Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker (Wii U) Review

Let's pause the SuperPhillip Central Best of 2014 Awards festivities with the last review of 2014. It's for a game from a developer that is a showstopper. That developer is the immaculate Nintendo EAD, and their game is Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker. Here's the SPC review.

Toad-ally ready for adventure!

Shigeru Miyamoto once said in a relatively recent interview that Nintendo was planning on creating more spin-off titles in order to fill in the gaps between major Wii U releases. Because hey, third-parties ain't going to do that, am I right?

It seems that the first of such titles has released this past month with the launch of Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, starring the lovable adventurer who debuted in Super Mario Galaxy and his partner in crime Toadette. The game is based off of the Captain Toad levels within Super Mario 3D World, only expanded upon greatly for a $40 retail game. The end result is one that exudes charm and adds a new dimension to the Wii U library.

Treasure Tracker begins with a cold open, putting the player, Captain Toad, and Toadette within one of the game's many diorama-inspired levels, albeit this is a very small and simple one. Upon reaching the top of the level where a Power Star stands, the two begin a victory celebration around the prized trinket. However, it's not that much later that the talons of a giant, fierce bird clinch onto the Star. Toadette gets carried away along with the Power Star to which she equally fiercely clings onto for life. It's up to Captain Toad to summon up the courage to rescue Toadette while doing some treasure hunting in the process.

"Just let go, Toadette!"
Despite the setup of Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, the game's story isn't all about saving Toadette. In fact, there are three episodes within the game, each with its own particular objective. In the first, Captain Toad must reach Toadette and Wingo, the bird who nabbed the Power Star in the first place. In the second, its Toadette who must do the saving of Captain Toad. The final episode has Captain Toad and Toadette separated, needing to reach a joint destination.

One of the first levels in
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker.
Each episode features more than a dozen-- sometimes two dozen-- levels to play through. Each are pretty much bite-sized adventures that feature the goal of reaching that level's particular Power Star. It's all about how you go about getting there which is the objective of each level. Reaching the Star presents players with a series of miniature puzzles in order to solve to get to their final destination and the prize that awaits.

Don't mind Captain Toad, Mr. Shy Guy.
He's simply passing through!
Captain Toad and Toadette do not have the ability to jump in Treasure Tracker. This might seem like it closes the door for plenty of interesting gameplay possibilities, but it's actually quite the opposite. Most of the levels involve you needing to drop down from a higher platform to reach where you need to go, and there are plenty of times where you'll need to manipulate the environment to create paths for Captain Toad and/or Toadette to saunter along.

You guys sure know how to give a lady a lift!
The camera is a big help in Captain  Toad: Treasure Tracker, offering 360 degree movement, and can be maneuvered in pretty much every way except an underside view of a particular level. It can also allow for a relative closeup view of one of the Toads, though there's a glaring omission in that there is no regular zoom function. It's either zoomed all the way out for the player or a closer view of Captain Toad or Toadette. Additionally, the GamePad sports off-TV play, but moving the GamePad at all results in the camera moving with it. This means that playing while laying down becomes more problematic that it should have any right to be.

Regardless, despite these very small camera issues that don't take away much from Captain Toad, the camera is otherwise a godsend in the game. Just maneuvering the camera slightly can reveal otherwise impossible to see hidden alcoves filled with coins and other treasure, particularly Super Gems.

Sorry, Piranha Creepers, but Captain
Toad is absolutely NOT on the menu!
Yes, most of the 70+ levels in Captain Toad possess three special Super Gems to collect. Super Gems, like the Green Stars in Super Mario 3D World, open up locked levels that block your progress, so it's a good idea to collect these when you can. A nice thing about collecting these is that even if you die, as long as you don't quit the level, you don't have to nab ones you've already gotten. Of course, you have to finish the level for the game to save your progress of getting all of them. Regardless, the three Super Gems per level not only encourage extensive exploration of each level, but they also add to the longevity of Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker.

