Round 2

Oh, Xenoblade X is gone too? OK. I like going last. *grumble grumble* - Mac

Yes, we are aware that in the interest of fairness we should've done a snaking draft, but life isn't fair and all that. Also, we'd already started and couldn't be bothered to change it. - Alex

Xenoblade Chronicles X

Pick 5 - Zack Webster
Xenoblade Chronicles X (Wii U) - Official Site
Pub: Nintendo | Dev: Monolith Soft | Release: 12.04.2015 (NA), 12.2015 (EU)

One of the few reasons I kept my Wii around for as long as I did was the lengthy process of waiting for Xenoblade Chronicles. Feeling the pain Europe knows all too well, when the long wait finally ended the game had me hooked. The small-scale and claustrophobic RPGs of the past few years were but mere memories in front of Xenoblade's large, open world, giving myself the missing sense of wonder and awe usually filled by Final Fantasy. Here was a return to form for the genre and it felt like the direction everyone should have been heading in after Final Fantasy XII.

I don't think that X will be able to have the same impact that its predecessor had. There are exectations to be met now, and Japanese RPGs are looking considerably healthier than they were even a few years ago. But not every game can shake things up, so instead X is looking to refine some of the more irksome bits of the original. The world is bigger, the combat more developed, and some of the robots now controllable, which alone is enough of a selling point. The story seems to be taking more of a backseat in this one, which I judge solely on the ability to create your character from scratch, but Xenoblade dragged on for a bit too long anyways, so maybe a bit of trimming on that front isn't unwelcome.

The important thing is that a high-profile RPG like this remembers that a sense of discovery and exploration are as essential to the genre as choices and combat are. I look forward to roaming X's massive landscapes and vast frontiers, taking in alien vistas or rocketing into the sky in my giant mech. For a game that probably follows a set storyline, Xenoblade Chronicles X seems to understand freedom just fine.

Yo-Kai Watch

Pick 6 - Adriaan den Ouden
Yo-Kai Watch (3DS) - Official Site
Pub: Nintendo | Dev: Level-5 | Release: Q4.2015 (NA), 2016 (EU)

When something gets big in Japan, it's difficult to say how well it will do in the West. While Pokémon thrived here, Monster Hunter and Dragon Quest, both of which are enormously popular in Japan, are still mostly niche titles. The newest, biggest thing is Yo-Kai Watch, Level 5's Pokémon-killer, which has grown to staggering levels of popularity. And with news that Hasbro and Disney are both on board to assist in the cross-merchandising, the series now has the potential to rival or even surpass Nintendo's monster-catching giant on a global level. Of course, the series is currently only available on Nintendo platforms, so this isn't exactly bad news for them, either.

Like Pokémon, Yo-Kai Watch involves finding, catching, and battling mysterious creatures, though Level 5's approach to the genre appears to differ greatly from Nintendo's. While seeing this series finally brought to the west is exciting, I'm still a bit wary. Level 5 has always done really well with high-concept ideas, but they often flounder in the execution: see Ni No Kuni if you want an example of this. Still, it'll be great to finally see what all the fuss is about.

Lost Dimension

Pick 7 - Alex Fuller
Lost Dimension (PS3/Vita) - Official Site
Pub: Atlus | Dev: Lancarse / FuRyu | Release: 07.28.2015 (NA), 08.28.2015 (EU)

My pick of Lost Dimension is a bit of a cheat now as I've actually been playing the game (you may have read my impression from earlier in the month), though I hadn't started when the pick was made. I always like to see to new niche RPGs, such as Mind Zero, head over from Japan, and Lost Dimension seems like a particularly strong example.

The game's biggest draw for me is its premise revolving around traitors in the party and the need for the player to flush them out. Each chapter sees the game generate a randomly-selected traitor, so two people's playthroughs are very unlikely to be the same. This helps to both add a sense of Danganronpa-esque paranoia, if perhaps not to the same extent, and some neat replay value. Combining this with a nice combat tactical system sharing some basic similarities with Valkyria Chronicles and Code Name: S.T.E.A.M., Lost Dimension looks to be a very interesting title.

The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky SC

Pick 8 - Michael A. Cunningham
The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky SC (PSP/PC) - Official Site
Pub: XSEED Games | Dev: Nihom Falcom | Release: 2015 (NA), 2015 (EU)

If you enjoyed the story of the first chapter of Trails in the Sky, how could you not be excited for The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky SC? While it's taken a long time to get here, I'm still ready to dive back into the adventures of Estelle and Joshua. I was not a huge fan of the battle system in the original game, because it took until the final chapter for me to get a good grip on it and find my preferred configurations. That said, I think I'm ready for a second go, especially since I won't have to wait three chapters for the story to kick into gear.

With two Trails games planned for this year, it will be interesting to see if the series really starts to explode here in North America. I know it has a small, loyal fanbase, but I hope it grows with the release of SC. While most people are probably excited for the PC release, I'm thrilled that this will still be coming to PSP (and playable on Vita). I still have my PSPgo ready with my save data and everything. I do hope the game starts with a recap, so I can get a quick refresher on what happened.

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