Yes, Best Buy and Burger King are this year's [fake] sponsors. One has more electronics and gadgets than a techie like myself could possibly desire while the other makes their hamburgers and other meals your way. Now that we've had our jokes, let us get serious with System of the Year 2011.
[System of the Year]
It was a banner year for platforms in 2011. We had the arrival of a new one with the Nintendo 3DS in March for North America while its predecessor, the DS, marked its final full year as a gaming platform of choice. There are four nominees for this year, fewer than ever before, but don't be tricked into thinking this wasn't a great year to be a gamer. And the nominees are...
As stated ad nauseum on SPC, the Nintendo 3DS did not impress out of the starting gate, but its situation greatly improved as did its library. Now it seems stores can't stop selling hardware, and games just keep pouring into the marketplace. Such notable titles include Super Mario 3D Land, Mario Kart 7, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D, Star Fox 64 3D, Pilotwings Resort, Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition, and Dead or Alive: Dimensions. Don't forget the additions of Swap Note, Ambassador games, and eShop titles like Mighty Switch Force and Pushmo. What started slow has certainly ramped up considerably.
While one platform started slow and gained momentum, the opposite happened to the Nintendo DS, one of the systems with the greatest libraries in gaming history. Consumers might be upgrading to the 3DS now, but we will never forget the memories of the software, the revolutionary gameplay brought forth by the touch screen, and Nintendo's first attempts at online. This year we saw a sensational amount of new games such as Pokemon Black and White, Professor Layton and the Last Specter, Kirby Mass Attack, Okamiden, Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Reverie, Radiant Historia, and Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective. Goodbye, old friend. We will miss you dearly.
The Xbox 360 had tremendous success in 2011, outselling even the Wii. It's amazing and a huge accomplishment that a six year-old system is selling as well as it is and was given new life via Kinect. Sure, consumers don't seem to be buying software for their new peripheral, but if they're content with the prepackaged games, who are we to judge? Apart from Kinect games like Sesame Street: Once Upon A Monster, Dance Central 2, and Kinect Sports: Season Two, there were titles released in the year for the gamer such as Gears of War 3, Forza Motorsport 4, and Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary. Can Microsoft keep its momentum going through 2012?
Sony's black box won runner-up last year in this category, so it is aiming to beat that and win System of the Year honors. Even with the PSN hacking fiasco that sullied Sony's good name, the PlayStation 3 hit its stride with a vast catalog of games both first and third-party. There was titles like Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception, Killzone 3, Resistance 3, inFamous 2, and LittleBigPlanet 2. The Move might not be revolutionary, but it did feature some terrific titles to its library like Medieval Moves: Deadmun's Quest, PlayStation Move Heroes, and The House of the Dead: Overkill Extended Cut. With more blockbusters than the video store of the same name, it was a successful year for Sony's prime platform.
And the winner is...
The PlayStation 3 started strong with January's Game of the Year contender LittleBigPlanet 2, and its momentum continued with Killzone 3 the following month. Add in software for everyone from kids to adults in all genres-- platformers, shooters, action/adventure games, and some fantastic PSN titles, and you have a shoe-in for System of the Year.
Runner-up: Nintendo 3DS
We have a reached that point in time where we look at the nominees for Game of the Year 2011. However, as it is a custom every year (at least for the three other years this award show has taken place) we shall take a glance at last year's Game of the Year. Do you recall what that game was?
GOTY 2010: Super Mario Galaxy 2
I was heartbroken that this game was really shunned by the mainstream media in their Game of the Year awards. It earned high marks (it received one of my few perfect scores), so it was questionable that it was beat out by other games. Regardless, Mario's last Wii platformer was purely magical. The level design was impeccable, the orchestral soundtrack had multiple whimsical and wonderful melodies attached to it, the challenge was finally there, and the return of Yoshi made for an astonishing platforming romp. There are no words that can adequately describe my admiration for Nintendo EAD's work on this game. It is truly out of this world.
[Game of the Year 2011]
And now with that blast from the past out of the way, we move onto the moment we've all been waiting for... Game of the Year 2011. Remember that every winner yesterday and from the Multiplatform Game of the Year award will be featured in this category, so that makes seven total nominees, the most ever seen on SPC. This is an event for sure. And the nominees are...
Batman: Arkham City (PS3, 360)
Become what villains and lowlifes of Gotham City dread when you don the black cape and cowl of Batman! With an entire city to fly around in, shooting the batclaw to effortlessly pull yourself from building to building, spreading your wings and gently flying down to the dilapidated streets of Arkham City, completing Riddler challenges and other side errands, and facing off against Gotham's most feared villains in the Joker, Penguin, Two-Face, and Mr. Freeze, there's no shortage of tasks to accomplish as the dark knight in Batman: Akrham City, one of the best licensed superhero games period.
