My Top Ten Games of 2017: #4

My top ten favorite games of the year, presented in ascending order each day leading into the holidays. Look for my full Top Ten list with categories and awards on December 24!

#10 Fire Emblem Heroes
#9 Metroid: Samus Returns
#8 Injustice 2
#7 Hand of Fate 2
#6 Battle Chasers: Nightwar
#5 Thimbleweed Park

#4 Cosmic Star Heroine

There are lofty goals and then there is aiming your sights at the greatest RPGs of all time. When Zeboyd Games went to Kickstarter in 2013 they conceived of an old school, 16-bit RPG that would feature the compelling story and combat of Chrono Trigger, the base-building, party gathering of Suikoden, and the sci-fi awesomeness of Phantasy Star. Who could say no to that (I certainly didn’t).

While Cosmic Star Heroine is somewhat hampered by its indie budget, it is a damn fine retro JRPG that successfully draws many of the best elements from all those inspirational classics.

The story stars Agent Alyssa L’Salle, a pseudo-space cop who discovers that someone within her own organization is up to no good. With the help of some memorable friends and fun newcomers she eventually joins up with the local freedom fighters, exploring multiple planets and uncovering more sinister details.

Other than a nifty twist toward the end the storytelling is the softest ingredient, leaning heavily on style and humor, which thankfully the game does very well.

Ten party members is a crazy huge number for a 15-20 hour RPG. Some are a bit more underdeveloped than others, but they all have distinct styles and themes, from the break-dancing, schmoozy robot to the bestial alien bounty hunter.

Combat resembles the Grandia games (as well as Zeboyd’s previous retro RPGs) more than any of the actual 16-bit RPGs. There’s a D&D-like initiative tracker, and everyone has more than half a dozen abilities you can equip and customize, as well as Shields that offer even more abilities. There’s also an interesting system involving building up Style and entering Hyper mode. It’s challenging but fun to work out the most efficient timing and unleash your most powerful attacks at the right moment.

In a perfect world developers like Zeboyd would be given twice the budget to create a larger, deeper RPG using their exact same design philosophy. What this two-person team (three if you include the stellar soundtrack) accomplished is nothing short of astonishing. Cosmic Star Heroine wonderfully (and appropriately) embodies the classic quote: “Aim for the moon, even if you miss you’ll land among the stars.”*

Read my review for Pixelkin!

 

*Yes I’m aware that the stars are much farther away than the moon. It’s still a nice quote damn it.

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My Top Ten Games of 2017: #6

My top ten favorite games of the year, presented in ascending order each day leading into the holidays. Look for my full Top Ten list with categories and awards on December 24!

#10 Fire Emblem Heroes
#9 Metroid: Samus Returns
#8 Injustice 2
#7 Hand of Fate 2

#6 Battle Chasers: Nightwar

Battle Chasers: Nightwar

Most RPGs need to sell me on story, or combat, or setting, or preferably all of the above. Battle Chasers: Nightwar puts it’s exquisite art front and center, and it’s damn good. From the developers of Darksiders and the artwork from comic artist Joe Madureira come an impressive little indie RPG that offers a compelling turn-based combat system, fun characters, and a lengthy adventure. Continue reading “My Top Ten Games of 2017: #6”

Cosmic Star Heroine Review [Pixelkin]

Read the full review at Pixelkin

We’re supposed to “reach for the moon” in our goals. That way if we fall short we’ll still land among the stars. That doesn’t make a whole lot of sense given that the nearest star is several light-years farther away than our moon. But the point is sound.

Zeboyd Games’ moon is represented by classic, beloved 90s Japanese RPGs such as Chrono Trigger, Suikoden, and Phantasy Star. It’s a big reason I backed the game on Kickstarter several years ago. To take on some of the best RPGs in gaming with an indie budget and two-person development team is a daunting challenge. While Cosmic Star Heroine falls short in some ways, it still lands among the stars as one of the best games I’ve played this year.

READ THE FULL REVIEW AT PIXELKIN

Pokémon Sun and Moon Review [Pixelkin]

Read the full review at Pixelkin

A lot is riding on Pokémon Sun and Moon. Pokémon popularity is at its highest point since its inception in the 90s, thanks to its 20th Anniversary and hit mobile game Pokémon GO. Yet we haven’t seen a new, non-remake Pokémon title in three years.

Pokémon Sun and Moon represent the largest shift in the series we’ve ever seen. These are still classic monster catching and battling games aimed at kids, but the numerous improvements and new island setting make Pokémon Sun and Moon a hugely successful entry in the popular franchise.

READ THE FULL REVIEW AT PIXELKIN

Yo-Kai Watch 2 Review [Pixelkin]

While Yo-Kai Watch’s older brother Pokémon drops you into completely new worlds in each new game, Yo-Kai Watch 2 brings you back to the familiar city of Springdale.

Read the full review at Pixelkin

While Yo-Kai Watch’s older brother Pokémon drops you into completely new worlds in each new game, Yo-Kai Watch 2 brings you back to the familiar city of Springdale.

More yo-kai, new features, and improved abilities build upon the successful ideas in the first game. But even time-travel doesn’t save it from the feeling that you’ve already done all of this before.

Yo-Kai Watch 2 begins with one of the cringiest clichés of the JRPG – the amnesiac protagonist. Your chosen hero (either Nate or Katie) has their titular watch stolen and memories erased, creating a terribly painful prologue sequence for anyone that’s previously played the first game.

Yo-Kai Watch 2 wrestles with trying to appeal to newcomers as well as veterans of a game that was just released last year outside of Japan. The new yo-kai you meet are often well-designed additions, but you’ll also stumble upon a lot of repeats from the first game’s roster.

READ THE FULL REVIEW AT PIXELKIN

Dragon Quest VII Review [Pixelkin]

If you have the time to dig in this 3DS remake should easily become the definitive version of Dragon Quest VII.

Read the full review at Pixelkin

Back when the original Dragon Quest VII (called Dragon Warrior VII in the US) was released for the Sony PlayStation in 2000, it was already dated. The old-school 2D sprites were a big step backward compared to Final Fantasy VII’s fully 3D polygons. This new 3DS remake brings a much-needed graphical facelift, improved translations, and streamlined additions to entice turn-based JRPG fans to one of the genre’s forgotten gems.

Dragon Quest VII is all about time travel. Your hero and some childhood friends open an ancient shrine on your home island – the only island in the world. The shrine contains portals to other islands in the past. Each new island brings new characters, quests, monsters, and dungeons. The islands then appear in the present for even more monster-slaying content.

Time-travel requires assembling the tablet portals from fragments you find scattered throughout these islands. The main story focuses on exploring new islands, righting the wrongs of the past, and defeating Dragon Quest’s colorful array of enemies.

READ THE FULL REVIEW AT PIXELKIN

Final Fantasy Explorers Review [Pixelkin]

Fans of Crystal Chronicles and online RPGs may find some enjoyment, though the action can quickly grow repetitive if playing alone.

Read the full Review at Pixelkin

Final Fantasy Explorers Logo

Over a decade ago Final Fantasy fans were presented with an odd spinoff. Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles used a much more action-oriented, real-time combat system. The big hook was allowing friends to venture together in a static world, not unlike your typical online role-playing game.

Final Fantasy Explorers offers the same quest-driven gameplay with a threadbare story and piles of loot to collect and craft. Online multiplayer lets you play together with up to three other explorers using a variety of classic Final Fantasy classes such as Black Mage, Knight, and Ranger. Fans of Crystal Chronicles and online RPGs may find some enjoyment, though the action can quickly grow repetitive if playing alone.

Read the full Review at Pixelkin