Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The SuperPhillip Central Best of 2013 Awards - Final Night

This is it, ladies and gentlemen. It's the final night of SuperPhillip Central's Best of 2013 Awards. We've given out many intangible awards to various games, but now we're at the nitty gritty. We have just two more awards to hand out-- the first of which is the System of the Year 2013 award, followed by the Game of the Year 2013 award. Make sure your teeth are brushed, your hair is combed, and you look presentable, as this is a special occasion! If you are all clean, let's get to the final two awards!

[System of the Year 2013]

2013 saw the release of two brand-new home consoles for the eighth generation of gaming systems. However, let's not forget the platforms that were already out beforehand! With this category, we honor the best systems in regard to software.

Xbox One


Out of the two major consoles released this year, the Xbox One deserves praise for its launch lineup. The system might not be selling as well as the PlayStation 4, but at least Xbox One owners have a greater offering of games to enjoy-- at least in our opinion. Exploring a hellish open world setting in Dead Rising 3, racing through ultra-realistic environments in Forza Motorsport 5, kicking ass online and off in Killer Instinct, and even missteps like Ryse: Son of Rome offer a little bit of entertainment. These titles made it clear to us that out of the PS4 and Xbox One, the latter had the games this holiday season to put it slightly ahead of the system's closest competition.

Wii U


Nintendo's Wii U had a rough go of it this year. We need not talk about sales, as that story has been posted here more times than the word "the", it seems. Regardless, March was a great month for the platform, offering three excellent games in the span of a handful of days-- LEGO City Undercover, Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, and Need for Speed: Most Wanted U. A lull happened in releases over the summer, but soon New Super Luigi U and Pikmin 3 released. Then came September, giving Wii U owners a new IP in the form of The Wonderful 101, followed by the release of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD and Wii Party U in October. Finally in November, Wii U saw the Game of the Year contender Super Mario 3D World available on store shelves. It was an overall great first-year quality-wise for the Wii U. It's just a shame that quality doesn't equal sales.

Runner-Up: PlayStation 3


Sony's PlayStation 4 was being released, and soon gamers across a good portion of the world would soon jump ship from the PlayStation 3 to Sony's new hardware. However, Sony still supported the PS3 wonderfully this past year, giving gamers plenty to play and plenty to enjoy. From God of War: Ascension to the criminally underrated Puppeteer, the PlayStation 3 offered gamers titles for every age and interest. Naughty Dog released one of their most impressive games ever with The Last of Us, a game that couldn't have been a better swan song for the system. However, Sony still had Gran Turismo 6 and Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus to release. Throw in third-party titles like Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, BioShock Infinite, Grand Theft Auto V and Tomb Raider, and you have our runner-up for System of the Year 2013.

Winner: Nintendo 3DS


Support for the Nintendo 3DS, the little handheld that could, increased dramatically this past year. Nintendo themselves released a number of hit titles that oozed a copious amount of quality. There was Fire Emblem: Awakening, Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon, Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D, Animal Crossing: New Leaf, Mario & Luigi: Dream Team, Pokemon X and Y, and The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds. Then there's the quality content from third-parties like Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate, Etrian Odyssey: The Millennium Girl, Rune Factory 4, Shin Megami Tensei 4, Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies, among many others. It seemed like every month there was something worthwhile to purchase whether through retail or digitally, making the Nintendo 3DS our pick for System of the Year 2013.

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[Game of the Year 2013]

The moment that we've been waited for has arrived. It's now time to reveal our pick for Game of the Year 2013. If you recall how this works, every game that won its respective system category will be on the list of nominees for this prestigious category. Which title will take the crown? Let's find out!

Grand Theft Auto V (PS3, 360)


Ambition. That's a term (or variety of it) that we can't help but say every time we bring up Grand Theft Auto V. Sporting the most impressive open world setting in a video game on a home consoles, GTAV also brought players tweaks to the gameplay to make it a wildly improved game compared to its predecessors. The game had a story that focused on three main characters, an original idea for the series. The aforementioned open world setting of Los Santos and Blaine County to the city's north was incredibly immense and had little Easter eggs and secrets sprinkled all over. It will probably take years for the average gamer to explore every square inch of GTAV's world. We voted Grand Theft Auto V our Multiplatform Game of the Year for good reason, and it more than enough fits the bill as a nominee for Game of the Year 2013.

The Last of Us (PS3)


A lot of media outlets are awarding Naughty Dog's latest with Game of the Year wins, and deservedly so. The Last of Us was the pinnacle of storytelling in our industry this year, with a tale that made you very much care about the protagonist team of Joel and Ellie. The nightmarish world of The Last of Us always kept us on edge-- sometimes having our hearts race uncontrollably as we slipped by Clickers, breaths held. These stealth elements were executed perfectly throughout the game, as were the confrontations with enemies. Seldom does a game make the player go through an abundance and whirlwind of emotions, but The Last of Us was exactly that type of game.

Tearaway (Vita)


Media Molecule is best known for their work on the LittleBigPlanet series, which continues to get updates and DLC to this day. When the developer announced they were working on a new IP for Sony's relatively new portable, the gaming world was put into a miniature frenzy. The end product was Tearaway, a sophisticated game overflowing with Media Molecule's vintage creativity. Tearaway not only surprised gamers with its entertaining premise and platforming fun, but also critics. The game used every major function of the PlayStation Vita hardware, and seldom did it seem gimmicky. Unfortunately, like with the Wii U and the Vita itself, quality did not ensure sales.

