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The Sixth Generation

Well, here we are at long last. This is the final entry in my “Generations” posts and also my final regular blog post for 2021. Rocky’s Advent Calendar starts next Wednesday and there’s also Rocky’s Reviews for November (December technically will fall into 2022). I wanted to focus on the Third to the Sixth Generations as I have a lot of memories from them, from my first games console to enjoying the breath on offer in the Sixth Gen. This Generation is also the one I have the most machines for, with the PlayStation 2, Xbox, GameCube and Dreamcast, so it’ll probably be a little bit longer than the others. As usual, I will only cover what I’ve played (there’s a lot missing too) and with this generation specifically, it will be on the system I played it on. There are some games that are across multiple platforms but I’ve chosen the platform I played it on as that’s my experience of it. I hope you enjoy it.

The Sixth Generation kicked off in 1998 in Japan, before the rest of the World joined in in 1999. The Sega Dreamcast was the first console out of the gate, bringing with it a new analogue controller, Visual Memory Unit and online play. In 2000, Sony would release the PlayStation 2. This featured the DualShock 2, an expansion port that could enable online play, and a built in DVD player. In 2001, Nintendo would join the others with the release of the GameCube. The GameCube utilised a special type of optical disc. It also had a decent range of third-party support, with Capcom, Konami and even Sega releasing classic games on the system. The final entrant, and a newcomer to the home console market, would arrive a few weeks after the GameCube (it would beat the GameCube to market in the United States). Microsoft’s debut into the market would be christened the Xbox and it brought with it powerful hardware, an internal hard drive and Xbox Live. This generation also saw games released across multiple systems, with some games receiving more content on one console, better performance due to the different hardware and even some online play.

Dreamcast

We might as well start with Sega, like we’ve done with the other three posts. Sega’s Dreamcast had huge potential, bringing us near-perfect arcade games, online play and some fantastic games. The system made use of RGB, composite, S-Video and even VGA outputs, meaning you could get some of the best-looking video signals of the generation. However, Sega would opt for GD-ROMs and this would leave it open to piracy (not that any console was safe from pirates). The Dreamcast, despite launching earlier, faced stiff competition from Sony’s PlayStation 2. The system would be discontinued in 2001, with Sega exiting the console manufacturing side and becoming a third-party. The Dreamcast has garnered a large cult following, especially in recent years, and people are still creating games for the system. Despite its online services being officially shut down, dedicated gamers have kept it alive with the use of Pi. The Dreamcast was the first console of this gen that I played. I would rent it constantly along with Sonic Adventure. Strangely, it would be the last retro console I would pick-up, getting it in 2017 for my birthday. Still, I love this little machine, its strange controller and collection of fantastic games, some of which can’t be found anywhere else.

Sonic Adventure

Sonic Adventure would be the hedgehog’s first foray into 3D gaming. A launch title for the Dreamcast, it showcased what the console was capable of. Sonic didn’t get a new game on the Saturn, so hopes were high for this one. The game was split into different chapters, with the player taking control of one of six characters, before unlocking a final character after completing the other six’s chapters. Each character had their own variety of gameplay; Sonic, and to a lesser extent Tails, showing off the speed of the game, Knuckles would have stages designed around his aerial abilities, Amy’s stage felt more like an easier mode, E-102 Gamma’s gameplay was gun based, and Big the Cat existed. The level designs were intuitive, with great music accompanying each. The voice acting was dodgy, often failing to sync up with lip movement. The game also launched with its own share of bugs. Nonetheless, I loved this game, renting it constantly and restarting it every time without a VMU. Despite having Sonic Adventure DX on the GameCube, when I got my Dreamcast I was adamant I would get Sonic Adventure too.

Phantasy Star Online

On one of the few occasions I couldn’t rent Sonic Adventure with the Dreamcast, I would instead try Phantasy Star Online. From the successful Phantasy Star series (which I still haven’t played), comes their first jump into the world of online. It would release in Japan in 2000, with the rest of the world following in 2001. The game is an Action RPG with a futuristic setting. Players can create their own character and select from several classes to suit their play style. They could then form a party of four with friends online to undertake missions, defeat bosses and unlock new areas. The game could also be played offline too. It would see ports to the Xbox and GameCube later on. I’ve only ever played the offline version but this is one of the games that still has an online community that I’d love to join. Its combat feels fairly responsive for an MMORPG and its contrasting locales are a joy to explore. I was lucky enough to receive a copy from Mark at MAZ Gaming because he’s a nice guy.

