Okay, so maybe Adam Orth didn’t make us think too fondly of our long days on the Xbox, and eventually, the Xbox 360. But Microsoft apologized, so I guess that makes it all better. They did a good job discouraging me about this whole forever-online thing, though, since we of course have to pay for online.
Anyways, here comes my next follow up article to the very first one I ever wrote—“PS We Love You”. In this series, in a nutshell, I’ll be compiling lists of video games we loved and with which it would be quite nostalgic to take a fond look back to. The Xbox may have been hinged on Bungie, but we’ve got plenty of fond memories with this system’s catalog of games. So let’s have a look already! Unless you’re already skimming down to look at the pictures. Oh, you.
When I was younger, the only video game I ever had for PC was MechWarrior 2. Besides from its score eventually attaining a cult status, I was perfectly happy with it being the only game to play on the comp. Back then there were only three clans, and Kit Fox could manage some real damage.
It may have seemed impossible, but everyone that made this game not only made it feel authentic and true to the series of MechWarrior, but they made one of the first games to implement the Xbox Live system, and it rocked. The game never tires with repetition, and the introduction of elementals was neat.
I never cared much for the story, but it didn’t need it. The gameplay was smooth, the controls were fun, and the Mechs felt just as immortalized as ever. I mean, here’s a series that inspired the Mantis in Halo 4, and everyone knows exactly what it is. Guys of any age want a MechWarrior. This is an excellent game to kick off this list with, especially since its nostalgic of the MechWarrior series itself!
Platforming games are hit and miss, but when they hit, they usually fare better in sales than Vexx. In the game, you play as a strange furry protagonist with talons who has to collect the hearts of dead “Wraiths” to open a portal and find the antagonist before he bridges his world to Vexx’s. As far as I can remember.
Possibly one of the most addictive things about the game is the riddles, which inform you where on Earth to get the hearts, which are inconveniently located all over the place in many manners of different worlds. Typical platforming obstacles are abound, but have a fresh and unique voice thanks to Vexx’s capabilities and remarkable locations. I still love the gigantic Manor level the most, especially with the T-Rex pet wandering around.
JSRF (Jet Set Radio Future)
Here’s another game that just didn’t get as much attention as it deserved. This may be the coolest and most unique game on the planet. Certainly the latter, if not the former for subjectivity, it’s possible that since the game features graffiti as a consistent and indeed essential chunk of the gameplay, some or most parents would be discouraged from handing it over to their kids.
But anyone who ever played the game knows perfectly well that there was no skipping that damn warning at the beginning, strongly insisting that the developers in no way condone graffiti. Now, I know I’ve already brought attention to this game from its soundtrack, but this is much deserved attention.
The cel-shaded art is fantastic, the music is fantastic (although the wailing “Birthday Cake” song was considered a curse in VS modes back when I played), and the large roster of characters to unlock and ‘Graffiti Souls’ to collect leave almost nothing to be desired even after completion of the story mode.
Also, you can save up to three files, so you can actually replay the story at least twice more. I love this game so dearly I actually went out of my way to forge one of its Ball Hog arenas in Halo 4, and arranged a Ball Hog game variant out of Oddball. This is a game that everyone should play at least once, and it’s backwards compatible, so get your hands on it for goodness’ sake. The game will speak for itself.
Oh my goodness. What acclaim is there to note that hasn’t already been repeated a bagillion times? Here’s a perfect shooter that revolutionized practically everything and single-handedly continues to carry the Xbox systems the way Superhero movies are used as tent-pole films over the summer for every Hollywood Studio.
This is yet another one of those flawless games, of which there are very few. And who would have thought that anything like this would have arisen out of an Alien Invasion plot? I mean honestly, we’ve seen so many of those. Even in video games. Space Invaders, Defender, Galaga. We’ve been there. But never like this.
The story is so rich of plot that it’s been explored in a myriad of other mediums. I’m sure we can expect a radio show soon. Machinima made Forward Unto Dawn, entire books were written—this is practically the video game to end all video games. But unlike all of you online nay-sayers, I loved Reach. Especially the forge system. Did you really hate it that much, or are you just following the crowd to not sound like an idiot online?
Anyways, here’s a game that pushed you to use strategy to overcome various obstacles and achieve very specific goals that don’t feel so disconnected because you personally advance the story. You feel like you’re in the middle of Die Hard: In Space. It kicks ass.
Marvel vs Capcom 2
Now here’s a fighting game that never gets old. Much like comic book fans enjoyed arguing over what superhero would beat another, mashing them up the way The Avengers did, we’ve got a collection of Capcom’s combatants with superpowers face off against Marvel heroes and villains. Yes, it works just the same, and extremely well.
The game functions in teams of three, where you select any three characters and are free to swap them out in the middle of the fight and you only win once your opponent’s three fighters are all down. The combos are crazy, the hyper-powered specials are great, and swapping out makes for endless combinations of favorite teams. This non-stop pace marks the game nearly everywhere as one of the most perfect fighting games—ever.
The Matrix: Path of Neo
What? You never played this? Well let me tell you, it’s a vast improvement over Enter the Matrix. This game takes you through all three films as Neo, which is the game everyone wanted in the first place. You re-enact plenty of the most fun scenes wielding guns and those awesome but remarkably impractical fighting techniques.
