DualShockers’ Game of the Year 2018 Staff Lists — Iyane’s Top 10
I played a great variety of games in 2018 from Japanese to Western games, and here are my Top 10 from this year, including a few I didn't play yet.
As 2018 comes to a close, DualShockers and our staff are reflecting on this year’s batch of games and what were their personal highlights within the last year. Unlike the official Game of the Year 2018 awards for DualShockers, there are little-to-no-rules on our individual Top 10 posts. For instance, any game — not just 2018 releases — can be considered.
Many things happened in 2018 around the world. I could immediately go on a political tangent, but this isn’t my personal blog. In September 2018, I also started writing here at DualShockers, mostly on Japanese games. I’ve been reading DualShockers myself since at least 2014, and I really like it here because we have so many different writers and points of views, so I hope everyone’s enjoying my articles and the coverage offered by the site in general. While I may not post news and announcements only a few seconds after they’ve been made, I always try to make the articles a worthwhile read, by including translations and as much information as possible.
This list reflects what I’ve enjoyed the most this year, and doesn’t necessarily only include 2018 releases. To be honest, there are many 2018 released games I haven’t got the chance to play yet, some of which would have definitely got a spot there. Stuff like God of War (I like to call it God of War 4), Dragon Quest XI, The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV, and KimuTaku ga Gotoku, also known as Judgment, which is out now in Japan. Sadly, there are only 365 days in a year, and surely less Euros than that allocated to my yearly gaming budget.
Anyway, this intro shouldn’t be too long as I’ve made some entries particularly long. This is a good occasion to get to know me better and I hope you’ll enjoy the read. Here are my Top 10 games for 2018:
10. Project Octopath Traveler
For this entry, I used the game’s project name intentionally. Ironically, when the first demo of Octopath released, I was hardly impressed. The battle system was cool, but enemies felt like HP sponges needlessly dragging on fights. Olberic’s first chapter was fine, but Primrose’s first chapter was quite disappointing and predictable, even from a game design point of view (that plank on the roof screaming “please use me to escape later on”).
When the second demo hit us, however, I was conquered. The other’s first chapters were all charming. I wanted to help Therion value friendship and trust again. I wanted to accompany Ophilia in her journey to revive the Sacred Flame of Aelfric. I wanted to cure people until they got sick of it with cool-dude-voiced-by-Sagara-Sousuke (he’s the one I picked as the first character). The game felt refreshing, and I was eager to play the full version. That demo was “Project Octopath Traveler,” the game I envisioned after hearing that name for the first time.
And yet when the full game released, it ended up being a huge letdown. I thought it’d be a high budget game featuring eight well-written stories, nice gameplay, a lot of voice acting, good dungeons and a good overall story tying up everything. Many of these points were disappointments: I liked the game enough to put it here, but kind of hated it as well. It’s like seeing someone you love failing horribly at something, even though you know they could do so much better.
Octopath Traveler didn’t crash and burn as hard as other RPGs claiming to bring back a golden era, like I Am Setsuna, but it had to quickly turn back for an emergency landing. I strongly hope the next game of this nostalgia trend, Nippon Ichi Software’s Destiny Connect, won’t turn out that way as well.
I should at least end this with one of the things I liked in the game, the Japanese voice acting. While the game isn’t fully voiced, and they didn’t even bother voicing any of the endgame, each character having voice clips for each skill is really nice. Hearing Kuwashima Houko or Seki Tomokazu shouting some skill names felt particularly satisfying.
Check out the DualShockers review of Octopath Traveler.
