Thursday, December 31, 2020

SuperPhillip Central Best of 2020 Awards - Top Ten Games of 2020

With hours left in 2020, it's finally here! After multiple awards and dozens of games already listed in past categories, we arrive at the final category of the SuperPhillip Central Best of 2020 Awards. It's time for the Top Ten Games of 2020, where we officially crown one game with SPC'S coveted* (*your mileage will vary) Game of the Year award!

Although 2020 itself was a horrid, disastrous and utterly depressing year, gaming-wise it wasn't half-bad! Two new next-gen consoles launched with promises of new and improved experiences and several truly excellent and magnificent games released this year as well. This ultimate list of the SuperPhillip Central Best of 2020 Awards obviously focuses on the latter. These are the games that brought the most joy, the highest quality, and were the ones that made 2020 a year that could give us a semblance of tolerance for this otherwise miserable year. With that ringing endorsement of the year out of the way, let's get to the countdown of SPC's Top Ten Games of 2020 starting with number ten!

10) Doom Eternal (PS4, XB1, NSW, PC)

A game that strikes a brutal balance of making you feel like an unstoppable badass--running, gunning, jumping, revving your chainsaw, and ripping and tearing into the flesh of enemies--and simultaneously treating you to getting your teeth smashed via a bloody curb stomp in later skirmishes, Doom Eternal is one killer FPS. So much about Eternal is improved from Doom's 2016 outing, from the increased adrenaline junkie action to the movement options available to the Doom Slayer and the incredible level design. A couple end game boss battles and a weak multiplayer mode aside, Doom Eternal still helped get some of my aggression towards 2020 out with this visceral and ultraviolent first-person shooter. Playing it is like juggling three chainsaws--you're always in danger where one false move can result in death, but you can look awesome doing it. (Caution: Do not actually try to juggle three chainsaws, to the folks at home. Instead, play Doom Eternal for a similar pump of adrenaline.) For these reasons, Doom Eternal kicks off this Top Ten Games of 2020 countdown.

9) Resident Evil 3 (PS4, XB1, PC)

A lot of fans of the original Resident Evil 3 as well as fans of last year's Resident Evil 2 remake (you'll find many of these fans in the center of a Venn Diagram) felt shortchanged by this year's remake of Resident Evil 3. Cut content from the original and the game's brevity meant that many considered it not much more than DLC-like content rather than a full-fledged game. I see things much differently. Not only did the shorter run time actively encourage someone like me who adored the game to run through it multiple times, once I did it twice in the same day, but it makes for a snappier-paced game as well. Jill Valentine was as magnificent as ever in her starring role in the game, and Carlos's upgrade as a character was awesome to see, too. Nemesis might not stalk players, appearing whenever and wherever, like he may have in the original RE, but in this remake, the sections where he did show up to hunt Jill were truly terrifying. I greatly enjoyed my time with Resident Evil 3 this year, and while it doesn't outshine or out-fright the fun I had with 2019's Resident Evil 2, it's still a thrill ride of a game regardless!

8) Paper Mario: The Origami King (NSW)

After a couple of relatively ho-hum entries in the Paper Mario series as Nintendo and Intelligent Systems experimented with the formula, trying to not only change things up considerably but nail down the concept at the same time, with Paper Mario: The Origami King, a super satisfying Paper Mario has returned to gaming. It's not the sequel to The Thousand-Year Door in gameplay style that many fans lament, but taken in its own context and by itself, Origami King is an exceptional entry in the series. From the engaging exploration and smartly designed areas to journey through, to the improved battles--whether they be the normal "spin-to-win" puzzles or the more complicated boss encounters--Paper Mario: The Origami King delighted in almost every which way. It even managed to go to some emotional places that I certainly did not expect out of an otherwise wholesome, hilarious and colorful adventure! Paper Mario: The Origami King was one of the bright spots in an otherwise light lineup of original games from Nintendo this year, but one that stands as one of the year's and one of the Switch's strongest titles.

7) Ori and the Will of the Wisps (XBS, XB1, NSW, PC)

The original Ori and the Blind Forest brought both touching emotional moments and engaging and precise platforming design to players in a gorgeous Metroidvania-style world. This year's sequel, Ori and the Will of the Wisps, took the fantastic foundation of the original Ori and further iterated on it to create one of the best gaming experiences of 2020. Similar amounts of emotional moments and story beats that accentuated the original's plot are present and ever tasteful in this sequel, while gameplay-wise, Ori has an enhanced move set. The game is at its greatest when Ori is freely chaining between jumps, bashes against enemies and their projectiles, and soaring through the air with unrivaled skill and grace. The added boss encounters, town-building aspect, and side quests only further brought increased excellence to this Ori sequel. Ori and the Will of the Wisps is beautiful inside and of course outside, and those things easily put it in the running for me as one of the best games released in 2020.

6) Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2 (PS4, XB1, PC)

As the SuperPhillip Central Best of 2020 Awards has shown already, it's been a terrific year for remakes and remasters. Thus, it's no surprise that this best of 2020 list will see a fair number of them. One such game is a blast from the past, and one where players skateboarded, held grinds, manuals, and performed flip, lip, and spin tricks like it was 1999. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2 offered the entire suite of levels from the original two THPS games in gorgeous remade and fully realized glory. However, that would have been for naught had the skating not felt as tight, responsive, and as good to control. We've seen this with Activision's first attempt at remaking THPS. Fortunately, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2 was a testament to the developers, showing that they knew and understood what made the classic games so spectacular, beloved and well received. The game holds true to the legacy of the originals, and very much stands toe-to-toe--or in this case--skates board-to-board with them. A brilliant achievement, and a stellar, nostalgic trip.

5) Final Fantasy VII Remake (PS4)

Many of the remakes and remasters of 2020 essentially stayed true to their originals. Now, don't misconstrue my meaning here--Final Fantasy VII Remake definitely kept many of the things that made fans love of the 1997 PS1 original, but the game also boldly went into a totally new direction, too. It would have been disastrous if this risk hadn't paid off, but fortunately, it very much did. Everything from Final Fantasy VII Remake's story beats to its combat, turning to a more action-oriented real-time approach, saw alterations from the original. Some of this was a necessity, as Remake takes place entirely in only the first city of Final Fantasy VII, Midgar--which only takes about two handfuls of hours to complete. Therefore, some necessary filler and padding was added. While some of it was less than savory, the majority of new content was worthwhile. I have to applaud the development team of Final Fantasy VII Remake, because not only did they successfully change several of the original FF7's conventions, be it story or gameplay-related, but did so in a way that fully engaged me from the beginning of the game to the very end. And man, what an ending! Talk about your bold, risky choices! That's why Final Fantasy VII Remake, for me, stands as one of the best games of the past year.

4) Ghost of Tsushima (PS4)

Another PlayStation 4 exclusive, Ghost of Tsushima surprised me with how much I was immersed in its world. Sucker Punch did a phenomenal job with creating 13th century Tsushima, making for a gorgeous countryside, rugged mountains, running rivers, vibrant forests, and rural villages and towns that I couldn't stop exploring. Protagonist Jin Sakai's journey was also something I was absorbed in, watching him see his fellow samurai get massacred by the Mongol invasion, and how his vengeance sees him butt heads with his own samurai code and honor was an enthralling tale. Whether I was engaged in the story and its various oftentimes depressing-in-tone quests that seldom didn't end on a downer, unsheathing Jin's blade and using it against Mongols and bandits alike, discovering the myriad points of interests in the three unique areas of Tsushima Island, or just being in awe at the stunning visuals on display, Ghost of Tsushima continues Sony's first-party magnificence. It makes for an emotional journey that will no doubt stay with me for a good while, the mark of a game that's like a samurai blade--finely crafted.

3) Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition (NSW)

I was hesitant to put the game that won SuperPhillip Central's Game of 2012 award so highly on this year's list eight years later, but playing through Xenoblade Chronicles all over again, not only did I enjoy this RPG epic more than ever before, but I learned new things to love about this game that I didn't note in 2012. Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition takes a game that the Wii or New Nintendo 3DS hardware just couldn't do justice and puts it on a system that finally shows this sensational adventure in all its awesome, beautiful and expansive glory. The environments are easy to lose yourself in, not just travel-wise, but just by being mesmerized by all the beauty in the game's overwhelmingly large world. There's a lot to take in and explore, quests to complete (though the Definitive Edition makes tracking these abundantly easier), and creatures to battle. The addition of the bonus epilogue, Future Connected, and its brand-new, never-before-seen area means that even after the lengthy base story is complete (and that's even without counting the New Game+ option!), there's far more command-based action-RPG goodness to savor. Xenoblade Chronicles was already one of my favorite RPGs of all time, and this Nintendo Switch Definitive Edition makes it even better and all the more impressive.

2) Sackboy: A Big Adventure (PS5, PS4)

Here's a platforming game pick that might be an oddball of the bunch, but one that I absolutely adored from start to finish. Sackboy: A Big Adventure removed the floaty physics and handling of its stitched star and that made for precise and great-feeling game to play. From Sackboy's run, to his roll that could be chained into a jump, to his Yoshi-like flutter at the end of a leap, Sackboy felt fabulous to move around and control. Much, MUCH more impressive, however, is how developer Sumo Digital constantly created crafty levels that continued to impress and amaze me as I played through the game. Like its clear inspiration with Super Mario 3D World, each level in Sackboy: A Big Adventure delivers to players a new concept that is fleshed out more and more, with increased challenge, as the level progresses. The levels featuring licensed songs like Foster the People's Houdini or Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars' Uptown Funk, where the music syncs to the platforming and obstacles in the levels, are some of the strongest and most clever of the bunch in an already absurdly creative, charming and challenging 3D platformer. I can't understate how much I enjoyed this year's Sackboy: A Big Adventure, nor how much I surprised even myself for liking the game so much.

And SuperPhillip Central's Game of 2020 award goes to...



1) Animal Crossing: New Horizons (NSW)

A game released at the right place and at the right time, for many, Animal Crossing: New Horizons was the perfect pandemic game. It allowed players to be social with one another in a responsible, virtual way, as they ventured to one another's islands to enjoy each other's company. The game itself is also a true and radical upgrade from past installments, offering more freedom than ever before. The ability to customize and craft your island as you see fit to truly make it your own home away from home was unprecedented for the series, and was a long awaited one, for that matter. Starting with a desolate deserted island covered with weeds at the beginning of the game and seeing it blossom and flourish into a bustling island community is one of my defining moments of 2020.

