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|[ 05/03/03 ] = 2002 Impressions
For those that actually miss the industry analysis of this site, I have finally mustered up enough courage to tackle the year of 2002. Fear no more; the industry analysis is back, and it's just as rotten as you remember it. Why 2002 analysis in 2003? Well, because time flies. So fast, in fact, that I had forgot to write this earlier. In other words, late or not, I had to get my thoughts and impressions on gaming and the industry of 2002 for the sake of variety on the Internet (and gaming community). Also, apologies if I accidentally may have covered anything from 2001. Anyway, on with the show. Here are my impressions on some of the highlights of 2002.
2002 was a year of change in the game industry. The biggest change was the absence of the expected abundance of arcade titles as seen in the past from Capcom. Different in 2002 than in previous years, Capcom managed to provide a strong lineup of action titles in the industry to somewhat make up for its lack of fighter production. 2002 also showed the mending of the somewhat broken SNK of previous years, as well. Although a few shooters came out here and there, 2002 was generally a disappointment, with two of the key developers (Psikyo and Takumi) almost nonexistent. A few shooters actually saw the light of day in 2002, thanks to Taito, Cave, and Treasure, but more were needed. 2002 saw the long-awaited, pleasant confirmation of the resurrection of classics thanks to brilliant minds at Sega, Tecmo, Capcom, and Konami. 2002 had its fair share of titles (mostly in the action genre), but with the absence of the once-consistent flow of Capcom fighters (2-D and 3-D), as well as the slow recovery phases of a fragmented SNK, 2002 just didn't feel as good as some of the other years in gaming did. Not that 2002 was a bad year in gaming, but 2002 seemed like more of a waiting period to see which developers were going to jump on which of the many hardwares on the market. Just as I had predicted in an earlier articles, Sega's Naomi hardware was still being commonly developed on in 2002 by a number of quality developers (and is still even in 2003). Looking back on 2002, even with some of its great releases, it wasn't a significantly memorable year overall. When compared to previous years (notably 2000) in gaming, I describe 2002 as a subtle year in gaming seen through a veil of fog.
[ Capcom ]
= Things Change
Also, although only on test and eventually taken off the release list, Capcom Fighting All-stars was revealed in 2002. As you can probably guess, I was happier than a pig in shit to see Haggar, Poison and Charlie in 3-D glory via the PlayStation 2/System 246 hardware. On par with the equally- powered Virtua Fighter 4 Evolution, Capcom Fighting All-stars looked fantastic. With big, nicely detailed, vividly-colored character models, the cast of CFAS looked great. Thankfully starring characters from only the Capcom universe, CFAS featured veteran characters like Haggar (Final Fight), Ryu (Street Fighter), Charlie (Street Fighter Alpha), Batsu (Rival Schools), and Strider, as well as a handful of shiny new faces. In addition to Super Moves, Special Moves, and Counters, the game also featured a new technique called "Dramatic Finish," enabling finishing moves to be performed on dazed opponents just before the deciding match ends. CFAS uses the PS2 hardware to create Matrix-style special effects when certain techniques are performed, as well as various lighting effects and smooth animation. Capcom Fighting All-stars looked good, but Capcom supposedly wasn't pleased with the test run and took it off the release schedule (without officially canceling it). There were several rumors that the game was canceled, and although Capcom (thankfully) later said the game wasn't canceled (in 2003), I was still worried about the game's fate. Even now in 2003, I'm really hoping that Capcom doesn't scrap this title, because I've been waiting to kick Ryu's ass with Haggar for a long time...
Unlike 2001, where Capcom gave us the stellar shooting masterpiece Mars Matrix, and the awesome Giga Wing 2, 2002 saw only a re-release of a shooter (rather than a new title). Somewhat due to rarity, in late 2002 Capcom re-released their 1994 CPS-II shooter EcoFighters. A good, fun shooter, but I would have killed to see a sequel to Mars Matrix (or any other Takumi shooter). Even without Takumi though, I would still have liked to see a true follow-up to 19XX, or maybe even a new Mercs (I know, but I can dream) in 2002. Overall a disappointing year for Capcom concerning shooters, seeing how in 2001 they provided fans with some of the best shooting games the genre (and the industry) had ever seen.
