Hey guys, this is Iyane. 2020 disc 2, also known as 2021, was an incredibly weird year for me at several levels, and I’m sure I’m speaking for everyone. Thankfully it did have some good games to make up for it. And hopefully, 2020 disc 3 will be the True Ending, without a True Last Boss.
If you’ve read my past top 10s, you know what to expect. Niche Japanese games, some of which I actually haven’t finished yet due to lack of time. Which is fine as they still resonated enough with me to be above the rest.
Even with a purely subjective list like this, with my fondness for each game as the sole rating criteria, it’s difficult to compare each game coherently when they’re so different. I’d have to rank each game in several categories for a more accurate representation of what I enjoyed.
Taking that into account, you can pretty much consider that the top 5 to 1 games are interchangeable with each other. They’re all my top 1 game. Plus, there are several games that would probably be on this list if I had the time to play them. Mainly ADV games such as Buddy Mission Bond, Jack Jeanne, Tsukihime Remake, or Asatsugutori.
10. Yûyoku no Fraulein : Wing of Darkness
I’ve been waiting for years for Wing of Darkness to release. It finally happened in 2021. Wing of Darkness is a super fun 3D flying shooter. Just as the past demos suggested, the gameplay is fast and responsive. I never get tired of replaying the missions.
Klara and Erika’s story is pretty short, but that’s what I expected, and they’re good protagonists. The game has a pretty high replay value too and it’s always fun coming back to it after a few months. I’m looking forward to what Production Exabilities will do next.
9. Ouritsu Anapoko Gakuen
Another game I’ve been waiting for, since December 2018. Ouritsu Anapoko Gakuen finally got released on December 16, 2021, it’s the newest game by Ancient, led by Yuzo Koshiro.
Anapoko Gakuen is a Shiren/Mystery Dungeon-like RPG with several changes to the formula. Most notably how you always have a party of 4 characters. The battles also have an additional layer of turns on top of the Shiren-like turn system. You can also predict the monsters’ next move, so there’s a pretty good strategy feel to it.
Anapoko Gakuen is a really simple and addictive game with a lot of charisma. All the characters designed by Ayami Morinaga are super cute. It has a lot of original ideas too such as the short manga displayed after a run. I didn’t play that much as it was just released, but it’s an overall really good game, perfect for the Switch’s portable mode and a busy schedule.
8. Mobile Suit Gundam Battle Operation Code Fairy
Code Fairy was pretty much announced out of nowhere in October 2021 after Tokyo Game Show, and released right after. it’s the perfect game for someone like me who enjoys the slow mecha gameplay of Battle Operation but grew tired of its multiplayer.
Code Fairy basically starts right before the events leading to Gihren’s speech in the midpoint of the original Gundam series. It has a very similar feel to the dozens of Gundam spinoffs manga covering Zeon during the One Year War.
The story is fun and the interactions of the all-women team Noisy Fairy are pretty nice. The game is fully voiced too, with Pretty Series‘ Ayane Sakura voicing the main character and Nasuverse‘s Kana Ueda voicing the captain.
7. Star Melody Yumemi Dreamer
I hesitated a lot between this and Melty Blood Type Lumina. I settled for Star Melody Yumemi Dreamer as it’s the least known of the two.
Yumemi Dreamer is the new game by the Kuroneko Team at Kogado Studio. The same team who did Symphonic Rain: the first visual novel I ever played on PC.
Just like Symphonic Rain, Yumemi Dreamer mixes in rhythm game elements with ADV / visual novel. And as you can guess, it’s a Mahou Shoujo-themed game.
Star Melody Yumemi Dreamer is also a pretty peculiar case as the game isn’t fully released yet. There are 12 episodes, and similarly to an anime series, a new episode is released each week at a discount. We’re currently at episode 9.
Kogado Studio also teased early in 2021 it’ll release a new Tristia project in 2022 for the 20th anniversary of the series. So now’s a good time to get into the series and other Kogado works like Yumemi.
6. The Idolmaster Starlit Season
While I’ve known the Idolmaster series since its beginnings, this is actually the first time I play a game of the series myself. And it has been pretty amazing so far.
The raising and management simulation is top-notch, the game is fully voiced, the scenario is fun. And the rivalry between Original characters Kohaku and Aya is typical idol drama stuff. I’ve actually never been into idols that much, but the characters in the Idolmaster franchise, especially the originals from 765 Production, have always been fun to follow.
Idolmaster Starlit Season is over 100 hours long and I’m far from reaching the ending, but I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be on this list.
5. Rune Factory 5
Rune Factory 5 is actually pretty different from what I imagined. When the game was first revealed for Switch with fully 3D environments, I was expecting a spiritual sequel to Rune Factory Oceans. Instead, Rune Factory 5 is still pretty close to the numbered games in the series and Rune Factory 4 Special.
This isn’t a flaw though, and Rune Factory 5 is by far my favorite RPG on Switch right now. All the new characters are incredibly cute and cool, and there’s an all-star seiyuu cast. Sadly the game isn’t fully-voiced, but everything else makes up for it.
