True story. I bought myself a new Xbox 360 for Christmas. Just as we were approaching the holidays, I noticed Sky had finally, finally released an app for Xbox One – my preferred domestic media entertainment system. Not necessarily for playing, you understand – but most definitely for watching.
The sad thing was, this coincided with the dying breaths of my Xbox 360. The disc drive no longer worked – or rather it did, but I’d have to molest it with a pound coin (don’t ask) for half an hour before it would open. And regardless of whether Xbox 360 is best console – it still sounded like a Boeing A380 was trying to land in my front room. Enough was enough, time to free up some space and wires (GOD! THE WIRES!) under my TV.
‘Time to go old friend’ I thought to myself and with that – unbearable sadness.
Although we can all joke about the undeniable calamity that is the Xbox One – I really, really like the Xbox 360. There’s so much digital content on my old box that I play regularly – weekly, DAILY if the mood takes me. It is, for all intents and purposes, my Arcade Machine – housing all the stuff that I can play in 30 minute to hour-long bursts. If PlayStation Vita provides my full JRPG meals, my Xbox 360 is the console that I snack on.
So today I thought I’d share some of the reasons why I think ‘Xbox 360 is Best Console’. Point out some of my Xbox 360 treasures if you will. It would be all too easy for me to single out stuff like Lost Odyssey, or Child of Eden, or Project Sylpheed or The Best Game Ever Made (Tenchu Z, if you must know).
No, that would be against everything I stand for – instead, I’m going to present to you, dear friends, my favourite, left-field arcadey nuggets – which for me, really defined this console. 🙂
PROTECT ME KNIGHT – ANCIENT CORP.
Before we get to the game itself, there are two things that mark this indie oddity out as being very cool.
1/ It’s by the studio owned by Streets of Rage composer Yuzo Koshiro and so automatically earns +10 RAD modifiers to all stats.
2/ The opening of the game sees you blowing into a cartridge in front of an old CRT, over and over as the game refuses to load. (press A to Blow)
The game itself is a bit action-ey and a bit tower defense-ey. You chose from a number of class types and have to protect the princess in the middle from the incoming hordes. Clear the stage and you can level up and build your stats. Better yet, you can play with three friends. Better yet one of the characters looks a bit like Nei from Phantasy Star II if you squint your eyes up real tight.
Better yet, it has a Yuzo Koshiro soundtrack, so in the Sad Times, you can always just leave the music on, strip down to your underpants, turn the lights off and recline with a glass of wine.
TROUBLE WITCHES NEO – SNK
This is very much a Sunday Afternoon game for me – putting me firmly in my Happy Place after I’ve scrubbed all the shame and misery off the kitchen floor from the night before.
Trouble Witches Neo is a side scrolling shooter that’s a little bit bullet-helly sometimes – but not TOO bullet helly, so I can play it with a reasonable degree of competence. I think I love this one so much because it’s so damn colourfull, the artwork so… perky, that it always brings a smile to my face.
The core mechanic is also very cool – with your chosen character capable of erecting a magical barrier that slows down bullets, and then turn those bullets into cash. If, like me, you’re one of those people who’s body goes into spasm when a game rewards you with a magical coin shower – then Trouble Witches is like a multiple, full-body-orgasm where every available orifice has been filled with vibrating ice-pops.
You can then use said cash to purchase cards to power yourself up and bestow special abilities – but to be honest, after a knee-trembling coin-climax, this is really just a secondary benefit…
GUARDIAN HEROES HD – TREASURE
I loved Streets of Rage as a kid. Loved it so much it’s Officially in my Top
13 14 Games Of All Time.
I also loved Street Fighter II, too. (TOO!-TOO!) so much so, that I often looked at Streets of Rage’s moveset and found it wanting. Imagine if a game ever came a long that combined the core sensibilities of both! Imagine if a game came a long and did that – and also a LOT MORE!
Thing is, even as a kid, I kinda understood why this was a tough thing to do. Pressing up in Street Fighter makes you jump. Pressing up in Streets of Rage just moves you vertically up the screen. The problem is having a side scrolling brawler – which affords the player the same kind of move input.
Enter Guardian Heroes. The solution, multiple, switchable planes of 2D combat a-la Fatal Fury – only more so.
