The original Xbox and the Xbox 360 have an interesting library of exclusive games. While the core four -- Halo, Gears of War, Fable and Forza Motorsport -- usually take the spotlight, there are plenty of other Xbox franchises and games that were once great or had untapped potential, but may have fallen from grace or lost to obscurity due to some hiccups and rough times.
But there's always second-chances, right? Here are six Xbox franchises that deserve another shot at redemption or deserve a rebirth in the next-generation.
Project Gotham Racing
PGR definitely needs to drift its way back next-gen.
Project Gotham Racing 2, 3 and 4 were massive hits for the original Xbox and Xbox 360. With its emphasis on supercars, slick visuals and a addictive kudos combo point system for pulling off stylish driving, PGR was a very successful, very polished and very fun racing series that helped push both Xbox (in its final years) and early Xbox 360 sales. In short, PGR was the cool, stylish, and complimentary cousin to the ultra-realistic and serious Forza Motorsport, and paved its own path alongside the other racing juggernaut to take-down Grand Turismo's monopoly.
However, after the release of PGR 4 in 2007, the series braked abruptly and never kick-started the engine back up. Bizarre Creations moved multiplatform with Activision and left their beloved franchise behind with Microsoft. The recent release of Forza Horizon has attempted to fill the void PGR’s absence has created with its more arcade-like gameplay, even having ex-developers who worked on PGR, but a next-gen revival of PGR wouldn’t be unwelcome. Perhaps the rumours a few years back of Turn 10 Studios taking the helm of the PGR series for Microsoft may come true? One can hope.
All I did back in 2002 was play multiplayer in MechAssault. One of the first original Xbox titles to make use of Xbox Live, MechAssault capitalised on the rising online phenomenon and provided players with gorgeous visuals and addictive gameplay -- blowing other humans up in giant mechanised robots is still cool and no other game has done it better -- except for perhaps Armoured Core.
MechAssault 2: Lone Wolf was a worthy sequel, but after its 2004 release and the shift in focus to the Xbox 360 and its launch, Microsoft seemed to have left its popular robot shooter behind. Day 1 Studios, the console series’ developers, have fallen on rough times as of late, with over 95% of their staff being laid-off in 2010 after the loss of a major publishing deal with Konami. But maybe Microsoft can remember some good old friends, get them on their feet and revive a stellar, overlooked Xbox franchise in the process for the coming gen.
Blinx: The Time Sweeper
I'm probably one of three Xbox owners that remember and like Blinx.
Does anyone else remember Blinx: The Time Sweeper? Developed and published by Microsoft Studios in 2002, Blinx was a cool anthropomorphic “Time Sweeper” cat with the ability to bend time --slowing it down, speeding up, recording, reversing or pausing -- with his magical vacuum, the TS-1000. Him and Luigi brought useful and magical vacuums back to style in the early 2000s; true story.
While Blinx was obviously an attempt by Microsoft to establish a kid-friendly platforming mascot in the same vein as Mario for Nintendo or Ratchet and Clank for Sony -- Master Chief was considered the ‘mature’ icon of the Xbox brand --Blinx differentiated itself in its unique take on time manipulation, which was a very fun gameplay mechanic not executed to the same extent at the time. Blinx and the story itself also had a goofy and likeable charm to them, even if the game wasn’t of the same extreme polish or caliber as the competing franchises Microsoft aspired it to be. Blinx didn’t exactly not sell or play bad either, unlike some other infamous Microsoft platformers -- Azurik: Rise of Perathia and Nightcaster being two primary examples of failed MS platform titles.
Blinx was popular enough for a sequel in 2004, where you could customise your Time Sweeper or Tom Tom (anthropomorphic pig) extensively. It fixed many issues that were complained about in the original such as difficulty spikes and added a bunch of content, but MS seemed to have abandoned it shortly afterwards, with no mention of it this generation. However, I think this time-bending feline deserves another shot in the next gen. Just not as a Kinect mascot. That’s a sure fire-way to kill any remaining fond memories anyone had of the obscure Time Sweeper. Or maybe I’m the only one.