9. SEGA Ages Phantasy Star (Switch)
I’ve always been into Phantasy Star. I played 3 and 4 as a kid, though I never finished them, and played Phantasy Star Online from my last year of grade school to my first year in university, going from all Episodes and consoles (except the Xbox versions) and ending on badly-managed private servers of PSO Blue Burst on PC as “Cress.” The only reason I stopped was that I got selected for Phantasy Star Online 2‘s Alpha test in August 2011, and stayed on PSO2 till December 2017. I’m currently on an extended break from the game, as I’ve grown very frustrated with some of the issues it has. I might get back into PSO2–and I definitely want to get back into PSO 1 if I have the time one day–but if Phantasy Star Online 3 gets announced, I’ll probably never play PSO2 again except on some hypothetical future private servers.
SEGA Ages Phantasy Star releasing on Switch was a great occasion to discover the roots of the series. It was a great experience: it felt refreshing once in a while to play an RPG again where you do have indications on what to do next, but finding these indications themselves can be a puzzle. The additions one can enable, like the reduced encounter rate but with bonus EXP and money, are a great help to avoid getting a headache. There’s also the fast forward button as well, though it would have been more judicious to immediately map it to a button: players who don’t bother to remap their buttons might never realize there’s a fast forward function.
I’ll try to keep going and play Phantasy Star 2 to 4 in 2019.
8. Aegis Defenders
I didn’t expect to like this game as I’m not really into the tower defense genre. This is much more than a tower defense game though, and instead is also a mix of platforming, 2D exploration, RPG elements, and also features a really interesting story. It sucks when you don’t have anyone to play with though. I don’t really have much to say besides that I’m glad I heard about it.
7. Warriors Orochi 4
Before playing this, it had been years since the last time I touched a Musou game, and this one did not disappoint. I haven’t tried Dynasty Warriors 9 and its open worlded-ness yet. I also ended up skipping on most of the licensed ones. The latest one I considered, Fire Emblem Warriors, disappointed me with the cast having nearly only characters from the 3DS era, all characters I don’t know as I haven’t got the occasion to play their games yet. I didn’t have a Wii U so I skipped Hyrule Warriors, and didn’t get the Switch version of it either. Same with Dragon Quest Heroes 1 and 2, as I’m not into the series enough as of now.
Going back to characters I used to main on Musou Orochi Z ‘s PC version sure felt nice. All the new characters in this latest Orochi episode are quite interesting too, and the story surprisingly didn’t suck. Multiplayer is fun as always too. I might catch up on the series and get Samurai Warriors 4 DX and Dynasty Warriors 8 Xtreme Legends: Definitive Edition on Switch.
Check out the DualShockers review of Warriors Orochi 4.
6. Super Smash Bros Ultimate
I don’t really have anything more to say about Super Smash Bros. Ultimate that hasn’t already been said by the other DualShockers staff. It delivers, Richter is cool and Roy’s our boy. This time, Zelda is ultra cute, as she is a mix of her appearance between A Link to the Past and A Link Between Worlds: although, I wish they put in Breath of the Wild Zelda as well. It feels weird she wasn’t included because she can’t fight, but then Shizue/Isabelle from Animal Crossing got in there.
I also wish they wrote game history descriptions for each Spirit, like they used to do with Trophies. I think abandoning Trophies to relocate the time and work all those 3D models would have required was the right decision, but I regret this one detail. I think they thought people can just Google the characters’ names to read about them, but they included some really unknown people too, and information on the net isn’t always reliable in these cases.
I’ve yet to clear World of Light but it’s really fun, though it’s not as good as I hoped either. I think the introduction trailer was so incredible it gave me have unbelievably high expectations. I was expecting more “adventure” like things, like more platforming, more puzzles, etc.
— 【公式】プリ☆チャンなつぶやき(ゲームプリチャン) (@T_ARTS_PRETTY) December 21, 2018
I’m really looking forward to Persona 5‘s Joker getting in, and I’m betting on Laala from the PriPara idol franchise to be the next DLC character. The arcade game was the most popular game for little girls ever in Japan, until it ended in April 2018. Its spiritual successor, Kiratto Pri☆chan, is adding a Kirby costume in its arcade game now, so I’m believing harder than ever that the series might appear in Smash.
