Friday, November 18, 2011

Fortune Street (Wii) - New Trailer

A brand new trailer for early December's Dragon Quest meets Mario game, Fortune Street, has been uploaded to Nintendo of America's Wii YouTube channel. Buy properties, try out the arcade, and go for broke as you play the fickle video game economy. It can't be any worse than the global economy, right? Fortune Street is known as Boom Street in Europe, and in the Euro countries it will release in January of next year.



Top Ten Gamecube Games

Earlier this week we celebrated the ten year anniversary of the original Xbox. Today just so happens to be the ten year anniversary of the Nintendo Gamecube. It may have been last in the overrated console wars, but it was first in many gamers' hearts. This is a list of my top ten favorite games for Nintendo's little purple package.

10) Viewtiful Joe


Let's get it on! Joe was just an ordinary movie buff when suddenly his girlfriend, Sylvia, was grabbed and pulled into a movie. Joe followed and received a V-watch to transform into the superhero Viewtiful Joe. With powers like the ability to slow down time, mach speed, and zoom, Viewitful Joe is one unstoppable force. The 2 1/2D gameplay and cel-shaded graphics showed tremendous character, and the humor the game possesses made players laugh from beginning to end. The game is challenging, too, with multiple difficulty levels and the ultimate task-- trying to attain rainbow Vs in every level. Viewtiful Joe was a game back when Capcom took risks that were rewarded, and this game is a true testament to that rationale.

9) Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat



On paper, the idea of controlling a platforming game with a set of bongos decidedly doesn't seem like the grandest or greatest idea. However, in execution the controls work splendidly. Smack the right drum to move right, smack the left drum to move left, and smack both simultaneously to leap into the air. Clap or tap the drum to attack enemies. Sure, you really couldn't play this game in the wee hours of the night without waking up your roommates or housemates, but those who gave Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat a chance found a platforming adventure worthy of accolade. The team who crafted this excellent experience went on to create Super Mario Galaxy among other brilliant games. A Wii New Play Control version of Jungle Beat came out, and it has all the charm of the original with added bonus content. Which ever version you choose, you will surely not be disappointed.

8) The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess



The mess that was Twilight Princess' launch was ill-conceived at best. The Gamecube version was delayed a month to give the Wii launch title a chance to shine. The Gamecube version sported camera control, a mirrored take on the Wii's levels, dungeons, and world map, and an extra button to place items. I honestly prefer the Wii version as controlling the bow and swinging the Wii remote to attack enemies was a genuinely entertaining thrill. Some don't like it, but that's certainly their right as gamers. Regardless of which version you played, the dungeon design is some of the best the series has ever witnessed, Midna is a fascinating character, and the wolf gameplay is intriguing, too. Though on the easy side, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is one epic adventure that Zelda fans cannot be without.

7) Mario Kart: Double Dash!!


Up until Double Dash!!, the Mario Kart series pretty much played it safe, with minimal changes to the game's formula. This was altered with the Gamecube iteration of Mario Kart. This time around two characters occupied one kart, and both had a special item that only they could use. Mario and Luigi launched fireballs from their kart, Bowser shot off a huge spiked shell, and Waluigi chucked a bomb. The course design featured some ingenious courses such as Daisy Cruiser, Bowser Castle, Mushroom City, Baby Park, and my personal favorite edition of Rainbow Road. The ability to hook up multiple Gamecubes for LAN parties (Nintendo didn't know the concept of the Internet) made for some colossal fun with players switching between driving and item duties. One of the most unique Mario Kart games, Double Dash!! ranks number six on my list.

6) Animal Crossing


Anyone who wasn't Japanese missed out on the first Animal Crossing game in Japan for the Nintendo 64 known as Animal Forest. When the series took up residence in the rest of the world, it had the makings of a sleeper hit. You have your own avatar, choose a house, and slowly pay it off bell by bell at a time for Tom Nook, your town's main entrepreneur. Meanwhile, the world is constantly moving and time is always progressing-- whether you're there or not. Making new friends, gardening, collecting bugs and fish, and building up your armada of furniture, wallpaper, flooring, and NES games makes for one heck of a time in your town in Animal Crossing. From earning rare pieces of furniture from Tortimer on holidays to obtaining a song for your pad from K.K. Slider on Saturday nights by the train station, Animal Crossing blossoms with charm.

