Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 Record Breaker

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Gameplay – 8/10

+ Grid-based strategy elements were pretty good, crack systems and buffs are better utilized than in Devil Survivor 1.
+ Good amount of characters to build teams you like, but there isn’t much of an incentive to need to use other characters.
+ Press turn system is implemented in a unique style, giving you extra battle turns if you hit weaknesses.
– Early game fights felt really grindy, especially with the fairy healing skills.

Visuals – 6/10

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+ 2D sprites and maps. Demon art by Kaneko is always nice to see.
+ Consistent artstyle between characters however with traits that separate them well. (ie. Fumi’s cheongsam, Jungo’s toque)
– Lack of interesting animations.
– Definitely more charming DS/3DS games out there.

Story – 7/10

+ Concepts and otherworldly concepts were interesting.
+ Characters were mostly well developed, especially when it comes to the Triangulum Arc.
+ The Triangulum Arc is what the the Septentrion Arc should have been, although it is better with the extra context as you feel more for the characters. I’d give the Septentrion Arc a 5, and then add 2 for the Triangulum.
– The story feels like it runs around in circles pretty often until the end.
– You either have an idea of what’s going on, but the characters don’t so you run around for a while.
= Characters can be permanently killed, which changes some events.

Content – 9/10

+ A lot of character events, since there are so many characters.
+ Playing both the Septentrion and Triangulum Arcs is an easy 80~ hours if you like grinding extra battles.
+ There are even sidequests within the game, and new game + bonuses.
+ There is a lot of voice acting, and it is basically all done very well. There’ll probably be voices you don’t like, but there’ll also be voices you will really enjoy as well.
= Multiple endings with a lot of rehashed content, good for replayability if you really like the systems.
– A lot of reused content, specifically in the last days of the Septentrion Arc.

Music – 9/10

+ Kenji Ito did a wonderful job with this game. The soundtrack grows on you the more you play it. I felt a little lukewarm about the music at the start, but I’ve come around to really enjoy some of it.
= There is a lot of forgettable music, though it does fit the scenes it is played in.
+ Favorites were Exploration, Septentrion, Battle of the Brave, Will of the Species, Providence.

Extra Notes

– Amount of extra battles, demon cracking could have been a bit simpler.
+ QOL is very nice in this game, things can be done really fast. (Auction, Fusing, Character setups, etc.)

39/50

Silverae Notes

– A lot of likable characters in this game. I liked Daichi, Io (Triangulum), Ronaldo, Yamato, Miyako, and Fumi.
– My favorite character is definitely Otome though, I prefer her more balanced distribution to Fumi’s while still being basically as strong magic-wise after a certain point.
– Lategame demons were kinda hard to get, especially without getting Fate 5 on a lot of characters, though it’s usually like this in SMT games.
– I’d like to see another Devil Survivor game.

Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 Record Breaker

Tokyo Mirage Sessions

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Gameplay – 10/10

+ Session System was very intuitive, felt like a fun spin-off of SMT games for sure.
+ Feels very rewarding to do big damage, and boss fights weren’t gimmicky and just felt challenging.
+ Weapon Triangle system was fun to implement and gave me (has FE background) a sense of when to use certain party members to hit weaknesses, yet had elemental guessing.
+ Had a fun cast of characters that were all viable and easy to use. No penalty for switching out characters in battle as well, which gives an incentive to use other party members.

Visuals – 9/10

+ Really colourful game, and a lot of animated cutscenes (I don’t know how high the budget was for this game, but it surprised me for sure)
+ Session animations were fun to watch for sure.
+ Colourful palettes and nice artstyle.
– Models were a bit stiff at times.

Story – 5/10

– Story conflicts are managed easily, and without a lot of buildup. (Yashiro’s motives for fighting, Ayaha)
+ A lot of FE1/FE3 fanservice here, which personally I really enjoyed but need FE background.
+- Sidestories were hit or miss, but a lot still required FE background to get the true value of it.
+ This game is basically carried by the likable characters.

Content – 7/10

– Sidequests required a lot of backtracking and were very annoying with little reward.
+- Dungeon designs were very hit or miss.
– Sidestories that didn’t have chapter bosses were very flat.
+ Lots of things and systems to upgrade.

Music – 8/10

+ Overall quite good, dungeon themes were a little lacking to me.
+ Liked most of the vocal themes more than I thought I would. Raindrop Memories is probably my favorite song, then Black Rain is the followup vocal song.
+ Battle themes in general were great. The beats and rhythm in Extra Battle.
+ Standout themes: Battle Theme, Bloom Palace, Extra Battle , Quest Battle, Dual Battle, Dream Catcher-inst-.

