series). But it’s still a damn fine RPG. It’s got a great cast of memorable and varied characters, a gripping story, compelling emotion, solid and thoughtful themes, and, like all Fallouts, it invites us to look at ourselves and our culture through its involvement of, spotlight on, and analysis of the history, people, trends, and common culture of the United States of America. It’s a fun, engaging, yet dark and telling look at ourselves, a grand and emotionally poignant adventure, and an invitation to appreciate and contemplate where humanity and society is and should be headed. Damn fine work again, Bethesda.

Runners-Up: Shin Megami Tensei 4-2; Shin Megami Tensei: Persona Q; Valkyria Chronicles 1
It’s a happy thing when it’s hard for me to pick the best of the year. I played many worthwhile titles this year that I would recommend, and Dex, Moon Hunters, and Pier Solar and the Great Architects are all good contenders for this category. Nonetheless...SMT4-2 is just a worthwhile, good RPG from start to finish, and while some fans have (correctly) noted that it’s in some ways closer to a Persona game than a title from the main numbered SMT games...well, that’s not really a bad thing, when the Persona flavor works and makes for a quality story. SMTPQ may only be a mildly positive game for its first 2/3, but once it does finally kick its story up, it is really, REALLY powerful stuff. Lastly, Valkyria Chronicles 1...it’s just a solid, well-made JRPG, intelligent, well-written, emotional, and containing a likable and interesting cast.


List Changes:
Greatest RPGs: Mass Effect 3 (with MEHEM) has been added to the Honorable Mention; Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon has been removed. Sorry, you piece of atmospheric, after-apocalypse artistry.
Most Annoying Characters: Still Teddie, just with the addition of SMT Persona Q to the list of games he’s from. New game, same fucking idiot.
Greatest Romances: Still Aigis and Minato, just with the addition of SMT Persona Q to the list of games they’re from. It’s tiny and optional, but still heartwarming and lovely.
Greatest Swords: The Aeterno Blade has been added (to the number 1 spot, in fact); the Elsydeon has been removed. Sorry, you memory-marked metallic murderer of the millennial monster.



And that’s it for 2016. Guys, gals, everything over to the side of that, thank you so very much for reading. I’ve had a lot of fun these past 10 years writing these rants, and I hope you’ve had some fun reading them. I’m looking forward to 2017, in which I have a great many more RPGs to experience (and 1 of them looks to be Tides of Numenara, which you know I’m just absolutely giddy about!), and I hope it’ll be a good year for all of us. Thanks for your time, your comments, your guest rants, and your support. Happy holidays to you all, and I’ll see you in the new year with more pointless babbling. Cheers!











* It IS a bit of a shame that Laura Bailey didn’t return to her role as Nozomi. I have absolutely adored Bailey’s performances ever since the ill-fated dub of Kodocha. But Karen Strassman, also known for her role as Aigis in the SMT Persona series, does a high quality job, one which I have no complaints whatsoever about.

17 comments:

  1. I think you could add a couple of more RPGs on the list by splitting Fire Emblem 14 into Conquest/Birthright/Revelation, since the games are long enough for that, but that might require rewriting a few parts of the rant.

    Do you mean the 3DS game, Bloody Vampire? For some reason, it was listed as an RPG on the eShop, even though some of the developer's other games (like Witch's Cat, which are not RPGs) have more/better story content in them (but still not a huge amount).

    I remember playing SMT 4 a couple of years back and being disappointed (maybe my expectations built up too high when it was released in Europe or I don't like video games as a source of philosophical fiction), but I think parts of the beginning of that game are strong, like the battle with Issachar. Is the sequel's focus on characters like a normal RPG's? (You did say they were more involved, but 3 is more than 1, but still less than the average if the average is 5).

    The characters in Code of Princess seem like they were designed around the idea of being one-trick ponies (Solange's brother makes fun of her having no clothes, Zozo's dialogue relevance revolves around her being able to use and replace body parts, etc) but my memory might be wrong.

    The RPGs on the 3DS virtual console aren't that great for the most part, but I think you got one of the best on there with Sword of Hajya. That might be because it's a port of the second story from Shining Force CD, which just seems technically impressive for me compared to RPGs the Gameboy/Color (although the narrative elements in Gameboy RPGs are probably better).

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    1. Comment was a lot longer than expected. Whoops.

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    2. Eh, The Witcher 2 is essentially 2 starkly separate story possibilities, but no one counts them as separate, so I'll stick with just counting FE14 as a single entity.

