The forgotten games of Xbox

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Forgotten, but not gone

[If you ask Sony, they’ll tell you that no one cares about backward compatibility. But Microsoft? This is one thing they get. Help Michael Griff talk about some hidden gems from the original Xbox that you’d like to play on your Xbox One…if you have one, that is. How did Michael find his work displayed for the Dtoid Front Page masses? He wrote a cool blog! Why don’t you give it a shot? – Wes]

The crowd goes wild! After a long press briefing at Microsoft’s E3 conference, fans were on their feet giving a roar of a approval. There is no doubt the star of the show was the announcement of being able to play Xbox classic games on your Xbox One hardware. I honestly was not expecting that announcement and was well taken aback by the ovation it received. But hey, with this excitement comes a chance to write about and revisit some classic Xbox games…a win-win for me!

The original Xbox was my favorite piece of hardware during the sixth console generation and had a ton of great games. Now in a twist, I’m not going to spend time talking about the Xbox greats or the cult classics that came from the black beast. I’m sure there are plenty of blogs, videos, and articles on that subject. Instead I thought it would be cool to scour my classic game shelves and play through exclusive Xbox games that I have completely forgotten about. The games we’ll be looking at are by no means the best of X, but they do offer unique experiences that are exclusive to the Xbox brand…or PC. Microsoft is funny that way.

Tao Feng: Fist of the Lotus

What is it?

A 3D fighter from the minds of former Midway staffers, the company that Mortal Kombat built. The game’s big selling point was its visceral graphics. Clothes will tear, bones will break, blood will spill – even the environment will show scars of your battle! Nowadays some of these features are commonplace but back in the early 2000s there really wasn’t anything that quite looked like Fist of the Lotus.

Why you should play it?

The best feature of the game is limb damage. Throughout the course of a fight you can focus your attacks on your opponent’s arms or legs, eventually breaking them. I love this feature. If there was an opportunity to break Jan Lee’s leg from DOA for all those years of Dragon Kicks to the face I would jump up and cheer! A broken limb does 50% less damage and affects the character’s mobility. With a broken limb you have two choices. Once your special meter fills up you can either: A) heal your broken limb, or B) use your offensive super moves. It’s a fun mechanic that I would really like to see implemented in other fighting games.

Why it was forgotten?

There is a lot of stiff competition when it comes to the fighting game genre, and Fist of the Lotus had a lot of first-game problems. The roster was rather small with only twelve characters, the fighting mechanics were not super refined, and there was a lack of compelling modes. Ultimately games like DOA 3 and Soul Caliber 2, both being the third entry in their respective series, had such a higher level of polish that it was hard for Tao Feng to compete. If the game had gotten a sequel it very well might have grown into something special; but as it stands, it’s a fun diversion from more complete fighting games.

Sudeki

What is it?

This action-RPG takes place in a realm where medieval fantasy meets steampunk technology to create the wonderfully strange world of Sudeki. Unfortunately for the inhabitants of Sudeki, the world is the subject of a feud between twin gods. Getting pissy with one another, the twins get in a fight and the world is literally torn in two – one light world, one dark. Now it’s up to four champions to answer the call of destiny and bring unity back to the world.

Why You should play it?

The game’s environments are super pretty and really pop off the television screen, as an excellent use of bright colors with some short of wash effect really makes the game feel like a classic fantasy. Also the game’s combat is spot on. I never played the 3D Gauntlet but it should play like this. The game features four characters and allows you to switch between all of them during battle. The Soldier and Feral Cat Lady play like a classic third person beat em up, using a combination of strikes, dodging, and blocking to defeat their foes. Then there is the Gunslinger and the Witch, who use a first person mode to cast spells and shoot their enemies. The system works really well and each brawl has a great frenetic energy to it as you jump between characters during battle.

Why it was forgotten?

This game was published by Microsoft, who at the time were making a big marketing push for their two other RPG’s: Fable and Jade Empire. But more importantly, Sudeki had one major flaw for an RPG: Despite the pretty graphics and fun gameplay, the characters and story were really bad. The main cast ranged from boring to irritating, the NPC’s that inhabit the land all had horrible voice work, and the story for this fifteen-hour game did not start to get rolling until around the ten-hour mark! It really is a shame because if you look at it in terms of gameplay mechanics it stands up well to Jade Empire and Fable…but when you have such immortal lines as, “I’ll kill you in the face!” being blurted out by one of your main characters who happens to be a science officer, you know you’re in for a rough time.

Advent Rising

What is it?

A sci-fi adventure allegedly from the mind of renowned writer Orson Scott Card, (Enders Game). The game was one part Halo and one part Psi-Ops, with a tiny twinge of Knights of the Old Republic. The game focuses on the last survivors of a human colony as you discover humanity’s secret past, which gives you Jedi-like powers to fight a hostile alien race.

Why you should play it?

