NOTE: The "SuperPhillip's Favorite VGMs" segment is taking a holiday this week. They'll be back in 2009, so no worries.
It's the halfway point of the SuperPhillip Central Best of 2008 Awards. Tonight we have three more awards to "hand out" to some deserving games. Tonight's categories include: Best New Franchise, Most Overlooked, and Developer of the Year. Stay tuned tomorrow night as we start handing out Game of the Year awards!
===Best New Franchise
IP, otherwise known as intellectual property, is a hot term for gamers and the media who caters to them. Usually, new IPs are welcome in the industry. However, if the IP is the same game I've played before just with new characters and a new setting, then I'd rather have a "rehash" that uses the same characters and settings but uses a totally different design element to it. These nominees aren't just new IPs as much as they were new experiences to me. Here are the nominees...
Dead Space (PS3, 360, PC)
EA undertook a new company philosophy: develop better quality games. And hey, what do you know? One of the end results of this ideology is Dead Space, an action-adventure title set aboard a defunct spaceship crawling with unknown dangers. Not only is the action well done, but the environment is especially foreboding at parts. Combine that with an intriguing story, and you have a great start to a new franchise. Now if only this baby would have sold more...
The World Ends With You (DS)
What do incredibly annoying teen characters in the bustling shopping district of Shibuya and digital demons have to do with one another? The World Ends With You answers just that. Comprised of an innovative plot device, intuitive touch-based combat, and an eclectic mix of music, TWEWY equally delivers on fast-paced action and moody heroes.
de Blob (Wii)
A PC version of de Blob came out last year, but it was a free downloadable game. Now that it's released for retail, I'm considering it the official start of the franchise. de Blob was a very stylish, fun, and mission-based platformer assigning the title character, Blob, of coloring the world that the INKT so viciously turned into monochrome madness. A topview DS version of the game is in the works for sometime early 2009.
Boom Blox (Wii)
Put something cool on that throwing arm. You'll need it after playing a night of this excellent multiplayer puzzle/party game. The idea of knocking down a tower of blocks is simple, but it's the way that the concept is enhanced upon and redefined that makes Boom Blox so engrossing. Word has it that a sequel is already under way based on the great performance of the original, so keep an eye out for any emerging details.
No More Heroes (Wii)
Many Wii owners gained a new role model in Travis Touchdown from the stylistically violent open-world action game, No More Heroes. As director Suda 51's best selling game by a wide margin (over 500k as last reported), the announcement of the sequel, No More Heroes: Desperate Struggle has already made fans of the original antsy with anticipation. As well they should, too.
Sackboy-- how I love thee. So cute. So customizable. So adorable. Nothing like a mascot that you customize anyway you like or as anyone you like. The character is heavily marketable, the thirst for more level creation goods is everliving, and the community is full of talented, creative people. There's just the right amount of charm and fun to keep players coming back for more.
And the winner is...
The legs on this game are already very long for me, personally. Creating levels is a blast, and continued updates of DLC (of the pay-for and free varieties) might not send Media Molecule a message that they need to crank out a sequel any time soon.
Runner-Up: No More Heroes (Wii)
I do hate it when a great game gets overlooked-- we all do. It's an unfortunate part of our industry, but so many high-profile titles get pushed out year after year that the ones that don't cause much buzz fall through the cracks. Here are the nominees of such titles-- all great titles, I can assure you, that deserve a rent at the very least.
Valkyria Chronicles (PS3)
This breathtaking beauty from the fine folks who created Skies of Arcadia fed JRPG/SRPG-starved PS3 owners when it released this past fall. Unfortunately, it fed only the ones who actually knew about it as the game sold a paltry amount on this side of the Pacific.
Tales of Vesperia (360)
Same genre, different console, same end result-- low sales. While nowhere near as poor as Valkyria Chronicles, Tales of Vesperia failed to make a spark with the 360 fanbase. Not enough guns, testosterone, fragging, space marines, hardcore pop-cappin', "manly" stuff, and other "mature" stuff for most 360 owners. Though over 150,000 is very much a respectable margin seeing as the JRPG has lost popularity over the years.
de Blob (Wii)
This title's sales actually pleased THQ, the publisher of de Blob, so that has to be a good thing. I've no idea on the actual sales (probably less than 250k), but you can bet many HD minded folk looked over this title. I mean, how else can you say the Wii has no games other than ignoring good Wii games? Duh.
