Inside Pulse Games 2004 Year End Awards

2004. It feels very different from the year before. Just last year, the Kliq was complaining about what a horrible year for gaming it was. We had Disgaea, Ikaruga, Pokemon Channel, a new Panzer Dragoon…and well, that was really it. 2003 made us all worry that gaming was starting to suck. But 2004 was a complete turn around. So many great games in so many different categories. There was a resurgence of 2D shooters! Tactical and Action RPG’s made a come back in a big way. It was also the year of the remake with Pokemon, Shining Force, Bubble Bobble, Guardian heroes, River City Ransom, Ninja Gaiden, The Bard’s Tale, Midway Arcade Treasures 2, the Zelda Collector’s Edition and Mega Man Anniversary Collection all making big waves in the VGC. And of course it was the year of the heavily hyped Sequels. Half Life 2! Halo 2! GTA:SA! And other sequels to classic franchises like R-Type Final, Gradius V and more.

This really was a great year for gaming, and in adding up the votes for the 2004 best of awards, not only we as gaming journalists, but you the viewers had some tight races in which categories had a great deal of favorites whereas last year the same categories were easily blown away by a game that actually managed to not suck, something quite rare in 2003.

Speaking of the readers, congratulations to John Lorenzsonn from Minneapolis, MN, winner of our Year End Awards Giveaway. Apparently the writer to reader education program we’ve been working with you people on over the past few years is kicking in, because not only did John have the wisdom and good taste to choose Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal as his reception prize, but he also chose Graduis v as his pick for Game Of The Year. Atta boy, John. Ya made the Kliq proud.

Alright. So let’s look at the nominees and the winners of the Inside Pulse 2004 Gaming Awards and hope that 2005 can be even half as good a year for gaming as 2004 was.

BEST SONY PLAYSTATION 2 GAME

Katamari Damacy

It’s a great time to be a PS2 gamer. It really is. Tons of wonderful titles from all genres coming together under one roof for the masses to take pleasure in. We’ve enjoyed many, but by far the most interesting and addictive game for the PS2 was Katamari Damacy. No one would have guessed that it could be so interesting to be a little prince with an overly demanding father that is almost impossible to please. But it was. Katamari Damacy is impressive in the simple way the game is played and how it gradually turns into a complex puzzle just by rolling things up into one giant katamari. You may like games like Splinter Cell or Metal Gear Solid but Katamari Damacy will win your heart. (and have you humming the soundtrack in your sleep.)

RUNNER UP: Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

BEST NINTENDO GAMECUBE GAME

Metroid Prime 2: Echoes

The Gamecube had a solid year. With stellar titles like Pokemon Coliseum, Tales of Symphonia, Paper Mario, and more, it was very difficult to pick just one of them to crown as the best of 2004. Well it WAS hard until the very end of the year when a little number named Metroid Prime 2: Echoes made her way onto the stage and blew us all away. The second adventure Samus has had on the Gamecube was everything we expected and more. It is the complete package with a wonderful story, amazing visuals, solid sound, and a replay value that goes beyond anyone’s expectations. When you add the fact that there is a multi-player mode this time around, MP2 became a no brainer for GOTY on the Gamecube system. This was a big year for Samus, as the Metroid franchise had one of its biggest years to date, and MP2 was simply the icing on the cake making Samus the most well known heroine in video games today. Let’s just hope that 2005 is just as big of a year for Samus, meaning that we get another game just as amazing as Metroid Prime 2: Echoes was.

RUNNER UP: Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door

BEST MICROSOFT XBOX GAME

Halo 2

Hard-fought for the selection of X-Box Game of the Year? You bet your sweet ass! With games like Ninja Gaiden and Star Wars Knights Of The Old Republic II, it was a damn tough pick to settle on just one. But when the dust cleared, with the old school NES games way too damn hard to unlock, and the Force unable to counter massive game glitches, the only one left standing was Halo 2. Despite the hype, Halo 2 delivers a solid FPS experience that will appeal to seasoned FPS’ers and the uninitiated alike, incorporating the best all-around X-Box game that a 3-year development cycle and Mr.Gate’s money could deliver. When the original Halo launched, it was the only reason to own an X-Box. Today, it’s sequel bolsters that claim, however needless it was in the face of the system’s 2004 releases. Sure, you could sit in your room and be the punk rock gamer playing Culdcept and Ribbit King. But if you decide to go mainstream for just a little while, there’s a damn good chance you’ll appreciate what Halo 2 has to offer.

