Inside Pulse 12

Inside Pulse Games Presents: The Best Of 2003

Inside Pulse Games Presents: The Best Of 2003

Ahh, 2003. Gaming in 2003 was quite the, uh… Well. Truth be told, it was kinda mediocre actually. Not much for innovations that’s for certain. But among the sea of countless beavis and butthead, straight to the bargain bin garbage that was released last year laid some glimmers of brilliance. And that’s what the kliq is here to celebrate. The rare. The under-appreciated. But more than anything, the best’ The best of 2003.



BEST PLAYSTATION2 GAME

Disgaea: Hour of Darkness

Strategy RPGs used to be rare occurrences, but lately they’ve been popping up all over the place. And at the top of the heap for them all is Disgaea: Hour of Darkness. Funny. Charming. Engaging. And disturbing on many, many levels. This game is not to be missed if you’re the fortunate owner of a PS2. Standing tall not only among all strategy RPGs released on other consoles this year, but also among every other PS2 game released this year, period. Fantastic.

RUNNER UP: Xenosaga Episode I: Der Wille zur Macht

BEST NINTENDO GAMECUBE GAME

Pokemon Channel

Pokemon Channel is a great little diversion. It’s not something that forces you to get a massive high score, or to play for a few hours until you finally reach a save point, or where you have to hit three opponents in a row with a Shinyu Hadouken in order to unlock a hidden character and so on. It’s just good simple fun. And in that respect, Pokemon Channel succeeds where a lot of games this generation have failed miserably. Because Pokemon Channel focused not on graphics or sound or being hardcore. It simply focused on being fun and let the rest of the game revolve around that. Good for you Ambrella. Good for you.

RUNNER UP: The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker

“Xbox Rules! And I’m not just saying that because we sold out to them!!’

Chris Pankonin

System of The Year:
Microsoft Xbox

The Xbox really impressed me with their advancements in online play this year. That, and the mighty Playstation 2 had a down year as far as releasing any games of substance, at least for me personally. The Gamecube stuck with what works for them, but again, nothing doing for me. Deus Ex: Invisible War, Counter-Strike, Crimson Skies, Amped 2, Project Gotham Racing 2, and Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six 3 were all late additions to the lineup that really helped bolster the Xbox as more than just a graphics machine. Definitely a good year for Microsoft and company.

Game of the Year:
Deus Ex: Invisible War (Xbox)

Better late than never. Eidos released the Xbox-exclusive sequel to the popular PC franchise Deus Ex in December and it was well worth the wait. An extremely deep storyline and the unlimited options really allow you to go wherever you want to in the story. Most impressive game I’ve seen in awhile.

Best Playstation 2 Game
Silent Hill 3

Best Nintendo Gamecube Game
Viewtiful Joe

Best Microsoft Xbox Game
Deus Ex: Invisible War

Best Game Boy Advance Game
WarioWare

Best Sports Game
Madden NFL 2004 (PS2)

Best RPG
Deus Ex: Invisible War (Xbox)

Best Shooter
Counter-Strike (Xbox)

Best Platformer
Voodoo Vince (Xbox)

Best Racing Title
Project Gotham Racing 2 (Xbox)

Best Extreme Sports
Tony Hawk’s Underground (PS2)

Most Improved Franchise
The Simpson’s Hit & Run

Best Fighting Game
WWE Smackdown: Here Comes The Pain

Best Story
True Crime: Streets of LA

Best Online Game
Return To Castle Wolfenstein: Tides of War (Xbox)

Best New Feature
Tie: Face Mapping (Tony Hawk’s Underground – PS2)
Tie: XSN Sports

Biggest News Story
Sony Announces PSP Portable

Gaming Lowlight of the Year
Nokia’s N-Gage

“I loves me kitties and guns. And beer. And err’ anime.’

Lee Baxley

System of the Year:
Playstation 2

Since RPGs are my thing, I have to go with the system that gave us the most and best RPGs, and that is undoubtedly the PS2. With greats like Final Fantasy X-2 and Dark Cloud 2, as well as future classics like Disgaea and Xenosaga Episode 1, 2003 featured some great games on the system, and no other system came close in my opinion.

