Today's top ten has to do with the greatest handheld games I played that were released last year. While the Nintendo 3DS had a stellar year software-wise, let us not forget the fun experiences the PlayStation Vita offered. By no means is this list an exhaustive one, so please give me your recommended games that I should add to my backlog after you've scoped the games and explanations on my list!
10) Ragnarok Odyssey ACE (Vita)
Although also available on the PlayStation 3, I preferred the handheld Vita release due to its portability and Sleep Mode ability. Since there was no Monster Hunter on the Vita, many developers aimed to fill the hole left by Capcom's series by putting in similar style games of their own. Ragnarok Odyssey ACE, an upgraded version of the original Ragnarok Odyssey which was also released on the Vita, was such a game, drawing on Norse mythology for its enemy design. I spent far too many late nights completing quests for materials, money, and just for the fun of slicing and slashing monsters and creatures of all shapes and sizes. While it didn't quite fill the gap that Monster Hunter left, Ragnarok Odyssey ACE was a great time-waster all the same..
9) Freedom Wars (Vita)
While the western branches of Sony Computer Entertainment are fine with letting the PlayStation Vita dangle from a proverbial string, I'm very happy that SCEJ is still producing some software for the system. Freedom Wars from last year was one of these games. Players served as criminals (whether fair or not) with the goal of fighting huge monsters to lower their characters' sentences. The game was modeled somewhat after Monster Hunter in the big monster-bashing way, but there was so much more to Freedom Wars. Whether online or off, Freedom Wars was a phenomenal retail title for the PlayStation Vita, and one that had so much content that system owners can't help but continue playing to this day.
8) Yoshi's New Island (3DS)
Many found this next game on the list quite disappointing, and while the challenge level was low (save for the super-hard unlockable levels), the music utilized the same melody for nearly every stage save for this audio abortion, and the quality of the game did not enter the same league as the original Yoshi's Island on SNES (but then again, what does?), Yoshi's New Island was a solid platforming romp with some good ideas, solid level design, and interesting new mechanics. The benefit of not forcing players to 100% the levels in one go was a nice touch, making for far less frustration. I'm looking at you, Yoshi's Island DS!
7) Tomodachi Life (3DS)
Starting off with controversy in the west due to the disappointing lack of same-sex marriage in the game, Tomodachi Life went on to make mad bank for Nintendo. The game put players in the role of a voyeur overlooking the everyday activities of an apartment complex full of the player's own collection of Miis. Miis could interact with one another, have you play mini-games with them, and even get married to one another, eventually having children. While Tomodachi Life didn't have anywhere near as much of a long-lasting appeal as Animal Crossing: New Leaf, it definitely offered plenty of playtime for those into a wacky and weird gaming experience.
6) Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy (3DS)
The last of the prequel trilogy of the Professor Layton series saw the titular character of superior deductive skills and intellect, his ever-faithful apprentice Luke and his highly capable assistant Emmy on a journey around the world, solving the mystery of the ancient Azran people. Along the way, heartstrings were pulled with the very excellent story and dialogue, brain-bending puzzles were solved, and mini-games were played to further add to the longevity of this solid adventure. One couldn't help but have a tear in their eye as the final credits rolled. So long, Professor Layton. May we see you again real soon.
5) Kirby: Triple Deluxe (3DS)
Kirby received a Return to Dream Land-style adventure in portable form. However, unlike that Wii game, it was just Kirby to himself to save the day! The intricately designed level featured a massive amount of obstacles and enemies to watch out for, clever implementation of moving objects from the background into the foreground to capitalize well on the 3D effect of the Nintendo 3DS, and a load of secrets to keep players playing far after the final boss was felled. The collectible aspect of acquiring key chains displaying characters, sprites, and essentially the history of the Kirby franchise made doing so insanely addicting.
4) Super Smash Bros. for 3DS (3DS)
With such technological mastery that a huge game like Super Smash Bros. could be squeezed onto a Nintendo 3DS game card and run on the actual system (albeit with some casualties like no Ice Climbers and no ability for Miiverse while playing the game), Masahiro Sakurai and his highly capable team displayed amazing talent, as would be expected of the director and names under his developing guidance. The 3DS exclusive Smash Run remains my favorite mode of the two versions released. In addition to that, the amount of stages was fantastic and varied, and the novelty of playing Smash Bros. on a handheld device still hasn't become old yet, four months after the game's initial release in North America.
3) Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call (3DS)
I am calling it here and now. Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call is my favorite rhythm/music game of all time. This is with Elite Beat Agents, Samba de Amigo, Space Channel 5, and more that I've experienced in the past. Regardless, even compared to the original Theatrhythm Final Fantasy, this Curtain Call expansion featured a myriad more of music, over 200 songs from dozens of Final Fantasy numbered games and spin-offs. Leveling up a wide array of Final Fantasy characters, setting up parties, establishing ability lists, and more were all handled beautifully to make this rhythm game crossed with an RPG play and feel wonderfully. The constant unlocking of content through simply playing songs meant that I always felt like playing more just to see what I'd unlock next. Curtain Call is hopefully not curtains for the Theatrhythm series in the West after its unfortunately low sales on this side of the Pacific.
2) Fantasy Life (3DS)
Posted as the 550th review on SuperPhillip Central, Fantasy Life was a magical little game that sported a vast amount of charm, humorous dialogue, a multitude of quests, and a story mode that was best played in bursts rather than all at once. While the story of Fantasy Life clocked in at just over ten hours, the real game came from choosing one of twelve Lives, leveling up your skills via completing Life-centric objectives, and using those new skills to become even better at your current life. From paladins to woodcutters, miners to blacksmiths, Fantasy Life had a ton of content that one could easily go into the hundreds of hours just to master every Life and see everything this wondrous game had to offer.
1) Mario Golf: World Tour (3DS)
While Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call is my favorite rhythm/music game, Mario Golf: World Tour knocked both the Nintendo 64 version of Mario Golf and the PS2's Hot Shots Golf Fore! from their respective seats as kings of the arcade golf game. World Tour offered SO much for the player, and that was even without the DLC, which by the way was VERY much worth getting. (Four new characters and six 18-hole courses? Yes, please!) The amount of regular and Mushroom Kingdom-theme courses was amazing, the mechanics were tight, both Castle Club-- the single player mode where you play as your Mii-- and the Challenges-- where you completed different conditions to win-- were great additions, and the level of unlockables meant you'd be playing this game for quite a while! While the N64 Mario Golf and Hot Shots Golf Fore! are masterful golf games, they scored an albatross while World Tour sunk a hole-in-one. (I had to use a golf analogy!)
Which handheld games that released last year are your personal favorites? Feel free to offer suggestions for games I should try out that I may not have already in the comments section!