After 2000 was a year in which developers tried to push RPGs beyond their
conventional borders, 2001 saw a shift towards slightly more traditional
RPGs. While innovation is still a goal of most developers, the best games of
the year ended up being those which borrow from the best, time-tested
elements the genre has to offer, and combined this with stunning leaps in
technical achievement and some innovative elements to form new games with a
slightly older feel to them.
Perhaps the best example of this is Final Fantasy X, both the reader
and staff selection for RPG of the year for 2001. The game innovates in many
ways, adding voice acting, fully 3D environments, an engaging new combat
system, a deeply involving ability system in the Sphere Grid, and the added
novelty of having not one, but three composers providing the score for the
work. On the other hand, there are many of Square's tried-and-true elements
inherent in the game: gameplay that doesn't disappoint, absorbing
mini-games, beautiful graphics, and top-notch sound, combined with a deeply
involving storyline and an endearing cast of characters.
This is truly the mark of a great game from a great series; the ability to
completely change the face of RPGs while at the same time retaining enough
familiar elements to create a sense of attraction. This is the mix that
Final Fantasy X offers, and it more than delivers on its promise.
Everything down to the translation shines, and the game deserves every bit
of praise it has garnered.
Second place sees another of the cornerstones of the RPG world get
recognition from the staff reviewers, as Dragon Warrior VII gets the
nod. Readers also recognized this game's goodness, rating it third overall
behind the much-maligned, but evidently highly-thought-of Final Fantasy
Chronicles. Dragon Warrior VII features more old-school goodness
combined with new innovation, as Enix has gone all out in crafting the
latest gem in their series. With up to one hundred hours of gameplay, a deep
story, and an addictive mini-game, Dragon Warrior VII is a whole lot
of gaming goodness.
The staff selection for third place went to Golden Sun, the first
real RPG to be released for the Game Boy Advance in North America. Featuring
very nice graphics and a well-conceived battle system, Golden Sun is
perfect for those long car rides, and a whole lot of fun wherever you end up
playing it. Featuring some of the best music to show up on the Game Boy
Advance to date, and a decent storyline, it's easy to see why this game made
What's in store for 2002 is anyone's guess, but one thing is for sure. If
the games are half as good as they've been in 2001, RPGamers will have
neither very much to complain about, nor very much spare time.