Once again, I'm late with my top ten picks for the previous
year. It took a while to decide on what games deserved to be chosen as
the best of 2003 (since I never ended up doing a top ten article for 2002).
A good number of titles had the potential (like Mega Man Zero 2, Mega
Man Network Transmission, P.N.03, Castlevania - Aria Of Sorrow, and some
others), but when it came down to it I chose only those that had the most
profound impression on me when I played them. No Madden shit or Final
Fantasy garbage on this list; these are the titles of 2003 that deserve
[ 10 ] =
Guilty Gear XX #Reload
Maybe it wasn't as much as some had probably hoped for,
but for the most part it fixed the balance problems that plagued GGXX.
Not only that, but GGXX#R also featured new moves and a new character
for fans to eat up. GGXX wasn't perfect, but what it did do, it
did well, and GGXX#R did it even better. GGXX was a fun game, and with
new moves and a new character, GGXX#R is even more fun. I'm glad that
Sammy made this game; it showed that they are dedicated to the series.
This game gets recognition because these days (although a revival seems
to be in progress) there's a shortage of 2-D fighters, and it's filling
in the gap well. Every time I play this game, I can't believe that a seemingly
small "nobody" like Sammy made such a successful series. Of
course I like Capcom and SNK fighters the most, but truth be told, Sammy
is doing a damn good job of supporting the fighting game genre.
[ 9 ] = Shikigami
No Shiro II
There was something that drew me toward the first
Shikigami No Shiro, and when I played it, I was pleased. The same thing
happened with Shikigami No Shiro II; from the moment I saw shots of it
in Arcadia, I knew it was something special. And it was. The game is easy
to get into, it's a challenge, and it's fun. The artwork is awesome,
the sound is great, the graphics are smooth, the bosses rock, and the
gameplay is unique. As for bullets, SNSII has lots of them, and they cover
the screen in style, forming brilliantly-colored shapes such as diamonds
and flowers. It's not perfect (damn environmental hazards), but it's a
quality shooter (in many, many aspects), and it was developed on the DreamCast
hardware to boot. This is a shooter that any fan can't afford to miss,
even if it means going through the "trouble" to import it. It's
worth every penny.
[ 8 ] = Castlevania
- Lament Of Innocence
Konami released both Castlevania - Aria Of Sorrow
and Castlevania - Lament Of Innocence in 2003, so I had some difficulty
in determining which one deserved to be recognized more. But as much as
I liked the former, it had to be the latter. Because I really liked the
previous two 3-D Castlevania games (especially the second), this one was
a no-brainer. Ayami Kojima's character design is stunning (as it always
has been), the environments are beautiful in their exquisite darkness,
the enemies are creative and polished, the audio is killer, and the gameplay
is solid. This is yet another quality game from Konami. It seems
these guys never run out of talent! Once again, Konami shows why Castlevania
is its flagship series...
[ 7 ] = Maximo
VS Army Of Zin
With Maximo VS Army Of Zin, Capcom improved on everything
that didn't click in Maximo. Although Maximo was a good game, it had some
minor issues (bullshit like paying to save, and cheap-ass enemies); in
Maximo VS Army Of Zin, Capcom listened to fans and ironed all those issues
out. It's a polished game; hits seem to connect better, enemies aren't
nearly as cheap, the jumping parts are a little more forgiving,
and best of all, no paying to save. The game's lush environments and smooth
animation also look fantastic, and show what the hardware is capable of.
Of course, the game retains the unique artistic flair of the original
(perfectly round breasts and all).
[ 6 ] = Ketsui
Cave's helicopter shooter Ketsui amazed me. Ketsui
features solid 2-D graphics, intruiging audio, and furious vertical-shooting
gameplay similar to that of Cave's own masterpiece DoDonPachi Dai Ou Jou.
Faithfully carrying on the Cave shooter tradition of heavy firepower,
the craft in Ketsui are armed to the teeth. At any given time, the screen
can be flooded with bright, colorful waves of blue, orange, or pink shots
from the barrels of enemy ships. The bullet patterns are also nice, and
while weaving through them (in later stages) is difficult, it is not an
impossible task. The player pilots two sleek, well-designed copters, while
the blazing guns of the opposition look impressive, and feature intricate
detail and texturing. Thanks
to Cave's own custom 2-D hardware, Ketsui pushes lots of screen-filling
explosions, tons of power-ups, tons of bullets, huge, detailed enemies,
and nicely textured backgrounds; all at once. Ketsui
features blazing vertical-shooting action with style.
