Friday, January 26, 2018

SuperPhillip Central Best of 2017 Awards - Top Five Biggest Surprises

This is always a fun category to do for the SuperPhillip Central Best Of yearly awards. So many hyped games can end up being disappointing, but what about those that folks didn't give much attention to that turned out awesome? Let's continue being positive here at the SuperPhillip Central Best of 2017 Awards with the nominees for the Biggest Surprises of the year. These are games that astonished me with their quality, almost coming out of nowhere to excite and fascinate. Some were more interesting than I originally gave them credit for, but after playing these games, my attitude shifting drastically. As always with the awards on SuperPhillip Central, I unfortunately can't play every game released in a given year, so don't be too hard on the award show for missing any of your picks. I might have simply not played them. Now, onto the Top Five Biggest Surprises of 2017!

5) Knack II (PS4)

We begin with a sequel to a successful launch game for the PlayStation 4. The original Knack may have sold well, but its critical reception from both fans and reviewers alike wasn't as notable as the game's sales. That notwithstanding, Knack II released and had the opposite outcome: the game was much improved and of a really good quality while the sales were less than spectacular, perhaps because the original Knack burned so many players by how repetitive it was. Adding more platforming, more worthwhile and varied combat, and lots more exploration allowing players to constantly go off the beaten path, Knack II was a delight to play and really did surprise those who tried out it (including yours truly) who didn't see it being a noteworthy game in the PS4's robust roster of software.

4) Ever Oasis (3DS)

This next game, Ever Oasis, was the winner of this year's Most Overlooked / Underrated Game here at the SuperPhillip Central Best of 2017 Awards. Developed in tandem by the mind behind the Secret of Mana as well Grezzo, the team who worked on both Legend of Zelda 3DS remakes, Ever Oasis was an action-RPG set in an expansive desert filled with a dark blight that has sucked every last bit of flora and water from oases around the land. Only one oasis was left, and that was of course yours. Through completing missions, conquering dungeons, solving puzzles, and battling enemies, your oasis would grow more and more prosperous, expanding and receiving newcomers to set up helpful shops. Materials from downed enemies could be used to upgrade the shops in order to make more money to craft new goods. Throughout my 30 hour playtime with the game, Ever Oasis brought me a feverish desire to keep playing, even when my 3DS's battery was running low. That's the mark of a compelling game. One that like an oasis in the desert was truly refreshing.


Like Splatoon for the Wii U, Nintendo introduced a heavy hitter as a new IP for its Switch console. This time around it was none other than the atypical fighting game ARMS. Players fought within arenas of varying sizes with different stage gimmicks inside to spice things up. Rather than attack with all extremities, ARMS, as you might expect from the name, was centered on its characters' upper limbs to unleash attacks of all directions, whether straight, curved, sliced, or what have you. While the goal in ARMS was similar to traditional fighting games, the gameplay was exponentially different when it came to strategy. Do you make the first advance with a punch? Which arm do you use? Do you dodge to left or evade to the right? Do you jump over a punch or send one of your own, careening around it to take your opponent out? Fights demanded the player to come up with these answers within milliseconds or else they'd be at the end of a vicious combo, or worse, be on the receiving end of a health bar-draining special attack. While ARMS didn't have the same level of popularity as Splatoon, ARMS did quite well for its freshman effort. Well enough to receive new, free updates as well as easily passing a million sales worldwide. Not bad for a first try!

2) Sonic Mania (PS4, XB1, NSW, PC)

Some games surprise and astonish from their quality. Some games do it because you didn't expect them to appear at all. Sonic Mania was a combination of both of these reasons with a classic-style Sonic game that was as good (and in many cases, better) as the games loved during the Genesis / Mega Drive era and was revealed from out of nowhere. Added to those facts was Christian Whitehead and company, makers of past Sonic fan-games and later assisted with the HD remasters of Sonic the Hedgehog 1, 2, and CD, who also had a full hand in creating a new 2D Sonic game which culminated exquisitely in Sonic Mania. You had a team of die-hard classic Sonic fans who knew what was good about the old games, something that even Sonic Team now clearly doesn't get, and with Whitehead and his team behind the game, Sonic Mania arrived with much hype, sales, and critical acclaim. A new 2D Sonic game in 2017 that sometimes surpasses the likes of the Genesis era? That is indeed a surprising opinion of mine and is all the reason why Sonic Mania is #2 on this countdown of this past year's biggest surprises.

1) Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle (NSW)

It was a crow buffet for all those folks who downplayed or worse, made fun of, the idea of Nintendo providing the Mario license to Ubisoft to make its own merging of the world of the Mushroom Kingdom with the insane antics of Rayman's Rabbids series with Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle. Some asked, "How would that even work?" Others didn't even believe it or could conceive how an idea was anything but ridiculous. When assets were leaked, the gaming community had a field day, hardly able to suppress their ire and "LMAOs" towards what they saw. But when E3 last year rolled around and Mario + Rabbids was properly unveiled, the entire gaming world (or at least those who were downplaying the game, which was many of us) was amazed and delighted by what they saw. Taking the gameplay of XCOM and throwing in Mario and Rabbids characters with high-powered weapons made for a game that was strategic, smart, and hilarious. The moment at E3 2017 where the creative director of Kingdom Battle, Davide Soliani broke down into tears at the warm regards, cheers, and applause for the game that he and his team worked so hard on, which was scrutinized for months before being given a fair chance... Well, it's an E3 moment I'll always treasure, much like the final product and biggest surprise of 2017, Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle.

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