We came to the conclusion on the final Game Buzz of the year that this really has been the 3DS' year. Nintendo have just been pumping out the quality releases on their handheld, putting the claims of doomsday soothsayers for portable consoles to shame with some of the best games we've seen in the last decade across all platforms, let alone portable ones. Sony's Vita continues to quietly impress too, even if Sony themselves often appear to forget about their own machine. Though it's still waiting to really take off, we're yet to find anyone who's bought a Vita who regrets the decision.
"Animal Crossing: New Leaf is an utter delight, but then you knew that already. For all of the little tweaks and new treats, the core experience remains the same. But stepping into the role of mayor connects you better than ever before to this joyous world of camaraderie and generous spirit. New Leaf is a game that lets you fashion an identity in whatever manner you choose, and then share it with the world. It's the best game in the series so far."
"Bravely Default dares to refresh the classic Final Fantasy formula with quiet yet confident innovations across the board, resulting in one of the best JRPGs of 2013 and a fitting end to a barnstorming year for Nintendo's handheld."
"Fire Emblem Awakening is an absolute masterpiece, whether you're a series veteran or rank newcomer. As one of the finest Strategy RPGs available on any handheld format, not to mention the best game on the 3DS thus far, you owe it to yourself to plumb its tactical and emotional depths. Do not, for any reason, miss this triumphant saga of love and death."
Killzone: Mercenary sets a new benchmark for handheld first person shooters, but takes absolutely no creative risks in the process. Though derivative to a fault beyond a versatile upgrade system, its gameplay is solid enough to impress and shiny enough to drop jaws.
"Pokemon X and Y set a brave new standard for the series on its new platform, delivering a host of new features, expressive 3D visuals and sensational online functionality for future games to build on. Regardless of age, ability, gender or tastes, there is something here for you, another charming adventure that's both nostalgic and newly revitalised. Or in other words: it's Pokemon. Choose it."
One of the few iOS games to grace our awards lists this year, Vlambeer's Ridiculous Fishing stuck two fingers up to the scene insistent upon shoehorning microtransactions into everything, and instead presented us with an utterly barmy take on a traditionally languid pastime. Ostensibly an endless runner (of sorts) mixed with a touch shooter, but with added fishing and shotguns, Ridiculous Fishing made virtual fishing more engrossing, addictive, and fun than any Rapala game we've ever played.
"Tearaway presents a charming and sumptuously beautiful adventure that begs to be played with, prodded, poked and tilted. Though there's scope for future games to make more of Tearaway's clever ideas, an irrepressible sense of fun and budget price point seal the deal. It's a Christmas cracker for the Vita that shows off both the system's power and potential for its lesser-used input methods."
Best Portable Game 2013 | Fire Emblem: Awakening
Fire Emblem Awakening is magnificent. In a year when the 3DS has finally found its feet with any number of fantastic exclusives, Intelligent Systems have delivered its undeniable killer app: a gloriously deep strategy RPG that's perfect for stolen minutes on the train or long nights spent bathing in the glow of your dual screens. Infinitely complex high-level tactical planning goes hand in hand with a compelling storyline that unfolds over the course of sixty hours, and an unforgettable cast of characters who bring personality to what is sometimes a sterile and clinical genre.
There's still no better game on the 3DS, which is frankly astounding when you consider the riotously awesome year that Nintendo's handheld has enjoyed. But that's no indictment of the games we've seen, not at all. That's simply an indication of how utterly unmissable, how fundamentally essential a game Fire Emblem: Awakening is.