Despite any problems I might have with New Horizons--and there are slight annoyances and issues present, don't get me wrong--they don't take anything away from how much I loved playing this game over this past year, catching bugs and fish, building my collection of furniture and clothing, paying off my debt to that rascally but ultimately lovable tanuki Tom Nook, decorating my house and island my own way, and visiting real-life friends and animal islanders alike. Through the nearly 300 hours I've put into Animal Crossing: New Horizons, the game has continued to bring me immense joy and was a bright, bright spot in a year that was otherwise unsalvageable, dark and dreary. Here's to hoping that 2021 will be a year where Animal Crossing won't be as needed to find happiness with friends, families, and gamers as it was in 2020.


And with that, the conclusion of the SuperPhillip Central Best of 2020 Awards arrives. I hope you've enjoyed but a small glimpse at the immense amount of notable games released in 2020. Here's hoping that 2021 is a brighter year for all of us! See you in 2021, everybody!

Shantae and the Seven Sirens (NSW, PS4, XB1, PC, iOS) Review

Let's take a quick detour and break from the SuperPhillip Central Best of 2020 Awards before we publish the final award category of the show, and let's look at the final review of 2020. It's for a series of charming platformers equally as challenging as they are beautiful to look at. I'm talking of course about Shantae, and her latest outing is Shantae and the Seven Sirens. Here's the SPC review.

You'll want to answer these sirens' calls

Shantae and the Seven Sirens had quite the interesting rollout delivery method when it originally launched as an exclusive to Apple Arcade. It was rolled out in two parts, with the first launching last year and the second half coming out earlier this year. For a Metroidvania with one interconnected map (rather than the disconnected adventure that was Half-Genie Hero), that's quite the intriguing if not bewildering delivery method.

However, no doubt most Shantae fans were eager and more interested in the console versions, and the full release of Shantae and the Seven Sirens on consoles launched earlier this year as well with a physical version from Limited Run Games also coming. It's been a wild ride to see Shantae and the Seven Sirens' conclusion and final release, but fortunately, it was well worth the wait.

Shantae's latest adventure sees her leaving the familiar shores of Scuttle Island and heading to a new isle, Arena Island to be exact, to accept an invite to a "Half-Genie Festival". Here, five other Half-Genies who were part of the festival and who Shantae quickly became friendly with, disappear on the spot. Thus, it's up to Shantae to discover the whereabouts of her fellow Half-Genies and find out who is behind this new plot. Occasional beautifully drawn animated cutscenes appear during major sequences of the game--these are fully voice acted, though the subtitles tend to appear too early compared to the voicework--but most of the dialogue and story is told in-game with voicework interspersed every now and then. 

With Shantae's signature hair-whipping attack, she shows this tree's bark is worse than its bite.
Half-Genie Hero, the previous entry in the Shantae series, eschewed the familiar Metroidvania structure and gameplay that most fans of the franchise know and love. The game was a good one regardless, but not exactly the direction everyone wanted for the series. Thankfully for them, Shantae and the Seven Sirens returns to having one large, interconnected map to explore. Each major area of the map is color coordinated and features one warp zone to make it easier to navigate around the relatively sizable world. The only main issue I have with the in-game map is that it doesn't denote challenge caves with any sort of icon or means to mark their locations on the map. If you're like me, you'll most likely come across a cave that you don't have the proper power or ability for and promptly forget where you originally found it. 

Like typical games of its platforming genre style, in Shantae and the Seven Sirens, Shantae learns new abilities and powers to have her able to access new parts of the map. Though I think it's fair to say that Seven Sirens offers a more limited and linear structure to the Metroidvania formula. It's chapter-based, and generally has Shantae navigating a new area of the map, coming across one of the dungeon-like zones of her adventure, discovering the location of a genie locked inside a cage in said dungeon-like zones, learning a new ability, and using that ability in the dungeon to come across and defeat the boss lurking inside. Rinse and repeat with the occasional fetch quest interspersed in between. It makes for a predictable if not easy-to-follow pattern of play.

Throughout her adventure, Shantae will enter these dungeon-like areas of the game,
each with a Half-Genie to find and a boss to beat down.
As Shantae learns new abilities, it becomes especially nice to see Shantae's move set, specifically her animal transformations, more directly integrated into the game via buttons instead of selecting a new transformation from a menu. For example, using the Nintendo Switch's button nomenclature, pressing ZR will send Shantae dashing into Newt form, able to scale walls in the process, while a late-game ability allows our Half-Genie hero to transform into an octopus, double and triple jumping with ease. The ease and quickness of transforming allows the game's platforming to have a quicker, more enjoyable pace, so you're not constantly freezing the action.

 Learn new transformation abilities from rescued fellow Half-Genies....


