The Ten Greatest Games of 2004

It’s been a pretty good year for video games, especially for sequels. Games have gotten longer, harder, more prettier, and more innovative. At least that’s what I’ve been seeing. Many people tend to disagree with me about stuff and junk, but that’s not too important, because it’s time for Ryan’s opinion to shine! Yes, I’ve painstakingly picked out the ten games which came out this past year which have stood out the most. These games are the cream of my crop, the ones that make me happy to be an overobsessive gamer.

It took me a long time to think out the list, and there are a-plenty that didn’t make the cut, even though they so deserved such recognition. And even worse was putting them in order. When you want to rank something you love for nostalgia’s sake higher than a more deserving of the spot, it’s hard to make the call, but I did my best to put aside my obvious Nintendo bias and come up with a well-rounded list for all to gawk at.

There were some rules to abide by though. For one, I would not put a game on the list which I haven’t played. That was an obvious one, and narrowed down the list. Unfortunately, it also probably woudl ahve changed had I not gotten a job and been able to play a wider range of games. The second rule is that remakes could not be included. This caused Super Mario 64 DS, Final Fantasy: Dawn of Souls, and a couple other great ones to be cast aside, but it’s more fair that way (as they would have taken the top spots with no questions asked).So I guess now that I’ve made my objective and means of achieveing it clear, it’s about time I got down to business.


~ #10 ~
Kingdom Hearts : Chain of Memories

Our first entry just barely made it onto the list, as I played it just one day prior to writing this. Not to mention that it was only released just before Christmas. And seeing as how I’ve played very, very little of the game, it’s clear that it rightfully deserves to be on the list.

While I learned to enjoy the original Kingdom Hearts after playing it a couple times, I still haven’t gotten a chance to really get into it. So I figured since I liked it, why not check out the GBA sequel? My brother bought it, and after less than half an hour with it, I knew it was a keeper. The opening video alone is enough to sway anyone who has insecurities about the crad battle system. It’s simply amazing what Square-Enix was able to do with the so-called “primitive” GBA technology. And the battle system isn’t nearly as bad as the cards it’s bulit on might imply. It’s still a totally active battle system, just with cards in place of attacking moves. You can still run, jump, and roll as normal, of course.

And then there’s the plot. Basically, it takes place right after the first game (so I was lost, I never saw the ending to the first), and Sora is trapped alone in Castle Oblivion, where gain is loss, and loss is gain. It’s all very confusing at first, but after the cloaked stranger who greets you as you step into the castle explains everything, it makes a little more sense. How the game progresses is interesting too. Every door in the castle leads to a part of Sora’s memories, and each door is unlocked by using cards won in fights. Depending on which card you use, the area beyond will be different, and different numbers of Heartless will popluate that area. This is reminiscent of the world-building features of Legend of Mana and Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, only much more in-depth.

Overall, it’s a first for the world of gaming, in that it makes very good use of an active card battle system, where many have failed before. Highly recommended, as will be all of the games on this list.


~ #9 ~
Mario Party 6

Another close call for thie list, as I only got to play it once before now, but boy did it leave an impression. Mario Party 5 is easily the greatest party game ever, with my two all-time favorite mini-games: Pushy Penguins and Fish Upon a Star. But Mario Party 6 also has plenty of it’s own charms. Sadly, I haven’t been able to explore all the features of the game, nor have I seen even half of the mini-games, but there is one key factor in why I put this one on the list: The Microphone.

Karaoke Revolution was probably the first game in a long time to use a mic (but that might change with the DS), but that was probably passed by the wayside, as I never heard anything about it after it was announced. But Mario Party 6 takes the mic and implements it in a great number of ways, and without overusing the thing, might I add. There are about five or so regular mini-games where you use the mic, and they pop up randomly when in Party Mode. All are 3-on-1, obviously, as you only get one mic. One game has you driving a huge war machine and shouting commands like “fire” and “bombs” in hopes of defeating your rivals, while another makes you shout at a herd of goombas to help them escape the wrath of your enemies. Since it’s not overused, it’s always great fun when a mic game pops up.

