I can’t believe it’s nearly three weeks into 2015 and I’m only just now getting around to finalizing my favorite game and anime picks of 2014! They always say time moves fast, but I’m definitely feeling it right now. Regardless, I’d like to take the opportunity to weigh in on some of my favorite Japanese media from the past year, in no particular order. Keep in mind that the first few items in each category were also mentioned in the holiday episode of Chic Pixel Plus, so if you want to hear more about a particular pick, please check it out!
Idea Factory International has decided that the second non-Hyperdimension Neptunia game they’ll be localizing for western audiences is Compile Heart’s PS4 RPG, Omega Quintet. Scheduled to launch in North America and Europe in Spring 2015, the game is notable for being one of the few Japanese RPGs on the PS4. Apparently it also makes use of the Move controller!
It’s interesting to think that the only idol games we’re seeing in English are Idea Factory titles (and Love Live on mobile devices), but there you go! Unlike a traditional idol simulation game, though, Omega Quintet sticks with its musical theme to create a unique RPG where characters utilize systems such as “concert mode” and “harmonics”that harness the power of music to beat down enemies.
Taking cues from games like Senran Kagura, the girls in Omega Quintet will have customizable outfits and take damage to their clothes, resulting in a “costume break” if a certain threshold is reached. It very much looks like a traditional Idea Factory game, but with improved graphics and resolution for the PS4, so if their games are your cup of tea, be sure to mark your calendar for Spring 2015!
Oh, and in case you were wondering, there’s at least one male character in the game (the nondescript fellow featured on the Japanese cover above). Because every idol group needs a manager, right? I hope there’s an actual rhythm component to the battles, as that would be a lot of fun! Now let’s take bets on how long it will take for me to stop writing the name as “Omega Quartet“…
Funnily enough, one of the first game purchases I made also happens to be the one I’m most proud of! Last year I actually got a copy of The Vision of Escaflowne for about $8, but this year I managed to find the limited edition for only $15 in Akihabara, so even though I already had a copy of the game, I absolutely had to add the LE to my collection. It comes with a tarot card set and extra booklet that I’ll definitely be showing off more in-depth in a future post.
I’ll actually be giving away my extra copy of the game in my August Chic Pixel supporters giveaway, so if you’d like to be in the running, donate $5 or more to support the site and you’ll have the chance to win that and some other nifty stuff! My secretary tells me we only have two entries so far, so your chances of winning might be pretty good…
Since I’m talking about PSone games, here are the other two I picked up. The one on the left, Harukanaru Toki no Naka de, is the first otome game in the series by the same name. It was only $1, so I figured I might as well pick it up! On the right however, is a game that I totally stumbled upon by accident while I was wandering around Super Potato in Ikebukuro. Titled Oujisama Lv1, it claims to have RPG elements while apparently having an entirely male cast that may or may not all have crushes on the protagonist. You guessed it: the main reason I picked this up was due to the shōnen ai vibe! After doing a quick search on Google.jp, it appears my intuition was correct, as the game originated as BL PC RPG that spawned a fan disc and sequel, as well as a manga. I can’t wait to see what it’s like!
My lone PS2 purchase was the Harukanaru toki no naka de 2 premium box, which came with some art cards in addition to the game itself. What can I say, I’m a sucker for cheap otome games!
… And then there were the slightly more expensive otome games. Uta no Prince-sama Repeat for the PSP was nearly $40, as many otome games on the PSP don’t ever drop significantly in price, but it’s one I’ve been meaning to play for a while. After watching the anime, I know I’ll probably enjoy it, even though it’s very silly!
Yet another otome game! Do you sense a theme? Beyond the Future: Fix the Time Arrows is one of the few otome games available on the PS3, and though I literally know nothing about it, I quite like the art style. For $15, that was enough to sell me on it!
Believe it or not, these two PS Vita games were my most expensive game purchases of the trip. On the left we have the self-explanatory Puyo Puyo Tetris, which I originally planned on buying for PS3 for the couch co-op but ultimately decided it would be more enjoyable on a handheld. I’ve played a little of it and so far it has reestablished the fact that I’m awful at both Puyo Puyo and Tetris.
On the right, we have a game that actually came out while I was in Tokyo, Corpse Party: Blood Drive! The Corpse Party series are pretty much the only horror games I’ve ever gotten into, but after XSEED brought the first two for PSP out in English, I’ve been hopelessly hooked. I haven’t really had a lot of time to dig into this one yet, but it’s definitely very high on my list!
