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It's a great time to be in the gaming industry. The PlayStation 2 just rocked the nation and the Dreamcast is still holding its own in a bull market. With all the RPGs released this year, we've seen the good, the bad, and the ugly. We've seen the launch of SegaNet and a flock of online games in its wake. So, is the fun just getting started? Of course! Think of all the things we have to look forward to in the coming year, including the release of Nintendo's Gamecube and Game Boy Advance, as well as Microsoft's Xbox. How can we not be excited about all the possibilities, all the wonders, and all the experiences we'll have from the RPGs of 2001? Then again how can we look forward without looking back at all the great games that came out this year?

It's come down to this, RPGFan editors have all voted for their top 5 favorite RPGs and a few honorable mentions that also includes non-RPGs. Not only is this to voice our own opinions, but you can also use this as a buyer's guide or a historical reference. Okay, maybe not a historical reference. :). Keep in mind that not all the editors have played all RPGs so don't be surprised if you don't see your favorite RPG on one of our editor's list. It could simply be because he didn't get to play this game yet and as such, couldn't put it on his list.

Also, don't forget to check out the overall RPGFan Top 10 RPGs of 2000.


Eric "Rudo" Farand's Top Picks

1) Skies of Arcadia - This is my pick for best RPG of 2000. Everything about this game spells quality. I can't remember the last time that I was REALLY into an RPG. Over the years, I guess I've kinda lost some of my passion for "playing" RPGs but Skies of Arcadia pulled me back in. The original setting for the game, the great characters, the music, the graphics, the story. This game has it all and it is executed perfectly. Even the translation is top notch. I was disappointed at first when I heard that the Phantasy Star team was making a "new" RPG instead of a new Phantasy Star title but now that I've played it, I'm glad that they did!

2) Grandia II - The sequel to one of my favorite RPG comes in at second place this year. Just like Skies of Arcadia, Grandia II has it all but SOA manages to edge out Grandia II. I can't explain why but there was just something with Skies of Arcadia that got to me. However, Grandia II is definitely a great RPG with probably the best battle engine you can find in an RPG. Add to that, the great graphics, great music, TONS of dialogue and wonderful voice acting and you've got yourself one hell of a quality RPG.

3) Lunar 2: Eternal Blue Complete - This remake of one of my favorite RPG of all time would have easily gotten the number one spot if it hadn't been for that other GameArts masterpiece (Grandia II) and the amazing Skies of Arcadia. The fact that I've already played the game many times on Sega CD and that the game isn't exactly cutting edge anymore puts it lower on the list than it should be. Lunar 2 still remains one of my favorite RPG of all time with great characters, a great storyline, an awesome soundtrack and the best anime cut-scenes you can find in an RPG.

4) Chrono Cross - Personally, I have never been a fan of SquareSoft (actually, mostly Final Fantasy games). There is just something with Square RPGs that always turns me off... probably the over-dramatization, the feeling I get that the developers are trying to FORCE emotions on you instead of letting things flow naturally and the tendency to make RPGs with a darker mood and main characters who are basically assholes who don't give a damn about anything (I'm a fan of the happy adventure light-hearted RPG style of Lunar, Grandia and SOA). However, Chrono Cross is one of the exceptions for me (Xenogears being the only other one I loved). With a good storyline, great graphics, inspiring soundtrack and an innovative magic system, Chrono Cross makes my list at No.4.

5) Legend of Mana - Light-hearted action RPG, gorgeous 2D hand-drawn backgrounds, good music, 'nuff said.

Honorable Mentions
Shenmue
Space Channel 5
NFL2K1
Virtual Tennis
Crazy Taxi

 

Ken "Commodore Wheeler" Chu's Top Picks

1) Grandia II - In a year where an unprecedented number of elite-quality RPGs were released, it takes a truly special game to earn the game-of-the-year distinction. That game is Game Arts' Grandia II. Featuring near-flawless execution, a stunning presentation, memorable and charismatic characters, a storyline of unprecedented emotional complexity and subtlety, and the finest battle system ever conceived in a traditional RPG, Grandia II is perhaps the best of its genre ever released.

