2014 turned out to be quite the year, despite my initial expectations. A stellar E3, some great announcements (New 3DS anyone?), even a few surprises—like me transitioning to a full time GP writer, yay! But what really made this a great year in gaming was of course the games.
My Wii U definitely got some love in the way of the spectacular Bayonetta 2, which more than deserves to be on my list this year, but I decided to go a different route and make a handheld Game of the Year list. I mean, come on, someone had to represent a bit better than giving handheld Game of the Year to Hearthstone (*cough Geoff Keighley cough*).
So with a very honorable mention to some of the amazing console games that have come out this year and even Persona Q which I can't play until the 25th, let's take a gander at some of the best handheld games that I've played this year!
This game was actually a gift to me from fellow GP writer and friend Jonathan Higgins, and I'm pretty glad he did so. Though Renegade Kid games tend to fall on the harder side, I've had a blast reliving the classic thrill of Metroidvania-style level design and exploration through this retro homage. The game is filled with challenge and rewards alike and makes a very solid start to this year's list, even just sneaking in under the wire!
9. Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus
Ok, go ahead and laugh now, but I've had a lot of fun with Tamsoft and XSEED's latest installment of the Life and Hometown simulator... I mean ninja action series, Senran Kagura. Now with literally twice the schools and ninjas to choose from, and the transition from sidescrolling to 3D style gameplay, Shinovi Versus definitely uses the Vita's assets for more than just displaying the girls'... *ahem* assets. The game even features online play that is admittedly a little shaky, but overall—between the character building and over the top action—Shinovi Versus is a game I am never ashamed to admit that I play.
8. Fantasy Life
Where as Shinovi Versus had plenty of M-rated shenanigans, Fantasy Life is a great example of why games don't need mature content to be fun and engaging. A first rate localization by Nintendo makes what would otherwise be a good game into a great one. Picking from both combat and non-combat classes, each with their own accomplishments, you can do plenty of everything while still handling a tongue-in-cheek story that is more engaging than I ever thought possible.
7. Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;birth1
Being my first foray into this already established franchise, I didn't expect to like this game as much as I did. But the game's hilarity, combined with some solid RPG gameplay made me a fan. I mean, if killing animal representations of the PS4 and Xbox One isn't enough, are you sure your standards aren't too high?
6. Shovel Knight
In the vein of Xeodrifter a little while ago, Shovel Knight is Yacht Club Games' take on retro gaming in the modern age. What's most impressive is they built the game to almost the exact limitations that they might have faced on on the NES, with a few obvious exceptions (like stereoscopic 3D and StreetPass functionality). Even without that, though, Shovel Knight has a surprising (or perhaps unsurprising) amount of atmosphere and allure. I guess you could say it's easy to dig this game!
5. Super Smash Bros. for 3DS
I've already been vilified by my friends for my proclamation that the 3DS's exclusive stages are better overall than the Wii U's, but it really goes even further than that. Smash Run is a legitimately fun way to earn equipment and custom moves. The online multiplayer has been more stable on the 3DS than it has been on the Wii U (for me). Even things like 3DS-exclusive trophies help give the 3DS version of this game its own legs to stand on. And hell, at the end of the day, I'm playing Smash Bros. on a handheld. How cool is that?!
4. Bravely Default
I know a few people will disagree with me on this. And while certain plot aspects of the game remain quite unpopular (though it isn't like they weren't easy to see coming from a mile away), there is far more to absolutely love about this game than there is to be disappointed in. The Final Fantasy Tactics-esque job system, the Brave/Default twist on classic turn-based RPG combat, the collection of highly compelling side quests, the StreetPass and online friend summon capabilities... well, there's so much to love. Then throw in the massive amount of customizable settings—things like being able to tweak difficulty, voice over language, enemy encounter frequency—all on the fly? Well sir, I'd say you have a pretty damn good game on your hands.
3. Pokemon Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire
I know I say this like every time a Pokemon game comes out, but all the additions to Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire make it the best Pokemon game to date. The DexNav app in the new PokeNav+ alone was enough to drop my jaw, but frankly every app in the PokeNav+ is great. Then add the ease of online options and EV training carried over from X & Y and... well, it's truly super effective. Of course, there is too much water for this game to take the #1 spot but that's another story for another time.
2. Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call
It's no secret I love Final Fantasy. It's also no secret I like rhythm games. It's even less of a secret that I loved Theatrhythm Final Fantasy when it first came out. So is it really any surprise that I love Curtain Call? Online battle, while not my thing, was executed way better than I'd have ever imagined. But the real star (aside from the massive amount of new songs and characters) is the new Quest Medley that gives the game even more reason to keep bumping those FF tunes... at least until Theatrhythm Dragon Quest comes out!
1. Velocity 2X
Well the name says it all. And I mean that literally. Velocity 2X is no mere sequel, it is easily twice the game that Velocity Ultra is, and that is no small feat. The guys and gals over at Futurlab decided to venture into the platforming business by adding levels where Kai Tana can stretch her legs a bit, as well as enhancing the finer points of the Quarp Jet's already stellar top down shooting, teleporting, and puzzle solving action. The game even has more story, with a finale that will leave you with double vision. Oh, and the soundtrack is bloody amazing too.
It may be a PSN title, but Velocity 2X has impressed me more than any other title this year, and even if this had been a console and handheld Game of the Year list, Velocity 2X would still have come out at number one.