Category Archives: A Console Retrospective

Brutuxan Presents: A Console Retrospective of Historical Proportions PART 3!

We now bring you back to the thrilling conclusion of the ‘Console Retrospective of Historical Proportions…part 3’.

Xbox 360

Xbox 360

Xbox 360, what a fascinating piece of hardware that not only brought you such entertaining delights like Netflix or the Zune marketplace, but it also brought you a large number of racist 13-year olds and adults right to your living room through Xbox Live. Indeed, while the PS3 was focusing on software, the Xbox 360 was focusing on kidnapping your home entertainment system then probably taking it and burying it in the backyard to make sure it was never heard from again. Ruthless sure, but it was a necessary way of living for the Xbox 360. So how did it grow to become this multimedia leviathan in your home?

When it first began its development through concept blueprints back in 2003, the next Xbox at the time went through several names. Some of these range from cool names such as Xenon, to simple names like Xbox 2, and lastly the most ludicrous name of them all the ‘NextBox’. Good god, did someone get inspiration for that name by reading nothing but ‘Dr. Seuss’ books? As you can imagine trying to gain support for this system to become reality took some time, luckily not only did they gain help from over 400 developers that year in Washington, but they also managed to attain the former president of Sega, Peter Moore, to come on board as well. The original Xbox 360 unit came with a triple-core IBM designed Xenon, an ATI Xenos graphics card, 10 MB of eDRAM, and was able to play HD-DVD movies at the time (remember that last part kids).

The Xbox 360 was released on November 22 2005 in the US, while being released a month later in Europe and Japan. This was huge, considering that Microsoft already had a head-start of the competition over the Wii and PS3 being released in 2006. Surprisingly the console sold out for pre-launch, while causing a fuss among consumers, showed great demand for the piece of gaming hardware over in the US. According to the NPD it sold over 326,000 units in November, and continued to gain more momentum in the states. Where it didn’t gain a lot of ground in was overseas, specifically Japan where the market was dominated by handhelds and not by big chinned action heroes who wielded large chainsaw guns.

One of the interesting things to note about the launch titles for the Xbox 360 was the strong emphasis on sports titles, which was probably due to Peter Moore’s influence  Aside from your Madden’s and NBA’s, the launch list consisted of third-party titles along with a few Rare exclusives. Some of the most stood-out examples here are Call of Duty 2, King Kong, Quake 4, Project Gotham Racing 3, Kameo, Perfect Dark Zero, and the biggest one being Ridge Racer 6 (who can forget). What was interesting here that you don’t see with Microsoft nowadays (aside from the marketing for the Kinect) is that they were not only marketing toward sports fans and hardcore PC fans, but they were also trying to market towards kids. Hence one of the reasons why they bought Rare.

Believe it or not, there was a point very early on in the Xbox 360’s life-cycle where Rare was actually putting out games. Maybe not the best, certainly there was no Banjo Kazooie or Goldeneye to be gained from the new crop, however they were good titles nonetheless. Kameo was a decent platformer that didn’t sell that well, Perfect Dark Zero was a mediocre game with a mediocre financial gain, and Viva Pinata, while pretty solid for what it was, did not make as much back as they expected. Sure they didn’t have the remarkable cast & crew they had back in the Super NES or N64 days, but what they were putting out at the time wasn’t forgettable (Perfect Dark Zero and Banjo Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts to be excluded from this).

But there was nothing to be fearful of, for there was still Bungie and their large green man, the studio that made the Unreal engine along with a young man named ‘Cliff Blezinski’, oh and that other RPG series that was headed up by a British dude who seemed to have a thing for chickens and fart jokes. This was the team that Microsoft put into the forefront, this was the team that made Sony and Nintendo tremble at their feet!

Microsoft Goes To War

Behold, the image of a proud army ready to go to war.

Oh what a time that was, where all these studios and gaming icons would gather together and muster all their strength against the two empires. One that had a ‘black coat’, and would spoil their people by giving them free ‘internet’, while subjecting them to the wit of an explorer with a half tucked-in shirt and a bobcat thing…with the small robot thing-y. Then there was the other empire with the ‘white coat’, they cloned their people and turned those clones into small cute versions of themselves, while putting them under the dictatorship of an Italian plumber who fights giant gorillas with red ties. This was the sickness that Microsoft wanted to purge, unfortunately just like there must always be allies, there will always be backstabbers.

Bioware was the first one to twist the knife, as they signed on with EA so they can spend more money on space whores and pre-DLC content. However there was still not much to worry about until Bungie left and decided to align themselves with those treacherous Activision bastards, Peter Molyneux then abandoned Lionhead, and Cliff Blezinski became a deserter in order to start-up his own studio. All that was left in the end was the leftovers from Bungie, Epic who decided to continue making ‘Gears of War‘ games, Lionhead, and for some reason Rare was still there. What was worse was that the fight over Blu-ray versus HD-DVD did not last long as it was declared that Blu-ray was the winner. Tragedy was abound in the castle of Microsoft, however they had a little ‘gimmick’ in store as well.

