The Original XBox Came Out 15 Years Ago


Do you want to feel old?  15 years ago today, Microsoft XBox hit the stores.  I had a friend who worked at Target and he set one aside for me on launch day.  I was so excited to fire this up.  At the time, the PS2 was king and nobody really thought this device would pose much of a threat.  The XBox original may not have hurt PS2 much, but its successors have certainly taken their share of Playstation and Nintendo’s console market.  The launch titles were pretty impressive – I picked up Halo, Project Gotham Racing, Tony Hawk’s Pro-Skater 2, Fuzion Frenzy and Azurik.  I remember it well.  I took it home, popped in Halo and had a ton of fun.

The controllers were initially wired (remember those?) and the controller was HUGE.  They slimmed it down a bit later, but those first controllers were hand-stretchers.  The graphics were unlike any seen up until that point and it had *gasp* an internal hard drive!  You no longer needed memory cards, although you could still use them if you wanted to take your save data with you.  It had a built-in ethernet port for online capability.  I was able to burn music to the hard drive and play it as a custom playlist in many games.

I really loved this old system and I have one today to play some of my favorites which haven’t been ported to the newer XBox consoles (namely SSX Tricky).  15 years really flies by when you’re having fun.

Chey’s Top 25 – #5 – Psychonauts

Genre:  Adventure/Platform
Platform:  XBox Original, PC

Psychonauts is the highest console game to make my list.  Everything after this is a PC game.  This game is one of my favorites ever.  Top 5, actually.  It is also the most unique game on this list.  I happened to have found this one day at a GameStop.  I hadn’t heard of it previously, but it looked interesting.  I have since bought the game two more times as I gave away my first two copies to other people because I want everyone to play and enjoy it as much as I have.  I am a Psychonauts evangelist.

You play the game as a character named Rasputin, or Raz.  Raz is just a kid.  A kid with special powers.  His family doesn’t approve of his powers and is in a circus.  Raz runs away to a summer camp for kids with special mental powers hosted by the Psychonauts – a do-gooding organization whose members all have psychic abilities.  At this camp, he makes new friends and quickly shows that he is special indeed.  Then something bad happens and it’s up to you and Raz to return the camp to normal.  Through the game, you learn new powers, which help you defeat many enemies.

The game play is broken into two main areas – the campgrounds itself and the psychic realm.  In the campgrounds, you go from area to area, looking for hidden objects, buying upgrades and progressing the story along.  In the psychic realm, you are helping individuals sort out their mental issues.  This is really where the game shines.  Every psychic level is completely unique.  There is a level where you are basically Godzilla and hated, one where you are essentially in a pinball table, another in a person who thinks he’s Napoleon and so many more!

There are tons of things to collect in this game, which I always enjoy.  The graphics are also unique.  Some people like them, some don’t.  Because they are a bit unusual, I feel the game still stands up today.  What makes this game for me, however, is the writing.  This game is HILARIOUS!  There were a couple of levels where I laughed for a solid 5 minutes.  When you play it, I recommend that you really take your time and listen to the things the other characters have to say.  If you stick around, you’ll hear some really funny stuff.  Read the billboards, too!  The Milkman level is one of my favorites and I have played it over and over because it’s so funny.

This was the first game I had played by developer Double Fine, headed by Tim Schaefer.  I have Psychonauts shirts, pins, a signed poster by Schaefer and Psychonauts figurines.  This game has reached cult status, and I’m definitely there.  I am a big fan of a lot of their other games as well.  They all have that same sense of humor and excellent writing.


My little Psychonauts

I only have one criticism about the game.  The game plays really well, not overly difficult, until the ending.  As many times as I have played this game, I have never finished it.  The ending requires ridiculous precision and is really frustrating.  It’s so disproportionate to the rest of the game.  It’s never made sense to me.

Otherwise, however, if you have not played this, GET IT NOW AND PLAY IT!!!  It’s available for PC on Steam and it’s available in the Microsoft Store for the XBox 360.  I’m not sure if it’s been ported to the XBone yet.

By the way, Psychonauts 2 is in the works.  I will likely disappear for a week or so after it comes out.  I’ll come out a zombie, but a happy zombie.  I’m a bit nervous about it, though, because this is a tough game to follow.

Oldies but Goodies – Simpsons Road Rage

Genre:  Arcade
Platform:  XBox Original

I was a long-time fan of the Simpsons, although I haven’t really watched much of it the last 10 years or so.  So when Road Rage came out, I picked it up and really enjoyed it.  If you’ve ever played Crazy Taxi, it’s basically that with the Simpsons crew.  You select one of the cast to play and drive around Springfield acting as a taxi.  The faster you get people to their destination, the more money you get and the more time you have to play.

You only start with maybe 5 characters to play with and can purchase the rest as you earn money.  This really adds to the replayability of the game as you’ll enjoy playing the different characters.  Here’s everyone you can play:

Simsons RR characters

I have always been a big Lisa fan, so that’s usually who I played.  I also enjoyed Homer and Mr. Plow a lot, too.  You can destroy just about everything in this game.  Springfield is fairly large, so there is a lot of territory to cover.  There are shortcuts everywhere, so once you find them, the game becomes even more fun.  I just picked this one up again and I’m looking forward to replaying it.  I would recommend it if you’re looking for a fast-paced racing type of game and you are a fan of the Simpsons.