5) The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker


When the cel-shaded art style of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker was revealed after the unveiling of a more serious, Ocarina of Time-inspired look, the gaming world went bananas in a most embarrassing fashion. The moniker "Celda" was often used. When the game actually came out, most of the criticisms towards the art style were silenced with one completely and totally awesome game. The Wind Waker had Young Link sailing between isles, pirates ships, and towns aboard the King of Red Lions. Link's many facial expressions and animations still look top-notch to this day, and few Zeldas have come close to imitating the variety that Wind Waker has. There may be a Triforce hunt near the end of the game, but other than that, The Wind Waker stands as a tremendous Zelda title worthy of the franchise's fabled and illustrious history.

4) Super Mario Sunshine


Charged with defacing Isle Delfino, Mario is placed in prison. The judge sentences him to clean up the island with the assistance of a water backpack known as F.L.U.D.D. This accessory offered tons of unique platforming challenges that otherwise wouldn't be possible. The tropical theme may have kept the different levels looking the same (e.g. no ice world, for instance), but that didn't stop Super Mario Sunshine from being great, camera issues aside. Collecting shine sprites is the aim of the game, and there are 120 of them to gather. Each task is designed to put players' platforming prowess to the test, especially in levels where Mario's water cannon is taken away. Some view Mario's Isle Delfino excursion as one of the weakest 3D Mario games, and they might be right, but a weak Mario game is still better than most of what comes out anyway.

3) Super Smash Bros. Melee


The all-star brawl is on. Characters from Nintendo's past, present, and future enter a full-fledged confrontation across several locales including the Great Fox, Onett, the Mushroom Kingdom, the Great Temple from Zelda II, and many more. Characters come out from the woodwork like Mario, Link, Kirby, Samus, Yoshi, Fox McCloud, the Ice Climbers, Ganondorf, Falco Lombardi, Pikachu, among others. Many sleepless nights were had playing multiplayer Smash with friends. I shudder to think how much of my life has been wasted playing the Super Smash Bros. series of games, and Melee takes up a significant portion of that time. With so many collectibles, trophies, and secrets to unlock, Super Smash Bros. Melee is a fighter (fighting game purists can suck it) worth playing.

2) Metroid Prime


The Metroid series missed out on the Nintendo 64. It was until a little-known company called Retro Studios took the franchise that it would return, but as a first-person adventure? Surely that would not work out well. Color nearly everyone surprised as Retro pulled it off, and they pulled it off masterfully. Entering the world of Talon IV was an experience I soon will not forget with rain washing off Samus' visor, foliage fanning from the wind, and fog rising up from the ground. The world was highly interactive and full of volatile creatures just waiting to see Samus croak. Boss battles were intense, Samus' powers such as the morph ball, high jump, and charge shot were awesome, and her many suits like the Gravity and Phazon suits were indeed incredible. Who could forget first stepping into the frosty fjords of Phendrana Drifts and seeing the snow falling silently to the ground? Metroid Prime remains one of my favorite games to this day.

1) Resident Evil 4


Revitalizing the horror genre came Resident Evil 4, a former Gamecube-exclusive. The game starred Leon S. Kennedy, a Raccoon City police officer turned special agent for the U.S. government, tasked with recovering the president's kidnapped daughter. The game had three stages: the village, the castle, and the island. Each set piece and boss encounter was more impressive than the last. The weaponry available to Leon was extraordinary and super cool like magnums, shotguns, and rocket-propelled grenade launchers. Resident Evil 4 is a game with perfect pacing. It just flows so effortlessly from beginning to end. The designers are total virtuosos when it comes to game design. While not delivering as many chills as past Resident Evil games, RE4 delivers on its promise of giving the player a thrilling experience from the opening credits til the closing credits. The PlayStation 2 version would receive bonus content in the form of Assignment Ada. However, the Wii edition would be the definitive version with all the bonus content from the PS2 iteration, superior pointer controls, and Gamecube controller or Classic Controller functionality. Whatever your preference, Resident Evil 4 will not disappoint.

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What memories do you have of the Gamecube launch ten years ago? What are your personal favorite Gamecube games? Drop me a line in the comments section to unleash your opinion to the masses.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Super Mario 3D Land (3DS) Review

Now we're down to the nitty gritty with a review of one of the most anticipated handheld titles of the year with Super Mario 3D Land. We've been covering this game ever since it was just tentatively titled Super Mario for 3DS. Judgment is at hand for Mario and the entire Mushroom Kingdom gang. Was all the hype worth the wait? Do 3DS owners have something new to play on their systems?