Runner-Up: Super Mario 3D World (Wii U)


Nintendo has a gameplay-first focus in its titles. Everything else comes later. This was readily apparent in the design of Super Mario 3D World, our runner-up for Game of the Year for 2013. While the initial unveiling at E3 this past June underwhelmed many, it was only until subsequent trailers that the true creativity of the game's level design, enemy encounters, and power-ups were prevalent to the eye. Super Mario 3D World is one of those games that at first glance does not offer much that is new to the series, but never judge a book by its cover. Actual players of the game will tell you of its tight controls, endlessly creative levels that constantly throw new mechanics and challenges into the mix, and a presentation that proves that Nintendo knows how to work its special blend of magic on its own hardware.

And our Game of the Year for 2013 is...




























Game of the Year 2013: The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (3DS)


For the first time in SuperPhillip Central history our Game of the Year comes from a handheld device. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds was a welcome change to the typical formula of the Zelda series. It offered an amount of freedom that made modern Zelda games before it look like they had the amount of freedom of wearing a straitjacket. Being able to rent and then buy items for Link's arsenal meant the world was open for Link to explore, and in Lorule the order of dungeons could be determined by the player. The excessive hand-holding of past games was gone, as was the severe linearity so many Zelda games prior had suffered from. The incredibly quick pacing also was like a breath of fresh Hyrulean air. Combine this with some brilliant dungeon design, familiar locales, an awesome new wall merge gameplay mechanic, and creative boss battles, and you have what we considered to be a genuinely easy choice for our Game of the Year for this sixth annual awards ceremony.


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And that wraps things up rather nicely. Another year is over, another awards ceremony (our sixth) is over. SuperPhillip Central's staff would like to thank everyone for their support this past year and for reading all of our ramblings-- whether they be reviews, editorials, top ten lists, etc. We wouldn't be doing a site without your views. We deeply appreciate everyone who comes here to read our works, even if you disagree with what we have to say. From all of us at SuperPhillip Central, thank you and have a happy and prosperous 2014.

Monday, December 30, 2013

The SuperPhillip Central Best of 2013 Awards - Night Four

We have arrived at the penultimate night of the SuperPhillip Central Best of 2013 Awards. Tonight leads up to the Game of the Year 2013 announcement tomorrow night. Including the Multiplatform Game of the Year award that was given to Grand Theft Auto V, the games that win each respective category tonight is in the running for our Game of the Year 2013 award. Since neither the Xbox One or PlayStation 4 have titles that are truly excellent, they will be excluded from this year's awards. If you have made your preparations, let's get to giving out some rewards!

[Best PlayStation Vita Game]

Killzone: Mercenary


There have been previous attempts at creating a first-person shooter on the PlayStation Vita. There's been Resistance: Burning Skies along with Call of Duty: Black Ops - Declassified. Both of these were anything but terrific. Now, the great gang at Guerrilla Cambridge has created one of the best FPS experiences ever to grace a handheld, Killzone: Mercenary. Not only does the game look absolutely gorgeous, but it plays so brilliantly. There's no question that Mercenary was overshadowed by its bigger PS4 brother, but this Vita game is definitely worth playing.

Muramasa Rebirth


Muramasa: The Demon Blade originally released on the Nintendo Wii to little fanfare. Over the summer, the game received a second life with Muramasa Rebirth. This PlayStation Vita version features the same beautiful art from the Wii game, but now it looks even more glorious and jaw-dropping on the system's OLED screen. In addition to that bonus, four relatively quick scenarios have been included to make Muramasa Rebirth worth a second look.

Runner-Up: Ys: Memories of Celceta 


The latest in the Ys series is on the PlayStation Vita, Memories of Celceta. For those who have played Ys Seven on the PSP, Memories of Celceta should feel like a familiar old friend. The three team system returns, allowing for on the fly switching as each battle situation presents itself. Whether you're exploring for treasure or hacking away at a gigantic boss, Ys: Memories of Celceta offers plenty of action RPG excitement.

Winner: Tearaway


Media Molecule's pet project for the PlayStation Vita, Tearaway is creative through every orifice. Using not only the power of the PlayStation Vita to give the player a lovely world to venture through, Media Molecule also pushed the Vita's functionality, making excellent use of almost every major function. From the rear touch screen to push up objects in game to taking photos in the real world and applying the shots to character patterns, Tearaway is an easy choice for Best PlayStation Vita Game.

[Best Nintendo 3DS Game]

Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon


Nintendo seldom hands over their trusted IP to just anybody, especially Western developers, but that was exactly what Nintendo did with Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon. Eschewing the open mansion structure for a mission-based one, Dark Moon had plenty of challenge, exploration, thrills, cleverness and charm to it. Next Level Games really did Mario's overshadowed brother (can't really say that after this year) well, and it makes us really want to see what Next Level Games is working on next.

Fire Emblem: Awakening


For many consumers, Fire Emblem: Awakening was an excellent way to get acquainted with the series. The game's new Casual mode gave franchise beginners the solace in knowing that downed party members would return after a complete battle. However, for veterans of the series, or those who just wanted a greater challenge, the franchise's permanent death feature was available. All of this was under a splendid presentation, great story, and strategic game.

