The Gameboy Advance is a wonderful system, near and dear to the hearts of many gamers, that is known for two main things. The first is, obviously, its portability, while the second is all the ports and remakes that come out for the system. This year, it is the remakes that dominate the staffís top picks for the system.
Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn of Souls comes out on top of the heap. A two for one package, Dawn of Souls gives us the original Final Fantasy as well as the first sequel, which wasnít released in the US until just a year or two ago, on the PlayStation. As if the two-for-one deal wasn't good enough these remakes not only boast improved graphics, but also new playable material to expand the play value of the game.
What distinguishes this game from the rest to make it the best of 2004, is simply that it is a classic and fun gaming experience. Final Fantasy offers a step back to a simpler time, when 4 options in battle were enough and all the motivation your heroes needed was to save the world. Final Fantasy II offers a unique experience system that is refreshing to play, different then what came before the game and even most of what came after it.
Coming in second is a remake of a classic game that comes from an unexpected source. Resurrected from the ashes of the Sega Genesis comes a brilliant gem of an RPG -- Shining Force: Resurrection of the Dark Dragon. Shining Force utilizes a battle system very much akin to last yearís top GBA title, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, with an in-depth tactical battle system. The battle system is loads of fun, and really makes the game shine. With a straightforward story and graphics that stay true to the feel of the original, itís just an irresistible game thatís fun to play and made all the better with its new portability.
Rounding out the GBA top three is a real walk down memory lane with one of the most unlikely candidates for RPG fame, and that is River City Ransom EX. An oddball RPG for its day, River City Ransom has a story like no other game, in which a young teenage boy is on a mission to save his girlfriend from a rival high school gang. Ok, so itís not the most awe-inspiring story, but it is a breath of fresh air from the save the world story that dominates so many RPGs. Also setting it apart is the very action-oriented feel the game has to it, using a side-scrolling perspective with very simple actions (hit, pick up a weapon... hit them with said weapon). No matter how you look at it, River City Ransom EX is a fantastic take on an old classic.
by Matthew Foster