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.
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.
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.
[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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
[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.
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!