For Capcom, 2002 was more a year of action games than fighters. Capcom's best action title of 2002 was Megaman Zero. Taking advantage of the GBA hardware yet again, Capcom started Megaman's new series off with a ear-shattering bang. Megaman Zero is absolutely stunning. With a fresh gameplay system, amazing character design, and great 2-D graphics, MMZ is what I remember 2002 by. I was also a bit surprised to see that for the most part the game was well-received stateside (since every other 32-bit MM entry before it was shit on for one reason or another). Although Capcom has already announced a sequel, I hope they carry this series well into the future. Also on the subject of Megaman is the other 2002 entry, the continuation of the awesome Megaman X series: Megaman X6. MMX6 came out before MMZ, and regardless of the somewhat lukewarm reviews this entry got, the game kicks ass just as much (if not more) than every entry before it. One thing that stood out in MMX6 was the difficulty; with its upper-level difficulty MMX6 appeals pretty much to either fans of the series, or to those who like hard games (no whiners). Built (to last) on the PlayStation hardware, MMX6, just like MMX5, is the perfect example of the beautiful 2-D capabilities of the hardware. For those that thought the PS sucks at 2-D, take a look at Megaman X6. It can't get much better than MMX6 on 32-bit hardware, I'll tell you that. It's a hard call as to which of the 2002 Megaman releases amazed me most; both MMZ and MMX6 are great titles. Feeling not content with having released not one, but two MM titles already in one year, Capcom decided to re-release Megaman & Bass on the GBA. The re-release of Megaman & Bass on the GBA was basically for those who couldn't get a copy of the game upon its first release (like me). How is the re-release? Same as the original; hard as all hell, loads of secrets, and some smart bosses.
Coming from the same brilliant minds that gave you Megaman came the 2002 release of the first 3-D Ghouls & Ghosts game: Maximo! A series that only true fans of Capcom (or gaming) can appreciate, in 2002 the brilliant minds at Capcom gave us the greatness that is Maximo. Seeing Maximo come to the PS2 hardware was especially a sight for the sore eyes of gamers who had thought a new 3-D Ghouls & Ghosts would never see the light of day (after being abruptly canned for the Nintendo 64 years before). With beautiful 3-D environments modeled off the classic backgrounds, boxer shorts, and the classic G&G audio, the designers of Maximo struck a soft spot in the hearts of those who could remember the 16-bit days of past G&G entries. Maximo also contained some of the most unique and coolest character designs not only for 2002 action titles, but of even past 3-D Action titles. Combine the theme of G&G with great character design and classic G&G gameplay in lush 3-D worlds, some heart boxer shorts, and you've got yourself a winner called Maximo. Second only to Megaman Zero, Maximo was Capcom's other action title trump card of 2002; Maximo beats Capcom's past 3-D action titles while topping other 2002 releases in the genre. In the 3-D action game arena, I think Maximo beats Metal Gear Solid 2 Substance and even Capcom's own Onimusha 2. When Capcom released Maximo, I was reminded of how much Capcom still cares about its older fans. I would now like to give Capcom a sincere thanks for giving us this game. Maximo may be second to Megaman Zero, but ultimately the game probably deserves more recognition than any other action game of 2002. Maximo: Ghosts To Glory is awesome. In 2002 Capcom followed Maximo with even more nostalgic goodness by releasing the GBA-powered Ghouls & Ghosts R. Ghouls & Ghosts R looks just as good on the GBA hardware as it did back in its prime on the older hardwares, if not better! With all of the same mayhem, underwear, and insane difficulty as its predecessors, this game was refreshing to see in 2002's bulky lineup of action games. Three Megaman titles and one G&G title in one year gave my wallet one hell of a beating.
With the release of key 3-D action titles like Maximo, Resident Evil, Onimusha 2, Onimusha Genma, and Devil May Cry, Capcom rivaled Konami's established Metal Gear Solid 2 Substance. 2002 saw the monumental release of Resident Evil on Nintendo's GameCube hardware, and although the game was received for the most part, too many assholes were out there saying that this game was exactly the same as the first, original PlayStation hardware-powered Resident Evil. These fuckers knew nothing of the game; what about the Crimson Heads? The difficulty? The puzzles? Despite what was said about this game, it was not just a straight port of the original with better resolution; it doesn't actually progress the story of the series, but it is a new game. If you don't have the GameCube, this is probably the game you should buy it for (if you don't like VS games, that is). Onimusha 2 was a good game, but I'd have to say I was more excited about the release of Onimusha Genma in the series simply because it was everything that was the first game, and more. I also liked the fact that Capcom brought an upgrade of an Onimusha title to the XBox, rather than just straight-porting a title. Onimusha Genma looks nice, and is overall the best action game on the hardware it was built on.
[ SNK ] =
Wounded In Battle
Answering the call of fans, Playmore was
the year fans of the SNK Double Dragon fighter would see a sequel; well,
sort of. Rage Of The Dragons actually saw the light of day in 2002, but
unfortunately had somewhat of a lukewarm acceptance. With its tag system,
and cool moves, Rage Of The Dragons was a fun game to play. The game had
some good character artwork, and the animation was comparable to that
of the graphical splendor of Garou or The Last Blade 2. Doing their job
well, the shooting goodness of Metal Slug 4 came straight from the minds
of Playmore and into the hands of gamers. Showing up somewhat unexpectedly
in arcades, Metal Slug 4 caught on well with some, while catching barks
of "rehash" criticism from others. While I thought Metal Slug
4 was a cool game, with all of the elements that make a great Action (or
shooter?) title, I did find myself liking the overall theme of Metal Slug
3 better. I don't consider Metal Slug 4 to be a rehash, and the game is
fun, but I just don't hear myself saying "Shit! Look at that!"
