2nd January 2012; By Team Wiiloveit
The time has arrived for us to unveil our Best of Nintendo Awards for 2011! A lot sure has happened this past year in the world of gaming -- a couple amazing departures and more than a few grave turnouts -- but we're here to mostly focus on the positive contributions various developers have made over the past 12 months, and give credit to accomplishments that helped shape our whole year for the better. Just like last year, our awards cover Wii, DS, WiiWare and DSiWare. But now, the 3DS has come into focus as well, which includes both retail endeavours and 3DS Downloads through the eShop. So, without further ado, let's get things underway!
Winner: Missile (Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective)
Runner-Up: Luna (Mighty Milky Way)
Last year, Sissel's reveal proved to be the very opposite of standoffish, and his whole look impressed us. But when we played the game earlier this year, we were introduced to another memorable character -- an affable animal companion by the name of Missile. Who would've thought this dog could play such an integral part in the outworking of the game's story? Beyond just looking cute, Missile's role in the overall story left a lasting mark that's hard to forget. Our Runner-Up for this category is WayForward's Luna. This space heroine was not only fashionable, but best of all, she spoke French! Her linguistic utterances were all part of the game's charm, and it's that level of charm that scored her a spot in this category.
Honourable Mention: FAST Racing League
Runner-Up: escapeVektor: Chapter 1
One of the reasons why Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective was so compelling was because of it's great soundtrack. Featuring an eclectic bunch of tracks that conveyed tensity and intrigue, it certainly played its part in making the experience an immersive one. Nnooo's escapeVektor: Chapter 1 also left us feeling quite impressed, featuring an excellent chiptune soundtrack that served as a nice fit for the game alongside its enticing arcade gameplay.
Honourable Mentions: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Mario Sports Mix
Winner: The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Anniversary Edition
Runner-Up: Kirby's Return to Dream Land
While one might usually associate this category with console experiences, The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Anniversary Edition did a commendable job of showing how handheld games can still provide well-crafted multiplayer experiences. The switching mechanic that it employed was fun, and the co-operative component made it that much more enjoyable to play in a group. And on the subject of co-op experiences, Kirby's Return to Dream Land was our second place Runner-Up for this category. The entire game allowed for co-operative play in a way that was quite excellent, with multiple character choices adding to the variety of the whole experience.
Winner: Mario Kart 7
Runner-Up: Mario Sports Mix
Online play has always been a touchy subject when it comes to Nintendo platforms, but the 3DS is starting to bring online gameplay into the 21st Century. No title showcases this better than Mario Kart 7. The ability to simply join an online game with a single button press on the Friend List and without the need for separate Friend Codes really bring this game ahead of any other on Nintendo platforms. The Communities feature also allowed for an easy way to play with people with similar preferences or backgrounds to you, enhancing the experience further. The second place choice, Mario Sports Mix for Wii, excelled as well. In Sports Mix, it is very easy to get a lagless online match running, something key for a fast-paced sports title. It also managed to make playing online as fun as playing with someone next to you, which is something not many titles can manage.
Honourable Mention: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
Winner: Kirby's Mass Attack
Runner-Up: Lost in Shadow
Regardless of how many Kirby games were released in 2011, Kirby's Mass Attack for the Nintendo DS family of systems was extremely innovative. The game granted you control of up to ten separate Kirby's, and managed to give you graceful control with a single stylus. The game's level design highlighted some of the further ingenious design choices, and the entire game was a blast to play. Another highly innovative game was Lost in Shadow for Wii. It was a different type of platformer, one where you do not control the character but their shadow against a wall. The game was sadly overlooked, but it resonated with enough of us to get second place, showing that it was a memorable game to those who played it.
Writer Shu Takumi is heralded for being able to tell fantastic stories, having crafted the Ace Attorney series of games. Takumi's latest release, Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective manages to combine the story with the gameplay flawlessly, with many vibrant and extremely memorable characters to take you through to the entirely satisfactory ending. The runner-up, Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor Overclocked managed to tell a thrilling story of a lockdown in Tokyo. With the added "8th Day" epilogue chapter giving closure to whatever ending you managed to reach, the game tells a complete story in a very compelling way.
