[ Writer ] = BAD
[ 11/07/02 ] = 2001 Top Ten

Going through some unused material for the site, I came across some old articles, and among them this article on my top ten games of 2001. We have entered already the year of 2003, but it is never too late to look back on the wonderful titles of 2001! Here are my favorite games of 2001, which consist of titles polar opposite to that of casual gamer publications that rot on the shelves of our favorite retailers (this excludes Tips & Tricks). Warning; there are no RPGs or sports games on this list. For those who would like to see the top fighters and shooters of 2001, read on!

[ 1 ] = Super Street Fighter II Turbo Revival
SSFIITR was not only the best fighting game of 2001, but also the best game of 2001. Capcom's first game on the GBA hardware, SSFIITR shot to the top the day I played it, just as every Street Fighter title does. It's a Street Fighter title, what more do I have to say? With loads of new stages, illustrations, hidden fighters, visual effects, endings, and modes of play, this is a fighter no fan can afford to miss out on. Play it.

[ 2 ] = Mars Matrix Elite
First, Takumi and Capcom floored me with the amazing Mars Matrix on the CPS-II, and Mars Matrix Elite on the DreamCast sold me instantly. In addition to carrying over the same stellar ship designs, brilliant stages, and fantastic presentation from Mars Matrix, Mars Matrix Elite contains completely different enemy placement in every stage, better resolution, harder AI, and some new modes of play. Of course, all of the same nice stages, cool enemies, and fantastic bosses are in MME. And like MM, MME has waves and waves of bullets on the screen for you to push your way through, except more in some spots. There's just something about barely finding refuge in a tiny safe spot among a sea of bullets that makes me excited. In Mars Matrix and Mars Matrix Elite, you will see probably more bullets on the screen than in just about any other shooter; there are lots of manic shmups out there with lots and lots of bullets on the screen, but I think MME won me over after I got to the last stage. Another thing about MME (and MM) is how the designs the bullets make (like some other shmups) are almost beautiful, and seem to take on their own form of art...until your ship is destroyed. One of the main reasons MME gets my second place spot is because of the vastness in gameplay that the new modes of play add. Meanwhile, there's always scores to try and beat in the Score Attack Mode. Another part of MME that really shines is how you can make your own, customized version of Mars Matrix; ship abilities, ship colors, stage colors, combo timing, lives, and lots of other aspects of the game can be customized and saved to a memory card (like World Tour characters in SFA3SD) as you play the game. Absolutely fantastic. I never get bored of this game, and I am sure I never will because doing everything there is to do in every Mode will take a long, long time. Definitely my most played shooter of 2001, and one of the best shooters of all-time, Mars Matrix Elite is a masterpiece.

[ 3 ] = Final Fight One
The second of three GBA hardware games on my list of great games for 2001, Final Fight One is an amazing game in every right. Although to some FFO may look like just a port of an old CPS-I game to the GBA, the truth is that FFO sports lots of new illustrations, hidden fighters, and visual effects like SSFIITR and makes for a different gameplay experience. For many (like me) whose wish was to see Final Fight on one of the new hardwares, Capcom granted that wish with FFO. I couldn't be happier with the game. Some may criticize it, but FFO puts up more of a fight than some of the newest games we've seen...

[ 4 ] = The King Of Fighters 2001
Though KOF 2001 received a sort of half & half reaction from most, and many believe the game is broken as all hell, KOF 2001 is high up on the top ten for two important reasons. First, KOF2001 almost didn't see the light of day, until Playmore and Eolith saved what SNK couldn't have completed on their own due to financial upheaval. However, the game was saved, and although the game may need a bit of work in the balance department, KOF 2001's new character designs are really good (with a more futuristic" look), and the character artwork is refreshing. I've heard that a Korean artist did the work for KOF 2001, and maybe this is the reason for the fresh style, but if this info is bullshit, then either way the artwork in KOF 2001 makes the game an enjoyable experience. The amazing Sengoku 3 would have got this spot, if it weren't for KOF2001's exceptional design.

[ 5 ] = Zero Gunner 2
Hot on the heels of their previous Naomi hardware powered 3-D shooter, Cannon Spike, Psikyo released the beautiful Zero Gunner in 2001. Wow, what an excellent game ZG2 really is. Though Zero Gunner 2 didn't revive the long-dead genre of shooters, the game is an important entry into the history of shooters due to the elegancy from which the game was crafted. One of the most aesthetically pleasing shooters I've ever played, ZG2 also packs a strong punch in creativity with Psikyo's trademark multiple-phase bosses, nice stages, and absolute quality in overall theme. ZG2 features a unique power-up system (not shooting actually sucks the power-ups into your ship), a Special Weapon instead of the standard Bomb, and three well-crafted ships that each have their own individual means of destruction and can move anywhere on the screen while shooting in any direction. Deep gameplay, great weapons, great stages, nice bosses, amazing cinemas, and many of Psikyo's trademark bullets. Shooter fans will enjoy this game just as much as I do.

