Friday, January 3, 2014

BLTN Reviews: Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate (3DS) Review

Our second review of 2014 is for a game that released back in March of last year for the Nintendo 3DS. Hence why our special review segment called "Better Late Than Never Reviews" is back. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate recently released on Xbox Live and PlayStation Network for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 owners respectively. If that HD version is supposedly better than what is found on the 3DS, then Lords of Shadow fans will find a lot to love about it! Here's our review of the stereoscopic 3D version of Mirror of Fate!

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall,
Does Mirror of Fate Have It All?


With Castlevania: Lords of Shadow last generation, it was apparent that the developers at MercurySteam wished to separate their vision of Castlevania with the reputation the 20+ year-old series created for itself. With the release of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate (short titles be damned!), MercurySteam seems to be trying to piece their vision and the gameplay of the original Lords of Shadow in 2D for a more classic feeling. Does Mirror of Fate shine brightly, or does it have a crack or two in it?

You know the name, but this
isn't the same Simon Belmont.
Mirror of Fate is split up between three chapters, each featuring a different character to play as-- Simon Belmont, Trevor Belmont, and Alucard. While each character has a few unique abilities that are already available to them at the beginning of their respective chapters, you will be efficient in the art of whip-snapping quickly. Using the X and Y buttons, one for overhead attacks for enemies in the air and one for regular attacks for grounded foes. You'll be using these buttons and various combinations to create combos, as well as because many of the enemies in Mirror of Fate are a bit of the damage sponge variety. They generally take a lickin' and keep on tickin'.

Whip it! Whip it good!
Of course, an enemy won't just stand there, crawl there, or lie there taking your punishment. No, an enemy will give you comeuppance in the form of its own attacks. Light attacks from enemies can always be guarded, and with a well timed block you can use it to your advantage to deal a counter blow. However, when a part of a foe shines, that means they are about to use an attack that can't be guarded. Instead, you need to evade using the same shoulder button to shield yourself and either pushing the Circle Pad to the left or to the right. While one can simply mash the attack buttons to get their way through some encounters, using a combination of attacks, well timed blocks, and great evasion skills really enhance the experience and make battles feel more engaging and worthwhile. MercurySteam has successfully brought the combo-heavy combat system of Lords of Shadow on home consoles and made a fully realized version in 2D form with Mirror of Fate.

What comes in threes gets roughed up in threes.
Bosses are in healthy supply in Mirror of Fate. From hulking executioners to revived demons, there is little subtlety in the designs and confrontations here. Each boss has its own attack pattern to learn. However, what separates Mirror of Fate from classic Castlevania games is that these encounters need not be mastered. That's because there are multiple checkpoints in battles. Each time a boss' health meter lowers to a certain point, the game saves your progress. Upon death (and a subsequent loading screen), you are revived with a good helping of health to continue the battle.

I prefer classic times when mace wasn't a
thing that annoyed women sprayed in your face.
That's an issue that makes the latest Castlevania a breeze to play. There is an overabundance of checkpoints within the game. There's no real sense of consequence for death. While this might seem great at first, it severely lowers the overall difficulty. Fall off a cliff? That's okay. You'll just respawn a few feet away after a relatively brief loading screen. That's the extent of Mirror of Fate's fury. It basically follows the modern game design approach of making the game more accessible to as many players as possible, yet it is not for the better in this case. It basically feels like a dumbed down version of Castlevania, even having tutorial messages pop up for the umpteenth time, as if the player could forget how to evade after doing it 600 times already. That said, that doesn't detract totally from the game. It's still a rather good time.

Mirror of Fate doesn't offer the same level of Metroid-style exploration as some of the more popular games in the series possess (i.e. the Eastern ones). There are multiple areas to embark in throughout Dracula's castle grounds, and there are abilities to earn that unlock new areas and secrets to reach. The difference is that there isn't as much in the way of backtracking and that Mirror of Fate's game world is much more fragmented, as there are three characters to play as throughout the game. The characters do share some common ground in Dracula's castle to explore, but most characters journey through uncharted territory.

Areas really are well designed in the artistic sense.
That isn't to say that Mirror of Fate's sense of exploration is much worse than post Symphony of the Night games-- it's just different. Learning new abilities like being able to swing from grapple points with a character's whip, double jumping, and dashing are enjoyable and open up the game world to satisfactory levels. This is important in acquiring optional content such as bestiary pages, scrolls from fallen past heroes, and treasures containing upgrades to health, magic, and ammunition for sub-weapons such as chucking holy crosses at baddies. Other exploration consists of careful precision jumping and climbing specially highlighted ledges.