as often as I did when playing Metal Slug 3. Also, on a another note,
Playmore released KOF2000 for the PS2 and DC, finally giving those who
didn't have the cash to shell out for an MVS converter (the first time
around) a way to play the game. 2002 was a good year for Playmore, considering
they resurrected all of what many thought SNK had permanently lost in
the whirlwind of financial and license problems of 2000-2001. Hats off
to Playmore for not only giving SNK's licenses a home, but for also releasing
the games of the licenses in forms similar to that of what we would have
probably seen had the original SNK released them. If anyone from Playmore
is reading this, I'd like to say hats off to Playmore for a job well done!
[ Sega ]
= Still Going Strong
The two Sega-branded games that especially stood out in 2002 were Virtua Fighter 4 Evolution and Shinobi. Improving more upon an already solid game, VF4E was the upgrade to VF4. With changed stages, costumes, 2 new characters, and new moves, one would easily dismiss it as another fighter suffering from "too many upgrades." Well, in addition to those other things, Sega too the Kumite Mode in VF4 and bulked it up in VF4E. Since I never really talked about the Kumite Mode in VF4 on this site (I should have), for those who need an explanation, VF4E allows players to create a name and profile that can be saved to a card (just as in VF4's Kumite Mode). This card can be used at any machine in the country (sorry, Japan only), and records the player's wins and losses (just as in VF4 Kumite Mode). Sega made VF4E chock-full of even more costumes, accessories, masks, and other items to equip your character with. These items (in cute little red treasure boxes) are won through matches with human opponents or CPU opponents. Also just as in VF4, you can work up to different rankings and such, showing other players your experience level. I had enough time to play VF4E extensively, and I must say it is a wonderful game, indeed. The card system is great, the items are cool, the stages rock, the graphics look nice, and the moves are good, but there seemed to be balance issues. Addressing the balance issues, Sega released VF4E Ver. B, which was supposed to fix balance problems. While the upgrade did fix balance issues in some respects, in others it seemed to make things worse. Before, Akira was abused by everyone, and in VF4E everybody dropped Akira like a bad habit and started using the overpowered Lion, not to mention everybody's favorite drunk in the VF series. While these characters are strong, they can pull just as many cheap-ass ground combos as Akira before he was weakened! Oh man, come on! Maybe it's just me, but the biggest problem with VF4E seems to be the near-impossible to escape ground combos that lurk within the game's balance issues. A good game, nonetheless. Play it.
Yet another resurrection of a great name, Sega gave us the goodness of Shinobi. This PS2-powered knockout is one hell of a game. The new Shinobi is everything that the series has always been; ninjas, slicing, shurikens, and great character design. Using the hardware to create beautifully-crafted characters, cool effects, and good stage design, Shinobi has some nice, smooth visuals. The animation in Shinobi kicks a horse's ass; Shinobi and his enemies run in the darkness, flip from rooftop to rooftop, walk on walls, throw Shurikens, and slash (as well as various other cool shit that ninjas do) with the fluidity you would expect from the PS2 hardware. To compliment the nice visuals, the game also features several different techniques that leave enemies severed in various ways; Shinobi pulls off combos that leave multiple enemies either spraying blood or sliding into halves before they fall to the ground. Shinobi is an absolute fucking bloodbath; sword-swinging action at its height. Awesome. As far as design, I thought that the character design in this entry was better than any other entry in the series; the character design is fucking brilliant. The characters of Shinobi are one of the game's strongest points; Shinobi and his enemies are not only some of the coolest looking ninjas ever designed, but some of the coolest characters to even grace the action genre of video games. The characters, in all of their beautiful, animated grace, are an absolute sight to behold. Now this is character design! What a great game. Hopefully sometime I can get some coverage on this gem to tell more about how cool this game really is. Definitely one of the most memorable releases of 2002.
[ Ascii ]
= Quality Control
[ Nintendo ]
= Pushing On
Nintendo finally brought out two new, long-awaited Metroid titles. While not nearly as disappointing as Super Smash Bros. Melee, Nintendo's Metroid Prime launched the age-old Metroid series into the third dimension (albeit a bit changed). It's too bad this was probably Nintendo's most anticipated game of 2002. I don't hate Metroid Prime, but saying I like the game would be an overstatement; it's just not good, in my opinion, for those who were into the "platformer" action of the previous games in the series. The game just doesn't give you the goodness of the action title it should be; Metroid II and Super Metroid were considered by some to be marvels back in the day, but Metroid Prime is more of a tech-demo than anything. Essentially, my first impressions on Metroid Prime are just that it is boring. Sure, the game looks good, and sure it may be good for a FPS, and that maybe change is good, but the Metroid name stands for more than just scanning everything to death. The game does good at presentation, and the graphics (of course) are good, but as a whole just seems watered-down, relying on novelties too much. Who the fuck wants to spend half of their time scanning shit in an action title, while the other half is spent searching for enemies? Fuck that noise; shelf it and get me Metroid Fusion. Not saying that Nintendo did a bad job on it, I guess I just like Metroid as the action title it should be. Why couldn't Nintendo have made Metroid Prime a 3-D action game like Strider 2 or Contra Shattered Soldier? I think it would have turned out a lot better had this been the route Nintendo would have taken. Or better yet, why didn't they just call it something else? Although I didn't get to play or see much of it, I knew right away upon seeing Metroid Fusion that it was Metroid; monsters, action, running, jumping, shooting, big stages, lots of weapons...and morphing into a ball. This is Metroid. And I'm not even a Metroid fan, I'm just saying that you won't see Metroid Prime in my list of top games.