2) Skies of Arcadia - In any other year, Skies of Arcadia would have easily captured game-of-the-year accolades, but in 2000, it finishes a very close second. Skies of Arcadia stands out on the strength of its unique sky-based premise, world-class execution, an exciting event-based plot, and those wonderful, wonderful airship battles. The newest game from the creators of Phantasy Star is perhaps the second-best traditional RPG ever released.

3) Tales of Eternia (Import) - Tales of Eternia turns out to be a bit of a surprise pick, because while I liked its predecessors, Tales of Phantasia and Tales of Destiny, neither of them appealed to me enough for me to consider them elite RPGs. The final game in the Tales series, however, clearly is. With one of the most humorous and charming storylines seen recently in an RPG, beautiful 2D visuals, and surprisingly smooth execution, Tales of Eternia is another RPG that truly stands out, and it's another one that could have taken best game accolades in another year.

4) Chrono Cross - The long-awaited sequel to Square's previous crowning achievement finally hit US shores, and aside from some annoying character name changes, it made it over from Japan intact. Featuring a revolutionary new battle system, a haunting Yasunori Mitsuda-composed soundtrack, and an exciting event-based plot, Chrono Cross is undoubtedly Square's finest Playstation achievement yet.

5) Persona 2: Eternal Punishment - Straying from the well worn fantasy-setting path of most traditional RPGs, Eternal Punishment impresses not only with its unique modern-day setting, but with extremely smooth execution that leaves its US predecessor in the dust. Add in a driving dance-influenced soundtrack, some excellent voice acting (including the only decent English battle cries I've ever heard in a US-released RPG other than the first Persona), and some refreshing non-combative enemy interaction, and you've got a game that truly can't be missed.

Honorable Mentions
Valkyrie Profile
Lunar 2: Eternal Blue Complete
Final Fantasy IX

 

Steve "Stahnmahn" Robinson's Top Picks

1) Skies of Arcadia - Sega and Overworks put the epic feel back into RPGs with a vast overworld to explore by airship, a colorful cast of characters, a compelling story, and a fun battle engine. This is shining example of what a "next generation" RPG should look, sound, and play like.

2) Final Fantasy IX - This Final Fantasy hasn't broken any new ground, but rather brought the traditional RPG experience to near perfection. I greatly admire innovation, but I also appreciate a beautiful story told through some of the finest graphics on PlayStation and clearly the most impressive CG videos ever presented in a videogame.

3) Grandia II - I never was all that impressed with the original Grandia, but I always saw great potential in the series. Now, I know what that potential could bring with the power of Dreamcast. The colorfully detailed graphics provide the best visual experience in any RPG thus far. Aside from graphical excellence, the impressive fluidity and functionality of the battle engine makes fighting fun! Due to this title making it out so late in the year, I cannot comment much on long-term story elements. But so far, the translation is excellent, the voice acting is commendable, and I look forward to playing all the way through.

4) Valkyrie Profile - This tri-Ace gem brought more innovation to the RPG genre than I ever thought possible. The battle system itself is so refreshingly different, that it never lost my interest through the duration of the game. Its side-scrolling exploration and interesting story premise add to the enjoyment even more.

5) Lunar 2: Eternal Blue Complete - While dated in some graphics and gameplay elements, few games can match its ability to present an epic, yet light-hearted story with so much emotion. The careful use of anime cinemas and voice acting augment the experience even further. Working Designs also deserves credit for removing obnoxious bugs like the music slowdown and recompressing the movies. These things and more actually make the American localization the superior version of the game.

Honorable Mentions
Wild ARMs 2
Kessen
Legend of Mana
Chrono Cross

 

Jason "Parn" Walton's Top Picks

1) Skies of Arcadia - As I said in my review, easily the best RPG I've ever played in my life. The presentation of the entire story with the graphics, sound, music, gameplay, and text itself is near flawless. A game that has much to offer, you'll spend between 40-60 hours depending on your gaming style. Lots of dialogue, a cast of cheerful, optimistic heroes, and some of the most impressive real-time graphic events on a console system, taking place in huge environments, Skies of Arcadia is a shining example of how to take advantage of a system's abilities.

2) Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn - A long time follower of the AD&D games, Baldur's Gate II is definitely one of the best RPGs to come out on the PC, staying almost perfectly in line with the mixture of the 2nd and 3rd Edition AD&D rules. You even have the ability to modify the difficulty to not follow the core rules, and there is a ton of dialogue, and lots of side quests to keep you occupied. There are even high level spells that I haven't used since AD&D: The Dark Queen of Krynn, one of the old Dragonlance PC games from back in the early 90s, which take advantage of 3D graphics acceleration if your video card supports it. The collector's edition has some good stuff for only $10 more too. Remarkable game.

3) Grandia II - The sequel to a game that took full of advantage of the power in Sega and Sony's 32-bit systems, Grandia II uses the same game engine, and delivers even more. Graphical presentation is almost unmatched, the voice acting is good, and the music is easily my favorite score of all time. Though the story is hardly an original concept, the characters within are lovable, and make the gaming experience enjoyable. Even after hiring professional voice actors, Ubi Soft took the initiative of adding in a bonus music CD and a FULL COLOR manual, and released it at the standard Dreamcast game price! Two thumbs up from me, Ubi Soft.

Honorable Mentions
None

 

Michael "The Chronologist" Salbato's Top Picks

1) Chrono Cross - As I played the game I waited so long for, I felt it to be the best RPG I had ever played. Looking back, I realize it wasn't better than its predecessor, but with its stunning graphics and soundtrack, and fun battle system, along with the immense variety of 45 characters, Chrono Cross is definitely near the top for me, and easily number 1 for 2000.

2) Final Fantasy IX - With all the old-school references, and medieval themes, FFIX harkened back to the good old days of Final Fantasy. Though unfortunately it doesn't surpass the sixth and seventh games in the series for me, FFIX is, dare I say, a masterpiece, surpassed only by Chrono Cross.

3) Grandia II - When Grandia II was first announced and shown years ago, it instantly became my most wanted Dreamcast RPG. It vanished for awhile, then came back looking better than ever. And after having finally gotten the chance to play it, it lived up to my expectations. If this is the next-generation of RPG, I can't wait to see what's next.

4) Lunar 2: Eternal Blue Complete - Lunar 2 barely made it out in time for this special, and I'm glad it did. One of my favorite things about Lunar SSS was how likable the characters were. By the end of the game, you felt as if you really knew them, which is something we see less and less in RPGs these days. Lunar 2 carries on that same tradition, and even though some may not be fond of the... at time inappropriate humor, the excellent translation overall easily makes up for that. And that pendant the game comes with is just too cool.

5) Skies of Arcadia - Though I never had a chance to play the Phantasy Star games, I am well aware of their following, which of course has its reasons. When I read the PS team was developing a Dreamcast RPG, I instantly become interested. And as I expected, the team delivered a solid game with fantastic music, awe-inspiring visuals, and great gameplay. This one may be hard to top...

Honorable Mentions
Banjo-Tooie
Chrono Cross: Millennium Collection
Mega Man Legends
Rockman X5
The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask

 

Nicole "Sumire Kanzaki" Kirk's Top Picks

1) Persona 2: Eternal Punishment - Following up to Innocent Sin, this game deserves number one for breaking the RPG mold. Eternal Punishment's modern story of demons among us matches its slick, stylish visuals perfectly. Add to this an ecstasy-inducing techno soundtrack and an innovative combat system, Eternal Punishment is, sadly, one of the most overlooked RPGs this season. Forget Final Fantasy IX, Breath of Fire IV, and Lunar 2: Persona 2 is true RPG enjoyment.

2) Sakura Taisen \ Sakura Taisen 2 (Re-releases) - My favorite series gets all spiffed up for its debut on the Dreamcast, in anticipation of the third installment, due out this spring. Have you got yours pre-ordered?

3) Valkyrie Profile - Yet another innovative RPG, Valkyrie Profile platform action with traditional turn-based battles, with an interesting Norse mythology premise to boot. Gameplay is great, though VP lacks a strong, epic story. Sequel perhaps?

4) Final Fantasy IX - Although, at least in this editor's opinion, the Final Fantasy series took a dive in the story department during its reign on the PlayStation, Final Fantasy IX at least tries to console some of us old school FF fans. While it doesn't quite succeed, Final Fantasy IX does provide an enjoyable story, while it lasts, and fun gameplay...except for Chocobo Hot & Cold, which is the most damnably frustrating thing ever.