A near-perfect mix of 2D and 3D Mario magic


To say that the Nintendo 3DS has gotten off to a rocky start would be an understatement. With struggling sales and an empty library, there hasn't been too many reasons to pick up Nintendo's latest handheld. But with the price drop over the summer and new titles such as the subject of this review, Super Mario 3D Land, could we finally have a title that is worth getting a 3DS for that isn't a port or remake? Let all worries be put to rest as the answer is a resounding "yes."

By now Mario game stories shouldn't surprise anyone. Bowser, in his infinite ability to somehow capture and kidnap poor Princess Peach, has done the deed once again, leaving behind a postcard bragging about his misdeed to our mustachioed hero and a brigade of Toads. It is up to Mario to run and jump his way through eight worlds of increasingly challenging platforming perils. Unlike past Mario titles there aren't any themed worlds. There is no grassy world, jungle world, desert world, ice world, underwater world, etc. Instead what players have are levels that are themed and run the gamut from beaches to pyramids to plains to areas with blocks suspended over bottomless pits to frosty fjords to haunted houses, a mainstay of Mario games since Super Mario World. Every world ends with either an airship or castle level. Each world's ending airship or castle concludes with a boss battle. There are not many bosses to contend with. Players either avoid the attacks of Bowser while they perform platforming challenges and retract the bridge the koopa king stands on (done with a stomp of a button) or face off in a room with Boom Boom (returning from Super Mario Bros. 3) or his female counterpart who throws boomerangs, Pom Pom.

Mario is back, and he is nearly better than ever.

Super Mario 3D Land very much feels like a natural progression between Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Bros. 3. The latter mostly because the worlds of 3D Land are teeming with Tanooki tails. Not only can Mario nab one, twirl his tail to attack enemies as well as flutter across gaps-- the Tanooki suit is tantamount to a safety net as there is a wider margin for error with the tail than without one-- but the portly plumber's foes are seen equipped with tails of their own such as Goombas, Boos, Bullet Bills, Thwomps, among others. And they are not afraid to use them either! Apart from the Tanooki suit, Mario can utilize the returning fire flower to scorch the hind parts of any opposition that gets in his way as well as try out the new Boomerang suit that launches one boomerang at a time. This is a terrific way to give those dastardly Boomerang Bros. a taste of their own medicine. Players can store a second power-up via the touch screen, and access it at any time by tapping the bottom icon. As with past Mario games, if Mario is to take damage while powered up, he'll revert back to Super Mario. If he gets hurt then, he'll turn into Small Mario, and if he is nudged by a baddie, he'll lose a life.

A relic from Super Mario Bros. 3, the Tanooki suit, returns!

Thankfully, levels are built in such a way that they fit portable gaming sessions. The longest level takes about five minutes to complete. A checkpoint in the middle of each stage gives players a breather in case they mess up. Returning from games like Super Mario Galaxy 2, New Super Mario Bros. Wii, and Donkey Kong Country Returns comes the concept of the Super Guide. When a player loses five lives in a given level, an item box appears containing a special Tanooki leaf. This grants the player all the powers of the regular Tanooki suit plus invincibility. Falling into bottomless pits is still a danger, however. If the player loses five more lives, a P-wing surfaces, granting its user the ability to warp directly to the end of the stage with the only penalty being that they cannot earn glittering stars on their save file. These optional and in no way mandatory trinkets allow players of all skill ranges to go through Super Mario 3D Land without too much frustration.

Thrills and chills await Mario in 3D Land's haunted houses.

Though if one does decide to skip a level, they will pass up precious star medals. There are three hidden or placed in precarious locations throughout a level. These can be slightly off-screen, resting in a hazardous zone, or inside a secret pipe's bonus room. These bonus rooms taunt players who do not use the 3D depth slider as they are set up in such a way where the camera angle shows an optical illusion to those that don't view the room in full 3D. There are approximately 300 star medals to collect, and perfectionists will want to gather them all as there is a plus to getting them all. Not only that, but some levels won't even be available to players unless they have a set number of medals. Occasionally, one will come across mystery boxes on the world map. These are ten or so second challenges where the goal is to clear the room of all enemies and nab the medal before time expires. Additionally, players can exchange boxes via StreetPass functionality. Most will have no use for this feature, but it is nice that it is there for those that can utilize it.

Star medals (one seen behind the cage) are
well-hidden within the levels of Super Mario 3D Land.