[ Sony ]
= Where's The PS9?
[ Takumi ]
= One Is Better Than None
Since the there were no announcements on the horizon after Night Raid was released, I was especially (and still am) concerned about Takumi's future plans. Hopefully, the company isn't dying a slow death due to the economical Japan has been going through as of late; it would be a tragedy to see a company so good leave the industry. I am hoping that Takumi made a bit off Night Raid to at least hold the company together to develop some more titles to keep them going. After the absolute perfection that they gave us with Mars Matrix, it would be saddening to watch them wave good-bye to shooting fans all over the world. I would like not to think about this situation, but seeing how SNK nearly perished after several bouts with financial problems, it can become a common occurrence among smaller game developers like Takumi if the economy doesn't improve. Even Japan's best source for gaming news, Arcadia magazine, questioned the fate of Takumi. Supposedly there are some recent buzz about the staff over at Takumi, so hopefully they picked up someone who can help them create some titles that will bring in enough income to keep the company afloat. Takumi, don't leave us.
[ Cave ]
= Rare But Stellar Releases
[ Psikyo ]
= Have You Seen Me?
[ Taito ]
= Still Makes Shooting Games
And then there was Shikigami No Shiro Evolution...really wish I had a chance to play it.
Not sure what the actual release date was, but I got a chance to play Psyvariar, and it rocked! I think Psyvariar is one of the best shooting titles Taito has ever produced. Made on the same hardware as Shikigami No Shiro, Psyvariar is also a manic shmup that will test your dodging skills. However, the cool thing about Psyvariar is that it rewards you (for lack of a better definition) upon how good you are at dodging bullets. I am not sure if this is any other shooters out there (vertical or horizontal), but until this game I had never played anything with rewards for dodging. I was amazed at how innovative Taito made the scoring system in Psyvariar. Definitely a fun shooter in all respects. Some weren't fond of the visuals, but I thought that the visuals in Psyvariar were good, and while not as good as Ikaruga's or Zero Gunner 2's visuals, Psyvariar still looks nice. More than the actual graphics, however (ships, background, etc.), the most noticeable thing about Psyvariar is the amount of flashing, exploding, and shooting all going on at once. I think I got a sunburn on my face from one round of this game. When you dodge bullets and gain points, the screen erupts into lightning and thunder, more rapidly as you dodge more bullets. Why the hell is a shooter as good as this so rare?! My impressions on Psyvariar might sound ignorant, or be a bit off because I haven't played the game enough, but I do remember one thing: it kicked ass.
XII Stag...only played this once, so I don't have much to say about it except that it seemed a bit slow and that I went down a miserable flaming mess before the end of the first stage.
Taito put forth some noticeable effort in bringing a generous amount of shooters home by supporting development on more than one consumer hardware. Taito did a good job of filling the hungry stomachs of shooter fans everywhere just as they've did in the past by bringing Shikigami No Shiro Evolution (2 versions) to the XBox, Psyvariar Complete to the PS2, and Shikigami No Shiro to both PS2 and XBox. Oh, and I do like the Bust-A-Move games, but I lost track of which ones were last released, so I'll just say that it is good to see they are still continuing their fun series of puzzle games! As always, good job, Taito!
[ Konami ]
= Remembers Its Roots
Although Metal Gear Solid 2 was anticipated by nearly the whole planet, and Metal Gear Solid 2 Substance received the same affection, in my opinion Contra - Shattered Soldier was Konami's #1 2002 release. Why? Simple; it's Contra, back to kick ass on all of the other shit 3-D games that have littered the gaming scene since the PS2 hardware was released. Contra - Shattered Soldier features all of the signature elements of the Contra name: great enemy design, cool weapons, good gameplay, and good sounds. Probably the most noticeable aspect of the game is how smooth and polished it looks as the screen erupts in sporadic fire-fights. The (many) bosses come in various fun sizes and are detailed nicely; some even in a somewhat disgusting manner. Also, CSS features clean, smooth running cinematic scenes that look killer and re-create the feeling of the Contra name in full effect. Although CSS received a less-than-desirable welcome of sorts upon hitting the shelves, it's great to see that Contra is back in the present day of gaming to wreak havoc in the action genre once again against new contenders like Maximo, Onimusha 2, and Shinobi (add in any other 3-D action titles). Good stuff. So great to see some of the old names battling it out again. First with Castlevania, and then with Metal Gear Solid, and now with Contra - Shattered Soldier, Konami has made me once again happy to see an old Konami name make it into the world of 3-D action gaming.