RUNNER UP: Ninja Gaiden

BEST NINTENDO GAMEBOY ADVANCE GAME

Shining Force: Resurrection of the Dark Dragon

It’s been 12 years since the first release of Shining Force for the venerable Sega Genesis. Back then it thrilled 16 bit gaming fans and was considered to be the best RPG on the system, if not the best for all consoles at the time. And considering the SNES had FF II and III, that was a big accomplishment. Now, in 2004, a graphically updated version of the game with a few more battles thrown in has managed to accomplish an even greater feat in being considered not just the best RPG on the Game Boy Advance, but the best game on the whole bloody system. It just goes to show you that while some games end up showing their age as time goes buy, Shining Force has managed to not only rekindle long time gamer’s love for this excellent tactical RPG, but it’s also managed to bring in a whole new audience of gamers who can see why it’s been a cult favorite for over a decade. Now where’s our Shining Force 2?

RUNNER UP: Pokemon Fire Red/Leaf Green

BEST NINTENDO DS GAME

Feel The Magic: XY/XX

With so few games coming out at the DS launch, we didn’t have a lot of choices when it came to picking the best game. Luckily, this category was a no brainer. Sega decided to experiment with what the DS could REALLY do with Feel The Magic: XY/XX, and it shows. The mini-games present within take advantage of nearly every new feature the system has. Touch screen games of two varieties, and even microphone games of two varieties. The originality in this game is unprecedented, as the story revolves around you doing incredibly ridiculous things in order to impress your would-be girlfriend. (I mean, would YOU ride a unicycle on thin planks in-between gigantic skyscrapers?) The DS may be Nintendo’s house, but Sega is throwing the best party in it. And you don’t even need an invitation.

RUNNER UP: Super Mario 64 DS

“So what if I like Dragon Ball Z? What, you guys never had a lapse in judgment?’

A.J. Angeloni

SYSTEM OF THE YEAR:
Nintendo Game Boy Advance

Shining Force: RotDD, Pokemon FR/LG, Astro Boy: Omega Factor, Final Fantasy: Dawn if Souls…I could go on, but I don’t think I have to. This was the last year that the GBA would be the center of Nintendo’s handheld empire, and what a year it has been. The GBA has shined like never before in nearly every genre imaginable. Console gaming is still as big as ever, but handheld gaming has become the cornerstone of the video game market. The fact that the GBA is still selling at such high numbers even after the release of the NDS is a testament to how great of a system this truly is. It’s last year was it’s best, and I can think of no greater way to go then by going out on top.

GAME OF THE YEAR:
Metroid Prime 2: Echoes

Up until the very end of the year I was poised to put Astro Boy: Omega Factor in this slot, but the latest adventure of Samus simply needs to be put here. MP2 was a picture of first person shooter brilliance with a combination of classic moves and new content that left me stunned with how flawless this product was. Every Cube owner needs to have this game. It is almost required that any gamer worth their salt spend some time with this game to see what real gaming in this day and age is all about. This year Samus has taken her place amongst the gaming giants and if this game is any indication, she should remain their for quite some time.

BEST PLAYSTATION 2 GAME
Star Ocean: Till the End of Time

BEST NINTENDO GAMECUBE GAME
Metroid Prime 2: Echoes

BEST MICROSOFT XBOX GAME
Halo 2

BEST GAME BOY ADVANCE GAME
Astro Boy: Omega Factor

BEST NINTENDO DUEL SCREEN GAME
Feel the Magic XX/XY

BEST SPORTS GAME
ESPN NFL 2K5 (Multi)

BEST FIGHTING GAME
Dragon Ball Z: Supersonic Warriors (GBA)

BEST DRIVING GAME
Asphalt: Urban GT (NDS)