Super Mario 3D Land is not a long game initially. It should take most players anywhere between 3-5 hours to complete. However, the post-game content stretches the game out exponentially in hours, and it never feels like artificial padding. After the main game is finished, a whole new set of special worlds is unlocked. These levels are either variations of levels from the original eight worlds or new configurations completely. Some have a strict time limit where Mario has to collect clocks to add time to the counter while others have an auto-scrolling screen that moves twice as fast as normal. Another level features Cosmic Mario from Super Mario Galaxy 2 who mimics Mario's moves masterfully, and if the player isn't budging, the phantom version of the plumber will hurt them. In addition to these new levels, there is a bonus for getting a gold flag on all levels (done by reaching the very top of every level's ending flagpole and receiving a 1up). Perhaps there is even an additional character to control who plays differently than Mario...

Originally I was worried when I read that the player had to hold a run button down. After playing 3D Land extensively over the past week or two, I understand the developer's decision in doing this. If Mario ran by holding the circle pad the entire way, the precision platforming involved in the game would be infinitely more difficult to accomplish. By holding down a button to dash, the player can fine-tune how fast he or she desires everyone's favorite plumber to run without accidentally falling off a platform. Aside from running, Mario has a plethora of tricks in his repertoire. He can crouch, charge up, and back-flip into the air, he can-- with some speed-- perform a long jump across large chasms, side-flip, ground pound, wall jump, and do so much more. For such a chunky fellow, Mario sure is limber. Another potential problem was that Mario moves in eight directions. Seeing as the camera is always in the perfect spot, one really doesn't notice this at all. My only true gripe is that half of the aforementioned maneuvers of Mario are completely optional, and most players won't even bother experimenting with them. Why should they? They aren't necessarily needed besides back-flip and the long jump to attain gold flags.

Some levels scroll automatically such as this one.

Super Mario 3D Land is a gorgeous game whether you play in full 3D with the depth slider up all the way or not. However, those with the slider jacked up will be able to judge distances much better than those who do not. Moreover, effects like giant spiked pillars coming from the background and thrusting themselves towards the foreground cannot be put to words how cool it is to see them in full stereoscopic 3D. It's like they're about to puncture your screen. The graphics are sensational with tremendous special effects such as fire, raindrops bouncing off the floor of a castle's keep, and dandelions dispersing their pollen when Mario tramples them. It is little things like this that make Mario's latest adventure so eye-popping and wonderful. The score is full of memorable melodies. The main theme is appropriately catchy, and many past themes from past Mario games make appearances such as Teresa Waltz from Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario Bros. 3's athletic theme. Nintendo spared no expense crafting an excellent package with Super Mario 3D Land.

Say what you want about Bowser,
but you gotta admire his spunk.

Think of Super Mario 3D Land as a platforming playground-- something so playful that it makes you feel like a kid again while you play... or if you're a kid, it will still make you feel your age. That isn't to say that the gameplay is childish or immature. Far from it. Mario's newest run-and-jump shows that even characters twenty-five years and counting can dish out entertaining experiences that still feel fresh and enjoyable. Super Mario 3D Land is a near-perfect mix of 2D and 3D gameplay. Some levels one can explore in, some are strictly 2D, some hide their secrets off-screen as others challenge the player in more ways than one. If there was ever a reason to own a 3DS, Super Mario 3D Land is it. While by no means the perfect Mario game, it is the type of game that even the most cynical adult can have the child brought out in them.

[SuperPhillip Says: 9.5/10]

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Freakyforms: Your Creations, Alive! (3DSWare) Review

Our month of platforming games continues with a unique take on the genre with Freakyforms: Your Creations, Alive! for 3DSWare. The creation of formees and scenery makes for an entertaining game, but is it worth the price of admission? Read my review to discover the truth for yourself.

Superfreaky, yeah.


The 3DS eShop has started off slow. Its first title was an iPhone port of Let's Golf only in 3D, and the added depth in the version was not too particularly impressive. Then came Pyramids 3D which was a puzzle game. Now it seems 3DSWare is hitting its stride as it has a new title akin to 5th Cell's Drawn to Life. It is known as Freakforms: Your Creations, Alive!, and for $6.99 it can be yours. Is this game one you should want to get your freak on with?

To start things off in Freakyforms, you meet your guide and are tasked with the creation of your very first formee, the creatures that inhabit your custom planet. You are limited in what you can do for the time being, but as you create more formees, the options such as arms, legs, and wings are added and are available to use. For formee creation, you only can utilize twenty unique parts. This limitation might hold some players back from designing complex characters, but I never had a problem with the finite amount of parts. You can slide one of 20+ colors onto the various shapes of your formee, making it as colorful or as drab as you like. After the shape-building phase is complete, you give your formee a name, a voice (one of several such as girly, robotic, playful, or old), and give it a five character phrase that it is wont to say.