[ 6 ] = Virtua Fighter 4
Virtua Fighter 4 is pure Naomi2 powered goodness. VF4 carries on the tradition of being one of the most unique 3-D fighting series. The character designs, the backgrounds, and the gameplay are all very good, not to mention the endless play granted by the Kumite mode. VF4's different approach to gameplay makes it one of the best fighters of the year, and with fighters like Last Bronx and Fighting Vipers 2 under Sega's belt it's easy to see why. By far, the best thing about VF4 is Kage's character model; it's absolutely stunning, and has to be seen to be believed. However, although it she looks cool, it was disappointing to see that Dural is once again the boss of the newest Virtua Fighter. With a better end boss and a toned-down Akira, VF4 could be a damn near perfect game. Unfortunately, VF4 suffers from the same balance problems as its 2-D brothers CVSS2 and KOF2001; some characters have the ability to keep you either in the air or on the ground for a very long time, draining the remainder of your life in a matter of seconds. Again, like some other poorly balanced fighters we all know of (MVSC2 comes to mind), it turns into a game of who can get the first attack out first. Sure, it's kind of cool, until you realize that only a select few of the characters in the game have this breaking ability to dominate. Playing Akira or Lion is just plain frustrating for someone who has put in a lot of time into the other characters who weren't granted with such high priority and ability (Lion's Elbow Drop is absolutely terrible). Set those black spots aside though, and VF4 is another one of Sega's cool original fighters that in my opinion, don't rank above Capcom or SNK's fighters, but rank above Tekken and just about any of the other fighters. The Kumite mode in VF4 is a welcome addition, and it gives players not only tons of real opponents to battle, but there are also tons of incentives for winning watches (extra items, clothes, etc.). The Kumite mode also ranks players according to their ability against other players; the ability to actually use a memory card with character data (like SFA3SD and SFZ3U) to play others anywhere you go is innovative and fun. There's nothing like bringing your card to battle with your own custom character. Who needs internet battles when you have it all in VF4's Kumite mode? Thank you Sega. If you are one of the very few who still haven't played this game, go out and find it, play it, and see what everyone has been talking about. If you can't find the game (because it's expensive for arcade operators and consumers alike), at least check out some screenshots at Sega's website to see what you are missing.

[ 7 ] = Gradius Galaxies
Another game powered by the amazing GBA hardware made it into my top ten games of 2001 in the form of Konami's Gradius Galaxies. Hot on the heels of the goodness that was Gradius Gaiden, Gradius Galaxies keeps te classic Gradius gameplay shooter fans all over the world have grown to love. Selectable are four different ships (blue, green, orange, purple) each with their own individual power-ups, Barrier selection, and Power-Up selection options (novice Semi-Auto and advanced Manual); the more options, the better, and Gradius succeeds. Graphics in Gradius Galaxies are really good, from the animation of the ships and enemies, to the beautifully drawn stages, which are all presented in a very, very nice resolution; Konami utilized the GBA hardware very effectively in GG. The fantastic graphical effects in GG mostly take place in the game's stages, including the rising of the Sun from behind a distant planet (smooth beams of light are cast across the screen), and some very smooth flame effects in one of the other stages. GG of course follows the Gradius formula for bosses that require more tactical planning to beat rather than twitch reflexes, and the bosses are just as good as those in any of the previous Gradius installments. Another aspect of GG that shines is the very well executed background music and sound effects that make the game an even more enjoyable experience. Konami did a great job developing GG on the GBA hardware, and for this reason it gets number seven in my top ten games of 2001.

[ 8 ] = Megaman 64
With my Megaman 64 article, I pretty much already drove it into the ground how much I like this game. I waited forever for this game to come out, and it didn't disappoint me. The visuals are some of the best in any 3-D action game I have ever seen, and with the N64 hardware's processing power the 3-D models are so smooth they almost look cell shaded! For those who have seen the N64 powered Resident Evil 2, MM64's 3-D graphics look just as impressive, with smooth models and vibrant colors that please the eye. With Capcom's evolved engine of the action genre gameplay (think RE2), great sounds, and unique characters, MM64 is a great title. This game goes in my top ten of 2001 to make up for those who completely tore this game apart for no reason. MM64 has the potential to be near the top five of this list, but there were some outstanding fighters and shooters that were released in 2001, so as an action game it fits number eight perfectly. I was floored with RE2 on the N64 hardware in 1999, and in 2001 I was equally amazed when Capcom released MM64 on the same hardware. Then again, it was a very tough call between Onimusha and Resident Evil Code: Veronica X, which were also great action titles in 2001, but I see MM64 as a technical gem.

