As 2012 draws to a close, the time to reflect sets in as we remember all of the great games we’ve played this year. We’ve spent a lot of time playing and enjoying these games, and it only seems right to honor the good times we’ve had by listing some of the titles that meant the most to us. Which brings us to Important Importables salute to the 10 best games Japan gave us in 2012. Because you know those Japanese developers are awesome.
Now, this year’s top 10 list is unique in that Important Importables is saluting any game that was released in Japan in 2012, and not only ones that never received a worldwide release. So the list of games you’re about to peruse may include titles that you can grab right now in North America or Europe and enjoy.
10: One Piece: Pirate Warriors (PS3)
One Piece: Pirate Warriors is notable for a number of reasons. First, it’s a pretty awesome game that offers a trunicated overview of a big part of the One Piece storyline. Second, it made a lot of imporvements to Omega Force and Tecmo Koei’s Musou formula by making combos matter and adding some light platforming elements with Luffy’s special abilities. Finally, it’s been a while since we’ve seen a One Piece game in North America and that’s always worth celebrating.
9: Pandora’s Tower (Wii)
Now this one hurts. Pandora’s Tower is among the last Wii RPGs. Aeron’s friend Elena was cursed during a festival and will turn into a monster if Aeron doesn’t fight his wat through 13 towers, collecting the Master Flesh from each one’s boss for Elena to eat. Naturally, he goes and does it and players tag along for the ride. It’s highlights are a relationship system with Elena, which leads to one of multiple endings depending on what Aeron does. If you live in Japan or Europe, you can grab Pandora’s Tower right now. Those of us in North America are really jealous of that, by the way.
8: Pokemon Conquest (DS)
Pokemon Conquest is the unlikely pairing that could, as it took Tecmo Koei’s Nobunaga’s Ambition characters, gave them all pokemon and then sent them off to fight each other for territory in a strategic RPG. Players got to be a warlord, taking over areas of Japan – sorry, Ransei – while recruiting both warlords and pokemon. It was a gamble, but one that worked really well. The main story could have been longer, but having 30 extra episodes helped make this one awesome adventure. Pokemon Conquest has been released worldwide, so go recruit ‘em all!
7: Gravity Rush (Vita)
I have a love-hate relationship with Gravity Rush since playing it for too long and make me feel a bit queasy, but you can’t dispute that this open-world adventure from Japan Studio is something special. It’s a new take on the superhero story where a mysterious, amnesiac heroine named Kat awakes in Hekseville, discovers she is a shifter with the power to manipulate gravity and decides to use her powers to defeat monsters that attack the city… or just run errands. It’s available worldwide, which is a very good thing. In fact, it’s even a part of the PlayStation Plus free Instant Game Collection for Vita owners.
6: Tokyo Jungle (PS3)
I had a bit of an internal debate as I wondered if Tokyo Jungle should be ranked higher or lower than Gravity Rush, but my memories of life as a baby chick and a crocodile assured me I was making the right choice. Tokyo Jungle is a post-apocolyptic action game where players help animals, both exotic and domestic, try and survive in a Tokyo that has been taken over by animals. It’s really a great game, with a standard Survival mode and a hilarious Story mode. That, combined with all the animals you can control, make it one cool game. This one is available everywhere via the PlayStation Store. Well, you could import it on a disc from Japan, but it’s much cheaper to download.
5: Hatsune Miku: Project Diva f (Vita)
Oh Hatsune Miku: Project Diva f, you’re one of the Vita’s saviors in Japan. This is an incredible music game packed with over 30 songs, tons of character outfits, a Vocaloid pseudo-pet-sim and a function that allows you to import your own MP3 files and use them to create custom tracks and videos. It’s a huge game with multiple difficulty levels and loads of replay value. It’s just a shame the PS3 version that’s coming out next year has to go and be even better. Still, Hatsune Miku: Project Diva f is fantastic and well worth importing from Japan.
4: Persona 4 Arena (PS3, Xbox 360)
Persona 4 Arena is a fighting game oddball. It’s designed in such a way that even absolute beginners can quickly become incredible competitors. It has a 40+ hour story mode filled with visual novel segments. Plus, it lets you give yourself crazy titles that declare your glory in multiplayer. It’s a stylish 2D fighter with plenty of substance that acts as a sequel to Persona 4 and even gets Persona 3 characters involved in a whole new Inaba adventure. Of course, what do you expect when Atlus and Arc System Works team up on a game? This great fighter is available everywhere. Don’t import it from other regions though, as it’s one of the only region-locked PS3 games.
3: Animal Crossing: New Leaf (3DS)
Animal Crossing games are like virtual crack, and Animal Crossing: New Leaf is no different. In fact, I’d dare say it’s worse than previous games because players have even more customization options than ever before. After all, there’s a big difference between becoming a new citizen in a town filled with anthropomorphic animals and becoming its mayor. You control how your home looks, how the town looks, everything. That’s Tortimer down, Tom Nook better watch out. People in Japan or with a Japanese 3DS can grab Animal Crossing: New Leaf now, but people in other regions have to wait until 2013.
2: Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward (3DS, Vita)
This dark adventure game picks up where 999: 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors (DS) left off. Sigma, Phi and six other people have been seemingly randomly picked, abducted and transported to an underground facility to take part in the Nonary Game: Ambidex Edition. Players must help Sigma complete various puzzles and investigate the facility so he gets enough Bracelet Points to unlock the door to freedom. However, getting points means trusting or betraying the other players and if your points drop to 0, you die. Everyone, everywhere can grab Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward and play the Nonary Game. With over 20 endings, it’ll keep you busy for a very long time.
1: Persona 4 Golden (Vita)
Was there ever any doubt that Persona 4 Golden was the best thing to come out of Japan this year? I think not! This penultimate edition of Persona 4 takes the glory that is the original game and jams extra content in like crazy. There are new social links, new events, new costumes, more personas, new locations, new endings, new social aspects and more. It’s a perfect example of how to make an enhanced remake. Head over to Junes, hop into a TV and start solving bizarre murders and kidnappings again. People in Japan and North America fight some shadows right now, but people in Europe have to wait until February 2013.
COMING NEXT TIME: Important Importables will preview Animal Crossing: New Leaf for the 3DS
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Last week Important Importables offered import novelty gift suggestions.