DualShockers’ Favorite Games of 2020 — Iyane’s Top 10
Spoilers: None of the games in the featured image are actually in the top 10, as I didn't have the time to play them yet.
As 2020 (thankfully) comes to a close, the DualShockers staff is coming together to share their personal favorite games throughout the year. Unlike our official Game of the Year Awards, each of these lists is meant to reflect which games stood out personally to each of our staff members. Additionally, any game — not just 2020 releases — can be considered in each Top 10 List.
Hi everyone; happy holidays, and I hope you’re spending some quality time with your loved ones. This is Iyane speaking, the black French guy who writes most of the Japanese news on DualShockers. As I say each year, Japanese coverage on DS is sometimes slower than other areas, and there is more news out there than I can cover sometimes. However, we’re always trying to make it worthwhile with as many details as we can include. I wish we could cover even more games that don’t get enough attention, from Doukyuusei Remake and Slow Damage, to Aleste Collection and Idol Land PriPara, but that’s how it goes.
Needless to say, 2020 was a pretty weird year. I probably had an easier time than most, be it in my personal life or through my work at DualShockers, I’ve seen people going through very rough times. My thoughts goes to all of you, and to anyone reading this that is having a hard time.
With that said, both in France and in the US, we’ve had additional issues to think of besides the pandemic. I certainly didn’t expect the current French government to drift faster than Takumi driving his AE86 could. From empowering police violence and endangering free journalism, to starting a witch hunt on some minorities and arbitrarily shutting down NGOs fighting racism, we’re in pretty dark times in here. You know how Tokimeki Memorial popularized school calendar systems, social stats, and those kind of game mechanics that franchises from Persona to Fire Emblem all borrowed from now? Well, the “centrists” in power in France are Persona 5, and the far-right was Tokimeki Memorial. But anyways, let’s not get too political in here. After all, we all know Japanese media absolutely isn’t.
While I wouldn’t say I’m against escapism, for me video games, anime, and the like have always been a way to think differently about our world rather than avoiding it. I hate stopping to think about the real world. That always affected how I enjoy games, and in turn, I try to draw lessons from the games I enjoy. As such, I didn’t feel a need to play more games than usual this year. Mainly due to a lack of time, this is in fact probably the first time in years I didn’t pick up many of this year’s releases that I was incredibly excited for. I honestly don’t know if I even played more than ten unique games this year. Many of the titles I played and finally finished this year are games I first played in Japanese in 2019. As such, this list has some redundancy with my 2019 list of Top 10 games.
I assume anyone who clicked on this article and read so far is a regular, so you might know how I have a habit of listing future games I’m looking forward to in my yearly Top 10. I have yet to play multiple 2020 released games that I had listed last year: Trials of Mana, Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin, Streets of Rage 4…the games on the featured image above are also part of this list, with Yoru Tomosu, Palais de Reine, Ciconia, and Kaleidoscope of Phantasm Prison.
Anyways, here goes the 2020 list I scrapped up of my Top 10 games.
10. Action Taimanin
The Taimanin series by Lilith is a long-running eroge series set in a corrupted modern world where demons and several humanoid races live alongside mankind. This melting pot makes evil thrive. The future is grim, but justice might still be a thing thanks to the Taimanin, mainly female ninja who fight crime and terrorism with their own demonic powers or cyborg bodies. That sounds cool, but the series never takes itself seriously and is full of ridiculous, over-the-top H-scenes. It’s pretty infamous for that sole reason, and it feels like a waste its universe was never really explored more.
Action Taimanin is the first game really trying to do just that. It’s a gacha game on mobile, meaning it’s the first game in the series with no explicit content or H-scenes, though there’s obviously still a large amount of fan service, seeing the character designs are identical to the more adult games.
The story takes itself seriously for once and is surprisingly good and researched. I didn’t expect the game to (quickly) reference France’s colonial past, for example. Problem is, it’s one of the most aggressive gacha games I’ve ever seen, and I’m sure even whales have trouble obtaining everything. The gameplay is incredibly repetitive as well, and I wouldn’t recommend picking up the game except for following its story. Keep in mind that new story chapters have released at a snail’s pace though.
For those interested in checking it out, Action Taimanin received an English Steam version recently.