BEST ACTION RPG
Tales of Symphonia (GC)

BEST TURN BASED RPG
Pokemon Fire Red/Leaf Green (GBA)

BEST TACTICAL RPG
Shining Force: Resurrection of the Dark Dragon (GBA)

BEST FIRST PERSON SHOOTER
Metroid Prime 2: Echoes (GC)

BEST TRADITIONAL SHOOTER
Xevious (GBA)

BEST PARTY GAME
The Legend of Zelda: The Four Swords Adventures (GC)

BEST RHYTHM GAME
Donkey Konga (GC)

BEST REMAKE/RE-RELEASE
Pokemon Fire Red/Leaf Green (GBA)

BEST PLATFORMER
Megaman Anniversary Collection (GC)

BEST ACTION GAME
Astro Boy: Omega Factor (GBA)

BEST STORY
Tales of Symphonia (GC)

BEST NEW FEATURE
Dual Screen Technology

MOST IMPROVED FRANCHISE
Pokemon

MOST UNIQUE GAME
Feel the Magic: XX/XY

BIGGEST NEWS STORY
Nintendo DS/Sony PSP

GAMING LOWLIGHT OF THE YEAR
The Phantom Console

MOST OVERHYPED GAME OF THE YEAR
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (PS2)

WORST GAME OF THE YEAR
Lowrider (PS2)

BEST HORROR GAME
The Suffering (XB)

BEST FAMILY GAME (ALL AGES)
Mega PARTY Game$ (GC)

“I like Final Fantasy but they still let me work here! I wonder if it’s because of my boobs?”

Sarah Graves

SYSTEM OF THE YEAR:
Nintendo Game Boy Advance

I want to say GameCube, because FF:CC makes me feel all tingly inside, but gameboy kicked ass this year. I was able to revel in all my 16-bit RPG crotchetyness and maybe some of those FFX-2 ——- finally played some good games.

GAME OF THE YEAR:
I… can’t judge. Zoo Tycoon 2

Because it emulates the sad and brutal realities of life, where American Beavers run wild and attack the populace.

BEST PLAYSTATION 2 GAME
mumbly

BEST NINTENDO GAMECUBE GAME
FF:CC

BEST MICROSOFT XBOX GAME
grumbly

BEST GAME BOY ADVANCE GAME
Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn of Souls

agh only one… Uhm… then…. I am anticipating that Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn of Souls will ooze awesomeness from every pore. Or I will cry a lot and start writing angry letters to square

BEST SPORTS GAME
god, none!!

BEST ALTERNA-SPORTS
hisss

BEST FIGHTING GAME
(uhm… I was on kind of a tight budget this year, can you tell? Heh)

BEST ACTION RPG
Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicle [quiet you]

BEST TURN BASED RPG
Drakengard (Drakengard looked pretty cool [although turn based is either pushing it or an outright lie, but I really really really really liked FF:CC. Like a lot.])

BEST HORROR GAME
Silent Hill 4 (Glee! I want to say Silent Hill 3, but I guess I’ll have to settle for 4… I mean the horror is ok, but the games are mostly just fun to play… And not terribly hard for those of us with terrible terrible reflexes. Terrible.)

BEST PARTY GAME
Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles (Uhm… for people who have 4 friends or less. Eeep. I’m speaking more from lack of exposure to party games here than actual partytasticness of the game.)

BEST RHYTHM GAME
murble

BEST REMAKE/RE-RELEASE
How about… the announcement for the re-release of Mother 1+2? Maybe not, throw Dawn of Souls up then. I guess. Or Shining Force. I don’t care. I WANT MY MOTHER! hehe

BEST PLATFORMER
Rachet and Clank: Up Your Arsenal (Well, the lesbians like it, anyway.)

BEST ACTION / ADVENTURE GAME
fluffy

BEST ONLINE GAME
muffins

BEST FAMILY GAME (ALL AGES)
Barbie As The Princess and the Pauper (God I hate children, and parents who buy edutainment games. They don’t deserve nice things. So this selection was based more on what I would like to punish them most with, than actual quality of the game. )

BEST STORY
Drakengard (Making crazy pacts with beasts and then laying a swath across the land because I paid my pact with mah ovaries and now I’m pissed. This, this is my dream!)

