Monday, January 22, 2018

Alex Fuller's #TeamHandheld Best of 2017

1) Xenoblade Chronicles 2 (Switch)

Monolith Soft's partnership with Nintendo has now brought three games that I have absolutely loved. While Xenoblade Chronicles X falls a bit behind on the rankings, I've found myself finding it almost impossible to decide which of the other two I like best as both are first at the top of my favourites of all time list. Xenoblade Chronicles 2 has almost everything I love about RPGs, from an excellent and intuitive battle system to an amazing cast and story, fascinating world, and brilliant music. Shout out also to the game's great voice acting cast, particularly Catrin-Mai Huw, the amazing Welsh voice of Nia.

2) Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony (Vita)

I do like a good murder mystery, and the Danganronpa series is nothing but that (ignoring the spin-offs anyway). The first two games brought a crazy new style to the idea, helped by Masfaumi Takada's soundtrack, and immediately grabbed my attention and didn't let go. Though Danganronpa V3 brings a slightly new direction, it achieves much the same that its predecessors did and has perhaps the best cast of the three. The ending is an almost perfect encapsulation for the series, superbly bringing forth questions that I was starting to have leading into its release. All that said, let's not use Psyche Taxi again please.

3) Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth (Vita)

One of the games from the previous generation that I felt didn't get enough love was Tears to Tiara II, a visual novel-RPG hybrid from Aquaplus with assistance from Sting. So I was very happy to hear that Atlus was localising the Utawarerumono duology. This is the second part of that duology, the first appearing somewhat below due to some serious pacing issues, though the two combined should slot in about here. It's an incredible tale with a cast of hugely memorable characters and a straightforward, but thoroughly engaging tactical RPG system that lends to a great experience that I thoroughly recommend, even with the glacial opening half of the first game.

4) Battle Chef Brigade (Switch)

Iron Chef plus gem-matching plus side-scrolling action is a bizarre combination, but somehow Trinket Studios has made it work brilliantly. Battle Chef Brigade is a showcase in how developers can bring strange ideas together in very fun ways. It's not a very long game, but I thoroughly enjoyed my time with it and can see getting sucked into another experience that builds on it (it's definitely one that asks for head-to-head multiplayer).

5) Collar x Malice (Vita)

While I am a huge fan of certain visual novels, there are many that have just bored me. Collar x Malice falls into the former category. Though billed as an otome game, I would heartily recommend it to anyone looking for a narrative experience, as the romance aspects are less of a focus than the fascinating story it tells. I generally don't bother replaying visual novels with multiple routes, but here I felt compelled to play all of them just so I could learn everything behind the story.

6) Tokyo Xanadu (Vita)

Any other year as this could easily be in the top three. Nihon Falcom, albeit a junior team, combining elements of Trails of Cold Steel, Ys, and Persona? Yes, please. Though it's an obvious combination of those ideas rather than being too original, it has all of the charm one expects from a Falcom title and kept me interested throughout. Though the eX+ console version has more content, those who play the original Vita release shouldn't feel shortchanged.

7) Golf Story (Switch)

Mario Golf on the Game Boy Color was a favourite of mine. Its story campaign was incredibly engaging, and I'm very sad to see that recent games haven't tried to emulate it. That was before Golf Story. Though it isn't quite as deep as Camelot's effort, Golf Story is great fun with entertaining writing and challenges, and brings a strong game to the course.

8) Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception (Vita)

Though the first game of the Utawarerumono duology has some serious pacing issues, it's deserving of a place in the top ten purely for how well it sets up the second half. The excellent payoff provided by the second game wouldn't be nearly as good without all the painstaking groundwork set up here, and though non-conclusions are often a pain for RPGs, this game ends on perhaps the greatest one I've seen and for those who get to it. There's no option but to want to find out what happens next.

9) Layton's Mystery Journey (3DS)

The DS family has been great for puzzle games, with Professor Layton games being one of the stronger series to emerge. After a good number of titles featuring Herschel, it's good to bring in a new lead, and his daughter Katrielle is a fine one to pass the mantle to. Though it doesn't do too much else to differentiate itself from the previous games, Layton's Mystery Journey marks a fun new entry and is well worth checking out.

10) Ys Origin (Vita)

The PSP and Vita have introduced me to many good things, one of them being the Ys series. Nihon Falcom's long-running action RPG series feels right at home on the handhelds. Though XSEED Games released Ys Origin, a distant prequel to the series, for PC in 2012, DotEmu's decision to bring it to first PS4 and then Vita gave me a good reason to check it out, and I'm very glad I did.

(Ys VIII would probably be high on this list if I'd played it enough. There's a good chance the Switch version will get on here next year!)

By Alex Fuller, RPGamer's Managing Editor and Mac's Right Hand

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