Best of the Best (Part 12) 11/02

Back again as we hit the 12th part of this 19 part series.

Today we’ll be looking at the Best Xbox Game and Most Improved Franchise awards. It’s an interesting mix, so come inside and let’s wax about the games of yesteryear.

28. Best Xbox Game
Award Winner in 2003: Panzer Dragoon Orta
Publisher: Sega
Developer: Smilebit
Release Date: 1/12/2003
Genre: Rail Shooter

Award Winner in 2004: Halo 2
Publisher: Microsoft
Developer: Bungie
Release Date: 11/09/2004
Genre: FPS

Award Winner in 2005: Psychonauts
Publisher: Majesco
Developer: Double Fine Productions
Release Date: 04/19/2005
Genre: Platformer

Award Winner in 2006: King of Fighters: NeoWave
Publisher: SNK Playmore
Developer: SNK Playmore
Release Date: 04/18/2006
Genre: Fighter

Ouch. And here I thought the Game Cube had a massive quality drop in 2005 and 2006. The Poor Xbox couldn’t even get a quality system exclusive in those two years as its GOTY. 2005 saw a multiplatform title win, while 2006 had a port from the ATOMISWARE take best honours. What the hell happened with the Xbox? Although it never stood a chance in winning system of the year, it always had a strong selection of games.

Panzer Dragoon is, in my opinion, the best of the 4 titles we’re looking at today. God damn, I miss Smilebit. A quality company with consistent great game. One of the best series ever and the fact the 360 isn’t backwards compatible with it is a big reason the Wii is the only next generation system I own.

Halo 2 is of course Halo 2. One of the most popular games on North American soil, this game helped to single handedly sell Xbox to men, women, and children alike. The plot may stink, but the controls and graphics are simply amazing.

Psychonauts was one of my favorite games in 2005. The fact I found a platformer I actually could love was a miracle in and of itself. It was well written, hilarious, and the gameplay was solid. This should have been a lot more popular than it was. You can generally find this game for dirt cheap these days. Don’t hesitate to pick it up.

Last, we’ve got King of Fighters. KoF Neowave is the first and only KoF game to win an award from us. This vexes me greatly, but at least SNK took home two awards in 2006 and they are pretty much guaranteed the Best Fighter of 2007 award with Fatal Fury Collection, Art of Fighting Collection, KoF XII, and Neo Geo battle Coliseum all hitting this calendar year. KoF: NeoWave was a fun arcade game, and I was glad to see them add some extras for the home version. NeoWave really did deserve the award in 2006, even if it was one of the lesser KoF titles. Much like the GCN, the Xbox did not die a graceful death.

Reviews:
Panzer Dragoon Orta – Non-existant
Halo 2 (Michael O’Reilly)
Psychonauts (Lucard)
King of Fighters: NeoWave (Lucard)

29. Most Improved Franchise
Award Winner in 2003: Pokemon

Award Winner in 2004: Pokemon

Award Winner in 2005: Resident Evil

Award Winner in 2006: Final Fantasy

This award was handed out to whatever franchise we felt really kicked it up a notch (BAM!) in terms of overall quality to the series. Maybe they tried something new and it worked out great, maybe they gave a complete overhaul to the franchise, or maybe they just made a good game after years of mediocre dreck. Those were the things we looked for with this award in terms of nominations and eventual winners.

I’m still a little confused as to how Pokemon won two years in a row, but it did. In 2003 we got Pokemon E-cards, Pokemon Ruby/Sapphire, and Pokemon Channel. In 2004, we got Pokemon Box, Pokemon Coliseum, Pokemon Advance videos, and FireRed and LeafGreen. I can totally see why Pokemon won in 2004 as there were a ton of wacky and fun innovations, but 2003 appears to have garnered Pokemon the awards simply because of Pokemon Channel and the e-cards, because Ruby/Sapphire is NOT what I’d call an improvement. Go figure.

Resident Evil in 2005 was an obvious choice. The gameplay was overhauled, the graphics were greatly improved, and the storyline, well it was still cheesy and full of holes, but it was a HUGE step up from the earlier games.

Final Fantasy was the same way. After a decade of pretty graphics but some of the worst storylines in RPG history and gameplay going back to the original FF, the series was given a massive facelift. Sure the plot was still crappy, but the gameplay was great and the game actually got a 6 from me, which was pretty impressive considering the known issues and subsequent apology to purchasers from Square-Enix regarding the plot.

And so we finish out another week of the feature. We’ll start things off right next Monday with a look back at shooters, both FPS and SHMUP styles.