With my list highlighting the best animes of 2014 done and dusted it is now time for me to focus on the other form of entertainment that The Otaku Judge covers – namely video games. For many gamers 2014 was a tad disappointing as the next gen consoles are still finding their feet. I myself have yet to purchase a Playstation 4, as no must own titles have caught my attention, but I am sure the situation will change at some point in 2015. Thankfully the humble Playstation 3 is still going strong, providing me with many hours of enjoyment, along with the handhelds that I own. Below are the top five games I played in 2014. As was the case with last year’s chart, to keep things interesting, I am limiting myself to one title per system. Let the show begin.
5th. 999: The Novel (iPad) – I have previously mentioned that Virtue’s Last Reward was one of the best games I played last year. Unfortunately for European gamers, such as myself, its predecessor 999 was never released over here. That oversight was finally addressed when 999: The Novel became available to download off the Apple Apps Store. This enthralling visual novel has players guiding protagonist Junpei Tenmyouji and eight other captives through the deadly Nonary Game, were they must escape a sinking cruise liner within a nine-hour time limit. It’s a thrilling tale packed with conspiracies that boasts multiple endings depending on what choices you make. For some inexplicable reason the iOS port is missing the puzzles found in the DS original, but given that it’s available to buy at a budget price I’m not complaining.
4th. South Park: The Stick of Truth (PS3) – Despite being in development hell since 2009 (and having to change publishers, after THQ went bust) South Park: The Stick of Truth managed to beat the odds to become one of the best console games released in 2014. Although the Costume Quest style timing based combat was fun the main reason why the game is such a hit is because of its hilarious comedy. South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker had a huge input on the design of the game and man does it show. This humorous RPG, were the South Park residents battle Nazi zombies, is filled to the brim with gags that reference the cartoon. It’s a prime example of how licenced games don’t always have to suck, with the only disappointment being that the EU console versions were censored.
3rd. Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft (PC) – This digital card game is the spiritual successor to the World of Warcraft trading card game, which I tried many moons ago but ultimately gave up on due to a lack of players in my area. Unlike my short lived affair with the WOW card game Hearthstone has kept my interest since launch, making it the only title on this list that I am still currently playing. Since its inception the game has gone from strength to strength with its initially modest selection of cards beefed up via two expansions. The game is fun to both play and watch, which has led to some pro players eking out a living by attracting donations from spectators who delight in watching them stream matches online. Even if card games aren’t your thing it’s worth a go as it is accessible to newbies and you have nothing to lose because it’s free to play.
2nd. Bravely Default (3DS) – If you are an old school Final Fantasy fan, who is fed up at how these days the series focuses more on graphics than gameplay, then Bravely Default is the game for you. It’s a retro FF title in everything but name featuring traditional turn based combat, summons and a story were you must venture across the land in search of elemental crystals. What really got me hooked on Bravely Default were the strategic battles and the job system that allows you to mix and match a character’s skills by levelling them up in various different roles. Bravely Default is almost perfect, but it just misses out on the top spot due to an unwelcome plot twist that makes the later levels needlessly repetitive. If you have played the game you’ll know exactly what I mean.
1st. Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair (Vita) – It’s funny how some people dismiss the PS Vita as a flop because, for the second successive year, a title exclusive to Sony’s handheld has walked away with my game of the year award. This follow up to the equally brilliant Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc has a class of sixteen talented students trapped on a deserted island, where they are forced to kill each other in order to escape. Gameplay wise there isn’t much here aside from mini-games and wacky courtroom drama that channels Phoenix Wright. You won’t care though, as the murder mystery plot is so enthralling. Another plus is the likable ensemble cast that includes a sadistic robot teddy, a harem of potential waifus and a breeder of rodents who acts like a maniacal overlord. Danganronpa 2 is a must have title for Vita owners and if you don’t own a Vita it’s a good argument for why you should buy one.
With that the curtain draws on my annual top fives. Juggling my time between shift work, getting through a massive anime backlog and writing for a (un)successful blog means that I didn’t get the opportunity to play as many games as I would have liked in 2014. Are there any releases from the past year that you think I should check out? If so let me know in the comments below.