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Backloggin' the Year

By Sam Marchello

   Ah, the good ol' backlog. It is something the majority of us have in one form or another and it's often the thing that many gamers complain about. We can't help ourselves! New and shiny RPGs, bought with the mentality that we'll never be able to find them again after the first print run (insert all Atlus USA titles here) or we grab them on the cheap because, well, it's cheap. While some of the RPGamer staff devote their time specifically to new releases, and others towards completing their old Saturn backlogs, I find myself square in the middle of this predicament.

   Every year I try to take a huge chunk out of my backlog, though for the purposes of this feature I'm squarely focusing on the RPGs I beat that were released prior to 2013. Unlike some gamers, I'm not very picky about the types or genres I play, and I'm very open-minded in that I'm willing to give any game a go providing it has something that draws me in. The backlog RPGs I beat this year are a fairly eclectic bunch, though two series do repeat themselves on the list. I'm going to share some overall thoughts with you on the games I beat and give a quick rating. I also asked the RPGamer staff to provide recommendations for what backlog games I should tackle in 2014 and share thoughts on some games that they want to get to and haven't. Everyone's got a reason why they haven't tackled something in their backlog, so I'm out to get to the bottom of this.

Alpha Protocol

Alpha Protocol
Pub: SEGA | Dev: Obsidian Entertainment | Release: 06.01.2010

   When everyone decided that Alpha Protocol was meant to be played like a big dumb shooter, I questioned the reviewing community. I'm frustrated with myself that I didn't get to this game sooner, because for all its glitches, it's a game full of heart. There's excellent characterization, tons of different missions, and an impeccably strong story. I appreciated the minute details in how Michael Thornton could be shaped by the player who can assume different spy-like personalities. There was a lot of genuine role playing within Alpha Protocol that often seemed to be over looked by those who wanted a rough and tumble shooter. Plus the game allows you to romance everyone or take the stance that "you have no time for it." It's so hard to say no to SIE sexy times, and if I replay it, I think that will be the toughest decision for me to deal with. Of all the backlog titles I completed, this game was easily one of my favourites from start to finish. Bottom Line: An overlooked gem that has so much to offer if you can push past its flaws.


Ar tonelico II

Ar tonelico II: Melody of Metafalica
Pub: NIS America | Dev: Gust | Release: 01.20.2009

   The Ar tonelico series is one I have intense mixed feelings on. I enjoyed the first game in terms of its combat system and its unique "dive system," even though I wasn't always keen on a lot of what the characters were doing, while in the third game, it was the over-the-top-sexual humor and strong desire to keep ramping up the perverted content that ultimately did me in. There was still one more game left to be tackled, the semi-problematic middle child, Ar tonelico II: Melody of Metafalica who had localization glitches galore, but so much to showcase to its player. Frankly despite the localization problems, Melody of Metafalica is my favourite of the three games, as there's such a challenging political issue at play and the characters actually have a lot of growth, including even the non-Reyvetails. This series continues to have some of the best music out there. Admittedly, the one major aspect I wasn't fond of was the battle system change, though I came to realize that's more of a personal preference. Bottom Line: Of the three Ar tonelico games, this is the must play of the bunch.


Dragon Ball Z: Attack of the Saiyans

Dragon Ball Z: Attack of the Saiyans
Pub: Namco Bandai | Dev: Monolith Soft | Release: 11.10.2009

   I'm not a fan of Dragon Ball Z. You'd think as someone who loves insanely ridiculous things that often make no sense that Dragon Ball Z would be up my alley. Sadly, I could only handle so much of the constant powering up for five episodes before I changed the channel. You are probably wondering then, why I played a Dragon Ball Z RPG. For starters, it was to help out with RPG Backtack, and second because it is made by Monolith Soft which guarantees an intriguing battle system. Although really, this was the Super Robot Wars OG Saga: Endless Frontier battle system, but without the boobs and staring the cast of Dragon Ball Z. The story is the exact plot of the first story arc, the characters are as you know them, but truthfully it didn't make for an interesting game. I found myself skipping the plot so I could just battle and power up to 9000, and even that dream didn't come true. Bottom Line: For hardcore Dragon Ball Z fans only. Likely won't interest most RPGamers.