5. Eve Burst Error R
A classic scene (photoshopped, but quite close from reality) from one of my favorite visual novels, Umineko no Naku Koro ni. As you may know, I’m into visual novels, though I don’t play them that much either. There are many classics I’ve never touched until now, including Eve Burst Error.
This game might be the first visual novel I’ve ever heard of. I’ve known its title since I was a kid and always wanted to play it. I’ve always postponed it for reasons; I ended up diving into the Switch port of the remake after seeing that the series will get another new game in 2019, Eve Rebirth Terror.
So far it doesn’t disappoint. It’s a kinetic visual novel like Umineko above, meaning there’s only one single route to follow, with no real choices. One thing I like about Eve Burst Error though is how there are many useless choices, bringing forth funny reactions from the main characters, Kojiroh and Marina. When you play as one or the other, they both talk to the player and comment on your stupid choices, like an old point-and-click game protagonist would when asking them the impossible. The game is not a point-and-click, though.
For a Japanese game initially released in 1995 on Pc-98, it’s also pretty interesting how Eve Burst Error deals with a plot linking Japan and a fictional Arabic/Islamic country, with multiple characters from there. That’s just my opinion, but I think it reflects something you easily notice by experiencing older Japanese works: compared to now, a lot of Japanese things in the past used to inspire themselves much more from non-Japanese works. I actually haven’t finished the game yet, as it takes a lot of time. It might have been higher if I did.
I hesitated whether to put a picture of Ecco the Dolphin on Megadrive instead. I ended up not doing it as I don’t like the game that much, and seeing Ecco’s smug face might have triggered PTSD in some players of the game.
I hesitated a lot whether to put Subnautica or not on this list as well. The reason is, I actually didn’t play this game; I watched one of my favorite streamers play it instead. Part of why I liked it so much is because I like this streamer, but it really is a fascinating game and was quite the experience to watch. What seems to be a basic survival game ends up turning out into a great adventure. It’s a very different genre, but it’s similar to what I felt back when I played the first Etrian Odyssey on Nintendo DS, and how I was expecting a basic dungeon-crawling RPG with no plot. I’m really looking forward to Subnautica: Below Zero.
4. Tie-in 1: Shenmue I&II HD
I actually didn’t play this either, though I did play both on Dreamcast back when they released. I really wanted to put this in for multiple reasons, mainly because I had no interest left in returning to a franchise which I gave up on long ago. The last time I played through Shenmue 1 + 2 was something like 2006, so the series was definitely behind me, even with the upcoming Shenmue 3.
Everything changed, however, in late August when I watched an online friend stream the game; it was like a flame lit anew in me. There are so many things I had forgotten about the games: saying this is cliché, but the Shenmue games were so ahead of their time, it’s incredible.
Shenmue is one of the only games where it’s not an exaggeration to say it’s “poetic.” I had forgotten just how powerful it is and now that I remember, I’m suddenly extremely hyped for Shenmue 3, hoping it’ll hold up to 2 in terms of writing. Yu Suzuki already wrote the story ages ago, but the way that the game itself turns out is another story. I hope we won’t wait another 20 years for Shenmue 4.
Too bad we won’t be able to transfer our Dreamcast VMs’ Shenmue 2‘s clear saves to Shenmue 3. Anyway, go play Shenmue if you haven’t yet, it’s a masterpiece.
4. Tie-in 2: Into the Breach
You know what? I actually didn’t play this either. I really want to, as I love playing FTL, but seeing that I’m not very good at these types of game, I tend to only get frustration from rogue-lites. Again, I watched the same streamer as the one for Subnautica play this, and it’s really impressive.
I hesitated a lot on getting it for Switch, but decided against it. I wouldn’t have the time to play it much anyway. I just wanted to say that Subset Games should really be praised for trying out something completely new with turn-based tactical games. At least, as far as I know, there isn’t any game similar to Into the Breach, letting you see everything the enemy will do next, and having you trying to prevent that at all costs, most of the time going for small sacrifices for the greater good.
