Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Xbox - Ten Year Anniversary

Today marks the ten year anniversary of the original Xbox, the first American-made console in a long time to have some form of long-term success. While the controller may have been bulky and uncomfortable, the Xbox's legacy will live on forever. From the hard drive (no memory cards needed here) to the earliest form of Xbox Live, the Xbox brand had humble beginnings. Now it's much more mainstream, and it's all thanks to the original black box. What follows is a list of some of my favorite games for Microsoft's entry into the console manufacturer race.

Halo: Combat Evolved

The very first Halo introduced players to super soldier Master Chief. It remains my favorite the series has to offer as it had the best level designs and locations in any Halo to date. Split screen multiplayer or even LAN play let multiple friends frag one another all night while the cooperative mode allowed for two players to fly through the campaign. Whether on land, in air, or via vehicle, the action of Halo was always intense. For those who want higher quality graphics with their Halo, today Microsoft released Halo Anniversary Edition with updated maps, visuals, and new achievements. Nonetheless, the Xbox owes a lot of its success to Halo as a game and as a franchise.

Halo 2

The most popular of the Halo games both online and off, Halo 2 offered more. More everything-- vehicles, weapons, environments, and a lengthier campaign. The game allowed players to take on the role of either Master Chief or the Covenant's Arbiter. Halo 2 introduced to its mechanics the concepts of becoming a stowaway on an enemy's vehicle, dual-wielding, and the ultimate one-- online play. Many hours were spent and precious amounts of sleep were lost by players the world over as they bagged and tagged opponents online. Halo 2 showcased the humble beginnings of Xbox Live, a sleeping beast that would revolutionize the way we played online games on a console.

Project Gotham Racing

Project Gotham Racing wasn't just about getting first, it was about getting first in style. Players were rewarded with Kudos points for their slick driving skills and ability to take big risks while peeling around corners at breakneck speeds. There were thirty cars from various manufacturers such as Ferrari, BMW, and Porsche, 200 city circuits to conquer, and multiple opponents to outperform. Up to four friends could speed through the city streets of Project Gotham Racing at once via split screen play. The first of many great installments in the series, PGR is one racer to reckon with.

JSRF: Jet Set Radio Future

Enter a futuristic Tokyo where skaters rule and law enforcement drools. The brilliant and vibrant anime aesthetic art is gorgeous to gawk at, and it truly shines on Xbox hardware. The infamous tagging and spray-painting of the Dreamcast original is back, but beware of the man who is always trying to bring you down. Grind billboards, lamp posts, and rails as you fly high in the sky in the colorful world Jet Set Radio Future bestows upon you. Smilebit definitely knew what they were doing when they devised this utterly innovative game.

Conker: Live & Reloaded

Do you remember the earliest concept for Conker the Squirrel? It was overly and disgustingly cute, giving the player diabetes at its sweetness. A Game Boy Color title was released featuring this style of squirrel. Then came some shaking up. Gone were the cutesy motifs of Conker's world. Conker traded in his acorns for some alcohol. Instead of fighting whimsical bees he fought a giant mound of poo. This remake of the Nintendo 64 game offered updated graphics as well as online multiplayer. It was back when Rare wasn't a shadow of their former selves and forced to make Kinect titles by Microsoft. Ah, the good ol' days...

Grabbed by the Ghoulies

The other game developed by Rare for the original Xbox, Grabbed by the Ghoulies cast players in the role of Cooper, a young boy on a quest to Ghoulhaven Hall to rescue his kidnapped girlfriend. Inside the haunted halls of the mansion lie zombies, skeletons, and specters. But Cooper isn't entirely defenseless. Nearly everything can be used as a weapon from fire extinguishers to chairs to portraits. The ambiance of the mansion was palpable for sure. It was only augmented by Rare's insanely talented composers. For an underrated gem, grab yourself a copy of Grabbed by the Ghoulies.

Panzer Dragoon Orta

Fly along the back of a majestic dragon, the last hope against a supreme evil plaguing the world. This rail shooter has players transforming into one of three forms on the fly to counter any situation that might present itself. The environments are magical, full of interesting details and objects, the bosses are strong, powerful, and foreboding, and the action is always intense. This was during SEGA's best Dreamcast era days where they were once again at the top of their game. It is a bit sad to see how far they have fallen (like a downed dragon) since.

Steel Battalion

What can you say that hasn't already been said about Steel Battalion? It was an expensive game coming with one complicated peripheral that put players inside the pilot seat of a giant mech. The controller utilized in one's mech had forty or so buttons and doodads to press. While the game was $200 at launch, those who jumped in and entered the cockpit were awarded with one definitely and decidedly unique gameplay experience that hasn't been replicated to this day. What better console than the big Xbox for a big, massive Steel Battalion controller? Just don't forget to eject when your mech is going down!

Ninja Gaiden Black

The sequel to the excellent Ninja Gaiden, Ninja Gaiden Black added new moves, more levels, and incredible bosses and enemies to get the best of. Ryu Hayabusa was equipped with a masterful amount of deadly moves to unleash on unsuspecting foes. The story delved deeper into the background of the mystical and mysterious ninja. Two difficulty modes allowed for master ninjas and apprentices alike to enjoy this dastardly difficult game. Online leaderboards offered players an incentive to do their best in the games many levels. Both Ninja Gaiden games would receive the HD treatment on the PlayStation 3 with updated visuals and features. Whichever console you choose, you have one fine specimen that will kick your butt on a daily basis.

Shenmue II

Do you know where sailors hang out? I'm looking for some sailors. Are you a sailor? The adventure of Ryo Hazuki leads him to the busy and bustling city of Hong Kong in search of the man who murdered his father in cold blood. Through making new friends and foes, mastering new martial arts moves, participating in QTEs of many varieties, and completing side quests, Ryo inches closer and closer to the final showdown with Lan Di. Shenmue II is a work of art, and it is a shame that we are not any closer to receiving a final installment in the trilogy. Perhaps one day we will get some closure on this story.

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2X

If you are any type of skateboarding fan, then Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2X is the game for you. It featured every level from both Tony Hawk's Pro Skater and Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 with more populated levels and never-before-seen levels exclusive to this game. The updated visuals enhanced by the power of the almighty Xbox remain impressive even if they've lost some of their luster. Performing manuals, flip tricks, grab tricks, and grinds may not be a breeze in real life, but in Tony Hawk's realm of games they couldn't be any easier to pull off. Get gnarly and reach a high score with Pro Skater 2X.


That is just a sample of the exhaustive library the Xbox had. There were games that I personally did not find appealing that others loved like Fable, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, and Splinter Cell. What games did you love on the original Xbox? What memories do you have Microsoft's wonderful black box on this its 10th anniversary? Send me a line or two in the comments section.

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