Power Stone

The Dreamcast would receive two Power Stone games, one in 1999 and its sequel in 2000. Developed by Capcom, the game is a sort of battle royale, where players have to collect power stones and be the last one standing. The arenas will constantly shift just to keep you on your toes. Both games feature a good selection of fighters to choose from, each with their own particular stats and move set. The arenas are wonderfully designed and how they seamlessly change is a spectacle on its own. Where this game really shines is in multiplayer, where four friends can play together, smashing each other or just avoiding combat all together (cough, Phil, cough). I got both games with my Dreamcast for my birthday but my story goes a lot further back than that. I remember seeing them in a magazine but I could never find them in my rental store. When my wife was ordering the Dreamcast for me, she asked what games I wanted and Power Stone just sprang into my mind. I would take it into work along with four controllers and we would just spend our break pummelling each other. It’s a fantastically frantic game that everyone should try.

Crazy Taxi

One place the Dreamcast excelled at was bringing arcade games to people’s homes and no better example of that than Crazy Taxi. Originally released in arcades in 1999, it would be ported to the Dreamcast in 2000 and would bring with it excellent gameplay, high speed thrills and a fantastic soundtrack. The premise is simple, collect fares within a certain time limit to either increase your score or extend your time, the execution is challenging. Different fares will come with different challenges. Some will be a short jaunt across the street, others will take you across the city. You can also increase your fare by pulling off stunts. There are four drivers to choose from along with some differing modes to play. The main draws of this game are its excellent controls, its bright visuals and that soundtrack, featuring songs from Bad Religion and The Offspring. It’s a great game to just pick up and play, whether you have twenty minutes free or a whole day to waste. It did receive ports to other systems but the Dreamcast one is probably the definitive edition. It did receive a sequel on the Dreamcast in 2001 and an Xbox threequel in 2002 but I’ve yet to try those out.

Jet Set Radio

Rather than split the two games out, I thought I’d cover them both in this entry. Jet Set Radio (Jet Grind Radio depending on where you are in the world) was developed by Smilebit and released in 2000. It combines skating, graffiti tagging and races to give you a memorable experience. Set in Tokyo-to, the game is broken into missions, each with a unique task to complete. These can include tagging a number of areas, racing against a rival or escaping the police. The game also allows you to create your own unique tags. The tags themselves come in a variety of sizes and are done through a quick time event, with bigger tags requiring more inputs. New characters can also be unlocked by beating them in races. What stands out most for the game is its style. Its cell-shaded graphics have stood the test of time. Its music is also a perfect blend of differing genres. One issue the game had was its control. This was brought about by the limitations of having one analogue stick. As the game got tougher, I found myself struggling with the camera more. In 2002, Smilebit and Sega would release Jet Set Radio Future on the Xbox. It would retain the graphical stylings and tagging systems of the first game but now Tokyo-to was more open, allowing you to explore. Once again, you could recruit new members by beating them in races. The game also removed time limits, allowing players to tag in their own time. Again, its fantastic soundtrack would garner much praise. Both games have aged incredibly well graphically and while control can be a bit tricky at the start, it should become second nature after a while.

GameCube

Depending on where you are in the world, the GameCube may have been the last entry in the Sixth Generation. The GameCube utilised Nintendo’s own unique optical media, making the discs small but memorable. I still remember the first time I saw one and struggling to understand why. The cube (it was literally a cube) came with a handle too, just in case you wanted to carry it around. It would also get an add on called the Game Boy Player that allowed you to, well, play Game Boy, Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance games. The system would retain the four controller ports of the N64 but drastically redesign the controller, making it more user friendly. For some reason, they went with a giant A button, but hey, it’s the one you use the most. Nintendo would bring a strong first-party line-up to the system but would see more third-party release, with Capcom even releasing some exclusives for the system. After Sega exited the console market, they would port some of their Dreamcast games to the system. I bought my GameCube shortly after my original PlayStation 2 gave up. A small shop in Dublin had one for sale so I grabbed it and Mario Kart: Double Dash. It’s a system I don’t have many games for but what I do have are probably some of the best on the system.

