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|[ 09/26/06 ] = Why I Bought An XBox 360|
When the XBox 360 was released, I wasn't too excited (as can be seen in a past article). I wasn't impressed by Call of Duty 2, I didn't give a fuck about Final Fantasy XI, Tony Hawk games aren't something I'd spend money on, and I couldn't have cared less about EA's unstoppable sports game gravy train. Dead Or Alive 4 looked good, and Condemned looked creepy, Ridge Racer 6 looked OK, but it needed more for me to buy the hardware. The XBox 360 media support (music, digital pictures, and movies) didn't seem like a reason to buy a game system, either. I decided to hold off until the XB360 got more. The time has come. I had to go out and get one. Why? For iPod and digital camera file transfer? For DVD playback? For voice chat? No. Because game development is picking up for the XB360, and the hardware's appeal is increasing. The good flow of announcements and releases have sold me (again, not the media functions). Capcom has polished Dead Rising to be a runaway hit, Lost Planet is shaping up to be a great game, and Resident Evil 5 is also in development for it. Three Capcom titles may not seem like much, but look at the DreamCast; Capcom announced only a few titles for it in the beginning (Power Stone and Resident Evil - Code: Veronica), but as things took off they developed and released new titles like clockwork. The same thing could happen with the XB360, and I say the odds are high.
It's not just with Capcom, either; other heavyweights in the industry are developing for Microsoft's new hardware, too. Tecmo of course is turning heads with the "beautiful" Dead Or Alive 4 while developing the highly-anticipated Dead Or Alive - Chronos, Namco's already released Ridge Racer 6 and Zega Pain XOR, they're developing Frame City for it, and Koei has shown their support by bringing their hit Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors series to the system. Then we have the much-talked about Ninety-Nine Nights, also made especially to bring the hack & slash genre to the next generation of technology. Even SNK has announced that a new 3-D KOF is in development for it (which is surprising, considering they don't like to take chances after the Aruze fiasco)! Then you have bullshit Square with Final Fantasy XI and a new Silpheed (which looks like a bore-fest already); these two particular titles may not help much, but at least Microsoft has them on their side. If Microsoft is able to convince Square to release their regular love-simulation Final Fantasy series on their hardware, too, XB360 support could rise significantly. Anyway, Square support aside, if the increasing developer support means anything, we have a lot to look forward to in the future.
Capcom has polished Dead Rising considerably from its demo state, and it shows. The game has sold over 500,000 units upon its American release, impressing Japanese analysts enough to speculate that the its success has prompted Capcom to consider making Devil May Cry 4 for both the PS3 and the XB360 (something that would make a lot of people in a lot of places really happy). Even I was skeptical of Dead Rising after seeing the demo build, but I have to say Capcom really stepped it up and the game turned out well. So well that even software retailers in Akihabara, Japan are importing the US version to meet demand before the Japanese release. This game is the reason I bought an XB360, and I'm sure I wasn't the only one to follow suit. Then there's Lost Planet, which is quietly being shaped into a hit. It looks like it will be strong in both single-player and multi-player, both online and off-line, with various play modes and solid gameplay. The player can either battle on foot (with artillery like Shotguns, Machine Guns, and Rocket Launchers), or pilot a mech (walking tanks that can be upgraded with different arms like Gatling Guns); a gameplay type that other developers have failed at. This game will be a blast to play online with teams, especially with over-the-top weapons like rocket launchers and mechs. The visuals in both Dead Rising and Lost Planet look fantastic, and so does the footage Capcom has showed us of Resident Evil 5. I bought the XBox 360 to play Dead Rising now, Lost Planet soon, and Resident Evil 5 in 2007, and more the future.
And it seems like the current are only the beginning; once RE5 hits the XB360, sales will increase and it could really boost developer confidence in the hardware. Even if we don't count the success of RE5 (or any other system-selling titles), developer support could still be strong simply because the original XBox was so popular in the US. Several big developers increased support for the original XB for this reason, even though it wasn't faring too well in Japan. I see this happening with the XB360. Though Japan is a factor, American sales and support seem to be a bigger factor. Sure, the XB360 hasn't been as successful in Japan as Microsoft had hoped it would, but Japanese developers can't deny the opportunities that come with its success in America. With both scenarios in mind, the XB360 seems like it will be a win/win deal (like the DreamCast). It would be great to see Capcom, SNK, and Tecmo make a generation of killer titles for the XBox 360 like they did with the PlayStation, DreamCast, and PlayStation 2. There's nothing like having a generation of quality games all developed on the same hardware by the industry's best.
As for the hardware itself, I have voiced my qualms with the design, but there are some good things that Microsoft did with it. First, they made it so that the the system could be turned on and off from the controller, which is great. Why? Not because it allows us to be lazier than we already are. Because opening and closing the disc tray from the controller reduces stress on the eject button, which will prolong the life of the hardware. It's also the only one of the next-generation systems with a disc tray instead of a disc "feeding-slot." People have also said that the original XB was strong, but sometimes it could be a bit finicky; as it stands now, the XB360 seems to be a more durable piece of hardware than its predecessor. XB360 heat ventilation is also a lot better than the original XB, since its sides are not only convex, but dotted with ventilation holes. The controller itself isn't bad, and it's actually pretty comfortable, but Microsoft should have opted against the trigger buttons; even though they have a firm feel to them, regular buttons would have been better. As a whole, the button placement and feel is good, and it's more responsive than the original XB controller. Best of all, the awkwardly-placed black and white buttons from the original XB controller have become the LB and RB shoulder buttons on the XB360 controller. Going back to the special button that is used to close the disc tray, it's also used to navigate through the XB360's efficient, easy-to-use interface. When I first read about the XB360's "dashboard" interface and its features, it didn't seem interesting, but there's a lot more than meets the eye. Navigation is simple and easy, from memory management and hardware settings, to XBox Live downloads and battle invitations. It's actually one of my favorite attributes of the system.
It's difficult to capture the unique feeling of what Microsoft has done and put into words (much-less on paper), but it can be described as "smart and efficient." Your friends can see what game you're playing when you're online, and if they want to invite you to play another (or the same) game with them, an invitation notice will appear on the screen (even during gameplay). And it's not just with invitations; that same notice comes up when you get messages or when you accomplish certain tasks in the game you're playing. These tasks are called "achievements," and are worth points that are shown on your user profile; some are as easy as falling from a high spot (Dead Rising), while others can be as hard as coming out of nowhere and defeating an online player with a 15-win streak (DOA4). There are a ton of different tasks, and completing them makes every game even more fun than it was before; I like the achievement system because it rewards every type of player (from beginner to experienced). This particular system of points and rewards may seem simple, but cloning it with efficiency could prove to be difficult for other hardware developers. If only they had this sort of system back when Capcom's CPSII fighting games were in their prime; no, wait, Capcom can just make new fighting games that utilize this system! Now that would be great.
Does all of this mean I'll be throwing my PS2 and PSP away? No, not at all. Recent hits like Devil Kings 2, Onimusha: Dawn Of Dreams, Street Fighter Alpha 3 Max, and Ultimate Ghosts 'N Goblins (respectively) on Sony hardware will keep me playing in the meantime as releases for the XB360 pick up (similar to how I played a lot of PS games while waiting for DC releases to pick up). Though I'll probably be playing games on Sony hardware more for the next few months, pre-ordering XB360 titles (or purchasing them new at full-price) will be a priority to show support (if not to experience Capcom's new generation of games)...