Speaking of DS games, Pokémon Typing DS is one I’ve had my eye on for quite a while now but never wanted to spend more than a few bucks on, so I was pretty stocked to find a copy with the bluetooth keyboard (pictured in the first photo) for only $5! The bottom game is Chocobo no Mahō Ehon: Majo to Shōjo to Gonin no Yūsha, which is the Japan-only sequel to Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo Tales game. I honestly didn’t have this one on my radar at all, but after seeing it for $5 and initially passing on it, I ended up going back to the same store and grabbing it a few days later.
The final DS game I added to my collection was another spontaneous purchase, Ore ga Omae o Mamoru (bottom). I only knew it as an otome game with some RPG elements, but apparently it’s also a Metroidvania side-scroller? I’m definitely intrigued, but I don’t remember it getting a very good reception when it came out…
Oresama Kingdom: Ikemen Kareshi o Getto Shiyo! for the 3DS (top) is actually a game I had wanted to pick up last summer, but at over $40, I ended up passing on it. I had completely forgotten about ever wanting it until I randomly ran into it in a bargain bin in Ikebukuro the morning of the day I was returning to Australia… And for only $10, I knew I had to grab it! It’s one of the rare 3DS games that requires players to hold the system as if it were a book (think Hotel Dusk on the DS), and, of course, it’s an otome game. In the case of Oresama Kingdom, I believe it’s based on a manga series aimed at elementary/middle school girls. It’s currently going for $24 at Play Asia, which is the cheapest I’ve seen it available online, if you’re interested in checking it out!
Well, there you have it – every single game I bought while I was in Japan! If there’s any title you’d like to hear more about sooner rather than later, let me know in the comments and I’ll prioritize it!
Now that 2013 has come and gone, I figured it’d be as good a time as any to reflect on the most memorable things that came out over the course of the year. Of course, it just wasn’t possible for me to play all the games and watch all the anime that came out in 2013, and I’m not really fond of definitively putting labels on things such as “game of the year,” so I’ll just stick with shining the spotlight on what stood out for me personally. To hear me talk more in-depth about some of these titles, be sure to check out my end-of-the-year podcast with Brad Gallaway, as well!
2013 was a great year for games, especially on handhelds. I think I played my 3DS’s more than any year previous, and my Vita got a fair share of love, too! Though the new consoles that came out at the end of the year mean a new generation of flashier games to play on the TV, I imagine I’ll be satisfied with my handhelds and retro hardware for a while yet. Here are a few of my favorite games I played last year:
Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn (PC, PS3) – I’ve written so much about this one already that I’m almost embarrassed to bring it up again! But considering how much time I’ve spent playing and thinking about FFXIV, it’d be criminal not to include it on this list. In fact, it blows all other games from 2013 out of the water for me. Not only was it my first MMO, but it’s the first mainline Final Fantasy I can genuinely say I loved since Final Fantasy X.
SteamWorld Dig: A Fistful of Dirt (3DS) – This little eShop game was, hands down, the biggest surprise of the year. When the developer contacted me to review the title for them, I initially scoffed at the name and thought, “Great, another silly western indie title.” Boy, was I wrong! I’ve never played Minecraft, Terraria, or even Metroid (hate mail commencing in 3, 2…), which SteamWorld Dig is often compared to, but I can say that it is a polished, addictive digging title that gave me major Mr. Driller vibes while still having its own cohesive style. And I’m pretty sure it’s the first eShop game I’ve played to completion!
Sweet Fuse: At Your Side (PSP/PSN) – I can’t commend Aksys Games enough for continuing to bring over otome games in English. While their first pick, Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom was a solid game, it wasn’t really the kind of thing that jives with me (brooding swordsmen, blech), so Sweet Fuse was a very welcome addition to their otome game library. Suffice it to say, if you’re only going to play one otome game in your life, make it this one – it’s campy, humorous, and is chock full of fun video game-related nods and references on top of the organically written romances.
Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate (3DS, Wii U) – Not only was 2013 the year of my first MMO, it was the year of my first Monster Hunter game, as well! Rather than lamenting how I’ll never have time for any new games now, I’d like to highlight how great an experience Monster Hunter 3U has been so far, even though I haven’t played all that much of it in comparison to folks who literally sink hundreds of hours into each new installment. Everything from the monster designs to the little animation that plays when your character cooks meat on a spit is endearing beyond belief, and though I still really don’t have any idea what I’m doing, I’m looking forward to blundering my way through the series for years to come.
