Thursday, January 5, 2017

The Most Disappointing Video Game Sequels - Part One

We all have them-- games we very much enjoyed but then their sequels came up short in some way. The six games featured on this inaugural edition of The Most Disappointing Video Game Sequels fit the bill precisely. Now, they might not be bad games by any stretch of the imagination (though, some definitely are), but they did have to disappoint in some aspect of the game. Maybe they weren't as fun or creative as their predecessors, were rushed out to market, or some other reason. After scoping out and reading through SuperPhillip Central's picks, feel free to bring up those sequels that you wish turned out better than they actually did.

Grand Theft Auto IV (PS3, 360, PC)

One of the times that critical acclaim and its Metacritic score just bewilder the hell out of me, Grand Theft Auto IV was a massive disappointment compared to the PS2 and Xbox's San Andreas. For one, IV lacked so many features that were present in San Andreas, some due to GTA IV's greater focus on realism over actual fun. The handling of cars felt extremely wonky in IV, the mission variety was limited at best and boring at worst, the almost complete lack of customization was highly disappointing, the map was all city and too segmented to be enjoyable, and the abundance of annoying phone calls by people who wanted to hang out were tedious to respond to. Perhaps if just taken as an open world game and not comparing it to past GTA games, Grand Theft Auto IV wouldn't have chafed my opinion on it so much, but as it is, GTA IV was a tremendous disappointment which would be thankfully remedied with Grand Theft Auto V's variety, customization, and more.

Final Fantasy XIII (PS3, 360, PC)

The structure of Final Fantasy XIII confuses me as a player and someone interested in game design. Generally, a game starts out with open expanses and then when budget constraints eventually come in, the game becomes much more linear in design to make up for lack of funds near the end of development. With Final Fantasy XIII, the opposite happened design-wise. The first half of the game is devised up of extremely linear dungeons and areas that occasionally fork (and that's being generous) for a side path to get some treasure. The second half, however, is very much wide open once Lightning and companions reach Gran Pulse. Instead of leading with the game's best foot forward, Final Fantasy XIII forced players to agonize through boring, linear dungeons before getting to the real meat of the game. For many, the multiple chapters of doing this made for quite a sense of tedium. Yes, XIII is as beautiful as any other Final Fantasy game has an enjoyable battle system, but those alone do not make a great RPG. The entire package does, which Final Fantasy XIII did not reach its full potential.

Devil May Cry 2 (PS2) 

As we've seen already, a game can be a disappointment to some and still perform fantastically commercially. That was indeed the case with Capcom's Devil May Cry 2, but for many fans of the original and the series in general, Devil May Cry 2 is seen as the weakest game of the Japanese-developed entries in the franchise. Between weapons that seemed to have zero major differences between them and bosses that required little to no strategy, the overall difficulty of Devil May Cry 2 was made much easier, which ruffled the feathers of many a player. Levels went for more of an open approach, sacrificing graphical fidelity in the process, which also made the level designs not as compelling to play through,  Then, there is Dante's total change of personality, which made many miss his cocky demeanor from the first game. With all these problems, Devil May Cry 2 wasn't as an enjoyable sequel for many Devil May Cry fans with some even calling the game a total failure. Thankfully, Devil May Cry 3 very much righted the ship for the franchise-- well, before it went off course again with Ninja Theory's entry.

Perfect Dark Zero (360)

This game, a launch title for the Xbox 360, is one example that shows that a game can still be enjoyable despite it not living up to its predecessor. Indeed, Perfect Dark Zero is an example of a disappointing sequel when compared to the original Perfect Dark, a Nintendo 64 classic that would get its definitive version on Xbox Live Arcade. The original PD is one of my favorite FPS shooters ever made, so to go from that to Perfect Dark Zero was quite the gut check. While the multiplayer and gunplay were rather good, things like the campaign, the story, and especially the horrendous voice acting (Americanizing Joanna Dark and performing some revisionist history on the series were not good moves in my opinion) made for a game that didn't come close to reaching the same highs as the Nintendo 64 classic. While I wouldn't call Perfect Dark Zero a bad game per se, it was, in fact, a poor sequel and huge disappointment coming off of the greatness that was the original Perfect Dark.