Honourable Mention: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
Out of all the boxart designs we've seen this year, we felt Skyward Sword's deserved to take the prize. The design is beautifully simplistic, featuring a gold-coloured background with a central character shot. The letters on the case are even relevant to the game, making it a nice entry point to the game itself. And despite the use of calmer blues, we also enjoyed Star Fox 64 3D's artwork. The action depicted in the imagery used on the box gives it the ability to pop a bit more and attract your attention on the shelf.
Honourable Mentions: Pac-Man & Galaga Dimensions, Fossil Fighters: Champions, Fortune Street
Zelda games have had two very distinctive art styles; the "realistic" look that pushes the hardware to the best of its ability found in Twilight Princess, and the cell-shaded "cartoony" look found in Wind Waker, Phantom Hourglass, and Spirit Tracks. Nintendo managed to take the best of both worlds with The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword and give us beautiful watercolour-style visuals. Mixed with the lush and detailed environments and excellent character design, Skyward Sword was our runaway winner for Best Graphics. Coming in second, however, was Star Fox 64 3D. The 3D effects gave flying through space a true sense of depth and aided in your perception of things around, with even the 2D sprites getting a beautiful remastering.
Honourable Mention: Mario Kart 7
Winner: Rayman Origins
Runner-Up: Kirby's Return to Dream Land
2011 was a great year for platformers, but of them all, we really felt Rayman Origins came out on top. Great multiplayer incorporation as well as the fully-detailed world complete with beautiful landscapes set it apart from other efforts. To hear that the game hasn't done that well in sales really is a crying shame. Nintendo's own Kirby's Return to Dream Land took second place for Platformer of the Year. With it being the first console Kirby game since Kirby 64, expectations were high. Far from disappointing, its strong puzzle-platforming elements and excellent multiplayer incorporation made the game really satisfying to play.
Winner: Star Fox 64 3D
Runner-Up: Cave Story 3D
Throughout 2011, there were many Action and Adventure games released, however Star Fox 64 3D really caught our eye. A remake of the 1997 space shooter, Star Fox 64 3D (which incidentally wins the award for "Too many numbers in a title") kept the same single-player campaign while adding the much-needed ability to take breaks in between levels and take it in chunks instead of all at once. The new and improved Battle Mode also allowed for more replayability and multiplayer fun. Coming in second was Cave Story 3D. A remake of the fantastic indie game Cave Story, it may have not added much in the way of gameplay, yet the 3D environments and animations really gave the game both depth and life, which truly improved it in many ways.
Honourable Mention: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
Winner: Zen Pinball 3D
Runner-Up: BIT.TRIP COMPLETE
The 3DS had an especially considerable number of arcade games to choose from this past year, but our Arcade Game of the Year actually goes to a downloadable title by the name of Zen Pinball 3D. This game delivered excellent gameplay for a great price in a way that really defined arcade gaming. Coming in a close second place was BIT.TRIP COMPLETE, an essential compilation made more worthwhile by the ability to compete with friends via online leaderboards.
Honourable Mention: Steel Diver
Runner-Up: Professor Layton and the Last Specter
Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective has already snagged a number of awards already, so it should come as no surprise that we're awarding it Puzzle Game of the Year. Beyond just the unique style in the motivational puzzle-based gameplay, the entire game felt like a puzzle that kept you thinking in ways that other games didn't. It was truly amazing. Our Runner-Up, Professor Layton and the Last Specter, is nothing to scoff at either, featuring more puzzles than ever before across a unique storyline.
Honourable Mention: Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords
Winner: FAST Racing League
Shin'en Games created quite a stir with the announcement of FAST Racing League in 2009, to the point that it quickly became our Most Anticipated WiiWare Game for 2011. When it finally arrived on the scene earlier this year, it was everything we hoped for. Featuring a beautiful art style, a smooth and enjoyable mode-switching mechanic, and F-Zero-style racing, it was a really solid experience. Another game that left us feeling satisfied was MotoHeroz. With fun and creative level designs, the game design really took off in multiplayer where tight competition was always a certainty, even for first-time players.