Mario Kart: Double Dash

I might as well start with the first GameCube game I owned. Following the success of Mario Kart 64, Nintendo decided to shake things up a little bit. Mario Kart: Double Dash would have fully 3D racers to accompany the 3D environments. It would feature new course, racers and even new items. You can even select your kart when picking your characters. The biggest change you’ll notice straight away is that you now select two characters, one who’ll drive and one who fires off the items. These characters can be switched around at any time during the race, allowing you to hold onto items while picking up another one. The two characters can also be controlled by two different players, with one focusing on driving and the other focusing on taking out competitors. Its an odd system but it works. The tracks all look visually stunning, with some having a variety of stage hazards. There’s a new cup too, where you can play through each course one after the other. The usual battle mode also returns in case you wanted to take out your friends. I spent many a night with this game in both single player and multiplayer, trying to unlock all the racers and karts. It may have been surpassed by later entries in terms of visuals and controls, but the two-racer mechanics certainly helps it stand out.

Luigi’s Mansion

Mario wouldn’t actually launch the GameCube. Instead, that task fell to his younger brother, Luigi. Luigi has suspiciously won a mansion but when he arrives, he discovers it’s a trap. He then teams up with Professor E. Gadd to rid the mansion of ghosts and save the day. Equipped with the Poltergust 3000, Luigi can vacuum up the ghosts and solve certain puzzles. At the start, you only have a small area to explore but defeating certain ghosts and acquiring new equipment opens up new areas. The new equipment can even be used to find secrets in previously explored areas. Beside the ghosts that inhabit the mansion, there are also several hidden Boos to find and deal with. It’s a step away from Luigi’s usual platforming adventures but the vacuum mechanic works well, creating a unique “ghostbusting” type game. Visually, the game does well to show off the GameCube’s power, especially when it comes to lighting. I would get this one a few years after I got my GameCube, where it would actually sit in my backlog until recently. It’s a fun game that has thankfully given Luigi his own series, with sequels released on the 3DS and Switch.

Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door

The sequel to the hugely popular (and hugely expensive) Paper Mario, Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door actually keeps it predecessor’s gameplay. It’s a JRPG before Nintendo decided that the Paper Mario franchise should be anything and everything. Releasing in Europe in late 2004, it follows Mario as he arrives in Rogueport. This acts as a hub of sorts, where Mario will undertake certain missions, unlock new areas and generally where he’ll acquire items. The game is divided into chapters, each of which focuses on a unique area. You can recruit party members too but only one can accompany you at any given time. The battle system is unique in that it is done through a stage show. Here, you’ll select your actions, perform certain tasks and grow your audience. The audience can help or hinder you in battle too. Outside of battle, your companions have certain abilities that can help you progress and find secrets. I wanted this one for a long time but due to its steep price, I kept putting it off. Eventually I bit the bullet and picked it up. Since then, its only gotten pricier, which is a shame because it’s a great game that fans of Nintendo should try.

Super Smash Bros. Melee

Super Smash Bros. returns with an even bigger roster, new stages and new game modes to play. Super Smash Bros. Melee is a visual treat, with the graphics improving immensely over its predecessor. The increased roster gives us new fighting styles but there are some “clone” characters, fighters who have a similar move set. Some of the stages are truly breath-taking, with much larger arenas on offer. There’s a new selection of modes too, including challenges and a new Adventure Mode. I remember seeing Adventure Mode in Smyths when they used to have console kiosks. The one thing that stands out in the gameplay. Combat feels sharper, your character’s movement is tighter and its new modes really put your skills to the test. For many, this was the definitive Super Smash Bros. for a long time, even after its successors arrived. I have so many memories of playing this with my nieces. We would spend hours fighting each other, with my youngest niece picking Kirby and floating above us, waiting for her moment to strike. I still enjoy playing this with friends and once things go back to normal, it’ll be fun to have them over again for some multiplayer madness.

The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker

One thing that stand out to me most about this generation is how many games have aged like a fine wine and The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker is certainly one of those games. Of course, graphics aren’t everything but damn, is it beautiful. Released in 2002, Nintendo would go with a cell-shaded look over the more realistic ones found in Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask. I remember this receiving criticism at the time. Wind Waker would also drastically change the layout of Hyrule. The land is now covered in water, save for a few islands, and Link must use a ship to navigate across the open seas. This ship, the King of Red Lions, will advise Link on his journey. As usual, the gameplay is superb, with Link once again armed with all manner of items to help him on his way. The game features the usual puzzles to solve, sneaking missions and boss battles but its all pulled off in style. I would buy this one second-hand in GAME. It came with Ocarina of Time and Master Quest. To date, I haven’t completed it. I did get far but spent some time away from it and completely lost where I was. One day I’ll revisit it and its high seas once more.