Almost a simultaneous release, Contra - Shattered Soldier was accompanied by yet another Contra title: Contra Advance. When Konami made Contra Advance, they wanted to make a Contra game not only as tough as the name suggests (Japanese title was Contra - Hard Spirits), but also a game that contains the best of Contra III - The Alien Wars and Contra - Hard Corps. Did they succeed? Yes. Graphically the game looks good, with the characters and animation from Contra III, as well as enemies from both Contra III and Contra - Hard Corps. Stages are a mixture of what can be said to be the best of Contra III and the best of Contra - Hard Corps; all in one tidy package called Contra Advance. While the levels themselves are of the typical Contra fare we've all come to expect (a dark, torn, industrialized future), the best part about them is that the annoying overhead stages from Contra III were left out. This is one of the reasons I have seen CA counted off for, but I think that Contra III would have been a perfect game had it not been for those wretched overhead stages. Thus, I was happier than a pig in shit to see that they were kept out of Contra Advance. Sure, the overhead stages added some variation to the game, but they were a pain in the ass and ultimately broke the smooth flow of the game. While some argue that the visuals aren't consistent, I say that unless you are a complete stickler on absolutely every part of the graphical presentation, it won't bother you (especially if you're too busy blasting). Well, even if the stages look inconsistent, at least the bullshit overhead stages from Contra III were left out! Contra Advance is not only another good Contra game that delivers run & gun action successfully, but also proof that Konami still cares about the fans that made the developer what it is today. With Contra - Shattered Soldier and Contra Advance released almost side-by-side, Contra fans couldn't be happier. Two Contra titles in one year. Awesome. Thanks Konami.
By far, the most anticipated game of 2001 was Konami's Metal Gear Solid 2 - Sons Of Liberty. In 2002, Konami improved upon the much-acclaimed Metal Gear Solid 2 with a release of Metal Gear Solid 2 Substance in 2002. Although in response to the whining and bitching of EGaMers and GamePros who cried that Snake wasn't playable enough in MGS2, MGS2S was a good action title. While not entirely different, nor a reprinting of MGS2, MGS2S is like Metal Gear Solid VR Missions. Essentially, MGS2S is all of what MGS2 was, and more; hundreds of VR missions and other modes of play, as well as some hidden characters, were added to keep fans happy. I don't know if the fans were, but I was happy with what Konami put in MGS2S. I thought MGS2S was a cool game precisely because it gave fans almost everything they could possibly want in a Metal Gear title. The VR Missions, ranging from stealth to target practice, are fun to play while unlocking MGS2S's many secrets. Aside from VR Missions, Konami added in other play modes as well; my favorite mode, Snake Tales, puts Snake in alternate missions within the theme of the normal game. For lack of a better definition, the Snake Tales mode can be considered to be a few "what if" scenario stages to play. Their themes are essentially what the plot would be like, had things unfolded differently than they did in the normal story. Pretty cool add-ons, I thought. The big thing about MGS2S was the fact that Snake could be played as a lot more than in MGS2S, and there were even some hidden characters to play as in a variety of different missions. In the normal mode there were also some slight tweaks (like different female portraits), but I'm not too sure how much was changed. Also intact and left unchanged is all of the audio splendor of MGS2; from the many explosions and gunshots, to the epic soundtrack, it's all there. While MGS2S was a great game in many aspects, I wasn't a fan of the control. Often I found myself doing things at the most inopportune times, simply because the controls seem a bit too sensitive. Just think of the frustration in trying to pass areas where absolute precision is needed; with controls as sensitive as MGS2S's, these areas become deathtraps. Other than control, and the fact that in MGS2S Snake still has a mullet, I thought MGS2S was a really good game overall. Snake is as rotten as he ever was, there's still lots of cool weapons to use, and the action is all there. A welcome release to the goodness of Konami's 2002 action lineup
Last but not least, Konami turned heads for the fourth time in 2002 with the beautiful Castlevania - Harmony Of Dissonance. Hot on the heels of Castlevania - Circle Of The Moon, Castlevania - Harmony Of Dissonance of course shares the same great theme the series is known for: bringing down the house of hell! Battling the forces of evil has never been better, and CHOD carried on the Castlevania legacy with pride. The most noticeable aspect of the game is its lush, detailed 2-D visuals,which are technological splendor on the GBA hardware; out is the dark, shadowy (but still good!) theme of Castlevania - Circle Of The Moon, and in is the brighter look that Castlevania - Symphony Of The Night. Nicely-detailed backgrounds combined with equally detailed characters and smooth animation make CHOD a pleasure to look at. The visual effects (glowing, etc.) of this Castlevania are also better than in CCOTM, with bigger, clearer, more colorful effects. Goods. Also as in the previous entry are the various choice gothic weaponry affectionately used to bring down the game's monsters. Nothing better than demon-slaying, right? Thankfully this game sold well in the states, and for the most part even the EGaMers liked it! You know it's a good game if they like it, right?