Aside from those, there is also a dedicated Mic Mode, where everythign aside from game setup is controlled by the microphone. One game is a parody of Jeopardy!, only with more Mario Party-esqe challenges like guessing the identity of a distorted silhouette or remembering how many goombas went by in a stampede of monsters. With 3 or four players, this is an excellent game, and even better since another player can ring in to pick up some rebound points if somebody gets their question wrong. Another game is a race to the finish, where you have to shout at your character to run, move upwards and downwards, jump, and several other things. Unfortunatley, this one is only one-player, and is a bit lackluster for anytone who might be stuck watching. There is a third Mic Mode game, but I damn well can’t remember it.

Mario Party 6 surely topples the first four, but it’s stillto be seen whether it’s got the right stuff to best old number five. In either case, it’s still an excellent party game. Just make sure you bring at least one other person to play with. As fun as they are, Mario Parties, like any other parties, get stale if you’re the only one attending.


~ #8 ~
Mario VS. Donkey Kong

Ah, memories come flooding in of good old Donkey Kong ’94, easily one of the greatest original Game Boy games ever. And with a scarce number of original Mario games being released these days, it’s nice to get a refreshing taste of something that isn’t quite a Mario game, but could qualify in a pinch.

It seems that Donkey Kong has had enough scrounging various island for bananas and has gone back to stealing things from Mario and climbing tall buildings. Just like it used to be. Only this time, he’s not kidnapped Mario’s girlfriend, but every one of his cute little Mini-Mario toys. Mario, being the money-grubbing businessman he is, decides not to just make a new batch, but goes after the big ape in an effort to save the precious toys. It’s back to the good old days of hopping platforms and climbing ropes and vines that we so miss.

Now if you’ve played Donkey Kong ’94 (which you really should have – it’s not one to be missed), you know that the objective is to find a key on each level and bring it to the door to progress. But wait. Ther’s more this time around. After you’ve found the key, you get taken to the second part of the stage, where you’ve gotta rescue one of the Mini-Marios. A challenge worthy of a plumber/toymaker/doctor/racer/etc? Yes indeedy. After 6 levels of this key and Mini-Mario collecting, you move onto a new type of level, where you must guide the little guys to the safety of the nearest toybox. These levels are usually very complicated and often involve many enemies and switch platforms. And getting all the Mini-Marios to the box is worth the effort, as for each one you save, you get one hit point for the next level – the boss fight wiht Donkey Kong himself.

The boss fights are pretty basic. You pick up and throw things at DK, and whoever loses all their hit points first is the loser. It get harder later on, when you’re forced to navigate lasers or block flying objects whilst attempting to smack the big ape upside the head with a barrel. After six worlds of this, you’re rewarded with… Hard mode. Finish those six worlds, and then you’re done. Maybe.

A secondary challenge for expert players (and I mean it, these are damn hard) is a score attack option. Each level has a set high-score, and beating that score will net you a star. The objective is mostly to move as fast as you can on the normal and Mini-Mario levels, and not to get hit on the DK battles. It doesn’t sound too hard, but once you get to World 3 or so, you’ll realize just why I noted that this challenge is for experts only. This provides a huge leap in difficulty from simply surviving until the last level, and is probably one of those thigns you’ll never want to have to do again after you’ve completed it. But you probably will, because it’s just so damn enjoyable.


~ #7 ~
The Sims 2

I honestly didn’t think I would ever own The Sims 2. That was until I played it, and I got a new computer capable of running it (perfectly, might I add). The original Sims was great at first, but gradually got boring, because there wasn’t much more to do than keep your sims alive. Somehow, though, they managed to do it. Maxis figured out a way to make me fall in love wiht the sims all over again. And this time, I don’t think it’ll just be another fling. This time, it’s serious.

