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The Platinum Chalice Awards 2011, Part 1 – The Special Awards

THE FANBOY AWARDS FOR BEST SYSTEM EXCLUSIVES

Every system has games that can’t be found anywhere else. Sometimes those titles are good enough to stomp their huge, multiplatform rivals; sometimes not. Either way, they’re guaranteed to be beloved by system loyalists, and they deserve recognition for being the best of what’s unique to their respective platforms.

Fanboy Award for best PC exclusive: The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings

The PC may not have seen a bountiful crop of exclusives this year, but even if it had, The Witcher 2 would still be at the top. Want to show your friends why the PC blows away consoles? Show them this game. Want to show that games can have mature, witty writing and nuanced acting? Look no further. If you're tired of RPG clichés, The Witcher 2 is the cure. Its combat is fast, brutal, and difficult. Its world is not one of gauzy, bright fantasy where humans, elves, and dwarves work together to combat ancient evil – it's a dirty, mean-spirited place where elves are terrorists and humans are racists and there is no ancient evil, but rather a complex plot of political scheming and hidden enemies.

At one point in the game, you must decide which side to take in a small conflict. This seemingly minor decision leads you on a path to an entirely unique area filled with unique quests, which takes up a third to half of the entire game. One choice means the difference of perhaps twenty hours of content, and as is the case with most choices in the Witcher series, there are no black-or-white options, just shades of gray where you know that no matter what you do, somebody you care about will get hurt. Like real life, sometimes there is no right choice.

Fanboy Award for Best Wii Exclusive: Zelda: Skyward Sword

Skyward Sword was this year’s reason to dust off your Wii. The first and last Wii-exclusive Zelda truly delivered, with advanced motion controls for 1:1 sword-swinging, shield-bashing, and arrow-flinging precision that feels like the real thing.  The game pushed the series forward, changing the overall formula and rehashing the overworld layout into a combination of Wind Waker’s open ocean and Metroid-style backtracking. Series staples like the boomerang and light (or silver) arrows are no-shows. Instead, we’re treated to puzzles that force players to think outside the Zelda box, using the more unusual items at hand. Even the characters are better fleshed out than ever before, with Zelda actually presented as someone Link would actually want to save, rather than just that princess in that castle over there.

For any Zelda fan, Skyward Sword is a must play. It brings a fantastic origin story to the series – even answering a few questions about the series timeline. And for those who’ve never played Zelda, what better way is there to experience a Legend than from the beginning?

Fanboy Award for Best DS Exclusive: Pokemon Black and White

We've said it before, and we'll say it again: Pokemon is one of the deepest, most strategic RPGs of all time, and it's a shame it often doesn't get credit for how hardcore it can be. Black and White continues this tradition, with more Pokemon, more multiplayer features, and a better story than ever before. In terms of the sheer amount of content it contains (it can't even be measured in hours – try a few hundred to start), and the level of polish on every last pixel, B&W is unrivaled among all other DS games.

Black and White introduces 156 new Pokemon – more than any Pokemon game before it – bringing the total number of Pokemon to 649. With countless ways to train each Pokemon, the balancing nightmare this must have posed is truly staggering, but somehow developer Game Freak managed it beautifully – enough to support a thriving community of competitive battlers. O.G. Pokemon fans tend to have a nostalgia-fueled love for the original 151, coupled with an irrational hatred for all newer Pokemon, but if you're able to put those biases aside, B&W's Pokemon are some of the coolest in the entire series. Just saying – we'd take Volcarona over Venomoth any day.

Fanboy Award for Best 3DS Exclusive: Super Mario 3D Land

Super Mario 3D Land isn’t just a vitally important game for the 3DS, although it has single-handedly transformed the machine from an abortive misfire into a legitimate successor to the great Nintendo handheld line. It’s also a very important entry in the Mario series. Instead of a cut-down, simplified 3D Mario, as some initially had it pegged, Super Mario 3D Land is actually the first Mario game in 21 years to feel like a genuine part of the original, 2D NES/SNES series.