Overall, 2002 was one hell of a year for Konami. The company managed to pump out not one, not two, but four titles that tie in with original Konami titles from the distant past. It was especially great to see that these games, for the most part, appealed mostly to fans rather than EGaMers (that wouldn't have liked the games anyway). Sure, there were no Gradius releases in 2002 from Konami, but they gave us the beginning of the next-generation of Contra! Konami probably profited well from 2002; with the release of Metal Gear Solid 2 Substance, Contra -Shattered Soldier, and Castlevania Harmony Of Dissonance, Konami had income coming from hard-core and casual gamers alike. 2002 was especially good to Konami, and they deserved it.
[ Tecmo ]
= Looks To The Past
Of course, no year is complete without a Dead Or Alive title, and DOA3 was Tecmo's biggest release of 2002. Although I didn't like it as much as other entries in the series, DOA3 was for the most part, a good game with some nice additions. Check out my impressions here if you would like to know a bit about the game. Tecmo looked yet again to the past in 2002, with the revelation of a new XBox-powered Ninja Gaiden. Although still in development, seeing yet another classic title resurrected in 2002 was almost too much for me to handle! Criticized for looking "lame" by some, I thought that the Ninja Gaiden title Tecmo showed looked good, but not as good as Sega's Shinobi. Even if the graphics are better, it would be very hard for any other game that focuses on ninjas to surpass the beauty of Sega's bunch in Shinobi. Tecmo's Ninja Gaiden, does, however, sport some large, detailed characters which could really get the game some positive feedback. The game looks cool from the bit that Tecmo had showed us in 2002, but it seemed too early to tell just what the game would turn out like, so I held judgment. Tecmo's Ninja Gaiden looks good, but only time will tell how this game turns out after the long development phase it has been under. I was never a huge fan of the series like many were, and I don't think I would like it nearly as much as Shinobi, but I think Tecmo's new Ninja Gaiden will beat the shit out of Tenchu 3. I'm not going into Ninja Gaiden expecting something groundbreaking, but if Tecmo does what they did on the Naomi/DreamCast with DOA2, then we might be in for a pleasant surprise with Ninja Gaiden on the XBox.
On another note concerning Tecmo, what the fuck is up with Dead Or Alive Extreme Beach Volleyball?! This game has one of the worst fucking soundtracks, ever! Hearing the stupid theme song for this game on every XBox demo kiosk at nearly every software retailer in Japan was just ludicrous. Oh man...come on. Lots of criticism came to this game for the whole volleyball and DOA character mix thing, but I look at this game as a novelty; it's good for collectors, and maybe worth it if you want to take a break from shooting or fighting action (or the boringness of an RPG). It's not that bad that the women of DOA are playing volleyball, I guess. As always, the women move with the fluidness and smoothness that you have been used to seeing from Tecmo. Haven't played it enough to know how the gameplay is, but it looks cool for a change of pace. At least it's not an RPG...
[ Irem ]
= What Happened?
] = Just What Exactly Does 8ing Mean?
[ Treasure ]
= Is That An Overpriced Silvergun In Your Hand, Or Are You Just Happy
To See Me?
As for other releases, I don't remember any (wasn't Stretch Panic a 2001 release?), but I could be wrong. There was some good news though; a little while after the release of Ikaruga, Treasure announced they would be developing Ikaruga for the GameCube hardware with extras. Of the included extras Treasure announced was online ranking exclusive to the GC Ikaruga! Awesome. I got Ikaruga, and I'll be getting the GC Ikaruga, as well...
[ Sammy ]
= The Guilty Gears Are Turning
If there were any flaws in GGXX, most would probably say it would be in the game's balance; some characters, like Johnny and Venom, seem to be levels above the other characters in the game. While the animation of GGXX looks good, and the game seems to have more than GGX, it still looks like some of Capcom or SNK's fighters have more. With the tweaks in gameplay, GGXX's combo system also seems a bit inconsistent as to when you can juggle and when you can't, but that's just my take on the game's system. Also in GGXX were the finishing moves that were in GGX, but for some reason they just didn't capture me like the ones in GGX did. Also, I think I forgot to mention that GGXX's overall design kills that of the previous entries in the series; the game is a pleasure to look at all the way around. Overall, GGXX was a surprise, especially since fighters are becoming rare these days. The game is fun, has some cool characters, and deserves support on the fact alone that Sammy is trying to save the 2-D fighter genre. Before the release of GGXX, but after that of Guilty Gear X Plus, Sammy also released the GBA-powered Guilty Gear X Advance Edition. A good game but not nearly as good as the other Guilty Gear entries, read this site's Guilty Gear X Advance Edition article if you would like to know why. Somewhat of a mixed bag, breaking equal between good and bad points, GGXAE was a good title for GG fans, and an average game for the rest. 2002 was a good year for Sammy, and for Guilty Gear fans, as well as fans of the fighting genre. I like Sammy, they're a good company; in 2002 the only thing I would have liked to see from them was a 2-D fighter not of Guilty Gear lineage. Why? Seeing what Sammy has did with Guilty Gear, just think of what they could probably do with another series of 2-D fighters!
