Thursday, November 22, 2012

2012 Holiday Gift Guide Part 1

For those in the United States, today is Thanksgiving. I hope everyone is enjoying the day with their families. It also rings in the official start to the holiday season, and now Christmas is almost a month away. The United States has a tradition that the day after Thanksgiving is Black Friday, where all the lowered prices at stores come, and consumers beat one another senseless for the best deal.

Today marks the first of a two part feature here at SuperPhillip Central. Last year's Holiday Gift Guide went over rather well, so here it is, the second annual SuperPhillip Central Holiday Gift Guide. With a new console out and games for all, part one of the gift guide will focus on platform exclusives while part two tomorrow will focus on multi-platform gaming. We have Wii U, Wii, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Nintendo 3DS, and Vita games to go through, so start making your list and checking it twice. It's time to begin!

Note: The guide is after the break as there are a fair amount of images.

[Wii U]

The first home console entry in the eighth generation of video game consoles (generations are measured by time and not just power, people), the Wii U launched in North America this past Sunday, and with it came a myriad of games. The system can be purchased in the Basic package or the Deluxe package. One console is white, one is black. Here are some games to add to your holiday wishlists.

New Super Mario Bros. U


Some are calling this a pleasurable mix of Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World. Where the game lies between the two in quality is up in the air as I have not played the game yet, but when it gets compared to those two titles in a favorable fashion by reviewers and players alike, you can bet it is enjoyable. With its interconnected world map, challenge mode, eye-popping HD visuals, beautiful backgrounds, Miiverse functionality, and the level design that makes Mario games so masterful, New Super Mario Bros. U should be every Wii U owner's first purchase... apart from the actual system.

Nintendo Land


Twelve attractions based off of twelve Nintendo IPs of the past? It's any Nintendo fan's dream. Well, their dream probably revolves around an actual theme park that they can walk through outside of virtual reality, but they can take what they can get. Rather than simply being mini-games, there's enough depth in each to present many long playing sessions for game owners. The multiplayer madness that ensues is also an important feature, whether they're playing Mario Chase, Metroid Blast, or The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest. Deluxe Wii U buyers get Nintendo Land immediately, but even you Basic Wii U buyers out there should give Nintendo Land a chance. It's yet another game that looked bad to gamers, but now a lot of them are eating crow.

ZombiU


To say Ubisoft's premiere launch title, ZombiU, was getting polarizing opinions would be an understatement. However, if you are into a challenging game with plenty of scares and a survivor horror feel to it, then ZombiU beckons. The game is a next gen take on Ubisoft's first ever game, Zombi. This next gen take uses the Wii U GamePad in some remarkable ways, and also presents the player with some spine-tingling scenarios. For the horror fan that owns or is getting a brand-new Wii U, ZombiU will get their pulse pounding.

[Wii]

The Wii is popular to hate on. Some even say it's objectively the worst console ever made. Gamers and their hyperbole will never cease to amaze me. For me, the Wii was the gift that kept on giving, with a much more diverse library than any other platform and the games to prove it. The Wii U is the new hotness now, but there were some Wii titles that came out this past year that are worth playing... perhaps on your new Wii U.

Xenoblade Chronicles


One of the most ambitious games of the generation, Xenoblade Chronicles just so happens to be an excellent RPG too. It addresses many of the problems of the genre, and introduces neat new concepts. The ability to teleport to previously reached destinations is a time-saving feature. And you'll need all the time you can get to beat this RPG epic. To see everything the game has to offer, you'll most likely need over 100 hours. For North Americans, you can pick up Xenoblade Chronicles at GameStop or from Nintendo's online store. It's a gift that will put a smile on any JRPG fan's face.