      That is indeed the Bloody Vampire game I meant. Yes, I got it because it was listed as an RPG, but even by my notoriously lax standards, that thing ain't an RPG. Not a bad little semi-platformer game, mind, but not really an RPG.

      SMT4-1's got some strong moments, but you're right, the game's more gripping at the beginning. Issachar's one of the better parts of it. At any rate, yes, the focus of SMT4-2, while definitely not completely off of the plot and philosophies, is much more upon the game's cast and their connections to one another. This gets some criticism from fans who apparently don't want their Persona to get too close to their non-Persona even though it's all part of the same damn series and a good story is a good fucking story, but I think it works quite well, and if you prefer character-driven narratives over plot/philosophy-driven ones, then you probably will like SMT4-2. It does what it does well.

      No, you're pretty correct on that. I mean, in fairness, a 1-trick-pony character CAN work when they're comic relief, but it's a tricky thing to walk the line between an enjoyably repeated joke and something that gets tedious in repetition, and Code of Princess just veers into that tedious repetition territory a few too many times. Still, I mean, it's not totally unfunny.

      Sword of Hajya was decent. Honestly, the virtual console hasn't been as great as I might have hoped, but on the other hand, I've already played most of the 16-bit era RPGs already, so everything I pick up on it is pretty obscure, and usually the kind of obscure that's warranted.

      Thanks for the comment, and don't worry about the length! I obviously never do. Thanks for reading, and Happy Holidays!

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  2. Laura Bailey was really busy this year as she couldn't reprise Rise in Dancing All Night. She was replaced with Ashly Birch and she does alright but not anywhere near Laura.

    Also Speaking Ashly, it's heavily implied that Rei is Labrys' Mother AKA the bases for her personality and in the Epilogue of P4 Arena 2 it is mentioned that her mother "Experiments" has help create a semi-cure so a little boy could go to school.

    And ah Valkyira Chronicles while analyzing it many themes can cause a lot of them to contradict each other it still a good ride and I hope the recent resurgence can help VCII to be re-released and VCIII to finally be localized. Also don't forget about Fina (and apparent triplet sisters)

    And oh the persona in my non-persona argument. I think most people are just bitter that people like it. There's no reason to complain if the influence
    is positive. The only bad influence would be Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE as it only takes shallow aspects causing a bare bone story that tries to be P4 but failing in every aspect, characters that lack motivation, and vapid and shallow themes that contradict Persona 4 Dancing all night a game made by THE SAME COMPANY. But I think you already heard this from me.

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  3. After all the bullshit this year, I was looking forward to at least a year-end RPG whinefest about all the stupid characters and weapons you'd seen. I even pointed out that Crisis Core is a legitimate RPG title to add it to your list of potentials to add one more to the righteous fire someday.

    But no. You have a GOOD YEAR with RPGs. You even say the worst game is not that terrible. I just don't know anything anymore. I'll be in a daze at work tonight.

    Bah, humbug. The Grinch did nothing wrong.




    Questions
    -Is it recommended that I play SMT4 before checking out 4-2? I can settle for a half-assed recap in the prologue of 4-2 if that's a thing.
    -I have Valkyria Chronicles in a drawer in my desk. How much of a priority should it be to get that game going?
    -Seeing as Persona Q is more than some crossover shenanigans, I should probably check that out as well?


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    1. Sorry, sir. If it helps, I'll be grumpier with some of my rants coming early 2017.

      1. I dunno...I mean...yeah, I guess you should play SMT4-1 beforehand, but you probably don't absolutely need to; there IS something of a recap. Still...there's enough stuff SMT4-2 builds off of that you're not going to get the most out of SMT4-2's setting, at least. I dunno. Hard to say.

      2. Not a huge priority. It's quite good, but at the same time, there are many other RPGs that are quite good, too. I'd have to know what other games are vying for your attention to really rate it against them.

      3. Yes. Just be patient and enjoy it for those crossover shenanigans to the best of your ability, because, well, they ARE the game's majority. I promise that you'll come away from STMPQ feeling it was a worthwhile experience, though.

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    2. Man, I'm just playin'. This wouldn't be the year of RL plot twists without yet one more surprise.

      I don't have a backlog of competing games so much as a backlog of games that accumulates at around the speed that I clear it. Just figuring out the priority for clearing them out.