Mega Man X6 (PS1)

The first of the Mega Man X series that was truly terrible, Mega Man X6 seemed rushed out of the gate, releasing close to a year from X5, if not less. I remember seeing Mega Man X6 on a store's shelf wondering to myself, "When the heck was THIS announced?!" Regardless, Mega Man X5 was supposed to be the conclusion of the X series, and maybe it should have been considering how poor X6 and then the attempt to bring the series to 3D with X7 were. (Though, X8 was of a considerably greater quality, thankfully.) Between the poor level design (such as facing a mini-boss in Blaze Heatnix's stage no less than 5-6 times in one go), awfully implemented Nightmare System which randomized certain elements of levels to lame effect, and the worthlessness of most of X's weapons, and you have a game that started the X series' slide into mediocrity, one that, again, would not be rectified until Mega Man X8.

Animal Crossing: City Folk (Wii)

The Wii's Animal Crossing: City Folk gives us an example in a sequel that is pretty good as a game by its lonesome, but as a sequel it's not much improved at all. City Folk released a couple of years after the Nintendo DS's Animal Crossing: Wild World, and in essence, City Folk is just Wild World on a console with better graphics and a city thrown in. That's pretty much it. Well, don't forget the privilege of paying full price for Wild World 2.0. Not only a disappointment for veterans of the series for how little was improved from past games, but it was a disappointment in 2008 being Nintendo of America's table scraps for more dedicated gamers that holiday season when the focus was on Wii Music. That said, if you've never played an Animal Crossing game before, then City Folk wouldn't be disappointing at all. It's just putting it in a specific context where it does end up being less than amazing.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Underrated Games With Even More Underrated Soundtracks - Part Four

It's a tradition here at SuperPhillip Central that every Monday five songs from various video games are shared in what we like to call SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs. There is also a recurring series of articles called Most Overlooked Games that is pretty self-explanatory. Combining these two ideas comes Underrated Games With Even More Underrated Soundtracks! We ring in the new year with the fourth installment of the ongoing series, talking about the games that might not have had the sales and/or critical success that they may or may not have deserved.

To check out previous parts, follow these links:

Underrated Games With Even More Underrated Soundtracks - Part One
Underrated Games With Even More Underrated Soundtracks - Part Two
Underrated Games With Even More Underrated Soundtracks - Part Three

Yoshi's Woolly World (Wii U)

On the day Yoshi's Woolly World's composer, Tomoya Tomita announced his parting from developer Good Feel to freelance, we have the game as first honors on this list of underrated games with even more underrated soundtracks. It might seem blasphemous to Yoshi's Island lovers, but Nintendo finally managed to not only create a Yoshi game that was as good as the SNES classic but managed to outdo it, making for a better game. From the adorable yarn and craft aesthetic and spectacular level design to not needing to collect everything in a level in one go to get 100%, Yoshi's Woolly World stands tall. Thankfully, even though it got overlooked on the Wii U due to the system's horrible sales, the game is getting a second chance next month with a 3DS port. Despite the visual downgrade, the catchy and infectious soundtrack will very much stay intact, allowing you to hum along with the terrific tunes of Yoshi's latest adventure on the go!

Star Fox Zero (Wii U)

Some might not call this next game underrated at all. However, many who gave Star Fox Zero a chance and mastered the unorthodox controls found a marvelous cockpit experience controlling Fox McCloud's Arwing, Landmaster, or Gyrowing. The game's Wii roots definitely revealed themselves in the visual fidelity of Star Fox Zero, especially texture-wise, but overall, the game is one that was harshly judged by some who couldn't get a grasp of the controls. Once learned, the game was a blast. The wonderful orchestral soundtrack really gets you in the mood and the groove to shoot down Andross' forces both aerial and ground. While the music isn't as memorable as heard in Star Fox 64 or even Assault, Star Fox Zero's soundtrack accentuates the action of combing the sands of Titania or maneuvering through the buildings of Corneria quite well.

