The year 2014 has come to an end. Like many others, I've chosen to commemorate the new year by blogging about games that I played over the course of the previous year. In 2013, I made a top 10 list using games I'd started and finished that year regardless of when they came out. I didn't actually finish ten games in 2014, though, because I start a lot more games than I finish. Instead, I'm going to write about anything I played for a significant length of time in 2014, regardless of when I started or whether I've finished it. And since I played a ton of games in 2014, I'm going to split the list into four parts, with parts 3 and 4 containing my favorites.
First, though, I'd like to mention some games that I played in 2014 but don't feel compelled to write about:
Now, without further ado, here are my thoughts on five of the games I played in 2014. Note that these are not ranked, although I'm saving my favorites for parts 3 and 4.
Released: 2011 (DS)
Played on: 3DS XL
Started: January 2014
Play time: 24:30 according to 3DS activity log
Progress: SH Chapter 4, AH Chapter 4
Radiant Historia is a refreshing take on the Japanese RPG genre with a unique battle system and a well-executed time travel mechanic. It has, of course, been endlessly compared to time-traveling JRPG classic Chrono Trigger, a comparison in which Radiant Historia actually holds up rather well - its timeline-jumping mechanic explores the causes and effects of events with far more depth than Chrono Trigger ever did. In fact, pegging it as just another time travel RPG does a disservice to a game which has one of the most unique and engaging battle systems that the genre has seen in years. Many JRPG series over the years, from Grandia to Tales, have implemented spatial elements in their battle systems, but Radiant Historia's placement of enemies on a 3x3 grid feels fully realized, and gives its battles the most tactical feel of any RPG I've ever played aside from actual SRPGs.
Developer: Nippon Ichi Software
Released: 2003 (PS2), 2013 (PSN)
Played on: PS3
Started: June 2014
Play time: 24:14 on save file
Progress: Episode 7-3
Disgaea stands as the first SRPG that I've ever really enjoyed. I grabbed it on a whim for $4 in a PSN sale despite my history with the genre, and I'm glad I did. While I'm not a fan of its juvenile sense of humor, Disgaea more than makes up for that with how fun it is to play. Its mechanics have the same high degree of complexity and customization that turns me off to most western RPGs and strategy games, but it makes all of its systems accessible and manageable, allowing them to be learned at a comfortable pace. As for the actual gameplay, the enormous range of actions that can be done in a single turn provides a nice sense of freedom. In particular, the ability to pick up and throw friends and foes is an immensely satisfying and flexible mechanic.
Publisher: Square EA
Released: 1998 (PS), 2011 (PSN)
Played on: PCSX (2012), PS3 (2014)
Started: 2012, continued in June 2014
Play time: 33:41 total on save file, 25:46 in 2014
Progress: Disc 1, Babel Tower
This is the only game on this list where my playthrough was continued from a previous year. After doing some rather involved work with a $15 memory card adapter to transfer my PCSX emulator saves from my laptop to my actual PS3, I continued the Xenogears playthrough that I'd started in 2012. Now that I've played it some more, it's easily my favorite Square RPG of the PS1 era over Chrono Cross and Final Fantasy 7-9. Despite some corner cutting due to very obvious time and budget constraints, it feels both ambitious and well-realized, with enough unique mechanics to make it stand out from the pack.
Released: 2008 (PS3), 2014 (PC)
Played on: PS3
Started: July 2014
Play time: 9:41 on save file
Progress: Chapter 6
As I've said, I don't usually like SRPGs, but Valkyria Chronicles is just too good not to play. I don't have anything in particular to say about it that hasn't been said a hundred times before. It's an all-around solid game with a unique visual presentation and decent writing as the whipped cream and cherry on top. I really should play it some more.
Developer: Platinum Games
Released: 2010 (PS3/360), 2014 (Wii U)
Played on: PS3
Started: August 2014
Play time: 2:54 on save file
Progress: Chapter 3
Bayonetta is a fine game that makes me feel great when I succeed. My only real problem with it is that I'm terrible at it. It's on hold right now because the normal difficulty got too hard for me after the first couple of levels, and the next-easiest difficulty level sucks all the challenge and fun out of out of the game by automatically stringing together combos.
That's it for today! If you enjoyed reading my thoughts on video games, stay tuned for parts 2-4, which I hope to post over the next three days.