A note from Alex “The Jeddy” Jedraszczak, Editor-in-Chief:
A lot has changed in 2013! After eleven long years, Paul Franzen retired and passed the torch to me. This was followed by a mass exodus of veteran staff members and an influx of new blood. The Christmas tradition of mocking the Spike TV VGAs was traded out for the more Gaming Outside the Mainstream-appropriate HoHoHoliday LIVEcast Extravaganza. Beyond the walls of GameCola HQ, the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 were released, marking the end of the seventh console generation and the beginning of a new era of games that the GameCola staff probably won’t really care about that much.
What a year, right?! Well, we’re here to celebrate the games that defined 2013 in the eyes of the GameCola staff. If you’re looking for what’s generally agreed upon as “The Best Games” by sites that get paid to give away good reviews, maybe you should look elsewhere. Otherwise, keep reading to see what we thought of this year’s games!
So, here they are! The 2013 GameCola Videogame Awards!
Best Licensed Game
Nikola Suprak: Life is like a hurricane…HERE IN DUCKBURG. Something…something…how’s this go again? However the second line of that song went (something about Scrooge McDuck murdering poor people?), anyone who has any recollection of that song at all can probably agree that both the NES game and the show it’s based on are some of the best things to come out of the 1980s. The original DuckTales game is a well-made platformer that’s a lot of fun and comes from an era where licensed games weren’t required to be awful by law. As licensed games and remakes both tend to be bad on their own, DuckTales Remastered—which is both—seemed doomed to be so terrible that it would some day be linked to the gum disease gingivitis.
Fortunately, DuckTales Remastered ended up being fantastic and is one of the best kind of remakes. This is a game that understands the brilliance of the original, and does its best not to get in the way of what made it so good. Sure, there is a new coat of visuals on this (which are amazing) and a new intro and exit sequence (the latter of which provides even more of a challenge than anything featured in the original), but beyond these things this is essentially the same game that you knew and loved back when you were a little kid. They even managed to somehow convince the original voice actors of the cartoon (some of which are now old enough to have retired from retirement) to come back and provide voices for the cutscenes that were added to the game, making each level feel like its own little episode of the cartoon. The visuals and voices might be new, but what really shines through is that old-school platforming gameplay that is challenging without ever becoming frustrating. Whether or not you played the original, this is a game you absolutely should check out. They never attempt to rewrite history (Woo-Ooo!), but sometimes you don’t need to.
Honorable Mention: Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse
Nathaniel Hoover: Any excuse to give EarthBound an award is a good one, but Best Remake or Re-Release is one that’s deserved for more reasons than something as unimaginative as the game’s own merits. Yes, it’s widely agreed that EarthBound (AKA Mother 2) is one of the greatest RPGs to grace the SNES—or any console, for that matter—thanks to the quirky characters, rampant humor, and whimsical locations that were a breath of fresh air from the glut of relatively serious sword-and-sorcery RPGs of 199X. That’s to say nothing of the solid gameplay, memorable music, or the fact that you can play most of the game using nothing but the control pad and the L button, leaving your right hand free to hold a ham sandwich while playing.
What makes EarthBound especially perfect for this award, however, is how difficult it’s been for anybody to find this game in the last two decades. The sale of hundreds of thousands of SNES cartridges and the release of a GBA combo pack of Mother 1+2 means nothing to you if the game was never released in your country (e.g. Europe, which is a country now). The ability to buy the game on Amazon or eBay is irrelevant if you don’t have upwards of $100—if not $1000—that you’re willing to part with. I mean, you’d have to go outside and beat up at least three Annoying Old Party Men and a Runaway Dog to have that much money! Thanks to the Virtual Console, this beloved classic is now available worldwide for less than the price of a Bean Croquette. That alone is worth an award.
Honorable Mention: The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD
Best Use of Motion Controls
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD
Matt Jonas: How did this win? Oh yeah, we all voted for it, myself included. That’s good, then.
Wind Waker HD is basically a stopgap while Nintendo works on the real Wii U Zelda…we hope. But what a great instalment this is. Reworked with delicious shadows and bloom lighting, Wind Waker HD leaps out of the screen. This is a testament to the art style utilized within the game, which is an ageless toon-style look that had people swearing when the game was revealed, but now they do a 180.
Features for the Wii U GamePad include an on-screen map, quick inventory access, and gyroscopic aiming for weapons and items. Adjustments to later quests streamline the game beautifully so that less patient souls such as myself can actually beat it this time and the Swift Sail makes transport a painless affair.
Sure, it’s the same game getting re-released, as per Nintendo’s usual behaviour, but the changes made have resulted in a much more finely tuned experience that’s ideal for both veteran and first-time adventurers.
Honorable Mention: Game & Wario
Best New Character
Michael Gray: Simon Blackquill is the new bad boy of the Phoenix Wright series. He’s a prosecutor who is on death row, and he’s got a hawk sidekick who will attack any defense attorneys that get in his way. In case you can’t tell from his angry stares and colored hair, he is not someone you want to mess with.
For whatever reason, Simon is obsessed with Japanese culture in general and samurai in particular. He sees each court battle as a sword fight between two samurai. He enjoys making fun of the judge for being bald, he gossips about other people on death row, and he occasionally uses the psychological power of suggestion to suggest things.
But deep within Simon’s harsh exterior, could there be a nice guy waiting to come out? Can Phoenix Wright and his friends save Simon from himself? Simon’s cool attitude and well-executed redemption story have won him a place in the hearts of many fans, lawyers, and hawk enthusiasts.