Like I said, in the original game, your only other real goal besides keeping the little guys alive was to get them to the highest job level. Which was nearly impossible. Unless you could stop time, becasue those damned skills took so long to build after level 3. But in The Sims 2, there are plenty of side objectives and “mini-gmaes”, like gettign your children into private school, and the whole Wants anf Fears deal. And let’s not forget aging and genetics. That opens up whole new worlds for sim breeding. Unfortunately, the developers had the humanity to stop us from letting them inbreed. It sucks, cause now I can’t get the super golden sim which can travel to all points on the world map. (FF7 joke, people)

So what is this about Wants and Fears, you ask? Well I suppose I could take some time out of my busy schedule to clue you in a bit. You see, each sim has an ambition. Be it an ambition for riches, knowledge, love, or just to grow up, every sim has one, and it affects which things the sim wants in life. For example, my sim has a “faimly” ambition. Therefore, his Wants will be along the lines of “have first kiss” “get married” “have baby” and “play with sibling”. His Fears on the other hand would be things like a death in the family, or being rejected for a marriage proposal. Each ambition has it’s own set of Wants and Fears, and set point values for each. So when a sim completes one of his greatest Wants, his ambition meter with go through the roof. And when it gets full enough, he would receive the fabled Platinum Mood, in which he’s happy all the time. So really, you don’t have to take care of your sims’ needs in this game, you just have to fulfill their wants.

Finally, the sim editor in this game is waaaaaay better. I probably didn’t use enough a’s to get across the true greatness of it. Rather than simply selecting a head and body for your sim, you can customize every tiny detail of their heads. If you’re really good, you could proabbly make one that looks exactly like you. You can also choose outfits for several different occasions, what makeup they wear, how much stubble they have, and you even get to set up the preliminary family tree when you create a family. Me, I love character editors, and that alone will last me ages. So have to say, if you still enjoy The Sims, don’t get The Sims 2, becasue it’ll probably be the death of you. However, if you’re looking for a deeper sims experience, this will be right up your alley. As long as your PC can take it. Fortunately, by today’s standards, it doesn’t require that much.


~ #6 ~
Viewtiful Joe 2

Easily my favorite new(er) series, Veiwtiful Joe has a hell of a lot going for him. First of all, it’s undeniable that the game is packed with style. From Joe himself, who goes to unearthly lenghts to impress his audiences, to the game itself, with it’s over-the-top movie motif and beautiful cel-shded graphics, Viewtiful Joe 2 takes the bar which the first game set, and raises it right to the top (or bottom, if this happens to be a limbo competition). It was hard for me not to put this closer to the top, but as great as it is, the others certainly show that they deserve their spots.

The biggest addition to the game is the whole new level of gameplay: the addition of Joe’s girlfriend, Silvia, to the mix. The brings along an entirely new way to play with her twin guns and exclusive VFX power, Replay (which kicks serious ass). You can interchange between the two heroes at any time, and they can even team up for several different super attacks. The blissful 2D beat-’em-up gameplay from the first returns with few changes, but as they say, don’t fix what ain’t broke. Me, I love simple games like this that you can blaze through in a couple days more than long drawn-out adventures, simply because these ones turn out to have the greatest fun potential, enabling you to play through over and over. And let’s not forget the various dificulty levels to fight your way through, plus the new challenge mode entitled “The 36 Chambers”, which are unlocked as you complete certain criteria in the main game. All of this, of course, is governed by the inhuman difficuulty level that makes Viewtiful Joe the first name to pop into your head when someone asks about a hard game.

But the gameplay is certainly not the only thing the game has going for it. Sounds a little weird saying that, but whatever. Remember how The Wind Waker was a pleasantly funny? Viewtiful Joe 2 is positively priceless. The first game had it’s one-liners for sure, but 2 takes the foundation it built and will have you rolling on the ground at least every second cutscene. For example, when you start level one, Joe notices Silvia has new clothes, and she respons that you can do whatever you want in Movie World andf that Joe should give it a try. The resulting scene is possibly the most intentionally hilarious moment in video gaming ever. Of course, the fun doesn’t end there.