[ Koei ]
= An Equal Opportunity Developer
Anyway, more respect for Koei just based on the fact that they are supporting development on both the PlayStation 2 and GameCube hardwares simultaneously. For not being considered one of the industry's "key players," what Koei is doing classifies as nothing short of a feat. Keep up the good work, Koei. With all of the Dynasty Warriors goodness released since DW2, I have lots of work to do...
[ Microsoft ]
= Could Have Sold More Hardware If Bill Gates Wasn't CEO
The ironic thing, however, is that Halo was considered to be the hardware's best game in 2002. Oh man. Halo. I can go on for eternity about this shit game; everything about this game sucks. The character design and animation is some of the ugliest, cheapest shit seen in a "next-generation" game of any type. Shit, I've seen dogs squat coals that look more pleasing to the eye than Halo's visuals. The best thing about Halo is the title screen. You'd expect with the sound capabilities of the XBox, Halo's designers would have made the game's audio somewhat of an experience. Wrong. The game has something that can be loosely connected with what we like to call music in other games, but in multi-player the game has none. What the fuck? Let me get this straight; the game of the year for XBox has no background music in multiplayer? They say that it's all the little things that count; it's all of the little problems with Halo that make it one of the worst games I've seen in a while. I don't give a shit if you can ride in vehicles and other novelty bullshit like that, Halo fucking sucks.
[ Namco ]
= Same Lame Games
And after the roadblock that is Tekken 4, we have Mr. Driller. Can't remember exactly remember the title, but after seeing that Namco went out on the DC with a Mr. Driller title, I won't play any entry of this series (what they did to the DC was wrong). Therefore, I can't say how Namco did with Mr. Driller in 2002, but since I didn't like the game even on the DC, I most likely wouldn't have liked any version in 2002 either. All in all, in 2002 Namco put out some fairly solid gun games; Ninja Assault was pretty cool, RECVGS was alright, and Time Crisis 2 finally came home to those who had been waiting for a consumer release for a very long time. Also worth a mention for 2002 was a PS2 hardware-powered interactive Samurai sword-fighting game Namco released that was actually kind of cool (think it was called something like Mugen). Since I have never really been a big fan of Namco, I would say that in 2002 Namco was average at best.
[ Squaresoft ]
= Unfortunately Still Making Games
Moving on, 2002 unfortunately saw the release of Final Fantasy X International. Oh man, as if FFX hadn't been enough already. I wouldn't piss on FFX I to put out a fire. Everything about this game makes me ill; the characters suck, the music sucks, the gameplay is boring, and too much more for me to list. What is it with Squaresoft's games? Why do the characters have to resemble in one way or another movie or J-Pop stars? Cut the J-Pop shit, Square! Who the fuck is that asshole with the stupid hairdo kicking around a spiked-ball? Is this Square trying to cash in on the popularity of Soccer and J-Pop in Japan simultaneously? And what's with that piece of shit cactus? This game is at the height of retarded character design (things aren't looking too well for its cousin FFX-2, either). Let's not forget FFX I features the same boring RPG gameplay that (somehow) put Squaresoft on the map. With its overabundance of pretty lights, fancy hairdos, lame character designs, and popular trends ripped straight out of real life, I couldn't believe this game was considered to be a winner. Just as FFX was the worst game of 2001, FFX I carries on the tradition nicely by being the worst game of 2002. That's my two cents about FFX I.
Let's see, what else? Oh, the fiasco that was the launch of FFXI (eleven). To thank its loyal "fans," Square released the game with faulty online registration numbers, and even a few courtesy problems shortly after. Way to go, guys! If that didn't stink of a fucking rush job, then I don't know what does. As many can probably tell from this article or past articles, I've been fed-up with Square for a long, long time, and when I heard of the problems with FFXI in 2002, I laughed all the fucking way home. That's right. Square's kingdom had finally started to burn. Finally in 2002, Square's dirty business practices had caught up with them.
