Of course, some of the choicest material riches that one can distribute to friends, enemies, frenemies and loved ones are pieces of interactive entertainment software, colloquially known as "videogames". That's what we Japanator are here, tonight, to help you out with! Below you'll find a list of some of our favorite videogames from this year that you can shell out your tons of monies on, for the joy of others - or yourself.
Marcus Speer suggests:
For the unacceptably slow, but curious dating sim customer...
Katawa Shoujo (PC)
The first in the long line of "games that you need to play and have no excuse not to" category for the year 2012 is maybe the very first one that blew up: Katawa Shoujo. I mean, it was all that a lot of our editors could help but talk about for the whole month of January, so if our word (along with the rest of the anime fandom) is a testament to the sort of quality you expect to see in the products that come out, then you know that this is a must to try.
Not to say the product is without its share of problems... thankfully, Elliot has a whole review to help you decide without my pushy input. Look: all I'm trying to point out is that, given that it has a fresh, Western-spin on the more traditionally Japanese storytelling, as well as its interesting background history, is enough to give this notable title a shot.
Should it be mentioned that it's free?! Because it totally is.
Salvador G-Rodiles suggests:
For the friend that loves to explore huge places...
Xenoblade Chronicles (Nintendo Wii)
It's not too often that we get a game by Monolith Soft, since Nintendo has yet to localize any of the other titles that they developed. One of Xenoblade's great joys is that you are exploring a breathtaking world that's on the body of a giant colossus known as the Bionis, which is one of the reasons why this RPG is huge. While fans of Monolith's other titles might be disappointed by the change in the battle system, Xenoblade's combat system that revolves around the Monado sword reward players with an engaging system that will keep them on their toes.
But most importantly, the soundtrack creates sweet music to your ears, as you explore every nook and cranny of what the game has to offer. And that's not all, Xenoblade can also be used as a drinking game, which involves taking a shot after you hear the Monado get mentioned.
Still not sold on Xenoblade? Well, it's not everyday that you come across a game that rewards you for jumping off a cliff that leads to the inescapable ocean. Sure, there's jumping off a colossus in Shadow of the Colossus, but those guys are ants in the eyes of the great Bionis.
For the friend that wishes for a new season of Durarara...
Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 (Nintendo DS)
MSRP: $29.99 $19.99
Devil Survivor 2 was indeed a big improvement over the first game. The Persona-like social link elements open up a new depth of gameplay that the first Devil Survivor was missing. And who could say no to Suzuhito Yasuda's character designs?
With a team of customizable demons, and different story routes at your disposal, Devil Survivor 2 will keep you hooked for many playthroughs to come. Don't let the two in Devil Surivor 2 fool you, because newcomers can jump in without any prior knowledge of the previous game. And if you still don't believe me, then you can check out my review on the game itself.
For the Touhou fan that loves to get their bullet hell on...
The eXceed Collection (PC)
When you look at it, three games for $9.99 is a pretty good deal. Especially when you get three bullet hell games that play differently. What more can you ask for? Oh wait there's one thing, and I think eXceed has you covered, since you are playing as cute girls that shoot up other cute girls.
If there was one teeny little problem with The eXceed Collection, it's that eXceed - Gun Bullet Children feels like an incomplete game. Before you decide to dodge my bullets, the other two games do justice to the whole package. In fact, you can face the rest of my bullets in my review of the Collection -- Moe Moe Zukyun!
Jeff Chuang suggests:
For all the idol producers in your life...
THE iDOLM@STER Shiny Festa (PSP)
MSRP: 5380 Yen [Groovy Tune, Honey Sound, and Funky Note versions]
It's hard to recommend Japanese imports to buy for anyone out west, but among all the games that are likely to be imported, rhythm games are the easiest to go with as they often require just the minimum know-how of Japanese to fully enjoy. And while it's hard to gift a game to a hardcore fan--they would have it already--this 3-prong marketing scheme from Namco-Bandai means the average poor sod/producer would have to buy the same-but-different games three times to get all the content. And most likely, most of them don't have all three yet. On the same note, the three Shiny Festa games are a great way for curious first-time producers to get into the franchise, as it uses a lot of animation and clips from the TV anime while introducing the gist of the franchise, from a gamer's perspective. It's less dull and more game-y than the half-visual-novels the other PSP games were.