Extra Notes – (-1)

– Lack of QOL and skipping watching sessions especially late-game.
– Probably way too much backtracking.
+ Systems of gaining abilities through weapons and unlocking weapons with drops was very fun, gave incentive to fight.

38/50

Silverae Notes
– Touma is probably the best sidekick character I’ve ever seen. Shows up and doesn’t give any fucks, and helps your gang out already having the power to fight unlike needing help like most sidekick characters. He kinda got shafted later, but he has mostly everything down and his side story just feels like hanging out with him.
– I love Mamori and she must be protected.
– Yashiro is a really fun character that goes through a lot of growth, I feel like his side-stories were done best and you can definitely feel like the growth is natural. I don’t typically like edgelord characters, but he’s got the good touch of friendliness. I didn’t like Black Rain at first but it really grew on me too and now it’s one of my favorites.
– I’m really happy with the amount of Shadow Dragon fanservice, I thought this game would pander more to Awakening fans. Although instead of Awakening characters stealing the spotlight, I guess Tsubasa kinda did.
– Gold was pretty useless in this game.
– This game really did feel like a Persona 5 prototype.
– People should give this game a chance for sure.

Tokyo Mirage Sessions

Xenoblade Chronicles 2

 

Gameplay – 10/10

+ Blade and Driver combos were extremely fun to play around with.
+ Blade Switching and Arts Cancelling gave the game a fun rhythmic pattern.
+ Chain attacks became really satisfying, honestly one of the most fun overall battle systems I’ve ever played.

Visuals – 10/10

+ The artstyle matches the world of Alrest beautifully, notably places like Tantal
+ Cutscene visuals are immense, nothing beats a Xenoblade cutscene in terms of action.

Story – 8/10

+ Tie-ins from the first game were great, didn’t expect that at all.
+ One of my favorite coming of age stories in a video game format
+ Party is wholesome
+ Lore was really fun, looking forward to the prequel.
– Some characters, like Morag especially could have used more.
– At times there is quite a bit of filler (Gormotti kids stealing Roc’s core crystal)

Content – 10/10

+ Story is quite long, with a good load of gameplay and cutscenes.
+ Gameplay depth is quite large as well, lots of drops and things to collect.

Music – 10/10

+ Absolutely banging, I love the group of ACE, Kiyota, Mitsuda.
+ Cutscene syncing with the music was really great.
+ OST so good I had to buy it.
+ Jen Bird’s singing on Drifting Soul.
+ The whole OST is seriously amazing, but here are some standouts: Jin’s Theme, Spirit Crucible Elpys, Gormotti Forest, Counterattack, Tantal, Torigoth, Incoming!, The Tomorrow With You, Uraya

Extra Notes (-2)
– Tutorial was not done very well.
– Field Skills needing to be equipped, and the compass.

46/50

Silverae Notes
– My favorite characters are Nia, Jin, Zeke, Morag, and Brighid but I really fucking love Nia
– I didn’t mind the gatcha system, I think it’s fun to experiment with different Blades.
Elysium of the Blue Sky should have been the title screen theme.
– This was my favorite game of 2017 for sure, and 2017 was a stacked year in terms of gaming too. Playing this game made me nostalgic for Xenoblade 1, after X I wasn’t sure if I’d get the same feeling but I did. But it simultaneously felt different, and I love it for that.

Xenoblade Chronicles 2

My Favorite Games of 2017

exempt until I finish them: Breath of the Wild, Mario Odyssey, Tokyo Xanadu EX+, YS8

2017 was actually fantastic as a year in gaming, to tell you the truth I would definitely put all the games below within my top 35~ of all time at the moment, which is pretty high since I did an ordered list earlier where I had roughly 200~ just from my backlog listing and I’ve played more than that for sure over the span of the 16 years I’ve been playing video games or something.

goty

TIL I’m no good with GIMP and should stick to Photoshop as well, or something.

5) Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia

I really enjoyed this entry in the FE series, I feel like it expanded on Valentia as a world a lot from the time I played Gaiden and really gave it the modern touch it needed to feel good playing. Gaiden as a game feels like a grind, and everything also feels slow and this game mostly touched that up other than certain map designs, which pleased me greatly.

But what really impressed me about this game was the levels of presentation and care that went into the world building. After playing Fates and Awakening, I kinda lost my faith in the future installments of the series due to the lack of depth the world and stories were given, (Fates continent still doesn’t have a name hello?) and while this may be a remake of an older game.. Gaiden itself had probably like 50 written lines in it and most of the story in that game was actually in a booklet the game comes with. Hidari’s artwork, along with the arranged music really sold me on this game’s excellence. Maybe IS still can have it in them, I’ll at least be picking up FESwitch whenever it comes out.

