Top 10 Video Games of 2002

Number 10.  –  Super Mario Sunshine

It felt like forever since we waited for a fallow up to Super Mario 64 and it only took the next jump to Nintendo’s console to finally get it. Gameplay-wise, the majority of Mario’s moves from Mario 64 make a welcome return and operate smoother than ever. The gameplay is also where Nintendo have taken the aforementioned big risk, and that is the introduction of FLUDD (Flash Liquidising Ultra Dousing Device.) Mario takes this watery jet-pack with him wherever he goes, using it to float through the air over any large gaps, rocket himself high into the air and even propelling himself forward at tremendous speed. It’s a risked that paid off, and while some will grumble that it plays differently to Mario 64 because of this addition, it’s huge amounts of fun to play about with FLUDD and explore its control possibilities. Yoshi comes on board this time around too, and aside from floating in the air he can also shoot juice from his mouth after eating certain fruits. Eating different coloured fruit alters the colour of Yoshi’s juice, turning enemies into blocks of varying properties.

Yoshi doesn’t add a great deal to the gameplay, and seems to only be there because people demanded him, though he is a welcome addition nonetheless and seems to fit right at home on Isle Delfino. One annoying aspect is the fact that you’re just about always surrounded by water in most levels: having to ride something that dies every time it touches the stuff tends to get frustrating. Though it’s not exactly the Mario game everyone was thinking of when it came out, much like the Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker wasn’t as expected, it’s still a classic Mario title that’s definitely worth having in your collection if you’re a fan of the ol’ plumber, or platforming games in general. It’s a shame that there couldn’t have been more variety in the levels, but there’s a great deal of fun to be had in this title. Anything else that could set it back isn’t really a deal-breaker.

 

Number 9.  –  Age of Mythology

I remember that Age of Empires is simply my favorite Real-Time Strategy game of all time, and to see that Microsoft Studios was about to make the same game with now mythological gods and creatures from Egyptian, Greek, and other cultures intrigued me. Age of Mythology offers a wide variety of different game styles and options, enough to keep players busy for hours on end. Whether you enjoy playing adventurous campaigns, quick matches, or challenge a friend over the internet or local area network, players can expect many hours of play out of the title. The campaign mode consists of over thirty scenarios, in which you play a character named Arkantos. As the game progresses, Arkantos will meet four different cultures, Egyptians, Greeks, Norse and finally the Atlanteans. As the journey progresses, expect to encounter very unique buildings, landmarks, and mythological characters such as the Trojan Horse and the Medusa. For beginners, the game also contains a simple learning mode introducing players to the basics of the game. This concept adds a whole new dimension to the real-time strategy genre, and adds a touch of perfection to Age of Mythology. Offering both the original and The Titans expansion pack, the replay value is exceptional, one of the few titles that I’ve really been able to thoroughly enjoy. Age of Mythology isn’t any ordinary regular real time strategy title, it offers a whole new concept of units and advancement, with a huge campaign mode and multiplayer for up to eight players over the internet or local area network makes this one finest computer games till Microsoft Games decides to remain busy on their Xbox console.

Number 8.  –  The Elder Scrolls III: Marrowind

I think the best way to describe Morrowind is that it’s really built for you to explore, not for you to complete. The start of the game is great. You arrive in the land of Vvardenfell by ship, a lowly outlander just trying to survive. At this point, you don’t know who you are at all. Soon enough, you’ll have to check in at the Census office and by way of seamlessly interwoven question and answer, pick your race, gender, class and birth sign. You’ll know that things are different here when you consider the whopping 10 races to choose from, each with distinct abilities and attributes. That’s further specialized when you pick a class. Morrowind gets brownie points for including a very clever option that has you answering a list of moral questions in order to determine what class best suits you. Alternately, you can pick your own or mix and match, a daunting task for any but the most hardcore gamer. Every single city is populated with unique characters with unique stories, names and looks.

