Saturday, December 28, 2013

The SuperPhillip Central Best of 2013 Awards - Night Two

Hello guys and gals. It's night number two of SuperPhillip Central's five night Best of 2013 Awards. We've already gone over the best soundtrack, the best presentation, and more, but if you missed out, just check out this link. For everyone who is caught up, tonight we "give out" four more awards to four more deserving nominees. Tonight we have Best New IP, Most Unexpected Surprise, Most Innovative, and Most Disappointing. We have a lot of games being represented here on our awards ceremony, so hunker down and get ready. (As a side note: Feel free to wear a dapper tuxedo or fancy dress, depending on your preference! You know, just to make the ceremony seem nicer than it actually is.)

[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.

Tearaway (Vita)

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!

Puppeteer (PS3)

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).


[Most Innovative]

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 (PS3)

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.


[Most Disappointing]

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!

Friday, December 27, 2013

The SuperPhillip Central Best of 2013 Awards - Opening Night

Welcome everyone, to SuperPhillip Central's sixth annual Best of Awards, this time looking back at the year that was 2013. 2013 was a year that saw an abundance of incredible software in both retail and digital formats. The staff of SuperPhillip Central have put their heads together (boy, did that hurt!), and have seventeen awards to hand out this year. Tonight, being the first night of our five night journey through the best of 2013, we have four award categories. Tonight's just the beginning, and we have plenty of video games to give their due to! Just understand that our tastes our very eclectic in comparison to a lot of outlets, and also that we will not be covering Xbox One or PlayStation 4 exclusives.

Our formula is quite different this year. Compare it to last year for some perspective. We will be listing the games that were nominated first, and then we'll post the runner-up, followed by the winner of the category. It's a similar structure to what our friends at Digitally Downloaded use. With all the explaining out of the way, let's get to our first award...

[Best Original Soundtrack]

A lot of outlets this year have combined games with original music to those with licensed soundtracks. SuperPhillip Central will not be taking this route, as we don't believe you can properly compare the two fairly. We'll just be handing out an award to the game of 2013 with the best original soundtrack.

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance (PS3, 360)

Like electronica? Like fast-paced music? Like heavy metal? Like vocal tracks? Like all these questions? Probably not. We're sorry. Regardless, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance's soundtrack is atypical of the Metal Gear series, offering fast tempo music to accompany the sword-slashin' beatdowns that protagonist Raiden provides.

Rayman Legends (Multi)

Christophe Héral and Billy Martin returned to compose Rayman's latest platforming adventure. It's unfortunate that Rayman Legends sold so poorly, as that meant that millions of gamers were robbed of having the chance of hearing this sometimes ambient, sometimes melodic soundtrack.

Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch (PS3)

Journeying through the world of Ni no Kuni is like journeying through a fairy tale land. This fairy tale feeling is helped by the majestic sounds of the sensational score that accompanies the adventure. Joe Hisaishi, known for his work on Studio Ghibli's films, and Rei Kondoh composed a glorious soundtrack to one of the more reinvigorating RPGs to come out in a long time. It's important to note that even though Ni no Kuni originally released on the DS, that version never came out in the West, making it eligible for this year's category.

Sonic: Lost World (Wii U, 3DS)

Regardless of your opinion of modern Sonic the Hedgehog games, we think we can all agree that the series' music is always exceptional. Sonic: Lost World is no different. Focusing less on rock and more on classic-style compositions, Tomoya Ohtani created the majority of the Sonic: Lost World soundtrack. The end result is something that goes right alongside classic Genesis Sonic soundtracks. It's very familiar yet very new at the same time.

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

Taking Koji Kondo's famous and heralded compositions from The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and giving them a modern feeling is no easy task. However, Ryo Nagamatsu was most definitely up to it. Each theme was given a massive orchestral makeover, and the all-new tracks complemented the familiar boundaries of Hyrule rather well.

Runner-Up: Fire Emblem: Awakening (3DS)

We're honestly floored by the music of Fire Emblem: Awakening. We never thought back in the days that we were playing our old Game Boy systems that we'd actually get goosebumps from a handheld game's music. We actually did with the orchestral and choir sounds of Fire Emblem: Awakening. It's not just an amazing Nintendo 3DS soundtrack, it's an amazing soundtrack in general, making it runner-up this year for the Best Original Soundtrack award.

