During the late 90s and early 2000s, it seemed like Rare could do no wrong on the Nintendo 64. Responsible for massive hits like GoldenEye 007, Perfect Dark, Conker’s Bad Fur Day and Banjo-Kazooie, they cranked out memorable games dear to many gamers.
Jet Force Gemini might not be remembered in the same way as some of Rare’s other classics, but like many of their other titles, it was ahead of its time and pushed the boundaries of what the system could do. It’s epic scale, creative weaponry, surprisingly violent combat and emphasis on exploration landed it in the hearts of many, and would make a perfect HD remake for XBLA.
Ensemble Studios shutting down was a bittersweet moment for a team that had grown extremely close over the years; however, as cliché as it sounds, the doors closing on Ensemble forced the team to look at open doors full of opportunity and new possibilities. For many this meant the first chance in years to break away from an already established IP in over fifteen years presenting a chance now to take risks and reinvigorate themselves. The tight-knit group showed that it really did believe in fostering community, as when the former Microsoft subsidiary disbanded as company but the majority of its members stuck together in one of four new studios: Robot Entertainment, Bonfire (now Zynga Dallas), Windstorm Studio and New Toy.
Recently we had the opportunity to visit Robot Entertainment in Dallas. While the studio may have a new name, they haven’t forgotten all the old lessons they learned. The team still believes in community both internally and with fans. Upon entering the studio, the open environment is striking: four main quadrants of desks with no cubicles or walls and a biergarten style lunch room comprise the majority of the studio. Outside of the two war rooms, server room and executive offices, it’s an entirely open floor plan mirroring the studios own level of openness with employees. The real decisions as to what games are made don’t come from a guy in a suit with a calculator, but from a collaborative process involving the entire team.
This “organic” process started six months ago. Development on Age of Empires Online was beginning to wind down, and the studio was looking toward what their next project would be. Instead of setting their sights on the traditional three year AAA development cycle, Robot chose to focus on the downloadable segment of the industry. The shorter development time allowed the fifty person team to the ability to not become re-tied down to a singular IP for the foreseeable future. Robot started to brainstorm and create basic prototypes for some of the better ideas, one of which was Orcs Must Die.
Often when looking to buy a game I look up not only critic reviews, but comments from everyday users like you and me. We all do it. While the critics can give an overall “point scale” view of the game, it’s often family, friends, and even common folks on the internet who sway me one way or another on my purchase. That’s why XBLAFans reviews games as though it’s a recommendation from a friend; we want you to know whether to buy, try, or skip it.
Still, there’s one thing that bothers me: when people don’t actually demo a game. On the one hand there’s the age-old comment “I tried it for like two minutes and shut it off. The game sucks”. On the other hand there’s the “Dude, I really wish I’d tried the demo first. I’m out 800MSP and there’s no refunds on this crappy game!” So what’s a person to do? The answer is simple: actually try the demo or trial. Spend more than a few minutes in the game, and for heaven sakes, don’t make your buy or skip decision based on no-to-little time with the trial.
Last September, Sega taunted Dreamcast fans by saying that enough interest in Chu Chu Rocket! would be enough to bring the beloved puzzle game to Xbox Live Arcade. Given lukewarm critical and fan response to Sega’s latest XBLA offering, we think the company should do just about anything to make its fans happy right now.
Ah Battlefront, a series that fondly remembered on last generation consoles, and perhaps only slightly less fondly on handhelds. The world was crushed when the oft-rumored Star Wars Battlefront III was revealed to be in development via a leaked trailer only to find out via that same trailer the game had been canceled, canned, dropped. To quote Obi-Wan, “I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.” It’s a fairly safe bet to say that someday we’ll see a Battlefront III, but what are we to do until then? We at XBLAFans submit to you a hybrid title, Star Wars Battlefront Arcade.
Xbox Live Arcade is fast becoming a platform teeming with not only new and innovative titles, but reincarnations of amazing games from yesteryear. We here at XBLAFans have so many games we love and miss from our childhood days. Each Saturday we’ll feature a game that we feel would be an excellent fit to Xbox Live Arcade. This is XBLA’s Most Wanted. In honor of the Super Bowl this weekend in the United States our first title is Mutant League Football on the Sega Genesis.
Xbox Live Arcade has come a long way since its launch on the original Xbox a little over 6 years ago. Back then the selection of games was in the teens but now there are hundreds of games on the service. You can play anything from 16-bit classics like Streets of Rage 2 to exceptional original titles like Shadow Complex.
With so many games to choose from it’s hard to know what to spend your good ‘ol Microsoft Points on. Lucky for you however we at XBLAFans have taken it upon ourselves to compile a list of the 15 XBLA games you must own. The games featured (listed alphabetically because they’re just too good to rank on quality) are the best of the best. If you haven’t played a game on this list then you owe it to yourself to at least download the trial (which we’ve handily linked to) and give it a go.
So let’s get on with it shall we, below you’ll find the games we decided on and brief summaries from our writer explaining why they’re deserving of the term “must own”. If you agree or disagree with the list, or just want to comment in general please feel free to do so.