Round 5

We were originally going to stop after the fourth round, but there was so much good stuff left over that we went for another one. Hell, there's still some more unpicked I would be happy to have in here. - Alex

Well that went sideways fast. I didn't expect many of those picks at all. And now I don't feel as bad about not picking Cosmic Star Heroine again this year. I still want it, but it was on my list last year and I feel like I must have cursed it into a delay. - Mac

Yakuza 5

Pick 17 - Zack Webster
Yakuza 5 (PS3) - Official Site
Pub: Sega | Dev: Sega | Release: Q4.2015 (NA), Q4.2015 (EU)

It's always happy news when a game, especially one as positively recieved as Yakuza 5, makes its way out of the Land of the Rising Sun. The game may already be three years old, but the fact that we are getting it at all is a wondrous thing. Yakuza has always kind of been kind of an oddball series, but its unique design and dedication to story and fun, vibrant characters is a definite relic to a bygone age of Japanese game design. From the faithfully recreated locales to the detailed and densely packed city streets, the series has always been great at getting players to lose themselves in the spectacle of it all.

Yakuza 5 in particular is an even bigger version of that. The developers have stated that this is a new start for the series and it shows. Now there are five new locations and five playable characters — up from four in its predecessor — including for the first time series mainstay Haruka, who has a different style of play more to do with trying to become a pop idol and less to do with punching hoodlums on the street. Each new location has been increased in size, featuring more explorable areas than ever before. The game has also apparently been streamlined, smoothing out the transitions between Adventure Mode and Combat Mode as well as character controls and the pacing of combat.

Yakuza 5 is also a significant release for being the most prominent title to come about from Sony's Third Party Productions, tasked with bringing more games to PlayStation consoles but more importantly handling the grunt work of localizing the title. If Yakuza 5 turns out to be a worthwhile endeavor, it could show that the audiences for these games are still alive and well and could help make bringing future titles out of Japan or elsewhere much easier.

Etrian Odyssey 2 Untold: The Fafnir Knight

Pick 18 - Adriaan den Ouden
Etrian Odyssey 2 Untold: The Fafnir Knight (3DS) - Official Site
Pub: Atlus | Dev: Atlus | Release: 08.04.2015 (NA), 02.12.2016 (EU)

To be fair, this game is only so low on my list because I'm already playing it. Indeed, the game is set to release in only a few short weeks time. Much like the previous remake Etrian Odyssey Untold, Etrian Odyssey 2 Untold takes the core of the original, DS title and injects a new, character driven story.

Much like my hopes for The Legend of Legacy, the Etrian Odyssey franchise focuses heavily on exploration, but a very different kind of exploration. Personally, I find the main series to be a tad boring, but the addition of a character-driven story in Etrian Odyssey Untold and, by extension, Persona Q, did wonders for giving players a reason to push forward. Hopefully this newest installment manages to match the quality of those titles.

Cosmic Star Heroine

Pick 19 - Alex Fuller
Cosmic Star Heroine (PS4/Vita/PC) - Official Site
Pub: Zeboyd Games | Dev: Zeboyd Games | Release: 2015 (NA), 2015 (EU)

Two-man development team Zeboyd Games has garnered a good reputation with its more parody-styled previous releases such as Cthulhu Saves the World and the two-part finale for Penny Arcade's On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness, but it's nice to see them take on a more serious project with Cosmic Star Heroine. That opinion seems to be shared by many, with the game comfortably surpassing its original Kickstarter funding goal back in October 2013.

Cosmic Star Heroine looks to be the team's most ambitious project to date, building on its past experience with 2D Japanese-style, turn-based RPGs. This time around combat takes place directly on the world map with some nice improvements over the company's previous titles, such as combo attacks. It's also interesting the see Zeboyd try to step away from the town-dungeon-boss cycle, taking inspiration from multi-party aspects in Final Fantasy VI, with a headquarters set up for non-active party members to hang out in rather than having them oddly watching their allies from the sidelines in life and death situations. Many of us at RPGamer are looking forward to playing this one.

Stella Glow

Pick 20 - Michael A. Cunningham
Stella Glow (3DS) - Official Site
Pub: Atlus | Dev: Imageepoch | Release: Q4.2015 (NA), Q2.2016 (EU)

My last pick was a toss up for me between Summon Night 5 and Stella Glow, but I opted to choose Stella Glow mostly because I was a fan of the less-than-stellar Luminous Arc on DS. I don't think I could go wrong with either pick for a simple tactical RPG to play.

Honestly, I've been craving a new tactical RPG on a portable for some time now; something more straightforward than the Disgaea ports. Stella Glow looks like a good, mindless romp just like the Luminous Arc games before it, and I'm totally excited for that.

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