Welcome back to the second week for my Top Tens of 2016. If you missed last week’s Top Ten Soundtracks, no worries! You can check that out in the link at the bottom of this list.
For this week, another one of my favorite categories returns; my Top Ten Characters of 2016. All games (good or bad) have the potential for great characters. Designs are a big plus, but mechanics and characterization can also make for a memorable cast.
As per usual, each entry can only have one character per game. Since so many games had a huge pool to choose from, it was especially hard this year. Nevertheless, these are my favorites of those favorites. This and next week’s lists will have the game listed first so as to help those who’d rather not get spoiled on some of these characters.
10) Mighty No. 9 – Ray
Mighty No. 9 has many things, but good characters it does not. From mediocre voice acting to terrible motivations, the only saving grace is in some of the designs of the Mighty Numbers. However, one character is was not expecting to like as much as I did was Ray.
Granted, her execution in the game’s design feel shoehorned in, but I really dig her story and concept. She can absorb Xels like Beck, but this functions more as a necessity since she’s a corrupted robot. As a rival, Ray’s gameplay focuses on melee with some range variations. She also has the ability to absorb boss abilities for new attack types.
It’s a shame that the game itself hinders her as a character, whether it’s the game design, performance issues, or the fact that her full name is Raychel. Seriously. Oh well, this list has to start somewhere.
9) Overwatch – D.Va
Isolating the cast of Overwatch into one character for my favorite characters of 2016 feels unfair. While the game isn’t my cup of tea, Overwatch excels with its memorable cast in both design and concept. Out of the cast so far, my favorite character has to be D.Va.
In the world of Overwatch, she is a Korean eSports player who pilots her robot tank on the battlefield. As a pro gamer, her tags and emotes are as expected, with “Nerf This!” being one of my favorites. After release, a pose was added for D.Va that completed the package, with her playing games inside her mech while eating “Doritos” and drinking “Mountain Dew”. You don’t have to play Overwatch to appreciate good character design, and D.Va is one of my favorites.
8) Guilty Gear Xrd ~Revelator~ – Kum Haehyun
Outlandish character design is Guilty Gear’s bread and butter, but Guilty Gear Xrd ~Revelator~ has had some of the most interesting by far. Jack-O and Raven stand out as newcomers, and older ones like Dizzy make triumphant returns. However there is one girl that takes the cake, and that is Kum Haehyun.
“But wait a minute!” you may ask yourself, “Girl?! That’s clearly an old man!” Actually, Kum Haehyun is a Korean girl who pilots an old man mech (seriously, I don’t know what’s up with Korean girls piloting mechs in games this year). Her victory animation is also one of the cutest things I’ve seen in fighting games. While my experience with Guilty Gear as a game is limited, I still think Kum Haehyun is one of my favorite things to come out of it.
7) Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth – Nokia Shiramine
Normally, I’m not a fan of upbeat characters. In a lot of media, these tend to be naive to the point of being irritating. Under normal circumstances, I should feel the same way about Nokia Shiramine. As part of the initial trio in Cyber Sleuth, her personality should have been considerably annoying placed alongside the MC and Arata.
However, her design, portrayal, and deeper personality helped to break through my rugged outer shell. Sure, she’s naive, goofy, and try-hard, but her earnesty with wanting to help Digimon as well as her potential as a leader for an anti-hacker, pro-Digimon group balances this out.
It also doesn’t hurt that she can make Agumon and Gabumon digivolve into WarGreymon and MetalGarurumon, then cross-digivolve into the super-important Royal Knight Omnimon through sheer willpower alone. Nokia may be divisive in her appeal, but there’s no denying that she’s one of the better characters of this year.
6) Bravely Second – Magnolia Arch
Before playing through as far as I did, Nikolai Nikolanikov would have been an obvious pick for this list. His fatherly demeanor even when turning coat to join the Empire was essential in developing Yew as a character. His and Wolfe’s positions in the Empire also added a needed human side to the Empire forces. However, I became more enamored with Magnolia Arch.
From my time with the game’s demo, I had a sinking feeling that I was not going to like her. With my first impression being that she’s a French-speaking Ba’al Buster from the Moon, it’s safe to say that I wasn’t looking forward to her inclusion in the cast of the main game. It was the moment that we fought the first Ba’al that gave me an entirely new perspective on her.
Up until then, the naive alien archetype was serviceable. The moment she changed into a commanding role of the anti-Ba’al task force was great. Her relationship with Yew changing from juvenile to mature was also a nice surprise. She’s not easily likable and you do have to play through a good portion of the game to flesh her character out, but Magnolia is probably my favorite part of Bravely Second.
5) Azure Striker Gunvolt 2 – Copen
Bravely Second wasn’t the only game to have me change my mind about me favorite character. My predisposition to Copen as a brooding Adept Hunter has me coming into his campaign not expecting much. When his robot Lola was introduced, it was much more likable. On top of that, it’s sassy demeanor and transformation into a Lumen-like muse due to absorbing her shard solidified its personality and design as a favorite.
