This year was pretty lacking when it came to games (and anime, but we’ll get to that later), but it’s still another year of releases. That isn’t to say there wasn’t anything good, but it felt almost depressing going through the list of 2014 releases and ending up with, well, basically only the games in this post, a few re-releases of games from last year that were actually good (Sleeping Dogs PS4, GTAV PS4), and about one or two games not appearing on this post as well (for example, Dynasty Warriors 8XL). Oh, stuff I haven’t played yet but want to isn’t here either, but I can say that just means these three things are not up for anything on this list as I haven’t gotten to play but I think would possibly be runner-ups if I had: Senran, Akiba’s Trip, and Project Diva F 2nd.
I would have made a separate post for the ‘worst’ as I usually do, but you’ll see why I didn’t bother in a second. We’ll actually do the opposite of the title and start with the worst.
Biggest Disappointment of the Year / Worst Game of the Year
Tales of Xillia 2
Sadly, as I’ve already gone over in another post, this is definitely the case. Xillia 2 drew us in with an AMAZING trailer, one of the best game trailers I’ve ever seen, as well as by being the sequel to what is easily the second best Tales game out there (second only to Graces F). Expectations were high and while the game clearly re-used most of the resources, locations, and characters from the first game, it seemed like that would only serve to let them focus on creating an incredible story. Plus, everyone assumed they’d add a lot of locations and such.
Instead, we were treated to an extremely lazy abuse of the world and characters, with almost 95% of the game’s world and enemies being directly reused from Xillia, inconsistencies among the original cast, and an incredibly fucking stupid story that kept contradicting itself and forcing in gigantic plot holes at every turn. The only good things about this game were one scene that you have to fucking sit through the entire game to get to because otherwise you won’t get the same feeling from it if you just watch it, one extremely unexpected and unique bad-end, and two new characters that were some of the best in the franchise and should have been the focus instead (those being Nova and Julius Kresnik). Man, a game where you play as Julius and Nova’s there as the love interest party member? What a missed opportunity. Instead we get an obnoxious little bitch and our old friends who seem more like alternate reality shit versions of themselves (yet aren’t…well, with one exception).
Aside the fucking terrible story and ruining of the characters, there was a lot about this game that was either beyond fucking lazy (most of the game fits into that, actually) or just plain shit. Pacing was terrible thanks to the open world and debt system, nothing felt worth doing, and you’re forced to go against basic logic because Ludger is a retard. There’s really just nothing good here.
Oh, and one last disappointing thing about this game: that fucking fantastic trailer I mentioned? Well the music used in it was a big part in making it so good – and it should come as no surprise with how this game loves to not give you anything good, the music isn’t in the game at all and is impossible to find anywhere.
Anyway, I already wrote up a full review of this game which goes into detail on why it’s such a big disappointment and such a bad game in general, which you can find HERE.
Game of the Year: Runner-ups
Final Fantasy 13 Lightning Returns
I feel like this came out last year, but nope, and I’m kind of glad it didn’t or else I’d be kind of out of other games. Definitely a choice that a lot wouldn’t agree with me on, but I’m one of those people who enjoys the 13 trilogy quite a lot. Actually, it’s probably my second favorite thing to come out of FF aside 7 because, yes, I’m one of those people too – though admittedly Final Fantasy is low on my list of JRPG series in general as it’s kind of filled with shit and mediocrity for the most part. LR was easily the best of the 13 trio though with a world just open enough to give you a lot of exploration and free roaming and keeping it closed enough to continue the story focus that a JRPG should have rather than treating it like GTA or Skyrim. It also brings back Lightning (who aside a DLC and some story cutscenes was missing in 13-2) at her best, and gives you a shit ton of customization options for not only her looks but also her stats and abilities. My only real complaint about the game is that you fight primarily alone. I would have loved seeing Snow join the party again – or even better, having Caius take our side and join Lightning in her fight, but both are instead used as boss fights and story elements instead.
Great customization, very interesting and well handled time travel and time management aspects, Lightning better than ever, plenty of exploring to do along with many side quests, armpits, and one of the best combat systems the FF series has had to date. It’s a very good game and something I replayed immediately after finishing it once simply due to having enough content to justify it as well as wanting to come closer to 100%ing it. It’s still just a ‘really good’ game though and far from a masterpiece. In my top 3 for FF though and has a lot of interesting mechanics that I’d like to see a bit more of in the future. And most importantly, the game was fun and managed to have good appearances from every story-relevant character from the trilogy.
Lightning was also made canon in all final fantasy and even in real life (as she apparently created that) through the ending, so get over it if you don’t like her.
Total War: Rome 2
Another game a lot of people would probably disagree with. It’s got shittier graphics than it should and it’s missing one or two features (that I couldn’t tell you because I never liked them in prior Total War games so I forgot already what they were), but aside complaints on how it looks (from people that aren’t me – as I can’t run it at max as it is so it’d look the way it does for me regardless, which was fine) it’s an incredibly fun game that you can get just as engrossed in as Shogun 2. I ended up playing this nearly nonstop for about a week just my first time through – playing, of course, as the Romans. I could have stopped sooner as I had met the victory conditions but I made sure to take every last town possible – even gathering my forces for a several-thousand-men vs around-20-guys final assault.