Cute and loveable, but ever-so mischievous. We need a bit of Conker back in our lives.
I don’t even have to elaborate extensively on this one. Conker’s Bad Fur Day on the N64 remains one of the best cult classic platformers of all time, and one of the funniest and best mature-themed games ever. Microsoft at least recognised Conker’s popularity when they acquired Rare (unlike how they have completely ignored other Rare staples like Killer Instinct), but when Conker: Live and Reloaded released on the original Xbox back in 2005, its inclusion of a multiplayer mode wasn’t enough to justify its lack of other new features, story or polish in the single-player. Or the fact that it was censored -- despite the original being uncensored on the N64, of all consoles -- when it was explicitly original advertised as an adult title.
Conker is an untapped gold mine. Rare may have lost many of its original staff, but the name and reputation attached to the Conker franchise alone would garner enough interest and support to make it a definite major success next gen.
The Xbox brand still lacks a strong lead exclusive platformer mascot and series -- Banjo Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts having failed miserably as its revival in 2008. I know I’m not the only guy who wants another epic, “It all started … yesterday, and what a day that was. It's what I call … A Bad Fur Day...” Pretty please, MS? Well, one can at least dream.
A more realistic Kameo would have been an interesting direction to see the franchise take.
Kameo was one of two Rare launch titles of the Xbox 360, and is, in my opinion, unfairly forgotten by the Xbox community. Originally slated for the Nintendo GameCube, then the Xbox, and then finally for the 360, Kameo was an intriguing new IP that deserved more support and credit then it received.
Even though Rare themselves stated in a later interview with Edge that in "hindsight it probably would have been best to scrap everything and start again," I think they also didn't give the 360 fanbase, who they deemed too interested in "shooting and killing things", enough credit. After-all, many of Rare's non-shooter titles such as Viva Pinata and Kinect Sportswent on to sell successfully, albeit with the right support that Kameo did not have.
Another team within Rare wanted to make Kameo 2 a few years ago and take it in a more realistic art direction, and while Microsoft cancelled that project in favour of directing Rare to focus on Kinect-related projects, I think it would be great if MS reconsidered their decision and gave Rare and the overlooked title another chance next-gen, or perhaps assigned another development studio to revive the property.
Next-gen Perfect Dark: less focus on nail detail, and more on gameplay.
Perfect Dark Zero
should have been the Xbox 360’s undisputed launch day killer app. Rare had only developed and published two games for the original Xbox -- the widely ignored Grabbed by the Ghoulies
and the paradoxically censored Conker: Live and Reloaded
-- so everyone was hyped to find out if Microsoft’s buyout -- USD $375 million for a 100 percent acquisition -- was worth something after all.
While previews and reviews of the game glowed about Joanna’s high-definition manicured nails, the impressive and colourful visuals and the great physics system, everything else about the game -- the A.I., the repetitive shooting gameplay, the trashy prequel storyline -- was an undeniable disappointment compared to the standards set by its legendary predecessor. As more and more graphically polished games overtook PDZ such as Gears of War, its only merits were lost and it has mostly been forgotten by the 360 fanbase in the years since, usually only brought up again in conversation when talking about the worst exclusives of the console.
However, I think Perfect Dark deserves a resurrection. The high-def XBLA release of the original Perfect Dark showed people still loved Rare’s classic franchise and its iconic multiplayer suite. Maybe if the company focused on moving the series forward and retain more links to the original N64 classic in terms of storyline, weapons and gameplay mechanics, things could be good and Rare could make the true comeback they need.
Other comeback-worthy mentions
Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge (2003) | Xbox
Brute Force (2002) | Xbox
Banjo and Kazooie series (last title in 2008 under Microsoft ownership) | Xbox 360
Crackdown series (2007, 2010) | Xbox 360
Sudeki (2003) | Xbox
What are some Xbox franchises you want to see make a comeback next-gen?
By Nathan Misa