Thursday, December 26, 2019

My favorite games of 2019 that weren't actually released in 2019

Although the number of old games I play often competes with the number of new games I play in any given year, I'm pretty sure the scales tipped in favor of the former in 2019.

As such, I thought I should write up a post about my favorite games of the last year that, you know, weren't actually released during the last year.

A Witch’s Tale (DS)--Truth be told, I bought this Nippon Ichi-made RPG simply because I liked how it looked. I'd heard the rest of it wasn't very good, though, so dragged my feet on playing it. Now that I've not only started but finished it, I'm here to say all the folks who suggested I'd hate A Witch's Tale were wrong. It's no Mother or Undertale or, um, Bravely Default, as you might expect, but I still found it both fun and unique. Regarding the latter, A Witch's Tale is completely touch-based--you don't use your system's directional pad or buttons for anything. Also, there's no overworld to explore here. Instead, you jump between a small hub town and six larger areas that sport curious themes. Oh, and you fill your party with an assortment of odd-looking dolls rather than with other humans, which I found to be a particularly interesting change of pace.

Cave Noire (GameBoy)--Although I've played this Japan-only GameBoy game before, none of those experiences lasted more than an hour at most. I'm not sure why that is, as I usually love roguelikes. At any rate, I stuck with it quite a while longer than that this year. My thoughts on the four or so hours I devoted to Cave Noire in 2019? I adored them. They allowed me to discover just how much it differs from your typical example of the genre. For starters, the dungeons you explore here are delightfully bite-sized and perfect for brief bouts of gaming. Also, conquering them requires you to meet various goals, like collecting a certain amount of money or saving a specific number of caged fairies. Speaking of which, I have yet to beat all of Cave Noire's challenges, but I hope to do so in 2020--with the game's exceptional soundtrack egging me on all the way.

Crimson Shroud (3DS)--If I were to tag a theme to my last year with video games, it'd be something like "playing games I stupidly ignored in the past." Actually, though, I haven't ignored Crimson Shroud. In fact, I bought it upon release--only to play it in fits and spurts until earlier this year. Once again, I'm not sure why I failed to stick with it up to now. Its dice-centric battles, inspired by tabletop RPGs like Dungeons & Dragons, are right up my alley. As are Crimson Shroud's gritty aesthetic and cinematic soundtrack. Some of its late-game tussles grated on my nerves, I have to admit, but they barely put a dent in my enjoyment of this novel adventure.

Ever Oasis (3DS)--Unless something drastic happens between now and midnight on Jan. 1, this GREZZO-developed RPG will end up second among my most-played games of 2019. That's pretty cool, and surprising, considering I bought Ever Oasis expecting it to disappoint me (at least a bit). Obviously it didn't. Although it wasn't as Secret of Mana-esque as I was told it would be, I thought its real-time battles were even better than those of Squaresoft's 16-bit classic. I also appreciated Ever Oasis' enormous selection of whimsical weapons--its humungous hammers shaped like cacti and pinecones and other odd objects, in particular. The main complaint I can aim at this 3DS cart: its town-building component wore out its welcome well in advance of the finish line.

Final Fantasy Tactics A2 (DS)--Despite the fact that I love the original Final Fantasy Tactics dearly, I've never played its portable spinoffs. Or I hadn't played them before I stubbornly set out to beat Final Fantasy Tactics A2 this summer. Over 65 hours later, I met that objective--and then promptly returned the cartridge to its blue-sleeved case. Did I do so happily, or grouchily? It's hard to say. Only one aspect of A2 made me grouchy, but it was a doozy: the final battle. I loved pretty much everything else about it, though--from the graphics, to the music, to the focus on quests over story. Speaking of that last point, I know a lot of people wish Final Fantasy Tactics A2 had a better story. I'm not one of them. Most RPG stories are bloated, boring messes, in my opinion, so I'm fine with the one in Final Fantasy Tactics A2 doing the bare minimum to move things along.

Ghost Trick (DS)--I feel like I've said this a lot over the last few weeks, but I have a bad habit of avoiding games that garner too much hype from the masses. Capcom's Ghost Trick is but one example of a title that's met this sad fate. My loss, right? I'd certainly say so after playing through it on a tear this autumn. I had no idea the core gameplay in Ghost Trick was so ... puzzle game-ish. That alone increased my interest in it tenfold, though I found its art style, animation, dialogue, and music more than a tad captivating, too. I guess what I'm trying to say here is that, while it took me a while to play Ghost Trick for the first time, it won't take me quite so long to play it a second or even third time.

Last Window: The Secret of Cape West (DS)--I loved Hotel Dusk: Room 215 when I played through it a number of years ago. I expected to play through this follow-up shortly after, but you know how it often goes with best-laid plans. Oh, well, all that matters is I finally tackled it. And that I enjoyed nearly every minute of my time with Last Window. I especially liked that the setting was so different from that of Hotel Dusk. I'm unable to say the same about the new cast of characters, but you can't have everything, right? At least Last Window's soundtrack lived up to my sky-high expectations after the brilliant Hotel Dusk OST knocked me off my feet.

See also: my favorite games of 2019 and, uh, my other favorite games of 2019, too

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