Skies of Arcadia: Legends

As Sega exited the console market, they would port several of their Dreamcast titles to other consoles. Skies of Arcadia was one of those games. Released on the GameCube in 2002, Skies of Arcadia: Legends would follow the journey of Vyse, Aika and Fina as they attempted to stop the Valuan Empire. The game has a unique setting, taking place in the skies as you navigate your airship around the world. You can engage in airship battles and find secrets dotted around. When not in your airship, battles are turn-based. The game utilises a “Moon Stone” system, with certain enemies weak to certain stones. These can be switched up in battle and make all the difference, especially in tougher battles. The world looks charming yet barren in places. This is mainly due to the sky setting. The world is split into regions, with each having their own style. The GameCube release cut down on the number of random battles, instead handing out more experience points to compensate. The sound would take a hit, due to the compression of the system. I would buy this one a few years ago after watching a SteadySphere review and then spent the Christmas holidays playing all the way through it. It’s a great game with things you won’t find anywhere else.

PlayStation 2

Releasing in 2000, Sony’s PlayStation 2 would go on to be the best-selling console of all time. It had a fantastic library of games, with a mix of exclusives and ports. The system wouldn’t be the most powerful of the generation but it would come with a DVD player built in. At the time of its release, DVD players where expensive and the PlayStation 2 was a cheaper alternative. This helped the system gain a large install base, along with its excellent catalogue. The system was also backwards compatible, a feature missing from the GameCube and Dreamcast. This allowed gamers to keep their PlayStation games but upgrade their system. This was the first console of this generation that I owned. I was excited for it, having loved the original PlayStation. I couldn’t wait to see how Final Fantasy, Resident Evil and Metal Gear Solid would look on this new hardware. I would receive it for Christmas along with Pro Evolution Soccer, Grand Theft Auto III and WWF Smackdown: Just Bring It. It would be my go-to system in the generation, with me racking up an impressive number of games for it. Thanks to how common and cheap the games are, I’m still buying them today.

Final Fantasy

Let’s get this out of the way, shall we. Final Fantasy received three numbered entries on the PlayStation 2 as well as a sequel. Of the three numbered entries, I didn’t play Final Fantasy XI on the system as it was online only. Final Fantasy X released in 2001, against the backdrop of a very busy time at Square. It would be the first in the series to use 3D environments over pre-rendered backgrounds, the first to have voice acting and the first (and only entry) to use the Conditional Turn-Based Battle system. The story follows Tidus as he is thrown into the world of Spira. There he’ll meet Yuna and her guardians. They’ll set out together on a pilgrimage to stop Sin. The story is beautifully told, with the nuances of Spira unfolding before our eyes. The voice acting is a bit shaky, with some excellent voice acting in places and weaker acting in others. The music is as beautiful as ever and the graphics look stunning. The CTB system is a big change, allowing you to see the battle’s move order and utilise your full party in battle. The regular levelling up system as been replaced with the Sphere Grid. Here, you can upgrade stats, unlock new abilities and new spells. Each character has their own party designation but using the Sphere Grid, you can open up more paths, for example making Lulu a healer. It’s a game I got close to its launch and I just adored it, form it wonderful world, to its inventive battle system. It would receive a direct sequel in 2003 with Final Fantasy X-2. Here, Yuna is joined by Rikku and Paine as they explore Spira, undertaking jobs and discovering the mysteries of the world. The CTB system is gone, with ATB returning. The job system also makes a return in the form of Dress Spheres. These can be changed in battle to suit your need, with each character able to freely switch between their roles. Spira has changed slightly, with areas from Final Fantasy X having new locations to explore. The game features multiple endings, depending on the actions you take. This was one I got at launch and I was excited to visit Spira again. I liked the Dress Sphere mechanic but I was a tad disappointed by its Chapter system and lack of other playable characters. Final Fantasy XII would be released in 2006 and would see a dramatic shift in the series. The game was set in Ivalice, the first in the numbered series to not feature a new world. You also only explored a small section of the world. Combat also got an overhaul, resembling more an MMORPG than a JRPG. Voice acting returned but the ability to rename any party member was removed. The story follows Vaan as he gets sucked into a rebellion. Vaan isn’t the best character in the series but a strong party helps to carry this. Characters can be switched in and out at any time in combat and you can set up Gambits to help the AI decide what to do in battle. The License Board is introduced and this can be used to unlock spells, stats and even the ability to equip certain weapons. I would get this at launch and I was taken aback by its scale. It’s a huge adventure, told well, in a wonderful world.

