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Adriaan den Ouden's Picks

2014 has been a pretty good year for RPGs so far. We've had some big successes in the likes of Bravely Default: Flying Fairy and South Park: The Stick of Truth, but there have been a few flops as well, such as the mediocre Lightning Returns or the dreadful Witch and the Hundred Knight. However, the biggest and best stuff still seems to be yet to come. The latter half of 2014 is shaping up to be even better than the first, which is good news for RPGamers, but bad news for their wallets.


Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth

Round 1: Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth (PS3) - Official Site
Pub: Atlus USA (NA), NIS America (EU) | Dev: Atlus | Release: 11.25.2014 (NA), 11.28.2014 (EU)

With all the remakes and fighting game spin-offs flying around, it's easy to forget that the last time we got a truly new RPG entry in the Persona series was back in 2008. While the additional content in Persona 3 Portable and Persona 4 Golden certainly helped us whet our appetites, the last time we had a new Persona story to enjoy was Persona 4 Arena, which wasn't exactly an RPG. Since Persona 5 is at least a year away, probably more, Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth is a very exciting prospect. Reuniting the casts of both Persona 3 and Persona 4 and sticking them into a new adventure together, the game promises a blend of Persona story-telling and the dungeon-crawling mechanics of Etrian Odyssey.

Plus everything has been chibi-fied! Watch the latest trailer and tell us you're not pumped. Great music, a beloved cast of characters, and mechanics drawn from two of Atlus's most successful RPG franchises. Everything is in place to make this another fantastic entry in the Persona universe. It may not be Persona 5, but we'll take it.


Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel

Round 2: Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel (PC, PS3, Xbox 360) - Official Site
Pub: 2K Games | Dev: Gearbox Software, 2K Australia | Release: 10.14.2014 (NA), 10.17.2014 (EU)

Bungie's shooter-MMO Destiny recently made waves with its "wizards from the moon." Gearbox's Borderlands franchise wasn't about to let that kind of thing slide, and so Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel has players head up there to blow all those sissy moon-wizards into itty, bitty, pieces. Okay, maybe not, but it does take place on the moon, and that's just one of the reasons we're excited to dive into the latest in this hilariously screwed up universe.

Borderlands 2 was one of those games that managed to stay relevant way longer than anyone expected. While it could have easily faded into the limelight after a few months, fantastic DLC packs like Tiny Tina's Assault on Dragon Keep and the introduction of new character classes kept the game fresh and interesting for well over a year after its release. In many ways, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel is just a colossal DLC pack for Borderlands 2, taking place after the events of the original Borderlands, but shortly before Borderlands 2's main campaign. It places players in the shoes of four of super-villain Handsome Jack's lackeys, one of whom is the series' beloved Claptrap mascot, and follows the Hyperion Corporation's rise to power on Pandora's moon.

In addition to its new setting and story, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel teases some exciting new gameplay gimmicks. New gun types like cryo-weapons and lasers have the potential to mix up the combat tactics a great deal, and the game boasts low gravity for huge jumps and other unique tricks. Like Persona Q, this may not have been the sequel we were looking for, but it's a more than welcome addition to the universe.


Costume Quest 2

Round 3: Costume Quest 2 (Mac, PC, PS3, PS4, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One) - Official Site
Pub: Double Fine | Dev: Double Fine | Release: Q4.2014

By far the most fun I've had reviewing any game for this site was the joint review I worked on with Sam Marchello for Costume Quest, a quirky, adorable RPG about little kids going trick 'r' treating. Part of my excitement, naturally, goes towards the prospect of working on such a review again, but most of it has to do with the amazingly loveable characters and world that Double Fine built and is finally returning to. It's a world where the children's imagination is their greatest weapon, and they have some vivid imaginations.

The basic premise of Costume Quest was that the children in the game donned adorably make-shift costumes — everything from ninjas to unicorns — for their Hallowe'en fun. But when monsters came calling, those same costumes would transform into building-sized goliaths that towered over the town, destroying anything and everything that dared to stand against them. Costume Quest 2 doesn't really promise much in the way of innovation, but that's part of what makes me want it so much. It's not trying to wow people with bold new ideas or exciting new mechanics; it's simply trying to recapture the whimsy of a fantastic childhood holiday. There will be new costumes to wear, new puzzles to solve, and a new story to enjoy, and that's all Costume Quest fans have really been wanting anyway.


Fantasy Life

Round 4: Fantasy Life (3DS) - Official Site
Pub: Nintendo | Dev: Level-5, Brownie Brown | Release: 10.24.2014 (NA), 09.26.2014 (EU)

One of the biggest and most welcome surprises of E3 2014 was the announcement of Fantasy Life for North America and Europe. Released in Japan way back in 2012, this is a game that most people had largely given up hope on, despite incredible success in Japan. For weeks on end the game sold out in Japanese stores and it received a 9/9/9/8 score from notable Japanese gaming magazine Famitsu. Even though our own man in Japan, Michael Baker, wasn't a big fan, I'm nonetheless excited to see what Level 5 and Brownie Brown's joint venture has in store.

Fantasy Life's basic premise is to do for Animal Crossing what Rune Factory did for Harvest Moon, adding a bit of combat and adventure into a sandbox world. The game basically plops you down into a fantasy world and tells you to live your life in whatever way you want. You can take on the job of a mighty warrior, smiting foes and saving the day, or you could simply go fishing. Considering how ridiculously popular Animal Crossing: New Leaf turned out to be last year, there's definitely plenty of potential.


 Pokémon Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire

Round 5: Pokémon Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire (PS3) - Official Site
Pub: Nintendo | Dev: The Pokémon Company | Release: 11.21.2014 (NA), 11.28.2013 (EU)

Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire are two games that pretty much everybody knew were going to happen, but nobody was entirely sure when. Apparently this is the year, and the remakes of Nintendo's third generation of Pokémon games are upon us. For me, the third generation marks the only set of games I didn't get a chance to play when they were first released. There's a lot to be excited for with these remakes, as Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire bring with them the plethora of improvements that were introduced in Pokémon X and Y last year. How many of those unique features will make it into the remakes is unclear, but X and Y have a reputation as being the most user-friendly and transparent games in the franchise, so the bar is set pretty high.

One aspect I'm most interested in seeing, especially given X and Y's other reputation as being the easiest games in the series, is just how hard Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire turn out to be. The original Game Boy Advance titles are known as being among the more challenging games that franchise has produced, so it will be interesting to see if they maintain that level of difficulty, or if they dumb it down. However, given that we already know that the game's Champion will be making use of a mega-evolved pseudo-legendary, I'd say the prospects are looking pretty good.



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