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2014's Box Art: The Year in Review

Gaming is as deeply entrenched in the online age as it's ever been, with more downloadable games hitting storefronts than ever before. So there's no better time than now, while we still can, to commemorate the year through the lens of box art.

So many hours and so much thought goes into creating box art, with designers working their utmost to grab consumer attention at ground level. That makes for a curious mix of designs, turning the average store shelf into a kaleidoscope of logos, familiar faces, and occasionally glittering artwork. That very much remain the case this year.

We've taken 50 of 2014's retail releases - we've restricted it to games that hit physical store shelves (sorry, Shovel Knight) - and compiled them into a gallery to chronicle the year. As for which box art stood out from the rest, we welcome you to illuminate us in the comments.

What was your favorite video game box art of 2014? Which of the covers we didn't include were ones you really liked? And what about the coulda-shoulda-done-betters? Let us know!

Canada celebrates Boxing Day with two-game PS4 bundle

Boxing Day, the festive day following Christmas in which folks shop even more is upon us, friends. To celebrate, Sony will offer Canadian players a new PS4 bundle that includes two games. For $450, players can pick up the 500 GB PS4 console with NHL 15 (because Canada) and LittleBigPlanet 3 this Friday, December 26. Pre-orders for the Boxing Day bundle open on Wednesday, and it will be available through "major retailers."

Canada's Boxing Day bundle's value compares fairly well to previous ones: Sony offered a PS4 for $400 earlier this month that packed in the buyer's choice of one game out of four options, LittleBigPlanet 3 being one of them. Walmart later sweetened that deal by tacking a $50 gift card onto the offer. While NHL 15 wasn't received well at its launch due to a number of missing modes, some of which returned in via patches, the platforming sequel starring Sackboy did get praise in our review for its "vibrant and inviting" world.

Red hot PS4 coming to Japan with Final Fantasy Type-0 HD

It's not exactly red-nosed, but we'd say Japan's new PS4 glows. The red-and-black system is coming to the country on March 19, 2015 alongside HD-ified action-RPG Final Fantasy Type 0.

Sony unveiled the new livery over the weekend, and today it became available for pre-order in limited quantities. The asking price is 46,980 yen (around $392) plus tax, and for that you get the special system, a matching DualShock 4 and 15 days of PS Plus. It also comes with codes for Final Fantasy Type-0 HD, the Episode Duscae demo of FF 15 and a unique PS4 theme.

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Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is UK's Christmas No. 1

Ding dong merrily on high / In the UK CoD is winning
Ding dong verily the sky / In LA Kotick's grinning
Spa-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-aycey
Kevin in excelsis!

Like an exosuit-clad soldier sneaking stealthily down the chimney, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare sneaks up on FIFA 15 to nick the UK Christmas No. 1. Activision's shooter usurped EA's kicker with a last-minute promotion, which according to Chart Track makes it the fifth CoD ever to claim the top spot in merrytime.

Outside of that excitement, the UK charts are getting into the holiday spirit by barely moving an inch. Nonetheless, if you jingle below the break you'll find the full top ten, and this week a very festive edition of the customary music video - sort of.

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Stiq Figures, December 8 - 14: Biggest surprise in 2014 edition

Welcome to Stiq Figures, where the sales data is after the break and the posts don't matter.

A lot can happen in a year. Social media behemoths can snatch up rising tech companies, unlikely returns can happen simply because a CEO says so, and new, strong genre frontrunners can seemingly come out of nowhere. Sometimes the surprises we don't have the chance to hype ourselves for are the best parts of a year, and this week's Stiq Figures is all about celebrating 2014's personal out-of-left-field moments.

Personally, my biggest surprise was when Nintendo addressed my complaints at E3 by revealing Splatoon and Code Name: STEAM, two new, prominent franchises with fresh characters that wouldn't be stuck solely testing the waters of the eShop. As much as I enjoy Nintendo's existing roster, I've harbored a lingering hope in recent years that the developer would make a substantial effort with a blank slate. With two retail-sized debuts on the way within the first two quarters of 2015, I'm glad to have some fresh faces to look forward to in addition to a few reunions.

What caught you off guard this year? Was there a particular announcement that you weren't expecting, or was it a game you played that you didn't expect to love as much as you did? Let us know in the comments, right after you check this week's Japanese hardware sales after the break!

