Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Top Ten GOTYs of SuperPhillip Central's Past Ten Years

Today is a very special day for SuperPhillip Central. After a decade of posts and content, SuperPhillip Central celebrates its ten-year anniversary. We're going to celebrate in style with a special top ten for everyone to sink their collective teeth into!

At the end of every year, SuperPhillip Central hosts a five-night award show called "The SuperPhillip Central Best Of..." Awards. (After the "Of..." comes the current year.) For ten years now since 2008, I have selected my favorite game of the given year. There have now been ten of these, so it only makes sense to celebrate SuperPhillip Central's historic moment and special anniversary by counting down every Game of the Year as voted on by yours truly from LittleBigPlanet in 2008 all the way to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild in 2017. I'm going to be posting what I said about each game back when I originally awarded them with Game of the Year, and then I will say my thoughts about the games in question now. Some games give me more positive feelings. Others? Not so much.

Let's start this trip down memory lane with #10 on this special top ten list!

10) 2011 - The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Wii)


What I said then:

"The Wii may have went more with quality than quantity in 2011, but it possesses the exclusive that beats out the rest with The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. Following a touching and charming story of finding Link's lost friend Zelda, this entry to this beloved franchise showcases five years of Nintendo's efforts in motion control. What most of us thought the Wii would be at its launch has finally been realized with Skyward Sword. From the intuitive swordplay to the tightrope walking, the bomb rolling and throwing to the wall climbing, and the fluid swimming to the weapon aiming, Skyward Sword shows an unprecedented amount of love and polish in its controls and gameplay making it my choice for Game of the Year 2011."

What I say now:

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is a game I remain enthusiastic about, but it's one of the lesser 3D Zelda games around. The overabundance of helper character Fi's interruptions, the constant backtracking, and some tedious portions of the game blemish an otherwise spectacular entry in The Legend of Zelda franchise. While a fair number of critics aim for the motion controls as a point of contention for them, I continue to find them to work pretty much as intended. By no means as badly as that one E3 stage presentation with poor Shigeru Miyamoto and the cellular interference, but by no means perfectly either. The presentation remains one of my favorites in the franchise with a gorgeous watercolor approach to the visuals, as well as a stirring orchestral soundtrack that features some of my favorite themes, both classic and brand-new, in the franchise altogether. All in all, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword retains its status as a great game in my book. Perhaps not Game of the Year material, but at the time of the SuperPhillip Central Best of 2011 Awards, the capabilities in combat and puzzle solving provided by the motion controls blew my mind. In many ways, they still do.

9) 2012 - Xenoblade Chronicles (Wii)


What I said then:

"In a genre that is hard for me to stick with most games, Xenoblade Chronicles hooked me in for the long haul, throughout its 100+ hours of gameplay. With most RPGs, I find myself losing interest a good way through because the game can't keep my engaged. With Xenoblade Chronicles, that wasn't a problem. There was always one hard enemy I wanted to take down, one path through an expansive dungeon or area that I wanted to explore, or one quest that I wanted to complete. Everything about Xenoblade Chronicles is near perfection: the awesome soundtrack (which did win runner-up for Best Original Soundtrack this year, after all), the well done voice acting, the jaw-dropping locales that are rich and ripe for venturing through, and the appealing combat system that demands your attention and great teamwork. Xenoblade Chronicles is without any question my favorite game of 2012. It was a fond farewell to the under-appreciated Wii."

What I say now:

Though the game has since appeared on the New Nintendo 3DS, the original Xenoblade Chronicles on the Wii remains the recommended way to play through this stellar RPG. Journeying across the two gigantic creatures locked in combat, exploring ancient ruins, verdant, wide open fields, and coming to a curious treasure chest only to "nope" the hell out of there as soon as a enormous spider climbs over the edge into plain view, make for insanely satisfying adventures. While exploring the world of Xenoblade Chronicles is indeed quite the pleasant experience--and with the added bonus of fast travel, it's even better--the padding in the form of fetch quests as the main form of side content quickly grates on me. That said, even without the side content, Xenoblade Chronicles is a feature-rich, content-drenched RPG that I'm positively pleased made its way to North America after a lot of pushing from fans.