The Last Story


When the creator of Final Fantasy and the former longtime composer of the series team up to create an all-new role-playing game project, the gaming world turns its attention to it. The end result was The Last Story, a game that is XSEED's most successful game, despite being released very late in the Wii's lifespan. Battling bosses, exterminating enemies, and exploring dungeons is the name of The Last Story's game. There's even online for up to six players to either play cooperatively or competitively. While not as stellar as Xenoblade Chronicles, The Last Story is a marvelously capable game for the RPG lover on your shopping list.

Mario Party 9


Entering his ninth mainline party (not counting Mario Party DS or Mario Party Advance), Mario returns to rolling the dice, screwing over his pals, and participating in mini-games galore. This time, however, the rules have changed. All four competing players ride in the same vehicle across fairly linear boards. Halfway through and at the end of each board they battle bosses. The player with the most Mini Stars at the conclusion of the game is crowned the Superstar. The actual mini-games are quite enjoyable this go around, and the actual board game part of Mario Party 9 will have you cursing out the computer and your friends. If you'd like to subject your loved one to this cruel fate, then Mario Party 9 is the perfect gift to get them.

[PlayStation 3]

My favorite high-definition console, the PlayStation 3 is marching to the goal line of this generation. This year the games featured for 2012's Holiday Gift Guide are much more colorful and whimsical than in the past. From Sony's Super Smash Bros. to a full frontal assault, Sony's console has lots to enjoy for any type of gamer.

PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale


If you peruse previews and reviews for this game, you will nine times out of ten see Super Smash Bros. associated with it. It's none other than the recently released PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, but instead of knocking foes out of the arena and into oblivion, you power up your Super Gauge to unleash supers onto your enemies, thus eliminating them and giving you points. Sony's staple of PlayStation characters from the original system to the PS3 are represented well. You have Spike of Ape Escape fame, Ratchet from Ratchet & Clank, and even Sackboy from LittleBigPlanet. Throw in some third-party characters, and this is one brawl to end them all... at least for Sony fans and lovers of this type of party fighter. Great times will be shared to those who get this wonderful gift idea.

LittleBigPlanet Karting


Give the gift of karting and creation this Christmas with LittleBigPlanet Karting. Join Sackboy and his sack companions as they race through Craftworld in intense races. Made by the folks behind ModNation Racers, LittleBigPlanet Karting offers a full-fledged story mode, races with prize bubbles that unlock new content, and of course, what LittleBigPlanet game would be complete without a creation mode? There you can build your own tracks and make them as simple or complex as you wish, and then share them with the community. For the budding track designer and arcade kart racing enthusiastic in your life, LittleBigPlanet Karting is most likely on their wishlist. Important to note: The game will be $25 tomorrow only at Wal-mart and Target.

Ratchet & Clank Collection


Take three of the best platformers of the PlayStation 2 console generation and put them in high-definition, and you get Ratchet & Clank Collection. See the origins of this successful and sensational series starring a lombax and his best bud bot, Clank. Navigate through platforming peril why upgrading your weapons through repeated use. The third game in the series, Up Your Arsenal, allows for online multiplayer deathmatches and other modes. Even if you have played the games before, this collection is only thirty bucks and is definitely worth it. And if you've never touched a game in the original trilogy, this is the perfect gift for yourself. 

Ratchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault


One of the only games on this list that hasn't yet been released (North American gamers can pick it up on the 27th of this month while Europeans can nab it three days later), Ratchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault (Q-Force in PAL territories) forgoes the All 4 One design philosophy by bringing back the traditional elements of the Ratchet & Clank series, mainly the classic third-person camera of the franchise and the ability to upgrade weapons through using them again and again. Full Frontal Assault also adds a tower defense feature that will be prominent throughout the game. PlayStation 3 owners can either download the game or pick up a retail copy when the game releases in approximately a week. It's the perfect game to get yourself and a friend so you can play cooperatively together online.

[Xbox 360]

The Xbox 360 marches on in sales. While there are only two exclusive games listed on this year's Holiday Gift Guide, the two that are here are magnificent. Besides, the third-parties have been delivering the goods as will be evident tomorrow.