Note: As Media Create did not provide updated sales figures last week, this week's sales data is presented without comparison. We will return to the standard up/down format next week.

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The 8-bit Time Machine takes game music back to 1985

Modern game soundtracks are nice thanks to their full orchestras and high-definition sound, and chiptune music can be a fun trip down Nostalgia Lane. While it may seem like you'd have to choose one or the other, you can have your audio-flavored cake and eat it too thanks to "The 8-bit Time Machine," a 10-track album from Italian film composer Giovanni Rotondo that seeks to give listeners 8-bit versions of modern game soundtracks, albeit with a few modern tweaks.

Featuring 8-bit interpretations of themes from the likes of Destiny, Super Mario Galaxy, Battlefield 1942, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker and Watch Dogs as well as two original tracks, the album is currently gathering backers on crowdfunding site indiegogo. As of writing, the campaign has $1,033 raised of its $1,000 goal, with a $1,500 stretch goal to add four tracks.

Rotondo is planning to release the album via iTunes, Google Play, Amazon mp3, Pandora and Spotify in January 2015.
[Image: Giovanni Rotondo]

Unwrap Shantae and the Pirate's Curse on Wii U on December 25

After stormy seas kept sassy Shantae sequestered from Nintendo 3DS shores earlier this year, we weren't really sure when the half-genie girl and her pirate rival, Risky Boots, would team up to take down the Pirate Master in Shantae and the Pirate's Curse. Thanks to a tweet from developer WayForward made earlier this week however, it looks like Wii U owners can expect to find the 2D platforming adventure available on the eShop for $19.99 starting Christmas Day, December 25.

Shantae: Half-Genie Hero, a Kickstarter-funded adventure starring WayForward's purple-haired heroine, has been delayed from its 2014 launch window.
[Image: WayForward]

MMO Week in Review: Are you Elite or Dangerous?

Elite Dangerous
At the end of every week, we round up the best and most popular news stories, exclusive features, and insightful columns published on Massively and then present them all in one convenient place. If you missed a big MMO or WoW Insider story last week, you've come to the right post.

In spite of its ongoing offline mode controversy, Elite: Dangerous formally launched this week, earning congratulations from rival Star Citizen's Chris Roberts, who's said he'll be playing Elite himself over the holidays. Massively's Brendan Drain has been zipping around in this online sequel to Elite and examined it in comparison to internet spaceship genre cornerstone EVE Online.

We also brought to a close Massively's 2014 awards series and our predictions for next year.

Read on for a look at the rest of this week's top MMO stories.

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Tomodachi Life welcomes 1 million Miis in Europe

One million Miis in Europe have found a new, bizarre home in Tomodachi Life, Nintendo's quirky apartment complex simulator that hosts strange social interactions with relish. Nintendo of Europe celebrated the sales milestone earlier this week by tweeting the above image, and while we don't have sales figures for North America, we knew its Japanese counterpart, Tomodachi Collection: New Life, had managed 1.82 million sales by April 2014.

Tomodachi Life drew criticism earlier this year over its absence of same-sex relationships, prompting an apology from Nintendo and a commitment that "if we create a next installment in the Tomodachi series, we will strive to design a game-play experience from the ground up that is more inclusive, and better represents all players."

Contributing Editor Danny Cowan had a brief stay in the Miicentric universe, and while he found its charm to wear quicker than any Animal Crossing game "due to its comparative lack of structure and progression," he added that he was still left with fond memories: "Years from now, I'll look back fondly on the day that Garfield and Morrissey became best friends, and it'll be a great honor to attend Isabelle and Hank Hill's wedding."
[Image: Nintendo]

Bandai Namco changing name again, adds Entertainment

You know how sometimes a friend will try to come up with an awesome nickname for themselves, but they don't ever seem to stick with it? Kind of like your classmate Robert Pinkleton from fourth grade, who told people to call him "Rob," then "Bob," and finally "Rob Bob"? We wonder if he got a job at Bandai Namco, because less than a year after changing from Namco Bandai to Bandai Namco, the company has declared intent to rename itself again, this time to "Bandai Namco Entertainment."

A press release from Bandai Namco (as translated by Gematsu) states, "This change in our name allows us to redefine the scope of our business as lying not solely just within games, but rather more broadly within entertainment as a whole." You know, so that way people don't get confused and think they're just about games. "In doing so, we seek the continued growth of our company through a new, yet wholly recognizable network that will be utilized for expansion into service and contents ventures."