Metal Gear Solid

Kojima and Konami would bring the Metal Gear Solid series to the PlayStation 2 with Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. Metal Gear Solid 2 would pull one of the biggest bait and switch moments in gaming history. Before its release, Konami only showed footage of the tanker and Solid Snake. However, this would only compromise a small portion of the game. Players would finish the tanker section and be introduced to Raiden when they began the second part of the game. Here, they would explore the enormous Big Shell. Gameplay has received an overhaul too, with first person targeting, advanced enemy AI and an expanded cover mechanic. The game is both a visual and audio treat, with excellent music, sound effects and voice acting. I would get MGS2 a few days after launch and was immediately immersed in its narrative. I loved the upgrades to gameplay and its visual presentation. I was a bit upset that I couldn’t play as Snake throughout but looking back now, Raiden was a fun character to play as. Kojima and Konami would once again shake up the series with Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater in 2004. This time, we are transported back to the Cold War, where we step into the shoes of Naked Snake. Here, we are sent to take out the boss. The game refined the combat with CQC (Close Quarters Combat). This made taking out enemies easier. The game also introduced camouflage, which it would use heavily throughout. Players could equip different types of camouflage to increase their stealth and go unnoticed. Everything about it felt bigger, better and more intense than before. Once again, the series delivered both on a graphical level and audio level. This would be one I would buy on launch day and I would sink hours into it at the weekend, loving every minute of it. Metal Gear Solid 3 is one of my favourite games of all time.

Grand Theft Auto

There are some games out there that completely shake up gaming, some so iconic that they leave a huge impact. Grand Theft Auto III was one of those games. When GTA III arrived, it was huge. Unlike its predecessors, it was in a fully 3D environment. It looked impressive, its open-world allowed you to do almost anything and it was full of humour. The voice acting helped to elevate the series, as well as its numerous missions and side missions. Its open world was a thrill to drive through and unlocking new islands brought with it a new destination to rampage through. Its combat is dated now but at the time it was great. Other games had tried to create a large open world arena but GTA III pulled it off in style. I got GTA III for Christmas with my PlayStation 2 and it was the one game I couldn’t put down until it was finished. It’s sequel, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City would improve on it in almost every way. The protagonist, Tommy Vercetti, was voiced by Ray Liotta, its setting changed to the 1980s, and it came with new vehicles to use, such as motorbikes and helicopters. The 80s setting was fantastic, with the Miami inspired city tinged in Neon. The music was excellent, featuring several licensed tracks. You could own businesses, change your outfit and play new side missions. It was bigger and badder than before. I got it just before Christmas and once again sank hours into it, unlocking as much as I could. I didn’t think they could build something bigger than Vice City but Rockstar would pull it off in 2004. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is a colossal game, set in a huge and diverse open world. Transporting us back to the early 90s, we play as CJ as he is pulled into a gang war. From there, it just goes off the rails in a good way. Customisable options have been expanded, including hair styles and tattoos, but you can also affect CJ’s weight by eating too much or going to the gym. Gang areas can also be taken over and you can even rob houses for a bit of extra cash. The huge state of San Andreas features a diverse geography, from the orange hue of Los Santos to the glistening lights of Las Venturas. I got this for Christmas and I adored every second of it. Its huge world, its loveable cast, its mission variety, CJ being able to swim, all of it was great. TRo this day, its my favourite GTA game.

