Saturday May 30

Original Xbox - A Brief Retrospective / Not Top 10



A Little History:

After working in tandem with Sega on the Dreamcast, Microsoft gained the experience they needed to come out with a console to call their own. Much in the same way that Sony arrived on the scene after attempting a collaboration with Nintendo. The original Xbox was a late comer to the sixth generation of consoles, replacing the vacant spot left by Sega and the Dreamcast which had been discontinued in early 2001.

Its name is derived from Direct X, a long running collection of application programming interfaces often used in game programming. It was originally called the Direct X Box, but that wasn't quite catchy enough for the dev team in charge of coming out with a new console to combat Sony's popular console, the Playstation 2, which was cutting into PC profits heavily as more gamers shifted from PC to consoles.

Making its debut to a room full of developers and journalists during the 2000 Game Developers Conference, the original Xbox stunned the world as Microsoft entered into the fabled consoles wars out of left field with graphics that trumped other consoles on the market at the time, it aimed to bridge the gap between the PC and consoles, garnering many PC titles as well as providing the first active online console subscription with Xbox Live.

It had features unseen in consoles up until that point, creating new benchmarks which are standards for the consoles of today. Features such an internal HDD for saving games, storing music and downloading content for games and real time Dolby Digital encoding.

The controller also saw a unique change, originally the controllers were large and bulky. However this was decried by Japanese consumers who demanded a better controller, which led to the development of the S-type controller which eventually replaced the larger bulky controllers.

As the Xbox 360 nears its seventh year and gamers are on the edge of a new run of consoles coming from Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft, it's a great time to look back on games of yesteryear.

Sure, the original Xbox had a limited online experience and no achievements, but it's very rare to see or even hear of somebody who had decided to revisit old favourites from the original Xbox, which is disappointing, because there are definitely some great games to go back to. For this retrospective, however, don't expect games which were later revitalized the 360 to be mentioned, games like Halo already know their place in Xbox history.


Amped 1 and 2

Developer: Indie Built

Year: Amped: 2002 Amped 2: 2003

Coming out on Microsoft's XSN Sports line of games, the Amped games were pack ins with consoles that were often overlooked as time went on, but without a doubt they are something that deserves coming back to as classics of the system. The games featured a variety of game play modes for players to experience, like career, multiplayer and freeplay.

Amped 2 in particular features a robust career mode allowing full creation over the look of your character, gaining upgrades in equipment over time as well as skill points to distribute to your character's stats like big air, balance, switch/flip and spin. Amped 2 was also the first game to feature a link between your character in career mode and make them playable on Xbox Live, allowing those who had played the game extensively a leg up in online multiplayer.

Smooth controls and a variety of play modes made the Amped series one of the best snowboarding simulators available.


Indigo Prophecy

Developer: Quantic Dream

Year: 2005

Often described as an interactive film, you live the lives of those who are caught up in a series of murders throughout New York City. Many staple gameplay elements and an external hud were dropped in favour of a more subtle approach as much the gameplay relies on pressure sensitive use of the left and right triggers and analog sticks for delicate work which enhance your interactivity in the world.

The game played on a different level from other games, with game triggers that were time-based rather than triggered by the player, forcing the player to think fast. There are very few games that can make you sweat bullets the way Indigo Prophecy does, you'll be wrapped up in the mystery the moment you start your journey.


The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind Game of the Year Edition

Developer: Bethesda Game Studios

Year: 2003

After the booming popularity of Oblivion and Skyrim it stands to reason that a game like Morrowind might seem like a shoe in, but it arrives here based entirely on its own merits. With many gamers still claiming it to be the best in the series, gamers who own a 360 have no excuse not to fire up this game.

It was the first game of its kind on a console, featuring a world larger than any other game before it. With hundreds of books to read, side-quests and an engrossing storyline, it was a game that was hard to put down. Whether you kept the storyline, played side-quests or simply just explored the world there was so much to do in Morrowind and the Xbox was the only console on the market that could ever play such a game.

