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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!

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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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]

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]

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

Bravely Second's Minette Goroneze lets cats out of the jobs bag

Axes, brass knuckles and the power to summon cats certainly stand as an offbeat arsenal when combined, but maybe Bravely Second newcomer Minette Goroneze is just a trailblazer in battle tactics. Square Enix introduced Minette during a presentation for the 3DS RPG at Jump Festa 2015, though details focused more on the "Cat User" job class than Minette's background.

According to Gematsu's translation of a Dengeki Online report, Cat Users can sacrifice items to summon cats capable of strong attacks. In a demonstrated example, the "Death Spiral" move draws forth a pair of cats to strike enemies several times. Special attacks may burn one or more items, depending on their strength.

An example of the Astrologist class is also present in Minette's concept art, but details weren't offered for that character or class. Considering Contributing Editor Sinan Kubba noticed that there appear to be 30 job slots in Bravely Second footage shown three months ago, we're bound to hear of a few more new ways of life before the game launches in Japan in April 2015.
[Image: Square Enix]

Curtain Call DLC channels Chrono Trigger, SaGa, FF14, Secret of Mana

Just last month, Square Enix released what it stated was the last planned DLC for Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call. The developer's plans thankfully seem to have changed however, as a report from Dengeki Online (as translated by Siliconera) notes extra, impending DLC tracks featuring tunes from Chrono Trigger, Secret of Mana, Final Fantasy 14 and the SaGa series.

A bulletpoint outline is available after the break for this batch of tracks, which will arrive on Japan's 3DS eShop on December 24 for 150 yen apiece (though "Ultima" and "Hard to Miss" will be free for the first two weeks). Square Enix hasn't shared plans to bring the DLC encore stateside, but hopefully it will succumb to the gift-giving spirit and spread the love.

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Theatrhythm Dragon Quest trailer cuts down Metal Slimes


Theatrhythm Dragon Quest's debut trailer, shown by Square Enix during Jump Festa 2015, likely resembles what Theatrhythm fans imagined when the rhythmic 3DS game was announced last week; a tap-to-the-beat reunion with heroes, monsters and backing tracks from the Dragon Quest series.

The familiar Field and Event Music Stage playstyles are accounted for, but a top-down, Rock Band-style setup seems to shift the four-lane Battle layout from the horizontal scrolling found in previous Theatrhythm releases.

Theatrhythm Dragon Quest will arrive in Japan on March 26, 2015, but a Western release has yet to be confirmed. It's reassuring that previous Theatrhythm games have launched outside of Japan and that Square Enix is gradually releasing mobile ports of Dragon Quest games, but the latest, MMO-flavored entry to the main series, Dragon Quest 10, never reached Western adventurers.
[Image: Square Enix]

Console Madness: Free Smash Bros 3DS XL, the rarest PS4 game, and much more


So Joystiq's given away a couple of limited edition Xbox Ones, a limited edition PlayStation 4, a crazy edition of Destiny, and a whole mess of random swag. You think we're done? We're not done. Prepare for more! In the lead-up to Christmas, Joystiq is giving away a limited edition Super Smash Bros. Nintendo 3DS XL. Snazzy art plus a copy of the game pre-installed!

That's not all we're giving away, though. There's also a copy of Retro City Rampage for PlayStation 4. Recently released as a physical edition, it's the rarest PS4 game out there and already fetching serious prices on eBay. Finally, we've got an enormous box of mystery swag. What's in the box? You'll have to be one of our three winners to find out.

Here's how to get the goods: Just use the Rafflecopter widget below between December 19 and December 26. Winners will be selected at random and contacted via email. Full rules and details after the break.

Free Smash Bros 3DS XL, the rarest PS4 game, and much more giveaway
[Images: Nintendo]

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Nintendo currently plotting next console, Miyamoto confirms

In an interview with the Associated Press, Super Mario Bros. creator and leading Nintendo visionary Shigeru Miyamoto mentioned that the Japanese console giant is already working on a successor to the now two-year-old Wii U.

"For the time being, our focus is on the Wii U hardware, but Nintendo as a whole has groups working on ideas for new hardware systems," Miyamoto said. "While we're busy working on software for the Wii U, we have production lines that are working on ideas for what the next system might be."