Though obviously there’s some repetition here, there are enough quests in the game to make every area feel different and important and with so many decisions to make. On the other hand, all this freedom comes at a cost – too many choices. This is a frightening game for gamers who like direction. There will definitely be some of you who will turn the game on, get spit out into the street, wander around for a bit and eventually get bored because the game isn’t creating enough drama for you on its own. Despite the fact that the “dice-roll combat” and hit detection is heavily flawed, this is a true RPG for fans of the high fantasy genre.

Number 7.  –   Grand Theft Auto: Vice City

Grand Theft Auto Vice City rode on the massive (and well-deserved) success of GTAIII with a fresh setting, a more character-driven story and a refined sandbox world that makes it a series favorite even today. Those who want to relive the glory days of the 1980s shouldn’t miss this game out.  A wider variety of weapons and cars (including motorcycles and helicopters) are the icing on a surprisingly deep system of real estate and money laundering. Play through about half the game, and you’ll be able to buy and upgrade property, which will in turn make you money. You can spend this cash on more and better hideouts and better gear. Combined with more collectibles and side missions than you can shake a 12-gauge at, Vice City offers about 30 hours of play time straight through, and at least 70 hours for completionists. Even though there are aspects of the game that have textures that appeals flat out ugly, there are a lot of small problems with Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, most of which have been with the game since its original version. Regardless, this is an excellent sequel to an excellent game and simply shouldn’t be missed by any PS2 owner…with proper ID, that is.

Number 6.  – Sly Cooper and the Thievious Raccoonus 

Since Metal Gear Solid 2, there’s a boom of stealth action games that has came out in 2002. One of them is a brand new 3D platformer that mixes stealth brilliantly by the creators of Rocket: Robot on Wheels, Sucker Punch. The main focus of the gameplay is to platform your way through the levels to collect keys, bottles with clues in them, coins, and lucky horseshoes so you can take an extra hit. As you progress through the levels, you will need to find said keys in little mini-areas within the levels, where you jump from spot to spot to get the key. After you beat each of the five worlds, you get a special move that will help you get from point A to point B more quickly, like sliding on rails, having an invisible cloak, jumping from one small spot to another like a ninja, and you get the idea. Wait, why did I say earlier that you need to get lucky horseshoes so you can take an extra hit? Oh, I will tell you why, because you die in one hit. Some may bitch about this concept, but it just throws me back to the good days of Crash Bandicoot and Metal Gear Solid on the PS1. In fact, this game is a mixture of those two games into one.

This game can be pretty difficult in that regard, since one hit will take you back to the beginning of the small area or of the main level unless you hit a checkpoint. Luckily for you, enemies have simple patterns and can also be destroyed with one hit. Plus what’s also fun are the varied boss fights. Unlike other platformer games out there, this one actually told an engaging story about taking back Sly’s lost family treasure and facing many of these bosses who were responsible for such thievery.  With its wonderful cell-shaded graphics, fun gameplay, it’s no wonder why this game has its fans. Though there are people out there that still overlooks this game, it shouldn’t be anymore because this was a franchise that did all that it could to show that not all stealth action games are for the mature audiences. 

Number 5.  –  Splinter Cell

It’s hard not to be seduced by the game’s visual splendour, which set new standards in almost every area. From the first moment you set eyes on Splinter Cell, it impresses with its intricate level of detail, which is given even more credibility by the most exquisite use of light and shadow we’ve witnessed in a videogame. The animation and range of manoeuvres is handled very deftly too, and the camera rarely acts like the drunken cad that so many third person games trip themselves up with. Add to that some marvellous, delicate touches, such as the way curtains and blinds react to your movement, as well as the night/thermal vision aids, and it add a gloss to an already slick package. Though this game can never replace our love for Metal Gear Solid, at least this title did a lot more things than any other stealth action game before it. You have enemies that are incredibly smart that reacts to light (making dark areas your hiding ground) and the sounds that you make that can alert them or start looking around as long as you’re not seen.

As Sam Fisher, you’re able to climb on bars that are against wall or up in the sealing, and can do so many things to bypass a guard in your way. Plus you get a whole new perspective of seeing in thermal vision or night vision which continues to be a staple of the Splinter Cell franchise. This is a game that’s all based on trail and error, take a lot of patients as stealth is taken more intuitive and cautiously than ever before, and the intensity is just exhilarating for a game that demands a slow pace. This is a game that really does make you feel like a stealth agent with so many varied moves to apply, Splinter Cell sneaks its way to the Top 5!