We Love Golf (Wii)
I was surprised how much I adored We Love Golf which was developed by Camelot. These folks made the various Mario golf and tennis titles as well as Golden Sun. The game has eight differently themed courses, an ensemble of perky but bland characters, online play, and loads upon loads of unlockables and extras such as Capcom costumes like Ryu and Arthur (from Street Fighter and Ghost 'n' Goblins respectively). Perhaps people were desiring a swing system that was less arcadey and more realistic. Either way, We Love Golf scored well under par for me (that's a good thing for those who don't follow golf-- which is fine).
Blast Works (Wii)
Before LittleBigPlanet came out with its masterful level creator, a little known title called Blast Works from Budcat Creations launched its wonderful shmup creator on Wiis in early June. It's available now for twenty bucks new, has a thriving community, a fantastic site to host and download created levels, vehicles, and other creations from fellow Blast Works owners. I think the lack of an advertising budget really hurt this game-- not to mention the unappealing boxart. Here's hoping spreading the word on this diamond in the rough helps someone pick the game up.
Soul Bubbles (DS)
Soul Bubbles was a very ambitious, innovative gem of a title. You use the stylus to blow around a series of energy particles inside a bubble through the many labyrinth-like levels while avoiding enemies and other hazards. The damning part of this game was that it is/was only sold at Toys 'R' Us locations. No better way to alienate most gamers by selling it only at a toy chain, I say.
And the "winner" is...
Valkyria Chronicles (PS3)
You PS3 owners yearn for RPGs, and what do you do when a fantastic one comes out? You buy it, of course. Unfortunately the rest of the PS3's user base didn't hop aboard the same bandwagon as you. Look at her expression above... See what the people who like RPGs, own a PS3, yet didn't get this game have made her feel like?
Runner-Up: Tales of Vesperia (360)
Developer of the Year
We know the big publishers-- Nintendo, Capcom, Activision, EA, Ubisoft, Konami, and the rest, but it's the developers who create the many great and not-so-great gaming experiences we've grown to love and hate. The nominees for Developer of the Year created the many marvelous gaming experiences that we've grown to love. The nominees are...
Media Molecule (LittleBigPlanet)
Concocting one of the best level creation tools period is no small task, but then creating an engrossing game on top of that is another thing. This is exactly what UK-based Media Molecule did though.
Rare (Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts, Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise, Viva Pinata: Pocket Paradise)
The only developer in this category with more than one game under their belt, Rare performed very well this year. Trouble in Paradise greatly improved on its already terrific predecessor, Pocket Paradise faithful translated the original VP from the big screen to the small screen, and Nuts & Bolts offered players an entirely new way of playing their favorite bear and bird duo-- vehicles. Your mileage may vary, however.
Game Arts (Super Smash Bros. Brawl)
Categorizing Nintendo's illustrious history within one fantastic package is no small task, but the fine folks at Game Arts somehow managed to pull it off-- online excluded. Filled with so much content and little filler (my issues of the SSE notwithstanding), Game Arts did a fantastic job with Brawl.
Nintendo EAD (Wii Music)
Let's make a music game, but let's not force the player to hold a dorky plastic guitar or be relegated to just playing what is on screen. Let's have the player experiment with and improvise around the notes and melody of a song. Heck, they can just shake till the sun comes up if they want. But let's not have the software judge the player. Let's have the player judge his own performance and how it sounds to them. Hence, you have the basic idea behind Wii Music, a very controversial game for some Wii owners.
Kojima Productions (Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots)
Kojima has changed. He makes movie-quality games with his talented team of developers, designers, directors, and doctors (what). Kojima has changed. His team capped off an engaging narrative to make longtime MGS fans satisfied (so I'm told). Kojima has changed. The team's plot for MGS 4 was quite convoluted. Oh, wait. I forgot-- that one stayed the same. Regardless, MGS 4 couldn't have been game of the year at several media sites without Kojima Productions' tremendous effort and polish of the game.
And the winner is...
Media Molecule (LittleBigPlanet)
Not only did they create a game, but they made one with some glaring flaws to creator community. One of which was the horrid search system. Within days the problem was addressed, and already the problem has been fixed thanks to Mm. This kind of dedication and response to their game is something I haven't seen in a long time. Good show, Mm. Good show.
Runner-Up: Game Arts (Super Smash Bros. Brawl)
I'll see you tomorrow for night four of the SPC Best of 2008!