Yasumi Matsuno apparently decided to be the closest he possibly could to a Dungeon Master when crafting Crimson Shroud. The plot is compelling and touches on standard Matsuno themes, but its presentation is akin to prose mixed with dialogue from a book — or a DM narrating someone's progress. The graphics also look like a DM's dream, with incredibly elaborate backgrounds that tend to lack ceilings and thus could be put together on a playing board. As for the characters themselves, they're a lot more ornate than most D&D tokens, but have the same seemingly-plastic bases and the same inability to move on their own. Where a player would do that in an actual tabletop session, Crimson Shroud has the characters move only when they're off camera.
Actually playing the game is where the tabletop implementation thins out a bit, since it is possible to fight enemies without rolling dice at every turn. Dice do factor into a large number of actions, and there's no avoiding them, though poking the touch screen doesn't quite emulate actually holding things in the hand. Only a truly obsessive DM would bother compiling the astoundingly large variety of equipment Crimson Shroud offers, but Matsuno probably fits that description. Only a trailblazing DM would forgo character levels completely and have abilities be entirely determined through the voluminous quantities of equipment available, but that adjective also fits Matsuno. Crimson Shroud can't completely recreate the tabletop experience when the DM has left explicit instructions on what the story and landscape will be every time through, but it comes closer than most which have tried something similar. For that, it deserves recognition.
Games released on Nintendo systems took a clean sweep of the podium for originality with Mistwalker's The Last Story and Monolith Soft's Xenoblade Chronicles taking second and third respectively. The Last Story includes one of the more innovative battle systems in recent years, placing heavy emphasis on control while incorporating cover and strategy aspects, and even manages to include an entertaining online offering. Xenoblade, on the other hand, uses its unique world design and mythology to great effect, creating a memorable world that is also supported by some interesting battle mechanics, mostly involving the mysterious sword, the Monado.
by Mike Moehnke, Alex Fuller