Game of the Year:
Disgaea (PS2)

This was a hard decision for me, considering my fondness for Xenosaga, but I think it’s safe to say that this game was tops in PS2 games, and all games in general. It was surprisingly complex in gameplay, and brilliant and hilarious in its storyline, and no game this year came close in pure enjoyment as this game has. And it’s got to be potentially the longest game ever, with experience levels capable of reaching 9999! This game will be hard to beat.

Best Playstation 2 Game
Disgaea

Best Nintendo Gamecube Game
Pokemon Channel

Best Microsoft Xbox Game
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

Best Game Boy Advance Game
Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow

Best Sports Game:
ESPN NFL Football (PS2)

Best RPG:
Disgaea (PS2)

Best Shooter:
Ikaruga (PS2)

Best Platformer:
Viewtiful Joe (GC)

Best Racing Title:
Need for Speed Underground (PS2)

Best Extreme Sports:
Tony Hawk’s Underground (PS2)

Most Improved Franchise:
Pokemon

Best Fighting Game:
Guilty Gear X2

Best Story:
Disgaea

Best Online Game:
ESPN NFL Football

Best New Feature:
First Person Football (ESPN NFL Football)

Biggest News Story:
Nokia was serious about releasing the N-Gage

Gaming Lowlight of the Year:
Nokia’s N-Gage

BEST MICROSOFT XBOX GAME

Panzer Dragoon Orta

Would we have preferred an RPG sequel to Panzer Dragoon Saga? Sure. Are we going to hate on this game because it wasn’t? Hell no. This was the moment many Sega fans had been waiting for. The return of the Panzer Dragoon series after being MIA for over a ‘generation’ of consoles. And it most certainly didn’t disappoint. A visual showcase for the Xbox, and the best 3D shooter released in the 2K3 for any system, Panzer Dragoon Orta lived up the high expectations. For many, this is THE reason to own an Xbox. And we couldn’t agree more. Appreciated, but not nearly enough, if you like rail shooters then don’t pass this masterpiece up. Panzer Dragoon Orta is sure to please.

RUNNER UP: Star Wars: Knights of The Old Republic

BEST GAMEBOY ADVANCE GAME

Wario Ware, Inc.: Mega Microgame$

This game is addiction in its purest form. Random games that come out one after the other are bound to keep you hooked. You’ll be playing this cart for days mastering every single game, stage, and full-version game there is. And there’s enough here to keep you in your happy place for weeks on end. If you haven’t bought this game already, BUY IT NOW. Excellent.

RUNNER UP: Lunar Legends

“Pika? Pika Pika! Pika Chuuuuuuuuu!!’

Alexander Lucard

System of the Year:
Game Boy Advance.

New Pokemon games, New Shining Force games, New MegaTen games, New KoF games, new Lunar game, a huge renaissance in Rpgs, and a game featuring Hamtaro that was surprisingly better than anyone could have imagined!

All on one system. One beautiful portable system

Game of the Year:
Disgaea

It was a shit ass year for gaming in 2003. Nothing truly amazing or remarkable or anything that made me shit up and scream in joy. But Disgaea? Disgaea was the shining light in this years gaming Dark Ages. An excellent RPG with a fantastic plot and that broke all the rules of what a computer RPG is.

Best Playstation 2 Game
Disgaea

Best Nintendo Gamecube Game
Pokemon Channel

Best Microsoft Xbox Game
Panzer Dragoon Orta

Best Game Boy Advance Game
Lunar Legends

Best Sports Game:
Ultimate Muscle!

Best RPG:
Disgaea (PS2)

Best Shooter:
Ikaruga (PS2)

Best Platformer:
Haunted Mansion (all)

Best Racing Title:
F-Zero GX (Cube)

Best Extreme Sports:
GO! GO! Hypergrind!

Most Improved Franchise:
Pokemon

Best Fighting Game:
SNK vs Capcom: CHAOS (Neo Geo)

Best Story:
Lunar Legends (GBA)

Best Online Game:
DDR: Ultramix

Best New Feature:
Cube-GBA connectability

Biggest News Story:
Sammy owns Sega

Gaming Lowlight of the Year:
Nokia’s N-Gage

“Hwang!! What the hell did they do to my Hwang!!’