Around the time, the Wii was selling amazingly well not only in its home territory, but overseas as well. Sony and Microsoft took note and decided to concoct their own plans as to how they should rip-off, erm, rival the Wii’s amazing power. Sony had created the ‘Move’, a black dildo remote with a blue orb on the end, and Microsoft had the Kinect. What Kinect allowed you to do was not simply play a game through some remote, but allowed you to play games through your body! As if you were going into the Tron universe, except the exact opposite and with a lot more flailing around like a fish out of water. In the most sincere way of saying it, it was bad, however it sold well and even became bundled with the latest versions of the Xbox 360.

Another element that saved the Xbox 360 was the Xbox Live Marketplace. Through the Xbox Live Marketplace you could check out DLC, download movies, music, and other neat things. If you want to gain exclusive accesses, you would have to subscribe through getting an Xbox Live gold membership. This brings up not only one of the consoles problems which is having to pay a yearly subscription just to have access to the internet, but also another key problem with console since its release: the ‘red ring of death’.

Essentially the ‘red ring of death’ was the result of the three-year warranty you were given or warned about the moment you bought an Xbox. Some say this was Microsoft’s way of being greedy, by allowing more consumers to pick up more of these consoles. However in due time with the new slimmer models, instead of having a red ring it would just automatically shutdown in order for the system to cool down.

As for revisions, the Xbox 360 received several of them and even had unique advantages to them. Originally the Xbox 360 came in two packages, the premium package that was about $400, and the core package that was about $300. As you can imagine one package contained every accessory and some gift awards, while the other was a stripped down version of the superior one. Later there were several smaller sized editions, but the important one that would stick around for quite a while was the ‘elite edition’ along with the ‘arcade edition’. Both of these kept going, but were ultimately replaced once the newer slicker model came in with the 4 GB (Kinect) and 250 GB edition.

The Xbox 360 has had a hard life, being betrayed by its closest allies, and constantly adjusting as the years progressed. Even to a point where Peter Moore went to join up with EA. Later the third-party exclusives were no longer there, Kinect became a bigger focus, and once again nobody paid any attention to Rare. Sure Microsoft has said that they do get exclusive deals when it comes to DLC and indie games, yet the only unique DLC you get is mostly Call of Duty map packs and the indie arcade has become a mess. Sure there were a few gems to be seen in the arcade section (Braid, Fez), but even some of those developers are starting to rebel against Microsoft.

I don’t know what future lies for the Xbox…720, god that sounds stupid, however if it wants to regain its glory it has to remember how it got there in the first place. Though at this point, when your biggest weapon is a clunky motion control device that’s only good for minigames and continues to sell well, it looses memory of its greatness.

Anyway that is the end for the ‘Console Retrospective’, I sure hope we learned something today. No matter how many problems you have with these systems, you may just end up buying the new ones. Because that is how the cycle continues, now if you excuse me, I got a DS that I need to dip in gold paint. The museum must keep expanding!

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Brutuxan Presents: A Console Retrospective of Historical Proportions PART 2!

Now, back to ‘Console Retrospective’!

Playstation 3

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There has never been any other console in the market that has had two successors, and was simply named in numerical order. That was until Sony came along and gave sweet birth to the Playstation, and trust me the afterbirth looked just as great. But we’re not here to talk about the original Playstation or Playstation 2, no, we’re here to talk about the Playstation 3 and the many wonders inside it. One of which is ‘Home’, but we’ll get to that a little later.

The PS3 was shown off in May 16th 2005, at E3. Where not only did we get the first look at the PS3, but we also got a look at the prototype of the sixaxis controller.

Original Concept

“RIP you beautiful silver boomerang.”

Tech demos were also shown, ranging from Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of Patriots and a high-res version of Final Fantasy 7 that won’t ever be remade…ever. As extraordinary as it was to see MGS4 in action for fans, sadly it seemed to be ways off. However during the launch window, owners were treated to other such titles like Mobile Suit Gundam: CROSSFIRE, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Ridge Racer 7. Some would even say that the best launch title was Resistance, with it being an FPS that featured aliens and was set during WW2. I’m sure the kids loved that, but what about those who just wanted decent home media hardware?

Well, let me put it this way, the PS3 was a mechanical beast that didn’t reach its full potential until several years after the launch. The system started out with a 3.2 GHz PowerPC-based ‘PPE’, basically it had a very meaty processor. It came in two versions, 20 GB and 60 GB, the problem here is that if someone wanted a HDMi port and Wi-Fi internet then that person would have to purchase the 60 GB model. Unlike the Wii, the PS3 was a much heavier investment considering not only how powerful the system was, but also the fact that you were much better off getting the 60 GB model.

