Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Top 12 Handheld Games of 2012

2012 was a terrific year for handheld gaming, despite all of the gloom and doom from certain folks saying that the dedicated handheld system is approaching death's door. 2012 was the launch of new handheld hardware in the West with the PlayStation Vita, and it was the start of the Nintendo 3DS system's second year of stellar software. This list of the top twelve handheld games of last year focuses solely on dedicated gaming platforms. A list of great games on mobile devices in addition to the titles listed would keep us here our night. Without further ado, these were the grandest of the grand in dedicated handheld gaming for 2012.

Kid Icarus: Uprising (3DS)

We kick off our look at the best handheld games of 2012 with the game that won runner-up for Game of the Year 2012 during the SuperPhillip Central Best of 2012 Awards, Kid Icarus: Uprising. Once you get over the initial hurdle of learning the controls, the game is a joyously brilliant, action-filled romp that is one part on-rails flyer a la Star Fox 64 and one part third-person action game. The self aware script, fantastic soundtrack, and immense amount of unlockables make Uprising one of the premier software titles in the Nintendo 3DS lineup.

New Super Mario Bros. 2 (3DS)

Two New Super Mario Bros. titles in the span of a handful of months might have seemed like Nintendo was pushing its luck. However, New Super Mario Bros. 2 was a welcomed addition to the portly plumber's 2D resume. The main selling point for the game was the gross gathering of coins. A running tally totaled all collected coins each player amassed, all a part of the worldwide total. Even if compiling heaps of coins isn't your bag, you could still enjoy New Super Mario Bros. 2 with its absolutely amazing and creative level design. And just think-- this game was made by total newbies to designing Mario games. I think the future of the franchise is in good hands once the veterans retire.

Resident Evil: Revelations (3DS)

Although Capcom announced today that they were bringing an HD-ified version of Resident Evil: Revelations to home consoles (including Wii U, PS3, and 360) in May, the original 3DS iteration of the game is still worth playing. Somehow Revelations turned out to be a better game than Resident Evil 6. The game had a superb mix of survival horror and action, offering intense scares in one chapter and pulse-pounding adrenaline in another. Raid Mode was a loot lover's dream come true with missions than earned players new weapons depending on how well they (and their partner) completed a given level. While the HD versions of Resident Evil: Revelation will be fifty in the future, you can get the 3DS version for less than twenty dollars now.

Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance (3DS)

The lead up to Kingdom Hearts III was the summer release Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance. Players assume the roles of Sora and Riku as they explore all-new Disney worlds inspired by movies like The Hunchback of Notre Dame and The Three Musketeers. The latest addition to combat in Kingdom Hearts 3D was Flow-motion, which made chaining attacks and dealing huge damage a breeze. Plus, it was just so darned fun zipping along from wall to wall and around poles to attack enemies. The story might not have made much in the way of sense, but the gameplay more than backed up the title as a whole.

Theatrhythm Final Fantasy (3DS)

Also available on iOS, but in a much more incomplete form, Theatrhythm Final Fantasy brought with it oodles of nostalgia with its characters, music, and videos, compelling touch-based rhythmic gameplay, and loads of unlockable content. By tapping, holding, and sliding the stylus on the touch screen in time with the music, you could earn a high score. Theatrhythm incorporated RPG aspects as well, such as leveling up characters and equipping them with helpful items and skills for when songs got too rough for a player. Theatrhythm Final Fantasy is a sublime offering, and it may just be my favorite rhythm game ever.

Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask (3DS)

If you are a fan of building your brain and flexing your mental muscle, then you no doubt know of the Professor Layton franchise. The fifth installment (and the first for the Nintendo 3DS), Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask, takes the professor, his apprentice Luke, and assistant Emmy to Monte D'or where a series of mysterious events caused by a man calling himself the Masked Gentleman has taken place. Through solving over 150 brain busters and conversing with the townsfolk, players move through the story to inch closer and closer to solving the grand mystery behind the events. Even though the franchise is on its fifth game, The Miracle Mask still feels fresh.

Crashmo (3DSWare)

Building off the success of Pushmo, Intelligent Systems, the makers of Fire Emblem and Advance Wars, created Crashmo, a puzzle game that demanded much more thought than its predecessor-- and that game was no slouch either! By shifting blocks around with some falling to the ground or on top of others, Mallo the protagonist could create for himself a staircase to the top of the amalgamation of blocks to reach the goal. Compared to Pushmo, Crashmo was a more difficult beast that even in its earliest stages can make one's brain sweat profusely.

Uncharted: Golden Abyss (PSV)

The most talked about launch title for the PlayStation Vita's launch last year was Uncharted: Golden Abyss. The game was set as a prequel to the PlayStation 3 trilogy, and used the various features of the Vita system well. Some of it might have been perceived as mere gimmickry, but I applaud the effort to try something new nonetheless. By far the most impressive idea about Golden Abyss was that a console-like title with PS3-like graphics could appear on a platform that you could hold in your hands. That just floored me, and to this day, still does.

Persona 4 Golden (PSV)

An enhanced and greatly expanded version of the PlayStation 2's Persona 4, the PlayStation Vita's Persona 4 Golden was a game that added a new character, more Personas, more dialogue that was spoken aloud, anime cutscenes, and different outfits for characters. There was even a wireless feature that gave the ability to have a player request another's help for battle. As it is known in Japan as Persona 4: The Golden, the game gave the Vita a much needed shot in the arm and helped boost sales for several weeks. There is a good reason for that as the original Persona 4 was a fantastic experience, and Persona 4 Golden makes that game even better.

LittleBigPlanet PS Vita (PSV)

My favorite new franchise that came out of the past generation received a new PlayStation Vita-exclusive entry with the appropriately titled LittleBigPlanet PS Vita. This version contained the familiar and tried and true gameplay puzzle platforming mechanics of the home console versions, but also brought with it new mechanics utilizing the PlayStation Vita's front touch screen and back touch panel, as well as new gadgets in addition to the ones from previous games. The LittleBigPlanet series's backbone is based off of user-generated content, and the community in the Vita game does not fail to impress. If you're looking for an offbeat and engaging platformer for your Vita, you cannot go wrong with LittleBigPlanet PS Vita.

Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational (PSV)

It might be cold, perhaps even snowy, in some parts of the world (like here in the U.S.), making going outside and playing a round of golf something close to an impossibility. Why not go with a satisfying alternative of playing the sport virtually with Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational, the latest in the long-running Hot Shots Golf series? Containing six all-new courses of increasing difficulty, a cast of bright and cheery characters that can grow in abilities, and online tournaments to test your skill against the world, World Invitational was a Vita launch title that anyone could pick up and play. You might not have been any good, but you could still pick up and play regardless.

Gravity Rush (PSV)

An overlooked in the mainstream game, Gravity Rush was centered on Kat who could conjure up the powers of gravity to move across the in-game world. This was done by floating in the air, aiming at a location, and then pressing the R button to move Kat towards and to land on the object, be it a wall or whatnot. RPG elements were incorporated into Gravity Rush, such as optional side quests and bosses, as well as the concept of leveling up. Everything about Gravity Rush oozed with ingenuity, from its cel-shaded art style to its gravity-based gameplay.


Did this list leave out one of your favorite handheld games of last year? Don't be shy in posting your faves in the comment section.

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