BEST NEW FEATURE
Whoring out nostalgia to the incredibly weakwilled gaming community

MOST IMPROVED FRANCHISE
Nintendo (They’ve redeemed themselves, especially in the RPG department, with the GameCube. All I remember from N64 was that awful game w/ the character that looked like he was from another awful game, Beyond the Beyond. )

MOST UNIQUE GAME
Katamari Damacy (Well… come on… I mean, he’s green! How out there is that? It’s not easy being green, you know.)

BIGGEST NEWS STORY
Acclaim going to the bog of eternal suck

GAMING LOWLIGHT OF THE YEAR
Bloody Halo 2 hype.

MOST OVERHYPED GAME OF THE YEAR
Halo 2 or Fable. Falo 2

BEST SPORTS GAME

ESPN NFL Football 2K5 (Multi)

This award is bitter sweet. Two years in a row has Sega’s ESPN NFL series won our award for Best Sports game. But it appears this will be the last, at least under the NFL license. Thanks to greed and stupidity, EA now has exclusive rights to the NFL copyrights, trademarks and players. We don’t blame EA for making the right business decision. No one in their right minds would. But the Madden games have ALWAYS been inferior to the Sega Sports games. ALWAYS. And to have no more NFL games by them or 989 or any other company that puts out football games, that’s ludicrous. That’s a monopoly and it forces all NFL fans to shill out money for EA’s second rate game. And even Madden fans have to see how horrible of an idea this is. So much for $20 sports games. Get ready for $60 ones. They can (and will) raise the price all they want and you don’t have a choice. The drive of improvement and quality is dead too, since there basically is no competition if you want to play football using real characters and stadiums and the like. No, we’ve approached the end of an era here. All hail the best sports title of 2004: ESPN NFL 2005. At $19.99, it has just about everything you could possibly ask for in a football game and more. It beats the competition for less than half the price, and shines as an example of how to incorporate new fresh ideas into a long running genre. Enjoy the last fruits from a time when you had a competitive choice of what to play.

RUNNER UP: ESPN NHL 2K5 (Multi)

BEST ALTERNATE SPORTS GAME

Tony Hawk’s Undgeround 2 (Multi)

Tony Hawk games are addicting as hell. The concept is oh so simple, and the controls (while getting more complex as time goes by) are as intuitive as they come. The tricks you can do are cool to watch, and the combos done to link these tricks together has evolved into a work of art. The games have also shown a steady progress of evolution over the years. Each version offers us something new and inviting, yet retaining most everything that made the last version so enjoyable. And that tradition continued in 2004 as well… sort of. THUG2 takes the series in the direction of gross, weird, and utterly absurd. While adding a bunch of cheap laughs some of the substance we’ve come to expect from the series has fizzled. Still, even on an off year, Tony Hawk delivers the goods and stands tall as the best alternative sports title you can get your hands on.

RUNNER UP: Ribbit King (PS2)

BEST FIGHTING GAME

Guilty Gear X2 #RELOAD (XB)

Most people look to Capcom or SNK for their 2D-fighting goodness. After all, with Street Fighter and King of Fighters being the household names that they are, it’s really hard for another gaming company to create a 2D-fighter franchise and have it succeed. But the kliq holds another 2D-fighting developer in just as high esteem: Sammy. And they continue to prove why they deserve our love so, especially with the stellar release of Guilty Gear X2: The Midnight Carnival #RELOAD. This is the absolute best fighting game to come out in 2004. This is the best 2D fighter to come out in ages, no questions asked. Sure, some things could have been better, like the controls and the voice quality, but most of it can be dealt with or overlooked. What you are looking at, is the best XBox fighter right now. Not just on Live. Not just in its extremely affordable price range. Not just in 2D. This IS the best. Bar none. This thing is a buy, and a keeper. If you’ve never touched a Guilty Gear game and want to get into the series, this is where you should start.