Mario & Luigi: Dream Team


A fair portion of gamers did not like this next game's amount of tutorials. However, when the writing is so consistently funny and good, it is easy to forgive. That was the case with August's Mario & Luigi: Dream Team, an RPG that tests the player's timing as much as it does their strategy. Exploring Pi'illo Island with Mario and Luigi and their unique abilities made journeying through dungeons, fields and towns fun, and the alluded to battle system forced players to take an active role in each and every battle. Clocking in at around 35-40 hours to complete, Mario & Luigi: Dream Team is a fantastic RPG for the sensational 3DS library (and no, half of those hours weren't tutotials!).

Pokemon X and Y


We have been rather soured on the mainline Pokemon games. Black and White offered little in the way of pushing the series forward, and the games' direct sequels didn't really change that. What made Pokemon X and Y different was a plethora of things, most notably the 3D battle system (a long desired addition), Fairy type Pokemon, Mega evolutions, and a fresh new perspective for traveling along the game's routes, caverns and towns. Pokemon X and Y gave Pokemaniacs a whole new reason to fall in love with the franchise all over again.

Runner-Up: Animal Crossing: New Leaf


Animal Crossing: New Leaf was one of those games that you didn't need to play for hours on end. A simple five minutes here, a simple five minutes there... You could play for just minutes a day, or if you were as addicted as we were (and still are), then your overall playtime would be in the hundreds of hours. After the disappointing City Folk on the Wii, New Leaf changed the formula of the Animal Crossing franchise considerably. From being mayor and choosing where you wanted to build public works projects and what ordinances to set, to the unheard of amount of customization, Animal Crossing: New Leaf was the best yet in the series.

Winner: The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds


It says something about a game when as soon as the credits have rolled, you want to get right back into the game and start a new data to relive the experience all over again. Seldom has a Legend of Zelda game given us that feeling. A Link Between Worlds offered us more freedom than we've had in a Zelda game since the NES original. The wall merge mechanic is so ingrained into our minds that current Zelda games confuse us when we can't get past a hole through traveling along the wall like a drawing. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is the Zelda series at its very finest, easily giving the title our Best Nintendo 3DS Game award.

[Best Wii U Game]

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD


A Link Between Worlds wasn't the only Zelda game to be released this year. The Wii U saw a grand new remake of the GameCube classic The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. Giving players a breathtaking art style that will hold up many years from now, a retooled Triforce quest, Wii U GamePad functionality, among other things, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD is close to perfection, but it being a remake and all prevents us from giving it anything but a nomination this year.

LEGO City Undercover


Initial loading times booting up the game aside, LEGO City Undercover was an ambitious project for the Wii U. It gave everyone a open world city setting to explore, filled to the brim with collectibles to find, secrets to uncover, and missions to complete. We cannot help but use the world "dense" each time we describe LEGO City because there is literally something to come across on each city block. Few times were there buildings just there for no good reason. Nearly everything had a purpose. Throw in a cast of kooky and hilarious characters, a self-aware story, and 50 hours of gameplay to complete the game 100%, and you have the brilliance of the best LEGO game yet.

Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate


Also available on the Nintendo 3DS and available to have one's hunter transferred back and forth between systems, Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate is the definitive version of Monster Hunter 3 and the greatest game in the series, at least released in the West. The progression involved with the game transitioned players from hunting omnivores to savage beasts that can easily take a foolhardy hunter down in one blow. There was a grinding aspect to the game, taking down the same monster to carve their fallen corpse for materials, synthesizing new armor that wasn't just for practical use-- it was for a fashion statement, too. The Wii U version of Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate delighted players with online play, voice chat, and simpler camera controls than that of the 3DS version.

Need for Speed: Most Wanted U


Another definitive version for the Wii U, Need for Speed: Most Wanted U delivered intense speeds, an entertaining and rather large open world setting, and plenty of content to ease into. The Wii U version supported full Miiverse integration, off TV play, hidden Mario-related vehicles, and a special co-op mode, which allowed one player to drive with a Wii Remote or Pro Controller, and the other to assist the player with the Wii U GamePad to give the driver some help with his or her navigation.

Runner-Up: Pikmin 3


It was a long wait between Pikmin 2 and Pikmin 3, but the wait was most certainly worth it. Pikmin 3 gave players three controllable captains to play as, each being able to split up the work among themselves. While this wasn't necessary all of the time, expert players could challenge themselves to be as efficient as possible. The new Pikmin types in the form of Rock and Flying opened the way for new environmental puzzles to be solved, colossal creatures to be taken down, and fruit to be recovered. The only downside we can think of the game is that it was sorely missing online multiplayer.

Winner: Super Mario 3D World


Proving that gameplay conquers all, Super Mario 3D World might not have a compelling narrative that gets you hooked. After all, games should find their own voice instead of trying to be Hollywood lite. No, Super Mario 3D World has creative level design that constantly throws something new your way, secrets abound, challenge, and multiplayer for some fiendishly fun four player sessions. All of this will hook you into 3D World, and all of those reasons are why the game is our favorite Wii U title this year.

[Best PlayStation 3 Game]

Gran Turismo 6 


With more vehicles and tracks than ever before, Gran Turismo 6 might not have evolved the series, but it definitely did refine it to near perfection. Whether you're engaging in a simple three lap race, or taking on an endurance run, Gran Turismo 6 gave players a lot of racing fun. The visuals are some of the PlayStation 3's best, the amount of content will last the average player years to complete, and the realistic racing physics mean you can speed through Mount Panorama without a real world risk of death.