Winner: Super Mario 3D World (Wii U)

Coming off the symphonic leanings of the Super Mario Galaxy duo of games, Mahito Yokota and his team of composers went with a more of a big band flavor to the music of Super Mario 3D World. The end result is astounding, insanely catchy, and livens up the game exponentially. We're suckers for brass and infectious tunes, and Super Mario 3D World delivers all of that in spades, even more than it delivers cat power-ups!

(Unofficial titles as the official CD has yet to be released)


[Best Multiplayer]

Whether you wanna go old school local or play online with your newfangled dial-up or whatever, multiplayer is a part of gaming that brings us together... or in the case of games like Mario Party, heavily divided. Our selections for the best that multiplayer has to offer in 2013 might surprise you, but again, we have eclectic tastes, you know!

Call of Duty: Ghosts (Multi)

It's never a true Best Multiplayer category unless there's a Call of Duty game present. That says a lot of the strength of the series' multiplayer. There's a reason so many millions of gamers invest in systems just to play this franchise, and it's seldom because of the campaign.

Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate (Wii U)

Offering online play on a home console, as well as voice chat, this definitive version of Monster Hunter 3 isn't for everyone, but those who take the time to learn the intricacies of the gameplay will find a deeply rewarding experience. This is true, too, for the multiplayer. Hunting with three other companions against a mighty beast is something extremely entertaining to do.

Wii Party U (Wii U)

SuperPhillip Central holds no hate to local multiplayer. It's actually our preferred method of play, so Wii Party U fits the bill for an engaging multiplayer experience quite nicely. Whether it's through the game's asymmetric mini-games, four player contests, or the exceptional and innovative tabletop games, played only on the Wii U GamePad, Wii Party U is a barrel of laughs and fun.

Animal Crossing: New Leaf (3DS)

Whether played locally or online, Animal Crossing: New Leaf's multiplayer gives friends and family much in the way of pure bliss. Exploring one's village, trading furniture and other items, and participating in island tour mini-games are always enjoyable and innocent fun. The lack of voice chat online stinks, but overall, Animal Crossing: New Leaf's multiplayer is some of the Nintendo 3DS system's best.

Runner-Up: Grand Theft Auto Online (PS3, 360)

Although hampered by several major issues like freezing glitches and total deletion of accounts in the early going, Grand Theft Auto Online, the multiplayer component of Grand Theft Auto V, showcases unprecedented freedom. Up to 16 players can freely explore the vast expanses of Los Santos, engaging in crimes, custom match types, and joining crews. Even with the beginning issues, Grand Theft Auto Online is some of the most fun we've had over the internet.

Winner: Super Mario 3D World (Wii U)

Many outlets will ignore offline-only games for online experiences. We don't this year, however, as our award to Super Mario 3D World shows this. Regardless, that isn't to say we're superior because of this! Anyway, Super Mario 3D World is a blast with friends and/or family members. Trying to keep one another alive, tinkering your play style to fit your companions', and helping each other all makes for some wicked fun. It's especially wicked fun when you're dying stupid deaths caused by an "accident" made by another player. Super Mario 3D World is the type of multiplayer experience that is perfect for this time of year, and it will no doubt give a lot of kids this holiday season nostalgic memories that they will look back on and think fondly of.


[Best Presentation]

Phil originally made this site, and he ran these awards for the five previous years until some staff joined up. His rationale for not simply calling the award "Best Graphics" was due to the fact that many games don't have jaw-dropping visuals that can compete with the biggest of the big AAA titles. However, when you compare their art styles, things are totally different and become more even. Hence, why we have Best Presentation instead of Best Graphics. There you go, friends. You're being entertained AND learning at the same time!

Super Mario 3D World (Wii U)

The team at Nintendo EAD are geniuses when it comes to not only the obvious, game design, but also getting the most out of the hardware they are using, blowing everyone else away. Super Mario 3D World is a prime example of this, sporting fantastic lighting effects, character models, and worlds. We couldn't help but just sit with our mouths open as we gazed upon splendid vantage point after splendid vantage point.

Rayman Legends (Multi)

Using the Ubi Art in-house graphics engine, the team at Ubisoft Montpelier created a visual triumph that looks absolutely breathtaking in stills and even more amazing in motion. We thought the team would not be able to top what was seen in Rayman Origins, but boy, were we ever wrong! Rayman Legends is a truly modern marvel that shows you need not throw one million polygons at the player to get a beautiful end result.