Of course it was also what skyrocketed Blu-Ray into success, with Microsoft giving its own answer to the next phase of home entertainment with HD-DVD. I can’t imagine who won that debate, but more to come on that later when I talk about its ‘imminent downfall’. Ooops, spoilers!

When the PS3 first launched on November 2006 (11th for Japan, 17th for NA and Europe) it didn’t have much competition to worry about, other than obviously Microsoft. Luckily after 6 weeks, Sony manged to make over 1 million sales of the PS3. Proving if that you add a ‘3’ next to your console name, make it really expensive, and have a dedicated consumer base in Japan then you too can have a successful piece of hardware. Just ask the Phantom…oh.

Sony tried hard to keep fans happy in the meantime before the bigger titles were finished. They tried it with Lair, an aerial combat game where you controlled a dragon, but that didn’t work. They tried it with Playstation Home, a virtual interactive social network that allows people to live out their twisted fantasies, but that still didn’t quite hit its potential and looked really weird. Resistance and the Blu-Ray drive were helping keep the console afloat, until NaughtyDog came in with a new IP called ‘Uncharted‘.

An idea that took Indiana Jones, but made him young, snappy, had a half-tucked shirt, and put him in a videogame. That sounds like a terrible idea, but it worked because the studio knew what they were doing. In fact by the time the second game came around, it was what helped propel the system’s awareness. It was also a great way to showcase just what the PS3’s processor was capable of in terms of having games run as smoothly as silk. It was also fabulously pretty to boot as well, however not every studio was able to cope with the PS3’s tech.

Studios such as Bethesda had a very difficult time trying to get games like Skyrim and New Vegas to run properly on the system, but unfortunately seemed to need more time to help code things out. Skyrim had it the worse, with the game having to constantly be patched and postponing the DLC so that fewer errors could pop up. While some 3rd party publishers had the most difficult time trying to adapt to the systems requirements, first party developers on the other hand were illustrating just how gorgeous their games could look when understanding the utilization of the processor. It was just an advanced and complex piece of machinery that not every studio was able to 100% figure out.

While there were drawbacks for the system, it did vastly succeed with its first party software around 2010 after the release of Uncharted 2. Establishing new properties like inFamous, Little Big Planet, and developing new smaller titles like Journey. It was ahead of the competition when it came to making brand new experiences, and actually took chances.

On the media forefront, what made the PS3 special was having access to Wi-Fi internet connection without paying a yearly/monthly fee. Another option for users was Playstation Plus, a premium program that allowed you to get early access to demos, get discounts, and other exclusive trinkets that you wouldn’t normally get with a regular account. What made it frustrating for certain owners though, were the constant updates the system would had to go through. The system had bugs that ranged from randomly changing the time zone, to firmware updates that made things a bit messy. There was also that little hacking incident not too long ago, I think someone would remember it.

As for the models, the original Playstation 3 one had quite a lot of hate going for it at first. Although in time the size of the console got reduced, forming the slim edition, the super slim edition, and in time probably a Heidi Klum slim edition. One other key component that got added to the PS3 was the Move, which was a unique motion controller with a blue orb on in it that bested the Wii remote in most sexually comparative devices. In due time though, the PS3 gained a lot of respect back and wound up being a very entertaining home media system/gaming console.

Although it was inevitable that the PS3 would run across technical errors, that still didn’t stop it from becoming one of the most renown consoles to ever sit in a living room. The software started out kind of slow, but ended up becoming the much more dominant lineup of the three major publishers. Sony, I tip my hat off to you, but I’m sorry I can’t dip Kaz Hirai in gold. That would be wrong.

[Part 2 is down! What will happen next in the finale of the console retrospective? Will this madness end?! Tune in to find out!]

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Brutuxan Presents: A Console Retrospective of Historical Proportions PART 1!

Welcome ladies and gentlemen to the grand opening of the Brutlounge’s latest showing. Let me just say as someone who dipped his SNES in a bucket of gold and attempted to send it to the Smithsonian Institution, I do my best to stress the importance of videogame consoles being part of American history. Even though if some of them were made in certain Asian countries, okay, even if most of them are. But that’s not what this is about, this is about going back into the past and examining the Xbox 360, the PS3, the Wii, and the Phantom…sorry, it appears that last one didn’t happen.

Believe it or not, each console played an important part into our society. Whether it be Reggie Fils-Aime and his admirable ‘body’ of work that seems to be ready, Kaz Hirai and his splendid surprises, or Peter Moore who seemed to want to tattoo his entire body with nothing but 3rd party content. Each of these figures played an important part in console history, and ultimately shaped the outcome of their cycles. Dismissing these soldiers of console wars, would be like slapping a monkey because he didn’t perform ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ like you expected him to, because he’s a ‘monkey’.