Winner: Mario Sports Mix
Runner-Up: Pro Evolution Soccer 2011 3D
Earlier in 2011, Nintendo took three sports Mario never had a specific game for (plus one he had) and released Mario Sports Mix. The high fun factor made it an easy pick for Sports Game of the Year! And while not exactly feature-heavy, Pro Evolution Soccer 2011 3D managed to take second place with its user-friendly, good incorporation of 3D and surprisingly enjoyable gameplay.
Despite being a launch title, the oft-overlooked Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars gets the award for the Best Strategy Game of 2011, thanks to its massive amount of quality gameplay. Coming in a close second was Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor Overclocked, the system's first RPG. Besides just being an excellent remake of the DS original, the extra content contained therein set the system off to a good start. The overall quality seen in both these games is hard to reach, so naturally we consider them must-plays.
Honourable Mention: Dragon Quest VI
Winner: BIT.TRIP COMPLETE
Runner-Up: DanceDanceRevolution II
When you think of high-quality games on WiiWare, odds are the BIT.TRIP series comes to mind. These excellent retro-styled rhythm arcade games span five different gameplay styles across six games and tell one larger story. Gaijin Games and Aksys Games released BIT.TRIP COMPLETE in 2011, a retail compilation of the six titles that added tons of new content, setting a high bar for Music/Rhythm games in general. In second place was the more traditional DanceDanceRevolution II, again for the Wii. This title not only had more songs than any other DDR game on Wii, but it also made the substantial changes that fans asked for, including Doubles Mode, an increased KO selection, and a stronger focus on boss songs!
Honourable Mention: Just Dance 3
Runner-Up: Phineas & Ferb: Across the Second Dimension
Though many games were overlooked last year, our first place choice for a retail Hidden Gem is Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor Overclocked. This unique hybrid of SRPG's and RPG's offered deep and engaging content. The game has tons of replayability as well, with several different endings and Devil Fusion to keep it from getting stale. Another great Hidden Gem was Phineas and Ferb: Across the Second Dimension, offering great level design and gameplay. Don't be turned off just because it's licensed material, as this game helps disprove the assumption that all licensed games are awful.
Winner: Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords
Runner-Up: GO Series: Portable Shrine Wars
Though there were a few hidden gems on Nintendo’s downloadable stores in 2011, one that truly stood out was Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords. Taking the entirety of the cult-classic retail DS game into a simple $8 download, the game provided an excellent mix of traditional match-3 puzzle gameplay and RPG elements. Our Runner-Up was GO Series: Portable Shrine Wars, which while otherwise simple, the intense speed helped keep things intense and enjoyable for longer periods of time!
Honourable Mentions: Glory Days - Tactical Defense, Alt-Play: Jason Rohrer Anthology, GO Series: Earth Saver
Though a number of games wowed us over the course of 2011, our favourite third-party developer was, without a doubt, CAPCOM. The company produced excellent games, including the multi-award winning Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective in January, Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition and Okamiden in March, and Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D in June. All four of these titles are incredibly fun and well-made, leaving no room for doubt in this award. KONAMI, the Runner-Up, had a good range of support across the Wii and 3DS platforms, sticking to their guns on Nintendo platforms and catering to their fans while launching new IP's.
Honourable Mentions: ATLUS USA, Disney Interactive Studios
Runner-Up: Rayman Origins
Without a doubt, the award for Best Wii Game of 2011 is being awarded to The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. This is not just the best Wii game of 2011, this is possibly the best Wii game ever released! It combines excellent usage of the motion controls with an expansive story to create a fantastic experience from beginning to end. The second best, however, was the amazing Rayman Origins! With a fantastic return to form for this beloved platforming icon, the revival is a joy to play!