Honorable Mention: Taka the Hawk (Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies)
Alex Jedraszczak: Modern gaming systems tend to come with more inputs than just the old buttons and D-Pad. Every once in a while, you’ll come across a game that uses a system’s peripherals in a unique way. Maybe they’ll use the camera during gameplay, or use the microphone for purposes other than communication or voice commands. In the end, these generally end up being gimmicks that probably could have been done without, and the only reason they might elicit a smile is because you normally forget that those parts of the machine exist.
Tearaway manages to use ALL of the Vita’s inputs. Pressing on the rear touchpad, your fingers poke through into the game to hit enemies or tap pads that fling your character through the air. You regularly use the front touchscreen to draw shapes or interact with characters and the environment. You can shake things loose or drop enemies off cliffs by tilting the Vita, or you can blow things away by blowing into the microphone. The camera? Not only is your face literally the sun, but you also get to take pictures to use as textures on game objects. You even use the buttons sometimes.
And, the game manages to do all of this without seeming like a huge gimmick or tech demo. It’s about time.
Honorable Mention: DmC: Devil May Cry
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies
Diana Gray: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies has one of the best stories of 2013. For the sake of this paragraph, we’re going to be discussing the overarching story, not case-by-case, because that’s why I nominated it for this category (I mean, it’s not like I nominated it for literally every category of these awards. Naw. That’s silly).
I think this game has one of the best overarching stories of the Ace Attorney series. The relationship between Athena and Blackquill is so intricately explored and there are plot twists that made me want to throw my 3DS at a wall (I’m looking at you, Apollo-at-the-end-of-Case-4). It is rare that a story can elicit such emotion from me (HA. Just kidding), but I genuinely cared about the characters and helping them solve their problems. The story does have its holes and its typos, but the good overshadows the bad in this case. All the elements of the story fit in very nicely to the overall theme of mob psychology and the self, making this game feel deeper to me than any other game. I noticed this particularly in the conclusion of the story, but that’s all I’ll say (no spoilers, I promise).
I think literally everyone knows what I think of this game, but this is one award I feel that it deserves the most. The overall story of this game was extremely well done and it kept me wanting to play more and more and more. Only thing it could use? More Miles Edgeworth.
Honorable Mention: BioShock Infinite
Resident Evil 6
Daniel Castro: From a long-time fan perspective, Resident Evil 6 is awful for going way off its roots; it left its survival-horror origins behind in favor of a more frantic and generic third-person shooter appeal (including cover shooting mechanics and its assortment of chest-high walls).
Now, I’m the guy who usually accepts when a franchise tries to do something different, but Resident Evil 6‘s take on a more action-oriented gameplay is plain horrible. The game relies so much on quick-time-events to deliver some kind of interactive excitement, but they only manage to take you away from…you know, playing the way the game’s supposed to be enjoyed. Gavin Dunne (a.k.a. Miracle of Sound) even composed a song that fully delivers the experience of playing RE6‘s quick time events.
Honorable Mention: Batman: Arkham Origins
Luigi’s Mansion 2: Dark Moon
Michael Ridgaway: Luigi is more often than not the comic relief of the Mario Universe. From his misadventures in the Paper Mario series to his goofy moves in Smash Bros. all the way back to his flailing legs in Super Mario Bros. 2, Luigi has always been a source of humor in otherwise straight-forward games. So it seems fitting that Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon would itself be a very funny game, and it certainly delivers on this. Watching Luigi’s overblown reactions as Prof. E. Gadd and the various ghosts pick on him is sure to bring a smile to one’s face, and the very act of dispatching ghosts with a vacuum cleaner is comedic gold in and of itself. Combine that with all the little moments of comedy, like enjoying some meta-humor as you listen to Luigi hum along with the music, and Luigi’s Mansion becomes a super funny and fun game.
Honorable Mention: The Stanley Parable
Best New Peripheral/Accessory
Alex Jedraszczak: It’s official. The year is 2013, and we are finally living in the future of the ’90s. All those predictions about virtual reality creating super-humans and putting video stores out of business are coming true at last! If only we could hydrate pizzas, all our dreams of the future could finally be a reality.
While virtual reality headsets have been around for decades, Oculus Rift is the first designed as a gaming peripheral intended to be accessible to (And, affordable for) the general population. It already has a decent list of supported games, including what is sadly not the 2013 Game of the Year, Surgeon Simulator 2013. It’s really a testament to human ingenuity, and I love seeing the gaming community come together to develop Slender into an immersive and inescapable nightmare.
Honorable Mention: PlayStation DualShock 4
Pokémon X and Y
Terrence Atkins: Do you like to fight Pokémon against other Pokémon? Have you ever felt like there aren’t enough chances to fight Pokémon against other Pokémon in the actual game and you need to fight more Pokémon against other Pokémon? Well, you’re in luck! The latest Pokémon games, X and Y, let you fight your Pokémon against other people’s Pokémon…get this…WITHOUT ANY CABLES OR ANYTHING. Is that even possible? Has science really come this far?
On top of that, there’s this “Wonder Trade” thing. I’ve heard it’s a really great way to get Weedles. I’m not so sure about that, though, because I traded my starters and ended up just getting some Bidoofs. It also lets you earn “Poké Miles”, which I think is some sort of Phoenix Wright crossover. They really went all out on this generation!
Honorable Mention: Super Mario 3D World
Where are all the big awards, including Game of the Year? Don’t worry, they’re right over here in Part 2!