I think the body is supposed to be detached if
you're trying to do that Hamlet/Yorick scene...
The camera in Mirror of Fate is rather dynamic. Occasionally moving slightly behind the shoulder of a Belmont or Alucard in battle or zooming out to present a sense of scale, such as when Trevor Belmont approaches the drawbridge of Dracula's castle. There were a few times where the camera would be focused on an enemy encounter when instead I simply wanted to retreat or simply pass by them. I would be on the extreme left or right side of the screen, not knowing what was ahead until the camera fixed itself.

A behind the shoulder view presents
a cool perspective for some encounters.
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate is definitely one of the most ambitious Nintendo 3DS games currently on the market. It features some breathtaking views, highly detailed characters and backgrounds, and a fully orchestrated soundtrack-- though the latter holds no candle to classic Castlevania tunes. Lovely cel-shaded cutscenes appear throughout the game, complete with proper voice acting to go along with them. It's really hard to say that MercurySteam didn't do a terrific job with the presentation of Mirror of Fate, so I'm not even going to try to say it!

At first glance it might seem that MercurySteam made a Castlevania game that seriously attempted to merge the 3D style of Lords of Shadow with classic 2D Castlevania games to one incredibly satisfying end product. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate isn't exactly that, but it's not horrible by any means. In fact, I would dare argue that it's a very capable 2D hack-and-slash action game with some well done platforming elements to it. Those wanting a rebirth of Symphony of the Night or Dawn of Sorrow should look elsewhere, but those who enjoyed what MercurySteam had to offer on consoles with the original Lords of Shadow and like 2D side-scrollers with great production values will find Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate a nice proposition.

[SPC Says: 7.5/10]

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Mario Party: Island Tour (3DS) Review

It's SuperPhillip Central's first review of 2014! However, we still can't get away from 2013 because we have a game from last year to review. Mario Party: Island Tour is the third handheld installment. Is it better than Mario Party DS? Well, it's at least better than Mario Party Advance! Read the full details in our review.

Not a party worth having alone.


After a decade of minimal changes to the basic formula of the franchise, many critics and fans of the series alike were growing restless towards Nintendo for not changing up the Mario Party series enough. Then came Mario Party 9, and it seemed that many thought that the then-new Wii iteration wasn't enough like the old games. This type of reaction isn't exclusive to Nintendo's games and franchises, but it certainly seems like it happens more often than it should. That said, ND Cube, a company founded by several old members of Hudson, is trying their luck again, this time on the Nintendo 3DS with Mario Party: Island Tour.

Mario Party: Island Tour contains seven new boards for players to enjoy. However, unfortunately, only six of them are available to solo players. The odd board out, Shy Guy's Shuffle City is only playable with two other human opponents. This makes the absence of any online play all the more frustrating considering the majority of the boards are much shorter than what previous Mario Party games have seen. Still, if you have friends or family in your community, you can play with them with all of you only needing one game card to play off of. This is in contrast to games like Kid Icarus: Uprising where all players need a copy of the game to participate in any kind of multiplayer.

The brevity of most boards is a blessing and a curse for Island Tour. The blessing is that games don't take overly long to play, and it makes it perfect for bite-size gaming sessions. Also, if you're trying to win a given board and find yourself getting on the receiving end of an unlucky sandwich, the game will be over much faster than usual. You need not suffer for long! The curse here is that with how short most boards are, you will be done with them rather quickly, with little to persuade you to play them again besides boredom.

Those 47 spaces go by much
faster than you'd think.
However, there are much worse things than having to replay these boards. Unlike pre-Mario Party 9 iterations of the series, where players went around a board and the person who collected the most stars won, ND Cube's takes on the series have shaken things up considerably. While the popular opinion of Mario Party 9 was that the new vehicle system was a failed experiment, Island Tour's "different rules for each board" philosophy works rather well.

On this board, the goal is to collect
the most Mini Stars by the end.
Take Perilous Palace Path, for instance. Most boards require you to reach the end before everyone else, and Perilous Palace Path is no exception. The thing that makes this board interesting is the use of items, gained by landing on specially marked spaces. These items can do different effects like adding to the number of spaces you move on your turn, cutting the amount of spaces your opponent moves by half, or totally switching the locations of all players. Then there's the super-short Banzai Bill's Mad Mountain, where you play a game of risk vs. reward against a Banzai Bill. On this board there are multiple small alcoves that serve as safety points. When a Banzai Bill side of the die is rolled, the monstrous Mario enemy launches, knocking all players in its way that haven't found safety in an alcove back several spaces.