8) 2009 - New Super Mario Bros. Wii (Wii)


What I said then:

"...with over seventy-five levels, nine worlds (one hidden), multiple cool power-ups like the awesome propeller cap that lets your hover and float in the air for a limited time, catchy music, and a bounty of hilarious multi-player experiences, there's no doubt in my mind that New Super Mario Bros. Wii is the game of the year."

What I say now:

Though New Super Mario Bros. U might look better and be a better iteration, it was New Super Mario Bros. Wii that introduced many of the concepts and mechanics to the Super Mario Bros. series that NSMBU took. I'm not just referring to the multiplayer--which is still an absolute riot with friends and loved ones--but also various level elements, such as giant bubbles that float in the air that can be swam through, poisonous ponds with spinning logs on them, turning platforms, and much more. New Super Mario Bros. Wii felt much more of an original game than NSMBU ever did, and that's one of the main reasons I prefer it so much. Back in 2009, the New Super Mario Bros. series was still novel. Wii was but the second game in the series and the first on a home console. The game remains a master class in introducing level concepts and reiterating on them throughout the level, making them more challenging as the level progresses. The design is pitch perfect to this day, and it's why New Super Mario Bros. Wii continues to stay near the top as my favorite 2D Mario, weak presentation aside.

7) 2008 - LittleBigPlanet (PS3)


What I said then:

"With 40 cleverly concocted levels already in the game from Media Molecule to explore and collect costumes, stickers, and level pieces in, one of the deepest level creators ever seen on a console, and a multitude of users designing mind-bogglingly awesome levels both based off games and totally unique, LittleBigPlanet is my personal Game of the Year."

What I say now:

It's a darn shame that Sony squandered the LittleBigPlanet series so much with so many sequels, spin-offs, and lesser quality titles. Every PlayStation platform since the PS3, and even mobile devices, saw a game in the LittleBigPlanet series. Still, that doesn't negate the high quality of the first two LittleBigPlanet games, particularly the immensely innovative and original LittleBigPlanet as it launched on the PlayStation 3. The robust level and object creator continues to amaze with all of its options, and while these have only since been reiterated and improved upon in sequels, the foundation provided by the original LBP paved the way for the success of the series. Back in 2008, LittleBigPlanet was such a breath of fresh air in a gaming world dominated by bald, muscular protagonists and grey and brown shooters. While LittleBigPlanet 2 is my personal favorite in the franchise, the first LBP still possesses a simplicity in its design that approachable for all and a mighty creative game on its own.

6) 2016 - Ratchet & Clank (PS4)


What I said then:

"A franchise that was getting a little long in the tooth due to multiple near-yearly releases, Ratchet & Clank got the reboot button blasted down hard, just in time, and the end result is my favorite game from 2016. This hybrid of tight platforming and run and gun shooting with engaging and often exotic weaponry offered intense gameplay with a dash of slower paced sections as a nice palette cleanser from time to time. Although the number of planets was less than past games in the series, each one was stocked to the brim with personality, character, beauty, content, and secrets. The game also retained the series' trademark humor and off-the-wall characters. All of these things added up to me having a difficult time putting the game down, especially when playing through the game multiple time was so rewarding, especially upgrading weapons and adding to my bolt count. If anything, Ratchet & Clank proves that you can teach an old lombax new tricks, and it makes me eager to see where developer Insomniac Games takes the series next, because this first taste of Ratchet and his robot buddy Clank on the PS4 has left me seriously aching for more."

What I say now:

Without question, Ratchet & Clank is my favorite PlayStation franchise, so when I heard that the series would be returning to its roots, away from the interesting but less than spectacular experiments performed on the franchise, such as the four player co-op of All 4 One and the tower defense gameplay of Full Frontal Assault, I was quite excited. My excitement wasn't unfounded, thankfully, as the return of Ratchet & Clank to their glory years with the re-imagining of the very first entry in the franchise from the PS2 generation was astounding. The visuals were top-notch and sublime, the action was more intense and frenetic than ever before, and the worlds and characters were never more packed with personality. As I stated back in 2016, the PS4 reboot might contain less planets and overall levels than the original PS2 classic, but in this case it's a tale of quality over quantity. Ratchet & Clank only falters from the occasional overindulgence of Trespasser puzzles, but even then, that's a small blight against an otherwise shining example of a terrific action-platformer.