Heritors of Arcadia >>>> Lost in Thoughts All Alone btw (just my opinion haha)

 

4) Persona 5

It’s no surprise that a game this solid wouldn’t appear on my list. If I had to argue that video games are an artistic medium, one of the games I’d show you is probably this game. I have my own problems with this game personally, but the progress it made for future installments and gaming in general can’t be understated. The gameplay is still as amazing as ever when you get into it, and the artwork and music done by Soejima and Meguro are both sublime. A major bullet point about this game is it’s UI though, it felt really ahead of it’s time and it removes a lot of annoying menu scrolling that RPGs are pretty notorious for.

The core themes of this game are enticing, dungeons were upgraded from previous entries, and roaming around Japan feels really authentic as a Japanese person myself.

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Hifumi is the best girl in this game btw, you guys can fight me.

3) The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky the 3rd

This game may not have originally come out in 2017, although it only came out in English this year.

This game was the perfect end to my favorite JRPG trilogy in existence. While I might like it’s predecessor more for very specific reasons, I can’t deny the improvements that this game made on it’s actual gameplay (which I’m sure paved the way for the gameplay actually being very fun in future installments) considering the fact I believe the gameplay to be the notable weak point of the Sky Trilogy, with FC being a large offender.

I can never complain about Falcom JDK’s music, and this game kind of hit it out of the park. I think the most notable thing is how the story is segmented and separated however. If you get too much of fighting battles, there are doors you can open that provide optional storyline content for your side-characters with various rewards. I love in game freedom, and this wasn’t any different. These sidestories were very endearing, and the overarching main plot was also very good. Having played certain games further into the series, it really impresses me how the team at Falcom were able to put in plot points in this game and set them up way further down the line.

I don’t support these two at all, please don’t do me like this Falcom.

2) Nier: Automata

And along with Persona 5, this is the other game I would show if I had to make an argument for video games being a medium of art.

Yoko Taro’s genius writing literally had me thinking about the game, the setting, and it’s characters for about a month even after completing this game. It’s not something I can just describe to a person, and it’s much better to experience. The voice direction and the stories of 2B, 9S, A2, and Pascal were also spectacular, and I’m not sure I would have felt the same way if their performances weren’t extremely good. People tell me I’m not a very emotional person though, but this game definitely got a lot of that out of me, and quite frequently too.

The sandbox world in this game really does it for me too, it’s just about as concise as it needs to be and changes depending on what you’ve experienced in the story as well. Small worlds like this can really be bolstered by a good narrative, and it got me quite attached to the areas you roam around. To add onto that, Keiichi Okabe’s music built the game up and the game definitely has one of my favorite soundtracks of all time. Platinum Game’s system for the game also works well, and I found it fun to transition during hacking segments and 3D roaming segments, although I can understand other people’s disdain about it.

What this game does really well though, is the fact that it constantly makes the player ask questions, but not only about the game or characters you’re playing. It’s a game that challenges what you believe about philosophical concepts, and basically anything relating to the human species that you could think of. This game is an experience I won’t ever forget, personally.

This song makes me wanna cry every time I hear it now, but I didn’t even care about it at the start of the game. ;_;

1) Xenoblade Chronicles 2

I didn’t really expect anything to top Nier: Automata, and my impressions of Xenoblade 2 weren’t amazing from the trailers they gave us. I had quite a bit to expect as well, since I really enjoyed Xenoblade Chronicles as well and I wasn’t quite sure if Monolith were capable of making a game as good as that.

But y’know, the two games aren’t really comparable to me after all. Xenoblade Chronicles 2 just feels like a completely different game to me, with only a few similarities to the first game.

Games are a culmination of all mediums, and this game basically has everything. It has a long overarching plot akin to what you’d see in a movie or book, great art and visuals, and an immense variety of amazing music. When you think about a game though, the game play is always incredibly important, because it is what sets a game apart from other forms of entertainment. In that regard, Xenoblade 2 doesn’t disappoint and probably has one of my favorite battle systems in a video game ever due to the depth, but also simplicity of it once you get it all working together. It’s a system where you’re still learning the ropes of it even towards the end of the game, but also feels great to play when you piece all the parts of it together. Despite being finished with the game, I still want to play it more, which isn’t a feeling I get very often at all. Comparably, I thought the first Xenoblade’s battle system was also nothing special, but I don’t get that with this game at all.