There are three iDOLM@STER Shiny Festa games: Groovy Tune, Honey Sound, and Funky Note. Each game comes with about 15-20 different tracks and 5-6 shared tracks, so it is worth it to have all three, if any single one doesn't quite satisfy. The 5380 yen MRSP is how much it costs on Japan's PSN store, which might be difficult to set up at first but is by far the easiest way to get and play these games, on Vita or not. For those who want the physical packaging, Amiami has them at 4170 yen a piece, although you'll have to pay shipping. Most likely your lucky producer will know what they need already, and all you should supply are the means.
Josh Tolentino suggests:
For that friend of yours who cares at all about playing great videogames, especially JRPGs...
Persona 4 Golden (PS Vita)
After claiming that Atlus brought Persona 4 Golden "near the point of utter flawlessness", I could hardly not recommend that you pick this gem of gems up. Heck, as of right now it's the biggest reason to buy - or keep - Sony's beleaguered handheld.
Taken piecemeal, Golden's new Social Links, mini-mechanics, difficulty settings, cutscenes, extras and online connectivity are not particularly radical changes in and of themselves. Taken as a whole, though, and they make up a significant new addition, as well as bearing the advantage of being perfectly integrated into the main game, never feeling out of place or tacked-on and filling in gaps that players of the original may never know existed in the first place.
Persona 4 Golden is a true "gold edition" game, and may well be as perfect as the Persona formula may ever get in its current form. It still feels fresh and smooth enough that it could have come out for the first time this year, rather than five years ago, and still handily held its own against today's latest releases. That's reason enough for old players or new to give it a try.
For the Persona player that's already jonesing for a Persona 5...
Persona 4 Arena (PS3, Xbox 360)
MSRP: $59.99 $29.99
Despite the fact that Persona 4 Arena resides in an entirely different genre than any other Persona game - it's a 2D fighting game, not an RPG - it may as well be regarded, canonically, as Persona 4.5, as it continues the story of Persona 4, introducing characters new and old (plus a nobody named "Yu Narukami" who for some reason looks exactly like Persona 4's lead), as well as setting up some narrative hooks that could lead to interesting developments in Persona 5, should Atlus decide to take their planned-but-unrevealed sequel in that direction.
Fans of the fighting genre - and non-fans, in fact - shouldn't worry, either, as Arena happens to be a perfectly competent fighter in its own right. Atlus did the smart thing, handing the mechanical side of the equation to the veterans at Arc System Works, they of BlazBlue and Guilty Gear fame. The result is a reasonably deep (yet accessible), utterly gorgeous 2D fighter with all the right Persona hooks. To be frank, seeing Persona-users battle it out in this genre's context somehow makes the turn-based combat in Persona 4 Golden seem all the more exciting.
Also, there is a new android girl in the game, Labrys. Like her cousin Aegis, she also has crazy legs, and happens to wield a jet-powered battleaxe that doubles as a pair of wings. What's not to fall in love with?
For the samurai fanatic that's got swords on the brain, and a good sense of silliness besides...
Way of the Samurai 4 (PS3)
MSRP: $39.99 [PSN download only]
This one comes as a more cautious recommendation, in part because my review was also a somewhat cautious recommendation. Pretty much any game made by Acquire is, to be honest. Way of the Samurai 4 is homely, rough-hewn, stubbornly anachronistic, and a bit touched in the head, but for the open-minded gamer, or simply the one disappointed by contemporary gaming's utter lack of decent samurai games, it offers an experience unlike any other.
Whether chopping up (or saving) foreigners in period Japan or secretly sneaking into women's homes (also in period Japan), Way of the Samurai 4 offers all the uniqueness Japan sometimes seems to eager to abandon in its mad rush to appeal to the global market, while leaving aside the more perverse tendencies it embraces in its equally mad rush to pander to the otaku base. It's a game - and a series - between worlds, and folks willing to look past some not-inconsiderable flaw will find some of the best of both in there.
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