It’s also interesting to note that Rune Factory 5 via a free update, recently added same-sex marriage. The hype for the update was incredible on Japanese Twitter, with many saying they’ll buy the game specifically for this. The update will be included in the Western version from the beginning.
Most Story of Seasons games already included same-sex marriage since 20 years ago on GBA entries. But it’s the first time it’s included in Rune Factory, which started as a spinoff from Story of Seasons. It’s pretty funny to see how Western morals reversed because back then, it would always get censored when Story of Seasons games were released outside Japan.
Hopefully, we’ll see both a Rune Factory 6 and a spiritual successor to Rune Factory Oceans one day.
4. The Legend of Heroes: Kuro no Kiseki
Kuro no Kiseki is the newest entry in the Trails / Kiseki series and the start of a new arc with a new protagonist, Van Arkride. Who is a mix of Battler from Umineko, Gintoki from Gintama, and Kamen Rider.
While I’m far from having played every past Kiseki game, I’m pretty familiar with all of the franchise’s characters and plot thanks to friends and let’s play streams. And Kuro‘s new cast was enough to make me fall for the FOMO and grab the game at launch. I still haven’t finished it though and I honestly doubt I’ll be done by the time the sequel launches in late 2022.
Kuro no Kiseki is interesting in how you can feel all the new ideas proposed by the younger staff at Falcom. The game also keeps an old-school RPGs feel, where you can almost enter and explore any building. The screenplay is also pretty different from all Kiseki games so far. Gone are the long panning camera shots whenever a character gets introduced. The dialogues, narration, and cutscenes are overall much more stylized and dynamic.
3. Super Robot Wars 30
No surprises there for those who actually read this list this far. Super Robot Wars is still one of my favorite series and the 30th-anniversary game is pretty good.
The way the scenario is written, in a completely non-linear way, is particularly impressive. Though I get the feeling it was at the cost of a larger number of character interactions. Overall, I feel that the dialogues of SRW 30, unlike the rest of the series, don’t feel redundant.
You might think it’s a good thing, but for someone who plays the games for their stories and crossovers, this means fewer comedic and cool moments between the characters. Hopefully, I will be proven wrong by the time I reach the ending.
2. Uma Musume: Pretty Derby
Uma Musume, nicknamed Umamusu, is the game that had the most impact on my otaku life in 2021, despite barely playing myself (I can’t bring myself to skip the dialogues and only focus on the simulation parts). It’s also a mega-hit in Japan, so I’m regularly exposed to discussion, fan art, and cosplay of its characters through my acquaintances. Majin Obama’s #GFGR streams of Umamusu in April were also the funniest I’ve seen this year.
Uma Musume managed to prove raising simulators still have a place in Japan. Bringing back a genre that pretty much disappeared with the PSP. Looking at the game’s demographics, you’ll see people of any gender or horizon are playing it. Everyone likes training cute horse girls.
Uma Musume also showed another development cycle model is possible for mobile games. They usually release rushed and bugged. Cygames kept Uma Musume in the oven for years. With tons of delays. To the point that despite being a media mix project, two anime seasons aired before the game was even released. Only Inazuma Eleven has a higher record on that front.
But as a result, Uma Musume launched without major bugs and managed to stay as one of the most popular mobile games in Japan. Surpassing even FGO, Twisted Wonderland, or Genshin.
1. DoHna DoHna Let’s Do Bad Things Together
DoHna DoHna is the newest PC eroge by Alicesoft, with RPG elements, released in December 2020 in Japan after its first reveal in 2017. The game got a surprise English localization by Shiravune in late 2021.
Just like many other games from Alicesoft, which has now 32 years of history and experience, there is so much to learn from DoHna DoHna – be it in its story or its game systems – that I pity those who’d look down on it for being eroge.
The stylish visuals, the amazing characters, and the fun battle system are all top-notch. But the incredible story and setting are what make it truly incredible. DoHna DoHna follows a group of youngsters fighting against a mega-corporation, Asougi, in its own city-state. And it’s handled so well it makes DoHna DoHna one of the best if not the best game of these last 10 years dealing with anti-imperialism and rebelling against injustice. In an even better way than Persona 5, which was a direct inspiration.
Check out the rest of DualShockers’ staff Top 10 lists below and our Official Game of the Year Awards winners:
December 20: Jo Craig (Staff Writer)
December 21: Natalie Schmidt (Freelance Writer)
December 22: Dean James (Freelance Staff Writer)
December 24: Kyle Knight ( Staff Writer)
December 25: Shivam Gulati (Senior Staff Writer)
December 26: Mehrdad Khayyat (Senior Staff Writer)
December 27: Md Armughanuddin (Head of Content- India)
December 28: Iyane Agossah (Head of Japanese Content)
December 30: Sam Woods (Managing Editor and EIC)
December 31: Game of the Year Awards 2021 Official Winners Revealed
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