The name change is scheduled to take effect on April 1, 2015. Wait, really? Okay, we have to ask: Bandai Namco, are you just trolling us now?
[Image: Bandai Namco Entertainment]

SXPD patrols monochromatic panels on Android, iOS devices


In SXPD, a comic book and video game hybrid now available on iOS and Android devices, an all-female police force patrols New Royale, the United States' hidden 52nd (yes, 52nd) state that's owned by the richest man in the country. The Secret Order of the Black Seraphim is among the forces that seek to ruin New Royale, and since the territory lies beyond the nation's conventional authority, the stimulant-supplemented SXPD are the only force capable of countering the Secret Order.

Crimestoppers can help the SXPD out by tackling the game's first chapter after an initial $1.99 download. SXPD's store description notes that after a 99-cent in-app purchase, SXPD offers 42 comic book pages from Duke Mighten (Judge Dredd, Afro Samurai), six chapters of motorbike combat directed by David Perry (designer of Earthworm Jim), six extra arcade playmodes and a challenge that pays tribute to 3D Deathchase, a ZX Spectrum title said to have inspired SXPD.
[Image: Little Chicken Game Company]

This Majora's Mask-inspired Christmas carol is smashing

Image Yeah, so you played - or are at least familiar with the premise of - The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask and saw where this was going. The video is still smile-worthy! And hey, maybe you can make your own Majora music video when Majora's Mask 3D comes to 3DS in spring 2015. [Image: Nintendo]... Continue Reading

Joystiq Weekly: Telltale takes on Minecraft, Xeodrifter review, broken games and more

Welcome to Joystiq Weekly, a "too long; didn't read" of each week's biggest stories, reviews and original content. Each category's top story is introduced with a reactionary gif, because moving pictures aren't just for The Daily Prophet.
Telltale Games looked at Minecraft's build-what-you-want universe and decided to build an episodic, narrative-driven game instead of a crummy castle like the rest of us. At this point, we wouldn't even be surprised if Telltale Games' next project is a narrative-driven series starring Samuel the rock ... it would probably be well-written, too.

There's a bit more to this week's recap beyond Telltale's latest reveal though, including ports of the last two Devil May Cry games, free games for those that own Assassin's Creed Unity's season pass, a review of Xeodrifter and an assessment of recent high-profile, broken-at-launch games. All that and more is waiting for you after the break in this edition of the Joystiq Weekly!

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Updated Steam Controller design features d-pad

The Steam Controller has already seen a couple tweaks since its initial unveiling, first by adding traditional face buttons, and later supporting an analog thumbstick. Now, it appears that the controller will also feature a directional pad, though in what capacity remains to be seen.

Game Informer uncovered an image file in the Steam Client beta that suggests the Steam Controller will be able to support a d-pad in place of its left-side haptic touch pad. We say "able to support" because this is not an image of an actual, physical controller, and nowhere is it implied that this design will be released to the exclusion of others. The d-pad could be something users install for when they want it, or it could be part of a redesigned haptic touch pad. Who knows?

Valve knows, that's who. And they haven't said anything official on the matter. However, Valve VP of Marketing Doug Lombardi told TechRadar last month that the company will have a large Steam Machines presence at GDC 2015, which begins March 2.
[Image: Valve]

Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars updated on iOS, out now on Android

When Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars launched on iOS devices in 2010, it wasn't offered as a universal app, meaning that one purchase wouldn't grant players versions of the game for both iPhone and iPad. Four years later, developer Rockstar Games has fixed that – a new patch has added universal support for iOS 7.0 devices or later to both versions of the game, along with touched-up visuals and MFi controller support.

App Store shoppers will see both versions of Chinatown Warriors, but as Touch Arcade reports, Rockstar will eventually retire the iPad version of the game. Fans that previously purchased the iPad version will have Chinatown Wars and its update in their purchase history, so the streets of Liberty City should remain open to them after Rockstar pulls the iPad build.

Either version of Chinatown Wars is $2.99 on the App Store, and an Android version with "enhanced graphics, lighting and explosion effects" launched earlier this week at the same price.
[Image: Rockstar Games]

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Super Joystiq Podcast 126: Dying Light, Bloodborne, Evolve, story in games

Latest episode: Friday, December 19th, 2014

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