5) Dragon Quest VII - Just because the damn thing finally came out after five years of development. Hopefully it won't take Enix that long to publish it here.

Honorable Mentions
Skies of Arcadia
Grandia II
Breath of Fire IV

 

Damian "Sensei Phoenix" Thomas's Top Picks

1) Chrono Cross - Definitely the best RPG I've played all year, redeming Square, and most of the other RPG companies, from their year of great sadness (1999). The graphics are incredible for the PlayStation, most of the tracks are instant classics, the storyline links directly to Chrono Trigger, and blows most other RPGs out of the water, there are tons of characters to play as and multiple endings! If the magic system had been a bit better I would have to consider Chrono Cross the best RPG of all time, but it's definitely my number one game of 2000.

2) Skies of Arcadia - The first decent RPG on Dreamcast in my oppinion. A beautiful musical score, interesting plot, great characters, and in game graphics that make you ask "what cutscenes?" combine to make this one of the finest RPG experiences of 2000. Now if only I could get my VMU to work outside of my controller.

3) Deus Ex - Mix a first person shooter and an RPG and you get Deus Ex, one of the most enjoyable PC RPGs ever. Great graphics and sound, mixed with super level design and an interesting plot make this one number three for me... that and the burning NSF guys (I LOVE that).

4) Final Fantasy IX - A return to an enjoyable "system" and medieval theme, GREAT CG movies and character development. Though hampered by a less than stellar soundtrack and seriously bland plot, the game pulled through with great gameplay. A good end to the series on PlayStation.

5) Wild ARMs 2 - Solid gameplay, nice graphics, and good music combined to overshadow the shoddy translation of the story to make this the number 5 RPG of the year for me.

Honorable Mentions
Dink Smallwood
RPG Maker
Legend of Mana
Resident Evil Code: Veronica
Marvel vs. Capcom 2

 

Michael "The ArchAngel" Hanley's Top Picks

1) Final Fantasy IX - A truly amazing experience, I don't quite know what else to say. I felt the emotions of every character, especially Vivi's emotions in his quest to find out his background and why he's different from the other black mages. The game features several cinemas that amplify the experience and add to the game's light-hearted aura. An unlikely hero, an amazing storyline, and a blooming romance ensure a gaming experience you won't soon forget.

2) Vanguard Bandits - Working Designs did a fantastic job with the localization of Vanguard Bandits. The game's intense battle system is used throughout 56 missions. The storyline consists of three branches; follow the Imperial cause, fight against the Empire, or conquer the world. It all depends on what you feel like doing with Ultragunner, the world's most feared fighting machine.

3) Lunar 2: Eternal Blue Complete - If you rated a game on packaging, Lunar 2 would win. With tons of extras in the packaging, the $70 price tag shouldn't be too much for any fan of the series. Humorous content aside, the game builds unique characters and takes the protagonist through a wide range of emotions to the incredible climax of the story. Lunar 2 is a must buy, even if you didn't play the first Lunar.

4) SaGa Frontier 2 - Everything else aside, the watercolor artwork is fabulous. The story takes you from the birth of a child, the ascension of his empire, and the chaotic fall of a kingdom. Viewing the story from several perspectives, you can select different events during the past to change the components of your party 500 years in the future. This game will immerse you in the history of the Knight's family and leave you begging for more.

5) Diablo II - I've been a fan of Action/RPGs since the first Diablo, but never have I fallen so deeply into an Action/RPG's plot. Your quest is to hunt down the Lord of Terror himself, Diablo. To do so, you must travel through dungeons, deserts, marshes, forests, tombs, and pyramids to keep the forces of Hell at bay. With it's online features and versatile selection of weapons and items, Diablo II has a great replay value and will certainly make you a fan of multiplayer gaming.