Beat the cold weather with a tropical retreat!
Furthermore, each level has a secondary objective apart from obtaining the Power Star. This varies each level, and the objective only reveals itself after the level's Power Star is initially acquired (though you can complete the objective beforehand and the game will count it anyway). For example, some levels require you to find a hidden gold mushroom, while others force you not to take a hit. These are fun little objectives that can completely change the way you would ordinarily play a level.

Not really fighting fairly, are they?
Even after the game is beaten, there's plenty to do. Outside of acquiring every Super Gem and completing every bonus objective each level has, several special bonus levels unlock. Such levels put Captain Toad into the levels of Super Mario 3D World with the goal of obtaining a Green Star, or better yet, they pit Captain Toad to survive a fifty floor gauntlet for a very special prize. My point here is that for a $40 game with plenty of replay value, the approximate 15 hour play time you'll spend with Treasure Tracker makes the game worth owning.

The Wii U GamePad is used in Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, and while the usage is full of gimmickry, I'm pleased that Nintendo at least tried to make the GamePad have some worthwhile use all the same. Aside from moving platforms up and down or side to side with a tap of the screen, there are special mine cart levels where you use the GamePad to aim your veggie cannon as you roll down the track. Still, there are very lame and unnecessary GamePad uses. I'm primarily thinking about blowing into the microphone of the controller in order to move certain platforms, an artifact of Super Mario 3D World.

This level uses Super Mario 3D World's
Double Cherry power-up.
Using the already beautiful engine from said game, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is a gorgeous title, teeming with luxurious environmental variety, wonderful animation, and plenty of polish. It's a series of colorful cartoon worlds come to life, and I have a hard time imagining Captain Toad and friends looking much better on the Wii U hardware. That's definitely no slight to Nintendo's system, by the way.

This trip to the pachinko table starts with a bang.
Sound-wise, the grunts and hums of Captain Toad and Toadette are simply adorable, much like the characters themselves, and the music features several new and remixed themes. While there's more remixed stuff than new, I'm glad that Nintendo didn't just rip the music directly from Super Mario 3D World and place it in Treasure Tracker.

Although the game suffers from some issues in its camera control and lack of a quick restart option in levels, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is an unexpected gem in the Wii U library. Then again, how could I ever even think about questioning a game which is made by Nintendo EAD? That studio has proven time and time again just how masterful they are at creating fun, engaging games. If you're looking for a game that oozes with personality, adorable characters, entertaining puzzles and levels, and has great value, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is the prize you seek. No need to hunt for this one. Just head to your local video game retailer or buy it on the Nintendo eShop today.

[SPC Says: 9.0/10]

SuperPhillip Central Best of 2014 Awards - Top Five Best Platformers

The platformer, whether it be 2D, 3D, or a combination of the two, is my favorite genre in gaming, so that is why I am dedicating a top five award list for this genre and this genre only. That, and because there's actually a good number of platformers to choose from this year! That notwithstanding, this year we saw a grand deluge of different platformerss in different perspectives, making deciding which platformers to include and which not to a real challenge. Still, here are my choices for the top five best platformers of 2014!

5) Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures 2 (Wii U, PS3, 360)

3D platformers used to be a dime a dozen in the PS1 and PS2 generations, but now it's hard to find the genre anywhere, really. That's why it was a breath of fresh air to not only play a 3D platformer in retail release form, but one that was a licensed property and actually pretty darned good, for that matter! While not a wholly original platformer, what ideas Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures 2 did present were cleverly designed and well implemented, making for a game that was enjoyable and engaging from beginning to end.

4) Kirby: Triple Deluxe (3DS)

Kirby's latest platforming adventure took him into new depths-- literally! He could walk, run, and do all his platforming stylings in the foreground and background, as levels were designed to take advantage of the Nintendo 3DS's stereoscopic 3D technology. The level design was smart, goodies were hidden well, and the traditional Kirby goodness oozed out from the surface to create one unforgettable Kirby game. While not better than the Wii's Return to Dream Land, Kirby: Triple Deluxe is worth giving Nintendo's pink puffball another look!