      As soon as I'm not working 50-60 hour six day weeks 45 minutes from home, I may be able to play one of those games again! Handheld gaming has been a lifesaver in adult life.

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  4. Obdurate Hater of Rhythm gamesJanuary 3, 2017 at 12:37 AM

    I just beat a couple of great unofficially translated RPGs: Live a Live and Metal Max Returns. Live a Live is interesting because it mixes the lives of guys from throughout history, and Metal max Returns is fun because it gives you tanks. I highly recommend them.

    I also played a modern RPG, Xenoblade Chronicles X this year. It was an amazing game, challenging, fun, imaginative, having an interesting with a lot of tension and I strongly recommend it.

    My big disappointment, and a terrible game this year was Underrail. I love Fallout and Underrail is supposed to be a worthy successor, but that is not true: It has none of the charm, humor, characterization or story of that series. Underrail is a boring dungeon crawl with no style and very repetitive combat and I quit out of boredom.

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    1. Now that is a name I can get behind.

      Ah, Live-a-Live! That one's a personal favorite of mine. Yes, very creative and interesting. I particularly like Orsted as a villain; he's actually on my list of the greatest villains in RPGs.

      Haven't heard of Metal Max Returns, but I'll keep your rec in mind, as well as your rec for Xenoblade 2, which I have heard of. I enjoyed the original, so I'm sure I'll be playing this one at some point.

      Wow, that is really disappointing about Underrail. I've had a curious eye on that title for a while, waiting until I find the right sale or at least a proper review of it before I check it out...damn shame that it doesn't have the storytelling chops to fulfill its promise. Thanks for the warning!

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    2. I haven't played Metal Max Returns, but I think that it was gameplay-heavy/plot-light, so it might be worth delaying or something.

      @OHoRG: Was this blog linked at CRPG Addict? (I think I've seen you comment there a few times) People over there don't seem to like JRPGs much (makes sense since they're made to achieve different goals most of the time), so this blog might be more appropriate for discussion about that.

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  5. Ok...let me get this out of the way: how? How did you manage to do this much in a single friggin year? I think I really really suck at time management because I need an entire year to play that many games, watch an anime or two, read a few books (even if some of them are effin monsters such as Thomas Mann´s ´Der Zauberberg´) and barely, though just barely, manage to keep up with college work (being a first year, I can only pray that the coming years will be easier on me, but somehow I have the feeling that they´ll be just as taxing and time-consuming), and you´re telling me you did all that, worked as a student teacher, worked part time AND managed to rewatch some old stuff?

    Makes me feel bad about what I´m doing with my days (and right now I should be studying because exams but procrastination is a thing and I´m a pro). I also kind of had planned to give another reply to that FE Fates thingy, I wonder when I´ll get to that.

    My incompetence aside, I did start this comment up because hey, you played VC recently, and I finished it about 2 days ago, so why not.

    First though, regarding some points on your list, starting with 7: let me guess, she either has time travel powers which activate even if she dies, practically resurrecting her, or her powers are like Simon´s from TTGL, as in she grows stronger by the second, until her powers could field the multiverse itself. If it is the former, that´s pretty broken, but if facing somebody who can´t be hurt by her power level (or is it a power that goes through all defenses, enabling her to defeat even an immortal one?) it would just be an infinite looping without changing the outcome. Also, Lady of Sigil from Planescape is a thing. A thing that can kill even the Nameless One through inexplicable reasons.
    If it is the latter, gg, she can nuke the multiverse and be done with it. Seriously, Simon could fight with all the DC and Marvel characters and actually win, it is an easy power to come up with, but it is still inconceivably powerful. Either way, I guess I´ll find out once/if you do that rant. Or I could google it. But eh, that´s no fun.

    -8: Reminds me that I have to play Smt IV, but again, college, and I am playing Digital Devil Saga for the first time so there´s that.
    Oh, quick question if you don´t mind: how is Radiant Historia? Been interested in that one too.

    -Disappointments: Was Code Princess actually even developed by Atlus, or was it just published by them?
    Fe 14, no comments, I only played a few games in the franchise, and I vastly prefer 4 and Sacred Stones over 13 and 14, even though the latter´s story was mostly a turd (so were 13´s and 14´s however).

