When Sega first announced the return of their beloved Phantasy Star series, fans went absolutely crazy. When it was revealed that the game would also be playable online with other people, they became apprehensive. Too frequently, such a shift dramatically alters how a game is played and can quickly sour the experience. Many times, it's very difficult to maintain a quality offline game while also providing an in-depth online game. Phantasy Star Online 1 & 2 has now made its way to the GameCube, and it is a testament to the developers' skills that this game has been unanimously awarded the title for Best GameCube RPG.
The game takes place in a futuristic setting, on the planet Ragol. Having just arrived as a major explosion occurred, it's your job to figure out what happened. Sega made the decision to go light on the story and heavy on the gameplay, which is exactly what this game needed. Making use of the GameCube's networking features, Sega has managed to deliver an entertaining dungeon romp that has a way of really making the player feel like they're a part of the game.
Snowblind Studios took a decidedly different approach when developing a Baldur's Gate game for the console. Instead of forcing the player to use an interface that was more suited to the PC, Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance comes fully equipped with an action RPG interface. The game begins with the simple premise of retrieving items that were stolen from you in the opening sequence, and then expands into an epic story as you find out more about what's bothering the people of Baldur's Gate. Throw a first-rate graphics engine and fluid controls into the mix, and it's easy to see why this game made the list.
Being the first to arrive isn't always a bad thing. Lost Kingdoms made its debut on the GameCube with little fanfare, but a lot to offer. Taking a cue from the pack rat instinct in all of us, Lost Kingdoms blends the traditional RPG with a card collection system to deliver a unique experience. These cards are implemented in battle, where the player has a set of cards they use to defeat his or her enemies. In a year that had many ups and downs, Lost Kingdoms delivers a solid performance.