Someone set us up the Banzai Bill.
The variety of each boards' objectives and how you play them make for some very nice diversity. There's even a board where the rules of Island Tour stand on their collective head, requiring the winner to be the one farthest away from the goal. These rules shake things up well, but I can see how many want to see the Mario Party formula return to its star-obtaining routes.

From dodging Pokeys in Pokey Corral...
Depending on the board, mini-games show up at various intervals. First place through third usually get a bonus dice block to work with in addition to the die they regularly roll. Every mini-game featured in Party Mode is a free-for-all. Gone are 1 vs. 3 affairs or tag team contests. You might think this is a bad thing, but the cutthroat level of competition makes things more interesting. It also doesn't hurt that this litter of mini-games is one of the best in series history.

...To practicing your driving skills...
Whether you're pounding sections of an illuminated cube for points, solving tile-sliding puzzles with a stylus, competing in 3D tank battles, dodging electrified Amps, climbing ladders while avoiding stones that fall from above, or topping a cake with decorations, Mario Party: Island Tour has really great mini-games under its belt. There are still a handful of luck-based games in the rotation, but they're too few to really be bothered by.

...Mario Party: Island Tour's collection
of mini-games is one of the series' best.
There's plenty to party about in Party Mode, but what about a mode that isn't focused on multiplayer play? Unfortunately, this is an area where Island Tour falls a bit flat. While it's appreciated that one need not dread playing against a trio of cheating computer players just to unlock some new content like past Mario Party games, what is here is very brief, Bowser's Tower. Bowser's Tower is a series of thirty floors that has you taking on computer players in various mini-games.

A green Toad joins you in your
ascent of Bowser's Tower.
Every fifth floor pits you against a boss character in one their custom designed boss mini-games. These can be as simple as memorizing and inputting a button combination in time to making conveyor belts line up with the stylus. These encounters are pretty creative and fun to play through a few times. That's pretty the story of Bowser's Tower. It's fun to play through a few times, but then it has served its purpose and you've experienced all there is to see. Given the mode takes but an hour to and hour-and-a-half to complete, there isn't much for solo gamers.

Make a conveyor path from Wario to the cannon
to bring King Bob-Omb the boom.
Mario Party: Island Tour isn't the most technologically amazing 3DS game there is, but it looks serviceable and runs rather nicely. The game is suitably colorful, has plenty of things for the eye to be amazed by, and character models translate well to the small screen. Yes, there are a lot of jaggies to be found, but all in all Island Tour looks just fine. After all, you didn't come to this party for the eye candy, did you? As for the sound, the typical Mario cast and crew's cheers, moans, groans, and one-liners are fully represented in Island Tour. The music is what you'd expect from the series. It isn't fantastic, but what there is is pretty memorable or at the very least decent (i.e. not grating on the ears).

A Tox Box triple threat
Essentially, Mario Party: Island Tour is a fantastic purchase, given you have friends with Nintendo 3DS's to play with. (Remember that only one of you needs a game card. Awesome.) Otherwise, you might grow tired of playing the same six relatively short boards and even the masterful mini-games after a while. Overall, ND Cube's second offering with the Mario Party franchise in Island Tour is a superior effort compared to Mario Party 9. It's just a shame that it's so weak on the single player front. Online play-- even just to play mini-games with friends and strangers-- would have went a long way to making this game worth more than it is now.

[SPC Says: 7.0/10]

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Central City Census - January 2014

Happy New Year everybody! We hope everyone is doing well and is pumped for 2014. SuperPhillip Central is gearing up for more reviews, more editorials, more fun lists, and more content than ever before!

Before that happens, however, let's see what you guys voted on for last month's Central City Census.


We're pretty serious about changing our review scale and how it works, so everyone's feedback was much appreciated. Regardless, the winning option this time around was to keep the scoring system the same. However, going to a 0.5 scale and a letter scale were very close behind. We'll be thinking very hard on this in the coming weeks, but if you have any thoughts on this, please leave us a comment or drop our editor-in-chief Phil an email.

Here's what the first month of the new year's census has to ask.

The Wii U is without a doubt struggling to find an audience. This month's question is rather simple-- do you think Nintendo can turn around the Wii U, or is it pretty much doomed at this point?

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.

===

[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.


 ===

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.

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