Most turn-based tactical games nowadays are inspired by classics, usually either Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together, Final Fantasy Tactics, or Fire Emblem. While I really love both, I think it’s nice that we’ve got some new ideas in the genre from games like Into the Breach. I need to try The Banner Saga series one day, too.
3. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time Randomizer
Yes, you’re reading that right. I’ve been into Zelda games since I was a kid, and played Ocarina of Time many times through my life, but my last playthrough must be over ten years ago. While I think it’s one of the most important games in history, with all the things it brought on the table like its lock-on system, I do agree on the fact that it aged badly. Though I’d have no problem replaying it now.
I did hear about randomizers in the past, but never bothered checking them out, as I found the idea very weird, and I’m not into races and speedrunning either. But then a few months ago, I stumbled into the streams covering an OOT Randomizer tournament, and I got hooked.
I’ll try to explain what’s so fascinating about it as best as I can. Basically, in OOT randomizers, each item and chest in the game are swapped randomly among each other. Each song you get during events is random as well. Lastly, each medallion is randomly attributed to one of the dungeons in the game, but you do know which dungeon holds a medallion. The first person who manages to get all medallions, enter Ganon Castle, and defeat Ganon wins the race. Players start in Link’s house as a child, and the Master Sword’s chamber is already open, letting you become adult any time. The randomizing is done by an algorithm so that the game stays clearable, and each randomize result is called a “seed.” There is a “logic” in each seed you must deduce and follow with the first items you find in the game. Most of the game’s glitches aren’t authorized and players must clear dungeons in a legit way.
Lastly, to avoid things being too difficult, there are many modifications compared to the original game. For example, as you need the Light Arrows to defeat Ganondorf, when you reach him, he will give you a hint, saying in which area of the game the Light Arrows are. Once you find the Stone of Agony item, it also lets you also talk to the stones scattered in the game and get hints on item locations.
You’d think the whole thing is pure luck and RNG, but it isn’t the case at all. The best players manage to finish the easiest Seeds in less than three hours; it’s all about wits, calculations, and skill. Watching players minutely check each treasure and secrets in an area, making their own deductions, and deciding where to go next is extremely exciting. The final match of the latest Zelda OOT Rando Tournament, pitting anatomyz against Whatthehellshappened, had me hyped as much as an EVO final.
Part of why I like it is probably because I’m such a Zelda fanboy, because I tried other randomizers like the Final Fantasy 4 one and didn’t find it the least bit interesting. As soon as I have more time I think I’ll start training for some OOT rando races myself: probably once the version 4 build is completed. It makes things less reliant on luck, like being able to read hints on item locations from stones without the Stone of Agony.
2. Super Robot Wars OG: The Moon Dwellers
I was really eager to play this but waited a full year after its release to get it dirt cheap. I was too busy to play it anyway and only ended up finishing it this summer, almost a year after I bought it. As you may know, Super Robot Wars is a crossover tactical RPG series featuring many mecha franchises. Most of these games are standalone and feature “Original characters,” created to act as the main characters of the games. Super Robot Wars Original Generation is a spinoff series only featuring these characters. As the Super Robot Wars series has been going on for more than 27 years, there’s more than a hundred of these original characters and mechas now. Each Super Robot Wars OG game adds new original characters and retraces the story of their game, but in a different way, as all the other mechas series from the base game aren’t there anymore. It’s a particularly nice feeling, as it’s like you’re playing a remake of these games.
Super Robot Wars OG: The Moon Dwellers (OGMD) is the fifth story chapter of the OG series. The game is also the first Super Robot Wars released by Bandai Namco Southeast Asia in English, for PlayStaion 4 on August 2016 (the translation isn’t very good though). It adapts the story from Super Robot Wars J, Super Robot Wars GC, and bits from other games, and seeing its story unfold again but with some really interesting changes, to make it fit with all the story in OG so far, was really interesting.