God of War: Ascension


The prequel to the God of War trilogy, God of War: Ascension focuses on Kratos' past and his vengeance against the Harpy horde. Featuring a marvelous mix of combo-heavy combat, puzzles and platforming, God of War: Ascension was a roller coaster ride that satisfied. The inclusion of online multiplayer not only made for additional replay value, but it didn't seem to have taken away from the single player campaign, something a lot of other games with added multiplayer have suffered from.

Puppeteer


One of the most original PlayStation 3 games to come out in a good while, Puppeteer is a 2 1/2D platformer oozing with whimsy. Between playing on a stage and the characters being part of an ensemble of wacky figures and the innovative use of scissors to assist protagonist Kutaro in platforming, Puppeteer may not have won the sales battle against other games, but it certainly did win our hearts. Well, that wording is a bit too flowery, but you know what we mean-- the game was charming and good!

Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time


Sanzaru Games worked on The Sly Collection, the PlayStation 2 Sly Cooper games given an HD remastering and placed on one PlayStation 3 disc. No doubt reusing some assets from that Cooper compendium, Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time was still an addicting game regardless. Being able to play as not only Sly and the gang, but also utilizing the powers of Sly's ancestors made for gameplay that was vast and varied. The open level areas that held each mission were fun to explore, and the missions themselves were a blast to play. Sanzaru Games did a great job continuing the tale of Sly Cooper, and we can only hope that they get a chance to continue-- especially after that cliffhanger!

Runner-Up: Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch


We have longed for the days of a game that was modern yet still had old school gameplay and sensibilities to it. If such a game ever existed, its name today is Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch. While the West had to wait approximately two years for the game to be localized, Ni no Kuni offers a breath of fresh air in an era where Japanese RPGs and their creators seemed to be losing their way. Giving off a childlike sense of wonder as you explore the gorgeous world of the game, Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is one of the best RPGs to be released this past generation.

Winner: The Last of Us


Many hold The Last of Us as one of the greatest games of the seventh generation. Encompassing the player in a hellish nightmare, giving them minimal tools for survival, unleashing unspeakable nightmares onto them, and presenting them with a whirlwind of emotional ups and down, The Last of Us seems more than just a game. It's a fine example of pushing gaming towards a more serious plateau. Whether that's a good thing or a bad thing is up to you, but what we can answer is that The Last of Us has one of the most enchanting tales ever told in the gaming medium. Moreover, it has the phenomenally tense gameplay to keep players attached to their DualShock 3's.

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Tomorrow night is it, gang! SuperPhillip Central will be announcing the System of the Year as well as the Game of the Year 2013. The Last of Us, Grand Theft Auto V, Super Mario 3D World, Tearaway, and The Legend of Zelda: The Link Between Worlds are the winners of their respective categories, so they will be taking each other on in the final category. What game will stand atop the pile of gaming goodness that was 2013? Only one way to find out, and that's to be here tomorrow night.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

The SuperPhillip Central Best of 2013 Awards - Night Three

By the end of tonight we'll be more than halfway through our five night games ceremony spectacular. Night Three of SuperPhillip Central's Best of 2013 Awards contains three awards to hand out. These awards will go to the Most Overlooked game of the year, the Publisher of the Year, and finally, the Multiplatform Game of the Year. As usual, wear your finest clothes for this special sixth annual event!

[Most Overlooked]

An unfortunate aspect of our industry is that for every great selling AAA blockbuster, there are five excellent games that sell like water to a drowning man. If you are frequent reader of SuperPhillip Central, then you know how we liked spotlighting such games in our Most Overlooked series of articles. This category awards the Most Overlooked of the most overlooked.

Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time (PS3, Vita)


Although it appeared on the NPD for the month it was released, Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time ended up on the lower end of the top ten in a month of low sales almost all around. Regardless, the newest entry in the Sly Cooper series saw the Cooper gang time traveling to various locales and time periods, such as the Old West, Medieval England, and even the Ice Age. Saving the Cooper Clan from disappearing from history was the goal here, and the stealth gameplay, fun platforming, and entertaining missions meant that all of those PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita owners who ignored Sly Cooper's latest missed out big time.

Puppeteer (PS3)


A game too niche for the PlayStation 3 audience, Puppeteer came from Sony's Japan Studio, and it was set up like you were controlling a character in a play. Controlling Kutaro, our headless hero, you went through levels coming across objects that could temporarily take the role of Kutaro's head, allowing him access to otherwise unreachable areas. With a special pair of magical scissors, Kutaro could defeat enemies and be involved in unique platforming challenges. While the gameplay didn't reach its full potential, the presentation and originality alone are worth looking into Puppeteer.

Tearaway (Vita)


It seems obvious that a game that is exclusive to a platform that is severely underperforming would make it on a list of overlooked games. That is exactly the case with Media Molecule's Tearaway. Using a ton of what the PlayStation Vita had to offer functionality-wise, Tearaway was a platforming adventure quite unlike anything else on the market. Between its lack of marketing, odd premise, and audience, it's without much surprise that Tearaway takes a place on our Most Overlooked nominee list.