Lets be honest here – when I first played this on the Saturn I hated the system. Mentally, I just could deal with it, especially as there are times when Guardian Heroes is REALLY hard to keep track of when the enemy hordes and combat get rockin’. Eventually though I managed to just get a fucking hold of myself and deal with it.
Eventually my tiny mind came to appreciate just what Treasure had done here. This is an incredible side scrolling brawler with a level of depth to the combat that borders on sickness. Multiple character classes that you can level up how you chose (itself opening up the possibilities of different play styles) multiplayer (of course!) which only sweetens the mayhem and strategy – and art, character and enemy design from a developer at the peak of it’s creative powers.
METEOS WARS – Q ENTERTAINMENT
I should probably point out that the Q Entertainment presence on Xbox 360 is amazing. Personally, I think Lumines is a load of tedious nonsense, but I know people out there who are always hot for this. You can also find the best version of Every Extend Extra available and also the beautiful BEAUTIFUL Rez – which I’ve talked about previously here (so didn’t add this time).
So I’m left with Meteos Wars, probably one of Q Entertainment’s least-known titles, but no less befitting a place in this list.
It’s a match-puzzler, as you can probably tell from the screen below. Only this one works kind of in reverse. You’re tasked with matching elements together, and aligning them makes them explode with an upward burst of energy sending the junk above them out of the play area. If you don’t get enough power in your burst the junk will slowly fall back down – but you can counteract this by aligning more elements in your junkpile, to eventually achieve escape velocity.
Do you make lost lots smaller bursts of uplift, or do you align elements for one might surge of junk clearing?
I was originally a massive fan of this game on DS. Use of the touch screen and stylus was the perfect match for this – if felt right to simply swipe elements upward with a stick. It was undoubtedly the system this game was meant for.
Or so I thought.
Turns out, although it’s infinitely more inconvenient – using the d-pad to tap in your commands affords the game a level of stressful intensity that the DS version lacks. You have to pre-plan a couple of seconds more in advance, planning your tap-tap-tap-shift-shift-shift manoeuvres with more dexterity.
It feels as though your hands are doing more to achieve the desired result, and all the while Q Entertainment’s knack for delivering a sensational soundtrack, hypnotises you into a Jesus-I-didn’t-realise-it-was-so-late, time coma.
WARTECH: SENKO NO RONDE – G.REV
I almost didn’t buy this because of the unremitting shitness of the boxart. I’m pretty sure UbiSoft can lay claim to be the last company to think the disrespectful dick-move of making something awesome look ugly as sin, is a Perfectly Accepetable Thing To Do. It is decidedly unsexy – like watching your mother twerking at your fathers funeral in a skin-tight leotard and a pair orthopedic shoes.
That woman has no self control.
Anyway, Wartech Senko No Ronde. It’s on this list because, frankly, it’s the sort of thing that people wouldn’t dare to release on an Xbox console any more. You can pretty much guarantee this game sold poorly – it’s the kind of game that simply never stood a chance.
It’s also a game that’s rather difficult to categorise in so far as it mixes a few genres – but in effect it’s a VS-fighting robo-shmup. Two players choose a character – enter a battle arena then lead a merry dance of bullet hell patterns, dodges, defensive barriers, transformations and up-close melee battles.
As a single player experience this game is extremely weak, it’ll only hold your interest for a few hours as you burn through each characters battles – but as a two player game it really comes alive.
Simple it may be – but it’s also very charming. From the crisp clean menus and character design, to the nonsensical dialogue and ‘plot’ (such as it is) – it’s a game that I’ve brought down from my shelf a great deal over the years, particularly when I have friends around. I forget it’s up there sometimes – but am always thankful when I remember it’s there waiting for me.
This was probably one of the harder lists for me to compile- there’s an astonishing amount of 360-exclusive Japanese titles on the system – from larger JRPGs like Infinite Undiscovery and Blue Dragon, to shmups like Deathsmiles. If you’ve always been a Sony stalwart but have an interest in this stuff – the 360 is still a totally legit console to pick up – with both hardware and software all available for ultra-low prices.
Personally, I hope Microsoft manage to get all of this niche stuff Backward Compatible over the coming year – as it would be a real shame to let them slip into obscurity.
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