Then comes the exploring part. At the beginning of the game, your planet is quite small, and there is but one area you can visit, the meadow. By making more formees, your planet expands, sometimes even adding new areas such as the ocean and the city. New areas mean new formees to befriend by completing quests for them. Quests range from carrying a formee on your back and taking them to the flag to eating a number of a certain food that grows on the numerous trees to breaking a set amount of blocks to delivery quests. After completing a quest, you can purchase that formee from your catalog. Now you can play as them at your leisure from a horse to a teddy bear to a monkey.

By land...

Exploring the lands of Freakyforms is best described as a semi-sandbox platformer. You move around a side-scrolling area, collecting coins, accepting quests, and gathering keys to open locked treasure chests which contain new scenery, accessories such as ties, baseball caps, and drills, and coins. You only have a limited amount of time to search the land each time, and any quest that is currently in progress when the clock hits zero will be canceled and will have to wait for next time.

By sea...

Gobbling up food such as fruits, vegetables, and meat will eventually have eggs of varying colors pop out of your formee. Collect these eggs, and you'll be asked to hatch them forcefully with a tap or several of your stylus. If you manage to get lucky and find the sweet spot and tap it in one try, you'll receive a bonus jackpot of coins. Coins are used to purchase befriended formees from the catalog. There are a myriad of formees to find, and they are natural to different areas such as the meadow, ocean, and city. Different eggs offer different amounts of coins. Multicolor eggs award more coins than plain white eggs. Occasionally, you'll be rewarded with a formee design from the insides of an egg. These begin Creation Challenges where you get a silhouette of a formee and do your best to recreate said formee from the brief description provided.

Freakyforms is entirely controlled with the stylus. A blue circle placed in the center of the touch screen moves your formee around the worlds of the game. To jump, you hold the stylus the opposite direction you intend to have your creature leap, so in essence you're slinging your formee like a rubber band into blocks, onto platforms, and through the air. While this is an intuitive control method, it does not have the precision of, say, a d-pad. Trying to carefully climb a set of narrow platforms is an effort in futility and frustration.

By air...

Creating new formees is a simple process, and that's good, too, as you'll constantly be manufacturing creatures and characters to expand your planet. The top down menu on the top of the touch screen shows the various parts you utilize to make a formee: head, body, eyes, noses, mouths, arms, legs, wings, wheels, etc. The icons on the right side shrink or grow these parts at your discretion. If your own formee making abilities aren't up to snuff, you can always point your 3DS's outward facing cameras and use QR codes to materialize other players' formees or turn on StreetPass to download random strangers' creations as you walk around the mall, a college campus, or ride the subway to work or school.

Use a preexisting formee, or create your own!

Freakyforms is quite interesting graphically. It's almost unsettling to see a formee with crooked legs saunter through a meadow. The visuals here are simplistic enough to give the player a healthy amount of customization of scenery such as trees, clouds, the sky, houses, and much more. The 3D effects showcase a substantial offering of depth, and it is superbly impressive. When it concerns sound, it can be grating hearing your formee gab constantly, and the music can be off-the-wall most of the time. It is an acquired taste for sure, and the childlike presentation offered may put the Call of Duty crowd off. Their loss.

Freakyforms: Your Creations, Alive! is an enjoyable downloadable game for Nintendo's start-up 3DSWare line of software. The catch that you can only create so many formees a day prevents players from expanding their planet too quickly, and the vast amount of formees to befriend and purchase their designs make for certain that players will be able to get a lot of bang for their buck. While the jumping controls do not offer the amount of precision I'd prefer, they are serviceable enough for what they intend. If you are searching for a different experience from the norm, Freakyforms: Your Creations, Alive! is a title that beckons with its eccentric charm and long-lasting gameplay.

[SuperPhillip Says: 8.0/10]

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Mario Kart 7 (3DS) Overview Trailer

The Japanese overview trailer has been posted on Minna no NC, Nintendo's Japanese channel. It shows off the new characters including Metal Mario and Lakitu, the optional gyro controls and first-person perspective, kart customization, new tracks, online system, and much, much more. A full review of Mario Kart 7 will come a week or two after its December 4th release date.



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.

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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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