    -Romance: Good to see that others appreciate Selena, I already liked her in 13, and was offput by how many denounced and dismissed her as a generic tsundere without even trying to look further than that. Sure, she is not the deepest character to ever exist, and her backstory is not that special, but it was executed in a smooth, believable way, her dialogue avoided the common problem of being overly dramatic and theatrical ( a problem I have with VC´s dialogue to be frank), and she was really just portrayed as the understandable result of a complex mother-daughter relationship, with her inferiority complex and whatnot. 14 greatly improved on that too with her relationship with Subaki as you mentioned yourself. Only 13 kid I like more than her is Inigo/Laslow, really, and that more due to my liking his charm and the fun he brings as a character.


    Part one of a few because apparently I went way beyond the character limit. To whomever is actually reading this behemoth, I´m very sorry.

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    1. Well, you see, my secret is simple. It turns out when you're an extreme introvert with no friends whose sex life is a perpetual solo act, it frees up all kinds of time for other pursuits! Doubtless when the day comes that I meet that special someone who sees middle age, mild overweight, and highly opinionated attention to detail in a video game subgenre as a winning combination, I'll have less time for all this. But until that miracle comes to pass, I'm always gonna be able to fit more RPGs into my year than most other people, and you should probably thank your lucky stars for it.

      Freyja's powers involve the time-travelly thing you mentioned, but what you mentioned is only the lesser half of them. The Lady of Sigil is a good point...but the Lady's powers are kind of undefined and perhaps even incomprehensible (which is part of what makes her neat), so it's hard to say. At the very least, if they met face to face for a battle, it's probable that Freyja would not lose, though it's also probable that she would not have the capacity to win, either.

      Oooh, SMT Digital Devil Saga. Now THAT is a damn fine couple of games. Quite possibly the absolute best that the series has to offer. Yeah, I would say you're prioritizing the right SMT on that one.

      Radiant Historia is great. It's atmospheric and exceptionally creative, mysterious and interesting, it's got a solid plot and a good cast, and its hero and villain bring the game's conflict and ideas together really well. It's a very moving game and its characters' connections to one another are strong, but in understated ways, which I like, when such things are pulled off well (not often, sadly). I heartily recommend it.

      A quick bit of wikipedia-ing reveals that Atlus only published it, and even then, just in the US market. Developer was some Japanese studio that I don't know of. Well, guess I'd best change that.

      Bah, anyone who dismisses Selena as a generic tsundere is just a straight up fool. Selena is an example of taking a cliche, and reworking it to be really excellent, much like (and I know I use this example every time, but still) Grandia 2. Yeah, she's a tsundere type, no question about it, but she has significant depth of character, and her personality is a natural, logical result of her background. Not only that, but unlike the generic tsundere, Selena rarely has a serious problem with being straightforward and honest about her feelings once the situation is right. It doesn't take an annoying and unrealistic amount of time to get past the "it's not like I like you" thing with her, and once you do, you find a really nuanced, likable person. And frankly, her issues with her mother are both incredibly relatable, yet also so rarely explored and even unique. If it weren't for Forrest and maybe Camilla (depending on how much contemplation you want to put into the connection between the life environment her father created for her and her siblings and her overwhelming love for Corrin), Selena would most certainly be the most well-written, interesting, deep character in the cast.

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  6. Part 2:
    As for Alicia/Welkin, I like it, and they did have quite a few adorable moments, while the romance also managed to avoid the standard love-at-first-sight fanfare. They started out as acquaintances, moved on to being friends, and then the romance slowly started to work its way in, until then they had fairly normal conversations without any needless innuendos (or hardly any to be exact), making the whole relationship feel natural and more understandable than most. But I did dislike how a few of their moments involved some of the corniest conversations in the game (even in the prologue I couldn´t help but yawn at the pseudo-philosophical ´deep´ talk about the Lion´s paw, I can´t imagine anyone talking like that in real life, it was just a weak attempt to establish a personal connection to the cast´s struggle. I much preferred Welkin´s portrayal as a nature-loving yet determined goofball, and Alicia´s mourning silence when looking at the corpses after the first mission, that´s far more grounded in reality), and how Welkin eventually became an idiot due to her, but more on that later.

