Sunday, May 12, 2013

Top Ten Xbox 360 Exclusives

If you've been with and have followed SuperPhillip Central for an extended period of time, you know how we have a love and hate relationship with the Xbox 360. We love all of the third-party support and Xbox Live (though we'd rather have it for free without ads), but we hate how poor Microsoft's first-party output generally is, how bad Kinect is for anything other than sports or mini-games, and we loathe how awful Red Ring of Death (we're still haunted at night by those flashing lights) was. Regardless, coming up with a list of ten worthwhile exclusives that the Xbox 360 currently possesses wasn't as difficult as we thought it would be.

Don't get us wrong. We've enjoyed our time with Microsoft's second gaming home console. This list of ten exclusives for the system is but one reason why we find ourselves still slightly enamored with the Xbox 360.

10) Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts

The original teaser for an Xbox 360 version of Banjo-Kazooie had all of the familiar elements: Jiggies, musical notes, and a colorful 3D world, albeit with a remodeled version of Banjo and his feathery friend Kazooie. However, the final product would turn out to be a completely different beast compared to Banjo's Nintendo 64 adventures. While some scoff and even snarl to this day at this idea, Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts is a welcome addition to the franchise, offering vehicle-based missions that can be completed in a myriad of manners. The ability to build your own custom vehicles to suit the needs of the particular mission adds a whole slew of replay value to Nuts & Bolts. It is these reasons why Banjo and Kazooie's Xbox 360 retail debut kicks off our countdown.

9) Tales of Vesperia

The tenth main Tales of title in the series hit in the unlikeliest of places, Microsoft's Xbox 360 (it is exclusive to the Xbox 360 in the West). We say this because the Xbox 360 was undoubtedly marketed more to the West than the East, which is where most of the Tales series' sales come from. Tales of Vesperia came out early in the generation when Microsoft was still courting Japanese audiences by buying up exclusives (because let's face it, Microsoft first-party studios couldn't wholly make a game that would entertain gamers in Japan if their corporation depended on it). Anyway, about the gameplay, Tales of Vesperia's battle system uses an upgraded version of Tales of the Abyss's. The combat is fast and fluid, real-time, and offered lots of different strategies to display. Overall, Tales of Vesperia is one of the better entries in the Tales franchise, and we hope that with Microsoft's next console they try once again to appeal to Japan. Their library would be much more varied and better for it.

8) Shadow Complex

A phenomenal Xbox Live Arcade title, one that would have over 200,000 downloads within its first week of sales, Shadow Complex borrows its gameplay structure from titles like Metroid and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. As the player defeats enemies, explores the labyrinthine world of the game, and acquires new abilities, they can access new locations in the game world. Like Symphony of the Night, players can gain experience points to make their character stronger, boosting their basic attributes and giving them new skills. Shadow Complex uses the Unreal Engine 3 to make for an impressive looking piece of software. If you're looking for one of the better Xbox Live Arcade games, Shadow Complex is not only one of those, but it's an absolute steal for its price point.

7) Crackdown

Crackdown comes from the mind behind both the Grand Theft Auto and Lemmings franchises. The game has you taking the role of a super-powered Agent, based one of several character models. Your agent is tasked with taking out three Kingpins throughout the open world setting of Pacific City. While you can leap right into the action of taking them out, you'll probably find yourself riddled with bullets. Defeating each Kingpin's Generals makes taking the Kingpin out much easier of an objective. Thankfully, your agent has a whole slew of powerful abilities and weaponry to work with: bombs, machine guns, chucking cars, and scaling buildings (getting on top of Agent HQ is one of the coolest views we can remember in a long time). Crackdown saw a sequel three years later. While that game is also good, we much prefer the original Crackdown. By the way, how about that sublime cel-shaded art style?

6) Saints Row

There have been plenty of imitators to Grand Theft Auto, and many who have wished to take the open world crown that Rockstar North's series has worn for over a decade now. Few belong in the same sentence of GTA, and even fewer have come close to being anywhere near as good as that franchise. We can happily say that Saints Row is a series that has come the closest. The first game in the franchise came out exclusively on the Xbox 360, showing the Third Street Saints' battle against other gangs in the city of Stilwater. The amount of things to do is immense, as expected from an open world sandbox game like Saints Row is. The most enjoyable part of the game, outside of how fun it is, is the ability to create your own custom character and outfit them with pieces of clothing you purchase at shops which makes for a game that you can give your personal touch to. Not only that, but you can take your gang member online to compete in one of several multiplayer modes.