Halo 4


Without a doubt one of my most anticipated games of the year, Halo 4 launched with predictably immense success. 343 Industries took over control of the series after Bungie parted ways with Microsoft. There was a lot of skepticism as to whether the new developer could hack it, but with Halo 4's critical response, they absolutely nailed it. From the action-packed campaign that can be played with up to three other players to the brand-new Spartan Ops mode that allows players to follow episodic content including exclusive cutscenes and missions, Halo 4 is without a doubt delivers on the intensity that the first-person shooter genre is known for. If you have an Xbox 360 owner on your holiday season shopping list and they don't yet own this game, then get ready to enlist them into duty with Master Chief.

Forza Horizon


Developed by Playground Games, Forza Horizon drives down a different road than past games in the Forza franchise. It is entirely an open-world experience based in the Centennial state of Colorado. The world is yours to explore, off road and on.You can participate in several different race types such as drift races and point-to-point races, earning street cred to advance in the game. If you do plan on getting Forza Horizon for the driving enthusiast in your life-- which you should, perhaps give them some point cards as well for all that DLC they might want.

[Nintendo 3DS]

Despite its lukewarm sales in the West, the Nintendo 3DS has had a pretty stellar year in 2011. Why not give the gift of handheld gaming with some Mario, some Layton, or some Pit? That's exactly what you can do this holiday season for yourself or a loved one.

Kid Icarus: Uprising


Sorry to keep you waiting! Pit is back after a two decade hiatus with an all-new adventure. It will take him in battles against Underworld and otherworldly forces in both sky and land battles. Though the controls definitely take getting some used to, once you do, the experience is positively incredible. The 3D effect definitely accentuates the already tremendous visuals, and the sound-- music and voice work-- is some of the year's best. Factor in a metric ton of unlockables through completing certain tasks and online play, and Kid Icarus: Uprising is a must-buy for action-adventure fans this holiday season.

New Super Mario Bros. 2


One of the most overused and misused words in the gaming industry is "rehash." The only thing rehashed about New Super Mario Bros. 2 is the music, and that doesn't affect the gameplay at all. What does, however, is the terrific level design that shows that once the veterans of the series are gone, the Mario franchise will be in good hands by the newer kids. 2D Mario is very much comfort food, and just like with Thanksgiving, you'll want to have seconds... and thirds! The gift of Mario is seldom a bad idea, so for the 3DS owner without this game in his or her collection, New Super Mario Bros. 2 is a worthwhile gift.

Paper Mario: Sticker Star


One of the first games announced for the Nintendo 3DS around the time when the handheld was first unveiled officially, Paper Mario became Paper Mario: Sticker Star. The game breaks traditional and brings change to the formula. By using stickers found around the various levels and dropped by enemies, Mario can utilize them to attack, heal, and defend himself. While this new formula is definitely not for everyone, it is a fresh change that proves that Nintendo doesn't always stick to the tried and true. Speaking of this game, expect a full review in the next week or two.

Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask


Listed as the second best Professor Layton game in my Rank Up! - Professor Layton series segment, Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask took the franchise from the DS onto Nintendo's new portable with fantastic results. The game made searching areas less of a chore, introduced polygon models for all of the characters, brought with it some perplexing puzzles with it, and also had a trio of engaging mini-games. All of this was intertwined with a fascinating story that made for some tender moments. Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask is one game that not only gentlemen like Layton can enjoy, but also those of the opposite sex.

Art Academy: Lessons for Everyone

 

While Colors! 3D is a great toolkit for those who already know how to create brilliant works of art, Art Academy: Lessons for Everyone is great for those who wish to learn how to create said brilliant works of art. The title introduces new concepts and techniques at a perfect pace as to not bore the player. Paint, pencils, and pastels are used to create lovely works of art that can be shared with other Art Academy 3DS owners, or even saved to an SD card and shared via the free and separate Swapnote application. For thirty dollars, Art Academy: Lessons for Everyone is a stellar gift for the art lover or artists (beginning or professional) in your life.