The bosses deserve their own damn paragraph, since they’re such a prominent part of the game. Not only do they pose a huge challenge to players, but their characters are easily worth mention, just like in the first game. The first boss, Big John, is an over-chibied T-Rex that keeps coming back throughout the story in different costumes claiming to be a different character each time. Flinty Stone, the huge stone idol boss, has one of the most amusing cutscene dialogues with the heroes ever, and the final boss (whos identity is obvious after the intro cutscene) is rather cool. Plus once you’ve beaten him, you realize that he’s actually quite a good guy, just taking the wrong route to his goals. Probably a few more spoilers there than you’d care for, but it’s all pretty predicatable. Capcom’s never exactly been one to forge a tale of wonder and surprise.

Duh. I love the game. You’d probably love the game if you had any taste. It excels in every area the first one did, and adds some excellent things (like a stage select), while giving up a few (no hidden characters…). But everythign levels out, as the extra characters didn’t add that much to the first game. I just wish they’d give us the good quality version of the “Viewtiful World” music video. The warehouse version is good and all, but I like colour.


~ #5 ~
MegaMan Zero 3

I’ll start by saying that the Zero series is probably the best of all the assorted MegaMan series. It takes the standard X formula, makes it a little faster paced and more difficult, and then tacks on Zero as the main hero. Not to mention that it’s got a semi-coherent story, unlike that of the later X games (everything worked up until X4, then it went to hell). The first game was an excellent starting point. It had a reasonable difficulty level, and was a ton of fun. I must’ve played through it at least seven or eight times. The second, however, took the difficulty curve and made it steeper than some kind of really steep thing. The first level is acceptable, but after that, the holes, the spikes, the bosses. It was all way too hard. I did manage to finish it after a good year though. And enjoyably enough, MegaMan Zero 3 finds the perfect niche between the first two games and is just what the doctor ordered. Hopefully the fourth (which is now confirmed) will keep up the good name of Zero.

The reason the first games were hard was simply that getting the best things and special abilities required you to go through the entire games without using any Cyber Elves (which have various effects like restoring life and eliminating some traps) or getting killed, and you had to do it fast too. All this becasue you had to keep a steady A or S rank to achieve all the secrets. But Zero 3 saves you a little trouble. Whereas the first two deducted rank points for any Cyber Elf use, 3 lets you equip any two Satellite type (non-perishable) elves you like without any penalty. However, Fusion type (one use) elves still incur point loss. So you could, say, increase your life bar to give yourself a foothold and a better chance of surviving with a good rank. The levels are still unforgiving as ever, but the bosses are slightly toned down to a point where you stand a chance even if you don’t possess their weakness.

And of course, with every sequel comes new features! This one brings about a chip collecting feature, which provide you with character/story information, Cyber Elves, and sometimes even upgrade chips. You see, Zero can equip various chips to his head, body and feet to give him special abilities. Some of these abilities include being able to jump on water infinitely, reduced wall-sliding speed, quick weapon charging, or life regeneration. Body chips hold the elemental properties of the Element Chips of games of old, and also some other, somewhat less important properties. It goes without saying that you can only equip one of each chip at a time, but if you manage to find a secret boss and defeat him, you can acquire an Ultimate Foot chip, which is ovbiously an all-in-one deal.

It should also be noted that the first two Zero games, while excellent in gameplay, had a terrible narrative. The story wasn’t so bad, as it did make an unexpected amount of sense, but the translation job was atrocious. Capcom is pretty notorious for this kind of thing, so it’s more excusable than if a more illustrious company such as Nintendo has pulled something like this. Zero 3, on the other hand, is rather clean. Spelling errors are minimal at most, and everything makes sense, whereas in the other two games a lot fo the time you had no idea what the characters were trying to say. All this, and at the end, there’s a really neat plot twist, and a very cool final boss battle.

Without a doubt the greatest of the Zero games, MegaMan Zero 3 satisfied my cravings for a game featuring Zero that ahd a reasonable difficulty level. Worth picking up if you like any of the older MegaMan games, but yearn for a little more speed and intensity.