There’s also the fact that the game is stunningly beautiful and has some of the best, coolest attack animations ever seen in RPGs, or even video games in general. Everything else pales in comparison when you get used to the level of quality in OG.
I saw some people complaining (rightfully) about going into SRW OG Moon Dwellers lacking context due to not having played the prior 4.x games leading up to it. So I’m starting a project to write up the OG timeline in detail. God help me. Here’s OG1. https://t.co/OQnNaxL62T
— Christina Rose (@dramata1) December 23, 2018
If you’d like to play Super Robot Wars OG: The Moon Dwellers but don’t know where to start–especially since past games are in Japanese only–I suggest you can grab the game, but start by reading these work-in-progress summaries first. These are written by one of the English translators who worked on Super Robot Wars X, Christina Rose.
1. Valkyria Chronicles 4
As I was saying on our GOTY 2018 podcast, SEGA’s finally back in the game with Valkyria Chronicles 4. Don’t get me wrong, Valkyria Chronicles 2 and 3 weren’t that bad: I even liked Valkyria Chronicles 2’s manga adaptation, which stared Aliasse as the main character, and had her doing a mother-daughter Kamehameha at the end. Valkyria Revolution too can apparently be enjoyed if you don’t mind the gameplay and getting deep into telenovelas. But with Valkyria Chronicles 4, we’ve finally got the true sequel we waited for ten years.
The game has one of the best team of main characters I’ve seen in a game these past years. As with most JRPGs, they all feel like walking stereotypes at first, but all become so much more as you go on. The story’s amazing and develops the series’ background, and the battle system is satisfying with huge, well-designed maps. The side characters are great too, though this time, unlike in 3, they opted for team scenarios to develop them instead of individual scenarios for each one of them. The game is fully-voiced and has a great cast, including many big names of the Japanese voice acting industry. Along with Persona 5, it’s the only game I played these past two years where it was so good, I didn’t want it to end. Now I look forward to New Sakura Wars by the same team, going back full circle, as the first Valkyria Chronicles was made by Sakura Wars‘ team.
There’s plenty of games I didn’t get the occasion to touch yet which released in 2018, and there are so many things coming in 2019, I’ll never run out of choices. There’s a high chance all of these upcoming games will be in my GOTY list next year: Super Robot Wars T, Left Alive, Daemon x Machina, Fire Emblem Three Houses, Catherine Full Body, Langrisser I&II, Dragon Quest XI Switch, LoveR, Eve Rebirth Terror, Ciconia no Naku Koro ni and Ys IX: Monstrum Nox.
Then there’s New Sakura Wars and 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim which will both hopefully release in 2019. Oh and Kingdom Hearts III. My story with it is kind of similar to the Shenmue series, except watching that same friend play through the series again didn’t hype me much.
In any case, I need a new PC and a PS4. I hope everyone will have a wonderful 2019, and I hope to see you again then. Thanks for reading.
Check out the other DualShockers’ staff Top 10 lists and our official Game of the Year Awards:
December 17: DualShockers Game of the Year Awards 2018
December 18: Lou Contaldi, Editor in Chief // Logan Moore, Reviews Editor
December 19: Ryan Meitzler, Features Editor // Tomas Franzese, News Editor
December 20: Reinhold Hoffmann, Community Manager
December 21: Scott Meaney, Community Director // Ben Bayliss, Staff Writer
December 22: Ben Walker, Staff Writer // Chris Compendio, Staff Writer
December 23: Grant Huff, Staff Writer
December 26: Jordan Boyd, Staff Writer
December 27: Max Roberts, Staff Writer // Michael Ruiz, Staff Writer
December 28: Rachael Fiddis, Staff Writer
December 29: Steven Santana, Staff Writer // Tanner Pierce, Staff Writer
December 30: Iyane Agossah, Staff Writer // Travis Verbil, Staff Writer // Zack Potter, Staff Writer