Keep in mind, this sort of far-future planning is routine for console manufacturers. It would be surprising if the "production lines" Miyamoto mentioned have moved beyond the early planning stages. Don't worry, it's going to be at least a few more years before you have to work another Nintendo console into your budget.
[Image: Nintendo]

Toys R Us: Lucario amiibo pre-orders not being canceled

Numerous Toys R Us customers received emails from the retailer this morning, seemingly canceling their pre-orders for the Lucario amiibo figure. As a Toys R Us spokesperson told Joystiq in a phone conversation today, the emails were part of a "technical issue," and pre-orders for the figure will not be canceled.

Toys R Us added via email, "we apologize for any inconvenience that may have been caused pertaining to customers' amiibo pre-orders. Please know that we are working on an email communication to all customers effected, which will provide instructions on how we plan to fulfill their order." The Lucario amiibo was revealed in November as a Toys R Us-exclusive figure, though the retailer's listing for the figure is currently missing from its storefront. Toys R Us was unable to offer specific inventory data for amiibo, but assured that the issue was unrelated to its supply of the figures.

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Miyamoto says players can share levels in Mario Maker

Players of Mario Maker, the upcoming Wii U game that lets players build their own 2D worlds in the style of the Super Mario Bros. series, will be able to share their creations online, according to Nintendo's Shigeru Miyamoto.

In a recent interview with YouTube personality iJustine (translated by Nintendo Senior Product Marketing Manager Bill Trinen) Miyamoto said, "You'll be able to see what happens when other people play your course or when you play other people's courses. There will be some popularity rankings for the most popular courses and things like that. So there's a lot on the community side."

Miyamoto hopes you won't forsake those in your own home though, elaborating that he still pictures couch-based play, with a creator handing off their level to a friend or family member who is in the room. "But of course we will have the internet ability to exchange courses as well." We can't wait to see all the age-appropriate and completely family-friendly designs that the internet will come up with.
[Image: Nintendo]

Report: Captain Toad's release date brought forward in UK

Captain Toad's UK adventure may be starting early, after his game began showing up on British doorsteps ahead of its January 2, 2015 due date. While Nintendo's yet to comment, multiple reports indicate the publisher's given retailers the green light to release Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker early - or less late compared to the North American release date.

MCV reports it's "been told" all UK online retailers can start shipping the game ahead of a new launch date of Monday, December 22. Similarly, Nintendo Life sources indicate GAME has begun shipping the game out, while VideoGamer.com went to its local GAME store and bought a copy this morning. In other words, if you're a Brit waiting patiently for the Wii U puzzle-platformer, you might want to track down some early treasure on the high street.

While you're doing that, we've reached out to Nintendo for official clarification.

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Duck Hunt flocks to Wii U Virtual Console on Christmas

As the turkey takes the prominent spot at your dinner table this Christmas, Nintendo has another bird in mind for your TV. The Wii U Virtual Console edition of Duck Hunt, announced earlier this year, will hit the eShop on December 25. Once you're stuffed to the gills, why not take aim at a few virtual ducks? Or, if you need to cater to Grandma's delicate sensibilities, you can always blast a few clay pigeons instead.

Here's hoping the Wii Remote makes a decent stand-in for Nintendo's classic Zapper light gun.

[Image: Nintendo]

New Nintendo eShop releases: Mega Man Zero, Meme Run

Mega Man X's often-dead pal Zero joins Nintendo's Virtual Console service today with the launch of Mega Man Zero, a 2002 Game Boy Advance spinoff known for its exemplary platforming and punishing difficulty. Power up Zero with new upgrades and abilities as you keep the peace between humans and Reploids in the century following the events of the Mega Man X series. If you're in the mood for more Mega Man, Capcom is currently hosting a themed eShop sale, dropping the prices of many of the Blue Bomber's games for the NES, SNES, and Game Boy.

SNES brawler Natsume Championship Wrestling also joins the Virtual Console catalog this week, accompanying Wii U eShop releases like EnjoyUp's minimalist arcade-style puzzler 99Moves, multiplayer eat-'em-up Plenty of Fishies, and Internet meme-infused infinite runner (yes, really) Meme Run.

3DS owners can expect to see a digital version of Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater 3D this week, along with Asterix The Mansions of the Gods, Minecraft-like Cube Creator 3D, and Skipmore's action-RPG puzzler Fairune. If you have any French children hanging around, you'll also want to check out Mes Comptines, which might be the 3DS's first-ever French nursery rhyme compilation.

Hit the break below, s'il vous plait, to see this week's full release lineup.

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