It’s always a risk when deciding on your games of the year before 31st December (and especially before 25th December) that something will come along that could or should have made the list, had you only played it a month before. So instead of going back and messing with the whole list, here’s a handful of latecomers that deserve a mention and had a shout of making the list:
- Final Fantasy V Advance (GBA) – The first of two Final Fantasies, and one from back in the glory years which FFIV began a year earlier (yes, they used to make one a year). RPGs and portables often aren’t the best of bedfellows, but couple this with a Game Boy Micro and you have a top combination. A machine small enough for you to forget that you have it and a deep game that actually lets you make decent progress on the commute go together nicely, and it helps that this is one of the stronger instalments in the series. Bring on FFVI Advance in February!
- Final Fantasy XII (PS2) – FFXI aside, this is probably the biggest breaks from the formula for a major series that I’ve ever seen. At first I wasn’t completely convinced by the MMORPG influence (MMO combat is completely inane, and the only reason to do it is because it’s with real people – why would I play it with AI characters?), but a few hours in, once you have a party and the Gambit system in place, it just clicks. Had I played it earlier this could probably have made the top five.
- Viva Piñata (360) – If I was doing special awards this would have been a shoo-in for both surprise of the year and best game nobody played. I certainly expected it to be rubbish, but quite the contrary. Playing like a cross between The Sims and Animal Crossing (neither of which I’m a massive fan of, oddly), it’s surprisingly addictive and paced well enough that you never go long without unlocking a new Pi?ata or other item, ensuring that you have an incentive to keep playing. Best of all, it’s an Animal Crossing-style game that doesn’t use a real-time clock, so you sidestep the issue of having to go back to a weed-filled garden after a few days of downtime.
All of those are worth a look. And I’m so glad that bloody feature is out of the way for another year.