Chuck Platt

System of the Year:
GameCube

From third to arguably first place in a year is nothing to sneeze at. Mario Kart, Ikaruga, Viewtiful Joe, F-Zero, Zelda, and Dream Mix TV World are all reasons to give the Cube a spin. AND it is the only home console with easy importing, just use an Action Replay!

Game of the Year:
Disgaea

I beat it and kept on playing. From my ninja Goemon and Scout Jigen to the Prinnies and killing Alucard and Darby in Dark Congress meetings, this game held my attention from the second I got it to now. Is there a better strategy RPG?

Best Playstation 2 Game
Disgaea

Best Nintendo Gamecube Game
Viewtiful Joe

Best Game Boy Advance Game
Sonic Pinball

Best Sports Game:
None

Best RPG:
Disgaea (PS2)

Best Shooter:
Ikaruga (GC)

Best Platformer:
Viewtiful Joe (GC)

Best Racing Title:
Mario Kart: Double Dash (GC)

Best Extreme Sports:
None

Most Improved Franchise:
Marl, the series Rhapsody, La Pucelle, and Disgaea are in

Best Fighting Game:
Dream Mix TV World (GC)

Best Story:
Manhunt (PS2)

Best Online Game:
Fire Pro Wrestling D (Dreamcast)

Best New Feature:
Karaoke Revolution makes microphones useful

Biggest News Story:
Chuck Platt becomes the star of 411Mania.com/Games

Gaming Lowlight of the Year:
Soul Calibur II for all platforms

BEST SPORTS GAME

ESPN NFL Football 2K4 (ALL)

Sure, we like our Maddens and our Fevers, and our GameDa’ err, well ok. We’re not really THAT fond of GameDay. But regardless there can only be one champ of the gridiron in the hearts of the 411 Games staff, and that game is ESPN 2k4. With improvements to the series all around and wonderful additions such as The Crib and a new first person mode to enjoy, it’s the highlight of the football season. Time to face facts people. This is a Sega Sports world. We all just play in it.

RUNNER UP: Ultimate Muscle!

BEST RPG

Disgaea: Hour of Darkness (PS2)

Original Plot, incredible gameplay, and nothing but innovation from beginning to end. The best RPG on any of the next gen-consoles. It’s worth buying a system just for this game and it ranks up there with the very best RPG releases of the past 5 years. If you have a PS2, buy it. If you don’t have a PS2, buy one, and then buy this game. Take a good hard look gamers: THIS is what an RPG is supposed to be.

RUNNER UP: Xenosaga Episode I: Der Wille zur Macht

“All hail the mighty Eggplant Wizard. Lest ye become one mortal.’

Alex Williams

System Of The Year:
Nintendo GameCube

This one is easy. The X-Box may have had some cool Live titles, and the PS2 may have had some big names, but the GameCube has had a banner year in terms of software and hardware combined. Zelda, Mario Kart, Pokemon Channel, F-Zero, Viewtiful Joe, Mario Party…the list goes on and on. Add to that the Game Boy Player, and you have the greatest all-purpose entertainment experience Nintendo has been building this thing up as. Hail to the king, baby!

Game Of The Year:
Disgaea (PS2)

Even though I’m risking sounding like a sheep here, this game DOES deserve the accolades we’ve been giving it, and moreso. This is probably the only RPG I’ve ever played that contains infinite replay value. There’s so much you can do here, the only way to see it all is to go through the game dozens of times, and spend thousands of hours with it. And its a completely unique experience EVERY TIME you go through it! And the story is one of the best I’ve ever seen. I mean, it ranks right up there with the Lunar games!