Soul Sacrifice (Vita)


While PlayStation Vita owners do not have a Monster Hunter game to call their own, several imitations have appeared on the system. The first of such of these titles was Soul Sacrifice. Taking the risk of battle to a completely different level, Soul Sacrifice allowed players to sacrifice items as well as body parts in order to get a leg-up (no pun intended) on the battle at hand. The colossal creatures that were ready to be faced meant for some very intense encounters. Soul Sacrifice's premise was quite intriguing, but apparently it wasn't intriguing enough for a lot of Vita owners.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate (3DS, PSN, XBLA)


We were very weary of trying out the latest in the Castlevania series. After all, the old staff had nothing with the game-- it was all Mercury Steam, a Western developer. However, while Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate did not stand on the same shelf as classics like Super Castlevania IV, Symphony of the Night, or Dawn of Sorrow, the game did impress enough and had enough quality to make it recommended by us. The game was essentially doomed on the word "go" once it was announced for the Nintendo 3DS, a system that doesn't have the most M-rated games on it, or a fan base that buys them like they were going out of style. However, those who did get to try the game with an open mind found a Castlevania game that was a worthwhile play.

Runner-Up: Rayman Legends (Multi)


One of those fresh breaths in the gaming industry, Rayman Legends was a 2D platformer with not just a marvelous art style but it had the gameplay to back the presentation up. Originally to be released as a Wii U exclusive, the game was delayed seven months in order to be ported to the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC, and PlayStation Vita. Unfortunately, the new release date was right in the thick of the AAA gaming season, making Rayman Legends a game that many passed on in favor of other games that were releasing that season. It's a darn shame, too, as Rayman Legends is one of the most refreshing 2D platformers that has been released in retail in a long time.

Winner: The Wonderful 101 (Wii U)


Just like with the PlayStation Vita's Tearaway, it should be no surprise that a niche, new IP released on a struggling system would not receive much in the way of sales. It doesn't help that many critics were too impatient in learning the actual mechanics of The Wonderful 101 before writing the game off, turning countless potential consumers off simultaneously. The Wonderful 101 offered a deep and complex combat system, a story that kept raising the stakes to ridiculous levels, and a presentation that was out of this world. Although it was given its own Nintendo Direct, The Wonderful 101 did not do so hot in sales, but then again, what Wii U game has? Unfortunate, as The Wonderful 101 is one of the best action games released in a few years.

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[Publisher of the Year]

For the past five years we have had a Developer of the Year category. This year, at the very last moment, we decided to transform it into the Publisher of the Year category. We have five nominees for the first edition of this award, so let's get to it!

Microsoft

For the first 3/4 of the year, Microsoft was relatively quiet, only releasing Gears of War: Judgment as they made their preparations for the Xbox One. The Xbox One launch alone was fantastic, with such titles Microsoft published like Killer Instinct, Dead Rising 3, Forza Motorsport 5, Zoo Tycoon, and although its potential was not met, Ryse: Son of Rome. All these games add up to giving Microsoft a spot on our list of nominations for Publisher of the Year.

Ubisoft

Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, Splinter Cell: Blacklist, Call of Jaurez: Gunslinger, Rayman Jungle Run, Rayman Legends, Rocksmith 2014, Just Dance 2014-- These are just a wide sampling of the offerings of Ubisoft this past year. There's something for everyone here-- action-adventure games, shooters, platformers, party games, etc. It's for these reasons that Ubisoft takes a nice place in our list of nominees for Publisher of the Year.

Warner Bros. Interactive

Giving gamers and less serious players a host of content to enjoy, Warner Bros. Interactive did rather well for itself this year. With LEGO Marvel Super Heroes for Marvel fans, Scribblenauts Unmasked for DC Comics buffs, as well as Batman: Arkham Origins and Injustice: Gods Among Us, WB Interactive has had a good offering of quality games in 2013.

Runner-Up: Sony

Sony earns bonus points for taking a lot of risks by investing in new IP at the end of this past generation. Some were absolute successes like The Last of Us, while most had the quality but not the sales, such as Puppeteer and Tearaway. Regardless, Sony's output this year was very good, offering Gran Turismo 6, Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time, God of War: Ascension, Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus, Soul Sacrifice, two Killzone games (one for the PS4 and one for the Vita), among others. The reason why Sony is only runner-up is because a lot of the titles published by the company pale in comparison quality-wise to our winner.

Winner: Nintendo

While coming nowhere near the levels of risk that our runner-up ventured to, Nintendo without a doubt had both quality and quantity when it came to their releases. On the Nintendo 3DS alone you had Fire Emblem: Awakening, Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon, Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D, Animal Crossing: New Leaf, Mario & Luigi: Dream Team, Pokemon X and Y, and finally The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds. Then when you look at what the Wii U gave us, LEGO City Undercover, Pikmin 3, The Wonderful 101, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD, Wii Party U, and Super Mario 3D World, it's difficult to give this award to any other publisher than Nintendo.

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[Multiplatform Game of the Year]

We have reached the first really really important award of this ceremony. You see, the winner of this category will be in the running for SuperPhillip Central's Game of the Year 2013 award. While there were a lot of multiplatform games to choose this year, we have selected six of the very best to represent the year that was 2013.

Tomb Raider (PS3, 360, PC)


Tomb Raider was already in the running for our Most Unexpected Surprise award, and now it leads off the nominations for Multiplatform Game of the Year. Lara Croft in this reboot of the Tomb Raider franchise is a more vulnerable girl, not yet battle hardened. That certainly changes through the events of the game. From the enjoyable gun play to the massive amount of exploration within the game, Tomb Raider is indeed an excellent revision of the classic Tomb Raider franchise.

Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag (Multi)


Take to the open seas in Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag. The developers successfully took the issues players had with the previous game in the series, Assassin's Creed III, and corrected them. The incredible scale of the open world setting Black Flag offers is absolutely remarkable with tons of areas to venture in. Even the side missions this time around are fantastic and some might argue even better than what is offered in the story. Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag is a game that properly reinvigorated the quickly aging franchise, making it a shoe-in to be nominated for our Multiplatform Game of the Year category.