...To access new areas of the map. Pure Metroidvania goodness, right?
Well, that's not entirely true. While the transformations don't pause what's going on the screen, the awkward Seer Dances do. These are Half-Genie dances, which require the player to hold down a button to charge up their dance and perform one of four unlockable abilities. From healing Shantae's health--which seems redundant considering there's no shortage of healing food to consume and hearts to collect from defeated enemies--to electrifying the zone around her, these Seer Dances have practical uses in and out of combat. However, one of these is rather obnoxious--not to use, but for its purpose. The first Seer Dance you get in the game reveals hidden objects in areas and rooms. In order to get 100% completion without a guide, you practically have to use this specific Seer Dance in every room and corner of the game to find specially located secret items. Maybe this idea should have been left on the old design document.

Whereas those specific Seer Dance-related collectibles are a pain to come across, other collectibles such as Squid Hearts, finding four and taking them into one of the game's many towns to get squished in relatively brutal fashion will expand Shantae's maximum amount of hearts by one. There is also a brand-new collectible to seek out in Seven Sirens and those are Monster Cards, randomly dropped by defeated enemies. You can not only collect these, but you can also equip up to three at a time, offering unique bonuses like increased magic, increased attack power, and faster movement speeds for Shantae's various transformations. 

With Seven Sirens' Monster Cards, you don't necessarily have to collect 'em all,
but a gem-mint complete collection is quite the appealing prospect, wouldn't you say?
Shantae and the Seven Sirens looks a mighty bit more unified visually compared to the previously released Half-Genie Hero. Forgoing the mishmash of 3D backgrounds and environments with 2D characters, Seven Sirens looks positively amazing and beautiful. The animations of all characters and enemies is truly something to behold, as everything is so detailed and more importantly, fluid. There is occasional slowdown when too much action happens on screen at once, but this isn't all too common an occurrence. On the sound side of Shantae and the Seven Sirens, the voice acting is as well delivered and Saturday morning cartoon-ish as ever, and the music, although not composed this time around by Jake "Virt" Kaufman, sounds similar to his work with a mix of delightful synth combined with chiptune sweetness. 

The bosses aren't the most amazing part of Seven Sirens, but they're enjoyable encounters all the same.
Through its 8-10 hour runtime for first-timers (plus new game+ and speed-running options for subsequent play-throughs), Shantae and the Seven Sirens offers plenty of clever, precise platforming action in a world and map that's ultimately enjoyable to explore. While I wouldn't call Seven Sirens Shantae's greatest adventure, it comes pretty darn close. Between the colorful, vibrant and detailed areas of Arena Island to navigate with relative ease, the amusing transformations that are integrated well, and the story that features amazingly done, oftentimes humorous, if not hilarious scenarios and dialogue, Shantae and the Seven Sirens is undoubtedly a winner in this pirate's book.

[SPC Says: B+] 

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

SuperPhillip Central Best of 2020 Awards - Top Five Biggest Surprises

After doing the sole negative award category here at the SuperPhillip Central Best of 2020 Awards last night, let's wash the taste of bad and/or disappointing games out of our mouths with a more positive category! It's the Top Five Biggest Surprises of 2020. These are games that released this year that came out of nowhere or perhaps even were better games than they had any right to be. As you'll see by this countdown of games, these are most assuredly pleasant gaming surprises. Let's dig in and begin!

5) Bugsnax (PS5, PS4, PC)

We're going to start this countdown of the biggest surprises of 2020 with some talkin' 'bout Bugsnax--if you'll pardon the utterly overused phrase there. What many initially perceived as interest in Bugsnax purely as a joke and a meme, the final game ended up being rather competent and good. Dare I say, excellent in parts! And boy, does this lighthearted game do a 180 in the tone department by the end! Regardless, Bugsnax can best be described--at least by me--as having gameplay similar to a cross between Ape Escape and Pokémon. The goal is to capture various Bugsnax species--over 100 in-game--using a variety of methods, tools and resources. It's rather fun all said and done, and far more worthy as noted as a great game rather than meme material, putting it at the top spot of this list of biggest surprises of 2020.

4) Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot (PS4, XB1, PC)

Dragon Ball Z isn't a stranger to RPG games. The Game Boy Advance saw three top-down action-RPGs with the Legacy of Goku series, and the Nintendo DS saw a full-fledged turn-based RPG from the makers of Xenoblade Chronicles, no less, with Attack of the Saiyans. That said, an enormous 3D action-RPG set in the world of Dragon Ball Z is a serious undertaking, and one that shouldn't have turned out as good as it did. Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot was this game, and it brought fans an interactive and in-depth glimpse into the world of DBZ that had never been seen or fully realized before. Sure, the final game isn't perfect, but at the same time, it's by far my favorite non-fighting game the anime has had its license attached to, making for a big surprise all on its own.

3) Paper Mario: The Origami King (NSW)

After being a bit lukewarm to Nintendo and Intelligent Systems' redefining of the Paper Mario franchise with both Sticker Star and the improved Color Splash, I was cautiously optimistic to see how the latest entry in the series, Paper Mario: The Origami King would turn out. Well, it turns out that my cautious optimism only made the final experience that much more incredible. I LOVED Origami King, and most of my problems with past recent Paper Mario games was solved with the game. The exploration was absolutely fantastic, battles were more worthwhile and actually enjoyable, and coins served a major purpose this time around, rather than just being used to purchase more items for battle. Paper Mario: The Origami King isn't quite the return to form that older Paper Mario fanatics will adore, but for everyone else who gives the game a chance, you might be as pleasantly surprised with the game as I was.

