Inside Pulse 12

411 Games Presents: The Best Of 2003 (Part Two)

411 Games Presents: The Best Of 2003 (Part Two)



MOST IMPROVED FRANCHISE

Pokemon

This year’s edition of Pokemon Pinball pushed the series forward a few steps. But Pokemon Channel made some giant leaps. As much as we like Pokemon in general here at 411, this game was special. We far preferred this game to Ruby/Sapphire, Attack, or the TCG on the GB. It’s the first real attempt at making a truly interactive Pokemon world. Hey Pikachu was a precursor, and a good attempt, but Pokemon Channel takes things much further and gives you tons of activities to do just in case you get sick of the electric bunny thing. It takes aspects from all sorts of games that have been considered fresh and original, but most of all FUN, and gave them a new Pokeslant. It’s nice to see Ambrella, Game Freak, and Nintendo taking Pokemon further and further down the eventual path it is heading. The future is coming, and it’s going to be Pokeriffic!

RUNNER UP: Jak & Daxter series

BEST FIGHTING GAME

Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution

The best 3D fighting game ever made. Period. Tekken 4. Soul Calibur II. And any other two-bit fighting game franchise. All are lightweights and must page homage to the creator of 3D fighting as we know and love it today. The original Virtua Fighter paved the way. And now with Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution, it’s official. Nothing can touch it. Taking 2002’s masterpiece and making it even BETTER by adding two new combatants and an actual ‘story’ mode, Yu Suzuki’s fighter is an incredible buy, especially considering that it’s at the Greatest Hits price of only $20. Open up the chapter in gaming history that is VF4 and you’ll find the deepest fighting system ever crafted for a non-2D fighter. Perfect control. Perfect graphics. Perfect ‘story’ mode. Perfect, perfect, perfect. Enjoy it people. Something this good only comes along every so often. Don’t be a FOOL and miss out on it.

RUNNER UP: WWE Smackdown!: Here Comes The Pain

“Hey! You’d be this annoying too if you had to put up with UK gaming!!”

Misha

System of The Year
Nintendo GameCube

The more I think about it, the more I realize that, this year, the only console that has leapt out at me saying “Buy me! Buy me!” is the ‘Cube. Maybe it’s a latent Nintendo bias, but in all honesty, I can say that the GC currently has more games I’d prioritize the purchase of than the other two combined.

Game of the Year
N/A

I can’t do this. I can’t say that one of my favorite games is better than all the others. It’s just not the way I work. So go read my individual picks

Best Playstation 2 Game
Capcom vs SNK 2

I like this game lots. Not least because I can beat all-comers in my immediate circle of gaming-competitors. I know it’s “only” a 2D fighter, but I actually prefer them to 3D ones.

Best Nintendo Gamecube Game
Viewtiful Joe

Lucard will ban me for life because I didn’t vote for Pokemon Channel, but thanks to shoddy release schedules, I’ve not played it, so couldn’t vouch for it. Viewtiful Joe, on the other hand, I *have* played, and gets a huge “Yay” from me. Innovation, humor, and an old-school feel

Best Microsoft Xbox Game
N/A

I don’t own one. No one in my immediate circle of gamer-friends has one. So I can’t possibly comment. Probably Deus Ex: Invisible Wa, though, ’cause the original kicked so much arse.

Best Game Boy Advance Game
Pokemon Ruby/Sapphire

Well, DUH. Pikachu and friends get updated, and everybody’s happy. I’m upset that my Pokemon from RBYGS were incompatible, though… But that’s what Colosseum is for….

Best RPG:
Zelda: Wind Waker (GC)

Lunar may have a more involved story, but I’m a hopeless Zelda mark, and IMO, Wind Waker is a superb example

Best Platformer:
Mario Sunshine (GC)

It’s Mario. And I love it. Sure, it’s only a marginal upgrade from MArio 64, but it’s still damn cool.

Best Racing Title:
Would probably be Mario Kart Double Dash, if I’d actually been able to play the thing.

Most Improved Franchise
Wreslemania series (GC)

X-8 was really quite poor. XIX is strangely compelling. This is a big improvement.

Best Fighting Game:
Wrestlemania XIX (GC)

A strange choice, by some people’s lights. however, there’s just… something about it that keeps me playing. Don’t know what. It just draws me right in.