I mainly played this in very late 2019 and a little in early 2020. Barotrauma is a multiplayer game where you and your friends need to go from point A to B in a submarine, avoiding hostile aliens and taking care of any technical problems that could arise on the vessel. It’s very fun to play with vocal chat. The characters have different roles from engineer to medic, and there’s a traitor system too. It does feel incredibly unfair at times though, and some missions feel poorly balanced. Some of the aliens can be incredibly massive and creepy too, which in my opinion just makes the game even more unnecessarily scary and stressful. I would definitely play it again with my online friends if I had the time though. The game is still in early access on Steam.
8. Touhou Mechanical Scrollery
Available in English on Steam, Touhou Mechanical Scrollery does a great job at imagining if classic danmaku Touhou gameplay was in full 3D with action RPG elements. The story is fun, the personalities of the various Touhou characters appearing are well re-transcribed, and the chara design used is cute. The game is surprisingly voluminous too, with higher difficulties and an equipment crafting system. It’s really fun overall and worth giving a try.
7. Langrisser I & II
While I knew about the tactical RPG series Langrisser ever since I was a kid, this was my first time actually playing it. The first two Langrisser games had numerous remakes over the years. This is the latest iteration, and it does a great job as I explained in my review.
However, there are definitely some gameplay issues I only noticed after learning a bit more about the previous remakes. Long story short, the game’s strategic aspect was kind of watered down, especially with how the math and stat numbers work. It’s much easier too, and controlling so many mercenary units is more like an hassle than a real strategic element. If you mainly play for the story though, as I do, it’s still a great game and remake.
Check out DualShockers‘ review of Langrisser I & II.
6. Daemon X Machina
I spent some time on Daemon x Machina for the first time in 2020 with the Steam version, and it’s definitely a great mecha game. It comes with a very complete package when it comes to customization. For me, a good comparison would be racing simulation games that let you fine tune the very intricate details of your car. You can do the same in Daemon x Machina but with mecha. Marvelous did an incredible job with this game, and I recommend playing it either on Switch or PC.
Check out DualShockers‘ review of Daemon x Machina.
5. Final Fantasy VII Remake
FFVII Remake is definitely a great remake; it’s rare to see remakes being such a big departure story-wise compared to the original work. To take a mainstream example, while staying in our Japan theme, it’s like what Anno did with the Eva movies. I technically didn’t see the final chapters of the game yet, but I can guess where it’s going. I’m not in a hurry for the sequel to launch as it’ll probably take several months until I see the ending, but I hope we get to see it soon.
I think the most remarkable aspect of the game is how the characters from the original were rewritten for FFVII Remake. I don’t remember that many dialogue details from the original game (and the French translation was terrible), but I don’t think Aerith was the same snarky smug she is in FFVIIR. She’s definitely my favorite character in FFVII Remake*. Back in 2019, Tetsuya Nomura, in that infamous interview that was mistranslated by some outlets that “Tifa’s boobs got censored by feminists,” hinted that Aerith would be very strong-willed. I get what he meant now. Her seiyuu Maaya Sakamoto did a great job portraying her too.
With that said, one of the things I dislike about Final Fantasy VII Remake is the battle system. It seemed fun at first but the more you play, the more it feels like a chore. Square Enix should have went with a real action battle system or a real turn-based system instead of this turn-based system in disguise, which lets you attack to look cool while you wait for your ATB meter to fill. At the end of the day, it feels like its only purpose is to hide the fact that it’s turn-based to those who think turn-based is old and as such automatically bad.
I wish the cinematic direction during battles, sparks etc, was a bit less pronounced as well. Sure, bosses in JRPGs always had multiple phases, but there’s no need to try and impress me so much with all those effects and in-game cutscenes for phase changes. I’m rarely impressed when something tries that hard to impress me. Anime series like Pretty Rhythm or games like Super Robot Wars made me accustomed to a whole other level of coolness and battle choreography that has rarely been attained elsewhere.
(*In the original game, my favorite female character is not Aerith but Yuffie. My favorite male character is Vincent.)
Check out DualShockers‘ review of Final Fantasy VII Remake.
4. Shin Sakura Taisen/Sakura Wars
As one of the games I started in 2019 and kept playing in 2020, Shin Sakura Taisen (Sakura Wars in English) is a great new entry in the series. Sure, it has some issues and the development team clearly had a restricted budget, especially with how the game isn’t fully-voiced. However, Sega really managed to bring back the essence of Sakura Taisen. Those who complained about the switch from tactical to action gameplay (with no additional RPG elements in either case) never noticed the battles never were the most important element of the series in the first place.
