5) Legend of Grimrock (PC)
I didn't know what to expect when I bought Legend of Grimrock. I had never played a first-person dungeon crawler before, but the glowing reviews persuaded me to give it a try. I was not at all disappointed. Grimrock is modern in its design, but retains the wonderful, occasionally brutal, level of challenge only found in old-school RPGs. It's dark, atmospheric, and simply a joy to explore. The unique puzzles offered on each floor are beautifully varied and intriguing, and I honestly couldn't put the game down.
4) Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward (3DS, Vita)
The Zero Escape series may not have the sharpest writing, but both games tell amazing stories. Living up to the quality of 999 was no easy task, but Virtue's Last Reward pulls it off. The story is just as exciting and intriguing this time around, and the puzzle rooms equally as fiendish and clever. The story still takes a few odd liberties, but it's edge-of-your-seat from beginning to end. Even better, Virtue's Last Reward fixes my primary complaint of 999: the ability to skip puzzle rooms you have previously completed. The new 3D character models and graphics look great too. Good show, Chunsoft.
3) Atelier Meruru: The Apprentice of Arland (PS3)
I had high hopes for Meruru after how much I adored Totori. In many ways, Meruru is the superior game, but I never felt it captured the heart Totori had behind it. Nevertheless, Atelier Meruru is a great end to the Arland series and the item synthesis is as addictive as ever. Tons of new locations to explore and party members to recruit keep the game interesting the whole way through, and the additional endings and post-game dungeons give you plenty of reasons to keep playing after the main story. Upgrading certain areas and developing the kingdom is a nice touch, and I can't wait to find out what Atelier Ayesha might hold for us.
2) Xenoblade Chronicles (Wii)
There's one word that sums up Xenoblade Chronicles nicely: grand. The graphical design, the music, the scale of the world, the plot, the characters: all exceptionally epic in their production, particularly on the somewhat underpowered Wii console. Xenoblade Chronicles is the RPG we were all waiting for in this generation of consoles, and the wait was worth it. Xenoblade is one of those rare games worth buying a console for. So, if you don't have a Wii yet, now is the time to grab one.
1) Tales of Graces f (PS3)
So, after that hugely positive wrap I gave Xenoblade Chronicles, you'd expect it to be number 1, right? Nope! Xenoblade is superior in many ways, but there was not a game I had more fun with this year than Tales of Graces f. I played a solid 90 hours of it and loved every second. Sure, the plot was hardly riveting, but the characters and intense combat had me hooked. Graces f showcases the perfection of Tales battle systems, and the beautiful graphics on the PS3 brought life to a vibrant (though admittedly rather small) world. The f-arc was definitely not as solid as the main game, but I was pleased to have any extra content. Bring on Xillia!
Atelier Ayesha (PS3)
Tales of Xillia (PS3)
Fire Emblem: Awakening (3DS)
Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch (PS3)
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