Resident Evil

I would get to experience two Resident Evil games on the PlayStation 2, and both of them would be ports. Resident Evil: Code Veronica X would be ported across from the Dreamcast in 2001. It follows Claire Redfield as she is captured by Umbrella and sent to a prison island. There, zombies have ravaged the island and she must find a way to escape. Along the way she meets up with Steve Burnside to fend off the Ashford twins. The game keeps the tank controls of the earlier games but gives us a beautiful 3D world to explore. There are new variants of monsters to fight off too as well as new puzzles to solve. The game is probably one of the most challenging in the series and it will definitely put your survival skills to the test. I got this while on holidays. At the time, I was going through a Resident Evil phase and I spotted a Platinum copy. I remember its difficulty taking me by surprise, with item conservation being a must or else you could wind up stuck. Resident Evil 4 was the other game I played. Ported across from the GameCube, it is often considered the weakest version of Resident Evil 4. The PlayStation 2 version did come with an extra campaign for Ada once you completed the main story. Speaking of the main story, Leon has been sent to Spain to rescue the President’s daughter. While there, he encounters a remote village, full of Las Plagas victims. He must fight his way past this new breed of enemy and escape this hell with Ashley. The gameplay makes a drastic change from what came before, emphasising action over survival horror. The camera has moved from a fixed angle to over the shoulder. Leon has more moves at his disposal to deal with the enemies and he’ll need it because they move quicker than zombies. The escort side of things can be slow but Ashley’s AI isn’t the worst. Another Christmas present, I got the steelcase version. I’ve never played any of the other versions to compare, but I thoroughly enjoyed this one. I’ve played through it multiple times, trying to unlock everything the game has to offer.

Kingdom Hearts

I was so excited for the release of Kingdom Hearts. I followed it for weeks, I bought the strategy guide and scanned through it, and finally I got it on Christmas day. Kingdom Hearts is an action RPG that brings together characters from Disney and Final Fantasy. Its something that shouldn’t work, but does. Sora is the star of this tale. One night, he gets sucked into another world and meets Donald and Goofy. The trio set off to rescue Mickey and Kairi and put an end to the Heartless. Each of its levels is inspired by a Disney franchise, such as Tarzan or Alice in Wonderland. You’ll encounter epic boss fights, a myriad of Disney villains, and secrets to uncover. In combat, you can use magic or summon Disney characters to help you out. It has a wonderful voice cast, led by Haley Joel Osment. The main criticism I have with this game is the camera. It can be unruly at times. With the announcement of Kingdom Hearts II, my hype reached fever pitch. I would hound stores for months asking for a release date as it was delayed. When it finally was released, I snapped it up immediately. Kingdom Hearts II follows the formula of the first game, with Disney and Final Fantasy characters joining together to push back evil. The story starts off with you controlling Roxas and it can be a bit convoluted from there. The game brings back old worlds from the first game with new areas, as well as introducing new worlds too. Combat feels better, with the camera less of an issue this time around. The conflict between light and darkness is on a much bigger scale this time.

Shadow Hearts

Shadow Hearts would follow on from the PlayStation cult classic, Koudelka. Set in the build up to the First World War, Shadow Hearts follows the story of Yuri as he rescues Alice from the evil Roger Bacon. Of course, the world is not as it seems and a darker truth lies beneath the surface. The games combat features random battles and turn-based action. One feature it does bring to the table is the Judgement Ring system. Here, you must hit certain points on the ring to take action, such as attacking or casting spells. It brings a new level of interactivity to the genre. The system would exist throughout the Shadow Hearts series, with each new entry adding something new. Shadow Hearts: Covenant would follow three years later. The graphics got a significant update, the world felt much more open, and the game’s tone began to become lighter. Yuri returns but is joined by a new cast of characters. As before, each as their own unique abilities but this time spells can be equipped through Crests, adding a new layer of tactics. Switching party members is also easier this time. Shadow Hearts: From the New World would be the final entry in the series, taking us to the Americas. Its probably the weakest entry in the series, with annoying music, forgettable characters and an unusual tone throughout. I played the three games back-to-back, becoming immersed in the world they created. I love the H.P. Lovecraft inspired settings, the interesting Judgement Ring, and some of the darker areas. It’s a series that sadly gets overlooked but it should be on every JRPG fans to play list.

Xbox

The newcomer to the console market, Microsoft would release their Xbox to the world in 2001. It would be the only console of the four to not launch in Japan first. It would achieve success in the West, but flounder in Japan. Microsoft’s debut boasted some powerful hardware and with a built-in hard drive, it allowed players to save their games without the need for a memory card. The system also allowed you to import custom soundtracks to certain games. Xbox Live would launch in 2002, allowing players to connect all over the world. I received mine in 2004 after completing secondary school. I was impressed by its games and the graphical output it was capable of. I did cover this console especially in my Xbox20 video a few weeks back. As a result, I will glance over the games. If you want to view the video, it can be found here.

