The Average Gamer

Flashback to 2003

Welcome to a new feature here at The Average Gamer, providing a short break from the constant influx from our favorite medium to look into significant past years in gaming. I’ll pick out the best and worst games from that year, and see if they still hold up today.

Why the year 2003 you may ask? It was a fairly strong year for gaming, and a few of the releases from 2003 are getting the HD re-release in 2013, such as Final Fantasy X-2 and a couple of the games picked below

2003 also saw Nintendo’s lukewarm-successful Gamecube shipping one of the bestselling titles of the year in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. This is, of course, another title with an HD re-release imminent for the Wii U in the next couple of months. 2003 was also the birth of the Call of Duty series. Yes, it’s been 10 years already, and makes me feel old. Here’s a quick summary of some key moments of 2003.

5 Key Events in 2003:

  • Enix Corporation and Squaresoft officially merged to become Square Enix
  • Valve released Steam
  • Nintendo released the Game Boy Advance SP
  • Nokia released the Mobile/video game handheld hybrid N-Gage
  • Obsidian Entertainment, of Fallout: New Vegas and Neverwinter Nights 2 fame are founded.

The 3 Most Notable games of 2003

Soul Calibur II


Already a hit in the arcades from the previous year, Namco (now Namco Bandai of course) had a little treat in store for whichever platform you bought to play Soul Calibur II.

Similar to the more recent Soulcalibur IV, each version had its own exclusive playable character. The PS2 version had the Tekken favourite Heihachi Mishima, the Xbox had comic book anti-hero Spawn and the Gamecube had the biggest treat, Link! Soul Calibur II was a great success for Namco, and an awesome fighting game.

Later this year will be the arrival of an HD remake for PS3 and Xbox 360, albeit with only Heihachi retained as a bonus character. Nevertheless, Soul Calibur II is definitely a fighting game that’s worth revisiting. A superbly balanced, easy to play but difficult to master, weapon based fighter that is easily my favourite in the series.

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker:-


When the dust had settled, and everyone had stopped whining about the cel-shaded graphical approach, the simple fact sunk in that The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker was simply a wonderful game. The success points for me were those that set it apart from the rest of the series to date; a brand new setting, based around a group of small islands, and using a boat for free-roaming travel around them.

The sea travel works really well, almost GTA-esque, between locations. However reliance on the boat’s use towards the more open-ended final third of the game is questionable, but still enjoyable. Despite not being set in Hyrule, this game tied into the roots of the series and characters superbly, resulting in a great alternative story, not just retreading the usual Hyrule locations, villages and quests of Zelda’s past. All that with Ocarina of Time’s excellent combat system embedded in, The Wind Waker is still a title that sits proudly on my shelf at home.

Viewtiful Joe:-


The first game from the ill-fated but brilliant Capcom production subsidiary Clover Studios, Viewtiful Joe was a sight to behold. Although essentially just a scrolling beat em up, its interwoven use of 2D gaming and 3D cel-shaded sprites was at times mesmerizing, with awesome-looking slow motion and fast-motion abilities that add great depth to the often-challenging combat sequences. A great mix of old-school hardcore difficulty and cutting edge animation, mixed with original characters, it would be a shame if Viewtiful Joe is never considered for a re-release at some stage. I for one would snap it up.

The 3 Most Forgettable Games of 2003

Enter The Matrix:-

enter the matrix

A good idea gone horribly wrong. Nope, I’m not referring to the 2 Matrix movie sequels (well, only a little), I am referring to Enter The Matrix, the Max Payne rip-off-but-not action shooter. Complete with dodgy camera and glitchy graphics, Enter The Matrix is also an example of how not to bring video games into continuity from another medium. It took place before The Matrix Reloaded movie, complete with full movie sequences as the game progresses. Ever wondered how ETM lead character Niobe suddenly appeared in the power station control room in the second movie? No, me neither.

Regardless, this was one of the scenes played out in the game instead. The result is that it basically harms the movie for non-gamers, and doesn’t do gamers much favour anyway. Not basing a Matrix game around its most pivotal character (Neo) was a grave mistake.

Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness:-


Oh boy. Lara Croft’s first foray onto PS2 was not only a disaster, but also a swift nail in the coffin for series developer Core Design. After five previous success stories on the original PlayStation, making Lara Croft a household name, The Angel of Darkness suffered many problems during development. One of these was the quality of the title itself; forced out unfinished on the orders of publishers Eidos after already months of delays in development. New RPG-style elements were introduced, such as interacting with people throughout the game in a positive/negative manner, which led to alternative outcomes, but felt experimental at best. Combat was poor; controlling Lara was awkward at best, which was as baffling as it was frustrating. How can an already-developed series go backwards? Core Design’s darker vision for Lara Croft was bold, brilliant, but ultimately, broken.



Manhunt is as notable as it is forgettable. What it offered was quite unique; you play a death row inmate who is offered freedom for taking down hoodlums, in grotesque fashion. The plot has such a dark and nihilistic tone, resulting in a very edgy piece of entertainment. But, Manhunt was carried by its ever-increasing dark tone, and as a result, was shrouded in controversy. As a video game, it felt like the on-foot portions of GTA III, and brought along the combat problems with it. Shooting enemies was annoyingly difficult, due to the ineptitude of the targeting mechanism, and the stealth element, unless mastered to the nth degree, may leave you easily exposed and frustrated. Manhunt will only be remembered for its content, not the unique gaming experience it could really have been.

So there you have it. 2003 was a pretty good year for gaming, nothing ‘game-changing’, but some solid releases, with key business events that are still in effect 10 years on.

How about you? Do you agree with these top 3’s? Share your views below!

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