2) Sackboy: A Big Adventure (PS5, PS4)

Similar to Paper Mario, I did not expect to enjoy Sumo Digital's Sackboy: A Big Adventure nearly as much as I did. Sumo's previous work with the series in LittleBigPlanet 3 didn't inspire much confidence overall with its numerous bugs and glitches at launch, but ultimately, Sackboy's Super Mario 3D World-style adventure was a blast to play. It was bursting with creativity from every crafty seam--from its ingenious and constantly clever level design to its world devised up of paper, cardboard and other crafts--and managed to become one of my favorite games of 2020. The addition of the promised online co-op means the fun doesn't have to stop for me and many other players, either. That said, despite Sackboy: A Big Adventure's quality, it isn't the game that surprised me the most this past year.

1) Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout (PS4, PC)

No, the biggest surprise of 2020 game-wise for SuperPhillip Central was none other than the game that defined the summer for many players, Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout. This massively multiplayer battle royale elimination game sees up to 60 players compete against one another and the obstacle courses and deviously difficult challenges themselves to survive and make it to the next round. As more and more players are pruned with each round's end, the challenges get more, well, challenging and the stakes get higher, but only one player can win the overall game. Between the chaos of seeing players run gauntlets and avoid falling into the gooey pits below, as well as the immense amount of joy the game unexpectedly brought in a year of equal chaos, Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout stands alone as the game that came out in 2020 from nowhere to amuse millions. That makes it the top choice for the Biggest Game Surprise of 2020.


Tomorrow night is the final night of awards here at the SuperPhillip Central Best of 2020 Awards! We'll be counting down the Games of 2020 with a special top ten list, as is tradition here at SPC. In the meantime, maybe we'll see a new review or two on the site before the new year rolls in. Stick around to SuperPhillip Central for more gaming goodness!

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

SuperPhillip Central Best of 2020 Awards - Top Five Most Disappointing Games

It's an annual tradition at SuperPhillip Central's year-end award show to talk about the best and brightest in gaming each and every year. It's also an annual tradition that we take the good with the bad--the yin with the yang, if you will--and publish one less-than-stellar category to have your game nominated for, and that's SPC's Most Disappointing Games of the year. 2020 is no different--save for a grotesque pandemic threatening all of us, of course--so the SuperPhillip Central Best of 2020 Awards rolls on with the games that didn't live up to the hype, as the kids say, didn't live up to their potential, or were just plain bad! Here are the list of "winners" as we count down the Top Five Most Disappointing Games of 2020.

5) Minecraft Dungeons (PS4, XB1, NSW, PC)

We begin with a game I was immensely excited for, as the idea of a Diablo-like dungeon crawler set in the world of Minecraft appealed to me. Now, while Minecraft Dungeons cannot really be described as a poor offering from developer Mojang, it's hardly what I'd call a solid effort. The balance of the three major difficulties in the game is off at best, with the first difficulty being way too easy, while the next two are way too challenging, requiring a heavy amount of grinding for loot. Loot itself is usually only better in small increments, so it's a ridiculously slow crawl and grind to get strong enough to stand a chance. Add into those facts that the levels are just way too long for their own good, with utterly repetitive combat, and you have a game in Minecraft Dungeons that I wish was better than it actually was.

4) Bounty Battle (PS4, XB1, NSW, PC)

The premise of Bounty Battle is so great--pitting indie all-stars from games like Dead Cells, Owlboy, and Steamworld Dig in a Super Smash Bros-style fighter--that it just makes the end product all the more disappointing and an enormous missed opportunity. Pretty much everything about Bounty Battle, from its haphazard mechanics and clunky and cumbersome combat, to the poorly animated characters and absolutely horrid frame-rate, is just plain awful. It's not a question that Bounty Battle is one of the worst games released this year, sadly, but even sadder is that so many fantastic indie darlings are attached to this monstrosity of a fighting game.

3) XIII (PS4, XB1, PC)

We talked about the fantastic video game remakes of 2020 last night, but what about those that are absolutely, unfortunately terrible? The pandemic has caused a lot of strife, and it has affected video game development adversely as well. The production of XIII, a remake of 2003's similarly named conspiracy-filled first-person shooter, was met with problems due to COVID, and rather than delay the game, publisher Microids opted to release the game in the sorry state it was in. Filled with audio and technical issues, and removing the defining feature of the original XIII--its brilliant comic book-esque cel shaded art style--this 2020 remake is hardly "Top Five Remake" material. While it was awesome at first to have XIII of all games return to the spotlight, as a famous Matrix quote goes... "Not like this."

2) Marvel's Avengers (PS4, XB1, PC)

Speaking of comic books, there's none bigger than those featured in Marvel's Avengers. This makes the final game all the more painful. Now, if the game was just modeled after the single-player campaign and expanded further, we'd have a really wonderful superhero action game to enjoy for years to come. Instead, Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics opted for a games-as-a-service approach to the end game, and while the execution was off-putting, the numerous bugs and glitches, matchmaking errors at launch, and painful progression meant that the player base vanished as quickly as a snap from Thanos' fingers. While Marvel's Avengers is hardly an awful game, darn it, it could have been so much better and so much more had some restraint been used in the design.