☆Other great games: Corpse Party: Book of Shadows, Bravely Default, Rune Factory 4, Attack of the Friday Monsters! A Tokyo Tale (And probably more I’m forgetting! New Year’s resolution: keep a list of all the games I play)
2012 was the year I really started following current anime again, and I’m happy to report that my interest in keeping up with new series bubbled over into 2013, as well. While previously I mostly watched older things (and not very often, I might add), it’s great to be involved in the conversations that arise when everyone is watching a particular series together. That said, I didn’t actually watch all that many shows, so there are only two that stand out that I want to mention today:
Free! – Also known as the best thing that happened for female anime fans all year, Free! initially made waves (pun intended) as a short 30 second commercial by Kyoto Animation early in the year. The anime itself featured a group of cute guys doing cute things in bathing suits, so of course it was a hit, but it had all of the usual Kyoto Animation quality and charm. While the anime as a whole didn’t grab me as much as I would’ve liked, the interactions between the characters always put a smile on my face. Also, that ending sequence!
Gatchaman Crowds – After hearing a number of friends recommend this one, I finally decided to give it a watch in December, and I’m so glad I did! Gatchaman Crowds requires absolutely no knowledge of Gatchaman to enjoy, and it’s a beautiful, colorful series with a lot of interesting characters and surprisingly poignant themes. It’s also the first series where I’ve actually liked the ultra-hyper cute female lead (you know the kind), so it gets major points for that.
If you’re a fan of this blog and haven’t played or seen everything I’ve mentioned, hopefully you’ll have some new ideas for things to check out! And please do leave your own personal favorites of 2013 in the comments so I can fill my “to do” list with more great games and anime.
The time has finally come… to show off my haul of video games from my recent trip to Japan! I was originally going to throw everything together in one massive post, but it turned out to be far too unwieldy (apparently I like to write a lot… who knew?), so I’ve broken it up into two: the PlayStation edition, which you’re viewing now, and a Nintendo edition, which will come later this week. Sorry for all the “hey look what I got!” posts, but what’s a Japanese entertainment blog without excessive Japanese entertainment purchases, right?
|I bought a new bookshelf specifically to hold everything I bought in Japan.
Feel free to judge
But before I begin, I’ll briefly detail my “criteria” for game purchases during my trip. I spoke briefly about my wishlist on episode 3 of Chic Pixel Plus, but I was most looking forward picking up a few GBA games to beef up my collection and a handful of random titles that are harder to find/more expensive outside of Japan. Ultimately, I was a little disappointed by the GBA game selection in Osaka (more on that in the Nintendo post), but I ended up with eight PSP games, five PS2 games, five GBA games, four PSone games, and two DS games. That’s 24 games total! Since I needed an easy way to break this up into two posts, I’ll just be going over the games I bought for PlayStation systems today.
First up are the four PlayStation one titles I picked up during my trip: Chocobo no Fushigi na Dungeon (Chocobo’s Mystery Dungeon), The Vision of Escaflowne, Marriage, and Tamamayu Monogatari, better known as Jade Cocoon: Story of Tamamayu. Chocobo’s Mystery Dungeon and Marriage were my two whim purchases – Chocobo’s Mystery Dungeon was only $1 and I’ve been amassing a bit of a Chocobo game collection lately, whereas Marriage caught my eye because of the oh-so-descriptive title and the fact that the back of the box touts that it’s a dating sim that takes place after the protagonist has already married the girl of his dreams. Sure, sign me up!
The Vision of Escaflowne and Tamamayu Monogatari, however, are two titles that I’ve been wanting to add to my collection for quite a while. In particular, The Vision of Escaflowne is a game I’ve been pining for for a number of years now, so finding a copy in great condition was a real highlight of my many game store visits. And, while I’ve always wanted to play Jade Cocoon, I’ve been holding out for Tamamayu Monogatari due to its awesome cover art illustrated by none other than Katsuya Kondō of Kiki’s Delivery Service fame, so it’s great to finally have that, as well!
Next we have the first half of my PSP game haul. Final Fantasy Type-0, Pop’n Music Portable 2, and Gekka Ryōran Romance were all on my list, so no big surprises here. Actually, these three games were probably the ones that cost me the most, as none of them have really gone down in price. I looked for a used copy of Gekka Ryōran Romance (an otome game) for ages and finally settled on a new copy for around $50, only to find a used limited edition for about the same price the very next day!
Ao no Kiseki and Nayuta no Kiseki, however, were, without a doubt, my biggest random splurges of the trip. For those unfamiliar, they’re both part of what’s known as the The Legend of Heroes series by developer Nihon Falcom, with The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky for the PSP probably being one of the most well-known titles available in English. Well, I know next to nothing about the series aside from the fact that many of my good friends say it’s one of the best JPRG series out there, so when I saw both of these collector’s editions available for relatively cheap, I figured I’d bite. From what I understand, Nayuta no Kiseki is actually more of a spinoff that doesn’t need any prior knowledge of the series to play. Ao no Kiseki, on the other hand, is the second part of the seventh entry in the series and is preceded by Zero no Kiseki, meaning I really need to play that before diving into this one.