Honorable Mentions
Rainbow Six: Covert Ops
NFL2k1
Pokemon Gold/Silver

 

WooJin Lee's Top Picks

1) Grandia II - I've always been a big fan of Game Arts ever since I got hooked by the Lunar series, so it was with great pleasure when I found their newest game to be...kick ass :) Seriously, 2000 saw the release of MANY great games, that I had a really hard time making up this list, but Grandia stands out in my mind the most, with a great story, art, music, characters, and a fun battle engine to boot! From what I hear, the domestic version of the game is solid as well. If you don't have a DC yet, you now have a reason to get one. Get a copy...now :P

2) Super Robot Wars Alpha - Ok, if you know me, you knew that this game would turn up here somewhere...and here it is. It's been so long since Banpresto made a major overhaul to the game engine of the SRW series after the dismal failure of Neo SRW, but they got it right this time. You finally get a good story, full 16-bit color, and A LOT more animation than the last games. The scenarios are challenging and with the multiple story paths, you're looking at about 100 hours of actual game play. Any Anime mecha fan is sure to eat this game up, esp. with the inclusion of both Macross and Evangelion.

3) Valkyrie Profile - I missed the chance to play this game on time to mention for last year's awards, but it really is too good of a game to ignore. It has a gameplay system that plays out quite differently from most RPGs, and the storyline itself is structured quite differently as well. With that and three possible endings, you're in for an experience quite different from the standard fare...

4) Final Fantasy IX - I admit it. FF VIII was a major let down. It had strong production values(probably a no-brainer when it comes to Square nowadays), but it felt like a game where only 2 characters existed and everyone else was just there for the ride. FF IX is nod back to FF's roots while still keeping a firm grip on the present. The magic/skills system is nowhere near the hassle it was back in FF VIII, and the characters actually quite likable. Anyone who got disenchanted with Square RPGs should give them another shot with this excellent RPG.

5) Tales of Eternia - Yet another close call inclusion game (ToE came out early december), but I got hooked the moment I got the chance to play it. MUCH better than Tales of Destiny, ToE incorporates a lot of voice acting and animation to help the story along. The Tales series has always been about "Feeling the existance of your follow adventurers", and with the various dialogues that people have during the game, you really get to feel that they are more than people you can fight with. The Linear Battle System is back to its 2D goodness, and the storyline has a nostalgic feel to it. Since it doesn't look like this game will ever hit state-side, import bluffs should eat this game up.

Honorable Mentions
Mobile Suit Gundam:Giren's Ambition ~Blood of Zeon~
Lunar 2: Eternal Blue Complete
Dues Ex
Kanon
Dragon Quest VII

 

Patrick "Ramza" Gann's Top Picks

1) Final Fantasy IX - I have played very little of this game, actually, but it already makes #1 by "returning" to previous FFs by way of music, game setup (4 characters in battle!), and overall environment. Amen to this one.

2) Shenmue - This is the only Dreamcast game I've played more than one hour of, and even though it isn't traditional, it is VERY VERY Addictive! I could play this game non-stop! And after you've beaten it, there is enough want to play it again to find all those little things to say that there is replay value in this game!

3) Chrono Cross - I haven't even finished this one, but I know the storyline to it and how it ends and WOW, that is some neat stuff! The many characters make it a great game too!

4) Vagrant Story - A very addictive game, with good storyline. The only problem is that when there isn't much storyline going on, the wandering through dungeons can become boring. Still, a great game with 1000 weapons/armor/items that can be created by combining others in workshops is what this world needs.

5) Wild ARMs 2 - This sequel was very different from the first in many ways, but I enjoyed it at least as much as the first one. Plus, the soundtrack was awesome. Would've made it higher, but Sony decided to take the Japanese vocals out of the anime cutscenes and use a trumpet solo instead (BOO!).

Honorable Mentions
Legend of Mana
Breath of Fire IV
Skies of Arcadia
Grandia II

 

Ryan "Shiguma" Mattich's Top Picks

1) Valkyrie Profile - Created by none other than the wizards at Enix and Tri-Ace, also known for their production of Star Ocean: The Second Story, Valkyrie Profile is truly an amazing Action-RPG of epic proportions. It blends an incredibly engaging battle system, non-linear gameplay, multiple paths, three endings, variable difficulty levels, and a poignant, touching storyline based on Norse mythology in one fantastic package worthy of the gods themselves. Toss in a brilliant soundtrack composed by musical genius Motoi Sakuraba and you have my number one vote for the best game of 2000.

