The GameCube saw a great year in 2004, as far as RPGs are concerned. Amidst rumors of Nintendo possibly being bought out by Microsoft, several successful and popular RPGs were released to prove to the world that Nintendo has still got what it takes. These are the three games that RPGamer felt did the best job of delivering that message.
The award for best GameCube RPG of 2004 goes to Namco's Tales of Symphonia. Not only does Tales of Symphonia prove that the GameCube is a big-time contender in the RPG market, but also that the little-known Tales series means just as much business as other better-known series in North America. The first title in the series to sport full 3D graphics, Symphonia handles the graphical upgrade with grace and professionalism -- something that many series have failed at in the past.
The classic real-time battle system that the Tales series is best known for is pulled off as brilliantly in 3D as it was in 2D. It seems that nothing was lost in the conversion. Though a new look might be too much of a departure for other game series to handle, the great soundtrack by virtuoso composer, Motoi Sakuraba, is the glue that keeps everything together. Add to that an engrossing original story set in a mystical world inhabited by distinct and memorable characters, and you've got an air-tight formula for a classic game to be remembered for years to come.
Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door is the RPG that occupies the second-place slot of this round. Though it's only the third RPG to star everyone's favorite Italian plumber, the game breaks into new areas of game play without sacrificing anything. Unique turn-based combat system successfully helps to move the game along, keeping it fresh and fun. With cutesy, colorful graphics and characters as flat as paper, the game made good use of its premise. Despite the simple "princess has been kidnapped" storyline, the game still manages to crawl up and find a cozy little spot in the hearts of the RPGamer staff.
The bronze medal for best GameCube RPG of 2004 goes to none other than Baten Kaitos, yet another Namco title. Sporting crisp graphics, a brilliant soundtrack by Motoi Sakuraba, and a unique card-based battle system, Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and t he Lost Ocean is as much of a surprise as it is fun to play. In a mythical world of islands floating in the sky and winged people, the game is set up for an unforgettable adventure across the clouds. Thus, it is no surprise that the title has been deemed by RPGamer as one of the best GameCube RPGs released in 2004.
by Elliot Guisinger