1) Cyberpunk 2077 (PS4, XB1)

The most disappointing game of 2020 could be nothing else than Cyberpunk 2077, particularly the last generation versions. Offering rampant bugs, glitches, and running like a technical dystopia of its own, Cyberpunk's last gen versions are so terrible and abundant that both Sony and Microsoft offered refunds for digital versions of the game, as well as other stores for physical copies, whether opened or not. Further, a class action lawsuit has been filed against CD Projekt Red due to alleged fraudulent claims made by the company to investors after its stock price fell in fast fashion in the aftermath. Regardless, when the majority of your game's versions is so bad that it threatens the livelihood of your studio and company (as if the deplorable amount of crunch to those who worked on the game didn't already make things nasty), not only did you mess up big time, but your game makes it to the top spot on this countdown of the most disappointing games of 2020.


We're not done with the awards here at SPC. We've got one more category to publish tomorrow night before Thursday night's final top ten, featuring the picks for the Games of 2020! See you back here tomorrow for more award show action at the SuperPhillip Central Best of 2020 Awards!

SuperPhillip Central Best of 2020 Awards - Top Five Most Overlooked Games

SPC is no stranger to looking at those games that fall through the cracks, get ignored or even forgotten by the mainstream, the gaming community or a combination of both, or simply don't get as much due credit as perhaps they deserve. Every year as part of the SuperPhillip Central Best of Awards we take a look at just some of the overlooked games from the past year, and that tradition continues with the SuperPhillip Central Best of 2020 Awards as well. By no means is this a complete list of the excellent games that were overlooked this year, but maybe with this category, you'll gain some interest in some of these titles. Let's get to the countdown.

5) Mega Man Zero/ZX Legacy Collection (PS4, XB1, NSW, PC)

Releasing in late February for all major platforms of the time, Mega Man Zero/ZX Legacy Collection is a compilation title of six rather challenging and punishing Mega Man games: Mega Man Zero 1-4 and the Metroid-structured Mega Man ZX and its sequel Mega Man ZX Advent. Perhaps the level of challenge and the relative obscurity of several of the games put some potential buyers off from the game, but even still, this collection came and went without much buzz. The Mega Man Zero games are no strangers to being compiled into one collection as seen with the Nintendo DS package, but the addition of the ZX games and the added modes and museum make this particular collection one that shouldn't be--but was by many--missed.

4) Darksiders Genesis (PS4, XB1, NSW, PC)

Another February release that came and went was Darksiders Genesis. This entry in the series wasn't a Zelda-like similar to past entries, but more like a Diablo clone. It was a well done one, too, offering plenty of levels and dungeons to crawl through, utterly obliterating enemies, nabbing loot, discovering hidden treasures, solving puzzles, performing platforming, and battling big bosses in an isometric world. The interactions between War and newly playable Strife are endearing and quite hilarious at times as the unlikely duo hack, slash, and shoot through levels. Darksiders Genesis might not continue the story beat and tease of the very first Darksiders' ending (seriously, continue the story already), but it's a solid hack and slash action-RPG all the same worthy of a play.

3) Puyo Puyo Tetris 2 (PS5, XBS, PS4, XB1, NSW, PC)

Puyo Puyo is a relatively obscure puzzle game for the mainstream audience, but as we know, Tetris is hardly that. It's a household name pretty much. Combining the two worked well with the original Puyo Puyo Tetris, but the recently released sequel seems to have slipped through the cracks. The online player count for most platforms is decidedly on the low side, and there's very little discussion about the game in general, save for the occasional conversation out of the spotlight. Puyo Puyo Tetris 2 introduces new modes, such as a fresh take on the Adventure mode from the original game, with an overworld to complete missions on. There are also new Skill Battles to take on in addition to the tried and true modes and gameplay of the original Puyo Puyo Tetris. If you have any love at all for either Puyo Puyo or the much more common Tetris, then you owe it to yourself to give Puyo Puyo Tetris 2 a try.

2) Sackboy: A Big Adventure (PS5, PS4)

At the PlayStation 5 launch this past November, most of the attention went to a different 3D platformer--Astro's Playroom. By no means was this not well deserved, as by all accounts the game is genius design from the reviews and player feedback I've read, and the game was installed on every purchased PS5. Meanwhile, Sackboy's own adventure, a $50+ game, didn't receive anywhere near the same amount of spotlight or attention. As you've seen with the SuperPhillip Central Best of 2020 Awards already and as you'll see later in the show, my opinion of Sackboy: A Big Adventure is mighty strong and I hold it in very high esteem. Its cleverly designed levels, awesome co-op, and rather difficult challenge in the late and post-game makes for a totally terrific 3D platformer akin to Super Mario 3D World. If you're a fan of challenging 3D obstacle course-based platformers, then you're missing out if you've yet to play Sackboy: A Big Adventure.