5) 2014 - Super Smash Bros. for Wii U (Wii U)


What I said then:

"After the relative disappointment that fans experienced with Super Smash Bros' showing on the Wii with Brawl, many felt that they were owed a better game from the ever-hardworking Masahiro Sakurai and his team. Well, while I wasn't one of these people, I definitely am of the opinion that Sakurai and friends achieved practical perfection with Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, a game which not only plays well for both casual and competitive players (and everyone in between), but it is an absolute love letter to any fan of Nintendo history. Super Smash Bros. for Wii U is jam-packed with content-- so much so that even after nearly a hundred hours of playing the game I have yet to see all that there is to see. Most importantly, though, this new console version of Smash Bros. is just an amazing pleasure to play. It feels responsive, it plays great, and it looks extraordinary, making it my favorite game of 2014."

What I say now:

The lack of a traditional adventure mode, whether like Melee's or like Brawl's Subspace Emissary, may have lowered my overall opinion on Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, but otherwise, the game is near perfect, from its exhaustive roster, the immense amount of entertaining stages, and the fantastic fighting mechanics that are accessible for all. The Wii U version of Super Smash Bros. is currently my favorite in the series, and with a new Nintendo Switch sequel on the way, I've been itching to return to the arena and smash some bros out of them to up my K.O. count. Even though seemingly every Wii U game under the sun seems to be making its way to the Nintendo Switch, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U is still as good of a reason as any to keep my Wii U plugged in, charged, and ready to rumble!

4) 2015 - Super Mario Maker (Wii U)


What I said then:

"Probably the game I spent the most time with in 2015 was also the one that I enjoyed playing the most. It's Super Mario Maker, and I can't help but keep coming back to this delightful game. It's more than a game, though. It's a level creator to make Mario levels in. While that concept is by no means new, Nintendo somehow managed to make the arduous process of creating games and make it fun, accessible, and easy for anyone to do. Whether you're wanting to create articulated masterpieces of levels or just want to mess about with the level creator, fun is a few seconds away as soon as you pop in that Super Mario Maker disc into your Wii U. Even after several months of playing the game, I still see myself coming back to Super Mario Maker, playing others' levels, getting ideas for my own works, and creating some courses of my own. These reasons and more are why Super Mario Maker is SuperPhillip Central's Game of the Year 2015."

What I say now:

Many Nintendo fans out there yearn for a port of the Wii U's Super Mario Maker to the Nintendo Switch. For me, I'd rather have a whole new sequel with improved level creation tools and a revamped online system to more easily discover levels. The latter was especially a problem with Super Mario Maker on the Wii U. Still, I found myself feverishly creating levels, enjoying myself in the process, and trying to create designs that would make the level designers of Super Mario World envious. While I obviously didn't come close to this, I still enjoyed myself, and I find myself returning to Super Mario Maker every now and then to scope out new levels and design new creations as well. Nintendo has a brilliant base with Super Mario Maker--it just needs to be better improved and iterated on with a sequel. Perhaps for the Nintendo Switch? Hint, hint!

3) 2013 - The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (3DS)


What I said then:

"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..."

What I say now:

Sure, The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds won't have players pulling out their hair in rage at the difficulty of the game, as there isn't much here to speak of. Dungeons are as simple as having one clear item required to solve all of their puzzles, including the boss inside, but the freedom of choice presented by A Link Between Worlds in which order you decide to take on the latter half of the game paved the way for the multitude of choices and freedom provided by the next game on this list--a certain Nintendo Switch launch title. A Link Between Worlds' wall merging mechanic brought a fresh take to a familiar world, and the game playing upon my Link to the Past nostalgia certainly didn't hurt either. Every component of A Link Between Worlds is meticulously crafted, and it makes for a Zelda game that's close to being the king of the mountain when it comes to the portable entries of the Legend of Zelda series.