Put simply, it’s the product of everything Nintendo has learned about the creative possibilities of 3D game design, filtered through the lens of the original games’ values. What 3D Land chooses to leave out is just as important as what it includes. With climbing, punching, kicking and ledge-dangling gone, it leaves the more general action-adventure vibe of the recent games behind and returns to the intricate, densely layered level design and disciplined, pixel-perfect platforming demands of old. With a light, optional objective system closer in tone to Super Mario World than Super Mario 64, and literally a whole game’s worth of unlockable extra content, it’s as large and challenging an undertaking as you want it to be. Or not. Whoever you are, it’s perfect.

Fanboy Award for Best PS3 Exclusive: Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception

The best reason to own a PS3? Damn straight. Naughty Dog really went above and beyond to serve up the most epic Uncharted to date, simply by making everything bigger. From the enormous scope of the shipyard level and its beached super-tankers to the jaw-dropping plane crash in the desert, everything here has been super-sized. The flow between these stunning levels, and the game’s dramatic set-pieces, is superb and sucks you through without ever leaving you feeling bored.

While some idiots are already wishing their lives away for the Wii U, Xbox 720 and PS4, the mix of intense action, nigh-perfect dialogue and incredible visuals in Uncharted 3 showcases what’s still possible “this-gen.” Sony can finally be proud of a platform exclusive that makes its competitors look on in pure envy, and this year, with the third outing of its poster boy, Nathan Drake, it cemented the Uncharted series as an all-time classic.   

Fanboy Award for Best PSP Exclusive: Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together

Sony’s waning handheld has been home to some of the best tactical RPGs of the last few years, and Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together is arguably the best of them yet. The original Super Famicom/SNES release of Tactics Ogre popularized the "tactics" genre of isometric strategy games, and inspired its even more famous successor, Final Fantasy Tactics. Sadly, though, it's a classic that's been largely overlooked in the US, so we were pleased to see that this year's PSP remake was impeccably executed.

Because the original is still among the best in the genre, Square Enix could have done a straight port of original developer Quest's work, but instead it went all-out, with brand-new, gorgeous, hand-drawn art and some welcome tweaks that modernize the gameplay without dulling its hardcore edge. Most notably, the PSP remake features a rewind function, called Chariot Tarot, that allows you to undo up to your last 50 moves, so you can erase any silly mistakes you make and call a do-over anytime. Can all tactics games have this option from now on?

Fanboy Award for Best Xbox 360 Exclusive: Forza Motorsport 4

After the underwhelming Gran Turismo 5, all Forza Motorsport had to do to take the crown was not trip over its feet and crack its head open on the way to the stage. Fortunately, Turn 10 put in the work and made a great thing even better. Multiple configurations for every track, a great car list (sans Porsche, sadly) and a much-improved community interface make FM4 the best iteration of the series, and the best console racing-simulation game available. Add to that the car porn of Autovista, the Top Gear races and the constantly updating online challenges, and Forza has something for even the mildest racing fan.

While hardcore players may not care, the game also puts a lot of effort into making itself accessible for casual gamers. Kinect controls and a huge array of assists mean even your grandma can lap around the Nurburgring at 200 MPH.

Fanboy Award for Best iOS Exclusive: Infinity Blade II

3DS? Pah. PS Vita? Pah. Yes, PAH. Infinity Blade II on iPhone looks better than anything yet seen on these handhelds, meaning the best graphics you can play with on the bus come from a humble cell phone. Gasp in awe at the new “rays of light” effect, which silhouette your character against a halo of amazingness. Regardless of what hardware it’s on, this is a true showcase for computer-generated imagery. Take that, dedicated gaming machines!

Was your favorite game not represented here? Don’t worry – we’ve got two more rounds of awards still to go, continuing here and culminating in our Game of the Year!

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18 comments

  • playswithsquirrels - December 16, 2011 4:26 p.m.

    Good read. Can't wait for the other two parts!
  • PBC13 - December 16, 2011 4:28 p.m.

    Excellent great to read. Looking forward to the rest. But I have to say my reaction to best 360 exclusive was basically; http://i.imgur.com/wKP63.png
  • SunniDee - December 16, 2011 4:28 p.m.

    been waiting all week for this so pumped.
  • garnsr - December 16, 2011 5:24 p.m.