1) Dreams (PS4)

Despite a lengthy development time, when Dreams finally launched earlier this year--this past February to be exact--it did not exactly receive a rousing, amazing welcome from PlayStation 4 owners. While seeing what creators of Dreams content are making is absolutely cool for many, this game creation suite of tools may have put plenty of potential players and would-be creators off due to the time commitment required to put into Dreams to make quality stuff. It doesn't help that Sony did not do much to market or advertise the game either. That's certainly a major shame, as Dreams is truly something special and much easier to get into than other similar software tools. Perhaps if instead of a $40 buy-in to be able to create and play content, a free-to-play formula would have worked better. Regardless, Dreams is very much worth giving a look and a chance on.


We're not done today with the SuperPhillip Central Best of 2020 Awards. There's another award category to be had, so please look forward to that later tonight!

Monday, December 28, 2020

SuperPhillip Central Best of 2020 Awards - Top Five Remakes & Remasters

Remakes and remasters are common in this industry more often than in others.  It makes sense as games end up being lost to history and stuck on old platforms. Technology also allows older games to rise from their ashes like a Phoenix and present players with new visuals and perhaps even new takes on beloved classics. This countdown and awards category as part of SuperPhillip Central's Best of 2020 Awards lists the greatest of these types of games that launched in 2020. Note: Some particular gaming outlets didn't get their hands on a PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series console, so certain games might not be on their lists... Not naming any names, though! 

Let's get to the countdown with the Top Five Remakes & Remasters!

5) Resident Evil 3 (PS4, XB1, PC)

Despite removing some content from the original, I argue that Resident Evil 3 is still a remarkable remake. It's similarly an intense, pulse-pounding, adrenaline-pumping thrill ride filled with scares and fun alike. In that sense it's just like Resident Evil 2, a game I listed as one of SPC's Games of 2019. The only difference is that while RE2 got a little long in the tooth on repeated playthroughs, Resident Evil 3's remake was a shorter experience, encouraging multiple playthroughs that were more enjoyable--at least for me. There is a fair number of downsides to Resident Evil 3's remake, but for me, the positives far outweighed the negatives, making for a truly terrifying survival horror shooter that made my heart pound and hands sweat from beginning to end, especially on the higher difficulties!

4) Trials of Mana (PS4, NSW, PC)

Whereas many remakes on this list changed things up considerably compared to their originals, Square Enix's Trials of Mana played it a bit more cautiously, remaking a game that feels like a relic of the golden age of gaming. This time, though, the major difference being that the beautiful 2D sprites and worlds of the original Trials of Mana were fully realized in glorious, colorful, vivid 3D. The action on display offered simple but effective--and most importantly fun--combat that required paying attention to enemy tells and red area of effect targets to avoid damage. Exploring the world was an immense joy and pleasure, searching for hidden treasures and secrets alike. Being able to choose from the cast of six protagonists to join your three-person party meant that multiple playthroughs were encouraged to fully enjoy this already exciting and engaging remake. And, that's exactly what I did with Trials of Mana, a remake that didn't reinvent the wheel, but what there was already was so good that it didn't need to do so.

3) Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2 (PS4, XB1, PC)

It's time to trick out with Tony Hawk with the remake of both Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 and Pro Skater 2 with the appropriately titled Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2. Like past remakes from Activision's team of developers (Crash Bandicoot: N. Sane Trilogy, Spyro Reignited Trilogy, Crash Team Racing: Nitro Fueled), so much love and care was poured into this game. Right away my muscle memory from decades ago came back almost immediately, as the controls are just as tight, precise, responsive, and feel as good as they ever have. The levels were also lovingly restored with new visual touches, making old, familiar playgrounds (or in this case, skate parks) feel brand spankin' new. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2 finally gave the Birdman prominence in gaming once more and is a true testament to the developers for making a game that lives up to the legacy of the originals.

2) Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition (NSW)

Getting SuperPhillip Central's coveted (your mileage may vary on that) Game of 2012 back when this awards ceremony was structured differently, Xenoblade Chronicles returns to SuperPhillip Central's Best of Awards with a definitive edition releasing this year on the Nintendo Switch. With updated character models and environments, looking absolutely fabulous and more beautiful than ever before, as well as remixed and rearranged music, Xenoblade Chronicles has never looked or sounded better. The quality of life improvements added to the game's menus and systems made a great game even better as well! The addition of Future Connected, an epilogue story with a previously cut area from the original game, featured the same "wow" factor and sense of discovery as the main Xenoblade adventure. All in all, it was a true treasure and wonderful pleasure to be able to have an excuse to play through Xenoblade Chronicles all over again, this time with the definitely definitive version of the game.

1) Final Fantasy VII Remake (PS4)

So many of the remakes of 2020 stayed true to the formulas that the original games constructed--and I no doubt adore them for that--but one game--one remake--that totally took a tremendous risk that ultimately paid off for most players like myself was Final Fantasy VII's glorious remake. I was hesitant to learn (but understood the reason) that the legendary RPG was being split up into parts and that the first part would only take place in Midgar. While some of my hesitation was well founded due to some padding in some chapters of the game, Final Fantasy VII Remake ultimately works because of the additional character interactions and story content the developers included with the game. No spoilers here, but like the decision with the game's story, it was also so very bold of the developers to create an action-RPG focus first with Final Fantasy VII Remake's combat. It overall worked out in the end, as Final Fantasy VII Remake wasn't just a magnificent achievement, but it unquestionably earns the right to be listed among the top remakes of the year--or in this case, at the very top as the best remake of 2020.