However, after digging in to Copen’s side of the story, my opinion of him changed. He hated Adepts for killing his father, but seeing that extrapolated to his sickly sister Mytyl as well made him seem less hardheaded. In fact, his personality falls more in line with Gunvolt’s from the first game. The more things change the more they stay the same, I suppose.
His gameplay also helps to bump him up the list. His aggressive, big damage style serves as a great alternative to the tag-and-shock system Gunvolt uses. Traversing levels is so much faster and bosses (while a cakewalk) are satisfying. Sometimes it’s hard to find a good character in all aspects, but Copen is a great example.
4) Xenoblade Chronicles X – Lao
Character development isn’t one of Xenoblade Chronicles X’s strong suits. As much as the gameplay focuses on relationships and coordination, there’s surprisingly little of that in the story itself. To be fair, some characters like Lin and Tatsu get their time and backstory. The one character I didn’t expect to get this treatment was Lao.
Lao starts off as expected of a Xenoblade party member, but his demeanor and motivations change dramatically. It becomes increasingly suspicious that the Ganglion are aware of your movements and plans. I decided to trust Lao, even if he was the #1 suspect. How wrong I was. Lao hijacks a high-end prototype Skell and takes it deep within the Ganglion stronghold in Cauldros.
His hatred for losing his wife and child because of them not being allowed on-board the White Whale is totally valid. As abominations in artificial bodies, his motives also feel justified. Believing that the human race should have been wiped out seems a bit overblown, but that reasoning is fleshed out later on. For now, Lao is easily a standout character in Xenoblade Chronicles X and in 2016.
3) Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE – Eleonora Yumizuru
Likable characters appears to be a struggle in some RPGs. However, in the case of two games on this list, picking one as the best was very difficult. Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE has a strong party cast as well as supporting cast. Out of the Barrys and Kirias of the group, however, my favorite has to be Eleonora Yumizuru.
As an actress with dreams of making it big in Hollywood, Eleonora comes off as prude as you’d expect. This is also a good match for her Mirage, Virion, who showers her with praise while scolding her for not being “lady-like”. As you get to know her, however, her persona starts to crack. Despite being reassured that she is an excellent actress, she still feels that people only treat her the way they do because she’s half-Norwegian. It may not be original, but that out-of-water feeling is what draws me to her personality.
As an Archer, Eleonora’s one of my favorite party members. While not the strongest, her ability to lower aggression on herself combined with other party members adds a nice depth to strategy. Her Special Performances and Duo Arts are also great. Admittedly, I like other characters better for battle like Mamori, but Eleonora is the whole package. She is the one that best represents my favorite character of the game, thus one of the best in 2016.
2) I am Setsuna – Julienne
Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE wasn’t the only game with a likable cast. I am Setsuna does well in this regard too (for the most part). Some grew on me fast, others like Aeterna and Fides took a while. However, there was one character I liked from the moment I meet her, and that was Julienne.
You first meet Julienne when you get to Royburg, the village of knights. It’s here that you learn Julienne is the leader and has been acting strange lately. When you actually meet her, she punches her fellow soldier into a nearby wall. What a nice lady. It becomes increasingly more clear that something’s up with her, especially in her desire to have the sacrifice killed.
Julienne was stranded in an avalanche in the past and forced to eat monsters to survive. In this world, eating monster blood can kill you or even worse cause you to become possessed. In the case of Julienne, her seething hatred for the sacrifice makes sense from the context of a self-protecting monster. Her personality changes from cruel to stoic after being cure by Setsuna. The desire to see what befell her kingdom drives her to join the party. Her skills as a Valkyrie and in ice magic also make her a powerful force in your party. Fittingly, Julienne is my favorite party member in I am Setsuna and almost nails my favorite for 2016.
1) Fire Emblem Fates – Felicia
There were a few characters I initially didn’t like in Fire Emblem Fates, mainly because of the tropes they fell into. Camilla’s motherly/big sister demeanor and Takumi’s distrusting hostility were some of the most annoying to me. The one didn’t expect to like were the twin maids Felicia and Flora.
Unfortunately, Flora doesn’t get much time in the spotlight. On the other hand, Felicia gets a huge spotlight as an active party member. Her clumsiness paired with her amazing voice direction sells her personality. Unlike Camilla and Azura, her qualities make up for her fan-appeal design
When it comes to gameplay, Felicia is one of my favorite units. Equipping magic-oriented daggers devastates the enemy and her high Skill helps them to always land. Her healing abilities are greatly improved by the skill that heals the caster and the ally. Her stats and her skill that raises when paired with the main character makes her a great compliment to Corrin.
I’m in love with everything about her design, and she’s easily the best character in Fire Emblem Fates. It doesn’t just stop there. Beyond that, she easily shines in the roster as my favorite character of 2016.
And there you have it; my Top Ten Characters of 2016. After reading through, I’m sure that some of you may have had just as hard a time picking your favorites from the games listed here. It isn’t just the characters that make games, as we’ll see in my Top Ten Gaming Moments of 2016 next Wednesday. Stay tuned!Top Ten Soundtracks of 2016Top Ten Gaming Moments of 2016