Those acting in bad faith will claim Shin Sakura Taisen is a horrible entry due to the lack of tactical battles, and how it only paved the way for a gacha game to kill the series: Sakura Kakumei. I didn’t have the time to try it out yet. It definitely looks interesting, and I won’t judge it before trying it out. Shin Sakura Taisen also has an anime sequel, which I have yet to watch, and the staff teased more to come.
Check out DualShockers‘ review of Sakura Wars.
3. Persona 5 Scramble: The Phantom Strikers/Persona 5 Strikers
Don’t think Persona 5 Scramble: The Phantom Strikers (Persona 5 Strikers in English) is a Musou game. Don’t think it’s a spinoff. Don’t think it’s just Atlus milking the series again. Persona 5 Scramble will blow your mind. The story is awesome; there is actual character development, without having the characters go through the same development they went through in the original game. The new characters are incredibly interesting, the dungeon design is cool, and the battle system–while not at the apex of 3D action RPGs with Ys VIII and Ys IX–is really great.
Sure, the loading of the Switch version will seem pretty long if you didn’t start playing video games with (at the very least) PS1. But besides that, it’s a masterpiece that more will get to play with its Western release in February.
2. Genshin Impact
Stop judging books by their cover and play Genshin Impact. But don’t play for more than two hours a day, and don’t spend money to roll the gacha. That’s all I’ll say.
1. 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim
I think some of you might have noticed, but there’s still no review for 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim published on DualShockers. I’m supposed to do it, but I have yet to finish writing it, mainly because I believe it’s a masterpiece for multiple personal reasons that are hard to write about. There’s a plethora of things that need to be said to explain why it’s so unique and such a masterpiece, so I’ll touch on some of them here.
One of the hundreds of reasons why everyone should play 13 Sentinels is that it’s a game direly needed nowadays. It feels like more and more anime watchers and Japanese games players nowadays seem to misunderstand otaku culture or Japan as a whole. You have those who refuse to even try to understand and judge Japanese works with their own Western standards. Then, on the other hand, you have some claiming Japanese media is losing its identity and being infested by “Western politics.” But no one actually stops to think and try to understand said Japanese media. 13 Sentinels is the kind of game which can help you understand.
Among other subjects, this game is a wake-up call for those claiming Japanese media has no politics. Moreover, 13 Sentinels is a typical ’80s game, and not only because most of the action takes place in the ’80s. If we only take the story into consideration, 13 Sentinels could have definitely released around forty years ago. Several themes brought up in the game are themes that were highly featured in ’80s Japanese media.
I definitely thought Masahiro Sakurai was exaggerating back when I translated his words on 13 Sentinels. As for Yoko Taro, I didn’t think much of his praise since technically he said those comments before the game was released. But now I really understand what Sakurai meant and couldn’t agree more. Everyone should play 13 Sentinels as soon as possible.
That’s all for my list. There are several games I’m looking forward to in 2021. Bustafellows is getting an English release and a sequel. Gnosia is getting localized as well. Rune Factory 5 is coming. You’ve got intriguing new IPs like Buddy Mission Bond. I’m convinced Super Robot Wars will get a new anniversary game. There’s also Umineko on PS4 and Switch. Maybe we’ll hear more about the new game Vanillaware teased in the 13 Sentinels first demo too.
There are several 2019 and 2020 games I still need to play as well. The biggest thing I would have liked to accomplish being finally starting to play the Kiseki/Trails series from the very beginning. 2020 was a great year to get to it, as the series had several releases for both those who play the games in Japanese and those who wait for the localization. The next game, Kuro no Kiseki, looks very nice too. But at the end of the day, I’d rather leave the series on my list of games I’d like to play with my wife one day (assuming I do get married).
Once again, thank you for reading; I hope for a much better 2021 and that you’ll keep reading DualShockers.
Check out the rest of the DualShockers staff Top 10 lists and our official Game of the Year Awards nominees:
January 1: Iyane Agossah (Managing Editor) // Logan Moore (Special Guest)
January 4: Game of the Year Awards 2020 Official Winners Revealed