2) Lunar 2: Eternal Blue Complete - Although released late in the year, Lunar 2: Eternal Blue Complete has finally arrived. Working Designs did a remarkable job assembling a package filled with extras that was truly worth the wait. Set on the Silver Star, only 1000 years after the quest of Dragonmaster Alex, Hiro and his entourage embark on a grand adventure that is just as memorable as its predecessor. With a strong, character-driven storyline, Lunar 2's position as a must-play RPG of the year is well earned.

3) Final Fantasy IX - Final Fantasy VII and VIII were criticized by many fans of the series for their departure from the beloved and traditional swords and sorcery fantasy setting that had previously been known as one of the series' trademarks. Final Fantasy IX returns to these original roots of the series, however, and brings the PlayStation installments of the series to a close with style. Zidane and his friends are key players in this deeply emotional tale of love, courage, and the fate of a world.

4) Chrono Cross - For many years, fans of the original Chrono Trigger had yearned for a continuation to what is widely regarded as being one of Square's finest games. As Chrono Cross emerged, thousands of speculative fanfics were silenced and RPG gamers everywhere rejoiced at the appearance of this popular sequel. Inspired by the Japanese text game Radical Dreamers, Chrono Cross features an innovative battle system through the management of elements, the ability to forge equipment, and a solid storyline that has strong ties to the original game itself.

5) Legend of Mana - Square's fourth installment in the popular Seiken Densetsu series was welcomed warmly by fans of the original Secret of Mana. Its non-linear Landmake System allowed the player to actually create the world around them by the placement of magic artifacts on the world map. Featuring classic action-oriented gameplay that two players could engage in cooperatively, Legend of Mana was quite a fun and enjoyable RPG.

Honorable Mentions
RPG Maker
The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask

 

Alan "TSG" Knight's Top Picks

1) Final Fantasy IX - Well. After hearing the very sudden announcement and most optimistic release date ever, I seriously expected this game to be a turkey, a fast cash in, but boy was I proved wrong. Enthralling with possibly the cleanest FF system, the story of Zidane and Garnet and Vivi and co held me to the very end. Excellent, and quite a surprise.

2) Baldur's Gate 2 - Despite using an engine used three times before with no major improvements, BG2 destroys any of the other three games with it's plot and it's atmosphere, as Irenicus submits your character to horror after horror. Excellent game, easily the best PC RPG out there right now.

3) Deus Ex - Wow. Never before have I nearly had a heart attack while playing a game, but Deus Ex combined the creepy, dangerous feel of MGS and the style of the Quake games. Together with RPG elements, these provide a surprisingly rich storyline for a first-person shooter and a feeling of danger throughout the game.

4) Valkyrie Profile - This game stands out in terms of originality, with both a plotline and an innovative battle system never before seen. One of the only things that could improve this game would be a more coherent plot as opposed to many fragmented character stories.

5) Wild Arms 2: Second Ignition - Though far too easy, the faintly cutesy character style and the new and improved Force system won me over, while the antics of ARMS as they wander over the planet are frequently emotion-provoking.

Honorable Mentions
Marvel vs. Capcom 2
Incredible Crisis
Dead or Alive 2: Hardcore
Timesplitters
Shenmue

 

Cameron "Tortolia" Hamm's Top Picks

1) Deus Ex - It's everything I expected, and more. It's balanced well, it's incredibly fun, there's wonderful replay value, it's got one of the coolest plots I've ever experienced...it has it all. The only knock against the game is the extreme system requirements - but it's all worthwhile.

2) Chrono Cross - I never expected a follow up to Chrono Trigger to be so good - and I've been proven pleasantly wrong yet again by Square. A complex and rewarding plot, wonderful graphics, one of the best soundtracks in ages, and an innovative battle system make this arguably one of Square's best games ever.

3) Baldur's Gate 2 - The best use of the Infinity Engine yet, Baldur's Gate 2 is challenging, has a great plot, memorable characters, hundreds of quests, and is overall a terrific romp through the Forgotten Realms. Well worth it to any fans of PC RPGs.