Rayman Legends (Multi)


The odd game out on this list of Multiplatform Game of the Year nominees, 2D platformers were a dime a dozen back in the NES and SNES days of gaming. Now, they've been unfairly positioned in a place where gamers expect them to be cheap for whatever reason, regardless of how much content they actually have. Rayman Legends gives players all of Rayman's move set at the beginning of the game, tricky platforming challenges, amazing music-driven stages, difficult Invasion levels, a stunning presentation, and innovation in the form of Murfy. 2D platforming fans have no doubt already enjoyed what Rayman Legends has to offer, so if you haven't, there's no better time than the present.

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance (PS3, 360)


Platinum Games knocks another one out of the park with Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. Slicing and dicing up foes with Raiden's blade is always exciting and immensely enjoyable. The fast pace of this high octane action game shows off just why Platinum Games is king when it comes to character-driven action games. It has a deep, rewarding combat system that seems so simple at first, a level of challenge that is just right, and crazy as all get out set pieces.

Runner-Up: BioShock Infinite (Multi)


With pitch perfect shooting mechanics, an awesome ability to jump on and off as well as ride sky rails, and one of the most captivating stories told in a video game, BioShock Infinite no doubt is worthy of the BioShock name. Ken Levine and his team deliver a compelling mystery that is accentuated by the excellent gameplay mechanics. BioShock Infinite is definitely a great contender for Multiplatform Game of the Year, but it's not THE winner of this category.

Winner: Grand Theft Auto V (PS3, 360)


Not only is our Multiplatform Game of the Year one of the most ambitious games of the past generation, but it unquestionably offers the player an insane amount of freedom. Los Santos and its surrounding areas is a huge open world sandbox setting to explore. The amount of detail in Grand Theft Auto V is astounding, the story is intriguing with characters you might not like but are interested in, and the customization options are incredible as well. Grand Theft Auto V takes the series to new heights and with that in mind it certainly deserves top honors for Multiplatform Game of the Year.

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We're not past the halfway point in our awards ceremony! Tomorrow night we will add more games to enter the running for Game of the Year 2013 here at SuperPhillip Central. We hope you are looking forward to it!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

The SuperPhillip Central Best of 2013 Awards - Night Two

Hello guys and gals. It's night number two of SuperPhillip Central's five night Best of 2013 Awards. We've already gone over the best soundtrack, the best presentation, and more, but if you missed out, just check out this link. For everyone who is caught up, tonight we "give out" four more awards to four more deserving nominees. Tonight we have Best New IP, Most Unexpected Surprise, Most Innovative, and Most Disappointing. We have a lot of games being represented here on our awards ceremony, so hunker down and get ready. (As a side note: Feel free to wear a dapper tuxedo or fancy dress, depending on your preference! You know, just to make the ceremony seem nicer than it actually is.)

[Best New IP]

Best New IP is our first award category this evening. It's not usual that we see a lot of new IP that come out towards the end of a console generation. That is the case here, however, and SuperPhillip Central nominates the very best that debuted this year. All of these nominees didn't just make a new IP just to make a new one-- they had unique gameplay to make it all the more worthwhile.

Beyond: Two Souls (PS3)


The line between film and gaming blurs with the game Beyond: Two Souls, a title from Quantic Dream, known for their game Heavy Rain, also a PS3 exclusive. Beyond: Two Souls offers an engaging story rifled with emotion. With the big name talents of Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe involved with the game, Beyond: Two Souls is a remarkable experience, even if it struggles to present much in the way of actual gaming.

Tearaway (Vita)


Even with a new generation of consoles coming out, Sony still produced multiple new IPs for their existing hardware. Tearaway is yet another one of these titles. Journey into the colorful world of Media Molecule's Tearaway, an adventure unlike anything seen before. Using the PlayStation Vita's strengths and functionality to create a sensational game, Tearaway is a new IP that is both entertaining and endearing. We shouldn't forget absolutely charming, either!

Puppeteer (PS3)


Another new Sony IP that failed to set the charts alight, Puppeteer stars a boy named Kutaro, who has been summoned into a foreign, fantastical world where his head has been stolen by the Moon Bear King. Along his adventure to regain his lost head, Kutaro comes across multiple items and objects that take the place of his head, as well as plenty of shearing to be done with a magical pair of stolen scissors. We agree with Matt of Digitally Downloaded that no amount of advertising would have made this game sell, and that speaks to the sad state of the industry.

Runner-Up: The Wonderful 101 (Wii U)


Platinum Games and Nintendo's first project together on the Wii U was The Wonderful 101, a tale of 100 superheroes (the player is the 01- in the 101 title) banding together to take on the GEATHJERK alien army. Though the combat takes some getting used to, once learned, players can assaults enemies with impressive combos, switching between guns, swords, and giant hulking fists. The gameplay and plot constantly escalate between one crazy scenario after another, each more insane than the last. It's with these reasons why The Wonderful 101 gets runner-up this year for Best New IP.

Winner: The Last of Us (PS3)


It's quite hard to ignore The Last of Us, as it is one of the most incredible games that came out this past year. Like Beyond: Two Souls, it brings out emotion from the player, but this title actually has a lot of excellent gameplay to back things up. The struggles of Joel and Ellie keep the narrative going strong, and the stealth gameplay mixed with occasional bits of pure action make for a game that is well rounded. The Last of Us is without question the best new IP of 2013, and arguably this generation.