~ #4 ~
Feel the Magic XY/XX

The only Nintendo DS game on the list, and at such a high placement to boot. Feel the Magic XY/XX is what I feel to be the most original game ever to be made. Okay, maybe second to WarioWare, but other than that, most original ever. And the fact that Sega is behind it is the icing on the cake. You know just by that fact that it’s bound to be bizarre and a ton of fun. And boy, that certanily couldn’t be more true.

Sega obviously had one hell of a time playing with all the DS’ features and doodads. Those being the dual screens, the touch screen, and the microphone. Feel the Magic runs in the same vein as Wario Ware: Mega Microgame$, but changes the idea just enough so that it’s not just a blatant wannabe. While Wario’s games were super-simple and lasted about 5 seconds at most, Sega has created much deeper games (sort of), which can take quite some time. Some, like Parachute are simple and change lenght depending on which level you’re on. Others, particularly the boss games, are very drawn out, have several stages, and can take at least a minute or two to complete.

Every bit of the DS’ functionality is pushed to the max in this game. Everything but the wireless linking gizmo. There is no multiplayer, but it’s not such a huge loss, as the single player game is more than entertaining enough to captivate you for a while and keep you coming back for more. The touch screen is the only thing you use to control the game, aside from the start button, which is used only for pausing. Some games require tapping, others need you to drag the stylus along a precise line, and others yet will have you use it to colour in various shapes while avoiding falling people. And then a few of them use the built-in microphone. One game, for example, forces you to yell at the thing to get a girl’s attention due to a marching band that separates the two of you. Another places you on a yacht, and you have to blow into the mic to fill the sail and float over the shark-infested waters.

It’s a great game, even though it is a bit short. the high difficulty level should offset that. Sadly, there is a rather imposing problem with the game. You see, a lot of games require a precise hand, and this makes it so that it’s not totally accessible to everyone. While anyone can master a simple controller, pushing a pen across a screen in an almost perfectly straight line in a short amount of time isn’t exactly an easy task. And then another game requires you to move the stylus back and forth in a rather violent fashion, for about a minute or so straight. It’s a terrible strain on the wrist, but at least it’s only in one game. Despite the couple unsavory games, it’s a great game with plenty of features. Stay tuned for a full review as part of this year’s Christmas extravaganza.


~ #3 ~
Pikmin 2

Good old Pikmin 2. I loved the original back in it’s day, and since the sequel had so much more to offer, I figured that I’d just give myself the green light and pick it up right away. Ryan: 1. Conservativeness: 0. It was so damn worth my moneys that I can’t explain it in words. Pikmin is such an addictive game that I still feel bad for mot buying the first one, even thoguht it’s at a nicely discounted price now. In any case, time for some reviewing!

The first thing you’ll notice when playing is that you control not only Olimar, but his partner Louie as well. This gives you some neat multitasking abilities, but would be much more efficient if you didn’t have to watch your Pikmin like infants. The babysitting factor really holds back the true potential of having two captains. If the currently uncontrolled captain would defend your horde automatically rather than sit and wait for you to do something. But in any case, there is a better addition: the two new Pikmin types! Though you can only get them by sacrificing some of your other Pikmin, they are very useful for solving many of the intricate puzzles that the brains of Nintendo have set forth. The White Pikmin have super speed and can detect buried treasures, as well as poison any foolish enemy who makes the mistake of eating one. The Purple Pikmin, though, are terribly slow, but can stun enemies when thrown, and are ten times as strong as your average Pikmin.

New to the game is an absence of a time limit. You can fool around for as long as you like and never have to worry about your days running out. The day timer is still there though, so you still have to make sure to round up all your Pikmin before sundown, lest they be stuck on the surface and be eaten by the night prowlers. As another way to extend your treasure hunt, Nintendo has added in a bunch of huge dungeons. There are four maps to explore, and each is home to somewhere between three to six dungeons. And these caves are just full of great goodies to collect. The items you pick up are also of minor interest, including things like bottlecaps, boot wax, fruit, and even a ROB (Robotic Operating Buddy. Old schoolers know the score) head and blocks. Plus, there’s this really freaky baby head that blinks as your Pikmin haul it back to the ship.

