I’ve been largely neglecting this blog for some time now, as you all well know. Part of the issue has been finding the time and energy to crank out the long, formal posts that I’d become accustomed to posting on Brainscraps. Given that I wasn’t enjoying this anymore, I decided it was time for a change.
Brainscraps is now, 100%, my personal blog, as opposed to being a gaming-focused one. I haven’t had such a blog since abandoning my LiveJournal in favor of splitting my time between Twitter and here. Nowadays, I’m no longer on Twitter, but on Cohost, but even still, I wanted my own personal space that I could completely control. The last time I had something like that was on the old, now shuttered, Blue Shinra Project.
So, that’s here! New design, all the old posts shuttled off onto a new Old Stuff page, and a less stuffy tone. Hopefully I’ll be talking about more than just games and manga here, but we’ll leave all that for the future. I’m also considering opening up comments again; please let me know if you have any opinions about that.
Yes, it has been too long since I last posted, but I have a perfectly valid reason for that: much of my free time has been spent playing, and finishing, games. At the beginning of the year, I committed myself to playing through a short game every weekend and, for the most part, I’ve stuck to this plan. There was one rather bad game I couldn’t bring myself to power through (the brutal puzzle adventure htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary), but the rest of these short games have been decent to great.
There continues to be some great manga making its way into English translation, from the latest award-winning hits to classics either being reprinted in lovely new editions, or coming out for the first time. I apologize for the lateness of this biannual installment, but I hope you enjoy it, and that it helps guide your own manga reading for the next couple of years.
This ranking is done in much the same way as with my Gaming Selections, with honorable mentions and a top three. After each manga’s title is the author(s), the North American publisher, the first year of Japanese serialization, and the number of volumes I’d read roughly up until the end of December 2022 (followed, in parentheses, by the total number of Japanese volumes). Series printed in omnibus, kanzenban, or similar editions are denoted with an asterisk (*), but the numbers reflect the original volumes as they were first printed in Japan. All of the cover images used here came from Right Stuf or the publisher’s website. Finally, there are no repeats from previous years’ lists in either the honorable mentions or the top ten, even if I was still reading (and loving) a particular series.
I don’t have much to say about this past year other than it was busy and stressful, and I didn’t get through as many games as I wanted to. There were a handful of gems in the ones I did play, though, especially the Game of the Year. I also didn’t blog as much here in 2022 as I had hoped to do, and to be honest, I’m not sure I can pick up the pace in 2023. More than anything else, 2022 has left me tired. Here’s hoping for a more energetic 2023, whether or not that means I post here on a more regular basis.
As usual, every game here is one I’ve beaten (or played extensively, in the case of “endless” titles) during the past year, regardless of release date. For each game in the top ten, the title, developer/author, platform(s) I played it on, and the release year for said platform in my region has been included, along with a little bit about why I found this game so memorable.
I don’t replay games as often as I used to, in part because my backlog of fresh, new-to-me titles has grown so large. The last time I did was in August 2020, when I played through the version of Pinky:st Kira Kira * Music Hour released in Europe, titled Kira Kira Pop Princess. Still, ports and reissues of games I’ve played before enter my collection from time to time, causing me to file mental notes to someday replay the likes of Phantom Brave, Halo: Reach, and Final Fantasy IX.
Given that one of my projects this year has been to whittle down the Ys wing of my backlog, on this year’s agenda was Ys VI: The Ark of Napishtim. The PS2 port of Ys VI was one of the games I wrote about during the very first year this blog was in operation, and I was curious to see how it had held up. This time, I played the PC version, which, aside from the addition of save point warping and some other tweaks, is more or less the same game that Falcom originally released for that platform back in 2003. What this means is that the PS2’s 3D character models are gone in favor of the original sprites, and there’s neither ugly CG FMVs nor substandard voice acting (or any voice acting, for that matter). What few out-of-engine cutscenes exist are done in a 2D style reminiscent of those in other Ys games from that time. Despite some jaggies and blurriness on the 2D art assets—artifacts of this game’s age, if nothing else—this PC version is probably the optimal way to play Ys VI in the year 2022.
As for the game itself, it turned out that my thirteen year-old review was still largely on-point, though I found myself having less patience for the amount of backtracking and grinding I had to do, to say nothing of the ridiculousness of the dash jump controls. The dash jump is a special move that can be used to traverse distances that are a bit too far for a regular jump. To pull one off requires doing a dash attack, which is not an easy thing to do in the first place, while jumping. Given that this was a replay where I didn’t feel like going for any sort of total completion, I gave up trying to reach certain treasure chests after awhile. I still went around and took on the optional bosses, though, which resulted in gear that helped me out a good deal in the endgame.
In comparison with Memories of Celceta, the Ys game I had played prior to this one, it’s evident that the series has come a long way. Celceta isn’t as grindy, sports better map and dungeon designs, and had a bit more variety in general. It’s also about 33% longer than Ys VI, yet with less of a reliance on backtracking and grinding, doesn’t feel as padded out. However, both games share that exhilarating fast-paced sword-swinging gameplay that is a hallmark of the Ys series. Despite their differences, some of which are rather significant, both games fit comfortably within the Ys canon.
There is at least one other replay I want to do this year, the aforementioned Phantom Brave. On my first playthrough of that isometric strategy RPG, I came away loving everything but the gameplay, which is done in a “tile free” style that I found to be fussy more than anything else. As I (successfully) did with Final Fantasy VIII many years ago, I want to give Phantom Brave another chance; the main question is when. As for Ys, I have all three of the latest numbered entries to play next, starting with Ys Seven. Hopefully I can get through both that and Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana before the end of the year. I won’t be done with Adol Christin for awhile yet.
The Mystery Dungeon clone Touhou Genso Wanderer Reloaded was one of those games I picked up on the strength of my experience with it at a PAX, specifically at the sparsely-populated UNTIES booth in 2018. This was a year before I played Touhou Eiyashou: Imperishable Night, which was my proper introduction to the Touhou series. Later on, I would play through its predecessor, Touhou Youyoumu: Perfect Cherry Blossom, before starting the Switch port of Genso Wanderer, my first Touhou spinoff, more than a year later.
As it turns out, Genso Wanderer would lead me to starting a third mainline Touhou game, and the last one I had in my backlog: Touhou Fuujinroku: Mountain of Faith. This was because there are several prominent characters in Genso Wanderer who were first introduced in Mountain of Faith, the tenth entry in the core series of magical shmups. Two of these characters, Aya and Sanae, star in their own post-game sidestories in Genso Wanderer; another one, the kappa Nitori, plays a key role tied to the crafting system; and the rest of the cast make notable appearances at various points. While there are a bevy of characters from all over the Touhou canon featured throughout, I got the impression that Genso Wanderer‘s developers must’ve loved Mountain of Faith in particular.
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