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[Most Unexpected Surprise]

Now, with the Most Unexpected Surprise category, we're being positive here, so it's not like a stinky fart coming out of nowhere is the best unexpected surprise. No, instead the games nominated here came from virtually nowhere or has a quality that was unexpected and blew us away in the end. Oh, and forgive us for the stinky fart analogy.

Tomb Raider (Multi)


Now, we didn't suspect we would be hit over the head 100 times regarding how this new Lara Croft in this Tomb Raider reboot was a hardened survivor. Of course, being abused in multiple ways (e.g. being shipwrecked, being burned, being choked, being impaled, being shot at, etc.) hammered this point home easily. Regardless, we also didn't suspect that the reboot would be a good thing for the franchise. It actually was, and Tomb Raider's reboot offered a full island to explore, treasure to loot, and skills to master. Even the shoehorned in multiplayer satisfied us. Well done, Crystal Dynamics. Well done.

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance (PS3, 360)


Platinum Games has two titles up for the Most Unexpected Surprise award. We didn't really question that a Platinum Games character-driven action game would be bad. We just didn't know how well it would gel with Hideo Kojima's created world, nor did we know exactly how great Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, the final product, would actually be. The game is a fast-paced action title that makes you feel like a total bad ass as you play through it, carving up foes like Thanksgiving dinner.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate (3DS, PSN, XBLA)


Castlevania: Lords of Shadow was a reboot of the Castlevania series, much to the chagrin of many old school fans. However, it did find an audience and expanded this past year to the Nintendo 3DS with Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate. The game received an HD version in downloadable form on both PSN and XBLA this past fall. While the game isn't as amazing as Symphony of the Night and games of that similar structure, it is fun to explore the castle grounds, obtaining new moves, uncovering hidden items and treasure chests to improve the player's stats. We might be alone in enjoying Mirror of Fate, but after hearing so much negativity towards the game, we expected a horrible title. Thankfully, Mirror of Fate was quite the opposite.

Runner-Up: The Wonderful 101 (Wii U)


We knew coming into The Wonderful 101 that we would find a fun game. We just didn't expect how deep, rewarding, or far out wacky the game would be. The Wonderful 101 pits players under the control of a steadily increasing armada of superheroes. At 100 members strong, character abilities are augmented to insane limits, allowing players to create crazy combos. The amount of depth in the combat is amazing, and it's easily missed out on by those who simply judge this game after a single play session. It takes some learning to understand The Wonderful 101, and when this accomplished, you will probably have an understanding as to why many, including us, can't get enough of Platinum Games' latest.

Winner: LEGO City Undercover (Wii U)


LEGO games are generally not that well polished, but they do feature a lot of content for those who are willing to go all the way. The latest games in the series have been in a sandbox structure, though there was little to do in each setting. With the Wii U exclusive LEGO City Undercover, the developers at TT Games created a polished open world in LEGO City that is legitimately and amazingly fun to explore. The city is absolutely dense-- every city block has something to do on it, a collectible to find, a vehicle to impound, or a footrace to complete. The story and script are equally hilarious. All of this makes for what is easily the best LEGO game ever devised, and a game that completely floored us in its quality (and its initial long loading times).

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[Most Innovative]

Innovation. Part of the industry strives for it, the other not so much. It is through innovation, whether it be through hardware or software that prevents the industry from becoming stagnant. Sometimes innovation works, and sometimes it just feels thrown in for the heck of it. The games nominated in this category are ones that provide the player with innovation that is positive for the playing experience.

Game & Wario (Wii U)


Something that Nintendo fans have been tired of for a while is the mini-game collection. That didn't stop the big N from releasing Game & Wario over the summer. That said, Game & Wario really uses the GamePad for some truly innovative uses. One game has you looking at the GamePad screen for an overhead view of a leaping character while the TV screen offers a land view of the obstacle course. Another game has you moving the GamePad around to take photos of specific targets while the TV screen shows the entire level. Game & Wario might not be a killer app in the Wii U's ever-growing library, but to say it didn't try new things would be folly.

LEGO City Undercover (Wii U)


LEGO City Undercover is one of the select amount of titles on the Wii U that does not offer off TV play. The reason for this is that the game uses the Wii U GamePad's functionality for a number of things. For one, players can scan the city on the controller screen to identify criminals, find hidden collectibles, and other things of that nature. The controller serves as hero Chase McCain's communication between characters at the LEGO City Police Department. Of course, no open world game on Wii U would be without a map on the GamePad screen for easy access, granting players the ability to make waypoints without pausing the game.

Puppeteer (PS3)


Puppeteer has the player picking up objects for the protagonist's head to use their abilities at specific points in the game. While this gameplay aspect is nowhere near fully explored, what is the more amazing innovation in the game is Kutaro's use of a special pair of magical scissors. With these shears, he can cut into many objects, allowing him to move vertically and reach otherwise impossible to venture areas, and cut along the seams of fabric to travel across great distances. Puppeteer is a fresh breath of air in a generation where first-person shooters, racers, and sports games ruled.

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance (PS3, 360)


You might be wondering where the innovation in Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance comes from. It's quite simple and obvious at the same time. It only comes from the game-defining feature of the gameplay, the sword slashing action. Never before with analog controls has the player been able to so precisely slice through specific segments and parts of an enemy or object. We remember just screwing around, cutting anything and everything in our path just because we got so much enjoyment out of it.