Best Playstation 2 Game
Disgaea

Best Nintendo Gamecube Game
Pokemon Channel

Best Microsoft Xbox Game
Dance Dance Revolution: Ultramix

Best Game Boy Advance Game
Wario Ware Inc.: Mega Microgame$

Best Sports Game:
ESPN NFL Football (All platforms)

Best RPG:
Disgaea (PS2)

Best Shooter:
Ikaruga (GC)

Best Platformer:
Viewtiful Joe (GC)

Best Racing Title:
Mario Kart: Double Dash!! (GC)

Best Extreme Sports:
Tony Hawk’s Underground (All Platforms)

Most Improved Franchise:
Jak & Daxter Series

Best Fighting Game:
Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution

Best Story:
Disgaea

Best Online Game:
Dance Dance Revolution: Ultramix

Best New Feature:
Play GBA Games on GameCube

Biggest News Story:
HalfLife 2’s programming code lifted

Gaming Lowlight of the Year:
Nokia’s N-Gage

“I barely write, and I’m still like the most popular guy here!’

Bebito Jackson

System of the Year:
Nintendo GameCube

Let’s make it easy. F-Zero, The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker, Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, Pokemon Channel… Big enough juggernauts on their own, but the exclusive third-party support was what surprisingly what took the cake. Viewtiful Joe? Fantastic. Ikaruga? Amazing. Sure the volume is less than other consoles. But when the GameCube DOES do its thing, it rocks harder than any other system out. Always been true with Nintendo’s consoles. Quality over quantity, kids. And besides, when they’re selling them at 99 bucks a pop with a FREE Zelda bonus disc… how could we not give it its props.

Game of the Year:
The Legend Of Zelda: Wind Waker

And speak of the devil. Wind Waker. Was it as innovative or as life changing an experience as The Ocarina of Time? No. But was it better? Debatably, yes. And TOOT was or rather IS considered one of the greatest games of all-time. Quite frankly, we’re spoiled. Shigeru Miyamoto and his team have been throwing out games that are so far above the packs on a consistent basis that when we see brilliance, it becomes ordinary. For that reason, you’ll see many take Wind Waker for granted. But the sad truth is, gaming was kinda weak this year. And to say that any other game was better than this classic simply because it’s no longer cool to tout the virtues of a Zelda game is an insult. THIS was amazing.

Best Playstation 2 Game
Xenosaga Episode I: Der Wille zur Macht

Best Nintendo Gamecube Game
The Legend Of Zelda: Wind Waker

Best Microsoft Xbox Game
Panzer Dragoon Orta

Best Game Boy Advance Game
Wario Ware MicroGames Inc.

Best Sports Game:
Def Jam Vendetta

Best RPG:
Xenosaga Episode I: Der Wille zur Macht (PS2)

Best Shooter:
Ikaruga (PS2)

Best Platformer:
Jak II (PS2)

Best Racing Title:
Mario Kart: Double Dash!! (GC)

Best Extreme Sports:
Tony Hawk Underground (all)

Most Improved Franchise:
Jak & Daxter Series

Best Fighting Game:
Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution (PS2)

Best Story:
Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic (XB)

Best Online Game:
DDR: Ultramix (XB)

Best New Feature:
GameBoy Player

Biggest News Story:
Everyone And Their Momma Trying To Buy SEGA

Gaming Lowlight of the Year:
Nokia’s N-Gage

BEST SHOOTER

Ikaruga (GC)

It’s one of the best Shooters ever made. It’s exceptionally hard. And it’s made by the same people who made Radiant Silvergun, Bangai-O, and Guardian Heroes. Treasure does not seem capable of making bad games. Stop reading this article and go out and buy Ikaruga! You owe it to yourself. You owe it to other true die-hard video game fans. You owe it to everyone who has ever wanted one of those Japanese games that are always talked about but never translated into English so that they achieve cult status and people sit around on message boards pretending to have played the game when they merely read an FAQ on the bloody thing! It’s still for sale people. It’s not to late to repent your ignorance.

RUNNER UP: Panzer Dragoon Orta (XB)

BEST PLATFORMER

Viewtiful Joe (GC)

Viewtiful Joe is a rarity, a game full of style, quality execution, and replay. Not old- school, not new- school, Joe is a new kind of game for a new kind of time. With a wink and a nudge, this game finds time to be a plat former, a beat’ em up, and still be pretty damn funny. The reviews say it all, but it can’t be said enough ‘ Viewtiful Joe was THE game to beat in 2003. Now where’s our sequel?