The enemies in Pikmin were pretty ferocious, but the new ones can strike fear into the hearts of even the most well-traveled gamers. There’s this one bug that fires off rocks, but not just normal rocks. Oh no. They’re homing rocks. And another, my sworn rival, is this fish-tank thing that is totally invulnerable from the front and shoots bombs that usually just scatter Pikmin, but will end up killing them when you really need them to survive. And on top of that, he’s usually perched on some godforsaken spire that only Yellows can get to the top of, and surrounded by other enemies, effectively creating an almost impassable war zone.

But clearly, the high point of the game is multiplayer. You can only go two-player in Challenge and Battle Mode, but it’s still great fun. Besides, you’ll usually need two people to get perfect on the challenges. I just wish I had a clone of me to play with, or at least have one of my brothers get good at the game so that I could have an effective partner. Currently, they just wind up killing more Pikmin than they save. Oh well.

 

~ #2 ~
Metroid Prime 2 : Echoes

You knew it would be here somewhere, right? Like I would let a game this great just slip through the cracks of my “best games” list. But it’s not at number one? Well, there’s a big surprise lurking down there, at least for those of you who didn’t scroll down and skip all the words, just so that you knew what games I chose. Anywho, Metroid Prime 2 = the shit. Prime was excellent, but it did have a few failings, particularly the stupid X-Ray and Thermal visors. I never liked those, as the power-ups they could locate were few and far between, and without a guide, you’d have to check every damn wall in the game to find the secret stuff. It was tedious and not fun. That’s why I never earned 100%. But Echoes, now there’s an almost perfect package.

First off, the story. Other than the newer ones, Metroid has always been light on story, heavy on gory, as a certain mutant turtle might say. But Echoes goes way beyond what even Prime put forth. Granted, Prime’s storyline was optional, as it was all in scanned objects, but it was still rather simple. Whereas in Echoes, there are tons of cutscenes, and even direct interaction between Samus and another character. While it’s not actually dialogue, as Samus is one of those silent heroine types, it’s still mostly unseen in the Metroid series. Tycho of Penny Arcade put it perfectly when he said “How Retro manages to make Samus Aran – a character who never talks, and who isn’t really seen until the end – so engaging and even human in that Chozo suit is a feat of digital puppetry. … Myself, I would like a much more elaborate story – revelations, twists, and genuine dialogue. I think it could really work. Back to Echoes, though – that’s a sign of a game that really got its hooks in,…. Highly reccomended.”

And I might as well get in the other one now too, as I’m getting quite tired of this wrtiting process and need some good filler that basically says what I would be saying. Again, from Tycho “Metroid Prime 2 has some of the most solid gaming moments this year. It’s the kind of game that makes you pine immediately for a sequel, wishing you could just… I don’t know, flip the disc over inside the machine and obviate the anticipation phase altogether.” It’s so very true. I want to keep playing, but they keep telling me the game is over. I went back, found all the secrets (as none were hidden in invisible caches), but still I yearn for more. And beat hard mode. And damn was it hard. A lot fo the bosses in this game are actually quite tough. There are even a couple that are fought entirely with the Morph Ball. Oh, and speaking of Morph Balls and such…

The new powerups in this game are awesome. Some, solely on their aesthetic merits, while others for the fact that they allow you to kill enemies by jumping into them. The new suits are pretty cool, particularly the Dark Suit. They wouldn’t be useful in any other game, as all they do is lighten or nullify the damaging effects of being present on Dark Aether, but at least the Dark Suit looks cool. Light Suit, on the other hand, I think looks like a piece of crap. I dunno. Just don’t like it. The Screw Attack is a lot of fun to play with after you’ve mastered using it, as you can just pop enemies with a single jump rather than shooting them over and over. Hmmm.. what else… Oh yes, the new beams. The Dark and Light beams are pretty much the same as the Ice and Plasma beams respectively. I would say that the only difference is that they effectively kill enemies of the opposite alignment, but that rings true for the other pair as well. The Annihilator beam is awesome though. It kills everything real good, and seeks like there’s no tomorrow. Dries up your ammo supply real fast, but it’s fun while you’ve got it. And finally, the new visors. The Dark visor is essentially a mix of the Thermal and X-Ray visors, only you can still see well with this one. And then the Echo Visor. It’s mainly used for solving puzzles. There isn’t really any good combat use for it. Only one enemy is sonar-based, and it’s near the early stages of the game.