It's Cave-quality shooting.
Ketsui is definitely one for fans of past
Cave hits like DonPachi, ESP Rade, and/or Dangun Feveron. However, it's
likely that anyone who likes shooting games (or just good games in general)
would like this one.
[ 5 ] = SNK
VS Capcom - Chaos
Yeah, I know the game's not perfect. And it's not
as great as everyone had expected it to be, but it's still worthy of recognition.
After being tossed around during the turbulent times of SNK's restructuring
and such, the game had finally (and surprisingly) saw the light of day.
Shit, I was
happy just to see that it even came out! The character roster was good
(Zero, Hugo, Shiki, and Demitri all rock) but not great; where the fuck
is Andy? Tight-pants
Terry was put in the game, but Andy got left out?
What happened, SNK? How could Andy have been left
out of the game? I'll just leave it at that; I can go on for pages about
this shit. Anyway, minor issues like stiff control, a few bland backgrounds,
no Andy, and balance aside, SNK VS Capcom was a pleasure to see in 2003.
The industry is lacking in 2-D fighters these days, so SVC - Chaos was
like a sight for sore eyes (eyes that had been sore from waiting several
years for its release). Sure, it could have been better (Andy, Mukuro,
and a few other characters would have been nice to see), but the game
is SNK goodness, and it's fun.
[ 4 ] =
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
This game is great. What more do I need to say?
I love the turtles! I had dreamt about this game several times within
the past few years, and in 2003 it had finally become a reality! Just
like old times, its side-scrolling action at its best; you team up with
a friend to take on Shredder and his minions, eating pizza along the way.
Trashing hundreds of Foot Soldiers is what makes this game so fun (just
as the entries before it). It's old-school, it's a riot, and it's awesome.
It was great to hear the voices of the turtles again in a videogame (since
it had been way too long), and it was even better to wreak havoc with
them once again. Of course, Konami didn't just stop at good gameplay;
they went all the way and brought the turtles to life with smooth, colorful
cel-shaded graphics and quality animation. New fighting techniques (gained
from bonus stages) add depth to TMNT's gameplay, and the stages are long
enough for even the most seasoned players. Konami's
staff put their hearts into TMNT to make it a good game, and you can tell.
It's an all-around good game.
[ 3 ] = Mega
Capcom kept us waiting quite a while for this one,
but it was well worth it. Mega Man X7 kicks ass on so many levels. I love
this game. It is a masterpiece. The character design, animation, stages,
sound, presentation, style; this game succeeds in all areas. Above all,
the breathtaking cel-shaded visuals are beautiful, and are something to
behold. Likewise, the animation is smooth as silk. Many said that 3-D
visuals could never reach the polish of 2-D visuals; they were wrong.
With MMX7 (and the upcoming Crimson Tears), Capcom has proven that 3-D
visuals can look just as good as 2-D visuals. To hell with those who say
that 3-D action games with 2-D roots suck; together with Castlevania -
Lament Of Innocence (and several others like Strider 2), this title proves
them wrong. As of this writing, I'd say that MMX7 is not only the best
3-D action game of 2003, but the best 3-D action game of all-time. This
is an action game.
[ 2 ] = Samurai
Only topped by Fatal Fury in the realm of SNK fighters,
the Samurai Shodown series is gold. As a fan, I was not only happy to
see the game released, but also relieved. It was rumored for a long time,
and thankfully, it saw release. I am pointing out the obvious, but SSV
is pure SNK fighting goodness. The new character design, although a notch
below that of new characters in the previous entries, is of the distinct
quality we have come to expect from SNK. SVC - Chaos was good, but the
sword-swinging gameplay of Samurai Shodown is where it's at. With the
rise of SNK from the ash, all I wanted was for them to release new Fatal
Fury and Samurai Shodown entries. Fans waited and waited for it to be
announced, and at last, it was. It was the release SNK fans all over the
world had been waiting for. Now that SNK has granted our wishes with Samurai
Shodown V, hopefully they'll see that we (the real fans) would
appreciate a new Fatal Fury game just as much (if not more)...