World of Final Fantasy (PS4, Vita)

A commemoration of 30 years of Final Fantasy, World of Final Fantasy puts players in control of both Lann and Reynn, twins who have the power to control Mirages, creatures that can be used in combat as well as collected like Pokemon. The soundtrack was meticulously crafted by Masashi Hamauzu, who received plenty of direction from the development team to create a soundtrack that fit the world and was true to the various characters. Among many original compositions are remixes of classic Final Fantasy themes, from the original to Final Fantasy XIII. World of Final Fantasy didn't exactly get the most attention due to being overshadowed by the much bigger elephant in the room, Final Fantasy XV. Regardless, World of Final Fantasy is a game and a soundtrack that shouldn't be ignored.

Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth (PS4, Vita)

Perhaps you didn't even realize that Digimon was still around! The once-rival to Pokemon found its own way and its own path, building its own brand instead of copying Pokemon so blatantly. With last year's Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth, what PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita owners received was a deep dungeon-crawler with a competent story and exceptional turn-based RPG gameplay. Let's not forget the part that's of import to this series of articles-- the soundtrack! Composed by Masafumi Takada of Killer7, No More Heroes, and Danganronpa fame, the music is full of fantastic themes to enter the hacking world that Digimon Story's latest release presents to players.

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers (Wii)

The most recent retail release of the Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles spin-off series, The Crystal Bearers was quite unlike the rest of the games before it. Instead of being pure dungeon crawlers, The Crystal Bearers went with a grander adventure feel, though most of it played out in either Wii Remote-oriented combat where the goal was to pick up enemies and throw them into others, or mini-game-like tasks. Regardless of one's opinion on how well Crystal Bearers pulled off its gameplay, one thing that can't be argued as well is the quality of the soundtrack. It features a myriad of styles and all of the music is absolutely fantastic. From blues and jazz to rock and heavy metal, the soundtrack styling of Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers is hard to top.

Graffiti Kingdom (PS2)

The sequel to another underrated gem, Magic Pengel: The Quest for Color, Graffiti Kingdom was a PlayStation 2 release that saw little fanfare with its release, sneaking out to store shelves, doomed to a life of being overlooked. Not by SuperPhillip Central, though! Graffiti Kingdom allowed players to collect and create their own 3D creatures in a platforming world. The music was composed by none other than video game music great Yasunori Mitsuda, known for his work on Chrono Trigger, Chrono Cross, Xenogears, and a lot more. The soundtrack is one of utter whimsy and cheer, perfect for the lighthearted tale and adventure that Graffiti Kingdom delivers.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

11 in 2017: SuperPhillip Central's Most Wanted Games

It's a new year of gaming-- new franchises, old favorites with new hooks to them, and much more. As is customary at the start of each year here at SuperPhillip Central, a list is here, showcasing the site's most wanted games that seem likely to release this year. Here's hoping a lot of these actually do release this year, as quite a few return from 2016's list!

After checking out SuperPhillip Central's list of most anticipated games for 2017, let the community know any glaring omissions (whether because of the thought that a certain game won't make it out this year, or for another reason) and what games you're personally most excited for!

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (NS, Wii U)

Let's just say that the Nintendo Switch will (most likely) have a lot of games that a lot of gamers will be anticipating, but for now, we're just sure that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild will *definitely *be one of those. Taking the series into uncharted territory, an open world sandbox with Hyrule, the E3 showing last year made many showgoers have massively positive impressions, making it one of the top games shown last E3. With how much Link can interact with the world, how much of a shakeup the game is to the conventions of the Zelda franchise, and how many rumored dungeons and secret areas Hyrule contains, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a game that I can't help but feverishly anticipate.

Persona 5 (PS4)

A game that has been delayed quite a few times across quite a few years, Persona 5 will finally be coming out this spring to the West (knock on wood). After many delays and several years since the release of the last entry in the series, Persona 5 brings a series of high school students together, using psyches called Personas to do battle with a host of supernatural beings. Interspersed with battles are social interactions with the various characters to change how they relate and react to one another. Think Persona 4 but even bigger and hopefully better! With the success both commercially and critically in Japan, it seems this multiple year wait is finally going to be worth it!