While living out your character in Skyrim, consider crossing into neighbouring Morrowind and see where the series really took off.


Conker: Live and Reloaded

Developer: Rare

Year: 2005

A remake of Rare's N64 cult classic Conker's Bad Bur Day, Conker: Live and Reloaded was met with some scepticism from fans after promising and planning a completely uncensored version of the game. The development team was forced to cut back on many of the changes planned and were even forced to cut back from some of the content which was available in the N64 version.

But that doesn't change the core aspects of game that make Rare games true to their name. With solid gameplay and a ribald sense of humour tucked away under the veneer of what can appear at times to be a children's cartoon Conker: Live and Reloaded provides an experience that is great fun and great fun worth re-experiencing.


Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 1 & 2

Developer: (1) Bioware (2) Obsidian Entertainment

Year: Knights of the Old Republic: 2003

Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords :2004

Knights of the Old Republic is often one of the most lauded and talked about games when referred to great games on the original Xbox, these games are rich with great storytelling and solid gameplay that never gets old.

Unknown to most people is that the Knights of the Old Republic series or sometimes referred to as KOTOR are actually based on a pen and paper RPG which utilizes the D20 system used in the Third Edition of Dungeons and Dragons.

Bioware gave players the option to experience both the light and the dark side or somewhere in between. Given choices which altered the story by way of choices and gameplay in a variety of different skills. The Knights of the Old Republic games are a must play for any fan of western RPGs and especially those who enjoy games like Dragon Age or Mass Effect.

The original was handled by Bioware, whereas the sequel was handled by Obsidian Entertainment at Bioware's suggestion, both companies can trace origins back to Black Isle, a company known for creating the base of what almost all western RPGs use to this day.


Jade Empire:

Developer: Bioware

Year: 2005

While Bioware suggested the sequel to KOTOR was to be handled by Obsidian Entertainment, they were in favour of creating an original IP. Jade Empire was that game, which was heavily inspired by Wuxia, a type of Chinese fiction which centers around martial artists.

Placed in a mythical setting with heavy Eastern influences, Bioware set out to forge a world worth experiencing. The gameplay takes many cues from those presented in KOTOR, providing an open-ended gaming experience, which allows you to be the character you want to be, it also features a variety of romance options available to the player.

To this day many gamers are still pining for a sequel to this unique RPG, every gamer worth their salt owes it to themselves to play this game, perhaps with the successes seen by Bioware in today's RPGs they just might reconsider that sequel.


Ninja Gaiden Black:

Developer: Team Ninja

Year: 2004

Ninja Gaiden Black belongs to a long living series of games notorious for their unparalleled levels of difficulty and this doesn't disappoint. Ninja Gaiden Black was as attractive as it was difficult, improving on the original Ninja Gaiden for the Xbox, giving players more challenge per dollar spent than many games for years to come, even now very few games are given the same amount of respect for the challenge they present.

Married with solid gameplay anybody that is looking for a challenge shall look no further, beating this game is more of an achievement than any 1000'd game on the Xbox 360.


Shenmue II:

Developer: Sega AM2/Roboto Games

Year: 2002

Originally on the Dreamcast and later the Xbox, Shenmue II is another game where gamers are always hoping to hear it make a comeback, get a sequel, or any attention at all.

Expanding on the first game, Shenmue II provided players with a game that mixed massive amounts of mini-games, fist fights with action packed QTEs. You'll find yourself petting cats and getting a part-time job or gambling to make ends meet. As a departure from the first game it featured changes such as being able to skip to the next event rather than waiting and no longer being tied to Ryo's sleeping habits as hard fast as they were in the first game.

The game featured an expanded cast of characters as well as love interests which gave the game a very personal feeling to it. Without a doubt Shenmue II is an RPG that is well worth your time.

Sometimes gamers forget that there are many great games available on the original Xbox beyond just Halo that are worth looking back on. Now more than any other time is the best time to snag some of the greats of the last generation at a bargain, as you'll slowly find that what is currently readily available will slip into rarity and with that rarity will come a steeper price tag.

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