RUNNER UP: Jak II (PS2)

“I’m not angry. I’m just tranquility challenged.”

Liquidcross

System of The Year: Playstation 2

Just because it’s the leader in market share doesn’t always mean it’s the best system…but the PS2 really shone this past year. Tons of fantastic games from every genre were released on the system; not a single one was lacking. As expected, the PS2 reigns supreme in the RPG genre, but plenty of random quirky titles were released as well. Plus, it really started to take its online side seriously, opening up a new doorway for many gamers. Many technical issues have been ironed out, cementing Sony’s place in the industry. Most importantly of all, 2003 gave PS2 owners old and new a lot of reasons to be happy with their investment.

Game of the Year: Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga (GBA)

Yes, I know Disgaea used to be here. But, I’m sorry, it honestly doesn’t hold a candle to Alphadream’s Mario-theme RPG. Why? M&L is sheer RPG and puzzle-solving bliss. I can’t think of a single thing wrong with it. The animations are among the best I’ve EVER seen in a game. It takes everything people loved about the past two Mario RPGs, expands on them by a factor of 10, and introduces enough new and fresh gameplay mechanics to make it original. Nothing else this year can come close.

Best Playstation 2 Game
Xenosaga Episode I: Der Wille zur Macht

Best Nintendo Gamecube Game
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker

Best Microsoft Xbox Game
Panzer Dragoon Orta

Best Game Boy Advance Game:
Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga

Best RPG:
Mega Man Battle Network 3 (GBA)

Best Shooter:
Ikaruga (GC)

Best Platformer:
Mega Man Zero 2 (GBA)

Best Racing Title:
F-Zero GX (GC)

Most Improved Franchise:
Simpsons Hit & Run (GC/PS2/XBox)

Best Fighting Game:
Guilty Gear X2 (PS2)

Best Story:
Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow (GBA)

Best Online Game:
Crimson Skies (XBox)

Best New Feature:
Everything in Pac-Man vs. (GC)

Biggest News Story:
Nintendo posts first loss in 62 years

Gaming Lowlight of the Year:
N-Gage

“Proud that Bebito and Alex didn’t come after me like they did Watson.”

Cory Laflin

System of the Year: GameCube

Not so much because it had the best games, but because of deft use of marquee titles and a price drop to make sales skyrocket.

And with Double Dash, Viewtiful Joe, and the Zelda and Sonic franchises aboard, who could resist that price point. Drop the price all you want, but without the titles everybody knows and loves, no one would’ve bought it. The combination of great games and good marketing make this the obvious choice for 2003. I’m interested in seeing what they’ll do to keep that momentum in 2004, especially with Xbox Live picking up steam.

Game of the Year: ESPN NFL Football

Best PlayStation2 Game: ESPN NFL Football

Look, I know this isn’t going to win since everybody and their dog is voting for Disgaea, but what can I say? I’m a sports gamer, not an RPG gamer. First-Person Football was the only thing this year that truly blew me away. It may not seem like much to some of you, but to the hardcore football fan … to be lined up, eyes fixed on the enemy quarterback … or under center, eyeing the defense to see where the hot route is and who’s coming to try and take your head off … or in the backfield, looking to see who your blockers are going to take out and where you can cut … that was INTENSE. They did all of this while making some of the smoothest up-close animations I’ve ever seen in ANY video game, and making the controls easy enough for newbies to handle right out of the box. For all around innovation, craftsmanship, and fun nothing beats it this year.

Best Nintendo GameCube Game: Mario Kart: Double Dash

Close call between this, Viewtiful Joe, and Zelda:Windwaker but MarioKart delivered exactly what we were hoping for plus a whole new multiplayer aspect. You can spout the virtues of the obscure game, but when it comes down to it, there’s a REASON that mainstream games are so successful, and it’s not always good marketing. I’ve yet to find another game franchise to do a racing/battle mode as well as the Mario Kart franchise.

Best Microsoft Xbox Game: Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

An RPG that you don’t have to be an RPG-freak to enjoy. SW:KOTOR was like the first Zelda in that regard, and in that it was a great game with some great marketing (anyone remember, “TEKTITES!!”. Any kid (or adult for that matter) who has ever wanted to be a Jedi has coveted this game.