Tomorrow evening, the SuperPhillip Central Best of 2020 Awards continues on with more categories and more winners (and some losers, too)! I hope you'll join in on the fun!

SuperPhillip Central Best of 2020 Awards - Top Five Platformers

A genre so nice and enjoyable that it annually gets its own awards category here as the SuperPhillip Central Best of 2020 Awards continue! It's the platformer, my personal favorite genre of game, so if there were any other type of game that deserved its own category, I just don't see it! Fortunately, despite 2020 being a gnarly year in general, it was a fantastic year for platformers, as evident by this upcoming countdown. The genre sees more and more releases, and plenty of them are terrific. Here's hoping the platformer renaissance continues into 2021! For now, let's take a look back at the year that was with the Top Five Platformers of 2020!

5) Shantae and the Seven Sirens (PS4, XB1, NSW, PC)

Initially released as an Apple Arcade exclusive last year, Shantae and the Seven Sirens arrived on consoles and PC this past spring, bringing back the half-genie hero and putting her on an adventure on an island to rescue the other captured half-genies in this wonderful Metroidvania game. The way that Shantae's transformation abilities were seamlessly integrated into the game rather than forcing players to enter a quick select menu to transform, meant for a snappier, faster-paced game. Whether she dashes across maps or climbs walls as a newt or burrows under sand like a drill, Shantae has the skills to take down whatever nefarious force is behind the half-genies' capture. Shantae and the Seven Sirens was a welcome return to the Metroidvania formula that Half-Genie Hero abandoned, and ultimately the full experience overall worked really, really well. Hence the game's placement at the start of this best platformers of 2020 countdown.

4) Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time (PS4, XB1)

Crash Bandicoot was back, and he was joined by a motley crew of playable characters, such as Coco, Tawna, Dingodile, and even Dr. Cortex himself in one time trip of an adventure. Crash and Coco never felt better than before with responsive platforming goodness, new moves via the mask abilities, and generally smart and clever level design that used myriad tricks and gimmicks to keep the game fresh. By no means is the experience perfect, as some of the Cortex sections offer a bit of imprecision, and levels--albeit extremely well made--tend to run overly long in the duration department. And forget about trying to complete the game with the top percentage--you'll go mad like a certain aforementioned scientists. Still, the quality of Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time can't be argued against, at least by yours truly, making it arrive at the four spot on this countdown of best platformers of 2020.

3) Super Mario 3D All-Stars (NSW)

As a collection itself, Super Mario 3D All-Stars offered higher resolution visuals and little else new, but as for the games themselves, these are some of the best 3D platformers on offer to date--and then, of course, there's Super Mario Sunshine. No, no. I kid, Sunshine fans. The game might have a multitude of issues, but it's still a greater platformer than so many of its rivals and contemporaries alike. Super Mario 64, meanwhile, is still a marvel to play, and as important to gaming as ever. Finally, Super Mario Galaxy remains a near-perfect 3D platformer for me, offering an abundance of creativity in its levels, concepts, and execution. Really, if this was a collection of new platformers, Super Mario 3D All-Stars would easily be at the top of this list, but considering this is a collection of remastered games, it'll have to do with number three on the countdown. Seeing its competition ahead, that's still high praise for an adequately assembled collection of masterful games.

2) Ori and the Will of the Wisps (XB1, NSW, PC)

Ori and the Blind Forest already amazed with its brilliance, whether that be in its gorgeous, breathtaking visuals or its precision platforming prowess. Ori and the Will of the Wisps took the foundation laid down by its predecessor and improved upon it in utterly remarkable fashion. Adding a slew of new mechanics alongside familiar old ones such as the ability to chain bash attacks to launch Ori off enemies and projectiles alike for greater height and distance, little spirit Ori never felt better to control. The world, too, put these abilities to great use, delivering challenging platforming gameplay alongside presenting a mysterious and whimsical series of areas to enjoy exploring. Ori and the Will of the Wisps didn't just make for a stronger outing than its predecessor, Ori and the Blind Forest; it made for a stunning and stellar platformer period.

1) Sackboy: A Big Adventure (PS5, PS4)

It almost seems like blasphemy, but I think I preferred Sumo Digital's Sackboy: A Big Adventure more than Nintendo EAD's own Super Mario 3D World. Perhaps my opinion will change come February when that game is re-released on the Switch, but Sackboy's latest outing offers so much greatness packed into its virtual stuffing. From the copious amounts of creative, clever, and interesting level designs--where I literally felt I couldn't stop playing because I wanted to see what the designers would present to me next in the game's levels--to Sackboy actually controlling well without the floaty-ness of past LittleBigPlanet games, Sackboy: A Big Adventure was a total delight for me to play. Certainly, Sackboy might not feel as tight to control as other games on this list, but his repertoire of moves and just playing as the yarned mascot felt fun to control regardless. Between this and the aforementioned stellar level design, and you have my pick for the top platformer of 2020. Well done, Sumo Digital.


Later in the evening I invite you to join me as the SuperPhillip Central Best of 2020 Awards chugs along and enters remake and remaster territory with the Top Five Best Remakes/Remasters from the past year. The award show fun continues until the new year, so be there!