The EZA Community Top 20 Best of 2003!



  • 0_1660849202188_Pokémon Sapphire.png

    #6: Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire - 12 points

    Votes

    #1: 1 (Shoulderguy)
    #2: 1 (bruno_saurus)
    #3: 0
    #4: 1 (Brannox)
    HM: 1 (DIPSET)

    Information

    Release date: NA: March 19, AU: April 3, EU: July 25
    Developer: Game Freak
    Publisher: Nintendo, The Pokémon Company
    Genre: Role-playing
    Platform(s): Game Boy Advance

    Links

    Trailer
    Wikipedia



  • The last Pokemon anything I cared about before kinda growing up and out of kids cartoons.

    Still unsure whether I just grew up or whether Pokemon pushed me out because I can distinctly say that this is the last time I enjoyed any sort of aesthetic coming out of the Pokemon universe. The art direction was still really solid here. It might've been right around when Pokemon turned into full blown vector art or right before it, but when the pixel art (video game) / hand drawn (anime) aesthetic went away, I was D-O-N-E.

    I'll never forget how badly I wanted a GameBoy Advanced SP. I never really cared about the Advanced cause I thought it looked weird and my friends didn't really have any games that impressed me. But once I saw Ruby, I asked for an Advanced SP for Christmas and got it.

    I remember laying in bed thinking the night before Christmas "GameBoy Advanced SP! GameBoy Advanced SP!" then when I got it the next morning, I yelled "GAMEBOY ADVANCED SP!"

    I was a happy camper.



  • The third generation of Pokemon is the last gen of Pokemon I care anything for. As indicated above, it's 4th in the 11 games from 2003 I've played, in addition to being 83rd of my top 100 list (as of writing). I've discussed how Diamond/Pearl permanently soured me on the IP with the directions the franchise has gone, so in retrospect, it made me really appreciate this gen of the games all the more.

    While I'll always hold the pixel-art of the first two gens in higher regard, I think the art design for the Hoenn region is pretty solid to look at, with many interesting Pokemon designs and typing. Of the three starter choices of the first three gens, for me, this is the most well rounded choice (however, I have my permanent main, more on that at the end). I loved how from the jump, you know your dad is the Gym Leader of the nearby town, but you must train and adventure for a bit before coming back and challenging him. While Team Rocket is always the true villains of Pokemon, I like the dichotomy of Teams Magma and Aqua (even if their MO is pretty stupid). I also think it's a solid idea of having two rivals, with the professor's kid and Wally.

    All that said, once you raid the respective team's hideout, the pacing takes a nosedive, and HARD. Yes, the meme of "Too much Water" is run into the ground and back, but it's a salient point: There's way too much focus on Water Pokemon more than any other type, and having a third of the map (and the last quarter of the adventure) have you surfing and diving endlessly and aimlessly (for first playthroughs) is a massive stain.

    Also, to briefly touch on it even though I never utilize it, I like the concept of the Secret Base, but there's no in-game incentive to make one (though the spot in the furthest North West spot in the world where it's only accessible by surfing AND has trainers AND a small grass patch with a unique catch spot for I think Swellow and another Normal Type (can't remember which) are all neat little additions to make the place a legitimate SECRET.

    However, getting past all of that, this gen has some really interesting side quests, mostly for SEVERAL Legendary Pokemon, from the Dragons and the Regi-s, and of course the story path cover Pokemon. On the point of the Regi-s, having to crack the Braille code, have specific Pokemon using specific moves and in specific spots of your team while you do specific actions all culminate in a reward of not one, not two, but THREE extremely hard to catch but incredibly powerful Pokemon.

    Another neat spot is the Trick Master; Every time you get a Gym Badge, you should return to his house because each visit is a mini-puzzle box with three trainers and most challenges focusing on a particular HM.

    Like all Pokemon entries in these countdowns, I gotta leave my team of choice when I go through them: The three that are permanents, no matter what, are Blaziken, Metagross, and Salamence (I trade in the latter two from a previous playthrough). Then, the final three are Legendries in Kyrogre/Groudon, if possible, one of the two Dragons Latios/Latias, and finally Rayquaza. But, since those Legendries are late game additions, I'll carry Raichu, Skarmory, and Crawdaunt and switch them out once I obtain the appropriate replacement.

    To close, as always, a massive shout-out to all my fellow voters @DIPSET, @bruno_saurus, and @Shoulderguy



  • Ruby and Sapphire are not talked about much when people bring up the best games in the series but I felt like Pokémon Ruby was an improvement over the GBC games in nearly every way. It's impossible for any new game to compete with the original 151 Pokémon. Even so, the 3rd Gen Pokémon sit almost as close to my heart as the first Gen.