RUNNER UP: Def Jam: Fight 4 New York (Multi)

“I swear, if the Kliq picks anything but GTA as GOTY, I’m killing Misha.’

Matt Yeager

SYSTEM OF THE YEAR:
Playstation 2

Though the system is more than starting to show it’s age it has been the system I’ve spent the most time on this year for one reason alone, the selection of games. Whether it’s bizarre sleepers like Katamari Damancy, to niche genres like lightgun game, the PS2 still dominates in the variety of quality titles available.

GAME OF THE YEAR:
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

How many more ways can I verbally BJ this game? THIS is how you do a sequel. Several times larger than the previous games, RPG-like stats, blending even more genres into the game, better mission structure than the previous games, and blah blah blah I could go on for awhile. Simply put, no other game I played this year delivered an experience like this one does.

BEST PLAYSTATION 2 GAME
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

BEST NINTENDO GAMECUBE GAME
Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door

BEST MICROSOFT XBOX GAME
Ninja Gaiden

BEST GAME BOY ADVANCE GAME
Mario vs Donkey Kong

BEST SPORTS GAME
ESPN NHL 2K5 (Xbox)

BEST FIGHTING GAME
Guilty Gear X2 Reload (Xbox)

BEST DRIVING GAME
Test Drive: Eve of Destruction (PS2)

BEST ACTION RPG
Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance 2 (Xbox)

BEST TURN BASED RPG
Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door (GCN)

BEST FIRST PERSON SHOOTER
Halo 2 (Xbox)

BEST PARTY GAME
Mario Party 6 (GC)

BEST RHYTHM GAME
Donkey Konga (GCN)

BEST REMAKE/RE-RELEASE
Pokemon Fire Red (GBA)

BEST PLATFORMER
Rachet and Clank: Up Your Arsenal (PS2)

BEST ACTION GAME
Ninja Gaiden (Xbox)

BEST ONLINE GAME
Rainbow Six 3: Black Arrow (Xbox)

BEST STORY
Jak 3 (PS2)

BEST NEW FEATURE
Touch screen on the DS

MOST IMPROVED FRANCHISE
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

MOST UNIQUE GAME
Katamari Damancy

BIGGEST NEWS STORY
Halo 2 and GTA leaked before release date.

GAMING LOWLIGHT OF THE YEAR
JFK: Reloaded

MOST OVERHYPED GAME OF THE YEAR
Fable

WORST GAME OF THE YEAR
Backyard Wrestling 2

BEST HORROR GAME
The Suffering (Multi)

BEST FAMILY GAME (ALL AGES)
Mario Party 6 (GC)

“Lucard, Bebito! I swear I’ll write something! Don’t fire me!!!’

Adam Whisnant

SYSTEM OF THE YEAR:
Sony Playstation 2

As a die-hard Nintendo fanboy, I never thought I’d find myself saying it, but I can’t deny it. PS2 consistently kicked my ass with quality titles this year. Katamari Damacy, GTA: San Andreas, Growlanser Generations, Metal Gear Solid 3, Jak 3, a laundry list of quality multiplatform offerings, take your pick. I tried so hard to make a case for the Cube, but PS2’s army of quality titles edges out Gamecube’s handful of top-quality offerings. Cheers, you bastards.

GAME OF THE YEAR:
Katamari Damacy (PS2)

If you haven’t played Katamari Damacy yet, go to your local EB right now and get it. DO IT! Ok, put some pants on first. I’ll wait.

I hate to sound like one of these apocalyptic gamers ranting on streetcorners that originality is dead, but there’s only so much one can take of the endless sequels, remakes, updates, and rehashes. Hell, look down my list; the only games that aren’t in some way direct continuations of previous games are Katamari Damacy, Donkey Konga, and World of Warcraft, and even the latter two are simply new spins on old franchises and concepts. KD is completely fresh, simple to pick up, and more genuinely FUN than anything I’ve played for a long time. Even if you’re not a hyperactive Pocky-chomping otaku, you will love this game’s bizarre concept, excellent execution, and mind-numbingly catchy soundtrack. And it’s 20 bleeding dollars! Best game of 2004, no question. Games like this and the arrival of the DS give me a glimmer of hope for a resurgance of quality original titles next year.

