Adriaan "omegabyte" den Ouden's 2008 Halftime Report
1st Half
RPGs Not to Miss
1The World Ends With You
2On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness
3Lost Odyssey
4Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII
5Summon Night: Twin Age

Usually the first half of the year is marked by a dismal lack of RPGs, but surprisingly 2008 has been quite different. Several high quality titles have come across my path, to the point where narrowing it down to a list of five was not terribly easy. I would have liked to include both the Wii port of Okami as well as Persona 3 FES, but have opted to focus instead on new titles.

My first pick might come as a surprise considering the scathing criticism I had of its battle system, but despite its flaws, The World Ends With You was a terrific game with an incredible story. Anyone with a DS would be remiss to pass up an opportunity to play it, as it is one of the most unique RPGs released in years. My second pick is a more recent release, and one that could easily go unnoticed. On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness, the first game in the Penny Arcade Adventures series, is a downloadable title on the PC and Xbox 360. The game is filled with quirky humor and a surprisingly fun battle system, despite its simplicity. It's a short game, but only the first part of a series, one that is sure to be a lot of fun.

Lost Odyssey was one of my most anticipated games from last year's The Best of the Rest feature, and though it came later than expected, the wait was certainly worth it. Although it's battle system is highly traditional, it has a great story and features "1000 Years of Dreams," a series of stand-alone short stories featuring the game's hero, Kaim. These stories alone make the game worth playing.

Although I've never been a huge fan of Final Fantasy VII, I have to admit that Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII really managed to grab a hold of me. I think it could have been a lot better, and definitely could have done without the horribly random DMW reel, but the story is told incredibly well, and Zack is a far more likeable protagonist than Cloud ever was. It also features what I consider to be one of the best ending sequences ever produced in a game.

Finally, Summon Night: Twin Age. I have never played a game in the Summon Night series before, and from what I understand most are quite different from this quirky DS title, but Twin Age caught me completely off guard. I picked it up on a whim, and I quickly got swept up in its surprisingly addictive, if somewhat simple, gameplay. It's a completely charming game and one that should not be missed, as it's likely to become hard to find in the near future.

2nd Half
Most Wanted RPGs
1Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World
2Tales of Vesperia
3Too Human
4Infinite Undiscovery
5Sonic Chronicles: Dark Brotherhood

The second half of 2008 is shaping up to be just as exciting as the first. One thing that I am completely giddy over is that I will get the opportunity to play not just one, but two Tales games before the year is out. The first is a sequel to what happens to be my all-time favorite game, Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World. Taking a step away from Tales tradition, Dawn of the New World features a monster collection system similar to Pokémon and tells what happens two years after the end of the original GameCube hit. The game features new protagonists, but the old cast is returning for cameo appearances, and word has it that Lloyd, hero of the original, has turned to the dark side, so to speak.

Tales of Veperia, on the other hand, is a brand new entry in the series on the Xbox 360, and just so happens to be made by the same team that created the aforementioned Tales of Symphonia. The last game that team made, Tales of the Abyss, unfortunately put too much strain on the PS2's hardware and was thus plagued with technical issues. Vesperia, hopefully, will not have those issues.

Game number three is one that has been in development for nearly ten years and is finally seeing the light of day, after jumping between three consoles. Too Human is an action RPG in the vein of the Diablo series, but what makes it truly interesting is its setting. Too Human takes place in the distant past, featuring an advanced civilization whose historical records will one day be misinterpreted as Norse mythology. My fourth pick is another action RPG, this time from tri-Ace, the creators of Star Ocean, Valkyrie Profile, and my personal favorite, Radiata Stories. Although not much is known about the game's story aside from the moon being trapped in chains by some sort of religious order and mysterious glyphs adorning most of the population's bodies, the combat seems to be in much the same vein as tri-Ace's other works. In addition, the world's environments are said to play a key role in battle, which should be interesting.

Finally we have a game that is simply here because it is quite probably the most unlikely game to be created since Disney and Squaresoft made Kingdom Hearts. Sonic Chronicles: Dark Brotherhood is, as the name implies, a Sonic the Hedgehog game made by BioWare. BioWare, the company whose focus up until recently has been western RPGs based on Dungeons & Dragons licenses; games featuring complex worlds, detailed character customization, and branching dialogue trees. BioWare is the company responsible for games such as Neverwinter Nights, Knights of the Old Republic, and last year's Mass Effect, and their name alone is enough to convince me that the game will be awesome.

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