3) LittleBigPlanet 3 (PS4, PS3)

What do you get when you cross an adequate platforming engine with a robust level creator? Why, not only do you get a game that will grant you hundreds of hours of entertainment, but you also get LittleBigPlanet 3. The favorite "it's too floaty" criticism can be rendered extinct by toying with the gravity of individual levels to make the jumping as floaty or as tight as a creator likes. With the immensely well designed levels already in the game, the all-new 16 layers of depth that can be switched in between that changes up the level design significantly, and the awesome level creator all makes for LittleBigPlanet 3 being an amazing piece of software for PlayStation 3 and PS4 owners.

2) Shovel Knight (Wii U, 3DS, PC)

The only non-retail release on this list (but don't confuse that for other downloadable games not being worthwhile platformer-wise!), Shovel Knight was Yacht Club Games' first offering as a new team. This Mega Man-inspired 2D retro platformer brought with it stellar levels, each with their own entertaining tropes and themes to them, tight platforming action, and a great Jake Kaufman-composed soundtrack. It all adds up to a game that is astonishing to play and engaging from beginning to end!

1) Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (Wii U)

Retro Studios' first go at Donkey Kong Country was with Returns on the Wii and then later the 3DS. Tropical Freeze takes everything they learned from designing and developing Returns and makes a game that is not just the best platformer of the year, but also one of the best 2D platformers ever made. No hyperbole intended. It's just that good. Everything feels so great control-wise, the level design constantly surprises and amazes, and the level of polish is just so incredible. Retro Studios continues to be a development team that I can't help but envy, and games they create like Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze are why.

SuperPhillip Central Best of 2014 Awards - Top Five Most Overlooked Games

I like spotlighting those games that fall between the cracks. This way I can give them the attention I believe they deserve. On the other hand, I don't like having to do so because that means they're highly overlooked and unplayed by the masses! These five games on this list are just that. They are not only overlooked in general, but they also have a nice quality to them. From Yoshi's latest to a terrific Final Fantasy spin-off, these are my picks for top five most overlooked games of 2014.

5) Yoshi's New Island (3DS)

Yoshi gets no respect, I tell ya'. While Yoshi's New Island was nowhere near the eggs-quisite quality of the SNES original (but then again, what is?), the game is indeed a great platformer. It strays on the easy side, but those bonus levels will certainly make you gnash your teeth and tighten your fists with rage. If you play these levels or have already, I'm sure you'll egg-ree. Its presentation isn't the most fantastic in still images, but in motion it works well. Hopefully with Yoshi's Woolly World, we'll see Yoshi get the attention from gamers and eggs-cellent dedication from Nintendo that he deserves!

4) LittleBigPlanet 3 (PS4, PS3)

Selling around 100,000 units in North America in November across both PlayStation 3 and PS4, LittleBigPlanet 3 did not sell to its potential by any means. It's a darned shame, as LittleBigPlanet as a series continues to be charming, fun platformers that allow players an accessible set of tools to create incredible levels. Even if you don't care for level creation, there's plenty to be seen with LittleBigPlanet's bustling community of creators, pumping out amazing work that rivals what you get from the developers of the games.

3) Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call (3DS)

The original Theatrhythm Final Fantasy did relatively well in sales, so much so that it got its sequel localized. However, Curtain Call isn't faring as well. Seeing as its much better and more content-heavy than its predecessor, that makes me disappointed, as I'm sure Square Enix is with the sales, too. Having over 200 songs, 30 characters to choose from, and an abundance of modes including online battles, Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call is a phenomenal music game package for fans of Final Fantasy, music games, and just great songs in general.

2) Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures 2 (Wii U, PS3, 360)

I said how much this game amazed me in my Top Five Biggest Surprises list this week, and that is what makes Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures 2 being overlooked so unfortunate. While the original Ghostly Adventures was an okay 3D platformer, its sequel has the developers learning from their mistakes and crafting a more streamlined and enjoyable game in the process. Don't write this game off as just some random licensed shovelware. It's much better than that, and it's honest to goodness worth a look and, most importantly, a play!

