I can’t believe it’s already been 20 years since I camped out in line for hours at a local Meijer in Indianapolis, hoping to score Microsoft’s first foray into console gaming. Jet Set Radio Future, the promise of more Sega exclusives, the allure of Halo, and it being the exclusive home to Dead or Alive 3 was all I needed to shell out the cash.
I was lucky enough to bring home the (at the time) heaviest console I’ve ever purchased, along with copies of Halo, Dead or Alive 3, Project Gotham Racing, and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2X (the latter two from my job at a local game shop after trading in some PS1 RPGs I’d rather not talk about because it still hurts). Sigh.
My friends and I were instantly obsessed with Halo and whoever among us didn’t have an Xbox yet picked one up for themselves within weeks. It was a phenomenon rarely seen before since new console brands didn’t tend to get over well. I mean, I didn’t know any better growing up and thought everyone loved the TurboGrafx 16 like I did, until trying to initiate conversations in school and nobody giving a crap.
My original Xbox shockingly overtook my PS2 as my primary gaming platform that generation and was where I played all of the cross-platform releases, like the Silent Hills, the Fatal Frames, the BloodRaynes, the Hitmans, the fighting games. It’s still home to Outrun 2, which is one of the greatest arcade racers of all time, and the original console home for BioWare’s excellent RPGs Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and Jade Empire.
And let’s not forget the love Sega poured into the console! Shenmue II being exclusive to Xbox here in the States, a new Sega Rally, Panzer Dragoon Orta, the absolutely stellar Jet Set Radio Future, Crazy Taxi III: High Roller, Toe Jam & Earl III: Mission to Earth, Gunvalkyrie, publishing From Software’s Otogi games, Sega GT 2002, House of the Dead III, Headhunter: Redemption, Sonic Heroes, and more.
Halo 2 was my first midnight release for a game, which was a cold, snowy night in Indianapolis. I vividly remember leaving work around 8pm and standing in line with 100+ people at the local GameStop (maybe an EB Games at the time?), then heading home nearly frozen to death with the steelbook cover clenched in my hands.
Over the years, I sank hundreds upon hundreds of hours into NHL 2K5, thanks in part to it being my first online gaming experience and being able to customize the soundtrack by ripping CDs to the console’s internal hard drive. Nothing compared to the amount of time I spent in Morrowind, though. Man, what a beautiful game.
Okay, maybe “beautiful” isn’t the right word.
The internal hard drive actually blew my mind at first because I was so used to using memory cards on the Sega Saturn and PlayStation. At the time, I remember thinking how cool it was to never have to buy, store and manage those prehistoric things, and then my console broke. I lost my Morrowind save and was heartbroken for months.
I also remember having a bunch of people over to check out Splinter Cell the day it released. We drooled over screenshots in magazines and with all of us being big Metal Gear Solid fans we couldn’t wait to see it in motion. This is also the night a friend of mine spilled his 40oz on my Atari and it still works!
Since I was favoring my Xbox at the end of that console generation, moving to the Xbox 360 was an easy choice, followed by the Xbox One. It was here that Xbox kind of lost me for a few years, given their weird direction for the console at launch, their lack of quality exclusives, the cancellations of promising games like Scalebound, but then Game Pass and backwards compatibility became a thing after Phil Spencer took over and I never looked back.
I’m currently loving my Series X and the Game Pass service and I’m eager to see what Xbox does in the future with all of their studio acquisitions. I hope they’re not done adding to the backwards compatible library just yet.