Best Story:
Lunar Legends

Intrigue, romance, betrayal, ambition…. All this and more, in a perfectly formed GBA-sized package. Not exactly an epic… More a small novel. But it’s GOOD.

Best Online Game:
Counterstrike (PC)

Yeah, I know it’s a cop-out. But I still love the game. I’m nowhere near as good as I used to be, but I still love playing it. Not tried the XBox Live version yet.

Best New Feature:
411’s new column, We Want Our Tea Back

OK. I couldn’t think of anything. Never mind, eh?

Biggest News Story:
Half-Life 2 Source Code theft

It took the industry totally by surprise, and stalled the release of the game for even longer. This is a bad thing.

Gaming Lowlight of the Year:
UK release schedules.

We have to wait 3 months for Pokemon Channel, and who-knows-how-long for Colosseum. Must… have… NTSC… consoles…

“I go to college for Marketing. Thus I know more than all of you. Deal with it.’

Bryan Berg

System of The Year:
Nintendo GameCube

How do you go from a DOA system to a solid #2 with potential? Ask Nintendo, because its’ GameCube has done just that in 2003. Sure, it had a terrible first half of the year in terms of moving systems, but look at the games that came out this year. The Wind Waker. Mario Kart: Double Dash. Viewtiful Joe. Add that to the Game Boy Player and GBA connectivity and you’ve got a system that’s ready to compete in 2004 as well. Good job, Nintendo!

Game of the Year:
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

Old school gamers have been begging for this for a long time. And here it is. Boy, is it worth the wait. Combining the old with the new, Prince of Persia is a prototype for the future of gaming.

Best Playstation 2 Game
NCAA Football 2004

Best Nintendo Gamecube Game
Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker

Best Microsoft Xbox Game
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

Best Game Boy Advance Game
Wario Ware

Best Sports Game:
NCAA College Football

Best RPG:
Legend of Zelda – The Wind Waker (if you’d consider it an RPG. If not, I choose not to nominate one since I haven’t played any others)

Best Shooter:
Return to Castle Wolfenstein: Tides of War

Best Platformer:
Viewtiful Joe

Best Racing Title:
F-Zero GX

Best Extreme Sports:
Tony Hawk’s Underground

Most Improved Franchise:
EA’s NHL Hockey series

Best Fighting Game:
WWE Smackdown: Here Comes The Pain

Best Story:
True Crime: Streets of LA

Best Online Game:
Top Spin

Best New Feature:
XSN Sports

Biggest News Story:
“Kill All the Haitians!” – The GTA-Haiti controversy. Proof that gaming really has hit the mainstream.

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

BEST STORY

Disgaea: Hour of Darkness

“Dood.’ That is exactly why we’re playing this instead of the dozen other strategy RPGs we could be playing. The twisted, almost Burton-esque, world of Disgaea, feels like a parody of not only RPGs, but also anime and any other geeky entertainment you can think of. Except hookers, but, come on, they are pretty much funny by themselves. From the “Dood” spouting Prinnies to the spear, Longinus, to how laughably unimportant life and death are, Disgaea takes it’s parody so far that it transcends parody and becomes a piece of great gaming on it’s own merit. Do you have to be aware that RPGs are full of non-sensible and largely irritating animal sidekicks to know that surfer penguins that explode are funny? I hope not. Then there is the Mid- Boss cut scene. I won’t spoil it, but once you hear it, you’ll understand. Fantastic story.

RUNNER UP: Lunar Legends

BEST ONLINE GAME

Dance Dance Revolution: Ultramix

Yes, for the first time EVER, DDR has online play. And wow, just wow. There really is no feeling like playing against people in four-player matches across America. It’s a different gaming experience every time! Not only can you play online, but you can also take part in special Online Rankings. The game tallies the amount of victories you’ve obtained from Score and Point Battles online, and ranks you accordingly. It all ends up to be so blasted addicting. And fun. LOTS of fun. You will lose your soul to this game if you’re not careful.

RUNNER UP: ESPN NFL Football 2K4

“I only get to play three games a year, and I’m STILL more qualified to work here than you.”

Frederick Badlissi’s Picks

OK…

Abstaining from the categories I’m not familiar with, and the fact that most of the year was filled with time concessions to academia, here it goes…

Best PS2 Game:
Castlevania: Lament of Innocence

Best X-Box Game:
Star Wars: KOTOR

Best Extreme Sports:
Tony Hawk’s Underground

Best Shooter:
Ikaruga

Best Story:
Legacy of Kain: Defiance

Best Fighting Game:
Samurai Shodown V (Neo Geo! Yay-yay! What’cha know?!?)