The Last of Us (PS3)

This game was SO close to making it to the runner-up position, but it ultimately didn't make it. That said, The Last of Us pushes the PlayStation 3 to its absolute limit. Everything from the characters to the environments are intricately crafted to give the player a feeling as they play. Whether it's uneasiness in abandoned city streets or pure terror in darkened areas, The Last of Us definitely delivers in the presentation department.

Runner-Up: The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD (Wii U)

The original GameCube title was a gorgeous game that still holds up graphically today. However, Nintendo opted to update the game into HD for the Wii U. The final product is an incredibly impressive-looking title that runs like an interactive cartoon. From the expressions of characters, particularly Link himself, to the special effects like explosions and lightning, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD astounds us, and it will no doubt do that even after a decade has passed, just like the GameCube original.

Winner: Grand Theft Auto V (PS3, 360)

It floors us how Rockstar was able to create a living, breathing city with painstaking detail, awesome visuals, and a frame-rate as smooth as butter for the majority of the time. It's this ambition that makes us so amazed by what Rockstar accomplished here. Grand Theft Auto V is a phenomenal example of what developers can do when they receive the proper budget and time to create their vision. Rockstar's vision is visually a delight, and it's why we've selected it as our winner for Best Presentation this year.


[Best Box Art]

It may seem trivial to you, but having a great box art can be the difference between a game selling well or a game hitting the bargain bin eight weeks later. Well, that might be an exaggeration, but the point is that a truly great box art can turn you onto a game, while a boring one can make you become disinterested. Many kids like us in the NES days based our purchasing decisions solely on how cool the box arts looked. Many times we were burned. Damn you LJN!!!

BioShock Infinite (Multi)

A lot of people were turned off by this box art, but we here at SuperPhillip Central like its simplicity rather well. There's Booker DeWitt in all his glory, shotgun over his shoulder, and a burning American flag, symbolic of Columbia's disdain of the United States.

God of War: Ascension (PS3)

A depiction of the opening scene of God of War: Ascension, Kratos is getting his just desserts for defying a god. From the coloring to the highlights and shadows, this is a nice piece of box art that was created for the game.

The Last of Us (PS3)

"Did you hear that?"
"What, Ellie? Stop screwing around and come on."
"No. I get the feeling someone's watching us..."

You're right, Ellie. Consumers across the globe are looking at you and Joel and seeing this brilliant box art you two are in. With how good the actual game looks, one could easily confuse this art as in-game.

Runner-Up: The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD (Wii U)

While we prefer the colorized PAL and Japanese versions of this box art, there's just something special about a Legend of Zelda game with a gold cover. Seeing the cast of the game placed strategically on the cover with Ganondorf looking ominously over his shoulder, and looking at the center of it, a wind-wakin' Link, everything comes together splendidly.

Winner: Grand Theft Auto V (PS3, 360)

Grand Theft Auto box arts have a consistent pattern. Multiple well done art of what one can expect of a given installment. We have choppers, hot ladies, psychotic criminals, a doberman, motorcycles, and much more. It all comes together into one cohesive package that is both pleasing to the eye and gives information about what world awaits players.


That wraps up the festivities for this evening. Tomorrow we'll have four more awards to hand out, including Best New Franchise, Most Unexpected Surprise, Most Innovative, and Most Disappointing. We'll hopefully see everyone tomorrow night!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Last of Us Was Robbed: Or The Problem With Gamers

Let's rewind time just a little bit. It was a few weeks ago that GameSpot named The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds as their game of 2013. This meant Zelda beat out games like BioShock Infinite, Grand Theft Auto V, and yes, The Last of Us, a game created by Naughty Dog, or as many of the studio's most ardent supporters affectionately call them, "Naughty Gods." (Just don't review one of the studio's games an 8.0 like Eurogamer did with Uncharted 3...)

Instantly, the YouTube video comment section of GameSpot's video was hammered with negativity and copious amounts of insults towards GameSpot and other gamers who didn't agree with their obviously objective facts that The Last of Us should be the game of the year everywhere, and if you don't agree, you're obviously didn't play through the entire game or something. It definitely had nothing to do with people having different tastes in gaming and what they view as most important in their gaming experiences.