Above you can see two PS2 gems I grabbed – the one on the left, Love Com, is the game adaptation of one of my favorite shojo manga series. It seems like it might have some otome game elements, and for less than $5, I couldn’t pass up!
Otometeki Koi Kakumei Love Revo!!, on the other hand, is a title I’ve had my eye on for ages but never picked up. As you can probably guess from the cover, it’s an otome game, but with a twist – Love Revo puts players in the shoes of an overweight girl who wants to return to her thinner “glory days” and win the guy of her dreams. If you think that sounds rather horrible (“Lose weight and you too can get a boyfriend!”), don’t worry, I’m mainly interested in it because I’d like to see how the game handles the weight loss/relationship aspect. I don’t have high hopes, but it could prove to be an amusing train wreck. Again, at $5, I won’t consider it a major loss even if it is awful.
Next up is a little title I’ve been meaning to get my hands on for ages, Boku no Natsuyasumi 2! Well, not this title specifically, but I’ve always wanted to try a Boku no Natsuyasumi game and this is the one I ended up with. I can’t wait to give it a go!
Now these were a great deal – I managed to grab the premium boxes of both Harukanaru Toki no Naka de 3: Unmei no Labyrinth and Harukanaru Toki no Naka de 4 for only $10 total! As you can probably tell, they are entries in the same series, which is well known for being one of the few otome games that incorporates RPG elements. While I originally just wanted to pick up 4 due to it having more appealing character designs (to me), when I saw the HaruToki 3 premium box for only $5, I had to snag it, as well.
The unfortunate part of this story is that Unmei no Labyrinth is actually what’s usually referred to as a “gaiden” game, meaning it’s a side story (I believe in this case it takes the characters out of their fantasy world and puts them in a high school setting). I can’t very well play it if I haven’t played the original HaruToki 3! I guess that’s another game to add to my list…
Now here’s a game I wasn’t thinking would pick up at all, but I couldn’t pass it up when I saw a brand new copy of the limited edition on sale for only $3! So into the basket it went. Kanuchi Shiroki Tsubasa no Shou is, as you’ve probably guessed, another otome game. I don’t know much about it aside from the fact that it takes place in a fantasy setting and is broken into two games, with “white” being the first part and “black” being the second part. Since there are a lot of neat goodies in all these limited edition boxes, I’ll do a more in-depth posts on them in the future.
If it isn’t obvious by now, PS2 otome games are extremely cheap and in great abundance! Many of these titles also have PSP versions that generally go for $40 or more and are often only ports or have minor additional content. As such, I highly recommend folks interested in checking out otome games to look for PS2 titles… but be wary of eBay! Otome game prices seem to be hugely inflated there, so I’d suggest going through a friend who can buy second-hand titles from Japan and mail them to you or an import service that will help you buy from sellers on Amazon.co.jp or Yahoo Japan and ship internationally.
|fuzzy stegosaurus not included|
Well, that’s it for the PlayStation side of my game purchases in Japan… Stay tuned for the significantly smaller Nintendo side of things later this week!
Confession: I buy a lot of games. Okay, you all probably knew that already, but it’s time for me to own up to my massive, unwieldily backlog. Well, that day – I mean, year – has finally come, and I’m going to invite all of you to join in my
pain plan! The task, should you choose to accept it? Play (and beat, if possible) one game from your backlog every month for the entirety of 2013.
|Year of the snake, year of the backlog! (source)|
|Just a small sample of games I own but haven’t played.
Most of the Wii games were acquired during my trip to the US.
|“Play those games! That’s an order!”|
I’ve never been that fond of Game of the Year lists; I find that the vast majority of gamers and gaming outlets tend to focus on the same popular titles that, in all honesty, I have absolutely no interest in. On the other hand, some people out there do have good taste, as is evident by Journey receiving a slew of GotY praise, so not all hope is lost… and I can definitely understand the appeal of rounding up one’s favorite games from any given year for the sake of comparison, so to that end I’ll be joining the bandwagon (albiet rather late) by naming my five favorite games of 2012. But don’t expect any Walking Dead or Mass Effect 3… This is Chic Pixel, after all!
A quick caveat before I continue: This list, of course, only contains games I’ve actually played. There are probably many more titles I’d probably consider including if I’d had the opportunity to play them over the course of the year!
Also, I have to give props to Tiny Cartridge for inspiring me to add silly gifs (when available) for my picks. I take no credit for the idea!
