Oh, JRPGs, how I love you. Ever since I played Earthbound as a kid I just can't quit them. Some years have been a bit sparse but 2012 was actually pretty good for JRPG enthusiasts. Pandora's Tower was surprisingly fun and actually turned out to be better than The Last Story, though that may have something to do with differing expectations. Atelier Meruru came to the West and finished up one of the best JRPG series to come out this generation, and NISA also gave us Legasista, which was a fun trap-based dungeon explorer that could keep fans entertained for months on end.
One of the best Vita games of the year also happened to be a re-release of one of the greatest JRPGs of all time: Persona 4 Golden, and the DS had a great last hurrah with a sequel to Pokemon Black/White. Tales of Graces even finally came to the West in the form of Tales of Graces F (here's hoping Namco get their act together and become a bit more reliable when it comes to localization).
We weren't swimming in great titles all year, and there were a couple duds, but as a JRPG fan it was hard to be disappointed with 2012.
Here are the Nominees:
And the Winner is...
Our usual policy is that remakes/ports get their own category and aren't up for other awards. This is because it's our philosophy that games should only get one shot at a Game of the Year Award. This is also why Xenoblade is not on the list this year, even though it released in North America in 2012 - we counted it from its first Western release in 2011, and listed it in that year's Game of the Year Awards. Persona 4 is in a slightly unique situation because it released on the PlayStation 2 in December 2008, at a point in time after we had voted for that year's Game of the Year Awards, but obviously before the point in time where we could include it in 2009's Game of the Year Awards. Therefore we've decided that Persona 4 Golden can compete evenly in this year's Game of the Year Awards.
I think most JRPG fans probably know why we've awarded JRPG of the year to Persona 4 Golden. Persona 4 Golden is more of that amazing Persona 4 goodness that you loved on the PlayStation 2, all in the palm of your hand. There are also new events to watch and laugh at, new persona to obtain, and new relationships to be had.
Persona 4 is one of those games that doesn't sound like it should work if you haven't played one before. The mixture of dating sim and JRPG sounds a lot more like cheese and strawberry jam than peanut butter and chocolate, but it works immaculately. That perfect mix of gameplay elements, an intriguing storyline, and genuinely fun and interesting characters is why Persona 4 Golden is the best JRPG of 2012.