Number 4.  –  Metroid Fusion

There are those who didn’t think much of next big Metroid title to succeed well in First-person (Metroid Prime), but just incase if it failed, at least there’s one new installment of the series that succeeded with the old formula. 2002 was the year of Metroid and it was fantastic to see this forgotten franchise that missed a whole console generation to gain a bigger audience than ever before. It’s great to see this game taken place after Super Metroid and made the adventure/story more intense with your Varia suit stolen by the haunting “SA-X”.  More so than any other Metroid game before it, Fusion was a very story driven game to the point where even the gameplay was affected by it.

Traditionally Metroid had always been a series about exploration and navigation but Fusion opted to have a computer (Adam) tell players where to go which pissed off some of the more die hard fans of the series. It still allowed players to branch off but there’s no denying that this element was downplayed heavily so the game could tell the story it wanted to tell. So the game guides you where to go, big deal, it’s still a fantastic Metroid game and some of the most fun I’ve ever had on a handheld. There’s still a fair amount of exploration, memorable boss battles, interesting environments and a very atmospheric tone alongside the inclusion of SA-X.  When discussing what the very best games in the series are, Metroid Fusion isn’t likely to get mentioned and may in fact be the victim of some hate thanks to it’s linearity approach but don’t be fooled. Metroid Fusion is every bit as good as Samus’ other 2D offerings and SA-X is an absolute show stealer. Grab a pair of headphones and play this one late at night, you won’t be disappointed.

Number 3.  –  Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem

Remember when I said that in Metal Gear Solid Psycho Mantis’s mind-tricks were the scariest part of the game? Well imagine that concept into an entire game! You got yourself the most creative horror title of all time! This game offers scares that goes far beyond anything that Psycho Mantis can really do (and that’s saying a lot considering how that character fucked me up as a child). It’s such a shame that Nintendo never seemed to be able to shake off its image as a “kiddy” system, despite the fact that one of its first and finest titles was in fact a full-on survival horror title. Eternal Darkness had me hooked immediately and I played it obsessively until I had finished it in all possible ways. Eternal Darkness’s strengths relied on its subtly creepy atmosphere and colorful set of playable characters, all of whom add variety to the gameplay, with their own lives and strifes becoming wrapped up in the over-arching nonlinear storyline. But of course, the absolutely most chilling thing about the game are the sanity effects. As you hack your way through Zombies, Bonethieves and Horrors your character starts losing his or her sanity until the game starts doing all matter of crazy shit. The first time playing, you’re in for some really frightening and shit-disturbing moments, but the more you play the more you learn how to offset the horrendous illusions. Eternal Darkness had fluid and easy-to-master controls (unlike all the games of the genre that uses tank-controls), a brilliant voice-cast, and an excellent soundtrack, all of which contributed to a brilliant gaming experience. It’s easily the best survival horror game I’ve ever played.

Number 2.  –  Ratchet & Clank

Last year’s Jak and Daxter was a technical marvel, and that can’t be doubted one bit. Then another Platformer exclusive came along after 3 years in development, by the same team who developed the spectacular Spyro the Dragon series on the PSOne, Insomniac’s Ratchet and Clank has arrived, and is perhaps the best platform title of the year, and one of the best 3D platformers of the new Millennium. I’m pretty sure that there are a lot of Spyro fans out there that are disappointed that Insomniac Games gave up their old PS1 trilogy and the rest of the games of the series is on the hands of developers that have horrible ideas. But wouldn’t you know! Insomniac Games’s new platformer series happens to be some of the best new series of the 2000s and this game is the beginning of my personal favorite game series of all time! Put it simply, it’s a 3D platformer that has so many explosive weapons that makes it oh so satisfying to blow shit up. Out side of causing so much destruction, there are also like a great number of collectables.  Jak and Daxter was more about exploration, collecting ornaments (among other things), in order to complete the various portions of the game’s unified world. Ratchet and Clank does not make it an absolute necessity for you to collect every nut and bolt (literally) in the game in order to progress further on.