The game has a great setting. You will travel the galaxy visiting human and alien worlds, having a impressive sense of scope. It honestly feels like you’re playing through one of your favorite sci-fi novels. Also the mixture of Jedi powers and run-and-gun gameplay can be quite enjoyable as you throw one enemy in the air and shoot another with a rocket launcher.

Why it was forgotten?

Advent Rising is the very definition of a diamond in the rough. The game has a ton of great ideas but I wouldn’t say a single one of them is executed exceedingly well. You have this great big sci-fi story: The alien race known as the Seekers have enslaved the galaxy and see the humans as the last known threat to their empire. So far so good. Sadly, the script lets down the entire experience, with characters constantly dropping one liners during horrible situations. Somebody drowns? Flirt with the closest woman. Somebody gets beaten to death? Crack a joke. I have a really hard time believing this was written by a professional novelist. You also have this great gameplay mix of super powers and gunplay, but the frame rate constantly drops well below 30fps (that’s what us old folks consider smooth), which hinders the experience. I won’t go as far as calling Advent Rising a bad game, but it did have a lot more potential than what it delivered on.

Galleon


What is it?

Want to go on a high sea adventure without the pains of socializing with fellow gamers in Sea of Thieves? Well Galleon is the game for you! Coming from the man that brought us the original Tomb Raider, you play as Captain Rhama. The man is an adventure, privateer, and appraiser of fine antiquities. So yeah, he’s basically a male version of Lara Croft – but he’s still awesome. When your client is murdered by his butler (it’s always the butler), you go on a high seas chase as you explore six different islands in hopes of stopping him from attaining godhood – every butler’s dream!

Why you should play it?

I really enjoyed this game – granted, I’m a huge fan of the action-adventure genre, like classic Tomb Raider, Prince of Persia, Indiana Jones, etc. When the game focuses on platforming, puzzle solving, and key hunts it’s a real joy. Whether it was using catapults to scale castle walls, or building a giant robot to fight Godzilla over a ruined city, the game was constantly surprising me in the best possible ways. I’ll admit that the combat kinda of sucks, but thankfully much like Tomb Raider, it is not the focus of the game.

Why it was forgotten?

Graphics sell games, and Galleon just was not up to snuff when it was released in 2004. Granted, the game had a real troubled development cycle. Originally announced in 1997 for the original PlayStation, the game was in development hell, skipping from the PlayStation to the GameCube, to finally landing on the Xbox – and it shows. Beside the graphics the game’s camera and controls take a good bit of getting use to, feeling more like a classic PlayStation game than a contemporary Xbox game. Character movement and the camera were assigned to the left analog stick, while the inventory select screen was assigned to the right analog stick. Yes it’s as cumbersome as it sounds but if you stick with it and are a fan of the genre I can see you having a pretty good time with Galleon. Definitely a game I’ll say that should not have been forgotten.

Breakdown

What is it?

A first-person beat-’em-up meets a first0person shooter in this hybrid science-fiction adventure. You play as an amnesiac combat specialist who is woken up in a lab by the beautiful but deadly Alex. She saves your life from a group of jack-booted thugs that have come to the lab to eradicate you and everyone else. Apparently they are hoping to prevent something or someone from escaping. You start the game knowing nothing but a promise you made to Alex, “I won’t let you die,” and you will spend the next 12+ hours learning what that means and how to stay true to your word.

Why you should play it?

This game’s story is really engrossing. It’s a slow burner and really uses the first-person perspective well. You look through clipboards, listen to tape recordings, and even visit your own hallucinations as you go deeper and deeper into the lab and slowly unravel the mystery of why the military is trying to kill you, as well as the origins of a seemingly-unstoppable race of super soldiers. I don’t want to give anything away; all I’ll say is if Half Life and Total Recall had a love child, it may look something like this…maybe. It really is an awesome tale and makes the entire experience worth playing.

Why it was forgotten?

Holly Mother of Balls this game is HARD! Now I enjoy challenging games like God Hand, Devil May Cry 3, and Ninja Gaiden Black, but those games have nothing on Breakdown…even on Easy! From the limited range and motion in aiming your firearms, the pinpoint jumps that are scattered throughout the game, and most infuriating, the constant one-on-one fist fights that quickly become one-on-two to one-on-five, this is one of the most frustrating games that I have ever completed. Despite the fact that your character becomes more powerful throughout the game, the developers keep the challenge level well beyond the bounds of reason. You would be forgiven in thinking that I hated this game if you watched me play, but ultimately once I finished the game and all of the countless story threads were tied up, I wanted to play it again. The story really is that good. True a lot of these gameplay mechanics will appear in the superior Xbox exclusive Escape from Butcher Bay, but Breakdown really is a unique experience and I’ll definitely remember it for years to come.

So what did I miss? I’m only one man, so I didn’t have time to play all of my forgotten Xbox games. Anyone ever played Crimson Seas, Voodoo Vince, or some other Xbox game that has fallen into obscurity? Let me know in the comments! Till next time I’ll shut up and play.


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