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 RPGamer Awards 2003 2003 Results  
   Overall
   PS2
   Computer
   Online
   GameCube
   GBA
   Xbox

   Graphics
   Story
   Fun Value
   Battle System
   Music
   Gameplay
   Localization

   Letdown

Battles
Best...

Every RPG game in existence today has a battle scheme. From mundane textual action selects that only spawns more text to select from to the elaborate menus and menus after the menus, every game has its own take on the battle system. Through the ages, these battles have even gained depth from the basic to the customizable. Final Fantasy on NES once boasted a battle system of simple equipment and attack menus, but those times have quickly departed. Battles are now about customization, changing, and giving the player the ability to make their own course with their own parties. With such a drastic change in the battle field in just ten years the gamers have plenty to look forward to, possibly even to get excited about.

1st
Disgaea: Hour of Darkness

Topping the staff's list of great battle systems this year is another tactical RPG game that earned its well-deserved acclaim with sarcastic dialogue and unique characterization. Atlus' very own Disgaea: Hour of Darkness uses some of the classic standard for a tactical fighting engine, but this time they included a few additional little nuances that caught the attention of many staff members. Adding a bit more depth to the classic terrain usage, Disgaea uses "Geo Panels" and other assorted symbols which, when used with the right terrain, boosts a character in many ways, such as better attacks, so they're more effective against foes. Also adding a spice to the battle action is the transmigrating system which allowed characters to gain the powers of different classes while in battle, but expect to pay the price by going all the way back to level 1.

  2nd
Final Fantasy X-2

RPGamer staff members know a good battle system when they see it, and this year one of those battle systems comes from Square Enix's Final Fantasy X-2, which scores second in our voting. With fast-paced battles including the ability to change classes as needed, in-depth customization as to which classes are available in-battle and how they are arranged on a Garment Grid, and an intriguing, open-ended class system Final Fantasy X-2 not only raised a few brows, but also managed to make more buzz in a very short period of time than most games get in their entire lifespan. No matter if you love girls with trigger-happy guns, sisters with magically gifted staves, or swinging around a cute plush animal fashioned after previous game's memorable mascots, Final Fantasy X-2 has you covered. There is little reason not to love the battle system in X-2, and RPGamer staff members voted it accordingly.

3rd
Final Fantasy Tactics Advance

While many other more realistic games are in fashion this year, RPGamer staff members seem to agree with readers on a lot: It seems the battle system of Final Fantasy Tactics Advance won many of us over, and it was voted for the bronze slot for its great battle potential. With a new system of carefully observed battle rules, players could not only die permanately on some battlefields, but they could also be penalized or even thrown into jail like the lawbreaking criminals they truly had become. Topping off the battle system for Tactics Advance is a new class system that reserved some classes just to specific races, while leaving many classes open to all races, Tactics Advance manages to strike an appealing balance while offering many choices. With a playful and often fun battle system it is apparent you cannot lose, and RPGamer staff members seem to think so.

  4th
Breath of Fire 5: Dragon Quarter

Coming in fourth place is the start of the disagreements with RPGamer readers and the staff, putting a game that didn't even rank for readers in a top-ranking slot. Breath of Fire V: Dragon Quarter took the classic battle system and built on it in spades. With selectable battles, staff members seemed to be thoroughly enamoured with the idea of being able to actually not run into a battle. When finally, we got bored of running around a monster, Dragon Quarter added in yet another layer: with strategic traps and ways to make battles not only avoided, but making the task of avoiding inventive and fun. However, don't expect battles to be a breeze as Dragon Quarter was designed for replay with a 100% gauge that, if set off, made the player restart the game from their last save point. It became obvious what staff members wanted, and Dragon Quarter gave it - a challenge with some fun thrown in to boot.

5th
Fire Emblem

Rounding out the top battle systems for the year 2003 is yet another game that didn't even register on the radar for RPGamer readers, yet stayed in the mind of its staffers. With a number of tactical RPGs being slammed out this year on multiple platforms, few actually went the distance like the classic series in Japan when it was finally released in North America. That game, of course, is Fire Emblem. Taking tactical fighting to an extreme, Fire Emblem actually is a tactical map warfare game rarely seen as a standalone battle system. Adding some depth to the map-based battles is a complex range of strength-building terrains like a forest that shields you from damage. Finalizing the system is a rock-paper-scissors type of weapon choosing (which can be sneakily reversed with the right equipment), giving each unit multiple weapons to choose from to take advantage of the weakness of the numerous opponents.

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