I really hesitated putting this on my list since it only came out in Japan and PAL territories, but it was by far one of my favorite games of the year, so I’ll make an exception. The story, which really only focuses on three characters and centers around the relationship between the protagonist Aeron and his cursed love interest Elena, is a breath of fresh air from epic RPGs spanning continents and have dozens of people to keep track of. Gameplay, while occasionally hair-pullingly frustrating (particularly the boss battles), makes great use of the Wii’s motion controls for Aeron’s chain-whip weapon, which is both used to fight enemies and traverse through the environments. Add in the fact that there are even some mild dating sim elements that had me raising Aeron and Elena’s affection levels in order to unlock a variety of endings, and I can confidently say that Pandora’s Tower will go down as one of my favorite action-RPGs of this generation.
|This gif never gets old (source)|
Style Savvy: Trendsetters
Oh, Style Savvy: Trendsetters. I may have only started playing this game mid-December, but it quickly rose to the top of the 2012 release pile. Who ever thought a fashion game could be so fun? Style Savvy: Trendsetters is a beautifully polished game with a wide range of customization options that will delight any aspiring fashionista or fashion-conscious nerd (that would be me), but it also injects a healthy amount of shop management into the mix to keep prolonged gameplay compelling. Not only that, but the localization is surprisingly good, and I found myself laughing out loud on more than one occasion! Style Savvy: Trendsetters may not be an epic RPG or artsy social commentary, but it’s chock full of content and by far one of the most fun games I played all year. Really, what’s more satisfying than convincing a customer to buy a horribly ugly outfit that just about breaks their budget? (What? That’s how it’s meant to be played, right?)
When I first played Journey for review earlier this year, I started out very skeptical. Early reviews applauded it as this mind-blowing experience, but when I got to the part about it being only two hours long, I just couldn’t believe it. How could a two-hour game change anyone’s life? Well, after giving the game a go, I can definitively say it has not changed my life in any way, but it has definitely opened my eyes to the impact a succinct, purpose-driven experience can be. Countless articles have been written about Journey already, so I don’t feel the need to ramble on about this particular pick, but suffice it to say I’ve played through the game three times, got my white cloak and first platinum trophy (okay, it’s not that hard), and cried every single time I’ve reached the summit of the mountain with a companion. Sure, I may be an over-emotional sap at heart, but I think the fact that Journey remains such a compelling, thought-provoking experience even after multiple playthroughs truly speaks to the beauty of the game.
|No spoilers here, I just couldn’t resist using this gif|
Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward
I was late to the game when it came to 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors, but when I finally played it, it immediately became one of my favorite DS titles. The gripping storyline and intriguing characters kept me right on the edge of my seat all the way to the end, so when I heard there was going to be a sequel, I couldn’t be more excited. Though sequels don’t always improve on the established formula, Virtue’s Last Reward fixes all of the issues I had with the first game while maintaining the same suspenseful story and interesting dialogue that made 999 such a joy to play –– in fact, I may even like Virtue’s Last Reward‘s story more than 999‘s! I certainly wouldn’t complain if we saw more entries in the series (I believe they’re already working on a 3rd game), as I’m confident Chunsoft will be able to up the ante even further in future installments.
Tokyo Jungle is, by far, the strangest game I played all year. If you’d told me two years ago that I’d be playing a game in 2012 that involved all manner of animal from Pomeranian to dinosaur running around the streets of a post-apocalyptic Tokyo killing and being killed, I would’ve called you crazy, but I’m happy to say that’s exactly what Tokyo Jungle delivers. It’s certainly not the most polished game on this list, but it wins major points for originality and downright awesomeness of concept, as well as being the most engaging multiplayer game I played in 2012. There’re few things more fun than taking down horses with cats and trying to outrun lions with a troop of beagles, and while the survival mode and its roguelike elements may have gotten slightly repetitive had I played it alone, being able to team up with my husband was an absolute blast. The fact that games like this are still being made gives me hope that there will always be a place for weird and whacky titles alongside the Call of Dutys and Halos of the world.
And with that, I can say I’ve officially brought 2012 to an end! Though I can’t speak for the more “mainstream” crowd, fans of the niche and odd really had a great selection of titles over the course of the year. Of course, if my “12 Games I Still Need to Play from 2012” list is any indication, there’s still a lot left for me to play! Thanks for sticking with me and putting up with my weirdness over the course of the year, and here’s to a grand new year filled with blogging, video games, and manga! (hopefully a little more manga)
Feel free to weigh in on what you think of my picks from 2012, but keep in mind that I am Very Serious about this topic and will not accept any opinions that are different from my own! Just kidding.