[ 1 ] = Gotcha
Hands down, the best game of 2003 was the
Capcom 3-D arena fighter Gotcha Force. The magazines and "hardkore
gamerz" shit on this one (out of jealousy, it seems), but the fact
is that it rocks. The game has fantastic character design (notice how
many who slam the game don't touch this area), 200 characters to choose
from, cool moves, and it's fun (unlike other 3-D fighters like
Tekken and Soul Calibur II). Up to four players can battle it out in some
of the best multiplayer 3-D fighting since Power Stone 2. As for the 200
characters in the game, they can be acquired (this is where the "it's
too much like Pokemon" review cries come from) through intense fighting,
but the icing on the cake is trading with other players to more quickly
obtain the more rare characters. The game is unique, and contains its
fair share of humor (with some funny characters and a pinch of "Engrish").
More importantly though, is the game's misleading juevenile disguise;
the presentation is colorful, the story consists of children in the heat
of a dilemma that adults "wouldn't understand," and the music
is happy. However, it plays nothing like a children's game. The sheer
amount of depth in the game separates it from Pokemon and its legion of
clones; it takes time to learn the game's system properly, and
knowledge of the game's character ranking and building systems is needed
to trade effectively. This game is deeper, better, and more stylish than
it was given credit for. Definitely, without a doubt, the best game of
[ Looking Back ]
As usual, I was impressed with Capcom in 2003 (Gotcha
Force, Mega Man X7, Mega Man Zero 2, Maximo VS Army Of Zin), but Konami
caught my eye more than once. Konami seriously released some Castlevania
goodness in 2003; without a doubt, it was an exceptional year for Castlevania
fans. Not only that, but Konami also released the awesome TMNT, a game
that I can't properly express appreciation for. With TMNT, Konami showed
that although the side-scrolling action genre of the 16-bit era has slowed
to a steady crawl, they still haven't forgotten about their fans, and
that they have interest in delivering quality gaming to their fans. Ninja
Five-O was also released by Konami, which surprisingly got good reviews;
yet another. Good 'ol
Konami! Sammy got my attention with the announcements of their AtomisWave
plans, but more than anything I was surprised by the announcement of Sammy
VS Capcom. My initial response was something like, "What the fuck?
This can't be real!" Definitely a surprise, but behind the lines,
what does it all mean? It gave birth to a whole new mess of speculation
and questions concerning Capcom's position on the development of 2-D fighting
games. And who can forget how great it was to see the re-establishment
of SNK in America?
Hardware ] =
Even though there were some impressive PS2 games
that came out in 2003, the GameBoy Player was still my hardware of the
year. It may seem like a gimmick to some, but the fact is that it is one
awesome piece of hardware. Essentially an add-on, when the GBP is plugged
into the GC expansion port, they bond to create a piece of hardware that
brings together the GBA and GC universes. That is, the GBP makes the GC
into a versatile machine that can run the best of the GC (Gotcha Force,
Resident Evil Zero, Capcom VS SNK 2 EO, TMNT, etc.) and the best
of the GBA (Super Street Fighter II Turbo Revivial, KOFEX2, Final Fight
One, Castlevania: Aria Of Sorrow, etc.). Awesome.
[ Best Character
Design ] = Shuriken Ninja
As previously mentioned, Gotcha Force has great
character design, which is why I have chosen the Shuriken Ninja. He carries
a huge ninja star on his back, he looks loosely like Mukuro (from Red
Earth), he's pissed off, and with his sheer power he spells death for
challengers. Capcom's ninja characters always look cool, and this one
(along with the others in his group) is no exception.
[ Worst Game ]
= Final Fantasy X-2
Holy fucking shit this game sucks. Once again, I'll
say that with this game it looked like Square was trying to turn "gamers"
into metrosexuals (gay-but-not-gay men). What the fuck, Square? A dress-up
RPG? Give me a fucking break. And that J-pop part of the game (anyone
who has played or even seen the game on demo knows exactly what I am talking
about) that has been beaten into the ground and mistranslated; don't even
get me started on that shit. As if I didn't have enough reasons to hate
Square already; how low can they go? Everyone gets a hard-on with the
release of every new Final Fantasy game. Why? Every year, there are better
games with better character design
by better developers, and still everyone settles for less with the newest
Final Fantasy game(s). And every year,
I ask the question: when will Square quit putting out games with stupid
character design? Pull out of the industry Square; there are other RPG
(and non-RPG) developers (Atlus, for example) that make your games look
[ Worst Merger
] = Squeenix
Do I even have to explain this, why it is bullshit,
or how stupid it sounds?