Well I for one would not slap that ‘monkey’, unless it was Friday night and all the bars were closed! However I digress, let us take a look at these marvelous pieces of virtual interactive machinery by starting with a console whose name will forever be ingrained in the minds of 12-year olds.

Wii

Wii Console

Truly this is a marvel right here, after plummeting past the supposed mediocrity of the Gamecube, Nintendo finally caught attention as to what was important. That stunning innovation, that sense of awe, that look on Miyamoto that makes every fanboy 1-UP in his pants was all because of…motion controls…Mmm, sorry I got caught up up in the moment.

The Wii was first discussed back in 2004, at E3 and was codenamed ‘Revolution’. It was later fully unveiled at E3 2005, while the controller was shown off at the Tokyo Game Show in the same year. A year later, the console was released around November 19th 2006. Not only was it released a year ahead of it’s competition, but it also sold over $3.19 million by December 31st 2006. Not quite as impressive as the increasing number of dick jokes, but still quite the feat.

When it comes to launch titles, Nintendo had it locked down. Red Steel, Twilight Princess, Call of Duty 3, and Open Season the videogame were among the highly ranked of the launch titles. But the most rich and purest experience had to be Wii Sports. It’s a shining anthology of titles that each represent a fragment of Nintendo’s history.

Baseball, Nintendo dominating the home sales market in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Bowling, the moment Miyamoto said that Donkey Kong Country was not worthy of the Nintendo brand. Tennis, when the N64 was shown in 1994. Golf, when Nintendo made the wavebird controller. Boxing, Billy Hatcher becoming an exclusive for the Gamecube. All of these sports  contain a metaphor that represents some part of Nintendo’s history, but in a way that turns a majestic flamingo into a flaming peacock.

Oh, and there’s this one game called ‘Super Mario Galaxy‘ that apparently helped make the Wii successful according to some critics. Sounds like poppycock to me, but when you see a dancing leprechaun in front of you, you can’t simply deny it’s happy existence. Not only did this ‘Super Mario Galaxy‘ gained the Wii some momentum, but it’s success also warranted a sequel, profoundly titled ‘Super Mario Galaxy 2‘. It was a bigger hit than even Excite Truck, it was a game that emphasized on originality and was completely different than the previous installment. Except for the part that made those last two points I said invalid, aside from that minor inconvenience it had an incredibly refreshing mechanic that was…Yoshi.

However like with any demi-god, or in this case ‘god’, there must always be a lull in its lifecycle. And that was very transparent with the Wii for a few years, until in 2010 when Nintendo decided to bring out the true arsenal. This arsenal consisted of Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Donkey Kong Country Returns, Kirby’s Epic Yarn, Kid Icarus, and Mario Kart for the 3DS. I’m not sure if you were aware of this, but if you heard very closely in the background of that conference you could hear Sony calling Naughty Dog to hurry the production of Uncharted 3. Oh and don’t let me get started on how Microsoft dealt with that major burn (here’s a hint: it involved Peter Molyneux and Kinect).

Nothing could prevent Nintendo from dominating the industry, aside from a lack of third party support and trivial titles such as ‘Ram Racing‘, but still those issues were about as menacing as a fly on the knee of a very obese person. Also there was the incident where Wii sales were a ‘wee’ sluggish during 2011…and so on. Still, fantastic machinery is it not?

 Accommodating the Wii was a multitude of accessories that were fit for a king, or maybe a ‘princess’ in this case? One who is reminiscent to that of a Peach – you know what? Never mind.

First up is the Wii balance board, a tool used to describe just how fat and lazy you are by simply stepping on it with your big gross feet, also you can play minigames on it. Second is the Wii wheel, a tool used to show just how ridiculous you look when playing a game where an Italian plumber tosses the shell of a dead koopa toward a dinosaur, how silly. Third is the Wii Zapper, showing just how serious gaming looks when you’re playing with something that looks like an ‘iFirearm’. Fourth is the classic controller pro, it’s a controller, honestly what else do you need to know. And lastly is the Wii MotionPlus, now you too can have semi-decent motion controls!

It’s been splendid seeing the Wii evolve from greatness and evolve into mega-greatness by simply…’being there’. Wii Sports was the best release Nintendo has had since the first concept piece was leaked for Donkey Kong Racing. Even better was the catalog of games for 2010 and how immensely satisfying those titles turned out. Sure there were a few hiccups here and there, but I think Wii has already done enough to solidify it’s spot in the Brutlounge. And from now on whenever visits this museum, it gives me the excuse to say, “Would you like to see my Wii?”

Classic.

[What will Brutuxan show off next in the ‘Console Retrospective of Historical Proportions’?! And what other cheap jokes can he make? Are they even jokes?! Tune in to find out, or read, whatever’s convenient here.]

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