1) Bayonetta 2 (Wii U)

Bayonetta 2 is a niche title on a niche system, so it seemed like the game was destined to be overlooked. While not so much within the most hardcore of gaming communities and gamers, Bayonetta 2 might as well have been invisible to consumers. Well, it practically was, at least, as it sold as well as sand to a man dying in the desert. What those who got to experience Bayonetta 2 will tell you is that the game is one of Platinum's best and one of the genre's best, too. Now that I think about it, I better get to playing this supposed gem!

SuperPhillip Central Best of 2014 Awards - Best Download Only Game

This is a first for SuperPhillip Central. I've never had a Best Download Only Game award before, but here it is this year! I've been able to review and experience so many different digital games this year across a fair amount of platforms. I'm of the opinion that indie games and digital games are just as important as full-scale releases, and I hope you do, too! Here's the five download-only games I enjoyed most for 2014!

5) Super Mega Baseball (PS4, PS3)

Baseball isn't football, so I don't care for it that much. However, playing baseball games that aren't entirely simulation-like in structure makes for a very entertaining time. Super Mega Baseball is one game that released late this year that combines a wacky arcade aesthetic with accessible gameplay. However, don't think this is some dumbed down baseball experience, as Super Mega Baseball presented plenty of options and detailed mechanics to make for a game that swung for the fences and hit a home run.

4) Armillo (Wii U)

Reminding me of a mascot-driven N64-era 3D platformer (and I don't say that in a bad way), Armillo featured the titular character rolling around spherical planets in order to clear each level. Perhaps because it reminded me so much of games in my favorite genre that I grew up on that I hold Armillo to such high regard. Still, its creative design, fun levels, and amount of content made for a game that I really enjoyed.

3) Stealth Inc. 2: A Game of Clones (Wii U)

Temporarily a Wii U eShop exclusive, Stealth Inc. 2: A Game of Clones was a 2D puzzle platformer that brought a robotic hero through the testing chambers of an industrial facility. Using different tools to solve chambers full of deathly traps and means for our hero to wind up in a crushed, incinerated, or sawed apart heap, Stealth Inc. 2 crafted ingenious puzzles that wracked my mind in solving them, fun platforming challenges, and a stunning presentation.

2) Guacamelee: Super Turbo Championship Edition (Multi)

Guacamelee: Super Turbo Championship Edition was released on a multitude of home consoles this past year. It was designed as a Metroid-style adventure that used luchadore moves for combat and allowed for insane combos. However, these moves were also helpful outside of combat, great for finding secret little alcoves on the map and various upgrades. The ability to team up locally with a friend or family member, humorous dialogue, and myriad of game references added to just how fantastic Guacamelee was.

1) Shovel Knight (Wii U, 3DS)

Winner of the Biggest Surprise of 2014, Shovel Knight took the classic Mega Man style of gameplay and made it its own with amazing level design, polish, and new game mechanics. Everything about Shovel Knight was crafted with stunning care, creating a 2D action platformer that delighted every step of the way. With it releasing on PSN next year, PlayStation system owners will get the chance to see what the big deal is when they get to play Shovel Knight, my favorite download-only game.

SuperPhillip Central Best of 2014 Awards - Top Five Worst Disappointments

Is it really 100% the SuperPhillip Central Best of 2014 Awards when I have a Worst Disappointment award? Sort of goes against the whole "Best of 2014" thing I've been going with so far. Anyway, 2014 has been a great year for games, but there's been some huge disappointments from publishers and gamers alike. This list talks about some of those that I deem the worst disappointments of 2014.

5) Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric (Wii U)

I am right about things occasionally, but I'm also wrong about things occasionally. I haven't had a written tally of which happens more, but for my ego's sake, I'll say it's the former! At Sonic Boom's announcement, I was hopeful for the game. It had folks who had worked on the Jak and Daxter series. I just didn't expect the game to be released when it wasn't nearly completed. I underestimated just how sucky Sega is. It turns out Rise of Lyric, the Wii U entry of the Sonic Boom series, was released in a totally unfinished state with numerous bugs, abundant signs of lack of polish, and many more problems. To this day, I will argue that Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric's failings are more to do with the publisher than BigRedButton, the developer.

