On game-related message boards like our very own GameSpot forums, you'll often see people refer to their ever-growing backlog of games. It's a phenomenon that's unique to video games, because unlike other forms of entertainment media, video games are designed to occupy large amounts of your time. You might miss a movie you wanted to see, but all it takes is a couple of hours and a Netflix account to get caught up. If one of your favorite music artists releases a new album you'll probably listen to it right away, and musical tastes are usually specific enough that you can hear a song once and know whether or not you like it. That takes all of what, three minutes? With a video game, you usually have to put in at least a few hours to really get a feel for it.
For a person like me the backlog can be a very serious problem, because my tastes are very broad. I like just about every kind of game, from Fight Night
to Resident Evil 4
and Guitar Hero
. Those are all great games and I could probably play them for hundreds of hours each if all other games suddenly ceased to exist. But at the same time, I don't feel like I need
to play each of those games for that much time to truly enjoy them. My problem is that I also happen to be a big fan of role-playing games, which are entirely different. You could compare role-playing games and most other games to reading a book versus reading a magazine. Books have a very deliberate pace and they're structured to deliver a longer, more detailed picture of the subject matter than magazines are. When you pick up a magazine you don't have to read it cover to cover, you can read an article here, an editorial there, do the crossword puzzle in the back, and be done. There's nothing that annoys me more than starting a role-playing game, getting half-way through it, and then losing interest or moving on to another game. It's like reading half of a book. There's always a lingering feeling that I've got some unfinished business, and that just bugs me.
The result is a backlog full of role-playing games. There are so many in fact that I could quit my job and play the games full-time, and never reach the end. But as appealing as that sounds, it wouldn't be much fun. After all, not every role-playing game is really worth playing. Just as with any other type of game, there are a lot of bad ones out there that would gladly eat up all your precious time and money. At times like these you can only afford to play the best of the best, so I've made a list of a few games that should be at the very top of your list if you're a fan of RPGs. Note that all of these games have or will come out this year. I have played some of these games, but I'm including them in the list for the reference of others.
-Final Fantasy XII
- I don't know if this game will be any good, but I know that I have to play it. I have played through Final Fantasy VI, VII, IX, X, and Tactics, and they are some of my favorite games of all time--in any genre. I can't promise that I'll finish it, but I'll definitely put Final Fantasy XII at the top of my to-do list when it comes out later this month.
-The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion - If you haven't played this already you should move it to the top of your list. I've spent 40 or 50 hours with this game so far, and I feel like I've barely scratched the surface. Some people might call this more of an action game, but it has the scope and feel of a role-playing game, so it might be time for you to give the spikey-haired teen heroes a break.
-Neverwinter Nights 2 - I'll be honest, I haven't seen much of this game so far. However, for people looking for a traditional PC-style role-playing game it looks like NWN2 is the game to look forward to. It may be developed by Obsidian rather than BioWare, but those guys did a great job with KOTOR 2, so I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt with the sequel to one of the best PC role-playing games of all time.
-Final Fantasy VI Advance - Alright, so this game might very well not make it out this year, but I still have to hold out hope. Final Fantasy VI is a masterpiece, and I would place it above any other of the Final Fantasy games that I've played (other than Tactics). Yes, it's even better than VII. I have played this game on the SNES and the PlayStation, so I'm very curious to see that changes will be made for the Game Boy Advance release. But even if it's just a port, I'll gladly drop everything to go back and visit Terra, Locke, Shadow, Celes, Kefka, and the whole crew.
That's my list for now. You could probably spend 100 hours or more with each of these games, but for the sake of being practical let's assume that it will take about 40 hours to beach each one. If you add it up that's 160 hours of game time, which is more than enough to blow your entire Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. And that's just four games.
If you find yourself with more time, then by all means give a look to Disgaea 2, Tales of the Abyss, Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth, Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria, Baten Kaitos Origins, Xenosaga Episode III, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, Final Fantasy III, Enchanted Arms, and Final Fantasy V Advance.
This time of year in the video game world is a lot like when your family comes over for Thanksgiving, and each person brings some delicious dish or dessert. You want to eat it all, but if you're not careful you'll end up filling up on your Mom's mashed potatoes and you'll never make it to your Sister In-Law's pumpkin pie. I find myself in a similar predicament now. Beyond all the games I'll end up reviewing, I have to make time for Guitar Hero II, Gears of War, Dark Messiah of Might and Magic, and The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. And I still haven't had time to finish Dead Rising or Okami...