Biggest News Story:
SNK’s Resurrection on this side of the Pacific

Gaming Low-light of the Year:
Nokia’s N-Gage

“Please. PLEASE, MAKE IT STOP! Why must the Kliq keep sodomizing me with farm animals?!”

Widro’s Picks

System of The Year:
GameCube

When you look at the lineup of exclusive titles for all three systems, it was a banner year for Nintendo. Mario Kart Double Dash!!, F-Zero GX, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, Viewtiful Joe’ those four alone trump almost anything else released in 2003.

Game of the Year:
Mario Kart: Double Dash!!

Don’t listen to the naysayers, this Mario Kart sequel delivers in a huge way. Don’t believe me? Go back and try to play Mario Kart 64 after weeks of the glistening new Double Dash. It seems so much slower, simpler and less exciting. The new Mario Kart plays exactly as everyone dreamed it would, complete with perfect Nintendo-universe graphics, incredibly tight and fun gameplay, and tons of hidden goodies to unlock.

Best Playstation 2 Game
Castlevania: Lament of Innocence
A really fun, graphically impressive sequel in one of the best all time series. Finally exercised the demons of the subpar N64 versions.

Best Nintendo Gamecube Game
Mario Kart: Double Dash!!

Best Microsoft Xbox Game
Prince of Persia: Sands of Time
An inspired game that has everything one could want, including a compelling story, great graphics and cool gameplay.

Best Game Boy Advance Game
Sonic Advance 2
The best original 2D platformer in ages, the latest Sonic game on GBA was truly a Sonic fan’s dream.

Best Sports Game
NHL Hitz Pro (GC)
Who’d think that they could take the super unrealistic arcade 3-3 hockey title and make it legit. It’s still very arcadey and fun, but at least there is a semblance of realism now.

Best Shooter
Ikagura (GC)

Best Platformer
Ape Escape 2 (PS2)
A fun sequel that followed the formula of the original and added more of everything.

Best Racing Title
Mario Kart: Double Dash!!

Best Extreme Sports
Splashdown: Riders Gone Wild (PS2)

Most Improved Franchise
The Simpson’s Hit & Run

Best Story
Prince of Persia: Sands of Time

Best New Feature
Sunlight meter on GBA Boktai

Biggest News Story
Sony Announces PSP Portable

Gaming Lowlight of the Year
Push by politicians to make voluntary ratings a mandatory law

BEST NEW FEATURE

GameCube ‘ GBA Connectivity

If we were just talking about hooking up GameCube games to the GBA via the linkcable, then yes this would be a weak choice for a frontrunner. After all, Sega did something similar back in the day with the Dreamcast VMUs. But Nintendo has expanded on that concept by leaps and bounds. And best of all the connectivity doesn’t stop there, due to the wonderful introduction of the Game Boy Player. Playing Sonic Advance 2, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, Phantasy Star Collection, and Golden Sun on a full size TV screen is just brilliant. Like having another SNES lying around the house with a completely different set of games. Without a doubt the best new feature released in the 2K3.

RUNNER UP: First Person Football (ESPN NFL Football 2K4)

BIGGEST NEWS STORY

Sammy Buys SEGA

First it was Namco that was buying SEGA. Then it was Microsoft. Then it was Sony. Then it was Nintendo. Then it was Microsoft again. But then to the shock of the entire gaming industry, Sammy and SEGA announced they would be merging into one ‘super’ company in March of 2003. The first fruits from the merging of these two unlikely partners? Getting rid of Dreamcast online play. Yup. SEGA kept it going all of this time past the system’s ‘death’ into 2003. And as soon as Sammy gets a little say, they shut it down enraging thousands of gamers. And that’s just one chapter of the roll coaster ride that was these pair’s joining. As a matter of fact, when they first came together, Namco claimed that they yet again had a deal with SEGA to merge with them as well. SEGA openly acknowledged it. Sammy found out about it in the papers. Madness. And fun times all around. Even though the Namco-SEGA connection eventually fell through, the Sammy-SEGA connection remains strong. And it may prove to be just as entertaining in the 2K4.