4) Wii U sales

With a sales trajectory under the Dreamcast, a console that was discontinued and turned a first-party into a third-party one, Nintendo's Wii U is an unmitigated sales disaster. I argue that it has nothing to do with the quality of the library and definitely, without question, more to do with how the console is marketed. To this day, there are still a profusion of people who do not know what the Wii U is even supposed to be, mixed messaging, and otherwise laughable decisions being made. I cannot properly organize my thoughts in such a way that would properly explain how horrid Nintendo's marketing and handling of the Wii U has been. Going from record-breaking high sales with the Wii to record-breaking low sales with the Wii U was an extraordinary challenge, but we can always count on Nintendo to come through and completely blow it in one way or another.

3) The PS4 and the Xbox One

The PS4 and Xbox One are somehow worse off platforms library-wise than the Wii U was in the same time span-- a year from launch. Before you get angry over something as stupid as some random nobody's comment regarding game consoles of all things, let me put it this way. Most of the games released in the first year on the PS4 and Xbox One can be found on other platforms. The games that interest me most are such titles like Grand Theft Auto V, The Last of Us, and LittleBigPlanet 3. The ones that aren't are rare or better yet, broken at launch (looking at you, DriveClub and Halo: MCC).

If you want to argue that sales = quality and that's why people are picking the Xbox One and PS4 over the Wii U, then I hope you were also saying the same thing when the Wii was handily beating the PS3 and 360 in sales last gen. Otherwise, you're a predictable hypocrite. The end.

2) Broken games at launch

Ah... Next gen is finally here, and you know it's a next gen console if your biggest releases were somehow broken at launch! From DriveClub's embarrassing launch to Halo: The Master Chief Collection's launch issues that still plague the game after months, I've found myself understanding why some gamers haven't made the leap to next gen yet. I also beseech gamers to stop pre-ordering, but like moths to the flame, they'll do so anyway. Oh, well. Just don't complain when more incidents of broken games at launch happen. I mean, you guys are really showing those companies good by still pre-ordering their games despite all of these problems!

1) GamerGate

Beyond broken games, next gen systems being underwhelming game-wise, and releases that I thought would be good but turned out differently, the biggest disappointment was GamerGate. This isn't something I expected to be good. I just didn't expect it to blow up so badly, showing just how ****ty a good portion of the gaming community is (sending death threats, rape threats, and forcing women out of the hobby and industry). GamerGate is definitely something that has set the industry back a decade in terms of mainstream acceptance, and it's all the fault of a faction of manchildren who are truly human garbage.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

SuperPhillip Central Best of 2014 Awards - Top Five Biggest Surprises

Plenty of times I've hyped myself up on a game in dramatic, frenzied fashion only to have a cloud of disappointment blow up in my face. Then there are the times that are much better-- when I don't think much about a game (if I think about it at all) and when I finally play, I'm floored by how good it is. These five games on this list were games that either weren't looking so hot initially, were completely overlooked by me until I played them, or had quality that was so much higher than what I was expecting. Here are my top five biggest surprises of 2014.

5) Armillo (Wii U eShop)

I'm a lover of 3D platformers, so Armillo seems like it would be an easy game to see coming, right? However, Fuzzy Wuzzy Games was a studio I hadn't heard of or knew of their past work. What Armillo ended up being was not just a fantastic game in its own right, but one of my favorite indie games of the year on any platform. It plays so well, is full of wonderful ideas, and it made me smile on a number of occasions. Definitely a title I'm glad I tried despite not thinking much of the developer at first.