It made me feel like I was really pushing my empire’s reach with more purpose than just because it was the set goal of the video game. I got into it and it also made me watch The Gladiator yet again, which is actually one of my favorite films too. The battles were great and required just as much strategy as prior Total War games, and the politics seemed to work better than usual (albeit sometimes the AI would betray me when they had no hope in the world to win). While not the best in the Total War franchise, it was definitely worth the money and a great game in general.
Edit: Apparently this released in 2013 and the wikipedia 2014 page tricked me by listing it and I didn’t notice it was listing the OSX release. I only got this a couple months ago on Steam and didn’t realize it had come out so long ago and skimming that list of all 2014 releases ended up with me not realizing it was just that version.
I’d say this would be replaced with South Park The Stick of Truth, which is a really great RPG and has all the humor of South Park fully intact. Didn’t feel like a cheap cash-in at all. Either that or Dynasty Warriors 8XL on PS4 which was incredibly fun as always, but definitely more of the same – I just happen to be a big fan of ‘the same’ in this case. Plus Lu Bu’s daughter is cute as shit.
Atelier Escha & Logy
I think any year that has an Atelier will end up as my GOTY or at least as a runner up, they are just such great and unique games that continue to get better and better with each release. However, that last part was kind not true this time around, and that’s a big part of why this is only a runner up. While it is an extremely good game it doesn’t outdo or reach the same level as it’s predecessor, Ayesha. It’s still damn good and another wonderful entry into the Atelier franchise, but I didn’t feel that leap forward as I did in every Atelier game I’ve played sequentially up to now.
Usually Atelier games are heavily upgraded from game to game with new or drastically changed mechanics, way nicer graphics, new features, and so on. This didn’t really have that. It just felt like a less-focused Ayesha with characters that, while I loved as always, I didn’t care about as much as I wish I could have (not including Marion, Linca, and Nio, who were just fucking great to see again). It didn’t help that the main overall Dusk story was only slightly progressed either, as Ayesha had set such a more serious and heavy tone compared to the rest of the entire franchise (of course while still maintaining the lighthearted overall feeling and focus on being slice-of-lifey in a way) and made you expect the trilogy would continue that, yet this game only lightly touches on it.
I may have complaints, but that’s because I’m digging for them as this game was really great aside from feeling a bit lacking in story compared to Ayesha (which made it feel like a more traditional Atelier, so that’s not really a bad thing at all) and for feeling like it skimped on upgrading or adding mechanics. Sadly it got a fucking putrid anime this year too, but that’s for another post.
Game of the Year
Trails in the Sky FC
Another game I’ve discussed heavily in a review already, Trails in the Sky is is a perfect – and I do mean fucking perfect – culmination of everything a JRPG should strive to be. This is not just my “Game of the Year” but easily took the third spot in my favorite games of all time, only being beaten out by Xenosaga and Star Ocean 2. There is so much depth to every single thing in the game, even random store clerk NPCs or that lady sitting outside a cafe. Every single NPC in Liberl is ‘alive’ and has their own story going on throughout the game’s progression. Every building is designed in a way that makes sense for the business or home. Every twist in the story is foreshadowed or alluded to throughout the game.Combat is very fun, customization for combat is fairly deep, the music is fantastic, the entire cast is lovable and very well developed, the lore and world are too good for words, the story is pretty unique and the pacing makes it an extremely fun ride the whole way through, and the overall writing is full of personality.
This is a game that’s truly a ‘must play’ and I can think of nothing else that really compares to it or even attempts to. You can feel the love in every single aspect of this game down to even the back-talk from the chests you’ve already looted, and it mirrors the love you’ll end up having for it as well – it’s rare to see such genuine affection for a game from the devs so apparently throughout.
I’d go on and on about this game and what makes it one of the best games of all time, but I already have. Just know that this is a game from the very first moment to the very end that is unbelievably fun and rewarding to play as long as you’re willing to let it be.
I’m aware this game came out ages ago in Japan and on PSP, but due to the long length of time between then and now (like 7 years, rather than the short period between other re-releases) – as well as this being a new release on PC, I think there’s no real argument against counting it as a game from 2014. If that weren’t acceptable most Japanese releases wouldn’t be in general, which would be stupid.
I was happy with what I played this year for the most part, but aside a couple games nothing really was a big deal for me. Next year, however, already seems to be a good one with so many likely-great titles on the horizon. Atelier Shallie, DOA5 Last Round, Yakuza 5, FF-Type0, Story of Seasons, Senran Estival Versus (hopefully), FFXV, MGSV TPP finally confirmed for 2015, TRAILS IN THE SKY SC (which was supposed to be out already, but Carpe Fulgur weren’t the best choice for xseed to throw the game to so it’s taking longer), and so many others already announced – let alone what will be announced later and as the year goes on. Sadly the newest Tales game isn’t included in that, as it looks like total shit, sounds like total shit, and is likely total shit – so I won’t even be playing it until ages from release when it gets here through Gamefly at some point.
As an aside, I wish I knew about Deadly Premonition last year. It wouldn’t have beaten out my GOTY, but it would have definitely been in the top 5 of the year for the director’s cut release.