Adriaan den Ouden's 2009 Halftime Report
1st Half
RPGs Not to Miss

The interesting thing about the first half of any given year is that it's generally filled with games that go below peoples' radar. While occasionally a blockbuster title shows up in the spring, for the most part, the games we receive are the ones that were delayed in order to avoid the hefty competition usually found during the holiday rush. It's sad that some of these games don't get the attention they deserve, because there are just too many games that simply get overlooked.

Personally, I played a lot of games during the first half of the year, some good and some bad. My top five picks for the first half are surprisingly DS-oriented. The first, much to my own surprise, is Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor. Those who know me know that I'm fairly skeptical about tactical titles, but Devil Survivor shocked me with an engaging story and terrific combat. It's firmly cemented itself as my favorite DS game, and I really wish I had the time to go back and experience some of the other story paths.

Second on my list is another DS game, though I think everybody and their grandmother got a chance to play it. Pokémon Platinum fixed pretty much all of the many, many problems I had with Pokémon Diamond and Pearl, most notably by adding sixty additional pokémon to the initial pokédex, providing more balanced party options. Until Heart Gold and Soul Silver are made available, Platinum is certainly going to be the Pokémon game of choice.

My third choice is Overlord II. For those of you who haven't experienced the original Overlord, I strongly urge you to do so. It's a terrific, unusual game, and its sequel is just as good. Many RPGs allow the player to be evil, but Overlord is one of the few that actively encourages it.

Next up is a port of an old PlayStation game, Star Ocean: Second Evolution. While I didn't enjoy the game quite as much as I enjoyed First Departure, it remains as a solid, enjoyable action RPG featuring bizarre characters and plenty of customization options. It heralds back to a day when tri-Ace wasn't releasing disappointingly bad games, and can be helpful when trying to rekindle hope for the company after their more recent debacles.

Last but not least is Avalon Code, and this is a game that I know depressingly few people have actually played. I will not deny that I have something of a love-affair with Matrix Software. In the past few years they've released two Final Fantasy remakes and this. While none of them have been truly terrific, every one of them has been a solid, enjoyable experience, and Avalon Code is no exception.

2nd Half
Most Wanted RPGs

My trip to L.A. for Run to the Sun this year bore unexpected fruit, which actually changed my most wanted list at the last minute. Topping my list is my continued obsession with Matrix Software: their new game, Nostalgia. After playing it a bit in L.A., it seems to be a playful, fun, and simple RPG; solid all around, which is exactly what I'd expect from them.

Up next is a game that you probably won't see on anyone else's lists, but made it onto mine: Champions Online. Made by the same people who created City of Heroes, this MMO promises to be everything that they wanted City of Heroes to be. With unrivaled character customization, the ability to create your own arch-nemesis, and more, it's shaping up to be a terrific game. How it will fare in a World of Warcraft-dominated marketplace has yet to be seen.

The third game on my list is one that I went in expecting to hate, but after experiencing it first-hand, cannot wait for its release. Demon's Souls seems like a truly hardcore, frightening action RPG on the surface, but after seeing how it works, it's far less intimidating.

Little King's Story is a game we here at RPGamer have been waiting on for quite some time. After numerous delays, Little King's Story, the tale of a small boy who finds a magical crown that causes everyone around him to serve and obey, was finally released on July 21. By the time you read this, it should already be on store shelves.

Finally, rounding out the list is Dragon Age: Origins, BioWare's latest masterpiece. Many people are calling it a spiritual successor to Baldur's Gate, but for me, the simple fact that it's made by BioWare is enough to sell it. They haven't let me down yet, and I don't expect them to start with this. But here's hoping that the menu system doesn't suck.

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