4) Fantasy Life (3DS)

I had loosely followed this next game on my list prior to its release, and this was back when the game had more of a cel-shaded art style. Fantasy Life managed to blow me away with its immense amount of content, things to do, places to go, creatures to defeat, materials to acquire, crafts to make, and a story that brought with it lots of humor and well-written dialogue. It's not hard to be astonished when you go into a game not knowing much about it, but it's hard to be as impressed with Fantasy Life as I ended up being.

3) Hyrule Warriors (Wii U)

The only Dynasty Warriors-styled game I enjoyed (and that was just a little bit) was Dynasty Warriors Gundam. That game was mighty repetitive, despite the premise of thousands of mobile suit mechs fighting one another on one battlefield. Thus, I didn't think I'd like Hyrule Warriors as much, even as a fan of the source material. It wasn't as repetitive as I thought it would be. It was, dare I say, actually fun to grind in, whether it be character experience levels, rupees, or materials. Hyrule Warriors became one of my favorite games of 2014, and here I thought it'd be just another rote Dynasty Warriors experience.

2) Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures 2 (Wii U, PS3, 360)

Here comes a game that I had low expectations set, and they were more than met and exceeded! While Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures 2 doesn't do a lot that is new, it's a massively well made, cleverly designed, and polished game. After the original last year, I wasn't too sure how a sequel would pan out, but the more streamlined approach, better level design, and just plain greater amount of fun overall. It's for these reasons that Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures 2 is one of the games that surprised me most this past year.

1) Shovel Knight (Wii U and 3DS eShop)

Coming to PlayStation platforms next year, Shovel Knight dug his way onto the Wii U and Nintendo 3DS this past year with critical acclaim and great sales to boot. I expected some Mega Man wannabe whose only merit was tugging on the nostalgia heartstrings of 8-bit gamers of old. Boy, did my ignorance blind me! Shovel Knight isn't a marvelous Mega Man wannabe-- it's its own beast, and it's quite a mighty one, too. One that I've played through more times than I care to admit just because the game is so polished, well put together, and hits all the right notes throughout its campaign.

Monday, December 29, 2014

SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs - The Final Edition of SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs... for 2014 Edition

We've reached the end, friends. Well, for 2014 at the very least. SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs will keep delivering my most liked themes from video games far into the new year and beyond. However, let's not jump into the new year just yet. There's still more lists to write and VGMs this week to attend to. This week's edition, the final of 2014, features music from Bayonetta, Punch-Out!!, and Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc!

v781. Bayonetta (Wii U, PS3, 360) - The Greatest Jubilee

Bayonetta's final boss theme is called The Greatest Jubilee, pitting the titular character of the game against an omnipotent being. Expected out of the crazy minds behind such games as The Wonderful 101 and Vanquish, but nonetheless still the definition of awesome and cool. Generally speaking, having a choir backing your theme is a nice way to get on my good side, so congrats, The Great Jubilee, for doing so.

v782. F-Zero: Maximum Velocity (GBA) - Cloud Carpet

F-Zero is a series that has been missing in action for quite a while now. The last game released for the franchise never even made it out of Japan. Still, at least we have memories of and can still play older titles in the series, just like this underrated gem at the Game Boy Advance's launch, F-Zero: Maximum Velocity. VROOM!

v783. Punch-Out!! (Wii) - World Circuit Fight

All right, kid. You've taken down weaklings like Glass Joe, and stood toe-to-toe with King Hippo. It's time for the World Circuit Fight, you hear me? Go get 'em, Mac, with this guitar-heavy, adrenaline-pumpin' music. Don't let me down!

v784. Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy (PS2) - Sandover Village

The music of the Jak and Daxter series is one of the more forgettable parts of the franchise. There's few songs that I would keep on my iPod, that's for sure. Sandover Village is a serene theme with a soft tribal beat. It's by no means a fantastic track in either composition or sound, but it makes Jak and Daxter's home sweet home all the nicer to roam around in.

v785. Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc (Vita) - Dangan Ronpa!

