[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.
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!
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.
[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).
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 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.
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.
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!