It’s the end of 2022. Congratulations on making it this far. I’m saying this to you just as much as I am to myself. You, and I, most importantly I in this equation, but also you, because we both made it through some real hot trash that is still ongoing. Isn’t this fun? Spoiler alert…it’s not, but at least we can play video games, or something. I wanted to write something deep and fulfilling here, but honestly, I am way too tired for that and we’d rather all actually be reading instead about video games, that’s why you’re on Noisy Pixel.
So I’ve assembled a top five list as the title suggests, and you can already see one of them thanks to your superior powers of peripheral vision. But before we start, I want to give Xenoblade Chronicles 3 a much deserved honorable mention, which did not make my top list but was an extremely fun game that could’ve have made the cut, thanks to its fantastic cast and soundtrack, but because I have bizarre tastes, I did not include it in.
Soul Hackers 2
Soul Hackers 2 is a strange game. My initial impressions of it were that it was a game designed for SMT fans, Soul Hackers fans, and Persona 5 fans, but it doesn’t really manage to stick the landing on any of those categories. It’s a very messy game, without a strong story and lots of unnecessary dungeon padding. I know, I know. I can already hear you say: “this is a top best games in 2022 list, why are you so negative?” But hear me out, because aside from that, everything else just absolutely nails it.
It’s got a brilliant soundtrack, fun combat, and it’s just dripping with personality. It’s not a game to rush. Rather, it’s a game to relax with, to vibe with. Your cast is a bunch of adults with messy lives and personal situations, who need to somehow put their heads together and figure out how to stop the end of the world. Hang around at the bar or safehouse, chat, it’s got the same vibe as a bunch of work friends who take a load off after a long day.
And then there’s the boss battles, ready to tear your hair out, whilst peppered with unique dialogues, giving them a very personal feel. What better way to raise the stakes then make everything personal? In spite of Soul Hackers 2’s flaws, the game is full of soul and really needs to come to the Nintendo Switch. Come on Sega, you can do it.
Witch on The Holy Night
Just squeezing in, through a combination of being the most visually staggering visual novel, possibly of all time, and recency bias, Witch on the Holy Night Night makes it into this list. This visual novel finally got it’s English release, ten years later, which is actually somewhat frustrating. Because if we had this ten years ago, it could have fundamentally reshaped the expectations of what a visual novel even is to a western audience. Instead we’re still stuck with people putting up Kickstarter campaigns for their new ‘visual novel but not as you know it’, which was outclassed in inconceivable ways a decade ago.
Anyway, I’m getting off track here. Witch on the Holy Night is a coming of age story about three high schoolers living in a mansion. Two of them are mages, and magic is pretty secretive, because it retains its power by being an unknown quantity. However, when a young man, hopelessly oblivious and naïve (but I still love him for that), stumbles upon them in the act, he is placed under house arrest. In their house. Until they can figure out what to do with him, after all, some mages would kill him if they found out he knew magic was real.
It’s an off-kilter tale with a strong cast and narrative, thrown to astronomical heights by the scope of it’s cinematic visuals. By creating it’s own visual style out of an insane amount of backgrounds and contextually placed portraits, Witch On the Holy Night becomes a masterpiece of presentation that nothing else has ever lived up to. I think Buried Stars is one of it’s closest competitors, and that was outclassed by a long shot.
AI: The Somnium Files: The Nirvana Initiative
It should come as no surprise to anyone that the new AI: The Somnium Files is on this list, considering how much I am a fan of this particular kind of narrative. Any game written by the likes of Kotaro Uchikoshi, Takumi Nakazawa, Hayashi Naotaka use a lot of real existing science (or the less realistic pseudo-science) to create their science-fiction works, as opposed to purely nonsensical jargon terms.
Nirvana Initiative stars two mildly eccentric detectives, both with robotic eyeballs that hold AI partners, who can delve into people’s dreams to try and solve crimes. The current crime, a serial killer causing a phenomenon known as the ‘half body serial killings’. To make it spicier, the second half of the first victim of this case shows up six years later with the second half of the corpse only recording a time of death of ninety minutes ago. You know it’s going to be a wild ride to explain this.
This point and click adventure title features some excellent presentation in its colourful cast, excellent dubs, fun animation, emotional reveals and then has it all placed around an absurdly meticulous plot that is so full of double meanings and specific lore, the writing team must have had walls adorned in conspiracy boards. I’m scared about what they’ll be able to achieve if they make a third one.
Tactics Ogre Reborn
At the beginning of this year, Square Enix and Artdink released Triangle Strategy. It’s a really good game, but not on this list. However, the game that inspired it is. Originally developed by a bunch of people who worked on Triangle Strategy later, Tactics Ogre Reborn is a remake of the Super Nintendo and PSP title Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together.
This is a strategy RPG that stars some young adults desperate to reclaim their homeland and take revenge on the Dark Knights when they were kids. However, what they end up involving themselves in is a war that is well beyond the scope of their initial perception. A war in which the rich and powerful use the common citizen and devoted monarchists to continue an unending conflict, as they look to expand their riches and power even further.
To explain the story any further would be tricky, as it hugely diverges from just the first chapter. It’s an emotionally charged SRPG with challenging combat, an extremely soulful presentation, and a brilliant dub that makes me constantly come back to it. I wish I’d beaten the original game, so long ago, but it didn’t have a dub… Well, now I’ve just got to play the others. I really hope this game does well enough that we get rereleases of Artdink’s other titles such as Final Fantasy Tactics…I really need that.
It may be a bit polarising, to put a title up here so high when you have the unfair advantage of having experienced it without being tarnished by a poor translation. Because I’m out here, about to say that the best title of 2022 is a game I recommend you don’t even play yet. At least, not until the Committee of Zero patch comes out, hopefully, later this month, or early next year.
Kind of insane to think about right? This title has been infamous for being unable to ever come west, so when it finally, actually, does come here, it’s a broken mess, for which we still need fans to swoop in and fix. Chaos;Head NoaH is a psychological horror murder-mystery thriller. It stars a protagonist suffering from intense amounts of anxiety, who does not want to go near the disturbing series of murders called the New Generation Madness. The plot will not allow him to, and it ties him to its inexplicable web.
The rest of the main cast are also like him, in different way, each one grappling with their own crippling issues, and through the individual bonds he makes along the way, they can all achieve a form of self-actualization. If this sounds very ‘power of friendship-like to you, that’s correct. Did I mention this is a psychological horror title?
This title has an incredibly tight narrative, filled with intrigue, suspense and anxiety around every corner, whilst also extending a helping hand out to those who need it. Chaos;Head NoaH makes me emotional, because it gets me. It understands me. And I am going to reread it again really soon and probably notice like twenty thousand more details that Hayashi Naotaka left in there that make the story even more cohesive, because that man does not know how to be stopped.
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