2) 2017 - The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (NSW, Wii U)


What I said then:

"With The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Nintendo gave players a sandbox world to explore and literally play around in due to the masterful physics system provided. It seemed every hour from launch that new ways to interact with the environment and take out enemies were being shared by players. This constant state of amazement that Breath of the Wild brought to the gaming world was truly extraordinary. There are still new things being learned and shared to this day, almost a year from the game's initial launch.

The developers basically outlined the usual gameplay and elements of the Zelda franchise on a chalkboard, took that board, and erased everything on it, eschewing old conventions to make a wholly original game that still retained that feeling, spirit, and magic of the Zelda franchise. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild bestowed on to players the most freedom seen in any series game in the past. After the initial tutorial area was completed, you were allowed to go anywhere you wanted. See that mountain? You can climb it. See that river? You can swim it. If you were prepared, you could make Breath of the Wild as hard, balanced, or as easy as you wanted in your run. Take to the fiery mountains where the Goron tribe call their home to get more challenge at the start of the game, or take it easy and head to Zora Domain after your departure from Kakariko Village.

The world was your oyster, the sandbox was yours to explore, and the various lands, areas, people, and puzzles making up the land of Hyrule all felt unique from one another. There is something to be said about a game that has flaws that don't tarnish the overall experience for me. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is no perfect game, but what it is - is a gameplay experience, memorable journey, exciting adventure, and lovely game world that has now rivaled some of my favorite games ever made."

What I say now:

While A Link Between Worlds was like getting the freedom to explore a lake, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild would be more akin to obtaining the freedom to explore the entire damn ocean! The level of openness in not just where you can go but also what you can do and how you can go about doing it in Breath of the Wild is extraordinary. Yes, you can climb whatever you see before you. Yes, you can go to that location that touches the horizon. Yes, you can roll that boulder down a hill and take out an explosive barrel to destroy all enemies nearby. The possibilities and tools given to players in the latest Legend of Zelda is just incredible. My only real beefs with the game is how easily some weapons break, and also how little room you have in your inventory for the most part to act like I normally do in these types of games and hoard goodies. The latter is merely done for gameplay reasons anyway. Despite my small issues with the game, in no uncertain terms here, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild as a game and as an experience is simply put, breathtaking.

1) 2010 - Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii)


What I said then:

"With more diversity than any other game released this year, Super Mario Galaxy 2 is the ultimate video game. It's what video games are foremost all about. Not story, not heavy-handed cinematics, or intense violence, but FUN! And Super Mario Galaxy 2 delivers fun in spades. Nintendo EAD once again shows while they are the kings of video game design with this incredibly enjoyable, colorful 3D platformer. There is no better game this year, and there was some tough competition."

What I say now:

Back then, my heavy-handed response to story-heavy, cinematic-loaded, violent games was due to the massive amount of them taking over the gaming scene, making plenty of gamers and critics alike hold them as a bastion of superiority over other types of games. Now, I just say that Super Mario Galaxy 2 is one of my favorite games of all time. Being a huge fan of well put-together platformers certainly helps, but all of the gameplay elements, beyond bonkers and creative level designs, satisfying visuals, stunning music, and linear gameplay that has more focused design than what is seen in Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, and even the recently released Super Mario Odyssey (though that, too, is also one of my favorite games of all time, earning runner-up last year to Breath of the Wild). This means most levels are more like obstacle courses than playgrounds to explore. Both platforming design philosophies definitely have their time and place, though, so don't get me wrong.

Each galaxy in Super Mario Galaxy 2 is like opening up a Christmas present, not knowing what you'd find inside. Except unlike Christmas, none of the presents are stinkers like plaid socks or a Dragon Ball Z Hawaiian shirt (sorry, not sorry to those with bad taste). Instead, each new galaxy presents players with a hodgepodge of fascinating, fantastic, fun-filled ideas and concepts that when I originally played the game, I remember just wanting to keep playing to see what awaited next. My opinion really hasn't changed since 2010: Super Mario Galaxy 2 is the king of platformers, one of the best games ever crafted, and it shows why Mario is considered the king of gaming.

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