    Villains: I liked Selvaria very much, so I am kind of disappointed to not see her as an honorable mention. Partly because of the DLC, but also her final interactions with Alicia, the former establishing a down-to-earth woman who is simply very lonely, but at the same time is the perhaps kindest general under Maximillian, going out of her way to care for and reassure a single meek soldier whom Maximillian would have ignored due to his lack of worth. While Gregor and Jaeger also both showed that they aren´t mindless monsters, with the former letting Welkin and Alicia leave alive as repayment for taking care of and burying one of his soldiers close to death (a silly decision as a general, and in general kind of the exact opposite of what he was portrayed as before, but it is somewhat explainable as his ´noble dick´ attitude really could just be something that surfaces when close to Maximillian, with him actually being fair to non-nobles when actually confronting one), and the latter being ´that one villain who is actually an honorable man but who just happens to be on the wrong side´, Gregor only had that one moment, and Jaeger´s only merit to distinguish himself from his archetype was that he didn´t die in the end, but instead showed that he was more selfish than one would have thought, leaving the Imperials to go find another way to liberate his country (an as it seems, VC3 has a dlc where he actually fights against some imperials while trying to leave Gallia´s borders). Selvaria however did quite surprise me, as her archetype usually strikes me as ´stoic woman who would annihilate anyone for her master, and who only displays emotions in regards to him´. But she repeatedly was shown to be neither stoic (DLC, her exchanges with Johann and her womanly side that she also tried to protect in her final battle when she refused to fight as Valkyria), nor willing to annihilate everyone (instead of attacking Alicia in rage, the Valkyria who dethroned her and caused her to lose Maximillian´s favor, she encouraged her to find her own path as a Valkyria upon seeing her troubled state, and made her and the 7´s, knowing that they could pose a danger to Maximillian, leave the citadel, with her subordinates in tow, before blowing it to smithereens). It really went to show that while her loyalty is devoted to Maximillian and him alone, she couldn´t bring herself to murder her own subordinates, or even the people that led to her defeat, perhaps due to her wishing a kinder fate upon Alicia. Her refusal to battle as Valkyria, while once again bullshit when viewed from a strategical perspective, also helped in establishing her existential crisis, something that would later almost cause Alicia to sacrifice her life as well.

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  7. Part 3 (Holy shit, I underestimated this thing):

    I mean, sure, I am aware that it isn´t groundbreaking, but she was portrayed as a truly humble character, belying her title as war witch, and it was done in such a heartrending manner that it actually made me feel rather sad when viewing her death scene and listening to her final words, directed at the only man she wished to be accepted by, but who failed to ever do so.
    As another mention of yours, perhaps not that deep, but as I see it, executed very well. VC took a rather minimalistic approach with its characters and their backstories, only telling us the bare essentials, but I liked that approach, and we did learn did a lot to establish who they were and what they were like. But perhaps I may simply see to much in it for my own good.
    What I can say with confidence however is this: the villains got none of those corny, seemingly-deep-but-actually-pretty-shallow conversations, so there´s that.

    Alright, now for some other things about VC that I didn´t get to say while commenting on your rant:
    -I loved the gameplay. I am aware you do not particularly care about that, but it needs to be said. VC has some pretty good gameplay and it was a ton of fun to play through the game. The maps were all pretty unique and non-repetitive, with mission goals varying by a lot (stopping the Batomys, chasing the spy in the capital, playing hide-and-seek with soldiers who are after your injured lives and who also happen to have nukes on hand, changing the course of an unstoppable weapon etc etc…one could break it down to run-and-gun, but each mission was different enough that it felt special), and the entire turn-based strategy aspect combined with shooter mechanics. It was easily breakable with scouts and orders, but it was still very enjoyable, and the ex skirmishes provided actual challenges.
    -I liked how all team members had a personality, if often only barely noticeable. It helped in establishing the militia´s reputation as chaotic mesh of soldiers with the jarring differences between the racists, the darcsen minority, determined fighters and pacifists with no wish to fight (friggin Susie with her humanitarian potential), and while again very minimalistic, their tids and bits of backstory were pretty interesting at times, and their endings a cute addition to the whole thing. Perhaps not as fleshed out as FE with its support system, but again, I like well-done minimalism, and this one provided us with all we needed to know about people without forcing long-winded, insipid conversations on us.

    -Rosie was pretty good too with her relationship with Isara, her reluctant acceptance, and her report mentioning how she even came to hate darcsens (a very fallacious reasoning, but that made her human all the more). I don´t really wanna say too much about it though, I think this is the most agreeable point of all, as it was fleshed out quite well for the time it got during the story.
    -Zaka was a cool guy who sadly became completely irrelevant after his chapter. Wasted potential.
    -Largo was just…there. That is all.

