This was another tough year. I mean, REALLY tough. It’s bad when you’ve played half the games on the list and LOVED them. Yeah, THAT bad. Anyway, after some deliberation, I think I’ve come up with something solid. There are 31 games this year, so let’s hop to it!
#5 – Tales of Destiny 2 (PS1)
So why this game and not something like DW7, the Wizardry games which I apparently also like, Gothic which I’ve been meaning to get around to, or any of the other great RPGs this year? Well, I’ll tell you why. It does absolutely nothing wrong, it’s pretty fun (moreso than the previous entries as well), the graphics are the best of the series up to this point and pretty damn good in general, and a lot of great features were added to this one that didn’t really translate to the future ones for some reason.
The bottom line is if you like the Tales series or have been interested in them, this is a good one to check out. It’s easy to pick up, fun to play, and has all kinds of great features a lot of other RPGs didn’t support around this time.
#4 – Lufia – The Legend Returns (GBC)
Now I know what you’re thinking. “What the fuck, man? Lufia on the Gameboy Color? Why not Lufia on the Advance or even the SNES Lufias?” Let me level with you. Lufia on the GBA SUCKED. It just plain wasn’t good. No, it really wasn’t. So you can fuck off with that. While this one definitely strays from the classic Lufia formula and favors a Mystery Dungeon style of gameplay, it has many interesting features within the game.
First off, it looks and sounds pretty damn good for an RPG on the GBC. Second, there are various abilities that are unlocked depending on how you arrange your party. Third, no random encounters. Fourth, random dungeons. And…well, you get the idea. But the best part is it never seems like it’s too much. A lot of games that try to throw several things into one bucket often end up playing like barf, but somehow this title pulls it off very well and on a portable? Sold!
“But what about Battle Network?” Oh, you mean Megaman Pokemon? Yeah, it’s fun as hell, but just like a lot of other games that revolve around card battling and reflexes, it’s very strange and often revolves around luck rather than skill and good strategy. Actually, this was a good year all around for portable gaming, but an incredible one for consoles, so don’t knock it.
#3 – Paper Mario (N64)
Paper Mario is a great game. It’s also incredibly short. Sure, it’s not as short as Quest 64, but it’s short enough. While this is sadly something that would carry on into further iterations of the series, each and every Paper Mario title is a joy to play, has lots of great features, lots of great environments and characters, and always manages to keep combat fresh and fun. It’s worth playing through this title at least once or if you’re my wife, then god knows how many times.
#2 – Shadow Hearts (PS2)
Now, I know, I know. By this point you’re thinking one of two things. One, why the hell isn’t DW7 in this or first place? Or two, why isn’t THIS in first place? Let me be frank, Shadow Hearts needed some work that thankfully was very much improved upon in Covenant. Yuri is a badass character, the plot is great as are the characters, and there’s plenty of ridiculous humor thrown about.
But some of that humor comes from how bad and/or cheezy the game can be at times. Awkward animations, odd sexual references, and so on plague the game from the get-go and make it very hard to take seriously at times. All the same, it should be respected for not only starting a great series, but also not taking itself too seriously like a lot of games around this time did.
#1 – Anachronox (PC)
I LOVE this game…except for one small problem: the very first fucking area. Yes, Planet Anachronox is one of the most depressing, slow areas I’ve ever played through in a game. Once you get past it, it’s all gravy. Imagine it like this. Imagine if Final Fantasy 7’s Midgar had a really sad, depressing theme playing pretty much through the whole area and even the combat music was just mildly upbeat.
It would be hard as HELL to get through it…then you’d have the rest of the game, which is seemingly hit/miss with most people. For me, Midgar was a very strong point of FF7, so much so that I love going back through and playing just that part over and over again. Anachronox is a great game for many reasons such as humorous dialogue, great characters, intriguing plot, great back-stories, and much more.
Of course, this should be expected from Ion Storm, who just previously had been on the Deus Ex project. This is a great and often overlooked game that you absolutely owe to yourself to seek out.
When I look at the runner ups, I do see a few I can’t recommend, but overall even the runner ups are great. This was truly an incredible year for RPGs.
Aidyn Chronicles – The First Mage (N64)
Archanum – Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura (PC)
Baldur’s Gate – Dark Alliance (PS2)
Battle Hunter (PS1)
Digimon World 2 (PS1)
Dragon Riders – Chronicles of Pern (PC)
Dragon Warrior 7 (PS1)
Dragon Warrior Monsters 2 – Cobi’s Journey (GBC)
Dragon Warrior Monsters 2 – Tara’s Adventure (GBC)
Ephemeral Fantasia (PS2)
Eternal Eyes (PS1)
Fallout Tactics – Brotherhood of Steel (PC)
Golden Sun (GBA)
Hoshigami – Ruining Blue Earth (PS1)
Jade Cocoon 2 (PS2)
Magic & Mayhem – The Art of Magic (PC)
Magi Nation (GBC)
Megaman Battle Network (GBA)
Okage – Shadow King (PS2)
Pokemon Crystal (GBC)
Pools of Radiance – Ruins of Myth Drannor (PC)
Record of Lodoss War – Advent of Cardice (DC)
Wizardry 8 (PC)
Wizardry – Tale of the Forsaken Land (PS2)