Horizon: Zero Dawn (PS4)

Made by the studio behind Killzone, Horizon: Zero Dawn looks like a breath of fresh air compared to the mostly gritty and dark world that Guerrilla Games spent a lot of their focus making games in with Killzone. Instead, Horizon: Zero Dawn opens things up considerably with a bright and expansive world where heroine Aloy uses a combination of melee and ranged weaponry to take down the mechanical monstrosities and other robotic creatures that ravage the land. Their fallen remains can be looted to give Aloy new goods, materials, and resources. The different ways to go about taking down enemies (either through brute force with clever stealth), the massive map that can be explored without loading screens popping up, and the quest-based progression make for a new franchise for the PlayStation brand that seems highly worthwhile.

Gravity Rush 2 (PS4)

It was an absolute thrill to see PlayStation's Japan branch not give up on Kat or Gravity Rush as a series. The second entry in the series, this time exclusive to the PlayStation 4 for a hopefully bigger audience, brings three different gravity styles to Kat's arsenal. All three give her movements and gravity abilities unique weights to them, one allowing Kat to move with greater agility and height, while another weighs her down more, accentuating her attack power. Additionally, Gravity Rush 2 is also about being bigger and better. There is an AI-controlled partner in Raven, the game has over double the amount of missions available, the play time for the game is around 30 hours long on average, and the world is two times its original size. Regardless of whether Gravity Rush 2 performs well commercially, it at least adds some more value to the PlayStation 4 library.

Nier: Automata (PS4, PC)

The original Nier released last generation for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. It didn't review the greatest overall, but those who found a fondness for the game gave it cult classic status. Square Enix has teamed up with Platinum Games to create Nier: Automata, the sequel that features what the developers have called a game that is quite high on action. Despite this, the developers also wanted to clarify that many of the role-playing pieces of the original Nier would remain intact, so don't worry, fans of the original Nier. In fact, it looks like you're going to be getting the sequel you've been wanting and then some! For everyone else, there's a more action-focused game to look forward to from Square Enix that should interest quite a lot of gamers when it released in Japan next month and then North America and PAL territories soon after.

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard (PS4, XB1, PC)

Despite Capcom's focus on the Resident Evil series turning towards action more than horror, especially with the egregious example of the highly panned team-based multiplayer shooter Umbrella Corps from last year, with Resident Evil 7, the developers are returning to the roots of the series. Well, somewhat, as RE7 takes the long-running franchise to new territory: a first-person shooting perspective. Despite this, all of the goodness from older Resident Evil games will be included, such as puzzles, exploration, herbs, managing your resources, and much more. PlayStation 4 owners will find Resident Evil 7 of particular interest due to the ability to play the full game with PlayStation VR. Regardless of the platform, Resident Evil 7 is shaping up to be a lovely (well, as lovely as contending with monsters can be) return to form for the series, even with the new perspective change included.

Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite (PS4, XB1, PC)

Resident Evil 7 isn't the only promising game coming this year from Capcom. (Well, hopefully!) Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite brings the friendly rivalry between Marvel Comics and Capcom properties to a head once more. Using a two-on-two character system, rather than have assist characters, teammates will now be able to be switched between at any moment during battle-- even during combos and chains. Current roster inclusions feature the awesome Mega Man X (a first-timer), Ryu from Street Fighter, Morrigan from Darkstalkers, and on the Marvel side, Captain America, Iron Man, and newcomer Captain Marvel. Hopefully unlike Street Fighter V, Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite allows both fighting game veterans and casual players to enjoy the game equally.

Crash Bandicoot: N. Sane Trilogy (PS4)

When I grew up, I always preferred Mario and Sonic over Crash Bandicoot. However, it's foolish to think that Crash was not an important fixture of not just a prominent portion of gamers, but 3D platformers in general, using unique corridor-like levels as well as more traditional side-scrolling levels. Naughty Dog's classic trio of Crash Bandicoot games gets the makeover treatment to gorgeous effect thanks to Vicarious Visions of Skylanders fame as well as Crash's Game Boy Advance exploits. Rebuilding the geometry of levels from scratch, Vicarious Visions is definitely putting in the work to make the original Crash Bandicoot trilogy hopefully as great as it can be. I didn't get to experience much of Crash as a kid, so I'm ready and raring to go decades later to remedy that gross mistake.