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    1. I like Selvaria, too, and she was close to knocking Krishna off the list, but...I dunno, she just doesn't quite do it for me. Some of her better character development just can't seem to mesh with the rest of her...it's always a tricky thing, to try to do a villain who acts cold and callous, yet hides warmth and humanity, and sometimes, it just doesn't quite convalesce well enough and ends up seeming contradictory rather than nuanced. Selvia just ended up feeling that way for me.

      I agree, VC1 did well with its characters, both important and just the roster-fillers, and Rosie and her connection with Isara is some of the best content of the game.

      Semi-related, I'm suddenly struck by the thought that I should make a category for these summary rants devoted to Greatest Deaths of the games I've played that year. Morbid, I know, but with Inarra in VC1, Elise in FE14, and several individuals in SMT4-2...such scenes are deserving of special respect, and sadly, my Greatest Deaths list is such fantastic cream-of-the-crop material that they don't quite make it there. Thoughts? I might even edit this rant to include it.

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  8. Final one (yeah....uh, I don´t think comments are intended to be this long):

    -Varrot can go die in a pit for all I care. Initially I thought she was just your average, stoic commander, and I was fine with that, she gave me my missions, calmed people down when it was time to, and in general was just a competent leader. But then her report happened. Out of nowhere (yes, I know her deceased lover was mentioned in the beach episode – by the by, a beach episode? During what is essentially ww2? The hell? – but that doesn´t mean a thing) she becomes a woman filled with revenge, acting irrational, only to be stopped by bighearted largo. I don´t have a problem strictly with that, again, humans are irrational beings and all, but I do have a problem with how it was done. Because she was a major character she had to get her own report for some reason, but because she had no established personality beyond ´the commander´ they had to invent one, it was random and they chose the worst possible option…a character focused on vengeance, something that is so overdone that I can´t stand to see it unless it is done in a truly astounding fashion. But forget about that, even for your average revenge story, this was utterly disgraceful. It made her character shallower, by reducing what little mistery it held, forcing it down a tired line, and doing nothing with it. Had it been introduced earlier, all right. But it wasn´t. And it made me hate her entire existence as a detriment to an otherwise pretty good game.
    -Fuck late-game Welkin. Sure, let us not use Alicia´s powers, that isn´t a fair win to way, is it? …First of all, I liked Alicia´s feeling troubled upon learning of her nature, but without it, everyone would have died. Everyone. No winning that big battle in chapter 13/14, no stopping the Marmota, nothing. Without her powers Gallia would have been lost, and you dare act as if her using her power was somehow sinful and unfair? That it wouldn´t be victory if you won that way? Seriously?
    Also, Faldio being the great man he is (what he did was very questionable, but he did it for the sake of the country, and again, there would have been no other way, he willingly risked his friendship with Welkin to ensure Gallia´s safety, and in the end, in an act of regret he sacrificed his own life to take down Maximillian), was hardly acknowledged by Welkin at all. All he got was a `Faldio, stop this` at the very end, he wasn´t even mourned for after he died. Welkin didn´t even let out another cry or anything, he just stood there watching, escaped with Alicia and went on to live a peaceful life with the perhaps most adorable kid I´ve seen in fiction. Sure, it could have happened inbetween, but I really would have liked to see such a scene, one where Faldio is posthumously proclaimed a hero, with Welkin paying him his last respect. But no, all we got was that, Welkin staring at him, with the only concern in his mind being how to get Alicia out of there. No mention at all, not even a second child, a baby or something called Faldio. I don´t exactly hate Welkin, but come on, nothing to show that he has forgiven his friend?

    -One last thing, music was dope. I don´t think much needs to be said about this either.

    And I think that´s it? I´m sure I forgot something, as I always do, but this should be most of it.

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    1. Hey, in fairness, it's a very important thing that we, as people, recognize that there are times that victory is not worth what we will have to do to our enemies and our own souls to achieve it. It lessens us all and sets dangerous precedents when we allow only for cold, mathematical reasoning in our war-time estimations.

      Unfortunately, while the intent is good, the scenario through which the writers show us this good message is, indeed, rather stupid and annoying, so in practice, if not in theory, I am in agreement with you. Welkin's kinda dumb about the Valkyria thing.

      Yeah, I think you're right, Faldio really deserved a little more recognition and closure from Welkin. They kinda just wrote him out of the story and forgot him.

      Thanks for the comment! It was fun and interesting to read, and I really appreciate that you want to share your reactions and opinions. Good luck with your testing!

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