My favorite part of this game though, is the world of Alrest. To me, the world of Mira from Xenoblade Chronicles X wasn’t built up quite as well as Alrest was, while the beings of Bionis and Mechonis from Xenoblade Chronicles weren’t as impressive to me as much as the titans were in this game.

I actually really enjoyed exploring the world and finding new areas to do sidequests, fight monsters, or just take in the sights. All the music while exploring didn’t disappoint either, and every time I played more I started to get really sad that I wouldn’t be able to experience this for the first time ever again. Those sorts of feelings are the ones you get only when you experience something really special though, so it kinda speaks to how I feel about this game. Here’s to hoping Monolith can build another world like this.

Shit, I wish I actually could live here or something. (For a dying world, this place is actually too nice..)

And that’s it for me this year! I’ll be editing some other lists and posting a couple more in a bit but this was the big one I had to make anyways. Here’s to a good 2018!

 

 

My Favorite Games of 2017

Best Gameplay/Content/Story of 2017

Best Gameplay

Winner – Xenoblade Chronicles 2

I really love XB2’s battle system, there’s so much depth to it and it feels like a hybrid of a lot of battle systems I like a lot, notably Paper Mario/Final Fantasy 12 with a really unique combo system. You start off auto-attacking when you enter battle and it charges your Blade arts, which are basically your special battle moves. The auto-attack combo has 3 attacks to it with each attack progressively becoming more strong, and you can cancel those with good timing to keep the damage multipliers onto your arts. By using Blade arts, you charge your special Arts, which in term do the most amounts of damage and are elemental typed from level 1 to 4.

Each driver (or main character), can be binded to up to 3 Blades, one which they get as their main story Blade, and two others which you can get randomly. While a lot of people dislike pulling for Blades, personally I loved it because it forces you to adapt to certain playstyles, as each Blade has it’s own class from Attacker/Tank/Healer and it’s own respective weapon and element. This is the sort of thing that adds an intense level of replayability to me.

The fun starts when the game teaches you how to do Blade combos, which are basically special arts chained in a certain order with elements, and levels from 1 to 3. So essentially, you start the chain off with a level 1 special, then to continue you have a set amount of time to do a level 2 special, then a level 3 special. If you manage to make it all the way to the end, you inflict major damage, a status effect of some sort, and create an orb that is shatter-able in chain attacks to extend the length of the chain attack by an extra round. Shown below a fire-fire-fire chain is completed, sealing self-destruct so monsters you face cannot self-destruct.

Another mechanic is the driver combo, which relies on the abilities of each driver in the game. This is kind of the basic status effect chain that each RPG has, in that you inflict status effects in a certain order to maximize out your damage. The standard driver combo is Break-Topple-Launch-Smash, which adds two extra attacks to the predecessor as XB1 only had Break and Topple. If you manage to use both Blade and Driver combos simultaneously, you achieve a Fusion Combo as shown below, which maximizes your damage while the enemy cannot retaliate.

Finally, the chain attack system allows each Driver to perform a Blade Special starting at level 1 and increasing a level each time you break an orb and extend the chain attack. This is what does the most damage and the sole reason life bars are so big in this game, but I think that makes the game way more fun albeit I can see the argument for why people dislike the HP sponges in this game. I feel like if you play optimally though, enemies shouldn’t last very long.

Since it took me 5 paragraphs to explain how the battle system works, I’m pretty sure you can see the depth of the combat system within this game. I could talk about it some more but it’s a lot better to just experience. I can confirm that watching other people play this game probably wouldn’t be too fun, but playing it yourself is truly an experience. As someone who thought XB1’s weak point was the combat, Monolith did something amazing and gave me a battle system I’ll probably never forget.

Runner-up – Persona 5

Persona 5 didn’t really change up the uniform systems of the Persona system too much, but the additions it did add I thought were very fun. Notably, the gun and ammunition system gave the players another resource to manage in order to hit weak points, and was noticeably stronger than the basic attack. Demon Negotiation as a way to obtain Personas instead of shuffling cards was also a welcome addition, despite my disdain for attempting to recruit demons without weaknesses before you meet the Tower Confidant.

The addition of Confidant skills was much appreciated as well, as the Star Confidant lets you swap party members into your party. One thing I disliked about prior Persona games is that fact that experience wasn’t shared, so you’d get punished for using more than a main core party, but in Persona 5 I was able to completely utilize my whole party and all their strengths, and it made progressing through dungeons more fun. I’m sure the developers made the dungeons longer as well to balance the game as well. Some of the boss fights actually made me use my entire party to maximize SP usage.

Best Content

Content refers to depth of content offered, and quality of it.