Yooka-Laylee (Multi)

Banjo-Kazooie is my favorite 3D platformer of all time. Its combination of world, charm, levels, abilities, and platforming made for a game that I continue to enjoy and play all of these decades later. Now, the team behind that game and many of Rare's classics on Nintendo systems are behind Yooka-Laylee, forming their own studio called Playtonic Games. Looking at the colorful worlds, characters, and familiar yet modernized gameplay of Yooka-Laylee, and it seems like the developers and all the talent behind the game haven't missed a beat. The game has an April release date after all this time, and it's also going to have a physical launch as well. Truth be told, as a huge Banjo-Kazooie fan, Yooka-Laylee is without question one of my most anticipated games of the year.

Sonic Mania (PS4, XB1, PC)

Two Sonic the Hedgehog games are planned for 2017, but we have more than just a teaser for Sonic Mania. The game brings back the style of the original and often-acclaimed Sonic the Hedgehog games found on the Sega Genesis, bringing both old but remixed levels into the fold as well as completely new ones, such as a level where Sonic is launched out of gigantic pop guns in a western-themed zone. Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles are playable characters, each with their own unique abilities. A new move for Sonic called the Drop Dash grants him the convenience of curling up into a ball and performing his trademark Spin Attack after he lands a jump. Sonic Mania is the game that Sonic fans have wanted for ages, and unlike undesirable efforts from Sega like Sonic the Hedgehog 4, Sonic Mania actually looks like it will deliver.

Ever Oasis (3DS)

Directed and produced by the father of the Mana series, Ever Oasis is a real-time action RPG where players enter dungeons and caves for treasure, all the while combating enemies and solving puzzles. This is all to create a thriving oasis community. Grezzo is behind the development of Ever Oasis, a developer who previously did the 3DS remakes of both Nintendo 64 Legend of Zelda games, Ocarina of Time 3D and Majora's Mask 3D. The game was debuted at Nintendo's Nintendo Treehouse live event at E3 last year. We know that the game is planned to be released this year for the Nintendo 3DS, bringing yet another interesting title to the system in its twilight years with the Switch making its debut sometime this year as well.

Monday, January 2, 2017

SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs - "RNG-ing in the New Year" Edition

It's the first Monday of 2017, so that means it's time for the first SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs edition of 2017 as well! We're RNG-ing in 2017 with five songs from some very fun RPGs this special themed edition.

Starting off with the most modern game on the edition, Final Fantasy XV gives us a powerful and intense battle theme. Then, Chrono Cross delivers a lovely dungeon theme. The World Ends With You takes us to Tokyo with some J-Rock, while Legend of Mana gives us an earlier taste of Yoko Shimomura's musical style. Finally, Paper Mario sends us home with a fun little song for desert outpost exploration.

If you need a reminder (and no worries if you do), just click on the VGM volume name to hear that song. Also, check out the VGM Database for a whole healthy heap of VGM volumes collected throughout the years! Now, let's get on to the music!

v1301. Final Fantasy XV (PS4, XB1) - Stand Your Ground

Yoko Shimomura kicks off 2017's first edition of SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs with the standard battle theme for Final Fantasy XV, a game ten years in the making. It still feels unreal that the final product is actually out and people can play it! Stand Your Ground is a tense track, using strings for the main melody with some nice brass eventually backing the song. It even has a callback to the Prelude theme from the Final Fantasy series near the beginning. This is just a sample of the excellence that is the soundtrack of Final Fantasy XV, one that was so special that it was SuperPhillip Central's pick for Best Original Soundtrack at our Best of 2016 Awards.

v1302. Chrono Cross (PS1) - Ancient Dragon's Stronghold

From one prolific composer to another, Yasunori Mitsuda worked on all of the music for Chrono Cross, a classic PlayStation RPG. Ancient Dragon's Stronghold plays during the Fort Dragonia dungeon of the game. There, one must process the overarching puzzle inside related to the direction that dragon heads point. The theme starts out slow and mysterious, and then the main melody kicks in, a catchy piano riff. It's a nice dungeon theme that doesn't really grating despite all the time you'll be spending in the fort, and you WILL be spending a good deal of time there!

v1303. The World Ends With You (DS) - Emptiness And

On the official The World Ends With You soundtrack, this song is labeled Bonus Track. It's a hard rock song that plays during specific enemy encounters within the game, and its chorus gives a pretty intense feel to it. All sounding great, however. It's a song that really fits the modern world and modern Tokyo that the game is based in. Now, Tetsuya Nomura-- where is our long-teased sequel?!