A catchy title theme for our last video game featured on SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs in 2014, Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc's aptly titled Dangan Ronpa! was composed by Masafumi Takada, whose work I found greatest in Killer 7 and No More Heroes. It makes sense that he went on to do music for another surrealist-style series with Danganronpa.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

SuperPhillip Central Best of 2014 Awards - Top Five Local Multiplayer Games

I'm a dinosaur. Perhaps I've turned into an old man who yells at clouds. What I mean by this is that while you young, hip kids are playing your Playbox 720's with your Call of Madden and Grand Theft Assassins online, I prefer a local couch multiplayer game rather than online. It's more intimate, it's more exciting to me, and I just prefer it. Now, one isn't technically better than the other, but to me, it's clear as day. That's why I thought it'd be fair to change looking at all multiplayer games this year to just the ones I enjoyed most locally with friends or family.

5) Mario Golf: World Tour (3DS)

Golf isn't the most exciting sport around, but when you throw in wacky courses, characters, and options like Mario Golf: World Tour did, and bring some friends along to compete in real time or taking turns via match play, then you'll got a really game on your hands (or is it in your hands?). Just beating out Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze for the number five spot, Mario Golf: World Tour's excellent multiplayer options gave it an eagle while Tropical Freeze scored a birdie, to use some golfing lingo!

4) LittleBigPlanet 3 (PS4, PS3)

LittleBigPlanet is one of my favorite Sony franchises, and for good reason, too! It's consistently great, offers a host of creation options, and it's really fun for multiplayer. A friend and I were able to play various adventure mode levels, but the fun really didn't start being a blast until we started jumping into random creator levels made by the community. Jumping and swinging, and slapping, and laughing-- LittleBigPlanet 3 had us in stitches. Had Sackboy in stitches, as well-- literally!

3) Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS (3DS)

We have a gaming club at the college I attend, and before its big brother was released on Wii U, the Nintendo 3DS version of Super Smash Bros. was a popular game among most of us-- and that isn't some paltry amount of players! While not sharing a screen like the home console versions did not build the same sense of excitement and camaraderie between us, Super Smash Bros. in a bite-size, handheld form was great for multiplayer sessions for some offline fun!

2) Mario Kart 8 (Wii U)

A grand feature returned to this edition of Mario Kart, and it was the ability to play the Grand Prix mode with a friend. This feature had been cut out of most every Mario Kart game since the star rank grading system was implemented in Mario Kart: Super Circuit. It added to the manic Mario Kart mayhem that my brother and I had, making it a great Mario Kart game turned excellent.

1) Super Smash Bros. for Wii U (Wii U)

The Wii U version of Super Smash Bros. brought with it things I've been wanting for a long time with the series. The biggest being multiplayer for Classic and All-Star modes. Beyond being able to enjoy those modes with my brother, it allowed us to have fun skirmishes with and against one another, as well as several nights where I played locally with a group of friends. It was the multiplayer game on many occasions, and it's why I choose Super Smash Bros. for Wii U as my number one multiplayer game of 2014.

See you tomorrow for the Top Five Biggest Surprises and Top Five Best Downloadable Games on SuperPhillip Central's continuing coverage of the Best of 2014!

SuperPhillip Central Best of 2014 Awards - Top Five Best Box Arts

In a more digital landscape, box arts are becoming less and less important. However, back in the old days before the Internet existed in great popularity, a box art was sometimes the best you could get for knowing what a game was all about. It was sometimes the only way to gauge the quality and bodaciousness (I'm dating myself with that word) of the game.

While box arts aren't nearly anywhere as important to get a game to sell well, it is the thing that consumers see on a store shelf. Sometimes a magnificent cover art can be the difference between being bought and being passed on. These five box arts out of the countless that have been released this year are my personal favorites. Hence, why I consider them the top five best box arts of 2014.

5) Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (Wii U)

I love how this first box arts gels well with the Wii U banner on top. Some game cover art bashes horribly with the blue Wii U banner, so it's nice to see something work really well with it. Of course, that's not the only reason I adores Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze's box art. It just makes the game look like a really fun game, and the character models in the center, boats on either side, energetic logo on the bottom, and icy corners say a lot about this gem of a game.