Other things worthy of mention include Dark Samus, who will clearly be a major player in Metroid Prime 3. Aslo notable is the multiplayer mode, which isn’t great, but is rather fun. Until your idiot friends decide to just stay as Morph Balls all the time. Maybe it’s because I’m not a huge fan of the Morph Ball. I just prefer shooting to rolling. But I also prefer rolling to driving. Anywho, awesome game. Has to be to make number two.


~ #1 ~
Tales of Symphonia

I hope you’re shocked. Not only is my favorite game of this year not by Nintendo, but it’s also an RPG. An unconventional RPG, yes, but an RPG nonetheless. I love Tales of Symphonia and everything about it. There is no realy downside to the game. It’s fun, it’s engaging, it’s got multiplayer, and I’m gonna burn the (four disc!) soundtrack as soon as I buy some CD-Rs.

I already did a full review of this one in the blog a couple months back, so I don’t think I really need to explain everything again, but I will go over some of the highlights, just for the sake of you lazy fools who can’t remember. Number one, the battle system. Active battling in an RPG? Hooray, it can hold my attention! The fact that it very much resembles Smash Bros can’t hurt either. Plus, you can plug in more controllers so other people can play as your party members. Good call on that one Namco. I’m happy when other people can cast spells when they need be cast, and not just soak up all my TPs. But, if you’ve got noone else to play with, you can always just command them yourself, what with all the commanding options you’re given.

Also good: the game is really long. Almost too long. And there are like seven points during the game where you think it’s going to be over, but it never is. Until the end. And even if the two-disc adventure isn’t enough for you, there are plenty of sidequests, just like any good RPG. And just like any good RPG, most of them are only accessible near the end. But of course. It’s not like you could do the sidequest for the ultimate weapons right from the start. What fun would that be? (I mean, the game is a little too easy as it is.) And when you’re done, you can play through again on hard, with upgrades an such you can buy with GRADE points you earn during the course of the game. If that’s still not enough, give Maina mode a whirl. I tried it once, got my ass handed to me in the first battle, and gave up.

The story is so-so, starting pretty run-of-the-mill, and getting more interesting right at the end, rather than gradually throughout the whole game. Clearly, I love the music, as I was even considering legitimately importing the soundtrack, until I found the torrent file for it. As much as I’d like to have a real copy, it takes so long to get my cash to my PayPal account, and then the shipping makes it cost so much more, it’s just not worth it for a cheap, impatient guy like me. If I could find it at the local music store, I’d pick it up in a heartbeat, but it just don’t work that way with game soundtracks.

So yes, this is the best game of 2004. Don’t listen to what anyone else says. You can disregard most of the rest of the list if you like, but my number one is absolute.

I guess that’s really all there is to it then. I just wish I could have had more than ten spaces. There were a lot of good ones out there, and I didn’t even get to play a lot of them. Had I not picked up a couple last-second, the list may have been different. You don’t know how bad Boktai 2 deserves to be on there. And I bet you were pretty surprised that both MegaMan X: Command Mission and MegaMan Battle Network 4 were missing. To tell the truth, neither was really that great, and I already told you that I’d try to be as non-biased as I could. What about Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door and Donkey Konga? And what about any games not on a Nintendo system? To be fair, The Sims 2 is a PC game, and Viewtiful Joe 2 is also available on the PS2. See? I was good. At least I tried. Well, I guess we’ll just have to see what happens next year. So far, we’ve got Resident Evil 4 and two new Zelda games to look forward too, plus the new generation of consoles near the end there, so it’s going to be anything but boring.


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