It's interesting being a genre-specific website. Sometimes you're swimming in new releases, whereas other times there's a veritable drought as you desperately struggle to find games to cover.
2009 wasn't the latter for RPGSite, and we were spoilt for choice when it came to picking our best RPGs of 2009. We deliberated right from the end of 2009 right into the very start of 2010, and we finally came out with this - our top RPGs for each individual console of 2009.
Without further ado, here's our winners. Our overall RPG of the year will be revealed shortly.
Xbox 360 RPG of the Year 2009: Borderlands
It's interesting that despite the fact Xbox 360 had several exclusive or timed-exclusive RPGs released in 2009 that the winner of RPG of the Year for the console actually turns out to be a game that's on the PC and the PS3 as well. Perhaps that's a testament to the difficult year RPGs had on the 360 in 2009, but I think it's more of a testament to what a wonderful game Borderlands is.
Gearbox's RPG-shooter hybrid takes a genre that is inexorably linked to Microsoft's Xbox brand and merges it with our favorite genre wonderfully, evoking a Diablo style obsession with loot as well as successfully making levels and statistics work in a shooter-based game.
In Borderlands both your shooter reflexes and RPG brains matter, and that makes it one of the best fusions of RPGs with another genre there's ever been. It's pretty, funny, and proves that an RPG can be successful when it's light on story. Fantastic alone and positively brilliant with three friends, Borderlands is our Xbox 360 RPG of the Year!
PS3 RPG of the Year 2009: Demon's Souls
Being huge RPG nuts, we fell in love with the sheer cliff of difficulty Demon's Souls offers to RPG fans. It's been years since we've experienced something that's so dreadully difficult yet built out of so many perfectly formed, fantastically well thought out elements. Be forewarned, though: we won't be held responsible for any broken controllers.
Strategy is the name of the game. At the hands of screen-filling bosses and creatures that hide in the darkness, you'll find yourself dying. A lot. But don't fret, for when you finally succeed the amount of pure gratification you will experience is mindblowing. Never has doing well at a difficult game felt so incredibly rewarding.
While not strictly revolutionary in traditional terms, Demon's Souls is certainly a revolution and a refreshing change of style for the Japanese RPG - and thus our Playstation 3 RPG of the Year.
PC RPG of the Year 2009: Dragon Age: Origins
Dragon Age: Origins was a pretty brave statement from a company like Bioware in this age. It was a bold, tough decision - they were going to make an old fashioned, hard-as-nails RPG. The gamble appears to have paid off, as even the worse console versions did extremely well, and the top-notch PC version has come out as one of the best RPGs of the year.
Spiritually a successor to Baldur's Gate, Dragon Age returns RPG fans to a high-fantasy universe with dragons, magic, swords and buckets of blood, but also successfully blends in the morality and choice gameplay that has made Bioware so famous.
It's a tantalizing package in the end, especially on the PC where the controls are as pure and as perfect as they were in the 90s. As if being awesome wasn't enough, it's also a massive game with hundreds of hours of gameplay - just like the old days! How could anything else be our PC RPG of the year?
Wii RPG of the Year 2009: Muramasa: The Demon Blade
Vanillaware has struck gold again with its newest title made exclusive for the Nintendo Wii, Muramasa. With Odin Sphere and Princess Crown (an excellent Sega Saturn import if there ever was one) already under its belt, the company has really been making a name for itself. From the gorgeous hand-drawn 2D art design to the epic-laden storyline, things always tend to culminate in a visual tour de force of eye candy for players to enjoy.
Inspired by Japanese folklore, Muramasa in itself is a spectacle to behold. With downright graceful animations, stunning landscapes inspired by famous Japanese paintings (particularly the masterful "Great Wave at Kanagawa" recreation), and a smooth-flowing control scheme, Muramasa brings Vanillaware one step closer to creating their magnum opus.
By showing that the Wii hardware can truly hold its own when put up against the raw graphical power of the PS3 and Xbox 360, Muramasa provides enough masterpiece moments to usher it towards our Wii RPG of the Year Award!
DS RPG of the Year 2009: Mario & Luigi: Bower's Inside Story
JRPGs are rarely known for innovation, which is why we've always been fond of the Super Mario RPG series. It takes the best of both worlds the Mario bros. platforming and story elements, and turn based combat and combines them into a refreshing take on traditional JRPG combat and storytelling. What began on the SNES has continued to this day on the DS with Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story.
The Mushroom Kingdom is once again under attack, but regular bad guy Bowser finds himself taking on the role of a hero after swallowing the Mario bros! Fawful, a returning antagonist from the first game hunts the Dark Star, a source of great evil power. It's up to Mario, Luigi AND Bowser to stop the evil Fawful before he blankets the world in darkness. Whereas Bowser traverses the overworld, the Mario bros. travel around Bowser's insides, strengthening his muscles, granting him new powers and defeating various enemies he might be swallowing.
Bowser's Inside Story is a game that truly shines in several ways. The story is a breath of fresh air, and Fawful is one of the funniest bad guys of all time. Bowser's Inside Story never stops giving you something new, whether it's Mario and Luigi jumping on Bowser's calf muscles in order to strengthen his legs, or Bowser becoming a giant in order to battle a mechanized castle. It’s fun, imaginative, beautiful to look at and a lot of fun to play. Therefore it's our best DS RPG of the year.
PSP RPG of the Year 2009: Monster Hunter Freedom Unite
Known as Monster Hunter Portable 2nd G in Japan, Monster Hunter Freedom Unite was merely thought to be an expansion of Monster Hunter Freedom 2, with only a new monsters, gear sets, and quests, before its release. Capcom though, not being one to rest on their laurels, managed this year to create the defining title in the series.
The clichéd saying - if it isn't broken, don't fix it - could not apply to any game more than it does to Monster Hunter Freedom Unite. Whilst on the surface it may seem to be the same game as its original, the franchise's strength has always lied in the subtleties and nuances of its combat system.
Despite the exhaustive amount of additional content in the game, the multiplayer aspect is still its biggest selling point, and makes for a social gaming experience unlike anything else on the PSP. This is the real key to Monster Hunter's success - at its core; it is an incredibly unique RPG experience that feels truly at home on the PSP. Honestly, it would feel out of place anywhere else.
PS2 RPG of the Year 2009: Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner 2
The PS2 hasn't had many RPGs released this year as it finally winds down and passes the baton to it's little brother, and some might say that is why there was a clear, unaminous winner of the PS2 RPG of the Year Award - but it's not. Even in another year, this title would've outshone some of the best of the PS2 library by quite a distance.
Devil Summoner 2 does bear a striking resemblence to it's predecessor, and that's because this is the kind of sequel that merely improves upon everything that came before rather than reinventing the wheel. In this case it works wonderfully, polishing just about every aspect of the first title until it's positively glinting.
Indeed, Devil Summoner 2 stands alongside it's relative Persona 4 as an example that even a less flashy title can stand next to those big budget games with love, care and attention to detail - and so it is fitting as what is likely to be our last PS2 RPG of the Year.
What's that, I hear you cry? All the consoles already have an RPG of the Year Now?
Well, you'd be right. But we're not quite done yet. Next up is our overall RPG of the Year 2009 - the best of the best - and our best RPG of 2008. What do you think they'll be? Keep 'em peeled...