Honourable Mention: Kirby's Return to Dream Land
Runner-Up: Kingdom Hearts: Re:coded
Even with the number of releases dwindling in 2011, the DS still saw some strong outings. The most engrossing for us was none other than CAPCOM's Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective. Telling one continuous story over many hours is impressive on its own, but keeping the player engaged the entire way through before blowing their minds makes it deserving of the award for Best DS Game. Runner-Up Kingdom Hearts: Re:coded saw a translation of the Japanese cell phone game of a similar name, mixing platforming, puzzle-solving, and RPG combat elements with aplomb.
As the months went on, the 3DS redeemed itself from the controversial launch that it had. But our pick for 3DS Game of the Year was actually a launch title that, quite frankly, is one of the few games on the system that is worth the original asking price. That game is Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Shadow Wars. The game was very addicting for strategy enthusiasts with its systematic style of gameplay, but more than that, it contained such a large amount of content that made sure players wouldn't soon move on to something else. Star Fox 64 3D was our choice for Runner-Up in this category. It turned out to be a great translation of a classic game, making improvements in the presentation and even some areas of the gameplay to make the experience stronger.
Winner: escapeVektor: Chapter 1
Runner-Up: BIT.TRIP FLUX
There were three really strong contenders for WiiWare Game of the Year, but in the end, escapeVektor: Chapter 1 was our first place choice. The game had an addictive feel to it with its arcade style of gameplay, serving as a great start to a new series. BIT.TRIP FLUX took our Runner-Up spot for the way it incorporated elements from preceding games to make us feel a sense of closure. It was a fantastic end to an excellent franchise.
Honourable Mention: MotoHeroz
Winner: The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Anniversary Edition
Runner-Up: Go! Go! Kokopolo
Containing a full Zelda game with both single-player and multiplayer modes, and then being offered for free, it is no wonder why The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Anniversary Edition received the most votes as 2011's best DSiWare game. Go! Go! Kokopolo managed to snag second place though, with its fun cat-and-mouse chasing concept, which really delivered a nice experience once you got into it.
Honourable Mentions: Mighty Milky Way, Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords, GO Series: Earth Saver
While the eShop and 3DS Download Software may be in its early days of existence, there were still a few stand-out titles to release this year. We found the best to be Intelligent System’s Pushmo (or Pullblox in Europe) for its amazing use of 3D in the gameplay. The game also featured tons of levels, complete with a built-in level creator and a QR code generator to share your levels, ensuring great value for your money. Our Runner-Up, which just released in the final week of December, was VVVVVV. This great translation of the PC indie classic mixes the inventive platforming twist of being able to flip gravity, with extra levels for replayability.
Winner: X-Men Destiny
Runner-Up: Cubic Ninja
With X-Men Destiny receiving the lowest review score on the entire site, it's absolutely no wonder that it received top "honors" for Shame of the Year. An utter failure to be anything worth playing, combined with the apparent lack of any effort whatsoever in development make this release absolutely disgraceful. As for our Runner-Up Cubic Ninja, with its self-defeating purpose and low quality in level design being a problem for many. Although there were issues with the control method, not even swapping the gyroscope for the Circle Pad could rectify matters -- in fact, it made matters worse. To say the least, it was a troubled game.
Winner: Rhythm Heaven Fever
Runner-Up: Mario Party 9
With so many huge franchises receiving Wii games in the past year or two, one might doubt the existence of quality software on the horizon for the system. Our most anticipated title for the console in 2012 is Rhythm Heaven Fever, the western localization of Minnano Rizumo Tengoku. With over fifty wacky Japanese rhythm games, it is shaping up to be a more-than-worthy successor to Rhythm Heaven on the DS. Our Runner-Up, and almost equally anticipated game, is the surprising announcement of Mario Party 9. Nintendo will be returning to the series with new gameplay mechanics and boards (and of course mini-games), promising an innovative and fun time for all!