v1304. Legend of Mana (PS1) - Hometown Domina

We started off this edition of SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs with Yoko Shimomura's latest released soundtrack, Final Fantasy XV. Now, we enter the way-back machine and listen to one of her earlier works, a pleasant town theme from Legend of Mana, a cult classic PlayStation original. I think that word "pleasant" is the perfect word for this theme. Hearing it brings such nostalgia, especially if you have a fondness for the beginning town in the game.

v1305. Paper Mario (N64) - Mysterious Dry Dry Outpost

Placed smack dab in Dry Dry Desert stands the Dry Dry Outpost, home to the Dry Dry townspeople, bartering for goods and living their lives. This hokey tune plays as Paper Mario carouses through the booths and homes of the outpost, getting ready to make his way to a puzzle-filled pyramid. Compared to the music of Paper Mario: Color Splash, however, Paper Mario doesn't seem to compete, despite having some nice tunes. At the same token, gameplay-wise Color Splash doesn't seem to compete with the original Paper Mario!

Review Round-Up - December 2016

While Super Mario Run allowed Mario to jump into a pool of gold coins...
The final month of 2016 brought six reviews to SuperPhillip Central. It was mostly a month of platforming with some very big stars and some very big disappointments (well, one). Starting off the month of December was Review Redux of New Super Mario Bros. 2 which earned a B grade. A disappointment came soon after when I finished Mekazoo, a game which had a rocky second half, giving it a D+ grade overall. Then, we traveled to the LittleBigPlanet with LittleBigPlanet 3, hopping happily about with a B-.

Moving forward, the lone non-platformer this month, Aqua Moto Racing Utopia, amazed with its tight controls and its rivaling of Wave Race, earning itself a B+. Next up, two former rivals had two different games, each on the opposite sides of the sales success spectrum. First, Super Mario Run successfully converted 2D Mario to mobile in a smart way, getting a B+ for its effort. Secondly and lastly, Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice improved on the foundation laid by the first Nintendo 3DS Sonic Boom entry, Shattered Crystal, and it slid into a C+ for being a competent but not-too-special platformer.

Here's to a new year with new reviews for some awesome games!

New Super Mario Bros. 2 (3DS) Review Redux - B
Mekazoo (PS4, XB1, PC) - D+
LittleBigPlanet 3 (PS4, PS3) - B-
Aqua Moto Racing Utopia (PS4, PC) - B+
Super Mario Run (iOS) - B+
Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice (3DS) - C+

...His former rival Sonic didn't fare as well, though he did get a nice title under his belt (er, scarf) regardless.

Central City Census - January 2017

Sure, there's a new year upon us, but that also means it's a new month upon us as well! That's of significance because it's time to bring out both the Central City Census and the Review Round-Up! First, we'll check on the Central City Census and see the results from December 2016's Final Fantasy XV poll.

After ten years of planning, development, and production, Final Fantasy XV finally released! The Central City Census for December 2016 asked about whether you purchased the game, as well as asking if you're enjoying it, pending you bought it, of course.

There were 26 total votes in total (which isn't too bad considering I'm not the best at marketing the poll). The most popular choice was that yes, 8 people had bought the game and they were liking what they were playing. Meanwhile, we had 7 folks who were planning to purchase the game (perhaps as a Christmas gift for themselves?). An equal number of voters said they weren't planning to buy the game, while one lone soul bought the game but unfortunately isn't caring for it all that much. Lastly, 3 voters aren't certain whether Final Fantasy XV will be a part of their collections any time soon.

With the results for last month's Central City Census examined fully, let's check out what the Census has to ask this month, the first of 2017!

The holiday season is over. Did you get a good haul? Maybe you got some new hardware, whether a new PC, a new smartphone or tablet, a new home console, or a new handheld! The Central City Census for January 2017 asks if you got any new hardware over the holidays!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

SuperPhillip Central Best of 2016 Awards - Top Ten Games of 2016

After all other categories have been completed, we've arrived at the final awards category of the SuperPhillip Central Best of 2016 Awards. This, of course, is SuperPhillip Central's list of the top ten games of 2016. This will be the ninth year in a row that SuperPhillip Central bestows a game with top honors of Game of the Year, so let's get started. But first, just realize that due to the massive amount of games released, one person can't possibly play them all, so just consider this list one of favorites that I played last year than anything objective. Now, let's get to counting down!