Halo

Some games are just system sellers. The moment you see them, you know you have to have that console. Halo: Combat Evolved is one of those games. Launching with the Xbox in 2001, Halo: CE went through a number of changes before it arrived as a first-person shooter we know today. When it finally did arrive, it showed what console shooters could be. Its smooth gameplay, helped by the dual analogue movement we know today, captured gamers almost immediately. Its graphics showed off the strength of the Xbox, through its large open area and its lighting in narrower ones. There was a large variety of guns to acquire, each with their own firepower. You could only carry two at once, adding to the tactical decisions you needed to undertake. Its campaign was epic but its multiplayer even more so. Its four-player local play would be fast, frantic and exhilarating. It would feature large maps and vehicles to pilot. In 2004, Bungie would follow up with Halo 2. Its campaign now featured the Arbiter alongside Master Chief, giving us a view of the plot from the Covenant. Its AI was even sharper and its visuals looked smoother. The game still kept the fast-paced action of the first game but made some tweaks to it. Halo 2 also arrived during Xbox Live, leading it to being one of the most popular games on the service. Fans were still playing it long after the third entry in the series arrived.

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic was developed by Bioware and released in 2003 to glowing reviews. Players create their own character, selecting from several different faces, and then set off on a galactic adventure. Based 4,000 years before the Galactic Empire, the Sith have emerged to wage war on the Republic. You set off to stop Darth Malak. Along the way, you’ll recruit new party members, explore new world and complete a litany of quests. You can walk the path of the Jedi or the Sith, with the actions you take contributing to the Light or Dark side of the Force. Like many Bioware games, there are multiple ways to solve quests, depending on your skills. You can go in guns blazing or take a stealthier approach. It is an epic tale, filled with twists and turns. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II – The Sith Lords would be developed by another studio, Obsidian. They would start you out as a new character, with a new crew to recruit. The gameplay would be similar to the first, including the Light and Dark Side mechanic. The game is an upgrade visually on the first but the narrative is a little weaker. You can turn your party to the Dark/Light side and you will see visible differences in their appearances. There are new planets to explore, new mini-games to play and new Force powers to learn. The first game is set to see a remake and hopefully, the second will follow soon after.

Jade Empire

After Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Bioware would turn their hand to something new, their very own franchise. Taking inspiration from Eastern culture, Bioware would craft the wonderful Jade Empire. They would take a lot of their learnings from KotOR and apply them here. There’s a morality system, you can undertake several side quests, and there are many characters to recruit. The major change is combat. The battle system is quicker and smoother than KotOR and you can only bring one companion with you. These companions have a variety of skills and can be either supportive or fight along side you. The world is beautiful, with many scenic locations to explore. The one thing the game does is keep you moving forward. While in an area, you can take on side-quests and explore its surroundings but once you progress past it, you can’t go back. It’s a fantastic game that shows off what Bioware were truly capable of.

Fable

In the build up to the release of Fable in 2004, much was made of how free the world was. While it wouldn’t live up to Peter Molyneux’s promises (a bit of a joke now) it did offer a huge amount of freedom. The land of Albion is brimming with life, unless you decide to kill everyone and buy their houses. There’s plenty to see and do, from finding Demon Doors, to opening silver chests and even fishing. You can also invest skill points into particular areas depending on your play style. These points can be used to increase your strength, your speed or unlock new spells. Combat is intuitive and easy to master. You can seamlessly switch from close quarters combat to casting spells. The game also features a range of locales to explore, albeit many of them are linear. As you progress, you’ll notice your character age. This is linked to how you spend the experience you gain. The game also has a fantastic sense of humour. There’s much hidden under the cover here for you to find… or you could just focus on rescuing your sister.

Stubbs the Zombie in Rebel Without a Pulse

Many games have you fighting zombies but so few have you play as a zombie and even less have you hurling your guts as a bomb. Stubbs the Zombie allows you to do this among other things, including detaching your arm and taking control of people. Stubbs the Zombie is set in a 50s-estethic inspired future. Here, everything is clean and tidy, with no crime. Then Stubbs arrives. He can infect others, turning them into zombies. They’ll then attack other civilians. Inspired by 50s B-Movies, it’s a wacky adventure that sees Stubbs take on gardeners, police and the military. As your horde grows, you can watch them take out enemies in front of you. The game does feature a level system but when you’re in these levels, you have free reign to go almost anywhere. Its bright graphics, excellent 50s soundtrack and hilarious gameplay make it stand out. It’s a pity we never got more.

Well, this was a long one but I hope you enjoyed it. There are many, many more games I could have included. There’s also some classics I have yet to play. What are your favourite games of this generation? What is your favourite console in the Sixth Gen?

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