Winner: Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2
Runner-Up: Diamond Trust of London
Even though the 3DS is about to enter its second year of life, there are still unique and interesting games coming out for the Nintendo DS family of systems! One such game is Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2, the DS sequel to the original and the 3DS remake of the original. With a new storyline about aliens that are invading Tokyo, this game's promising story and unique cast of characters look to deliver an equally compelling, if not more compelling experience. Our runner-up, Diamond Trust of London, is another more indie title that you should keep an eye on. While it sounds like a game that is more easily understood after playing it yourself, we are legitimately looking forward to it!
Winner: Rhythm Thief and the Emperor's Treasure
Runner-Up: Animal Crossing*
With many major 3DS games on the horizon for 2012, it may surprise you that our most anticipated is Rhythm Thief and the Emperor's Treasure by SEGA. The rhythm game looks extremely promising however, containing a style of gameplay reminiscent of Elite Beat Agents. With the developers behind the game having created games such as Space Channel 5, this game looks to be a rewarding game! Our Runner-Up for this category is Animal Crossing (name not final). While not directly confirmed for 2012, the gameplay variations with you taking on role of town mayor look to freshen up the older formula. Combine that with the enhanced online capabilities of the 3DS, and you can see why we can't wait to get our hands on it.
Honourable Mentions: Paper Mario*, Luigi's Mansion 2, Kingdom Hearts 3D [Dream Drop Distance]
Winner: escapeVektor: Chapter 2
Runner-Up: Retro City Rampage
As stated above, we really enjoyed escapeVektor: Chapter 1, and in a positive way, it left us wanting more from this new series. With that in mind, pretty much all of us can't wait to see how escapeVektor: Chapter 2 will further what was seen in the first game, making it our winning pick for Most Anticipated WiiWare Game of 2012. Our Runner-Up spot goes to the GTA-inspired Retro City Rampage. From what we've seen, the game looks really good and we can't wait to take that for a spin as well!
Honourable Mentions: Protocol, Jett Rocket 2
Winner: Spirit Hunters Inc.
Nnooo has been no stranger to our annual awards, with Spirit Hunters Inc. taking the prize for this category last year. Unsurprisingly, with few DSiWare projects on the horizon that look quite as exciting, the team's enthusiasm for Spirit Hunters Inc. hasn't faded. This long-awaited Augmented Reality game will feature tons of Spirit types, with lots of promised content to extend the experience. Another game we're looking forward to is Amoebattle by Intrinsic Games, and that won our Runner-Up award for this year. The game's on hold on the moment, but the developers credit it as the most ambitious project they've undertaken so far. The way they would regularly release new information every week for a period of time made sure that the game remained fresh in our minds, and so we're naturally looking forward to seeing how this miniature-sized world all plays out.
Honourable Mention: Flipper 2
Winner: Dillon's Rolling Western
Runner-Up: Picross E
Out of all the games on their way to the eShop next year, Dillon's Rolling Western gets our vote for the most exciting one to look forward to. The game seems like a really fun tower defense game with a twist of being able to have a greater degree of control over what's taking place in the environment. We're also looking forward to trying our Runner-Up for this category, Picross E, a downloadable version of the addictive puzzle game that will incorporate 3D effects to enhance the experience.
Honourable Mention: NightSky
Winner: LEGO City Stories
Runner-Up: Darksiders II
We might not have a lot to go on at this point with the Wii U or even the games that are currently in the works, but LEGO City Stories caught our attention when it was shown at E3. The game is already looking like it has legs to it, and with an open-world concept in full force, the exploration component of other LEGO games will likely be stretched further in this new title. Our Runner-Up for this category is Darksiders II, the upcoming sequel to the original action game where you control Death as you track down evidence of your brother's innocence. Promising to take full advantage of the new hardware's features, it'll be interesting to see how this game turns out in the end.
Honourable Mention: Ninja Gaiden 3
Between the 3DS' continued growth with new titles, the launch of the Wii U, and other exciting projects on Wii and DS platforms, there's much to be excited about now that the new year has begun. We eagerly look forward to reporting on all these exciting developments in one form or another as the year progresses. Congrats to all of our 2011 winners!