Sure, that kick in the air where he falls into a pose can get irritating when done enough, but there are combos you can button smash your way through, and the overall feel of the game pays terrific homage even in the extensions of the plot. Such as when you fight giant human sized red ants. Yeah, that sounds weird.
But this game is a blast because who on Earth doesn’t want to be Neo? The Matrix was one of the most pivotal science fiction films of all time, and that still holds true today even in the face of its heartbreaking sequels. As you progress through this game, Neo develops a surplus of abilities and powers such as alternating between regular vision and seeing everything as code of the Matrix.
The difficulties range from relatively hard to just challenging enough, and it’s easy to get a hang of the controls. Any fan of The Matrix should love it, and fans of fighting games and shooters should too.
Dynasty Warriors 3
“Damn you, Liu Biao!” Hahaha. Oh, those English voice actors. But I do so enjoy them, just the same way fellow Kaiju fans love those rubber suits in Godzilla movies and his spinoffs. This was another one of my favorite Xbox games, in which you play as an Officer of a given Nation in ancient China.
You can increase each of their levels, acquiring new weapons and items in the middle of a selected battle, with the ultimate goal of unifying China under one Kingdom, the rule of the main nation you selected to follow through story mode with. An advantage to this game was the addition of two player mode, and using magic with your attacks was never boring with a solid roster of Officers to choose from.
You can ride on horses, but some which are faster would only listen to you once you reached a certain level. The little things, like that, made this game very addictive for a hack and slash. There was a great attention to detail, and each battle could be won through strategy based on the layout of the very large arenas, of the Officers you personally dispatched with—this was essentially an awesome variation on Chess.
The goal is to kill the opposing commander, while protecting your own. That is Chess, which I happen to love by the way. The music, magic-based attacks, strategy-involved combat, and rewarding level-grinding all make this a mainstay of the Xbox.
Tenchu: Wrath of Heaven (Return From Darkness)
Having trained in martial arts my entire life, I’ve always been a fan of ninjas. Of course, having also played Mortal Kombat since quite a young age, being a 90’s kid, I’d been fascinated with the concept of ninjitsu and its near mythological culture and practices. Here’s a game series that captures all the mysticism typical of Japanese games and successfully combines it with relatively real goings-on of assassinations through stealth.
The story is all over the place, and over the top, but very entertaining with a somewhat lacking but always fun roster of characters that can be used in multiplayer. The plot, which is a continuation of the Tenchu series, centers around three jewels that grant immense power, and we have to stop evil from destroying the world with it.
It sounds familiar, but with such a unique backdrop and considerably violent path, it works here anyways. Actually, I’m pretty sure this is the same plot as Vexx. But there are demons, powers, and then very real tactics such as throwing knives and arrows, and alerts upon being seen. A game rarely focuses so strongly on stealth—you really feel like a ninja avoiding detection. And that feels awesome, so play this game if you can!
I don’t know about you, but any game with weapons—that goes for the Halo series, too—I can’t wait to get my hands on a sniper rifle. When I was a kid I really enjoyed the movie Sniper starring Tom Berenger. I loved the whole concept of taking your time and waiting days for “one shot, one kill”. Of course, in Halo, I got hooked on no-scopes too. I also love their new name (snapshots).
Anyways, this game took the conditions of performing as a Sniper into a whole new level, and you actually had the preferences to enable additional “conditions” to wind velocity, such as gravity and your heartbeat and even further. In Halo, you just mark someone in your reticle, and you take them out. In this game, you practically need a spotter to note the appropriate clicks.
I really enjoyed how the game walks you through a war not just as a Sniper, but as a soldier. You often needed automatics or semi-automatics and pistols to survive until reaching the position from which you take the final shot. And then the game got creative with how you used your rifle—and had to out-maneuver enemy snipers. For example, to take out a tank in one level, you had to personally set explosives ahead of its path, take cover, and snipe the explosives from wherever you wouldn’t get killed.
Okay, I’ve always been a huge Sonic the Hedgehog fan. When I was just a kid I managed to get my hands on a used handheld system called the Game Gear. You ever see or own that? It required six batteries and ate the hell out of them pretty quick. But I played the original Sonic the Hedgehog on it, and it was incredible.
This was a platforming game I enjoyed even more than Mario, and I’m even part Italian. Anthony Fertino. So when Sonic hit the Xbox with Sonic Heroes, I was very pleased with a story mode that moved at a brisk pace and could be played through with one of four teams, led by Sonic, Shadow, Amy, and Espio. That last guy is a ninja. He rocks.
The game is one of the few in Sonic’s series which practically feels as visceral and fun as the original 2D games. The levels are vivid and creative, and bull to all the critics who claimed they disliked it. It picked up the pace and truly felt as crazed and high-powered as the originals, and for a game about a supersonic hedgehog, that’s what we all want.
There’ve been some complaints about the camera control, but I never had a problem with it. Maybe the Xbox version was particularly grand, but I only have great memories of Sonic Heroes, especially of its addictive Casino level—which carries its legacy on into Sonic and Sega All-Stars Racing, his awesome Kart game.
And that’s that! Keep in tune, and I’ll be bringing even more games from your past back to the future. See what I did there?