[ 9 ] = Capcom VS SNK 2
Of course CVSS2 had to go somewhere on my list of great games of 2001, right? Just like everyone else, of course I like the game. But the one thing that pushes CVSS2 so far down my list is the fact that Capcom did little to try to balance the game to make it a bit more enjoyable (not to mention bullshit roll cancelling). Excluding Marvel VS Capcom 2, never have I felt that playing a game was more like a chore than in Capcom VS SNK 2. I won't go into the balance details because you'll be reading for hours, but let's just say that since there are basically 4-5 characters that are ridiculously strong, the other 40 characters in the game are never played. Thus, CVS2 is narrowed down to the same boring fights one after another, which doesn't count as fun. It's really too bad, because CVSS2's design, tons of animation, and sounds are all stunning (thanks to the Naomi hardware), but when the game is more like a job to play none of these aspects of the game are seen. Capcom VS SNK Pro is such a better game to play. The real reason CVSS2 is on my top ten list of 2001 is the fact that Capcom put Maki into the game. I had wanted to see Maki in a Capcom fighter for a long time, and Capcom went and did it. Fantastic. Seeing Maki in CVSS2 almost makes me forget about Capcom's lazy testers, and seeing Maki and Rolento on a team brings back fond memories of Final Fight 2. Along with the addition of Maki, Capcom put in the Final Fight 2 windmill stage also, which I think is the best stage in the game. Sure, I can't stand the balance problems in CVSS2, but like many I can (barely) see past that and I think that it's a good game all in all.

[ 10 ] = Martial Masters
This game is perhaps one of the most mysterious games I've stumbled across in a while, and it's sad that I've been fortunate enough to play it only twice. In fact, you may be wondering if I just made this up, or why you haven't heard anything about it. Join the club, because when I saw this game, it was purely by coincidence, by accident. Developed on hardware I don't know about, and distributed by a company I (nor my friends) have never heard of, this fighter has the animation and looks of Capcom's CPS-III fighting games, with a bit of SNK's style thrown into it, and Super Moves that look like SFIII (and are cancellable). Martial Masters had solid gameplay that was similar to that of Street Fighter III or Fatal Fury Mark Of The Wolves, in the fact that it wasn't as crazy or trap oriented as the VS or KOF games. Most parts of this game shine, the visuals, audio, gameplay, and theme of the game are all great, but I've only played the game twice so it's hard to put it any higher on my list. In fact, if I had played it more, I would have most likely put it higher because it's great to see a company from out of nowhere (like Arc System Works) come out with a cool fighting game. I was going to put Guilty Gear X at number ten, but Martial Masters deserves it more in almost every aspect; sure, GGX runs in Naomi high resolution goodness, but I think Martial Masters might have more animation, and a bit deeper gameplay too. Plainly put, Martial Masters was a welcome addition to the fighitng genre because in 2001 we saw the leaving of SNK and Capcom's announcement of ceasing 2-D fighter development; it was a relief to see that in a time like that we were able to play some 2-D goodness despite the problems in the industry.

[ Looking Back ] = 2001 In Review

[ Best Hardware ] = GBA
Many probably saw this coming from a mile away seeing that the past year's content on this site was filled with GBA powered game coverage. The fact is that like the Naomi in 2000, developers jumped on the GBA and instantly turned out some fantastic titles. Not only did they turn out some real treats, but the developers also utilized the hardware well and created some visually impressive titles (SSFIITR, FFO, GG, Castlevania Circle Of The Moon). Now with the slow passing of the Naomi, the GBA will carry on the long life that the Naomi lived with just as many great titles (Megaman Zero, Castlevania Harmony Of Dissonance, KOFEX, KOFEX2, Ghouls & Ghosts R, Contra Advance, Metal Slug Survival). Though the Naomi was being widely developed on, 2001 saw the coming of the powerful Naomi2 and System 246 hardwares, but just now in 2002 are developers starting to actually use the System 246 and Naomi2. Therefore, the GBA was the best hardware of 2001 in my opinion, because of its instant development of games by companies like Capcom, SNK, Konami, and Namco. The Naomi hardware was the best hardware in 2000, and the GBA hardware emulated the Naomi's great success in 2001 with many great titles having been developed on it (with lots more in the future).

[ Best Character Design ] = Angel
Angel from KOF2001 was probably the best design for any character in any genre in 2001. SNK hit the nail on the head with Angel's character design; she's awesome. A stylish outfit that can turn almost any head, and with white hair cropped like the leading females of Japan's shopping districts, Angel is a cool character. Does she rival Mai? Depends on how you look at it, but Angel is of the new design wave that is slowly appearing in more of the anime inspired games. If SNK takes her out of any future KOF games, they'll probably have a war on their hands (and I'll be leading it). Some other great designs of 2001 that come to mind are Kage of VF4, Maki in CVSS2, and Claire of RECVX.