GameSpot's Game of the Year for 2013 is...
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds.
For instance, I value gameplay over telling a captivating story or having big budget visuals. After all, these are video games we're playing. Meanwhile, there are others who prefer a nice narrative to their games, people who prefer mature content over content suitable for everybody, and so forth. There's nothing wrong with what I value most in gaming, and there's nothing wrong with what anyone else values most in gaming.

This incessant whining about what someone or some media outlet calls game of the year is rather ridiculous, and it reveals an underlying theme with many gamers. This theme is that many gamers cannot understand that a lot of people have opinions that differ from their own. It's hard to accept, I know, but once you do, you can finally stop making total asses of yourself and your hobby.

I have seen far too many comments and posts regarding Ken Levine's top ten games of 2013, or David Jaffe's own list. These comments and posts say things like "oh, so-and-so game is good, but it shouldn't be on that list." It's this chutzpah that's basically saying "I know your opinion better than you do. Your choices are objectively wrong." Seriously? Are some gamers this pathetic? Unfortunately, the answer is yes.

We see this all the time nowadays, especially with the advent of social networking services. If forums and comment sections weren't enough, now gamers can directly whine and moan about game of the year choices, review scores, and other content more directly and more easily to outlets and people within the industry.

The idea that a lot of gamers still can't comprehend that not everyone agrees with their thoughts and that their opinion isn't the be-all end-all is frightening to me. We can readily view otherwise rational adults turn into emotionally childish people who will fling insults and other rude, negative words at people who disagree with them. There's seldom legitimate discussion. Instead, there's just pure, unadulterated vitriol.

We as gamers can do better than this. Perhaps one could just say that it's only "internet culture" to be rude, but I've seen this behavior outside of technology's boundaries. It's just as sad, it's just as depressing, and it's just as much of a black eye on the industry and our hobby as everything else.

Hopefully some who have read what I've had to say have been nodding their heads in agreement throughout their whole read. Some might disagree, and that's all right, too. I'm just requesting that we somehow get to a point where we respect others' opinions without needing to deride them-- without needing to think that our opinion is somehow superior over someone else's just because we don't exactly agree with them. I just hope that some of the same people who have been indulging in the negative type of behavior I've spoken of accept the opinions of SuperPhillip Central when we select our choices for games of the year when our sixth annual awards ceremony begins tomorrow night.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Custom Robo (GCN) Retro Review

Merry Christmas boys and girls of all ages! Since many kids around the world will be receiving toys for the holidays, why don't we review a game that involves toys? Of course, these toys are more bad ass than even your G.I. Joes and Transformers! We're talking miniature robots with guns, bombs, and awesome armor. Here's our retro review of Custom Robo for the Nintendo GameCube.

Robos in My Pocket

The Custom Robo series began in Japan on the Nintendo 64. It would then see two more releases, one on the Game Boy Advance, and another on the GameCube respectively. It wouldn't be until the fourth game in the series that developer Noise and publisher Nintendo would finally bring the Custom Robo series stateside. The final product is simply titled Custom Robo, and while the idea of fighting with miniature robots, armed to the teeth with destructive power and weaponry sounds awesome, the execution prevents the game from being nothing more than a slightly above average game in the GameCube library.

The story mode of Custom Robo has you playing as a gray haired teen, one whose father has mysteriously disappeared, leaving him with only a unique watch. Fast forward to the present, and your hero receives a letter stating his father has passed away. Taking this moment to fulfill his dad's wish for him to be a commander (i.e. one who commands a Custom Robo), our hero joins up with a ragtag group of bounty hunters known as Steel Heart. A lot of what is to be found in Custom Robo's story mode is menial errands to pad out the length of the game. It's only until about four or five hours in does the story start going somewhere interesting, and we're talking about a relatively short story mode of 10-12 hours to complete.

Harry is a fellow member of Steel Hearts.
He teaches our hero the ropes of robo battling.
By far the most fascinating and addicting part of Custom Robo is hinted at by the game title's first word. You can customize your robo with around 15-20 million combinations of parts. These parts are obtained through beating opponents in the story mode. There are five main parts of a given robo: its chassis (model), its right hand and left hand (serving as the robo's gun and bomb deployment respectively), its pod (backpack-like appendage), and its legs. The chassis of your robo affects not only its appearance, but it also affects how your robo maneuvers in battle. Meanwhile, different guns and bombs assist in attacking foes. Pods enable temporary flight, and leg parts affect jumping and dashing along the ground. The game does a wonderful job with detailing what each part does, its strengths and weaknesses, and its overall attributes. All of this makes it so finding the right robo for the right situation much less of a hassle than it could have been.