10) Super Mario Run (iOS)

Mario kicks off this countdown, and unexpectedly if I do say so myself, and since this is my countdown, I DO say so myself. Super Mario Run might have been a known quality thanks to being under the tight supervision of Nintendo and having longtime Nintendo producer and director Takashi Tezuka in a directing role. Super Mario Run simplified the gameplay of traditional 2D Mario and distilled it to one thing: jumping, yet while doing so, Nintendo kept much of what makes 2D Mario so deep and rewarding. With just one action, jumping, given so much nuance to it, it really showed how masterful of a developer Nintendo is. It was a thrill finding the perfect ways to run through the rather lengthy levels, collecting the hard-gotten pink, purple, and black coins. I did not expect to love Super Mario Run as much as I did, nor did I expect to not feel burned by the premium price point.

9) Aqua Moto Racing Utopia (PS4, PC)

I said last night that I wasn't going to be done gushing about this game. As the most unexpected entry on this list, Aqua Moto Racing Utopia gave me the closest experience to Wave Race 64, a game that I consider the pinnacle of the aquatic racing sub-genre. In many ways, Zordix's racer outshined Nintendo's retro effort. The feeling of controlling each watercraft was fantastic-- you really felt the heft and weight of each vehicle, and the wave physics never caused me to bounce unpredictably. The ten locales, from alligator-infested swamps to tropical getaways, each housed several fun-to-race circuits, each following the standard buoy-to-buoy rules of other games of its ilk. With split-screen multiplayer making up for the completely barren online lobbies, Aqua Moto Racing Utopia delivered a fantastic aquatic racing game that I can easily see myself coming back to time and again.

8) Hyrule Warriors: Legends (3DS)

It says something about a game that I can spend 80+ hours on the Wii U original version, and then invest 40+ hours on its Nintendo 3DS port. That was exactly what I did between the original Hyrule Warriors on Wii U and then its Nintendo 3DS version this year, Hyrule Warriors: Legends. For a game that was already rich with content, Legends brought even more gameplay goodness, characters, and content to the table. New improvements like the ability to switch between characters on-the-fly instead of being limited to playing as just one, new story chapters with one featuring a brand-new character Linkle and one set in the realm of The Wind Waker, and new Adventure Mode maps made Hyrule Warriors: Legends a worthwhile game to pick up and play even if one had already played the Wii U game. The 40 hours I invested in the 3DS port were just the tip of the iceberg, as I haven't even invested a fraction of the time it requires to see and do everything in this magnificent love letter to fans of Zelda and lovers of Musou-styled games.

7) Adventures of Mana (iOS, Android, Vita)

Sometimes an old school is experience is just the thing to put a smile on my face and take me back to my youth. Then again, I never played Final Fantasy Adventure on the Game Boy in my youth. Regardless, Adventures of Mana is a remake of that game, and where it does bring me back to my youth is through its retro sensibilities: a small dose of story that breaks up the gameplay, little-to-no hand-holding, an uncharted world to explore with dungeons and towns, and multiple weapons to acquire for different uses. I played the game on my iPhone back in March, and it still stays with me as one of my favorite games of the year, if only due to how it reminded me of the classic games I loved growing up. Plus, it hasn't missed a step two decades later.

6) Azure Striker Gunvolt 2 (3DS)

Mega Man is deep in hibernation, but the next best thing is here. No, I'm certainly not talking about Mighty No. 9. Instead, I'm talking about former Mega Man Zero and Mega Man 9/10 developer, Inti Creates' sensational Azure Striker Gunvolt 2. Not merely a copycat of Mega Man, Azure Striker Gunvolt 2 contained two playable characters, each who possessed their own stories and exclusive levels, as well as their own means to eliminate enemies. With Gunvolt, he tagged foes with bullets, and then could summon an electrical shield to strike the tagged targets into oblivion. Meanwhile, rival Copen could dash into targets (either via the ground or the air) and unleash a bevy of missiles that would home in on his desired foes. With level design that encouraged exploration, obstacles and enemies that required care and thought to overcome, and some pulse-pounding boss battles, Azure Striker Gunvolt 2 might not have been a new Mega Man, but it was a mighty fine alternative.