Guardian Heroes HD

Guardian Heroes HD
Pub: SEGA | Dev: Treasure | Release: 10.12.2011

   I'm going to pull an unpopular opinion for a moment, one I know Mike Apps and Mike Mohenke are going to throw potatoes at me for, but Guardian Heroes is boring. I just didn't understand the big hubbub about it, nor did I find myself feeling encouraged to go back and play the game more than once to see the branching plotlines. I'll give the game its credit: a beat'em up RPG with branching plotlines is an amazing and truly unique idea — making an awkward plot to follow it? Well, let's just say I finished it once, was creeped out by certain characters and decided that I had had enough. The music rocks, though. Bottom Line: Talk to Mike Apps and Mike Mohenke for a better opinion.


Harvest Moon: Boy & Girl

Harvest Moon: Boy & Girl
Pub: Natsume | Dev: Marvelous | Release: 07.31.2007

   The Harvest Moon series and I have a very love-hate relationship, but the addiction this series spawns stays relatively the same for me every time. I wanted to love Boy & Girl, but it was a game that felt as if nothing was really happening, and the activities were too simplified. Perhaps part of my problem is I feel spoiled by the later installments to this series, especially when games like A New Beginning feels like there's so much life in the Harvest Moon world. I reviewed Boy & Girl, and I think the review can do all the talking for me. Bottom Line: I played it so you don't have to. Though in fairness, play Hero of Leaf Valley or Innocent Life if you want a good Harvest Moon experience on your PSP.


Jade Empire

Jade Empire
Pub: Microsoft | Dev: BioWare | Release: 04.12.2005

   While I have not played all of BioWare's games, I have tackled a fair chunk of them. My fiancée's favourite, of course, is Jade Empire. It's a game that sicks its kung-fu grip into you, showing how important the decision making process can really be. BioWare has always created games with strong decision making aspects as a focal point, and Jade Empire is certainly one of those titles where the consequences can feel quite large, and the impact of your actions are seen in plain sight. I loved the combat, and the characters (other than Sky) were fantastic. No really, Sky is a tool. BioWare crafted all the love of a kung-fu RPG, providing players with a world that was just so vibrant and new. Though we may never see a sequel, Jade Empire is definitely a game I play to replay in the future. Bottom Line: If you haven't played this kung-fu wonder, DO IT. It's a great example of BioWare at its strongest. Also, Silk Fox. I like her.


Penny Arcade's On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 3

Penny Arcade's On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 3
Pub: Zeboyd Games | Dev: Zeboyd Games | Release: 06.25.2012

   I have played bits and pieces of the Penny Arcade's On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness series, but unfortunately I never sunk in enough time to know if I enjoyed them or not. During March Madness, an event held on the RPGamer forums, I decided to take the plunge and give this series a go since it was a game my fiancée had been working his way through on our Xbox 360. I was hooked from the get go. I think Zeboyd Games is really talented at crafting fast-paced battle systems, and the variety in the classes was quite entertaining. I was a huge fan of Hoboism, despite not wanting to be a hobo in real life. Gabe and Tycho were just so crafty and hilarious and they had a wonderful support cast lending them a constant hand. I definitely am planning on checking out the first two games, which I know were developed by Hothead Games, and I'm equally excited to make some time to tackle Zeboyd's episode 4. Bottom Line: Damn, I am so excited for Cosmic Star Heroine!


Shin Megami Tensei: Persona

Shin Megami Tensei: Persona
Pub: Atlus USA | Dev: Atlus | Release: 09.22.2009

   Back in the day I remember asking my father to buy me Revelations: Persona for the PSX. I thought the cover was interesting and the back of the box boasted lots of hours in terms of gameplay. What I didn't realize was that it meant an insane encounter rate, twenty hours to find the police station, and making sure to cross at cross walks. I did not like the game, and for the longest time I let it sour my opinion of the Persona series. Flash forward to 2008 when I finally played and completed Persona 3: FES thanks to the recommendation of my local EB clerk. This series has an insanely rich history, and while Persona PSP fixes some issues of the original, it was still a challenging game to complete. While I'm proud of myself for beating it, I question if the intense effort I put in was worth it. Battles are long and sluggish, the encounter rate is still quite high, and the story is a bit crack infested, yet I was addicted to demon negotiations and seeing how many times Mark's sexy dance moves could win me over a new demon. It was a great history lesson, but not a game that has aged well at all. Bottom Line: Only for the fierce who wish to experience Persona at its roots. Not recommended for newcomers to the series unless you have tons of patience.


