This year's PlayStation 2 RPG of the Year wasn't exactly surprising. Final Fantasy X is, as the staff and reader votes have shown, the best and most advanced RPG for the system this year. Boasting incredible graphics, an intricate plot, as well as an unforgettable cast of characters, Final Fantasy X has just about everything an RPGamer could ask for.
The storyline of Final Fantasy X is very well executed, as is expected of the series. While it follows the usual "character saves world" theme, it does so in a way that you don't actually notice it as much as in other games. A theme of despair and hopelessness is conveyed throughout Spira in subtle and non-subtle ways, which certainly makes the world seem far more realistic than any of its predecessors'.
The stats and abilities system is rather different from prior Final Fantasy games, using an intuitive "Sphere Grid." Essentially, players can customize how strong the characters are, as well as which abilities they learn and in what order. A high amount of customization has always been a welcome factor in any game, and it certainly is a positive factor in the tenth installment of the Final Fantasy series.
Resulting from the unique combination of strong graphics, a powerful story, and original gameplay concepts is Final Fantasy X. An experience to remember, Final Fantasy X is the winner of this year's PS2 RPG of the Year Award.
The readers of RPGamer give Dark Cloud the title of first runner-up. Dark Cloud, while lacking a bit in the plot area, makes up for it in the gameplay department. Borrowing concepts from a variety from games such as SoulBlazer and Legend of Mana, the point of the game is to "rebuild" the world by finding "Atla," which are basically the building blocks. Great attention was paid to the graphics and sound of Dark Cloud, though the music can get tedious at times. While no Final Fantasy X, Dark Cloud is a solid RPG, as the system's first dungeon crawler. The readers' second runner-up is Shadow Hearts. Boasting a very original and developed plot, the game takes place in early 20th century Europe. Another positive point to note is the musical score. Composed by Yoshitaka Hirota with assistance from Yasunori Mitsuda of Xenogears and Chrono Cross fame, the music rivals some of Uematsu's finer work, and it sets the game's mood perfectly.
For the RPGamer staff's awards, the first runner-up is Shadow Hearts. Being the sequel to Koudelka, the game's originality in gameplay as well as storyline makes Shadow Hearts a logical choice for runner-up. The staff's second runner-up for Best PS2 RPG of the Year is Harvest Moon: Save the Homeland. The game, following the Harvest Moon tradition, is designed around the concept of farming, in both the work as well as social sense. As a farmer, you can do many, many things aside harvesting your crops and raising animals. The game's graphics are light and cheerful, and the gameplay is easy to get the hang of, making Harvest Moon: Save the Homeland enjoyable for young as well as mature gamers.