Jason Arriola’s Picks
In light of the news that the Phantom Dust remake is dead and that we’re instead getting a remaster of the original Xbox version and got me thinking about the original Xbox a bit more. The console is more than ten years dead now and since a cult hit like Phantom Dust can get a remaster, I started thinking about what games I’d like to get the same treatment. Sure, I’d like to see some of these games get more than a touch up, but, for most of these titles, that’s very unlikely, so I’ll take what I can get.
Most of these are exclusives to the Xbox with no real way of playing them today without hooking one up. Others might be slightly enhanced ports from other systems or have enhanced ports available on PC, but, by and large, these are games we’d all love to see get a remaster for the current generation of consoles.
Panzer Dragoon Orta
I’ll forgive you if you’re not terribly familiar with the Panzer Dragoon series. The other three entries in the series were on the Sega Saturn, a console that never really found its footing here in the North America. That’s why I always found it such an oddity that the series’ final entry was on the Xbox, a system that never found it’s footing in Japan.
Panzer Dragoon Orta is an on-rails shooter, similar to Star Fox. You have the ability to switch between three different forms, each with their strengths and you level up their strengths the more that you use them. An absolutely beautiful game with an incredible soundtrack, combat that can be tough as nails, and with the original Panzer Dragoon unlockable within, Panzer Dragoon Orta kept my Xbox busy for months.
It’s not the most loved of the series. Nor is it the most rare. Panzer Dragoon Orta is still one of, if not my overall, favorites for the original Xbox. I’ve told this story on the podcast before, but I sold the first Xbox I bought after owning it only a few months. Shortly after that, the now-defunct Xbox Nation magazine had Panzer Dragoon Orta on the cover. Seeing that, I knew I was buying another Xbox. If I was willing to buy another damned Xbox for it, I’d happily pay for a HD port.
Kingdom Under Fire series
Kingdom Under Fire: The Crusaders and Kingdom Under Fire: Heroes were two rather interesting titles. They change the way they play depending on the situation. It’s at times a large-scale war strategy game. When your character’s unit engages in combat, the game plays more like Dynasty Warriors. Despite how large scale the fights can get, the Xbox handles them admirably well. The only game that I can think of that does anything similar is The Last Remnant and that wasn’t well received. And while I already own both The Crusaders and Heroes, but both would do well with an upscaling and the extra horsepower the Xbox One or the Playstation 4 (since Kingdom Under Fire II is being developed for it and the PC) would provide.
Metal Wolf Chaos
In yet another odd choice of platform, Metal Wolf Chaos is a third person mech-shooter developed by From Software (yes, the same developer that made Dark Souls) that never saw a Western release. This was a particularly weird choice since the voice acting is already in English and the source material is about as American as you can get. You play as the President of the United States, usurped by your own Vice President. The Vice President turns into a real shitbag and you decide to take your position back through force using your mech suit, Metal Wolf. The game is campy and just insane. If anything deserves at least as much respect as Sin and Punishment does in terms of just getting it dumped out as it is, this one should be it. I’d even pay a little premium for this one because of how nuts it looks.
Yet another entry on this list from From Software, Otogi: Myth of Demons and Otogi 2: Immortal Warriors is another odd match for the Xbox. Dealing with Japanese mythology, they’re both hack and slash action games that have destructible environments (and the game encourages you to do so). The Playstation 2 audience was likely a better fit for these titles, but the games would have taken a fairly significant hit in quality due to the superior hardware of the Xbox.
Neither of the games sold well, but considering the whole birth of this article was Phantom Dust (a game that didn’t sell well either) getting an HD port, it seemed like a natural fit. That and we’re probably at peak in interest in From Software. Since they’re not working on another Dark Souls entry, maybe now would be a good time to get some eyes on their lesser known entries.
Tenchu: Return from Darkness
The Tenchu series has had a weird history. If the original had come out a year or two earlier, it might have been remembered more for revolutionizing the stealth genre. Unfortunately, the original Metal Gear Solid came out a scant few months later and the Tenchu: Stealth Assassins was left by the wayside. The series continued on, changing little as it went, and slowly stagnated.
Tenchu: Return from Darkness is a slightly enhanced port of Tenchu: Wrath of Heaven for the Playstation 2. This entry was the high point of the series by adding more playable characters, touched up graphics, and adding online multiplayer (both cooperative and competetive) via Xbox Live (RIP). It’s a game that rewards the time you put into it. The more comfortable you get with controls and the patrol pattern of enemies, the more rewarding the game becomes. You unlock more equipment to use that will help you through areas that you might initially struggle with. While some of the initial sneaking around comes across as a bit of slog, you’ll find yourself whizzing through these same areas, slaying your opponents while barely breaking stride.
It’s a damn shame the last real Tenchu game released back in 2009. There were at times hints of greatness in it and I enjoyed most of the entries. I’d love to revisit my favorite entry in the series, hopefully with the online support back in action.
Mirror’s Edge gets a lot of praise for doing first-person action that wasn’t just about shooting. Breakdown did it years before and it was far more grand in its usage of the perspective. Breakdown does have some gunplay, but it takes a back seat to first-person fisticufs (and some kicking, but that didn’t have the same ring to it). Instead of a steady camera that most first-person games use, every action you take in Breakdown is reflected in the camera movement. Get knocked to the ground and you’ll find yourself getting back up with the camera moving around accordingly. Climb a ledge and you’ll get all the awkward head movements that you’d get in real life. Drink a soda and you’ll tilt your head down to watch yourself pop that top and tilt your head back as you drink it. There’s even first-person puking!
Breakdown’s combat has a surprising amount of depth to it, considering how tough it would to implement it because of camera. Seriously, you do a roundhouse and try to keep your bearings. Its story, while nothing out of the ordinary, really hits a little harder because of the perspective. It starts off fairly simple but gets weirder and weirder as it goes on. It’s a fascinating game that can be amazing at times and amazingly boring during others. While I think it might an interesting fit on VR, I also don’t know if my brain could handle it. I’ll just take a prettied up version of my soda drinking.