5) Ninja Gaiden II

Ninja Gaiden II takes the rebooted Ninja Gaiden franchise to new heights with all-new awesome features like enemy dismemberment, allowing hero Ryu to slash and slice his foes' arms, legs, and other body parts until they're all covering the floor. Another new features is essence, dropped by defeated enemies. This grants Ryu with the ability to generate money, to heal himself, or to restore his ki. Outside of Ryu's old standby, the Dragon Sword, there are a hefty sampling of new enemies to utilize, such as the Falcon's Talons, the Dragon's Claw, and Eclipse Scythe, to name a few. As typical of the Ninja Gaiden series, Ninja Gaiden II is certainly no cakewalk. Beating the game is a mighty challenge, much more actually acquiring all of the achievements!

4) Gears of War 3

Bros before all. While Gears of War as a series might be the perfect example of the so-called "dudebro" gaming craze that the Xbox 360 is known for, the series itself is a remarkable third-person shooter that is one of the hallmarks of the genre, thanks to its heavy focus on cover-based combat. Gears pits COG human forces, the last line of defense for the planet Earth, against the Locust threat. The campaign's five acts can be played alone or with a friend, making the Insane difficulty all the more manageable. In addition to that, Gears comes with its own multiplayer component, one that is highly popular, whether playing it competitively (Deathmatch) or cooperatively (Horde mode). Probably all those folks gunning for that "Seriously 3.0" achievement. Two teams of four compete across cleverly designed maps in deathmatch-style play, king-of-the-hill-style play, and so much more. So after the campaign was completed, one could enjoy multiplayer for months on end, but really, though, that "Seriously" achievement from the first game can go get itself curb stomped.

3) Dead Rising

One of Keiji Inafune's last original projects for Capcom before his departure (R.I.P. Mega Man), Dead Rising shows the developers leanings toward Western studios' philosophies of game design over the East. Despite this, Dead Rising is one of SuperPhillip Central's favorite new IPs of the past generation. You play as Frank West, a photojournalist heading for the scoop of his life at a mall in a countryside town of Colorado. Little does Frank know that a zombie outbreak has covered the city in blankets of blood, rotting flesh, and corpses. Dead Rising has you racing against the clock to follow along with the story, taking down psychopaths, wading through hundreds of zombies on screen at the same time, and rescuing survivors from the zombie menace. To assist you can use a multitude of everyday objects that lie around such as baseball bats, soccer balls, chainsaws, and even lawnmowers. Dead Rising is a magnificent and intense zombie game that will have you playing multiple times through the game.

2) Forza Horizon

Speaking of games set in Colorado, Forza Horizon is set in the Rocky Mountain state, offering a fictional festival that has drivers from all walks of life competing for top honors. Unlike previous games in the Forza Motorsport series, Forza Horizon is an open-world game. Despite the change in structure, many facets of the Forza franchise are still here, such as the gorgeous graphics, the realistic driving physics, and the immense amount of cars available to ride in. There is also a good amount of race variety to be had, like point-to-point races, drift races, and rally races. Variety is the spice of life, after all. By playing this races well, you earn street cred (as the kids call it) to grant you popularity that unlocks new race types and even more cars to select from. Forza Motorsport as a series is one that is often compared to Sony's Gran Turismo. However, with Forza Horizon, the Forza franchise proves that it can certainly mix things up really well.

1) Halo 4

The gaming world, especially fans of Halo (duh), was both excited and terrified at the idea of a completely new studio, 343 Industries, taking control of the long-running Halo franchise, the hallmark franchise of the Xbox brand. Would Halo 4 still feel like Halo? Would it be better? Would it be worse? These questions kept many up late a night (or not). Regardless, it is safe to say that 343 Industries blew away expectations, and created the best Halo game in a long time. All of the trademark features of the franchise were present and accounted for: Master Chief, Cortana, the Covenant, cool weaponry, sweet rides, very impressive visuals, a strong campaign mode (offering two players locally to slug through it or four players via Xbox Live), and a fantastic multiplayer experience for competitive combat. It is for these reasons that Halo 4 is SuperPhillip Central's top Xbox 360 title, and we imagine that millions across the globe feel the same.

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