RUNNER UP: Half-life Source Code stolen

GAMING LOWLIGHT OF THE YEAR

Nokia’s N-Gage

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha! What the hell was Nokia thinking? ‘Let’s make a crappy cel-phone and attach an even crappier game system to it! Then we can charge three times the industry leader is asking for, without giving the consumer any actual reason to buy! All we need are some crappy sports games and a Tomb Raider and we’ll sell millions!!’ Geez. Who do they think they are? Sony? That’s not going to fly this time guys. And gamers wasted no time in dismissing the thing as the most ridiculous portable gaming console ever produced. Just look at the sales. The N-Gage is definitely the saddest thing to happen to gaming all of last year with almost nothing else touching it.

RUNNER UP: Soul Calibur II disappointing

“We’re the people that read you guys. So you’ll have to forgive our taste.”

We’ve compiled all your choices for the best games of the year from the recent Xbox Live Holiday Giveaway Finale entries, and this is what you the people had to say’

Reader’s Choice Picks

System of The Year:
Microsoft Xbox

Hmm’ could the voting have been slightly skewed because it was a bloody XBOX CONTEST?! No’ that couldn’t be it’

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

Good. But a disturbing number of you actually voted for Madden NFL 2004. That’s very scary, people. Very, very scary.

Best Playstation 2 Game
Tony Hawk’s Underground

Because this is my United States of WHATEVER’

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

Well duh. If it won game of the year, then of course.

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

Even though it wasn’t on the list of choices an overwhelming number of you complained over it while voting for something else that you felt less worthy to receive this prestige. Well your cries have not gone unheard. KOTR takes it home.

Best Sports Games
EA Sports

And the Electronic Arts brainwashing machine continues to hold casual gamers by the balls year after sad, sad, year.

Best Shooter
Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six 3

Ok’ If you say so.

Best Wrestling Game
WWE Smackdown!: Here Comes The Pain

And we all saw this coming a mile away didn’t we?

Best RPG
Final Fantasy X-2

Well of course. It had titties in it. What else do you people need?

Multiplatform Game of The Year
Tony Hawk’s Underground

Best PS2 game AND best multiplatform game? That doesn’t make a lick of sense.

SYSTEM OF THE YEAR

Nintendo GameCube

Seemingly coming out of oblivion, the GameCube has firmly entrenched itself into the number 2 spot in 2003. While Microsoft puts all their eggs into Live to convince your Xbox purchase and Sony puts barely any effort in at all to compel your buying of a PS2, Nintendo has given you more compelling reasons to buy the GameCube than any other platform this year. And it worked. Doing everything from offering a free game with system purchase, to dropping the price down to a mere $99 and STILL offering a free Zelda bonus disc, the GameCube looks like solid gold to any potential game buyer. Add in that last year we saw new installments in the Pokemon, Mario Kart, F-Zero and Zelda franchises and you start getting pretty impressed. But then when you look at the third-party support of Dream Mix TV World, Viewtiful Joe and Ikaruga you start getting VERY impressed. Can they possible challenge Sony for the throne in 2004?

RUNNER UP: Sony Playstation 2

GAME OF THE YEAR

Disgaea: Hour of Darkness

If you’ve paid attention to the orgy of lovin’ throughout this feature, you saw this coming a mile away. Nearly the entire 411Games staff has fallen head over heels in love with Atlus. The smaller profile, but highly respected developer/ publisher has been churning out the wonderful gameplaying experiences as of late. And the main catalyst for the gathering of worship over the company is emanating from one game in particular. Forget Final Fantasy Tactics, Disgaea: Hour of Darkness is the best tactics style RPG out for any of the current next-gen platforms. With an artistically well-done anime flair, humor by the truckloads, and gameplay innovations to spare, Disgaea’s charm will surely steal your heart as it has ours. Make no mistake about it; you need to buy this game upon site. I mean, what else do we need to say here people? Don’t overlook one of the greatest RPG experiences of the year.

RUNNER UP: The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker



See you all again next year. And have a happy 2004. With Pokemon Coliseum, Ninja Gaiden, Phantasy Star Online: Episode III, Tales Of Symphonia, Final Fantasy XI (cough), and new installments in the Zelda and Metriod series, we most certainly are going to enjoy the new year. Stay with us, and we’ll tell you what to think through every second of it. After all, you guys are obviously lost when it comes to refined gaming taste. I mean, did you SEE those Reader’s Choice picks? Geez, people. ;)