4) Skies of Arcadia - I barely got into Skies of Arcadia before 2000 ended, having only recieved my Dreamcast days before. I'm not done with the game yet, having logged about a dozen hours, but I'm having a blast. It's got great graphics, fun characters, a variety of interesting battles, and a plot that lets you enjoy yourself as you go. Definately a reason to be interested in Sega's machine..

5) Diablo 2 - Yes, it's repetitive. Yes, it's buggy. Yes, it's unbalanced. It's also the game that devoured my entire summer. Play it, but be prepared to be sucked into the most addictive game in years.

Honorable Mentions
None

 

Eric "Citan Uzuki" Malenfant's Top Picks

1) Grandia II - With all around greatness, Grandia II blows away all other RPGs this year. Containing an awesome cast of characters, an interesting storyline, and great graphics, Grandia II just hooks you right from the start. Never in an RPG have I ever been so "involved" and interested in playing.

2) Skies of Arcadia - Great RPG by Sega which was one of my two reasons for getting a Dreamcast this year (the other being Grandia II)! With an interesting story, great graphics, and gameplay that will knock your socks off, Skies of Arcadia is just about even with Grandia II, only the fact that I haven't finished it yet keeps it from either being tied, or stealing the number one spot from Grandia II.

3) Lunar 2: Eternal Blue Complete - A great game improved with an excellent translation, and cool goodies! Lunar 2 is shaping up to be on my list of all time top RPGs (next to SoA and Grandia II and Xengears). This year just blew me away with excellent RPGs.

4) Breath of Fire IV - An EXCELLENT addition to a mediocore series, Breath of Fire IV improves from Capcom's previous mistakes and makes an interesting and introducing RPG. The visualizations in the game pulled me in and the gameplay just kept me going. If you hated the third then you'll love the fourth!

5) Persona 2: Eternal Punishment - An RPG I don't even own yet, but from the looks of it, it'll be an excellent game. I can't wait to play it!

Honorable Mentions
Final Fantasy IX
Valkyrie Profile
Chrono Cross

 

Andrew "Dancin' Homer" DeMario's Top Picks

1) The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask - That's right. I'm giving an N64 game the #1 position. Anybody have a problem with that? I thought not.

2) Diablo 2 - Alright, so the plot wasn't grade-A material. Big deal. Show me another game that lets you turn an enemy's body into a totem pole while hacking whole armies to pieces at the same time and then we'll talk.

3) Vagrant Story - Not only did this game contain an extraordinary plot and an interesting battle system, but it also had some of the most interesting
language in it since we first set our eyes on Final Fantasy 7. If only Ashley would change his name...

4) Chrono Cross - In my opinion, the first game was far better, but CC really stood out in the crowd this year. While I didn't appreciate the pathetic difficulty level, I just couldn't get over the huge army of characters you recieved. Throw in a little more development for them and I might just give this the #2 spot.

5) Parasite Eve 2 - Although the game clearly had a few bugs in it, PE2 was one of the few games this year that I was really interested in. Also, it's hard to find more freaks in a Square game anywhere else.

Honorable Mentions
Tenchu 2
Crazy Taxi
Legend of Mana

 

Brian "The Catalyst" Cavner's Top Picks

1) Chrono Cross - It's rare to find a game that has mastery of every aspect of the game all wrapped up in a clean, polished shell. Chrono Cross was all this and more, which in my opinion earns it so much more than just #1. Not only do I find it to be the best game of the year, but I believe it may even be the best RPG I've every played. Having an innovative battle system that kept me much more entertained than simply pressing "attack" every time, and an element system that was a welcome relief to the traditional magic system, Chrono Cross seemed to have it all. It was a great game that was able to take every aspect of older RPGs that I loved and mix them in with creative and well thought-out new features. Way to go Square!

2) Skies of Arcadia - In a close second, Skies of Arcadia seemed to have a grasp over each aspect of what makes an RPG truly great. I felt a close relation to each of the characters and felt each emotion they endured. The music was quite pleasing, and left me begging for the soundtrack. The graphics were well designed, and the story really pulled me in. If you enjoyed the Phantasy Star series as much as I did, this game is for you.