4) Titanfall (XONE, 360, PC)

One of two box arts from games published by EA, Titanfall's box art features one of the game's massive mechs. Its pilot squats down on the left arm of the massive destructive mech cast against the sun and a dilapidated battleground. Titanfall's box art exudes with coolness and piqued my interest of the game, even knowing that it's not the type of title I'd usually look into.

3) Super Smash Bros. for Wii U (Wii U)

The aptly titled Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, which strangely enough is on the Wii U of all platforms, presents a mishmash of ten Nintendo all-stars positioned proudly around the game's logo makes for a very cool sight. It's as if they're rushing off the cover and zooming towards a skirmish in Smash. It may not be the most original idea around, but it certainly left an impression on my eyes.

2) Mario Kart 8 (Wii U)

Nintendo's Wii U sales may be in the crapper (that's a nice way of putting it, right?), but throughout this generation thus far, the company has been killing it with great box arts. My favorite of which is this year's Mario Kart 8. Mario takes center stage on the cover, making his most determined look as he drifts during a turn on the Mario Circuit track. It's a box art that shows what the grand feature of Mario Kart 8 is-- anti-gravity sections of track, and its composition is one to behold. 

1) Dragon Age: Inquisition (Multi)

Unlike many of the covers of the games featured on this top five list, Dragon Age: Inquisiton's cover looks the most like art. Now, that's not to say that a game's box art needs to be artistic or anything snobby like that in order to be my favorite. It certainly helps, however, and Inquisition's box art looks like a beautiful painting with gorgeous imagery, including the glorious dragon and knight with sword ablaze in his left hand. If only that nasty EA logo wasn't hogging up any real estate... then I wouldn't feel so cheap to have as my number one box art. *wry smile*

Hold it! There's one more top five list scheduled for today, and it's going to be posted later tonight! What games will be listed for the Top Five Best Multiplayer Games of 2014? The answers may (or may not) surprise you!

SuperPhillip Central Best of 2014 Awards - Top Five Most Pleasing Visuals

You'll find with my second category, Most Pleasing Visuals, that I find both cartoon-like and realistic visuals appealing, perhaps the former more than the latter. These games on this top five list impress purely with their aesthetics, their performance, and their looks in general.

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

While not even the most visually pleasing Wii U game, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U astonishes with its smooth-as-silk frame-rate, appealing character models, and fast-paced action. Let's not forget the remarkable stages that are brimming with personality and charm. I'm awestruck at how much Masahiro Sakurai and his team managed to make the latest Smash Bros. look.

4) Infamous: Second Son (PS4)

Infamous: Second Son oozes with astounding beauty, what, with its amazing city to tool around in, impressive lighting and special effects, and the fantastic character models that animate splendidly. Second Son is one of the few original titles on a current gen system that absolutely looks phenomenal, and it's with all of the aforementioned reasons that the game impresses visually.

3) Grand Theft Auto V (PS4, XONE)

Open world games amaze me with how they load the world around the player. Grand Theft Auto V on last gen platforms impressed greatly. Now, with Los Santos on the PS4 and Xbox One, the sensational city returns in gorgeous glory, feeling like a living, breathing city more than it had in the past thanks to its brilliant looking visuals, copious amounts of detail, and amazing polish.

2) The Last of Us: Remastered (PS4)

The original game on the PlayStation 3 was already a beaut to look at, so it makes total sense that the remastered version of The Last of Us on the PS4 looks mighty impressive, nay, stunning. The environments during the various seasons that the incredible models of Joel and Ellie push through are fantastic for the eyes, and the rest of the character models show the truly visceral world of The Last of Us: Remastered remarkably well.

1) Mario Kart 8 (Wii U)

Despite how realistic the last three games on this list look, I'm a sucker for color, and lots of it! This is where Mario Kart 8 comes in with its eye-popping color, beautiful tracks, and well animated characters. This is Nintendo in its HD finest, and it's why I choose Mario Kart 8 as the most pleasing to look at game, at least in my humble opinion.

Another top five list is in the works for today, so stick around!