Persona 4: Golden

Persona 4: Golden
Pub: Atlus USA | Dev: Atlus | Release: 11.20.2012

   Now, you're all probably thinking: Sam, Persona 4: Golden released late last year, it doesn't count! However, it's a 2012 release so I'm counting it. The original Persona 4 was one of the first reviews I ever wrote for RPGamer and while I loved the game bearry much, it never entirely stacked up to Persona 3 for me. I adore the characters and the world, but found certain flaws that were essentially hard to ignore. Persona 4: Golden is the definitive version of the game and all the extra scenes and content were appreciated, but as someone who has played the game before, was this version warranted? Probably not. Was it worth the replay? Absolutely. If you haven't had the chance to play Persona 4 and you have a Vita, it's absolutely worth the time sink, especially for its characters alone. Bottom Line: There's a distinct lack of Mitsuru (my home girl). Therefore, Persona 4: Golden can only score a 4.5/5.


Solatorobo: Red the Hunter

Solatorobo: Red the Hunter
Pub: XSEED Games | Dev: CyberConnect2 | Release: 09.27.2011

   I have a confession to make: I love giant robots and I also love puppy dogs (In fact, I own two of them). Considering how much I loved both of those things, I should have loved Solatorobo. Alas, I did not. For me, Solatorobo had an awesome first act, with a second act that replicated more of the same. I wasn't a huge fan of the quests in the game, and the gimmicky combat did finally go stale on me. I loved the world and the characters, but after a while, it was hard to enjoy a game where it just felt like not enough was happening. I'm glad I finished it, but I don't think it was worth the time and effort I put in. Bottom Line: Worth it for the first half of the game, may stale in second half. Plenty of patience for repetition required.


Tales of Graces f

Tales of Graces f
Pub: Namco Bandai | Dev: Namco Bandai | Release: 03.13.2012

   The power of friendship compels you, is what the tagline of Tales of Graces f should have been. While only releasing in 2012, this is one Tales game I actually took my sweet time with. While I don't feel this is the strongest Tales cast, I couldn't help but love a lot of what the characters stood for (Team Cheria!). Graces f has an amazing battle system and great atmosphere, but it's not why I play this series. I love a lot of the themes and relationships that grow with the characters, and Graces f was a game that put a wide smile across my face on numerous occasions. The humor is spot-on, the characters are so loving towards each other, yet they also have their own hardships they must grow from. I truly appreciated that aspect because it's something many RPGs don't always touch upon or it comes across too forced. Feelings matter, and Graces f has the feels in spades. Bottom Line: This game is made of feels. Make sure you have the proper equipments to deal with it before playing.


Tales of Vesperia

Tales of Vesperia
Pub: Namco Bandai | Dev: Namco Bandai | Release: 09.27.2011

   Tales of Vesperia is a game that likes to come up on our forums a lot. Everyone wants the definitive PlayStation 3 version with pirate girl, I get that. Having played the 360 version do I feel like I missed out on anything? Not at all. I adored Vesperia and it easily wins the award for having the best cast in the series just because everyone was so distinctive in voice and characterization, and Yuri wins the award for best anti-hero. He's Batman! How can I not love a game that's centered on the strength of its characters? While I feel like parts of the story were certainly hit-or-miss, particularly in the finale, I still loved these characters and found myself cheering for them from start to finish. An easy victory for the Tales fan in me, though admittedly, I don't understand why I am alone in my love of Karol. Bottom Line: If you play Tales for the character interactions alone, this is a great addition to the series. The combat is pretty darn fun too.


Other Backloggin' Fun

   While I've only managed to complete a small number of RPGs from my backlog this year (on top of playing a ton of the 2013 releases), I thought it would be fun to add two more extra layers to this feature. In one section I asked the staffers to pick an RPG from my backlog that they feel I should play and why, and second I'm going to share with you all some of the games in the staff's backlog that they are dying to play, but haven't quite made the time for.

Staff Picks for Nyx's 2014 Backlog ChallengeStaff Picks for Backlog 2014

   I hope you've enjoyed our little feature, and please let us know in the forums what games are in your backlog that you hope to get to in 2014!

   Huge thank you to Sarah McGarr for her banner. Glenn Wilson and Alex Fuller for their infinite patience proofing, the staff for their input, and IGN circa 2000-2004 for helping RPGamer get pictures for its archives.

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