3) Lunar 2: Eternal Blue Complete - It's easy for a remake to fall short of other games due to it's 8 or 16-bit graphics and below par music, but Lunar 2 certainly avoided this. While it's not as remarkable as it was in it's time, Eternal Blue easily makes my list at number 3. The other aspects don't seem to matter when you're dealing with a game that has simple, clean fun. Lunar captured this essence of fun so perfectly that it quickly became one of my favorite games of the year.

4) Baldur's Gate 2 - Baldur's Gate is easily the best PC RPG I've ever played. I'm a big fan of the non-linear story where you can wander around and live life as you actually would. At least it would be a life you'd lead assuming you were a sword swinging, magic brandishing, monster zapping kinda guy. While not quite as good as some of the console games I've played this year, Baldur's Gate 2 certainly earns it's spot at number 4.

5) Grandia II - Great battle engine, a load of dialogue, and superb voice acting, not to mention the quality graphics and music, Grandia II is one of my favorite RPGs this year. This is one great RPG and holds a number 5 spot.

Honorable Mentions
None

 

Chris "Zone Pharaoh" Reed's Top Picks

1) Grandia II - I love all the new characters, I love the graphical innovation in battles, I love the clarity of the visuals that Game Arts have produced. I love the songs that are central to the game's warmth and cinematic charm. I love the return of the battle system that mixes the virtues of both realtime action and turn-based strategy. I love the dungeon designs, and the cool CG, and the soundtrack... The first Grandia was a little better in some ways though.

2) Skies of Arcadia - Much of this game reminds me of the superb Panzer Dragoon Saga. Probably no coincidence, as both games use a combination of exploring on foot and in the sky, as well as both being ambitious in-house Sega titles. The cinematics are realtime but are extremely impressive too. My mind isn't made up about certain elements like the story and battle system just yet, due to not being very far into the game. It'll be my most played title over the Christmas holiday though!

3) 3D Adventure Construction Dreamstudio - Make your own cute, medieval fantasy RPG to whatever levels of excellence you desire! Or perhaps not, as the whole thing has to be saved onto a Visual Memory. This is a very polished product, with a huge range of people, monsters, buildings, trees, and other props that can be thrown into a detailed 3D landscape. The music available to use is quite good too! Although the pre-made game is very inventive and funny, the opportunity to make a personal RPG featuring even more surreal scenarios is open to the player!

4) Chrono Cross - Much has been said about this title already. My perspective on this game is - it's just so pretty! Great music and really solid gameplay too. Despite the classic status of the SNES prequel I prefer this, especially in terms of the character designs. I know Square are making a movie in Final Fantasy's name already, but can't they do something with Chrono Cross, like an OVA CG series?

5) Lunar 2: Eternal Blue Complete - This could be considered an exercise in retro gaming. All the same, the characters, well handled plot twists and music are exceptional even now. To see the characters and other design elements in fluid motion with help from digital animation specialist Gonzo makes this a very special title.

Honorable Mentions
Shenmue

 

Feena's Top Picks

1) Final Fantasy IX - Though it did not become my favorite Final Fantasy, FFIX was a really good surprise, and the first PlayStation FF that I really loved. A game that managed to combine the series' early fantasy elements and endearing characters, with the PlayStation's technical achievements. The praise the game's getting is justified, if you ask me.

2) Grandia II - Of course, the sequel to one of my favorite games had to be on this list. While Grandia II conveys a rather different atmosphere from the original, it certainly lives up to the reputation of the series. We want a Grandia III!

3) Sakura Taisen \ Sakura Taisen 2 (Re-releases) - When one my all-time favorite series is remade for the Dreamcast, you can bet I'm not going to miss it. Even if the enhancements are minor, the games still feel as good as they did on the Saturn, and they're definitely worth any Import DC owner's money.

4) Valkyrie Profile - Although I have not actually played the domestic version, I had to list VP somewhere. Its excellent graphics, amazing music, and deep story made it one of the most interesting games released this year in North America. Don't miss this one!

5) Chrono Cross - Great story, great characters, great graphics. What more do you need to make an excellent RPG?

Honorable Mentions
Dance Dance Revolution Best Hits
Dream Audition
Chu Chu Rocket
Mercurius Pretty
Samba De Amigo


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