To put it in simple words, R&C is a far cry from a collectathon. To progress in Ratchet and Clank, you will be required to complete objectives in every level you fly into. Each level has a set amount of primary objectives, and of course, secondary objectives. So long as you complete the primary objectives, be it one, two or three of them, you will be allowed to move on. The secondary objectives are exactly that, they can be done later. They can be thought of as side quests, but they’re also quite rewarding, so consider finishing them if you want to totally ace Ratchet and Clank. Even with so many destruction and exploration along the way, Ratchet and Clank shown a lot of heart and comedy whenever you watch the cutscenes that will instantly make you laugh. You’ll instantly buy the charm and wit of the game as it continues to amuse audiences everywhere. You can see the relationship between Clank and Ratchet as they start from acquaintances, to brotherly love dealing with problems with each other, to best friends to the end. Great character development all the way to the end, with a game filled with a nice basic story that have plenty of twists and surprises.

The game boasts gigantic landscapes with extraordinary amounts of detail. The variety of each stage is quite broad, as you’ll explore a lush tropical like area, an area full of toxic waste, a little village, and even a futuristic city with hover cars everywhere you look. R&C is pushing some serious polygonal power, and the character models found in the game make that even more apparent. Ratchet and Clank is a formula that defines success. Despite being a platform title, the game also incorporates and encourages doing one thing, “blowing sh*t up” and it continues to wet my beak for many years to come!

 

Number 1.  –  Metroid Prime

It’s been 8 years since the Metroid series had another game. A lot has changed since Super Metroid; 3D graphics has significantly evolved, first-person shooters became famous, and Nintendo is now rivaling with Sony and Microsoft. Understandably, Metroid needed to evolve with the modern times, but this game could have been a disaster because it was being developed by the unknown Retro Studios who was making the next big game into a FPS.  Many longtime Nintendo fans were just a tad enraged when they learned one of Nintendo’s most beloved franchises had been given to an up-and-coming studio, not to mention the longtime 2d series would not only be going 3d, but also 1st person. Early screenshots and preview builds of the game did nothing to quell those fears. Sensing the game wasn’t shaping up as they’d hoped, Nintendo and Retro started meeting more often. When the game released, it blown everyone away. Not only did the game play well as a 1st person shooter/adventure, Retro took Metroid from 2d to 3d flawlessly.

The series retained its sense of exploration, isolation, platforming, and epic boss battles. Though the controls are unlike any FPS games before and since because it borrows heavily from the Z-targetting from Ocarina of Time. This made targeting enemies much more flexible than ever before.  While Prime has plenty of action, you play as a bounty hunter who is very much alone. This is made completely evident from the moment you investigate the Space Pirate frigate Orpheon. The other locations Samus visits throughout Tallon IV continue to illustrate the isolation and how alone you are. Even so, you’re never bored or left wondering where to go next. From the ice-capped Phendrana Drifts to the underground Magmoor Caverns, you’ll always want to push forward and explore even more of the beautiful planet. There are so many power-ups that are returning to the series various suits, beams, missiles, morph balls, and many more seen from the previous games. There are as well new power-ups that expands the game like different visors, super missiles, being able to change different beams, and many more! Plus, put more collectables on energy tanks and missile expansions in hidden areas and areas that needs specific power-ups makes backtracking fun and the adventure more fulfilling.

And what makes this all worth a damn is facing some of the best boss fights ever seen in 3D. very gamer loves a good boss battle and Prime is chock-full of them. The best boss fights are those when you face seemingly insurmountable odds. A creature far more powerful than yourself, yet you have the ability to outsmart it by exploiting a particular weakness. I will never forget the sense of awe when battling Meta Ridley, Thardus, and even the Parasite Queen in the game’s opening sequence. The music, the sequence of events leading up to it, and the fights themselves are just astounding. The atmosphere and the soundtrack continues to grasp everyone who plays it. This is some of the most impressive accomplishments in the new millennium of gaming.

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