Friday, January 01, 2021

My favorite games of 2020 that weren't actually released in 2020

Although I recently declared Moon, Paper Mario: The Origami King, and Void Terrarium to be my favorite games of 2020, the truth of the matter is I had an even better time with the trio of pre-2020 titles highlighted here.

Combined, I devoted nearly 170 hours to Raging Loop, SaGa Scarlet Grace: Ambitions, and The World Ends With You. That alone should make it clear just how much I adored them. But why did I adore them? Keep reading to find out.

Raging Loop (PC, PS4, Switch)

Visual novels, VNs to those in the know, can be hard sells for folks who aren't fans of the genre. I know that all too well. It took me a long time to come around to these interactive books myself—and even now my experiences with them tend to be hit or miss.

What made the difference for me and Raging Loop? I'd say its horror-tinged story and rural-Japanese setting played key roles. So did its distinct and well-developed characters. Most important of all, though, was the tension this Kemco-made game introduced at the outset and then steadily built upon over time as its Werewolf-inspired mystery progressed toward its thrilling conclusion.

Will you enjoy Raging Loop if you tend to dislike VNs or scary stuff? I doubt it, to be brutally honest. That said, if it intrigues you at all, I'd highly recommend giving it a try—especially if you come across it during a sale. 

SaGa Scarlet Grace: Ambitions (Mobile, PC, PS4, Switch)

Akitoshi Kawazu's SaGa games are known for taking the RPG genre to all sorts of weird and wonderful places, but Scarlet Grace: Ambitions takes the cake in that regard. For starters, although you and your intrepid party explore a world map just like you would if you were playing a standard RPG, that's all you explore in SaGa Scarlet Grace: Ambitions. There are towns and dungeons here, but you don't enter them; instead, you peruse their "contents" (for lack of a better word) via a menu. In the former, that can mean chatting up a local or checking out a shop's wares, while in the latter, it typically means engaging in one or more battles.

Speaking of battles, they're both the focus and the highlight of SaGa Scarlet Grace: Ambitions. As well they should. They're brilliantly strategic, not to mention addictive. The main hook is that your actions can alter a fight's timeline, and if you manage to defeat a baddie positioned between two (groups of) party members, you're compensated with what can be a tide-turning "United Attack." Your opponents play by the same rules, though, so there's a risk-reward element to this SaGa's turn-based fights that keeps you on your toes.

Beyond these tussles, SaGa Scarlet Grace: Ambitions offers those who tackle it a magnificent OST (composed by Kenji Ito), a multitude of recruitable characters, and the kind of impressively—and sometimes befuddlingly—open-ended adventure that has been this series' calling card since day one.

The World Ends With You (DS)

The World Ends With You is the kind of game that makes you wonder what the Dragon Quest and, especially, Final Fantasy series could become if the suits at Square Enix let loose a bit. Almost everything about this action RPG makes you raise your eyebrows in appreciation: the stylized visuals, the modern setting, and the impressively eclectic soundtrack, especially. 

The frantic, dual-screened battles bedazzle, too—though they just as often bewilder. As exhilarating as controlling and otherwise keeping track of two characters can be, it can be exasperating as well. Still, once the fights in The World Ends With You click with you, they almost feel transcendent. When's the last time you said that about Dragon Quest or Final Fantasy—or any other JRPG, really?

Honorable mentions:
  • Again (DS)
  • Destiny Connect: Tick-Tock Travelers (PS4, Switch)
  • Hey! Pikmin (3DS)
  • Pokemon Shield (Switch)
  • Yomawari: Night Alone (PC, Switch, Vita)

1 comment:

Tom Gentry said...

This is a great post thankss