  • 0_1660935340089_Tony Hawk's Underground.png

    #5: Tony Hawk's Underground - 12 points

    Votes

    #1: 1 (DIPSET)
    #2: 1 (Oscillator)
    #3: 1 (JDINCINERATOR)
    #4: 0
    HM: 0

    Information

    Release date: NA: October 27, EU: November 21
    Developer: Neversoft
    Publisher: Activision
    Genre: Sports
    Platform(s): Game Boy Advance, GameCube, PlayStation 2, Xbox, Mobile, PC

    Links

    Trailer
    Wikipedia



  • The urban appeal of Tony Hawk's Underground is fantastic and the ways it freshens up series by bringing new features in like getting off your skateboard is bold and welcome. A terrific Tony Hawk's game with an attitudinal bent that fits seamlessly into the year 2003.



  • I'm surprised how few games from my top 8 made the list. Only 1 so far and I didn't vote for Wind Waker.



  • The first Tony Hawk with a story, which really helped liven up the large, semi-open world areas that the series started using in the previous game, THPS 4.

    While I still feel the "Caveman" technique (getting off your board) took away from the arcadey purity of Tony Hawk, it did make the level design more interesting at the same time. Several of the levels are quite memorable (Hawaii is the standout for me), while I can only recall bits and pieces of a few from THPS 4.

    Also the last soundtrack of the series that really flowed well, IMO:

    Youtube Video

    Youtube Video

    Youtube Video



  • Hey! Another game from our first iteration of our Hall of Greats! (And it takes me until right now to realize how we had multiple submissions from the same year). What I said for Prince of Persia applies to THUG, and like Sentinel_Beach, the most exposure I've had was to @DIPSET's presentation, to which I also strongly recommend checking out.



  • 0_1661024420779_Jak II.png

    #4: Jak II - 14 points

    Votes

    #1: 1 (NeoCweeny)
    #2: 1 (Sentinel Beach)
    #3: 1 (bruno_saurus)
    #4: 0
    HM: 2 (bam541, Capnbobamous)

    Information

    Release date: NA: October 14, AU: October 15, EU: October 17
    Developer: Naughty Dog
    Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
    Genre: Platform, third-person shooter, action-adventure
    Platform(s): PlayStation 2

    Links

    Trailer
    Wikipedia



  • I've watched the first Jak & Daxter courtesy of Brad's full playthrough some time back (of which I really enjoyed), but I don't have any other exposure to the series beyond I hear Jak II is "GTA-like" and is often derided. Because I haven't experienced it, I can neither agree or argue this point, but I DO say it is a deterrent from me trying it out.



  • Oh baby, that's a good number. I love the Jak trilogy, it was and still is my favourite ouf of the PS2 era's three trilogies: Jak/Ratchet/Sly. This second game in the series is the hardest of the bunch, goddamn there were difficult missions in there! Like for instance trying to escape the Haven City's guards from the water slums with all the shacks and catwalks etc. That mission is burned into my memory as something diabolical.

    But in a larger sense, this is the game when Naughty Dog started to write good stories and characters. This is when it started. I remember back then when I sometimes just watched all the cutscenes (and there were a lot of them!) from the main menu after finishing the game because it was simply like a really good animated movie.



  • lol I legitimately didn't think it would be this high. Probably my least favorite Jak game, might be on the lower end of Naughty Dog games too for me. The more edgy story tone felt jarring to me mostly because of how sudden it is (I played this right after the first game on the HD remaster). I honestly remember nothing from any of the Jak games' stories so I can't say much more than that. I don't think the open world is as fun to navigate in Jak 3, mostly because Jak 3's exploration felt a bit more active and there's not much to see and do in Jak II's open world. But it's still a cool game to play, mostly to compare it to ND's recent open level attempts.



  • Unbelievably happy that Tony Hawk's Underground made the Top 5!

    THUG is probably P4P my favourite video game of all time. It is also the best Tony Hawk game in my opinion. People talk about "Caveman" being the biggest development in THUG, but really, it was building upon the open world mission structure from THPS4.

    By eliminating the 2 minute timer, the missions got really advanced and varied in THUG. The combo system mastered in THPS3 is utilized to the fullest in THUG because the missions require you to combo huge lines across maps. Overall, the challenges require you to use the tools the game gives you moreso than challenges from past games like "Grind the levers" or "Kickflip 5 pumpkins" or "Find SKATE"

    And the maps are so fucking great too. By far the best in the series with Hawaii, Moscow, Manhattan, and Vancouver being overall top tier.

    --

    This was also just a magical time for skateboarding overall. In 2000-2007, there were so many insane legendary videos out, each pushing boundaries and cementing their status as some of the best skate videos ever made. In 2002-2003 when THUG released, there were a good handful of all time great skate videos: Girl Skateboards — "Yeah Right", Flip — "Sorry", Emerica – "This is Skateboarding", Zero – "Dying to Live"

    In THUG, you actually get to choose a sponsor and ride for these teams. As you play through the game, you unlock footage from these videos.