Winner – Xenoblade Chronicles 2

I was really impressed with the level of content within the world of Alrest. XB2’s story is about 60-80~ hours even for a fast player like me, and the amount of affinity charts, sidequests, and rare Blades to find probably takes about as long as the main storyline itself. I really enjoy the sidequests in this game as they all force you to explore and find new areas, and the Xenoblade games are all about exploration. There’s always things to be doing, and I like to be preoccupied when I play video games, so there’s that. Merc Missions definitely could have been done better though.

Herald looks pretty badass, doesn’t she?

Runner-up – The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky the 3rd

I really enjoyed the Door system in Trails in the Sky the 3rd, as each door offers story content for specific party members, and there’s 25 of them to expand on the very large cast (20~) playable characters. The presentation of each of the door’s stories is quite good as well, and it really fleshes out the world of Zemuria. The doors are also optional, but easy to find which is really nice, as the majority of Trails 3rd is spent dungeon crawling. That means whenever you want a break from the dungeon crawling, you can open the door for some story content and extra rewards (money/equips) when you feel like it.

Have a wholesome Estelle. x)

Best Story

Winner – Nier: Automata

Taro Yoko is a genius for evicting so many emotions in me, and the presentation of Nier: Automata’s story along with Keiichi Okabe’s music was nothing short of stellar. The premise of androids trying to fight invaders that drove the humans off quickly becomes a story where you question the humanity of everything that exists, and the actions and motivations that drive people. This game is capable of evicting basically every single emotion from a player, and for me I definitely felt the impact of all this games hard-hitting decisions and scenes.

Runner-up – The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky the 3rd

I knew kind of how this game operated before I bought it, but the execution of it still surprised me. Kevin Graham, as a priest of the Church gets tasked to retrieve an artifact and analyze it while pulling off some crazy stunts, and manages to get himself pulled into an alternate universe where the entire Sky cast also ends up. As the artifact’s world is shaped by the denizens of it, the characters experience fragments of their past and various other surprises as they try to escape and get back to their own world. The highlight for me is obviously Kevin’s character and story, as he doesn’t get a lot of screen-time in SC but is shown to be doing some very important things behind the scenes.

Best Gameplay/Content/Story of 2017

Best Presentation/Cutscenes/Graphics in 2017

Best Presentation/UI

subject to change as I play more games

Winner – Persona 5

Is this even a surprise? Persona 5 was lacking in a couple of things for me, but UI and overall feel of the game was definitely not. The theme of red and black in menus and flipping artwork of the MC was way too clean for me to not put this as the winner, as it should be. The thematic definitely carried all the way through and everything just felt right, from Takemi’s blue shop menu to Iwai’s green weapons shop aesthetics and all the color contrasts were done beautifully. A complete overhaul of the battle menu system is what games should be looking to utilize in the near future as well.

Runnerup – Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia

Fire Emblem Echoes went for a minimalistic and nice visual feel using maroon-like colors. Stats were easy to read and the palette with the full portrait of each character’s art (which Hidari did beautifully) was always very nice to look at.

 

Most Appealing Graphics

Winner – Xenoblade Chronicles 2

While this game might not run optimally on the hardware it’s on, I can say without a doubt Alrest is a world I never want to leave. It’s truly beautiful, as well as all the 3D Models are environments that come with it, and the world is truly expansive enough to keep you in that wanderlust of wanting to see what comes next because everything looks so nice.

Runnerup – Probably every other game released this year

I’ll be honest, my eyes didn’t hurt playing any game this year and in fact I’m pretty sure my eyes were pleasured by looking at all the different aesthetics, artstyles, and general graphics this year. From the slick artstyle of Persona 5 to the mechanic and sharp feel of Nier: Automata.. nothing could go wrong this year.

Best Cutscenes

Winner – Xenoblade Chronicles 2

One of the things I was most excited about when XC2 was announced was the return to the style of XB1, and not Xenoblade Chronicles X for the very reason that XC1 had very enticing cutscene direction and music was composed to fit the cutscenes, kind of like how movie composers get to work with film. Monolith definitely didn’t disappoint me either, cause this game had a plethora of cutscenes and they were very fun to watch. The music syncing of Counterattack with the fight scene below is truly astonishing.

Runnerup – Nier: Automata

This game’s cutscenes were heartwrenching and impactful, and if you played the game you’d know exactly what I mean and which cutscenes I’m probably envisioning as I type this up. I won’t link anything as the game is very concise so it’s already easy to look up what you need, but you should just play the game.

Best Presentation/Cutscenes/Graphics in 2017