If you love customization like me, you'll
love what Custom Robo has to offer.
As for the battles themselves, these take place in Holosseums, special, confined, holographic arenas upon which robos clash in. All feature walls and objects to hide behind to help evade attacks, while some feature hazards such as ice and harmful lava panels to shake things up. There's a good variety of Holosseums to be found in Custom Robo, from holographic gardens to a toy box setting with its own choo-choo.

What do you call the retelling 
of a robo battle? A toy story.
Battles all begin the same in Custom Robo, regardless of whether it's a one-on-one confrontation or a team battle. Each robo is in cube form and inside a cannon that can be turned a full 360 degrees. When the timer hits zero, the robo cubes launch from their respective cannons and topple onto the Holosseum. Depending on where the robos have been shot, each cube will have a number on it from 1-6. The lesser the number, the quicker the robo will transform out of its cube and be ready to attack. Thankfully, if you do get unlucky and wind up with a high number, you can mash on the buttons to make your robo transform faster. Just be aware that you're vulnerable by early transformers in cube form!

Equip parts to fit the battle.
Your robo has two different bars to it, a health bar and an endurance bar. The first starts at 1000 HP, and goes down after each opponent's successful hit to you. Meanwhile, as your robo takes damage, its endurance bar empties. Once it reaches zero, your robo falls to the floor, downed in combat and vulnerable to attacks. After a couple of seconds, your robo enters rebirth mode, granting it a few seconds' worth of invincibility.

Free-for-all battles mean every robo for itself!
If you're one of those types of gamers who wants to button-mash their way through games, Custom Robo will eventually start handing you loss after frustrating loss. There's an element of strategy in the game that makes it so you need to plan when you fire your shots, fly across the Holosseum, and charge at your opponent. After all, all of these actions pause your robo for a split second, and that split second is all your opponent needs to take advantage of the battle. If you fire a shot and want to close the distance between you and your enemy, you probably need to throw in some bombs to slip them up. This all sounds great, but even with this level of strategy, Custom Robo's combat feels little more than a shallow experience.

Fire in the sky.
Though the story mode is fairly short, the main replay value of Custom Robo comes from its multiplayer. Obviously since we're talking GameCube era here, Nintendo had yet to embrace online, so the only multiplayer we're talking about is the old school local variety. Nonetheless, whether you're involved in a one-on-one encounter, two-on-two, or every robo for itself (the latter two make seeing what's going on in battle rather problematic), there is plenty of fun to be had. It won't take lead you and your friends away from Super Smash Bros. Melee as your main multiplayer GameCube game, but it's a great alternative.

Some Holosseums feature unique obstacles.
This one features conveyor belts.
Being released two generations ago, one would easily imagine Custom Robo not looking very well at all when compared to games out nowadays. That's only natural. However, upon its release and compared to its contemporaries, Custom Robo didn't even look good graphically for a game then. One might make a believable argument that the game visually passes more as a Nintendo 64 title than a GameCube one. Though to be fair, the actual robos are highly detailed and are the greatest graphical accomplishment of Custom Robo. Regardless, adding to my gripes with the presentation, the sound design is pretty horrid, with its generic music and grating sound effects. This is rather ironic coming from a developer named Noise...

Did you say something? I can't hear
you over this forgettable music.
Custom Robo was a franchise that North American Nintendo 64 owners wished released in their hemisphere. Many simply turned to importing the Japanese original. Now that the game has come out and I've finally played it (only took nearly a decade to do so), the wait doesn't seem to have been worth it. I don't feel like I would have missed out by not playing Custom Robo. Now, I still have the DS sequel, Custom Robo Arena to play through, but as of the time of this writing, I don't feel the massive love for the franchise that I thought I would from playing this game. That said, there is a market for Custom Robo out there. The customization is absolutely insane, the battles are enjoyable to a certain degree, despite lacking a lot of depth, and multiplayer will make for some fun gaming sessions with friends and/or family.

[SPC Says: 6.5/10]