    There was just so much actual authentic skateboarding packing into one game. It was a magical time in history tbh. Glad I lived through it/



  • 0_1661110698274_Ratchet & Clank Going Commando.png

    #3: Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando - 20 points

    Votes

    #1: 1 (bruno_saurus)
    #2: 2 (Brannox, bam541)
    #3: 2 (Sentinel Beach, NeoCweeny)
    #4: 0
    HM: 1 (Capnbobamous)

    Information

    Release date: NA: November 11, PAL: November 21
    Developer: Insomniac Games
    Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
    Genre: Platformer
    Platform(s): PlayStation 2

    Links

    Trailer
    Wikipedia



  • I should've voted for Going Commando but it slipped my mind. A staggeringly good Ratchet & Clank game.



  • Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando is a great sequel and introduces many aspects to the series that I feel have become staples throughout the franchise: Upgradable weapons/health as you defeat enemies, purchasable armor with increased stats, the Challenge Arenas of fighting waves of foes with unique modifiers and bosses, large and expansive spaces searching for crystals, moonstones, and the like, and further fleshing out the titular duo as characters. This is also when James Arnold Taylor became the voice actor for Ratchet, bringing an immediate improvement over how much of a jerk Ratchet was in the original game.

    Of course the weapons are standouts as an R&C does, like the Bouncer, Plasma Coil, and Pulse Rifle for example, each changing up combat. That said, there were weapons like the Zodiac and Clank Zapper that felt like complete misses, but overall, it's a solid roster. Speaking of roster, the planet selection is interesting as well. Oozla is a fun choice for the first real explorable planet, being a deserted and depressing place with rain, natural creatures and overgrowth. Smolg's upper atmosphere shipping complex is a tricky maze of containers and creatures that feels like an airborne gauntlet. Snivelak, being the Thugs-4-Less HQ is reminiscent of the original's Umbris: A red-sky atop a place filled with traps and forces wanting to take you out.

    The places you go to are fun, but are not AS fascinating as the original's, yet this is the only game that holds the Bogon Galaxy and another lombax in Angela. The fact neither is ever referenced again in the franchise is bizarre to me and I wonder why Insomniac never referenced these in future games. The overall plot does have a neat twist halfway through, but having Qwark be the surprise villain at the literal end when he isn't shown (despite him being in disguise throughout), felt kind of a leap, but it's still a good time.

    Another thing I'll always hold dear is this is the first time the Insomniac Museum was put into an R&C game, and seeing a 3D modeled out space of the Insomniac offices at the time and where departments were with cut content and playable prototypes blew my mind. Every time I do a series replay, it's one of the highest of highlights to come back here and tour around again.

    All this praise said, there are a couple of issues that keep it in my personal ranking of "Good" of the entire franchise (Context: Personal rankings are Phenomenal, Great, Good, Bad, Blight on the Galaxy): Firstly, the space missions. I appreciate the change up to the gameplay, but some of them are extremely hard to get the elusive Platinum Bolt for the respective segment. Another downside is how it treats the legacy weapons. On one of the early planets, you can find a Gadgetron vendor and if you have a save of the previous game on your memory card, you're given eight weapons from said game, free of charge. A really neat feature for sure, but the issue is they don't upgrade like the other weapons and ammo isn't the easiest to come across, so I never feel incentivized to use them. A final nitpick critique I have are these dna looking blue canisters that increase your health are used to reward you for reaching some borderline blood vessel bursting spots. There are a couple that come to mind that are real easy to get/find, but there some put in areas where you need to be pixel perfect with your precision on jumping, gliding, and/or platforming. Frustrating, to say the least.

    Overall though, it's still a fantastic game. Besides being my runner up for GOTY from 2003, it's sixth favorite game of the franchise and 56th favorite game of all time, as of writing (which should say something about how much I love R&C games as a whole).

    To conclude, as always, shout-OUTS to my fellow voters for getting it all the way up to Bronze position on our collective podium: @Capnbobamous, @Sentinel-Beach, @NeoCweeny, @bam541, and @bruno_saurus!



  • All I remember from Going Commando is spending multiple nights playing the game to get the RYNO before the final boss fight, and then completely deleting that boss in seconds with it. One of the very first times where I'm actually compelled to go beyond just finishing the main story of a game.



  • "B2 Brawler is down and out!"
    A really fun game, my first R&C game. The upgradeable weapons system has always been the highlight of the whole series and I was immediately hooked already in this one.



  • I honestly had a lapse of judgement and didn't vote for R&C Going Commando but I probably should've. This was one of the three first PS2 games I ever played. When I got my PS2, it came with: Going Commando, Rise to Honor, and SOCOM II.

    Friends from school were really into R&C but I hadn't played it before. This game really knocked my socks off. I guess I didn't vote for it because I haven't played it in eons so I sort of forget. But I recall it being pretty mind blowing at the time.

    --

    Jak II

    Somehow I never played the Jak & Daxter series. It's pretty much blasphemy at this point because I love every single other Naughty Dog game. I do intend on getting the revamped PS+ at some point in 2022 or 2023 and punching through this series.

    My memory of Jak II is mostly from these ads that would play in the mall. The game seemed kinda edgy and mostly for teenagers. When I was 8 years old playing (mostly) E-rated games, I just assumed Jak was for Teens based on the marketing. Once I got older, I never played them.

    Damn shame.