By Will Whitehurst / December 21st, 2012
When it came to video games, 2012 was notably good. Xenoblade Chronicles finally displaced The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time as my favorite game of all time, and The Last Story provided a genuine RPG experience like no other. Delightful downloadable titles like Pushmo (released at the end of 2011, yes, but an addiction that lasted all year), La-Mulana and Double Dragon Neon finally cemented the importance of that particular medium to me. Now that 2013 is approaching rather quickly, there are plenty of other amazing experiences coming with it. Without further ado, here’s my own top 5 games of 2013, plus a few honorable mentions.
5. Tales of Xillia
Namco Bandai has not been good to Tales in recent years, but they’ve gotten much better with time. The lack of a PS3 Vesperia and Innocence R still hurts, but I have really enjoyed Tales of Graces F and Tales of the Abyss in 2012. But Tales of Xillia seems to outdo almost every previous game in the series. Tales combat is always satisfying, and with both Vesperia‘s system of technical points and Graces‘ combo chains, as well as a free-run mode in combat, it looks better than ever.
A Tales game is not complete without a delightful set of characters, and Xillia manages to include that as well. Not unlike Muramasa: The Demon Blade or any visual novel, you can choose one of two characters whose paths end up crossing, and experience events from different perspectives. All told, Namco has done it again, and I can’t wait to see the results.
Ubisoft’s E3 press conference was the best of the year, and even with new titles like Rayman Legends on the horizons, the title that intrigued me most at all of E3 was WATCH_DOGS. Outside of video games, one of my passions is cinema. I’m hard to please when it comes to games that can come across as films, and while the Uncharted trilogy and Heavy Rain came close, those two games didn’t seem to be truly cinematic. WATCH_DOGS has finally brought a quality concept that would fit right at home in a film.
Ubisoft Montreal has outdone themselves here, with an antihero protagonist who can hack into anything and a storyline that touches on concepts such as informational warfare and man’s increasing reliance on technology. (That provides quite a bit of good irony, but we’ll see.) The stylized look, which reminds me of neo-noir films such as Manhunter and Drive, also makes this game one of my most anticipated games of 2013.
3. The Wonderful 101
Ah, Platinum Games…if you guys are reading this, I haven’t met a game you made that I didn’t like. MadWorld, Bayonetta, Vanquish, and Infinite Space (which I particularly enjoyed) are all bona fide niche classics, and your impressive lineup for 2013 and beyond is also hard to beat. Anarchy Reigns finally hits shores in January, with the über-stylized collaborative effort Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance soon after. But I’m really excited for your Wii U support. Although Bayonetta 2 sounds great, I honestly doubt it will arrive in 2013, so for Platinum fans who can’t wait, you’ve given us The Wonderful 1o1.
My feelings toward this game, like everything Platinum has done in the past, have shifted around. When I first saw the trailer, I was initially dumbfounded. Questions like Is it an homage to Super Sentai/Power Rangers? and Is this really the Viewtiful Joe 3 I’ve always wanted? crossed my mind. But then, I wasn’t initially fond of the “rose bushes” in MadWorld or
Samuel L. Jackson Rodin in Bayonetta, so I just know that Platinum will make it work. It’s also a plus that this seems to be Platinum’s first family-friendly offering, because I doubt my mother wants to see the eviscerations featured in almost every game they’ve done. (And yes, that’s a good reason.) Either way, I can’t wait for it.
2. Monster Hunter Tri Ultimate
Yet another series I’m glad will make a comeback on American shores. I’ve spent a good many hours traversing the vast landscape of Monster Hunter Tri proper. When the updated 3DS version, Monster Hunter Tri G, hit Japan, I felt yet another uncanny sense of jealousy. Even if it didn’t have online play, MH in your pocket sounded like quite a proposition. (Especially since I still don’t have a PSP or Vita.) Things can turn on a dime, however, and I was absolutely astounded when Capcom announced at a Nintendo Direct that Monster Hunter Tri-G, now known as Ultimate, would be released not just for the 3DS, but for the Wii U as well, and each version would have special communications features.
Even at $100 combined, I’m sure you’ll get what you pay for. Only the loosely similar Xenoblade Chronicles had a better cost-to-gameplay ratio than the original version of Tri. While I’m far from a graphics snob, Tri Ultimate on the Wii U looks absolutely gorgeous, and the 3DS version is not far behind. 2013 is now the year of the Nintendo console RPG, and Monster Hunter Tri Ultimate will be one of the flagship titles in this boom.
1. Fire Emblem: Awakening
I know for a fact that this is on the top of almost every staff member’s list, but here goes. Look, I’m far from the only staff member who absolutely cannot wait for this game, nor am I extremely vocal in my anticipation (I won’t name names). Regardless, there are merely two traditional RPGs on the 3DS as of late, Kingdom Hearts 3D and Tales of the Abyss, and the latter is a PS2 port. A very, very good PS2 port, but still a PS2 port. As I stated above, 2013 is a new beginning for RPGs on Nintendo consoles. Most of all, Fire Emblem: Awakening will no doubt rectify my urge for 3DS RPG action come February 4.
The combat in Awakening looks much more visceral than past entries in the series, and I also can’t wait to see how Intelligent Systems implements the marriage system from Genealogy of the Holy War into it. Also, Fire Emblem: Awakening will be the first game I will willingly buy DLC for (no, games in the Rock Band series don’t count), unless there is none for some reason. Regardless, this seems like the best first-party Nintendo title not developed by Monolith, so that alone is worth it.
Dark Souls 2
Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse
Bravely Default: Flying Fairy*
Shin Megami Tensei Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers
Shin Megami Tensei IV*
Professor Layton vs. Ace Attorney*
* indicates a game that has not been announced for US release yet, but hopefully will be soon
3DSCapcomFire EmblemFire Emblem: AwakeningIntelligent SystemsMonster HunterMonster Hunter 3gMonster hunter triMonster Hunter Tri UltimateNamco BandaiNintendoPlatinum GamesProject P-100PS3TalesTales of XilliaThe Wonderful 101UbisoftWatch DogsWiiWii UXbox 360