While the Wii still did not have a huge selection of RPGs, things were looking up in 2008. Nintendo's system received a handful of unique titles, that's for sure. Here's the best of 2008.
Content to drop you in a strange world, give you a gun with only five bullets, and then tell you to descend the tower on the horizon and kill God, Baroque forces the player to enter a randomized dungeon at level one over and over, slowly triggering plot sequences and figuring out how to play it. Dying has no consequences, winning provides no benefits, basic gameplay concepts are never explained, the tutorial is hidden, and growth, as it is typically handled in video games, is nonexistent. Punch through the immense initial difficulty spike and weird setup, though, and you will find an engaging, wholly unique and outstanding dungeon crawler. Staying true to games like Rogue and Nethack, Baroque is challenging, encouraging experimentation and requiring lots of skill and practice to survive. The bizarre setting, intense gameplay, demented visuals, creepy audio, and brutal difficulty would be more at home on any other console, but Baroque is a polished, unique, and unforgettable game that constantly calls for you to return to it.
Coming in at number two is another dungeon hack, albeit one with a more childish aesthetic. Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo's Dungeon takes the standard Japanese roguelike setup — randomized dungeons, turn based actions, and the retention of experience points upon death — and makes it less frustrating. The lower difficulty does the game a favor; the comparatively relaxed gameplay is much more approachable and outright fun here than in similar titles. Liberally coating the gameplay with a Final Fantasy veneer and the typical Square Enix attention to detail adds to the experience too. While cutesy can be sickening, the charm in Chocobo's Dungeon hits that perfect spot where it's adorable without being over the top. The final package is an enjoyable, almost entry-level dungeon hack that stays challenging without making you tear your hair out.
The Tales series has really started to blossom in North America the past few years. Beginning with Tales of Symphonia on the GameCube, little by little it has gained a following. Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World was a sequel to that game that sparked the series in North America, and in many ways is the most unique Tales game yet released. With a main character unusually focused on aerial combat, a monster capturing system, and a story centered on only two characters rather than a massive party, Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World is an thoroughly enjoyable entry to the series and one of this year's best Wii RPGs.
by Glenn Wilson, Adriaan den Ouden, Michael Cunningham