BEST PLAYSTATION 2 GAME
Katamari Damacy

BEST NINTENDO GAMECUBE GAME
Metroid Prime 2: Echoes

BEST MICROSOFT XBOX GAME
Ninja Gaiden

BEST GAME BOY ADVANCE GAME
Final Fantasy 1+2: Dawn of Souls

BEST NINTENDO DUAL SCREEN GAME
Super Mario 64 DS

BEST ALTERNA-SPORTS
Tony Hawk’s Underground 2 (Multi)

BEST FIGHTING GAME
Def Jam: Fight For NY (Multi)

BEST DRIVING GAME
Burnout 3 (Multi)

BEST ACTION RPG
Tales of Symphonia (GC)

BEST TURN BASED RPG
Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door (GC)

BEST TACTICAL RPG
La Pucelle: Tactics (PS2)

BEST FIRST PERSON SHOOTER
Half-Life 2 (PC)

BEST PARTY GAME
Donkey Konga (GC)

BEST RHYTHM GAME
Donkey Konga (GC)

BEST REMAKE/RE-RELEASE
Pokemon Fire Red/Leaf Green (GBA)

BEST PLATFORMER
Megaman Anniversary Collection (Multi)

BEST ACTION / ADVENTURE GAME
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (PS2)

BEST ONLINE GAME
World of Warcraft (PC)

BEST FAMILY GAME (ALL AGES)
Donkey Konga (GC)

BEST STORY
Tales of Symphonia (GC)

BEST NEW FEATURE
Nintendo DS and Logitech rebel against wires

MOST IMPROVED FRANCHISE
Pokemon

MOST UNIQUE GAME
Katamari Damacy (PS2)

BIGGEST NEWS STORY
Peter Molyneux Apologizes for Fable

GAMING LOWLIGHT OF THE YEAR
Australia’s game-bannings

MOST OVERHYPED GAME OF THE YEAR
Halo 2 (XB)

WORST GAME OF THE YEAR
River City Ransom EX (GBA)

BEST DRIVING GAME

Burnout 3: Takedown (Multi)

So maybe Best Driving game isn’t quite the appropriate title. Maybe we should have called it the best crashing game. Burnout 3 lived up to the series and made the driving even more fun (and fatal). Whether you liked being the fastest racer, pushing the competition off the road, or blowing up fuel tanks this game was a great one to play. Add to that the ability to race around the world with people around the world online and you’ve got a well rounded game that, unlike another certain EA racer (the verdicts on Need For Speed Underground 2 have been conflicting for sure), everyone comes away from very happy.

RUNNER UP: Outrun 2 (XB)

BEST ACTION RPG

Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance II

Inside Pulse Games reviewed Dark Alliance 2 back in February of this year. And since it came out, any Kliq member who played the game swore it would be the Action RPG of the year. And the only thing that even came close to matching this game’s greatness was The Bard’s Tale… which used the Dark Alliance Engine. With half a dozen playable characters you can customize in any way you want, a plot that connects seamlessly with the original Dark Alliance, and a non-linear plot allowing you to decide which quests you want to do and when made Dark Alliance 2 addicting and memorable. Far superior to the original Dark Alliance in every way, it’s hard to imagine a better action RPG out there. And when you factor in you can have multiplayer on this game…well, there’s no comparison. Hands down the best in its genre this year, and most likely for a long long time to come.

RUNNER UP: The Bard’s Tale (XB)

BEST TURN BASED RPG

Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door (GC)

Alright. Let’s face it people, some turn based RPG’s can get boring. Real quick. The stories are great, but sometimes those battle systems will just drive you batty waiting for some real interaction. Luckily every now and then there’s a game like Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door that does something other turn based RPG’s aren’t still trying to do, keep the action fresh despite the turn system. The audience mode, attacking and blocking, various partners all keep the battles fresh and full of different strategies to use. The story might be lighthearted, but considering all of the angst filled RPG’s out there it is like a breath of fresh air.

RUNNER UP: Star Wars Knights Of The Old Republic II: The Sith Lords (XB)