Game of the Year 2013: Part I

As 2013 comes to a close Joshua Evo and I wanted to let you know what our favorite titles of 2013 were. There were many fantastic games to choose from and this was really a difficult decision for me. Two games that were near the top of my list that I think deserve a mention but were not my game of the year are the Last of Us and Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag. Both of these games were amazing titles and should be awarded for how great they were. The Last of Us from Naughty Dog looked beautiful, played ridiculously well, and had a storyline that clutched at the heart of the player while terrifying them to death. On the other hand, Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag was at its core just plain fun to play. It was graphically stunning like the Last of Us but the main reason I loved this title is because of its gameplay. Being able to travel around on a giant ship and engage in combat with other ships was incredibly engaging while running around through enormous towns fighting the Templars and Assassins both was also something that made the game worth playing. However, despite how great these two titles were my number one title of the year is Ni No Kuni.

Ni No Kuni is a Level 5 title that was made in conjunction with Studio Ghibli (the company that makes all of Hayao Miyazaki’s fantastic anime movies). I felt exactly like I was playing through a Miyazaki movie the entire time and that is something that the other two simply cannot compare with. The main reason that I loved Ni No Kuni as much as I did is because of the storyline. This game delves into the life of Oliver as he travels through his world and another in order to save his mother from the clutches of evil. Along the way he meets Esther, Swaine, Marcassin, and Drippy who all get fleshed out enough that they never feel like they are simply side characters to Oliver’s main story. Oliver finds out from his friend Drippy that there is a twin of his mother in the otherworld of fantasy and magic and he travels there in hopes of bringing his mother back from the dead. The dialogue in the game almost always borders on humorous and multiple times made me laugh out loud at what was happening onscreen. Similarly, when the story did reach its darkest points it achieved the goal of making me feel truly sad for the characters and what they were going through. If it nice that even when things feel darkest, though, there is always a glimmer of hope.  Even the side characters, such as the kings or queens of the different areas, that you find along the way each have a developed and separate personality that make them an entertaining addition to this already amazing game. From start to finish and even after the final credits roll, the storyline of this game feels like a complete and well-rounded title.

If you liked the Spice Girls in the 90s, this joke will make you laugh like it did for me!

Much like the story, the graphics and the music helped draw me into this world from beginning to end. The cell shaded graphics that are a Miyazaki staple look much like his films always do; absolutely stunning. From the forest covered around near Ding Dong Dell to the snowy expanse that is Yule; every area that you encounter looks completely different and beautiful. The great amount of detail that is put into every town, house, and person that you meet along the way make the game one of the most visually dazzling titles that I have seen in quite a while. Likewise, the music that is implanted into the game also help make it definitely worth picking up. The various towns have fantastic soundtracks that are catered to the type of area that you have just entered. For example, Motortown, Oliver’s hometown, has a very upbeat and happy tune playing yet when you enter Shadar’s castle the soundtrack changes to a haunting tune. The music literally follows the emotions that you feel as you travel throughout the world. The voice acting is also amazingly well done. Each of the characters sound like you would imagine they would and never border on campy or annoying.

Finally, the gameplay, while much like that of some well-known previous RPGs, adds its own elements to stand out from the crowd. You can travel around by walking, using a boat, and eventually a dragon and you will spend most of your time in dungeons or open areas outside of the towns fighting multitudes of enemies. Each character has their own set of small creatures called familiars that they are able to use in combat if you do not want to use the characters themselves to fight. While Oliver is good at spell casting, Esther good  at healing, and Swaine good at stealing items, it is often better to use a familiar because their defense tends to be better and they are usually more up close and personal fighters than the characters themselves. Each team member has certain familiars that they are most compatible with depending upon their type, Sun, Moon, Star, or Planet. Each familiar type is stronger or weaker against another. There are a ridiculously large amount of familiars to obtain and while some are obviously not as good as others, trying to find and get the best ones is in itself a fun part of the game. The small battles along the way are enjoyable, but the boss battles are where the game really shines. The bosses are fantastical creatures that are immediately intimidating as soon as they appear on the screen and trying to figure out which familiars to use and what to have the other two party members do as far as defending, healing, etc. during battle takes some skill and I loved the trial and error that these battles took. Outside of combat, there are constantly numerous side quests that you can undertake that stop the game from becoming solely about the fight. You are put in charge of curing brokenhearted citizens by finding other people who have the trait that the other person is missing. You can also create new things via the alchemy machine, find items to give to people, and get rid of monsters pestering the town. All of these varied gameplay elements only add to the overall appeal this title held for me.

These familiars may be small, but they definitely pack a punch!

Overall, I LOVED this game. I could not find one thing that I did not enjoy and that is why this game is easily my game of the year. If you have not picked up this title you need to go do so as soon as possible so that you do not miss out on one of the most fantastic titles I have played in a while. Now that I have let you know my game of the year, let us know yours in the comments below!

-As always please read, review, and share. Megan Highwind has left the party.

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