    What do you mean "Sony can finally be proud of a platform exclusive that makes its competitors look on in pure envy?" Uncharted 2 was still the best looking console game till 3 came out. And 3 hasn't gotten as much crap as Gears of War 3, which is about the only other 360 exclusive not on this list, while the PS3 has quite a few exclusives to choose from, coming from developers who aren't held back by the 360's limitations, and make great games, unlike Bethesda, who gives the PS3 a bad name by letting the 360 hold this generation back. Too bad we'll be forced to get new systems in a couple years instead of all developers getting all they can out of the PS3.
  • shawksta - December 16, 2011 5:55 p.m.

    Awesome awards.Cant wait for the other awards! I know, its rather sad Pokemon doesnt get the hardcore attention it deserves,especially since its like the,only Turn based RPG with competitive Multiplayer, B/W is THAT Awesome, and hell I love Garbodor better than Muk in terms of design anyday! My bro knew Skyward Sword was gonna be long but when I told him that statement about the least being 60 hours on the article, he shit bricks in suprise XD and he's upto the point in Skyloft after the first temple.
  • EnigmaSpirit - December 16, 2011 6:21 p.m.

    Yes, Volcarona is a cool pokemon, but this generation had more undeniably stupid pokemon than the others. What about the fucking ice cream cone that just get's another scoop for it's evolution? What about the thing that is a gear and just gets more gears as it evolves? I could go on, there were some cool ones, but overall they were subpar. The game itself just didn't really grab me this time around. The entire thing was more of a chore for me than any other. I was kind of disappointed. :\ The games need a major reinvention for me to stay interested next gen. Can't wait to get Skyward Sword for Christmas! I'm also hoping to get a PS3 with the giftcard money and plan to get the Uncharted games.
  • WTeen8 - December 17, 2011 7:09 a.m.

    All the gens have some lame Pokemon if you think about it. Magnemite is a circle with magnets attached to it, and when it evolves, 2 more get added. Same for Diglet. Stantler is a deer with ornments on its antlers. Voltorb is a bomb. Sandile is a brown crocodile. Torchic is an orange chicken. Magikarp is a fish. Garbodar is a landfill, ect. While I do agree that gen 5 sucks (Woobat...really?) everyone has their own opinion to what they prefer. (Although most people tend to prefer gens 1 and 2...me included [Pokemon Silver...memories]) Also, that ice cream cone is da best pokemon evar! And everyone can agree....skyward sword looks epic.
  • profile0000 - December 16, 2011 7:02 p.m.

    Great read. Love the Platinum Chalice awards.
  • Fuzunga - December 16, 2011 9:17 p.m.

    I think you mean justifying *full body* control. Skyward Sword justifies motion control.
  • jmcgrotty - December 16, 2011 11:06 p.m.

    "Before the game [Mindcraft] was even released officially this November" Minecraft isn't a game.
  • Cwf2008 - December 17, 2011 12:26 a.m.

    Neither is Mindcraft
  • gamebrain8505 - December 17, 2011 1:01 a.m.

    How is it not a game? Please good sire, enlighten us.
  • IChooseUAntistaMON - December 17, 2011 11:33 a.m.

    Ha What an idiot you were trying to call them out but you fucked up yourself hahaha OT: A racing game as the best 360 game WHAT THE?!?
  • cj12297 - December 17, 2011 2:48 a.m.

    What, no iOS award for 'squeaks dreams' ?
  • EwoksTasteLikeChicken - December 17, 2011 10:01 a.m.

    So Forza beats Gears 3... um... sure?
  • spideralex90 - December 17, 2011 12:02 p.m.

    Exactly what I was thinking.
  • ZhugeLiang - December 17, 2011 10:40 a.m.

    Let us all cling together, or we shall all cling separately.
  • spideralex90 - December 17, 2011 12:05 p.m.

    Oh and being that the Vita isn't out yet, and that the screenshots of it's version of Uncharted look amazing, I think that first sentence of Infinity Blades section is just wrong.

Showing 1-18 of 18 comments

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