Chey’s Top 25 – #15 – Project Gotham Racing

Genre:  Racing
Platform:  XBox Original

I got Project Gotham Racing (PGR from here on out) when I got the XBox original on launch day.  I loved this game from the second I put it in the drive (pun intended).  The graphics are amazing and still hold up well today.  It was the first game that I played that allowed you to integrate your own soundtrack from the XBox’s hard drive into the game.  It handles that brilliantly – there’s a DJ on the radio and he talks between your songs, just like the radio.

I wasn’t much of a fan of racing games before this one.  I played a few of them over the years including RC Pro Am, Super Cars and Need For Speed.  But this game was/still is special.  You don’t just drive to win in this game.  Now, if you want to, there is a mode for that.  However, that is a tiny fraction of what you can do.  The game is divided into cities – New York, London, Tokyo, San Francisco, etc.  In each city there are different tracks and challenges that you need to pass to get better cars and progress through the game.  My favorite car was the Nissan GTR Skyline (superb handling).  Those challenges include time trials, overtake challenges, total laps and more.  But the heart of this game is kudos.

You get kudos by driving with style.  Anyone can slam into other cars and walls to win.  This game rewards you for finesse.  You get points and combo streaks for things like clean sections, drifting around corners, getting air, driving on two wheels, passing cars (without hitting them) and a lot more!  If you hit something, your streak is over and you don’t get the kudos.  Let me repeat this – you are rewarded in this racing game for using your breaks once in a while.  Once you get good at it, notice how your hands react to the course and how fluid you are with the game.  I love this game so much that it regularly finds itself in my XBox 360 drive (thank goodness for backwards compatibility).

Even if you don’t typically like racing games, I would recommend trying this one.  It’s very different from all other racers and I haven’t been able to find one like it since (except PGR 2, 3 and 4, which are all solid games).


Stinkers – Kabuki Warriors

Genre – Fighting
Platform – XBox

There was no other game that I could put as my first Stinkers post.  This. game. is. just. awful.  So true story.  A friend and I were in Best Buy one day, back when Best Buy was still cool and had a lot of video games and not full of stupid phone accessories, shortly after I had gotten the original XBox (launch day!).  We were looking at games and were looking for another fighting game.  I already had Dead or Alive 3, so why we weren’t content with that, I’ll never know.  This game was in a bargain bin (hint #1) and he picked it up and said “Get this!  It looks like Mortal Kombat but Japanese!”.  I am a fan of MK, so I bought it.

We took it back to my place and played it for about 10 minutes before we put it away.  I then assumed we missed something and played the single-player campaign.  I played it most of the way through.  I guess I was a glutton for punishment back then.

Let me sum up this game – you start out as an almost shapeless clay figure and fight with a curtain rod.  This isn’t what the game thinks you are doing, but that’s EXACTLY what it looks like.  Seriously, these beginning minions look like the developers just didn’t have time to render them and left them as-is.    You kill other generic grey things for several levels until you meet the one interesting guy in town, who happens to be a cross-dressing weirdo fighting with something as exciting as an umbrella.  To get money, you have to stop in the middle of your fighting and pose.  Your spectators then throw money on the stage.   Wait.  Guys in drag posing on a stage and having money thrown at them.  OMG it’s a game about strippers and must be a joke, right?  Wrong.  This game isn’t even close to being humorous, outside of its horribleness.

The graphics are ok and a few of the stages look pretty good.  There is also one immediately annoying sound effect through the entire game – EEEEOOOOOO – which will have you ready to shoot your TV.  The game play is as terrible as the characters.  My two-year old nephew would be able to get through this game simply by pressing the A button for a while.  That’s right, you have one button to press to fight and there doesn’t seem to be any need for strategy – or even thinking, for that matter.  This game is so bad that I would recommend playing it just so you can experience it and put it on your own Stinkers list.

Chey’s Top 25 – #21 – SSX Tricky

Genre:  Sports
Platform:  XBox Original

I want to stop writing this and go play SSX Tricky right now.  This game is a snowboarding game, which normally I really don’t care about.  It’s got your standard snowboarding/skateboarding elements – tricks, grinds, racing – but there’s something really special about this game.

I remember this game so fondly that I recently went out and found an original XBox console just so I could play this again.  What sets this game apart is how outrageous it is.  It doesn’t really take snowboarding seriously.  This is not an accurate representation of shredding down a course.  This is over-the-top drops, allowing you to string together lots of moves that a real person could never do.

As you play and do tricks, you build up your “tricky” meter.  Once it’s full, wait for your next big jump and activate it.  Each character has their own special trick, and they are BIG.  Your character will twist and twirl around the screen and leave you smiling.  There are two modes – race and style.  In race mode, your goal is to win a race.  You can knock down your opponents to get an advantage.  Be careful, though, because you need to keep a few friends as you progress.  In style mode, it’s all about the points.

The graphics are decent, but the soundtrack is awesome.  Be prepared to hear “It’s Tricky” by Run DMC A LOT.  The announcer also sings your praises as you play with comments such as “bronze those thumbs!” and “call your mamma into the room and show her how good you are!”.  It all adds to the fun.

This game was also on the Gamecube and Playstation 2.  If you can find it, get it and be ready for some big-time fun.