Forza Motorsport 4 (360)
Speed and style rarely go hand-in-hand, but take that thought and throw it out of the driver's side window with Forza Motorsport 4. Cruise and jet across some of the world's most extravagant racing courses and tracks in the seat of one of many classy, sporty automobiles. Paint a custom decal on the side, the hood, the top, or the rear of your car, customize it as you see fit, and then take it online and show the world that you're ready to race. It might be the fourth installment of this stellar series, but there's no sign of slowing down for the team behind Forza.
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Wii)
Master the Goddess Sword with true 1:1 motion controls. Every battle is a new challenge with enemies that can only be defeated with accurate slashes from your sword. Tackle colossal bosses, explore puzzle and obstacle-filled dungeons, discover health-boosting Heart Containers, catch insects, find and upgrade new items, and roam majestic forests, clear, blue lakes, steamy volcanoes, and dry and dusty deserts in search of Link's long, lost friend Zelda. Never before will you ever feel more like the legendary hero than you will when you hold the Wii remote in your hand and explore the realm of Skyward Sword.
LittleBigPlanet 2 (PS3)
LittleBigPlanet 2 takes the world and parameters of the game and makes them yours. Team up with up to three other Sackpeople as your traverse the rugged and oftentimes dangerous terrain of the game's pre-made levels, slap each other silly, and wave your arms around like you just don't care. Customize your pod with as the many trinkets and doodads you discover in the game's levels, and then hop in the level creator and craft your own concoctions. The only limitations in the creator is your imagination, so think long and hard and start building! ...And who wouldn't want a game completely narrated by the wry Stephen Fry?
Pokemon Black and White (DS)
A new generation of Pokemon always brings a whole slew of Pokemon to collect, raise, and battle. Pokemon Black and White is no different, but don't fall into a false sense of security that everything in these two games is unchanged! No, no, no! Besides the cool 150+ Pokemon added to these pair of games, there's now triple battles where three Pokemon face off against another trio of pocket monsters as well as an updated online system for battling and trading Pokemon. The new region of Unova is a fascinating place with many mysterious creatures-- both Pokemon and human, and the story takes the series to fresh and never-before-seen areas.
Super Mario 3D Land (3DS)
3D Mario for the masses is the name of this game. There's a reason that 3DS systems are selling at an accelerated rate since the release of Super Mario 3D Land. That's because every new mainline Mario is an event unto itself, and 3D Land continues that tradition. Containing the most exhilarating use of stereoscopic 3D ever seen on a hand-held, sixteen worlds full of Goombas to jump on, platforms to leap to, star medals to collect, power-ups to obtain, and obstacles to avoid, Super Mario 3D Land may just be the best original portable Mario on this planet. That is quite the accomplish when you look at the competition!
Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together (PSP)
Cling on, my brethren! Cling on! Combine your party's strengths in intense tactical battles where proper planning and strategy is the difference between a glorious victory and an agonizing defeat. This title may be a remake, and the PSP might have its fair share of those, but this tactical RPG is one of the best around. There's no excuse if you are an owner of Sony's powerful portable to not pick up this 100 hour+ tale of war and power. The battles themselves pit 5-12 of your units against up to eighteen enemy combatants for encounters of who puts their units to the best use wins. Not just the best PSP game this year, one of the best games of 2011 full-stop.
And the Game of the Year of 2011 is...
[GotY 2011: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Wii)]
The Wii may have went more with quality than quantity in 2011, but it possesses the exclusive that beats out the rest with The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. Following a touching and charming story of finding Link's lost friend Zelda, this entry to this beloved franchise showcases five years of Nintendo's efforts in motion control. What most of us thought the Wii would be at its launch has finally been realized with Skyward Sword. From the intuitive swordplay to the tightrope walking, the bomb rolling and throwing to the wall climbing, and the fluid swimming to the weapon aiming, Skyward Sword shows an unprecedented amount of love and polish in its controls and gameplay making it my choice for Game of the Year 2011.
Runner-up GotY 2011: LittleBigPlanet 2 (PS3)
For the last time, the curtains of this award show are closing. They will not be opening again until December 27, 2012 when the SPC Best of 2012 Awards will happen. I know you will be waiting feverishly as you mark the days off on your calendar. Until then, I hope you enjoyed this year's celebration of (nearly) all things gaming, and will join me deep into 2012 for new reviews, articles, top tens/fives, and more right here on SuperPhillip Central!