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The 8 Ball: Top 8 Games of 2003 – Viewtiful Joe, Amplitude, More

November 21, 2017 | Posted by Marc Morrison
viewtiful joe

Welcome all to another edition of the 8 Ball. After an unscheduled break last week, I bought a new PC and didn’t have time to write the column, I’m back again with the continuing series of best games per year. I’ve done about 13 of these columns so far, and 2003 is about the direst year I think I’ve seen. There were good games, sure, but not a lot of real breakout hits. There is one big omission on here and that is Zelda: Wind Waker. I’ve honestly never played it, so I can’t judge its quality. If I had, I’m sure it’d be near the top of my list, but I haven’t, so it’s not. With that said, let’s begin:

#8: Enter the Matrix

I recognize completely that Enter the Matrix has flaws. Its biggest one is trying to tie into the Matrix 2 and 3 movies by focusing on two ancillary characters who barely make a dent in the actual films. Who the hell cares what Jada Pinkett-Smith and the Asian guy were doing when they weren’t in the actual movies? Still, parts of Enter the Matrix were decent, the actual gameplay was alright, and it included a badass debug/hacking mini-game that let you screw around with the actual game, and enable cheats.

#7: Otogi: Myth of Demons

Otogi is the Ninja Gaiden that time forgot. It’s a third person action game where you play a dude running around, killing various mythical creatures to rid the world of evil. It’s pretty standard, all told, but the combat was stylish and fun, and the environments were destructible. There was an annoying timer in levels though, where your magic would continually tick down, and once it was empty, you kind of died, but even that wasn’t enough to make the game bad or anything.

#6: Disgaea: Hour of Darkness

I kind of appreciate Disgaea more for its setting and characters, more than its actual gameplay. The gameplay of Disgaea is a strategy RPG that can get complex very quickly, with positioning, battlefield modifiers, different character classes, etc. It’s a perfectly competent strategy game that can get overwhelming in spots. The reason I dig it though is because of the characters and sense of humor. Laharl and Etna’s relationship is great, with both characters getting their chance to shine, among other memorable character in the game like Flonne and Captain Gordon. The later Disgaea games have more gameplay additions and different characters, but I think the original is still the best.

#5: Amplitude

I still think Amplitude is one of the best rhythm games around. It takes the core of Frequency and adds better music. Featuring the likes of Blink 182, Garbage, Pink and Run-DMC, this game had a much better soundtrack than that of Frequency. It looked better, it played better, and just had a cool vibe to it that most games didn’t have. That Kickstarted Amplitude game made a year or two ago had none of these qualities, that’s why it kind of bombed.

#4: Tony Hawk’s Underground

THUG was probably the last truly great Tony Hawk game. Underground 2 and Project 8 have their good qualities, but THUG was the last one to really have that magic. Part of that is the gameplay, there’s much more of a RPG-like mechanic in this game, from leveling up your skills to creating your own character. Having an actual narrative story helps, it’s not the deepest thing in the world, but it is a good enough plot. Once the turn happens, you really want to beat the hell out of Eric Sparrow and regain your place.

#3: Viewtiful Joe

Viewtiful Joe is a platformer/brawler that is just dripping with style. Considering Hideki Kamiya had a hand in it, that isn’t too surprising. Viewtiful Joe is a platformer where you run around, beating up various enemies in the stages. Your powers let you slow down time, speed it up, zoom in to your character (increasing your damage), and to record your actions for a few seconds, and then replay it, letting you have a copy until it expires. The plot is silly but Joe is a great character who has an outsized personality. Just remember, Henshin a Go-Go Baby!

#2: Freelancer

Freelancer is probably the last actually approachable space game and the last game Chris Roberts worked on that actually managed to come out. It’s in the vein of Wing Commander, but the control scheme really makes sense. You control the ship using WASD to control acceleration and strafing while the mouse is used to actually aim the ship and fire your weapons. Basically, it acts like a first person shooter, only you are controlling a space ship. Alongside that, you can trade resources, hunt down pirates, do side quests, or just complete the main story.

#1: WWE Crush Hour (joke)


#1: Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

The Mass Effect trilogy is some damn good Bioware work, but I think KOTOR is still their best game. I LOVE that this game has nothing to do with Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, the Empire, none of that crap. Almost every Star Wars game seems to either re-tell the movies, or fill in some arcane time period between episode 3 and 4, or somewhere else. This game is literally thousands of years before “current” Star Wars, so they have almost infinite creativity in the story. Alongside that, the gameplay is really great, it’s predicated on dice rolls, but it still feels like you have some direct control in the action. There is also just a lot of ways to play the game, from delving into the jedi powers, to either being melee-focused, or ranged, or focusing on spell (for lack of a better word) casting, or sneaking, etc. The characters are all memorable, with the best one being HK-47, naturally.

For comments, list which games of 2003 you liked and why.

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Top Games of 2004

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The 8 Ball (Games), Marc Morrison