5) Kirby: Planet Robobot (3DS)

After Return to Dream Land and Triple Deluxe, developer HAL Laboratory once again hit one out of the proverbial park with the latest installment in the long-running Kirby franchise, Kirby: Planet Robobot. The game featured similar action to past Kirby titles, notably Triple Deluxe, with its movement between the foreground and background, collection of special objects to unlock new levels, and host of powers for Kirby to copy from foes. Planet Robobot upped Kirby's arsenal with the ability for the pink puffball to commandeer mechs at specific points in the game, not only presenting a plethora of power to take out enemies with ease, but he could also copy the abilities of foes with his mech. This allowed Kirby and his mech to bring the hurt to baddies, access new areas, and transform the mech for fast racing or side-scrolling shoot-em-up sequences. As a series, Kirby continues to be in good hands, and Kirby: Planet Robobot is tremendous proof of just that.

4) DOOM (PS4, XB1, PC)

Moving from bright and bouncy to grungy and gory, sometimes all it takes to satisfy me is a well-made campaign and some serious fun. DOOM did just that for me. DOOM presented the player with fast and fluid combat and gunplay, almost poetry in motion, as they pushed through Hell's onslaught of demons and undesirables. There was great joy to be had in blasting a round into a demon to weaken them so you could perform a glory kill on them, gaining a very brief moment of repose as you mercilessly mutilate them. These glory kills didn't slow down the pace of DOOM at all-- instead, they assisted in giving players temporary boosts and health, a quick pause in the action, as well as granting them the ability to take out one enemy quickly and then rush to become entangled with another. The level design offered robust exploration, remarkably rewarding players who went off the beaten path, investigated curiously placed objects and sections of room, and thoroughly searched through the levels. The rewards gave players new weapons, armor upgrades, and more. Though the multiplayer was a forced aspect of the game, the single player campaign of DOOM more than makes up for the total package. DOOM was my biggest surprise of the year for a reason-- well, as you've seen, several reasons!

3) The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD (Wii U)

Even though Breath of the Wild isn't due out until later this year, that didn't stop The Legend of Zelda series was from appearing on this list not once, but twice. Despite it being a high-definition remaster of the 2006 Wii release of the game, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD was not only a Zelda adventure I hadn't played since the Wii's launch ten years ago, but it implemented so many wonderful quality of life changes and improvements to make an overall definitive version of the game. The ability to switch items and Link's forms as well as aim items like bow and arrows or clawshot with the Wii U GamePad made for a more intuitive experience. In addition to that, things like shortened Tears of Light quests and the ability to pick up Rupees from treasure chests regardless of having a full wallet, made for a game that played best on Wii U. Couple all that with the original's heartfelt tale, emotional moments, and some of the best dungeons in Zelda series history, and you have a Zelda remaster that shines bright.

2) Uncharted 4: A Thief's End (PS4)

A perfect sendoff to the adventures of Nathan Drake and a culmination of all the skills that Naughty Dog had picked up throughout its history, Uncharted 4: A Thief's End showcased Naughty Dog's excellence in telling a memorable and poignant tale, their skill in creating charming characters with clever dialogue, and most importantly since we're in the hobby of video games, their talents in crafting a fun thrill ride of an adventure with so many moments and set pieces that stand as some of the series's best, much more some of the industry's best. A reworked combat system, doing away with quick-time event-like maneuvers, as well improved gunplay made Uncharted 4 the best feeling game in the series by far. The globetrotting adventure knew when to introduce new concepts and variety to the gameplay, when to push the action to the limit, and when to pause for some time to breathe, making the game's overall pacing quite well done. Then, there was the massively addicting multiplayer that continues to foster an active community with a multitude of maps, modes, and content to keep players in the fight for years to come.

1) Ratchet & Clank (PS4)

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.


So ends the SuperPhillip Central Best of 2016 Awards! Which games of 2016 were your favorites? Let me know in the comments section!