I guess the 2002 announcement of Square's GameCube development was somewhat of a lukewarm surprise, but seeing what they did to Nintendo before, I wouldn't put it past 'em to fuck Nintendo again. Sure, the contract included an actual Final Fantasy game for the GC, but knowing Square, they'll might still find a way to screw Nintendo over. Well, at least in 2002 we didn't see Square show its ugly mug in the fighting game scene as in past years (remember bullshit Tobal?). Square, please stop making games.
[ Best Hardware
] = PS2
The resurrection of classic names was a huge advantage of the PS2 hardware in 2002. Although 2002 wasn't as good as previous years due to its lack of fighters and shooters, it was good on the other hand to see so many titles from my youth having made a reappearance on the PS2. Seeing Shinobi and Contra powered by today's hardware was just great to see. Of course, titles like Onimusha and Devil May Cry are good, but seeing familiar titles of the distant past was pleasantly refreshing. With a slow trickle of fighters, and a few shooters here and there, 2002 was definitely a year for action games. However, even with the many quality action games that were released in 2002, I wasn't pumped nearly as much as I was in previous years. Before, I was excited about releases like Street Fighter Alpha 3, Plasma Sword, Giga Wing, Mars Matrix, and Fatal Fury - Mark Of The Wolves; although there were of course a few titles that had me interested in 2002, none of them had me as excited as in past years. 2000, especially, was a fantastic year in gaming; in that year, the two best 2-D fighters of all-time were released (Street Fighter Alpha 3 Saikyo Dojo, Vampire Chronicle), and there were some good shooters as well. Not to say only releases of fighters make a year good, but even the shooter releases in 2002 were a bit less compared to previous years.
Still more, some surprising announcements of a few of the future titles on Sony's PlayStation 2 hardware were pleasant (to say the least). The PS2 didn't come out of 2002 unscathed, however, as Nintendo's GBA still held its own fair share of the market in 2002. In fact, it was a very difficult choice to choose the PS2 as the best hardware of 2002, mainly because there were just as many (if not more) great releases that were developed on the GBA hardware. For example, just about every great PS2 release in 2002 was matched by at least one GBA release; some of the titles released even brought new entries of a developer's series to both hardwares at the same time! Now that is what I call hardware utilization. However, this utilization of hardware was born only after the parade of developers came to a steady crawl as to hardware development plans at the beginning of 2002. Thankfully developers made their decisions and gave us some games...
[ 2002 ]
= A Look Back
Then you have Microsoft, whose hardware had some good games, yet still didn't stand up to even what critics considered to be the "low figures" of GameCube sales in 2002. Regardless if Microsoft would have made the XBox smaller, or made the controller smaller, people hated the XBox just out of association with Bill Gates. There was nothing they could have done to change people's minds. Although I have nothing against the guy personally (I usually back up my documents on a disk), I'd be rich if I had a dollar for every time I heard someone say that they didn't get an XBox because it was backed by Bill Gates. Reasons are reasons, but that's not a very good one if you ask me; it can't be said that Sony executives aren't of the same business breed as Bill Gates. Anyway, Microsoft fought pretty well, considering who they were up against: the household name of Sony, and the established name of Nintendo. Though numbers don't tell that all was well for XBox sales in 2002, I thought that it wasn't totally a bad year because the XBox did have some good titles here and there. In fact, they actually got some Japanese developers to make games for the hardware, which was outstanding in my book (for American hardware).
Although the system was pretty much only for fans or those who have extra cash, it does have games that warrant purchase of the hardware. In 2002 the XBox, like the GBA, matched the PS2 equally with some hit releases (Onimusha Genma, Shikigami No Shiro, Metal Gear Solid 2 Substance, Silent Hill 2), but still managed to come out with the bottom-end of sales. Too bad, because these were essentially good titles to buy the hardware for. It's hard to say what will happen to the XBox in the future, but hopefully Microsoft doesn't drop it right away for the next project. The system still has potential, but with PS2, GC, and XBox titles all looking graphically similar, it will not be an easy road for Microsoft. Most likely, they will run into the same problems that past hardwares like the 3DO, PC Engine CD, and Neo Geo Pocket Color ran into. Maybe Microsoft can get developers with some pull in the industry to ink them a few titles that will boost XBox sales in the future...
With significantly less fighting games and shooting games than in previous years, 2002 was a bit of a slow year for those interested in the said genres. It was overall disappointing to see that some of my favorite shooter developers that had given shooter fans so much in the past had produced nothing in 2002 (namely Takumi and Psikyo). Well, I guess there was one good thing about the trickle of shooters and fighters in 2002; it gave me lots of time to spend with titles from the past two years that I didn't have time to play before. Nothing lasts forever, but I didn't expect some of the smaller developers to hit rock-bottom like they seemed to in 2002. Disappointing, to say the least. Maybe 2002 was just part of a waiting period for some not-yet-announced releases in 2003? Who knows. Anyway, that was my impressions on the year 2002 in the game industry. As for 2003, let's hope it will be the year of the shooter, and if it's not asking too much, a few fighters would be nice too...