Style Savvy: Trendsetters


The forty dollar price tag will put some people off, but once you see how much content Style Savvy: Trendsetters is packing, you might just want to take the plunge. Strut your outfit ensembles on the runway, manage your own store, please your clients (now in both female and male forms), and rule the fashion world! Mwahaha! ..Ahem. Style Savvy: Trendsetters has thousands of unique dresses, shirts, accessories, and other fashion items to display on your character and clients, so you'll have lots to do and see with this game. I'm a guy, and I still find the game enjoyable, so it just stands to reason that any person of the opposite sex would find something to love about this fashion world simulator. Couple the game with a 3DS or 3DS XL, and you have a one-two proverbial punch of gaming delight.

[PlayStation Vita]

Even though the platform is struggling heavily due to price and the increasing influence of smartphone and tablets, Sony's PlayStation Vita has had an immense number of engaging titles for its first year in North America. It was an effort to skim the list to just five games, but I managed to persevere anyway.

LittleBigPlanet PS Vita 


The popular LittleBigPlanet series makes its first foray onto the PlayStation Vita with the appropriately titled LittleBigPlanet PS Vita. The game utilizes many of the functions of Sony's new portable, including the rear touch screen, multi-touch OLED screen, and online functionality. While levels in LittleBigPlanet 2 cannot be transferred over to the Vita version, there are plenty of levels already created by the talented community. If you have a creative gamer on your list and they adore platformers, perhaps LittleBigPlanet PS Vita will have them burlap-ping the game up this holiday season.

Uncharted: Golden Abyss


Have you or your loved one join Nathan Drake as he once again gets into trouble. Sony Bend successfully took the big budget blockbuster series and translated it to a new tale on the PS Vita, complete with some modifications to make use of the Vita's hardware. That is no doubt an impressive feat. The lack of multiplayer hurts the longevity of the game, but the single player makes up for it. For fans of a good old fashioned Indiana Jones-style adventure, and for those who will be getting a Vita this holiday season, Uncharted: Golden Abyss is an essential purchase.

Assassin's Creed III: Liberation


A side story to the events of Assassin's Creed III, the PlayStation Vita companion game, Assassin's Creed III: Liberation takes players into the role of a female assassin, the first for the franchise. The game uses some of the Vita's exclusive features such as the rear touch screen. Having a full-fledged game similar to its big console brother is an exemplary triumph, and for the Vita owner in your life desperately searching for a new game to play, Liberation will be... well, liberating.

Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational


Though this Vita launch title will be hitting the PlayStation 3 sometime in the near future, that doesn't stop the original from being a worthy game to add to the wishlist of any arcade golf lover. The game is absolutely gorgeous, offers six brand-new courses of increasing challenge, a slew of colorful characters, online tournaments, and plenty of content to unlock. Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational is a stunning showcase for the Vita, and it is one that any owner of Sony's current handheld should pick up. Considering its now cheap price, invite your friends and family to this World Invitational by buying them a copy.

Gravity Rush


Ever wanted to control gravity? Well, since that's not a realistic ambition in real life, you or the gamers on your wishlist can tinker with gravity in Gravity Rush, a PlayStation Vita exclusive. An adventure game, Gravity Rush comes with some role-playing elements as well, such as leveling up, learning new, more powerful abilities, and facing optional bosses. It plays as well as it looks, which is sensational, thanks in part to its glorious cel-shaded art style. In an industry that leans more and more towards photorealism, Gravity Rush is certainly a breath of fresh air, and a great gift for the more open-minded PlayStation Vita owner on your gift list.

===

As stated earlier, tomorrow we will be showcasing the hottest multi-platform games for Part Two of my 2012 Holiday Gift Guide. Until then, have a magnificent Thanksgiving, America, and for everyone else, have a wonderful day.

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