Best Gameboy Advance Game: ABSTAIN

Best Sports Game: ESPN NFL Football (all platforms)

After playing First-Person Football, how can I ever go back?

Best RPG: ABSTAIN

I didn’t play Disgaea.

Best Shooter: ABSTAIN

I didn’t play Ikaruga.

Best Platformer: Viewtiful Joe (GC)

Maybe it’s my infatuation with 2-D platformers. Maybe I was starry-eyed at the cel shading. Maybe I just really fell fanboy for this game, but nothing else I saw in the platform world came close to this game this year.

Best Racing Title: Project Gotham Racing 2 (Xbox)

I wish I could, but I couldn’t put Double Dash here. Not after losing sleep for a whole weekend and incurring the ire of my wife playing this game. A huge car database, with the possibility of new cars being introduced online, excellent control – even with the stock gamepad, lots upon lots of tracks, and the most fun online play I’ve ever had make this one an obvious choice.

Best Extreme Sports: Tony Hawk’s Underground.

Baaaaa.

Most Improved Franchise: Evil Dead (for Fistful of Boomstick)

Strange selection? Not really, considering that the first Evil Dead game was considered one of the worst video games ever made for the PS2. FFOB may not be one of the best games of the year, but it is far from the worst. In fact, it’s a fun game if you’re an Evil Dead movie fan. With the excellent voice work by Bruce Campbell, it’s downright entertaining. If you were scared off by the first Evil Dead game, go rent FFOB and give it a try.

Best Fighting Game: Virtual Fighter 4: Evolution

Baaaaaaaa. (I’m sorry, I am NOT voting for Soul Caliber)

Best Story: ABSTAIN

As not to stir the discontent of my fellow RPG-nut writers.

Best Online Game: Project Gotham Racing 2 (Xbox)

Racing games may be the best games to play online. Reasons? Well, they’re short. There’s quite a bit left up to chance, so hard feelings don’t dwell as bad, and almost every culture on the planet can appreciate fast cars. I’ve gotten so pissed off at online sports games that I’ve purposely avoided online games for some time. I’ve had the same thing happen with online RPGs. I have yet to so much as get peeved playing PGR2 online. Therefore, it wins for seemingly doing the impossible: Making me WANT to play online.

Best New Feature: First Person Football ™ on ESPN NFL Football.

See above.

Biggest News Story: Nintendo price drop leads to huge surge in sales.

Gaming Lowlight Of The Year: The Nokia N-Gage. What else?

BEST RACING GAME

Mario Kart: Double Dash!!

This game is packed with past Mario game references, both general AND obscure. They took racetrack ideas from PAPER MARIO, for crying out loud! You’ll see enemies like Goombas, Piranha Plants, Shy Guys, and Chain Chomps littering the fields. Heck, the Bowser’s Castle track actually has you feeling like you’re going through Bowser’s Castle! It’s not often that the world graces us with a game that’s beautiful, fun to play, full of nostalgia, and keeps you hooked for hours upon hours. We can safely say that Mario Kart: Double Dash is one of those games. A definite must buy for anyone who owns a GameCube. Best racer produced in the 2K3, just inching out Nintendo’s other racing Juggernaut, F-Zero.

RUNNER UP: F-Zero GX

BEST EXTREME SPORTS GAME

Tony Hawk Underground (PS2)

When people think of professional skateboarders, they typically think of one man: Tony Hawk. And when people think of extreme sports games, they think of one man: Tony Hawk. There’s a good reason for that people. The Tony Hawk Pro Skater franchise not only basically created the genre, but they all consistently maintained the quality standard for said genre. And that tradition continues for Underground. For any fan of the Tony Hawk series, it’s a must own, because quite frankly, it’s heads and tails above THPS4. And it’s also a good starting point in the series, because the focus is on YOU, and how YOU are going to make a name for yourself as the best boarder in the world. Addicting beyond belief. Once you start playing, it’s near impossible to put it down. Great.

RUNNER UP: GO! GO! Hypergrind!

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