Runner-Up: Rayman Legends (Wii U, Vita)


We exclude the non-Wii U and Vita versions of Rayman Legends because those versions lack touch screens. The Wii U and Vita's touch screens allow the player to become more involved with the game's Murfy levels, where either a human or AI player moves through a level while a player controlling Murfy interacts with various mechanisms to allow the player to advance. Love it or hate it (we love it), it's much appreciated that the team at Ubisoft Montpelier created such an innovative control scheme. It overall makes great use of both the Wii U GamePad and the Vita.

Winner: Tearaway (Vita)


Using every major functionality of the PlayStation Vita, Tearaway is yet another game that couldn't be done on any other PlayStation system. Tearaway has the player using the camera to take photos, making patterns for NPCs to wear, has the player interacting with the environment with the rear touch screen of the system, and has players cutting out patterns with slashes of the front screen. None of this feels like it was just thrown in for novelty's sake, and it all adds up to create an experience that is wholly original.

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[Most Disappointing]

Let's end this night on a downer, shall we? This category has its nominees that let us down in one way or another. Whether they weren't of the quality we were wishing for or simply didn't live up to their expectations, these nominees are the ones we have selected for the dubious honor of the Most Disappointing award for 2013.

Aliens: Colonial Marines (PS3, 360, PC)


A game mired with controversy and disappointment, Aliens: Colonial Marines is a mess of a game. The revelation that the game was outsourced and not made hardly at all by Gearbox Software piled onto the idea that Aliens: Colonial Marines was an obviously rushed out product that was entirely unfinished. Bad AI, a seemingly infinite amount of glitches, lack of balance in the gameplay, and poor graphics. The latter is disturbing because Gearbox showed a demo version of the game at multiple media events where the visuals were clearly much better than what the final product had. For shame.

Battlefield 4 (Multi)


Between its numerous launch bugs and gltiches, some even freezing systems and a good portion of online matches being unplayable, Battlefield 4's situation is anything but positive. For all the pretty set pieces and incredible graphics, the online foundation seems to be broken. It's gotten so bad that the developer DICE has halted work on future projects just to fix the myriad errors of the game. In addition to that, multiple law firms have put EA to task with class action lawsuits for basically lying to investors about the quality of the game. It's pretty apparent that Battlefield 4 was rushed out to compete with Call of Duty: Ghosts, but with doing so, it might have completely destroyed the reputation of the Battlefield brand.

Pandora's Tower (Wii)


The final of the three Operation Rainfall games to be released, Pandora's Tower is an excellent game. Well, that is the original Japanese and PAL versions. Unfortunately for us North Americans, our version of the game has a glitch near the end of the game that results in it freezing at the same spot every time, when one of the last towers of the game is selected. This means many gamers found out that after all their enjoyment with the game and progress, it was for naught. It wouldn't have been so bad if it was near the beginning or even the middle of Pandora's Tower, but to experience this freezing bug near the end, knowing all your work was for nothing, well, that doesn't sit well with us at SuperPhillip Central.

Project X Zone (3DS)


A game that many people, including us, didn't expect to ever be released here in the West due to all of its licenses between companies, Project X Zone released over the summer. The game is a strategy RPG with an abundance of characters from Namco Bandai, Capcom, and SEGA. This sounds pretty awesome, right? Well, that is until you actually play the game for about ten hours. Then battles become endless, the repetitive nature of each battle gets to you, and you begin dreading playing each mission. For a game that a lot of gamers wanted to see localized, it's truly a shame that Project X Zone's gameplay wasn't anywhere as exceptional as its unprecedented crossover premise.

Runner-Up: SimCity (PC)


Perhaps EA is really proud of being named Worst Company in America two years in a row and are going for the threepeat. With Battlefield 4 tarnishing the brand potentially and SimCity prior to that this year, EA has a lot of publishers beat. Though some critics lapped up the game, it wasn't until post-launch that consumers in wide numbers started complaining about SimCity's 2013 incarnation vocally and loudly. Network outages, the inability to play or save the game offline, ridiculously small city sizes, and issues with connecting to EA's servers meant lots of anger from consumers, and rightfully so. Heck, even Battlefield 4 in its worst state allowed people to play the game, but with SimCity's problems, for a lot of people the game was broken and absolutely unplayable. It is yet another embarrassing chapter in the story that is EA. Oh, well. You know, things break. Right, Peter Moore?

"Winner": Wii U Worldwide Sales 


There is no other contender as "winner" of Most Disappointing than this past year's Wii U sales. Nintendo successfully gave away their one year head start with the Wii U in a matter of days of the PS4 and Xbox One releasing. It's a darn shame, too, because the system actually has a lot of worthwhile games to play on it finally. It's simply Nintendo's own incompetence with regards to image, marketing, and preparedness that allows the Wii U to flounder like it has. Currently, the Wii U isn't even on pace to meet the lifetime-to-date sales of the GameCube. It's more in line with what the Dreamcast sold, and we know how that console ended.

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That takes care of Night Two here at the SuperPhillip Central Best of 2013 Awards. We have given out awards to seven games and one miscellaneous thing. Stay here for tomorrow night where we have three awards to hand out in the categories of Most Overlooked, Developer of the Year, and Multiplatform Game of the Year, the latter being the start of our picks for overall Game of the Year 2013. Please be excited!

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